Draw length is important no matter what kind of bow you shoot. It determines the length and size of your arrows and the size of your bow. Also, it is especially important for compound shooters because compound bows have set draw lengths. Unfortunately, too many new archers simply choose a bow and try to fit themselves to it. This can decrease accuracy, comfort, and might even lead to injury later on. Why not fit your bow to your body instead? Bows come in different sizes and draw lengths to help you shoot consistently. The best thing to do is find help in getting a good measurement so you can start off with a bow that is the right size for you.
What is the best way to measure my draw length?
Your best bet is to find a coach or pro-shop expert who can help you take a measurement with a practice bow and a measuring arrow. This is an uncut arrow with marks on it like a ruler, meant simply for holding at full draw and not for shooting. Using a practice bow and a measuring arrow allows you to bring the string back to your face and stand at full draw position to get a more accurate measurement.
Keep in mind that the way you hold your body at full draw position can influence your draw length, sometimes by several inches. This makes it difficult to take a measurement for a beginning archer who has not had the opportunity to learn good form. However, there are some things you can do to make sure you get the right measurement early on. Here are some photos of archers in the best position for measuring their draw length.
Factors that influence your draw length
The archers from our example photos are using good form and would receive accurate draw length measurements. However, when you are just starting out and don’t have the feel for good technique, it may be hard to know just how to do what they do. Here are some things to consider when you get your own measurements.
Some factors that might make your draw length seem shorter than it really is:
• Poor alignment. Are your bow arm and the tops of your shoulders in a straight line? Is your drawing elbow behind your head? If not, you may be out of alignment. Someone looking down from above should see you using good bone alignment.
• High shoulder position. Don’t let one or both of your shoulders pop up as if you were shrugging. Keep them tucked firmly in a low natural position, especially your bow shoulder.
• Using a D-Loop. Tying a “D-Loop” onto your bowstring for your release to hook onto can shorten your draw length slightly. Keep it in mind when choosing your bow.
Some factors that might make your draw length seem longer than it really is:
• Anchor point too far back. Where do you hold the string on your face? Keep it consistent, either to the front of your chin or midway along your jaw.
• Unusual head position. Make sure your head and neck aren’t straining backward. Keep them relaxed so that your head is over the center of your body.
• Long release aid. Some mechanical release aids can lengthen your draw. Make sure to factor this in when you choose your bow.
Other factors to consider:
• Poor posture. Are you standing up straight? Avoid slouching or standing so tall you arch your back.
• Strained drawing wrist. Is the wrist of your drawing hand strained or arched? Keep your wrist supple and relaxed.
• Not using back muscles. Engaging the back muscles near your scapula and moving the entire shoulder unit toward your spine will increase your draw length consistency.
What if I don’t have a measuring shaft?
Another way to gauge basic draw length is to carefully place the nock of an arrow on your chest just below your collarbone with the arrow pointing straight out away from your body. Then reach your arms forward and put both palms against the arrow. Notice the point where your middle fingers touch. Measure the distance from that point to the arrow nock and then add 2” for safety. This method will give you a good starting point for the right length arrows, although it is best to measure the other way as well.
When in doubt, or if you don’t have access to the right length arrows, always choose arrows that may be too long for the archer. In the rare case of a misfire, arrows which are too short could injure the bow hand. Arrows that are overly long do not have this problem and are therefore the safer option if you can’t find arrows at the right length.