Does Draw Length Matter for Recurve Bows?

Recurve bows are great bows that are packed with power while having fewer parts than a traditional composite bow. Due to the fact that these bows are typically more beginner-friendly, a common question falls down to if draw length really matters for them.

For the best accuracy and convenience, having a proper draw length is important. Inappropriate sizes will lead to arm strain, poor accuracy, and overall discomfort.

These bows can be used for hunting, though the weight is a factor in being able to perform an ethical kill. Some areas also place a minimum on the weight if this is their intended purpose, as too light will merely injure or cause a slow, painful death for the animal. Keep reading for more information regarding recurve bows, including for selecting one with an appropriate draw length.

What is Draw Length in Archery?

The draw length of a bow is the length between the arrow shelf and the nock groove of the arrow. Essentially, it is how far back the arrow can be drawn with the bowstring while maintaining the proper form.

While an inappropriate draw length can dampen accuracy, it can also cause strain on the arms and cause more bow bite if the length is incorrect.

How to Find Proper Draw Length for a Recurve Bow

Finding the proper draw length for the recurve bow is essential for comfort and accuracy. Thankfully, it is not difficult to find out what is needed for the individual archer. 

Here is how to find an individual’s draw length:

  1. Stand straight on a flat surface
  2. Stretch arms out to each side, parallel to the ground
  3. Measure from fingertip to fingertip
    1. Be sure to include distance across the shoulders
  4. Divide this measurement by 2.5 and round up to the nearest whole number
    1. Alternatively: subtract 15 from the measurement and then divide that by 2, again rounding up to the nearest whole number

If everyone had proper proportions, this length should be the same as their height. However, this is not always the case so be sure to measure regardless to ensure precise measurements. Do keep in mind that both of these methods will give slightly different measurements but is typically considered good enough. 

Alternatively, many archery shops have a draw check bow which is a light, fiberglass bow that has a marked arrow attached to it in order to measure the draw length. This method only works if the archer has proper form, so may not be viable for beginner archers. 

How to Determine if the Draw Length is Incorrect

While it is possible to get away with a bow that is slightly off, it is going to cause some issues ranging from discomfort to a dip in accuracy. For the best performance and experience, selecting a bow with an appropriate draw length is crucial.

Here are some ways to tell if the draw length is incorrect:

Too LongToo Short
Arm is constantly hitting the stringCannot maintain proper shooting form
String goes past the earCannot pull string to the ear
Arm is hyper-extended at anchorCannot draw without arm strain

The best way to determine the draw length of a bow is by taking appropriate measurements when selecting the bow. Either measure this by the arm span method or by utilizing a draw check bow at the shop for the most accurate results.

What Size Should the Recurve Bow be?

For the most part, personal preference helps determine the overall size of the bow. However, using the calculated draw length is essential to selecting the correct size for the individual. Keep in mind that a bow slightly too large is going to be much more comfortable than one slightly too small.

Draw LengthBow Length
14-16 inches48 inches
17-20 inches54 inches
22-24 inches62 inches
24-26 inches64-66 inches
26-28 inches66-68 inches
28-30 inches68-70 inches
31+ inches70-72 inches

It is also important to consider the intended use of the bow. Trick archers and hunters typically will be wanting bows that err on the smaller side due to their mobility and ease of use. Competitive and target archers typically look for a slightly larger bow as that helps to improve overall accuracy.

Can the Draw Length be Adjusted on a Recurve Bow?

If the draw length is incorrect or doesn’t feel comfortable, the best way to fix it is to simply get a new bow with an appropriate one. However, there are a few ways to adjust if that bow absolutely needs to be kept.

Maintain Proper Shooting Form

The first step is to try and fix the overall alignment of the body. Ideally the shoulder and the arms should be in alignment with the arrow. Adjusting where the hands are placed can sometimes adjust the overall draw length. Maintaining proper shooting form can ensure a proper draw length.

Modify the Brace Height

If the draw length needs to be shortened, modifying the brace height might be a necessary step. Untwist strings or cables as this will drop the brace height and grow the axle-to-axle (ATA) which will drop both the draw length and weight.

What happens if the brace height is too high?

Add Grip Tape

Adding grip tape around the bow grip area can also help slightly reduce the brace height. Add as much tape as needed to achieve maximum comfort but do remember that it typically cannot be used alone in order to shorten draw length.

Final Thoughts

For optimal performance, selecting a recurve bow with an appropriate draw length for the archer is essential. This makes for a much more accurate and pleasant experience overall as there will be fewer snaps from the string or strain on the arms,

The easiest way to determine draw length is by measuring the archer’s arm span from fingertip to fingertip being sure to cross the shoulders and then dividing this measurement by 2.5. This measurement can also be taken and then subtract 15 from it and then dividing by 2. Alternatively, most shops will have a draw check bow that can help determine the draw length without needing to measure the arms.

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