How do I know if I am shooting the correct draw length?
The answer is simple - yet complex.
Before we go much further, I must advise the reader that these methods of determining draw length are for compound bow shooters using a release and a 1” string loop.
There are couple of different methods that work well for determining your exact draw length. The Calculated Draw Length method is the simplest way to find draw length. It has been used for many years by archery shops across the country and around the world.
Calculated Draw Length is measuring the armspan of an archer then dividing it by 2.5.
To measure armspan accurately, put your back against a wall and stretch your arms out as wide as possible. Have a friend take two small pieces of masking tape and stick them against the wall where the tips of your middle fingers end. Take the measurement of the length between the pieces of masking tape to find your armspan. Once the length is determined, divide the number by 2.5 and round up to the nearest 1/2”. For example, if your armspan width is 73”, dividing by 2.5 will yield 29.2, and rounded to the nearest half inch will be 29.5” (which will be your estimated draw length).
If you are new to archery, this method is fantastic! I have used this to help many people purchase their first bow and get started on the right path to good and proper form.
However, I have found that many archers shoot more accurately at lengths that do not necessarily match this method. It sounds confusing, but as in all things archery, this is where the answer gets more complex.
Archery is a learned discipline. Repeating a process exactly the same over and over are the requirements for accurately hitting the target. That is the goal - to hit the mark every time without fail. Since I compete on a professional scale, I have the opportunity to shoot and collaborate with some of the best archery minds in the world. These shooters use every advantage they possibly can to be the best and repeat their process time and time again. I’ve found that the Calculated Draw Length method gets them close to where they want to be, but ultimately, they micro-adjust their draw length to find their most comfortable hold position. This can only be determined through lots of shooting, practice, and competition to find what feels best.
The way a bow feels at full draw and its let-off can affect the draw length as well. If I am shooting a bow that has low let-off, then I typically use a shorter draw length than a bow with high let-off. Also, I’ve noticed that using a cable stop on a bow versus one using a limb stop requires me to use a slightly shorter length.
In its truest form, archery is about feel, how the grip the feels, how the bow feels when it is drawn, how the anchor point feels, how the bow feels when it is shot, and how the follow through feels after the shot. Feeling is incredibly important. When all things are working properly together, including the draw length, an archer will have their best chance to feel all of these factors work together successfully.
There is no substitute for good practice and training. Knowing that you and your equipment are fitting together for peak performance will give you the most confidence in your ability to hit the mark every time. And ultimately, that is the goal!