The benefits of a heavy (draw weight) bow

When you shoot your new bow at the range for the first-time fellow archers are always interested in what you bought. There is always one question that will come up, which is: ‘’what is the draw weight?’’. There tends to be quite an emphasis on this simple measurement. For some reason, archers always want to increase this number. In this article, I will explain some good and bad reasons why and give some additional tips.

I will focus mainly on why most archers want a heavy draw weight, but I also discuss why this is not always beneficial for your accuracy. At the end of this article, I will give some additional tips to choose the right draw weight.

The advantages of a heavy bow

The main benefit of a heavier bow is that more energy is transferred into the arrow, which increases the speed of the arrow. This has five major accuracy benefits which I will discuss in more detail below. There are also two other advantages which I will discuss later.

More wind resistant

The longer the arrow is in the air, the more wind can influence the trajectory of the arrow. Wind can throw off your shot especially if the wind is very turbulent. Due to the increased arrow speed, arrows shot by a heavier bow tend to be more wind resistant. A heavier bow also allows you to shoot stiffer and heavier arrows. These heavier arrows are less influenced by wind.

This benefit is most noticeable at long ranges, below 30 yards (28 meters), the wind does not affect the arrow that much.

Decreased arrow drop

When we shoot at long-range, we have to lower our sight to account for the arrow drop. Even if you would fire a heavy bow the arrow will still drop. Even firearms have this phenomenon called bullet drop.

In general, arrow drop isn’t much of an issue because you can just lower your sight. But if you shoot a low poundage bow at long range it might bottom out. This means that you cannot place the sight any lower and aim at with your sight

In this article, I give a few tips on how you can still shoot at these long ranges. But even if you follow these tips, you might not solve the issue. In these cases, the only solution is to increase the draw weight of your bow. Especially at the long metric distances (70 and 90 meters), you might need a heavier bow.

Increased penetration

Faster arrows will penetrate more in your target. For target archers, this isn’t much of a benefit. As long as your arrow sticks in the target, you will get your points. You could even argue that it’s a con because it wears out your target faster and it will be more difficult to retrieve your arrows.

For hunters, the amount of penetration is a very serious consideration. You need sufficient penetration to finish off your target. You don’t want over penetration, however, because you want the fletching to stay out of the animal. Therefore, for some hunters shooting a heavy draw weight might be a necessity.

Overpenetration can sometimes be an issue if you shoot an extremely heavy bow, which can damage your fletching

Twigs and leaves do not influence the arrow as much

We already discussed a good reason why hunters might want to shoot a heavier bow. There is also a good reason why 3D archers and hunting simulation archers might want to choose a heavier bow. Although you don’t have to put your arrow deep into the target, like a hunter. You still have to hit your target, like a hunter.

3D archery is all about simulation the hunting experience as close as possible. Therefore, in some competitions, the organizers place the target near an obstacle. Think for example near or behind a small bush. Sometimes you even have to shoot through a bush to hit your target.

When you shoot through a bush with a heavy bow, the bush will throw off your shot. Increasing the poundage of the bow will lessen this issue and increases the stability of the arrow in flight.

Higher durability

The limbs are probably one of the weakest parts of the bow. Because they bend when the bow is shot, they cannot be reinforced by strong materials without increasing the draw weight. Especially the limbs on recurve and traditional bows are prone to breaking.

Limbs with a heavier draw weight are made from thicker materials. This makes these limbs stronger and less prone to breaking. Especially if you have a long draw length and a low draw weight you might experience a breakage. Although I wouldn’t buy a heavier bow just because of their durability, it is a nice bonus if you can increase your draw weight.

It trains your muscles more

In this article, I argue that archery is not a great exercise to increase upper body strength. The main reason being that you can never use 100% of your strength. If you would use 100% of your strength you will start to shake, which decreases your accuracy. Still, it is a simple fact that increasing your draw weight trains your muscles more. Again, I don’t think that this is a good reason to increase your draw weight, but it’s a nice bonus.

The disadvantages of a heavy bow

Although it would be great if we could all shoot a super heavy bow, it requires a lot of muscle strength. The major disadvantage of a heavy bow is that it is more strenuous on your muscles, which has the following disadvantages:

  • Your body will vibrate more
  • You will shoot fewer arrows per session
  • You can’t focus anymore on your technique
  • You will take less time to aim

You can of course train your upper body muscles to solve these issues, but that takes a long time. Additionally, time spent training your muscles could also be spent on shooting arrows, which might be more beneficial for your accuracy. In this article, I discuss the pros and cons of working out for archery in more detail. I also discuss these 4 bullet points in more detail.

