This article is about measuring your draw length - you'll need to get a bow with a matching draw length. If you already have a bow and would like to know it's draw length, please check back later, we'll have an article on that too.
3 Plus 1 Ways to Measure your Draw Length
For the best results, make sure to have some measuring tape handy (and a buddy to help you out).
How to measure draw length for a bow? (method #1, use this!):
Stand up straight with your back against a wall. Doing so will spell the difference in getting an accurate measurement. Also, make sure you are wearing clothes that will not restrict your arm movements.
Next spread your arms as wide as you can. Make sure that your arm's wingspan is a straight line. Have this line parallel to the floor surface.
Keeping the posture, have your buddy start the measurement. The measurement needs to begin at the tip of a middle finger and ends to the other. Also, make sure your companion stretches the measuring tape. If it isn't, then you won't end up with an accurate measurement.
Make sure the measurement is taken in inches. That figure should then be divided by 2.5. The divided value will be the suggested draw length of your bow.
As an alternative subtract 15 from what you measured, then divide by two. The result will be your draw length.
Measuring Draw Length 2:
Similar to the above method, make sure to stand up with your back against a wall.
Raise your arms up flat across the wall. Make sure your palms are facing downward.
Have your partner tape the space where tip of your middle fingers are located on the wall.
Measure the distance between the two masking tapes with a tape measure.
Compute using the same formula mentioned above. Most hunters consider this method the most accurate, since the distance to be measured is marked on the wall itself.
Measuring Draw Length 3:
Stand up straight at about an arm’s length away from a wall.
Stretch your arms and imagine you are holding a bow.
Holding the position, close your outstretched hands.
Slowly draw back your other arm just as if you wanted to shoot with a bow. One arm should be straight to the side, the other’s fist should touch your mouth.
Keeping still, have your buddy measure the distance from your closed fist towards your mouth.
Bonus: Measuring Draw Length 4:
Wear a button-down shirt.
Stand up straight with your back against a wall.
Extend your dominant arm. Make sure the fist of your dominant arm is closed and your sleeve is loose, so the shirt does not stretch.
Let your buddy measure the distance from your dominant arms wrist to the top button of your shirt.
The four methods will give you a good idea on what your draw length is. Don’t worry if you get different values. Average them to find out what should be your bow’s draw length.
Now that you know your draw length, you can now select a bow that will best suit your body type!
How the ATA Measures Draw Length
The ATA (Archery Trade Association) has its standards on how to measure draw length. The draw length is the distance between the bow's grip (the throat area, which is the deepest part of the bow’s grip) towards the nock point. The ATA adds 1 3/4 inches to this value.
The throat area is defined by the ATA as the Pivot Point (PP). So, the distance of a draw length towards the PP is termed as DLPP (Draw Length Pivot Point).
How is the True Length Draw Measured?
Here are the steps set by the ATA to get the True Length Draw measurement
Position yourself and draw the bow. Make sure you are in the proper anchor position.
Have a friend measure the distance from the nock grove (the furthest part or the apex of the drawstring) towards the PP of the bow grip.
After getting the value, add 1 3/4".
What is the Draw Length and Why Does it Matter?
Knowing how to measure draw length will help you choose the ideal bow and arrows.
These bows are made in such a way that you can draw back up only to a certain distance (also known as full draw or mechanical stop). You can only shoot when you are at full draw.
The same goes for recurve bows, you can only shoot them when fully drawn. As the bows come in different sizes, with different draw length, it’s important to choose one that suits your build.
The arrows you use should be about as long as your draw length.
Complications When the Draw Length is Wrong
Here are some known issues when archers have the wrong draw length for their bow:
Mismatched draw length measurements will affect your accuracy so you really need to measure it accurately, and a get a bow that has the same draw length as you..
Aside from the bow, other hunting gear and equipment may not be the optimum fit because of a wrong draw length measurement.
Wrong draw length may lead to injury. If you feel pain after shooting a few arrows, the draw length is most likely wrong.
Another source of injury that the wrong draw length may cause is whiplash. The drawstring could hit your face as it bounces back.
Using a bad draw length will lead to a poorer shooting form.
For short draw lengths, accuracy and inconsistent shots are expected.
If the draw length is too long you'll overstretch and strain your back.
Rechecking Draw Length Measurements
Having doubts with your measurements? Do these quick checks:
Height vs Wingspan
Typically, a your measured wingspan is the same as your height. There may be a slight difference in measurement for each, but don’t let that bother you. As long as your height and arm span are relatively close, you’d know the measurement was done right.
Change Your Measuring Tape
Using another measuring tape to double check figures should offer some peace of mind. There may be a chance that old tapes have gone through some wear and tear. Fully stretch the tape to get an accurate figure.
Round Down for a Safe Figure
If you are still having doubts of the given draw length figure, then round down the measured value. Let’s say you got a draw length value of 31.5”, the go for the safe figure of 31”.
