How To Measure Arrow Length

Measuring the length of your arrow is a crucial part of archery safety. Arrow flight can be negatively impacted if you don‘t have the correct arrow length. Today, we’ll look at the simplest ways to measure arrow lengths for compound, recurve, and traditional bows. 

Bowhunters can be impacted more than others, as a hunter requires all of the kinetic energy offered by their draw weight, but an improperly fitted bow and arrow will be inefficient or dangerous.

What’s in an arrow? 

Before we get into the proper length of arrows, we’ll be taking a quick look at the basics since I’ll be referring to them throughout this guide. 

The foundation of your arrow is the shaft, a long hollow tube usually made of carbon or aluminum. There’s often a small aluminum or plastic piece called an ‘insert’ at the front of the arrow. The insert is glued to the shaft and provides a threaded hole to screw the tip. The tip is the important end of the arrow. The back of the arrow is fitted with a nock, a small piece of molded plastic that fits the bow’s string.

The final component is the fletching – or flight wings. The arrows fletching is usually colored with soft vanes made of plastic or feathers. Usually, the fletches are glued into the shaft in a circular pattern with two fletches of one color and a third of another color, which allows you to orient the arrow.  

Measuring arrow length 

 Arrow length loosely correlates with the archers’ arm’s length and draw length. The arrow length is usually within an inch or so of your draw length. The best way to measure arrow length is by measuring the back of the arrow to the nock; arrow length is the length of the arrow shaft. Some beginners don’t know what arrow size and length are, but most have some knowledge of draw length. We’ll be covering the basics to help you understand everything you need to know. 

Why is it so important? 

You may be wondering why it’s so important to measure arrow length. It’s crucial. Usually, beginners will mess up when considering the difference between arrow length vs. arrow size. Beginners find it challenging to choose the appropriate length. Arrow length is crucial to archers because arrow length correlates to speed. 

Speed impacts the arrow’s spine (spine being the arrow’s stiffness). You can also use FOC (front of center) equations to measure the arrow’s balance point. FOC equations are useless if you don’t have the correct data – but there are even more crucial reasons. If you choose the wrong arrow length, you’re at risk of life-threatening injuries; archers have sustained injuries, including an arrow penetrating the hand. With that said, let’s get stuck into how you measure arrow length. 

Incorrect arrow length 

Having an arrow that’s too short is one of the worst hazards, but you shouldn’t aim to have an arrow that’s too long. If your arrow length is incorrect, you’ll have a more challenging time firing correctly. Let’s look at what happens in these cases. 

What if my arrow is too long? 

If your arrow length is too long, your arrow will have unnecessary length and mass, which decreases the arrow’s efficiency and limits the overall performance of your bow. Your goal should be to choose a safe but optimally performing arrow. 

The arrow spine is also negatively impacted by an overly long arrow. If you shoot an arrow that’s too long, you’ll have a slower arrow due to excessive weight, but the added length will require changing to a stiffer arrow spine. 

What if my arrow is too short? 

We’ve touched on this issue already, but too short arrows can be extremely dangerous. 

 Never shoot arrows that are too short. An arrow that is barely long enough is also too short – the safest practice is to ensure your arrows have at least an inch beyond your arrow rest (when at full draw). A little too long is okay, but too short isn’t.

If your arrow is too short, it could become lodged behind the rest at full draw; if you don’t notice this before releasing it, your arrow could snap upon release. An obstructed shot can send pieces of your carbon arrow into your bow hand or arm. Sometimes even pro shops will cut arrows very close to the rest to increase possible speeds, but an additional 1 or 2 FPS gained isn’t worth the possibility of getting an arrow shaft stuck in your arm. 

The best ways to determine arrow length 

These methods can be used for compound bows and traditional and recurve bows. Now, we’ll take a look at the exact processes required. Let’s get started. 

Measuring your arm 

This formula is one of the simplest – you measure the distance between your chest and your fingertips. You can stand next to a wall, extend your arms, and open your palms. Next, measure (or have a friend help measure) the distance from the center of your chest to your fingertips. Once you have your measurement, add one inch. This is your best arrow length. 

Using draw length 

You can use draw length to guess arrow length. But how do you find your draw length? 

One of the easiest ways is to measure your wingspan. Measuring your wingspan is easy. Stand upright and stretch your arms out (either side). Have a friend measure the distance from the tip of each middle finger to the other. This measurement is  your wingspan – divide it by 2.5. The resulting size is your draw length. Once you’ve found your draw length, you can add half an inch to it for the approximate arrow length. 

Draw arrow 

If you have access to a draw arrow, you can use this method. A draw arrow is similar to a real arrow, but it’s longer and has measurement markings to help you measure your arrow length. 

Grab the arrow, load it and pull it back at your full draw. When you’ve reached a comfortable draw, consult the measurement marks on the riser. 

The broomstick method 

The broomstick method is quite complex, but it can be used when you haven’t got a friend or assistant. Get your broom and hold it at the center of your chest with the sweeping end facing you. Hold it firmly and expand your arm out horizontally with the ground. Use your second arm (not holding the stick) to hold the broomstick away from you. Check where your fingers touch the stick and measure the distance between the touching points. 

Ask a friend 

If you don’t have a draw arrow and are having difficulty measuring your draw length or wing span, one of the simplest methods involves drawing a standard arrow, holding it at full draw, and asking a friend to measure from the string/nock point to the riser on your bow. When you have this measurement, add half an inch. The resulting measurement is your arrow length. 

Wrapping up 

 Measuring arrow length is a crucial part of safety for new and experienced archers. If you get it wrong, your bow will be less efficient in the best-case scenario. But worst-case scenario, you could impale your hand or arm. You can easily avoid these issues by measuring your arrow – which you can do with a draw arrow, a friend, or even a broomstick. Whichever method you choose, measuring your arrow length is crucial to practicing archery safely! 

Trey

About the Author

Trey is a lifelong hunter and avid camper. He lives outside Denver, CO with his wife Kaci and their lab mix Ziggy. They spend as much time as possible outdoors - hunting, fishing, and camping.

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