How to measure your draw length

Whenever you buy a new bow or arrows you must measure your draw length. Therefore, draw length is one of the most important measurements in archery. Although it’s clear to most archers what draw length refers to, most archers don’t know the specifics. In this article, I will therefore discuss in detail how you can measure your draw length.

For people that are in a hurry, here is a quick answer: Draw length is measured from the throat of the nock in a horizontal line to the deepest part of the grip. Add 1 ¾ inch and you will have your final measurement. You can also measure till the point where the arrow sticks out of the riser since this is 1 ¾ inch on most bows.

That answer might seem a bit technical, so I will explain this in a lot more detail in this article. Next, I will discuss four different ways to measure it. I will also discuss how you draw weight might change over time and discuss why it’s such an important measurement.

What you should measure

The name draw length seems simple; you just measure the length of your draw, right? Well, it’s not that simple. Although it seems very straight forward where the draw ends, where does your draw start? Does it start at the brace height? Or should we include the brace height in the measurement?

The standard measurement of draw length is described by the ATA (Archery Trade Association) as:

‘’Draw length is the distance at the archer's full draw, from the nocking point on the string to the pivot point of the bow grip plus 1 3/4 inches.’’

So, the formal measurement measures the draw length by measuring the distance between the string and the deepest part of the grip. Then 1 ¾ inch is added to the measurement. According to ATA, this should be called the true draw length.

Although some archers strongly disagree with this measurement, this is the measurement we all use. Measuring the draw length from the deepest part of the grip tends to be quite a hassle. Since you are holding the bow during the measurement, it’s quite difficult to accomplish.

For most cases, having a very accurate measurement of the draw length isn’t necessary. Therefore, most archers measure to the end of the riser. In most cases, this is very close to 1 ¾ inch from the deepest part of the grip.

Four ways to measure

Since it’s quite difficult to measure the draw length exactly there are quite a lot of different ways to determine your draw length. We will start with the best one and work our way back to less precise but easier to execute measurements.

With a bow and arrow

If you want to measure your draw length, the best way is to use a bow and arrow. I’ll explain how to do this step by step:

Step 1: get to an appropriate location where you can draw a bow with an arrow. Make sure to use a backstop.

Step 2: put an arrow on your bow and draw to your normal anchor point. Keep it steady at this position.

Step 3: ask a friend to mark on the arrow where it goes past the riser. A piece of tape will do fine.

Step 4: slowly let down the bow, and make sure that the marking stays in place

Step 5: measure the length between the throat of the nock and the marking, this is your draw length.

If you measured this in centimeters, you will have to convert this to inches by dividing by 2.54 or using this tool.

Although this is the most accurate way to measure the draw length, it also requires a bow and arrow. Especially if you are new to archery, this might not be possible, because you need this measurement to buy your first bow.

With a simulated bow

If you don’t have a bow available, the next best option is to simulate a bow. You only need a long rod or dowel. It’s easier to do this with a friend, but with some fiddling, you can also do this by yourself.

Step 1: get a dowel, rod, or anything else that can simulate an arrow.

Step 2: place the dowel between your fingers, like you are holding an arrow.

Step 3: keep your bow hand like you are holding a bow and place the dowel on top of it.

Step 4: draw until you are at your normal anchor point and keep steady.

Step 5: let your friend mark the place where the dowel is above the webbing of thumb.

Step 6: let your friend mark the dowel just in front of your fingers of your draw hand.

Step 7: measure the distance between the two markings and add 1 ¾, this is your draw length measurement.

Make sure that you are standing how you normally would stand if you shoot. Don’t stand overly straight, keep your arm bent slightly otherwise you will overestimate your actual draw length.

The arm span method

A lot of archers recommend this method when you are buying your first bow. Although it’s an easy measurement, it’s not all that accurate. So, your draw length could be about 1 or 2 inches different from your measurement. In most cases, that isn’t an issue. But if you want a more accurate measurement use the methods explained above.

