How to measure your draw weight

Draw weight is one of the essential metrics which every archer must deal with. Whenever you buy a new bow or new arrows, you must consider your draw weight. Especially when you buy new arrows it’s important to measure your draw weight. Since there is a big difference between the advertised draw weight (default draw weight) and the actual draw weight. In a hurry? Here is my short answer:

To measure your draw weight, you must find the point where the draw is at its heaviest. For recurve and traditional bows this is at the end of the draw. For compound bows, this is approximately in the middle of the draw. You can use a bow scale, spring balance, or luggage scale to get the actual measurement.

In the remainder of this article, I will discuss in more detail what you should measure and how. I will also discuss the difference between the default and the actual draw weight in more detail. Next, I will explain how you can predict your draw weight if you don’t have a bow yet. And at the end of this article, I will explain why draw weight is such an important metric for archers.

What you should measure

Before I discuss how you measure draw weight, I think it’s important to know what we exactly mean with draw weight. I would define draw weight as follows:

Draw weight is the maximum weight the archer experiences when you draw back the bow

This means that we want to know what the peak draw weight of the bow is. For traditional and recurve bows, this is quite simple, but for compound bows, this is trickier.

Traditional and recurve

Traditional and recurve bows have a linear (or almost linear) draw curve. This means that the draw increases when you draw the bow further back. Therefore, a kid and an adult can sometimes fire the same bow, without an issue.

Since the draw weight of the bow increases with the draw length, the peak draw is at the end of your draw. Therefore, traditional and recurve archers measure their draw length at the end of the draw.

Compound

Draw weight is very straight forward within traditional and recurve archery. But since compound bows have a let-off we can’t measure at full draw. Therefore, we must find the place where the draw weight is the highest. This point differs per compound bow, but in most cases, it’s somewhere in the middle of the draw.

How to measure your draw weight

Before you can start measuring your draw weight, you have something to measure the draw weight. Archery shops use a special bow scale, but you can also use a spring balance or a luggage scale. I often measure my draw weight and a luggage scale always worked for me.

Traditional and recurve

Alright, let’s measure the draw weight by following these steps

  1. Attach your measuring device (luggage or bow scale) to your bow and make sure to only hold the device.
  2. Draw the bow to your normal anchor point. You will have to draw farther than usual because of the hook of the scale is between your fingers and the string.
  3. Keep your bow at your anchor point and let a friend read the resulting draw weight.
  4. Write down your measurement and repeat 3 to 5 times to make your final measurement more accurate.
  5. Take the average of all your measurements, to get your final draw weight
I always measured my draw weight with a luggage scale, it is definitely more clunky than a bow scale, but it works

Tips for more accurate measurements

The scale you are using will make your bow feel different. Especially because you must draw back farther than usual to account for the hook of your scale. Therefore, I have to ways you can make this measurement more accurate:

  • If you are using a clicker, you can use an arrow to make your measurement more accurate. Simply nock the arrow behind the clicker and draw the bow back. When your clicker goes off you know you are at the right draw length. Make sure to use a backstop because your instinct will tell you to fire the arrow.
  • If you don’t use a clicker, you can also use an arrow to measure your draw length first, as explained in this article. Let a friend check whether the marking of your arrow is in the right place.

Compound

Measuring the draw weight of a compound bow is a bit more difficult. Most bow scales have a function that measures the maximum draw weight, which makes this a whole lot easier. But since most compound archers use a spring or luggage scale, I will explain how you can achieve the same effect.

  1. Attach your measuring device to your bow and make sure that you only hold the device and not the string.
  2. Draw the bow until you feel the let-off. If you feel that draw weight decreases move about an inch back.
  3. Keep your bow at this position and let a friend read the resulting measurement.
  4. Write down your measurement and repeat this multiple times. Make sure to slightly differ your draw length every time.
  5. When you can’t find a higher draw weight, you can stop measuring. Your draw weight will be the highest number you have written down.

Tips for more accurate measurements

The more measurements the more accurate your final measurement will be. If you find it important to get an accurate measurement, it might be worth investing in a bow scale.

Actual vs default draw weight

New archers are often confused about draw weight because there are actually two measurements. One measurement is standardized while the other is the real measurement that differs per archer.

