How To Measure Draw Length So You Get the Right Bow

Written By Ron Parker 


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In bowhunting, consistent accuracy is everything. Without proper form, you’ll experience strain and poor precision. To achieve the accuracy you desire, you need to accurately measure your draw length. 

In most instances, measuring draw length is as easy as stretching your arms wide! You’ll need to determine your correct draw length to take the next steps on your bow-hunting journey.

How To Measure Draw Length by Yourself — The Wingspan Method

How To Find Draw Length

The wingspan method is one of the easiest and most accurate ways to measure draw length. To determine your draw length on your own, stand and place your back against a wall and open your arms wide. Make sure your palms are facing forward and that you’re not stretching, as this can impact the accuracy of the measurements. Now you can measure the distance across the span of your arms (also known as your wingspan). For accurate results, measurements need to be in inches.

You can take these measurements on your own by marking the spots where your fingers are and then measuring the distance with a tape measure. If it’s easier, you can also ask a friend to help take measurements. Divide the measurement by 2.5. The result will be your proper draw length!

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Here's a great video that shows how to measure draw length.

How To Measure the Draw Length on a Compound Bow

Compound bows are specifically engineered to draw back to a certain distance. As such, it’s crucial for you to know the draw length so you can set it accurately. Compound bow design means you can only shoot from the "full-draw" position. As such, you’ll need to draw the bow all the way back until it stops. 

One way to measure the draw length on a compound bow is by using a faux arrow with measurements marked. To do this, simply draw the bow to your anchor point and measure where the arrow meets the arrow rest. While the measurement is taking place, make sure to use proper form: The arm holding the bow should bend slightly and not lock at the elbow. Then, using your bow release, draw the string to the corner of your mouth only. If you go too far, the draw length will be too long. 

After gathering the measurement from the faux arrow, you can adjust your compound bow to match the results.

Now you’ll be able to fully draw your bow, and it will come to a mechanical stop right at your natural draw length.

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Adjusting Draw Length on a Compound Bow

Compound bows allow for half-inch adjustments. If you own a compound bow with a rotating module, then you can change the draw length by removing the screws, turning the module to your measurements, and screwing it back together. 

Other compound bows may feature draw-length specific cams. In these instances, you’ll need to order new cam modules to achieve the right draw length. 

How To Measure the Draw Length on a Recurve Bow

Archer at full draw with a recurve bow

When it comes to measuring draw length on recurve bows (also known as traditional bows), it’s all about proper form and feeling. While you can adjust compound bows to specific draw lengths, recurve bows feature no sort of adjustments. This actually makes recurve bows more accessible for beginners or inexperienced archers, as determining the draw length is as simple or straightforward. 

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The wingspan method, which we mentioned above, works well when measuring draw length on a recurve bow. You can also use the faux measuring arrow to mark your natural draw length. Recurve bows don’t require you to make any adjustments to the bow itself. This allows archers to practice proper form

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How to Choose the Right Bow

Deciding between recurve bows and compound bows may seem complicated. Simply looking at both options side-by-side may fill your mind with countless questions.

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For starters, recurve bows are much simpler in design. Unlike compound bows, recurve bows do not feature as much equipment. They’re much less technical, making them a great bow for beginners. 

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If you’re confident in your archery skills, then a compound bow may be your best choice. They are more complicated than traditional bows, but the fact that draw length is a basic setting on compound bows makes them a great choice for intermediate and long-time shooters alike. Just make sure to accurately calibrate your compound bow so as not to experience strain or poor accuracy. 

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Why Knowing Your Draw Length Matters

Did you know that many archers and bow hunters tend to neglect the importance of proper draw length? You can avoid issues and accurately calibrate your compound bow by measuring your draw length. 

Along with draw weight, draw length is paramount to maintaining consistent accuracy in archery and bowhunting. By ensuring the correct draw length, you'll maximize your draw weight. These two details are crucial in bow hunting, as they affect the bow’s speed. 

Here are the most common outcomes of improper and accurate draw lengths: 

  • Short draw length will force you to hunch 
  • Long draw length will force you to stretch and strain in order to pull the bowstring all the way back
  • Accurate draw length will allow you to maintain the most natural position for optimum accuracy

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Final Thoughts

Draw length is one crucial aspect of the art of archery. Whether you’re looking to buy your first compound bow after using recurve bows for years, or you want to begin bowhunting for the first time, you need to begin by measuring your draw length. With this information, you’ll be able to choose a bow that perfectly suits your needs. 

Bows are not one-size-fits-all products. You should determine what feels best so you won’t experience back pain or injuries. Even if your bow “feels” fine, it might not be accurately calibrated, which means you may lose out on a more accurate shot.

You should now know how to measure draw length so you can choose the right bow. The beauty of calibrating your draw length is that you can do it on your own or at an archery shop. The only thing standing between you and accurate measurement is a measuring tape!

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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

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