How to Measure Draw Length – Acquiring the Best Archery Skills

Developing excellent archery skills involves some precise techniques which have a scientific basis. There are several parameters involved and one main factor which influences the accuracy of your shot is knowing how to measure draw length.

While other things like knowing how to determine draw weight, how to determine arrow length, recurve bow draw length and bow length are also important, we shall focus on the process of drawing a bow and arrow in this article.

The issue regarding draw length while shooting is something well-understood by veteran marksmen. However, if you are new to bow hunting, you might make the same assumption that many archers do, which is that if you have bought a branded bow and arrow, the draw length should be adequate and the arrow designed to fit the draw length of the bow. Why then should we have to get involved in knowing how to measure draw length or how to adjust it?


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The answer to this question is quite logical. You can buy a set of bow and arrows and start shooting right away. However, to optimize the accuracy of your shot, you need to make a few fine adjustments to both the bow and arrows. If you can measure certain parameters, you will be able to control the way your bow shoots arrows and which is why I felt it important to explain how to measure draw length for a better shot.

Required Materials

Bow hunter in field pulling back arrow on compund bow.

You will need to have some basic stuff at hand to prepare for this simple procedure. The actual process is quite simple, and the measurement is not likely to take more than a minute. You can vary the materials slightly according to availability, but I have just listed the basic stuff to get the job done. Here’s what you should have ready:

  • A wall with a corner (for the first method)
  • Pencil or whiteboard marker
  • Tape measure
  • Calculator
  • Writing pad to jot down the figures

There are several methods of measuring draw length, and here are the three most popular ones:

Method – 1: (Wingspan/2.5)

1. Holding the pencil or marker in your right hand, face the wall

2. Note a fixed point on the wall (a corner or a joint in the tiles or paneling)

3. Place your left hand on the fixed point

4. Still facing the wall, outstretch your arms as far as is comfortable

5. Now, with your arms still outstretched, mark off the furthest point with your pencil or marker

6. Release your arms and measure the distance between the two points in inches

7. Divide the figure by 2.5

8. The resulting number you get is the exact draw length of your bow

Method – 2: (Buttons to Base)

1. Hold the tape measure in your right hand

2. Place the tape measure at the point where you button your shirt

3. Now, hold the tape measure at that point with your left hand

4. Extend your right arm sideward to your right, keeping the tape as you do so

5. With your right hand extended, have someone to measure the distance from your chest to your wrist with the extended tape measure

6. The length of the measuring tape is your bow draw length

Method – 3:(Fist to Mouth)

1. Hold the tape measure in your left fist against the wall

2. Pull it back with your right hand as if drawing a bow until your hand touches your mouth

3. Measure the distance from the top of your fist to the corner of your mouth

4. The resulting length is your bow’s draw length.

Draw Length Vs Arrow Length

Draw Length Vs Arrow Length

Now that you are familiar with how to determine your draw length, you would perhaps like to relate draw length to arrow length. The rule of thumb that is usually followed is that your arrow should be longer than the full draw length of your bow by about 1 to 1 ½ inches. It is for this reason that you need to know the draw length of your bow, to determine the size of your arrow.

Following this logic, for a 30-inch draw, you would need a 31 ½ to 32 inches long arrow. The draw length of a bow can vary then, from one person to another, depending on their body dimensions, which is one of the reasons why you get different lengths of arrows.

This also explains why the bows and arrows of the Pygmies of Central Africa are so small – the average bow draw length – about 7 inches and the arrows are about 9 inches long. A person of average height may find these bows and arrows almost impossible to use, but for these small-statured people, they are just right.

One of the main reasons behind the need for arrows to be slightly longer than the draw length of a bow is for safety. An arrow is said to be overdrawn if it gets pulled so that its tip is positioned before the bow riser. This situation is dangerous, as you will not have the guidance of the arrow rest and on release, there is no knowing where your arrow may go, and you may even end up shooting your hand!

Recurve Bow Draw Weight Vs Draw Length

Arrow flying to target with radial motion blur


If you use a recurve bow, you are likely to get more energy and thus more arrow speed than a regular straight-limbed bow. However, the additional power is limited and extreme recurves can make the bow unstable. There is a definite relationship between recurve bow draw weight and draw length, and this is an important factor to be considered while optimizing bow efficiency.

We have discussed in detail about draw length. But what about draw weight? Draw weight is defined as the maximum weight that an archer may exert on the bow while drawing it, usually expressed in lbs.

The draw weight on a regular bow increases proportionally with the draw, so that the more you draw, the more is the draw weight. A recurve bow, however, behaves differently. Here, as you increase your draw, the pressure increases to a point, and then it drops by 20% to 30%.

Draw weight varies depending on the stature of the person, the governing factor to define size being gender and age of the shooter. You may find this simple chart useful in understanding the draw weight for people of different stature, based on age and gender:

Archer’s Weight Suggested Draw Weight
Small Children (70-100 lbs.) 10-15 lbs
Larger Children (100-130 lbs.) 15-25 lbs
Small-Frame Female (100-130 lbs.) 25-35 lbs
Medium-Frame Female (130-160 lbs) 25-35 lbs
Small-Frame Male (120-150 lbs) 30-45 lbs
Medium-Frame Male (150-180 lbs) 40-55 lbs
Large-Frame Females (160+ lbs) 30-45 lbs
Large Frame Men (180+ lbs) 45-60 lbs

Final Comments on Draw Length

So, now that we know the importance of draw length and have also learned how to measure draw length. Here are a few additional points that you would do well to keep in mind while dealing with this subject:

  • Personal Preferences: Each person is different from the other physically. When I say this, I allude to how personal preferences based on physical limitations come into play, where you may not be able to draw a full 30 inches. Then, you can go for a smaller draw length. Difficulty in pulling the bow to full draw can also come as a result of old injuries which are likely to restrict movement.
  • Clothing Factor: It may come as a surprise to you, but the clothing you wear can hamper your shooting, especially if you wear a jacket with big sleeves. Ensure that the sleeves of your clothes do not get in the way of your arrow, or else you may end up shooting your clothes.
  • ​Comfort Level: Although there are some very specific recommendations about the ideal draw length depending on the stature of a person, you need not be too rigid about the number that you get. If you feel more comfortable with a draw length that differs slightly from the measured figure, go for it.
  • ​D-Loop: It is interesting to note that the dimension of the D-loop (the component attached to the center of the bow string) has a bearing on the way you draw your bow. A shorter D-loop is likely to reduce ‘string pinch’ and helps in pulling the bow to full draw more comfortably.
  • ​Avoid Overdrawing: Last but not the least, always keep in mind that an overdrawn shot is never likely to be an accurate shot. If you feel that your accuracy is just a bit out of a particular draw length, reduce the draw length slightly which should help matters.


We hope that you have enjoyed going through this tutorial and that you benefit from the information given here. For acquiring the best archery skills, it is important to know about your equipment, to gain absolute control over it. It is critical to know how to measure draw length because a lot depends on it for determining other vital factors like arrow length, draw weight and other parameters that can contribute to optimizing the accuracy and efficiency of your bow

If you liked reading this article, we would love to hear your comments and feedback, and we will be happy to respond to any questions that you may have. Please do remember to share this article, to enlighten others as well!

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