After rounding down, consider some additional buffer to the length as well. This works best if the bow you’re getting has a cam system. With the buffer in mind you can increase your draw length by up to 2” - so a 31” draw length will become 33” with the buffer added.
Check your Bowstring Regularly
Make sure to check your bowstring’s condition regularly. Wear and tear on bowstrings may change your bow’s draw length.
Miscellaneous Draw Length Information
How to Measure Draw Length for Archery
Another important issue to consider when measuring draw length is your level of expertise in archery.
If you are new in the scene, the second method of measuring using masking tapes will give you a good idea on what your draw length is. From there, you’d be able to choose a bow that will suit your needs.
If you are a professional archer, then it all boils down to experience and feeling. It does depend on an archer - just as long it hits the target (without compromising safety and control), then great!
Which leads us to a great question. What exactly is the correct draw length? The draw length you are most comfortable shooting with would be the right one.
Remember, we are all built differently. But the point is, knowing how to measure draw length is an advantage you can benefit from. It can very well be the first point to consider in being a successful shooter!
Draw Length and Arrow Length
The draw length will help you find the arrows with the right length too. As a rule of thumb, the right arrows should be from 0.5” to 1” longer than your measured draw length. Follow this rule to get accurate shots.
The Case of Speed/Power Over Accuracy
Most shooters tend to go for longer draw lengths with the idea it’ll create faster and more powerful shots.
Well, aside from the mentioned complications above, would you risk having speed over actually hitting your target? Of course not! Only increase your draw length if you are sure it will not cause problems. Change back once you run into issues.
The String Loop Issue
Some archers consider string loops to be part of the draw length measurement.
Yes, the drawstring is definitely longer with a string loop. But, remember: the draw length is the full draw of your bow. So, no matter how much string loop is there, the measurement to consider is the farthest you can pull back.
Stressing Arm Span Measurement
We've mentioned above that your wingspan is usually the same as your height. The word usually is important because you really need to rely on your arm span measurement over your height.
Everyone’s built differently, An accurate draw length measurement will be based on your arm span, never your height.
Age Will Never Be a Factor
Disregard any information saying that draw length or bow size can be determined by age. Again, it all boils down to getting your own draw length measurements and your feeling on the bow itself.
Additional ATA True Draw Length Measurement Tips
Here are other ATA bits on getting the True Length Draw measurement:
Another way to find where the nock grove is - it's the part of the drawstring where an arrow snaps onto.
If using an arrow, the measurement point begins at the nock grove (and not on the part of the arrow that goes past the drawstring).
Beginners should follow the set guidelines with an experience shooter.
Beginners shouldn't also load an arrow when attempting the ATA method!
ATA emphasizes the need of proper shooting form. If you don't position yourself properly, then you wouldn't get your True Draw Length.
Extra #1: Draw Length Determines the Recurve Bow Size Too
Your draw length not only determines the draw length of the bow you should get, but also the size of the bow too.
This is because a recurve bow's size determines it's ideal draw length.
To make things a bit more difficult, the recurve bow's length is measured following it's limbs' curvature. Still, all this data is available from the manufacturer so do not worry!
|Your draw length (inches)||Ideal recurve bow size(inches)|
Extra #2: How Does Draw Weight Fit into the Picture?
Another important topic to discuss that is related to draw length is draw weight.
Draw Weight: What is it?
The pulling force you need to apply to draw a string back is the draw weight.
For recurve bow users, draw weight is heavier the farther you draw the bow. So, essence, your draw length can also be determined to the amount of strength you can pull back on the drawstring.
Compound bows, on the other hand, have customized draw weights. This means that no matter the draw length is, the draw weight remains the same for a compound bow.
No matter which bow you use, knowing the draw weight will also help you decide on your ideal draw length. Consider comfort as the main idea when deciding both draw weight and draw length.
Go Heavy or Light?
It does depend on what you plan to use your bow for when deciding the draw weight. For hunting, heavier draw weight may be needed. This is true when game are large animals such as buffalos. Reminder: when hunting large game, make sure to always check state regulations!
For recreational use, heavier weight may defeat the purpose of shooting. Remember, you'd want to hit a target. What's the point of drawing when it hurts or you keep missing it due to over-excretion?
Heavier Means Faster?
Most shooters believe that the heavier the draw weight is, the faster an arrow flies. This isn't true at all!
Certain arrows are allowed on a bow's given draw weight. An arrow must have at least 5 grains of mass per pound of draw weight.
This means that you should not use underweight arrows. True, you may be able to shoot faster with light arrows – but you’ll risk safety and even break regulations doing so.
Conclusion: Knowing How to Measure Your Draw Length Matters
The right draw length will make the most out of your bow when hunting. Just following these simple steps will improve your shooting.