Bow Draw Weight: How to Find What’s Right for You

Whether you are a seasoned bow hunter or completely new to archery, you need to know your ideal draw weight. This figure plays an important role in many elements of bow sports, from picking your first bow to buying new arrows.

If you don’t have your bow draw weight right from the beginning, you won’t have proper form when you shoot. You’ll miss more shots than you make, and you won’t be able to shoot for more than a short time before getting sore. This guide will help you find the perfect draw weight for you.

What Is Bow Draw Weight?

Archer At Full Draw

The draw weight, or poundage, of a bow is the maximum amount of weight the archer experiences when drawing it back. Calculating this figure for recurve bows is relatively straightforward. For compound bows, it’s a little more difficult. We’ll talk about how to calculate the draw weight of both types of bows in this post.

Shooting with a heavier draw weight means that your arrows will be faster and more stable in flight. If you shoot with a bow that’s too heavy, though, your hands will shake, and you’ll lose out on accuracy. For this reason, if all other considerations are equal, you should choose a bow with a lighter draw weight.

Draw weight also influences the size and stiffness of the arrows you use. Plan on re-measuring your draw weight every time you shop for arrows so that you can find ones that match it.

The right draw weight for you may change. Younger shooters will grow as they get older, and your upper body strength may increase as you shoot more.

You should also keep in mind that a bow’s advertised draw weight can be very different from its draw weight when you actually shoot it. 

How to Find the Right Draw Weight for You

Finding a young archer's draw weight

The first step in calculating your draw weight is knowing your draw length. To learn this, stretch out your arms as far as they will go, and have someone measure the distance between the tips of your middle fingers. Then divide that length by 2.5.

A bow’s listed draw weight is based on a user who has a draw length of 28 inches. If your draw length is close to this, you have a bit less to calculate. If your draw length is longer than 28 inches, your actual draw weight will be heavier, and vice versa.

For each inch of difference in your draw length, your calculated draw weight will change up or down by 2.5 pounds. If your draw length is 32 inches and you want to use a 30-pound bow, those extra four inches will add to your actual draw weight, and you should start with a 20-pound bow.

Once you have a rough idea of your ideal draw weight, you can begin to fine-tune your measurements. Your local archery shop will have all the equipment you need for this. If you want to measure your draw weight at home, you can also buy a bow scale of your own.

The process of measuring your draw weight varies depending on whether you have a compound or a recurve bow. Later in this post, we’ll explore step-by-step directions for each bow type.

Regardless of your strength, your level of experience, and your shooting goals, you need to calculate your draw weight accurately. Don’t simply make estimates based on your size and build! If you don’t have the right draw weight, you can’t maintain good shooting technique, your arrows won’t hit your target, and you may even end up injuring yourself or somebody else.

As you gain more experience shooting your bow, you may be able to transition to a bow with a heavier draw weight. Don’t try to force this transition or make it happen sooner: the extra draw weight is not worth the risk of dealing with a bow that is heavier than you can handle.

One of the main causes of dry firing a bow is trying to pull back a bow with too much draw weight.

Here is a great video on choosing the right draw weight for your bow.

Bow Draw Weight Chart

The following chart will help you calculate a good starting draw weight range for both recurve and compound bows. Keep in mind that this is only a rough estimate. Every person has a unique situation, which is one reason taking individual measurements is so critical.

Build

Suggested Recurve Draw Weight

Suggested Compound Draw Weight

Young Child (70-100 lbs.)

10-15 lbs.

15-25 lbs.

Older Child (100-130 lbs.)

15-25 lbs.

25-35 lbs.

Woman 100-130 lbs.

25-35 lbs.

25-35 lbs.

Woman 130-160 lbs.

25-35 lbs.

30-40 lbs.

Woman 160+ lbs.

30-45 lbs.

45-55 lbs.

Man 120-150 lbs.

30-45 lbs.

45-55 lbs.

Man 150-180 lbs.

40-55 lbs.

55-65 lbs.

Man 180+ lbs.

45-60 lbs.

65-75 lbs.

As you can see in the chart above, the suggested draw weight for a youth recurve bow is between 10 and 25 pounds, while the suggested draw weight for a youth compound bow is 15 to 35 pounds.