Why most archers want a heavy bow: the macho complex

As we discussed in the intro, many archers will ask for the draw weight when you bought a new bow. Sadly, many archers focus way too much on this number. They compare how their draw weight compares to other archers. In most cases, however, making this comparison isn’t even fair. As we discussed in this article there is a huge difference between your actual draw weight and the draw weight printed on the limbs.

More importantly, it makes people focus too much on the draw weight. Because you don’t want to be seen as ‘’weak’’ many archers pick a too-heavy draw weight. Archery, however, is not about being strong, we are not weightlifters. Archery is all about accuracy, regardless of the power of the bow or the speed of the arrow. Even for hunters, it doesn’t matter how fast your arrow flies if you can’t hit your target.

Why a too heavy bow decrease your accuracy more than a too light bow

Although I discussed a lot of advantages of a heavy draw weight picking a too heavy bow is way more harmful than picking a too light bow. A too heavy bow will strain your muscles and make it impossible to shoot it accurately.

A light bow on the other hand can be shot for days without an issue. The speed of the arrow will only be a bit lower than it could have been if you have bought a bow with the heavier draw weight.

Traditional archers often have a heavy draw weight to closely mimic historical archery which was all about heavy draw weights

So, what draw weight should I pick

The next logical question would be: ‘’what draw weight should I pick’’ or ‘’is this bow the right draw weight for me’’. Although it would be great to give you a clear answer, I can’t. Not only depends it on your body type, but it also depends on your shooting style. Additionally, even professional archers disagree on how you should pick your draw weight.

If you want some additional guidance these links below might be helpful.

Recurve archery

Compound archery

Traditional archery (external site)

I would like to emphasize one more time that you should not overestimate your strength. Sadly, many archers overestimate their strength and can’t for that reason not accurately shoot their bow. If you are in doubt, choose a low draw weight.

Final words

When I was just getting into archery, I was wondering why so many people wanted to shoot a heavy bow. Since I was into short-range outdoor archery at that time, I could not understand why so many archers used such a heavy bow. Since even very good and experienced archers used 40+ LBS I was under the impression that heavy bows are inherently more accurate.

This is not true, heavy bows are a bit more forgiving, but not inherently more accurate. Sadly, many people believe that the bow you are using is a big factor in your accuracy. Meaning that one bow (for example a stronger bow) shoots more accurately than another bow. I learned that this is not the case. A skilled archer can even shoot a low-quality bow very accurately.

If you want to know more about this, I recommend reading the article below. If I could recommend archers one article, it would be this one. Understanding this helps you focus on what really influences your accuracy.

Why some bows are more accurate than others

If you have any questions, comments, or opinions you would like to share. Please post them in the comment section down below. I will answer your question as soon as possible and send you an email with my reply.

Tim van Rooijen

For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by archery. First due to its historic significance but later because I like being outdoors. With this blog, I share my knowledge about Archery and how you can improve your shot. More about author…

3 Replies to “The benefits of a heavy (draw weight) bow”

  1. Brian says:

    Thank you for the article. With shoulders injured from bike crashes I never shot a particularly heavy bow, usually maxing out at 45 lb and often even that would hurt. I usually shot 35 or 40 lb. However, on a whim I got a used 60lb recurve. It took a few weeks to work up to it but very quickly I noticed no shoulder pain after shooting and much less back pain. I think the need to manage the stronger draw forced me to improve my stance etc. and correct bad habits, thus preventing repetitive stress injury. This is just a theory, of course, but I cannot think of any other reason. While a lighter draw weight is probably much better for learning proper technique, a heavier in this case seems to force one to adopt proper technique all the time. At this point I am comfortable shooting the 60 lb bow for over an hour and sometimes two. It took only a few weeks. When I cannot get to the range I shoot in the garage at least half an hour every day. I can finally sleep at night without back or shoulder pain and while I would not ever get rid of my lower poundage bows some of which are nice vintage recurves, I am glad I tried a heavier poundage.

    1. Tim van Rooijen says:

      Hi Brian,

      Thanks for sharing your story, it’s definitely an interesting one. I think what your story illustrates is that there is no one size fits all solution for some issues. Sure there are some general recommendations, but sometimes you have to just try and find out. The same is true for form and technique. We all have different bones and muscles, so what works for most doesn’t have to work for you.

      I do still think that most archers are overbowed and not underbowed. Especially because we often like to increase our draw weight to increase arrow speed. So that’s where my tips are based off. But the only way to be sure whether something works is to test it as you did!

      1. Brian says:

        Agreed, and in fairness an ideal bow weight for me is probably lower, I’d take a 48 or 50 lb if I could. Love the 60 but for long practice sessions its a bit overkill. Problem with being on a budget in the used market is you take when you can get that comes close. Being lefty and left eye dominant doesn’t help as there are far fewer used bow options!


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