Step 1: hold your arms horizontal and let someone measure your arm-span from finger to finger. Make sure that you are not stretching during this measurement. In most cases, you will need two friends to keep either side of the measuring tape in the right place.

Step 1 (one friend alternative): stand against a wall with your arms horizontal. Let your friend mark both ends and measure the space between the two points.

Step 2: make sure that the measurement is in inches. If you use centimeters make sure to first convert it to inches by dividing with 2.54 or using this tool.

Step 3: divide your final measurement with 2.5. The resulting number is your draw length estimation.

Since this method is not measuring the draw length, it isn’t all that accurate. But it provides a reasonable estimation for your actual draw length.

Based on your length

Most people don’t know their arm-span, but you probably do know your height. Your arm span and height tend to be quite similar. In general, short people don’t have long arms and vice versa. Therefore, we can also use your height to estimate draw length.

Although this is the easiest way to estimate draw length, it’s also less accurate than the arm-span method. Since it’s so easy, this rule of thumb is often used for beginners’ courses. You simply look up your height and you get an estimation of your draw length.

Height (feet and inches) Height (inches) Height (metric) Draw length
4’7’’ 55 inches 140 cm 22 inches
4’9 1/2’’ 57 inches 144 cm 23 inches
5’0’’ 60 inches 152 cm 24 inches
5’2 1/2’’ 62 inches 157 cm 25 inches
5’5’’ 65 inches 165 cm 26 inches
5’7 1/2’’ 67 inches 170 cm 27 inches
5’10’’ 70 inches 177 cm 28 inches
6’ 1/2’’ 72 inches 182 cm 29 inches
6’3’’ 75 inches 191 cm 30 inches
6’5 1/2’’ 77 inches 196 cm 31 inches
6’8’’ 80 inches 203 cm 32 inches

This table is useful to get an estimation of your draw length, but it’s not uncommon that the actual draw length differs 2 inches. Nothing beats measuring the actual draw length.

How your draw length changes over time

If you look at the table above or use the arm span method, it might seem like draw length must be a consistent measurement. For adults, both your wingspan and your height will not change. But don’t be fooled in thinking that draw length always stays the same.

Draw length is highly dependent on your shooting style and form. Some archers stand straight, while others stand bend over. Additionally, some archers just draw the bow farther than others. Since our technique and form can both change, so will our draw length.

In general, most new archers will steadily increase their draw length over time. This can sometimes only be ½ or 1 inch, but I have also seen examples of 3 inches or more. Most new archers tend to stand bend over and shoot with a bent arm. Over time, as their technique and muscle strength improves their draw length will increase.

Therefore, I always recommend new archers to buy arrows that are at least 1 or 2 inches longer than their draw length. Standing up straight helps improve your accuracy and increasing your draw length is in most cases a good thing. Therefore, it would be a pity if you couldn’t because your arrows are too short.

Why draw length is an important measurement

You might wonder why we need to measure our draw length for so many things. We must measure draw length because it changes quite some dynamics of your bow. Below I will list down the most important things

On all bows it influences…

  • …Your arrow length
  • …The arrow’s dynamic spine (the stiffness of the arrow in flight)
  • …The speed of your arrow

For recurve and traditional bows draw length influences…

  • …Your actual draw weight
  • …What size bow you need

For compound bows draw length influences…

  • …How you should configure the mod on your cams

So, yes, draw length is a very important measurement. Without it, we can’t choose the right gear. Although there are some one-size-fits-all solutions they aren’t all that great. Even beginners that are just getting started should know how to measure draw weight. Since you need it to buy your first bow and arrows.

Final words

I hope you found this article helpful and that you now have a better grasp on how to measure draw length. More importantly, I hope that you understand what draw length is and why it’s an important measurement.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments. I will respond to your comment as soon as possible and send you an email with my reply. You will not only help yourself by posting your question but also fellow archers. Additionally, these comments help me improve my writing!

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