Compound Bow Draw Weight

Beginner learning how to shoot a compound bow

A compound bow’s draw weight can be difficult to measure. Thanks to its let-off, its draw curve peaks, lowers, and rises again at a point called “the wall.” This graph is the same basic shape for every compound bow, but the exact point of the peak can vary dramatically.

To calculate the draw weight of a compound bow:

  • Place the bow scale in “peak draw” mode and attach it to your bow, making sure that you only hold onto the scale.
  • Draw your bow back until you reach the let-off point.
  • Have someone read the resultant measurement on your bow scale.
  • Take several measurements of your draw weight, varying your draw length each time.
  • The highest number you measure will be your draw weight.

Recurve Bow Draw Weight

Woman Shooting a recurve bow

Recurve bows have a straightforward draw curve. In most cases, the graph of their ideal draw weight is a straight line. Keep in mind that recurve archers have to carry more poundage compared to compound archers when they fully draw their bow.

If you have a traditional or recurve bow:

  • Attach your bow scale to your bow, making sure to only hold onto the bow scale and not the string.
  • Draw your bow back to your anchor point, keeping in mind that you’ll likely have to draw it back a little farther than usual.
  • While holding the bow at your anchor point, have someone read the result on the bow scale.
  • Repeat this process several times and take the average of these measurements.

RELATED: Best Recurve Bow For Beginners

How to Increase Draw Weight on a Recurve Bow

You can increase the draw weight on a recurve bow by changing the limbs if it is a takedown recurve.

Keep in mind that if you change the draw weight, you may need a different recurve bow string.

If it is not a takedown recurve, you can continue to draw the bow back to increase the draw weight.

The farther back you draw your recurve bow, the heavier its draw weight will be. The general rule for increasing your draw weight this way is that you should add about two pounds of weight for every inch you overdraw and subtract the same amount if you underdraw.

Although this allows you to increase your draw weight by simply drawing back farther, there are some limitations you should keep in mind.

Increasing your draw weight on a recurve bow means that you’ll need a stiffer, heavier arrow to compensate. Otherwise, your arrows will fly off course and your shots won’t have enough velocity to penetrate their target.

RELATED: How To String A Recurve Bow

Bow Draw Weight for Hunting

Bowhunter at full draw with a compound bow

When you are shooting at a live target, there are a few other things you should consider about your bow’s draw weight.

First, you want your shots to be lethal for your target. The lighter your draw weight, the more likely an accurate shot will wound the animal and not kill it. We recommend a minimum draw weight of about 40 pounds for deer hunting, regardless of the type of bow you’re using.

When hunting live animals, you should select the heaviest arrow that you can shoot accurately. Keep in mind that heavier arrows are harder to aim and hold, so practice until you are fully confident with every shot.

Depending on the state you are hunting in, you may also face legal restrictions on your bow’s draw weight. Some states place no limits on draw weight. Others set the minimum draw weight at 35 or 40 pounds. As a bow hunter, you are responsible for knowing the rules and regulations that apply to your equipment. If you don’t, you may risk losing both your hunting license and your equipment.

Final Thoughts

Selecting the correct draw weight is a critical element of bow hunting and target shooting alike. Your draw weight influences everything else about your shooting, including your accuracy, shot distance, and choice of arrows. No matter what, don’t rely only on graphs and charts that say what your ideal draw weight should be. Take the time to learn what it actually is, especially if you’re new to the world of bow hunting.

Expect to re-measure your bow draw weight whenever you buy new arrows. You should also re-measure it after you make changes to your routine, such as when hunting in a different location or switching bows.

Finally, if you aren’t good at math, don’t be afraid to consult an expert! It’s always better to go to your local archery supply store and ask for their help than it is to go it alone.

Now that you know the basics of finding your ideal draw weight, it’s time to go out there and get shooting!

RELATED: Samick Sage Recurve Bow Review

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Ron Parker

Ron is an archery instructor and expert bow hunter that lives with his wife and kids in central Ohio. When he is not teaching archery or in the woods bow hunting deer, he is writing informative articles for DeerHuntingGuide.net.

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