Default draw weight

The default draw weight is the draw weight you see when you buy a bow. This draw weight is measured at exactly 28 inches regardless of the bow type or size. This draw weight allows you to compare the draw weight of different bows regardless of your draw length.

This metric is therefore very useful when you are buying new limbs. If you currently shoot 30 LBS and you want to increase your draw weight, you might consider 34 LBS limbs.

Just because you shoot with 30 LBS limbs, doesn’t mean that your draw weight is 30 LBS. That depends on your draw length. If you have a long draw length (30 inches for example) it will be more than 30 LBS. If you shoot a short draw length (25 inches for example) it will be a lot less.

Actual draw weight

The actual draw weight measures what draw weight you actually pull back. This draw weight is dependent on your draw length and therefore can’t be compared to other bows. But this is a useful measurement to determine what arrows you need.

Therefore, you must measure your draw weight to get your actual draw weight. Although you can also predict your actual draw weight based on draw length, measuring is much more accurate.

Compound archery

Compound bows are very different from recurve and traditional bows. But the information above also holds for compound bows. When you increase the draw length of your bow, the draw weight will increase as well.

Therefore, you should always measure the draw weight on your compound bow. Because there can be a big difference between the actual and the default draw weight. The main difference in draw weight between compound and recurve archery is the let-off, which decreases the amount of draw weight at the end of the draw.

How to predict your actual draw weight

Whenever you buy new arrows, you must measure your draw weight. But what if you don’t have a bow yet because you are just getting started. In that case, it might be useful to estimate your draw weight to determine what arrows fit your bow.

Although estimating your draw weight isn’t all that accurate, it’s a lot better than using the default draw weight, which most beginners do. You have to first measure your draw length though. You can also do this without a bow, as I explain in this article.

How to use the table

  1. Measure your draw length (example: 30 inches)
  2. Lookup the factor in the table (example: 1.11)
  3. Multiply the default draw weight by the (example: 30 LBS default draw weight * 1.11 = 33.3)
Draw length Percentage Factor
20 65% 0.65
21 69% 0.69
22 72% 0.72
23 77% 0.77
24 82% 0.82
25 86% 0.86
26 90% 0.90
27 95% 0.95
28 100% x
29 106% 1.06
30 111% 1.11
31 117% 1.17
32 123% 1.23

Note: this chart works best for recurve bows because they have similarly shaped limbs. This chart doesn’t work for compound bows because the draw profile can dramatically change between different bow models.

Why draw weight is an important metric

As an archer, I think it’s important to have a basic understanding of draw weight. Therefore, I will discuss in this section why draw weight is an important metric. I will explain three factors that are influenced by the draw weight of your bow.

Arrow speed

When you shoot with a heavier draw weight, the arrow will fly faster. This has a few advantages, namely:

  • More wind resistance
  • More stable arrow flight
  • Decreased arrow drop

I discuss these benefits in a lot more detail, in this article.

Draw strength

Although increasing the draw weight technically makes your bow a bit more accurate, you still have to pull it back. If you don’t have the required strength to do this comfortably you will start to shake. This significantly decreases your accuracy.

Therefore, it’s very important to pick a draw weight that you can easily manage. It’s a lot worse to pick a too heavy draw weight than a too light draw weight. When you force yourself to shoot a too heavy bow, you will change your overall form and technique, which will hurt your performance even after you decreased your draw weight.

Arrow spine

I already mentioned a few times that you need to know your draw weight to choose the right arrow. When you have a heavy draw weight you need stiff arrows. But when you have a low draw weight you need more flexible arrows. The amount of flexibility is what we call spine, with the measurement spine weight.

If your arrow’s spine doesn’t match your draw weight, your bow will not shoot accurately. Therefore, you need to measure your draw weight every time you buy new arrows. Read the article below if you want to know more about spine weight:

Spine weight: what it is and why it matters

Learn more

There are a lot of things to learn about archery. Understanding these concepts can help you choose the right gear and improve your technique. Therefore, I have listed down some relevant articles you might want to read.

Learn more about draw weight:

Learn more about other archery metrics:

Final words

I hope this article was helpful any feedback is very much appreciated. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comment section down below. I will respond to your question as soon as possible and send you an email with my reply.

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