How to Measure Draw Length 4 Different Ways

If you’re new to bowhunting, you might be wondering how to measure draw length on a bow. There are a few different techniques that are effective and can help you find the proper fit for your build.

Here, we’ll give you tips on how to measure draw length and discuss why it’s crucial to get it right.

Defining bow draw length

Compound bows, longbows, and traditional recurve bows all have different draw lengths. While the more conventional models have a more comprehensive range of possibilities, compound bows are made to only drawback to a certain point before you can’t pull them any further. This is the definition of the bow’s draw length.

Measuring draw length starts by taking your own measurements and then finding a bow that matches your specs. From there, you can make adjustments to find the perfect fit.

It’s important to note that you always want to choose a bow that will fit you based on your measurements and not try to adapt your size to a bow that doesn’t fit. If you try to do it backward, you’ll always end up with sub-par results.

Defining a full draw

One of the most important things to remember about a compound bow is that it’s only meant to be shot from a full drawThat means that it’s pulled all the way back to its stopping point.

For example, if your bow is set with a 30-inch draw length, then you should only ever shoot it from that position and never from the middle of the power stroke. This both ensures your safety and maximizes the results and efficiency of your bow.

Related: Compound bows vs Crossbows

Can you overdraw a bow?

When you’re learning how to measure draw length, you might be concerned about the possibility of overdrawing your bow. Fortunately, that’s quite difficult to do on compound models. 

 Once you set your draw length, it’s challenging to overshoot the mark without making mechanical modifications to your bow’s setup. For example, if your draw length is 29-inches, then you won’t be able to draw it back to 30 or 31-inches without potentially damaging your equipment.

To be safe, never try to overdraw your bow past where it triggers the mechanical stop, and always do it in a slow and controlled manner to let you gently hit the wall at your optimal draw length.

Finding your proper draw length

Although every archer will have different preferences that can influence their bow draw lengths, there are a few different techniques you can use to help you determine where you will be more comfortable shooting from.

Once you have a baseline and find the bow to match,  you can always tweak your setup to get it just right. You also might need to make adjustments down the road as your technique improves and evolves to find what’s most accurate for you.

Here are four different ways experts recommend when they’re asked how to measure draw length for a new bowhunter. You can visit your local archery shop for assistance obtaining your measurements, or you can do these easy calculations on your own.

Wingspan divided by 2.5 method

The most common method to find a comfortable draw length is known as the wingspan or arm span divided by 2.5 method. To do it, you’ll need a tape measure and someone to help you with the measurements.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Stand up straight, turn your palms forward and extend your arms out to your sides in a “T” shape 
  •  Stand naturally, avoid stretching, reaching through your fingertips, or moving your shoulder blades
  • Have your partner measure from the tip of the middle finger on your right hand to the same spot on your left 
  • Record that measurement, which is your wingspan
  • Divide that number by 2.5 

The result is an estimated draw length for the size of your body. Note that this method is considered more accurate than ones based on simply your height because it takes into account your build and proportions.

If you don’t have someone to help you with the tape measure, you can also do this on your own with a little effort. Stand facing a wall and place one hand at the corner. Then extend your arms to a “T” shape while holding a pencil in your other hand.

Use the pencil to mark the end of your reach on the wall. Step back, and then use your tape measure to find the distance from the corner to where you marked the wall.

If you go this route, remember you’ll need to account for any distance you may be standing from the wall and get the straightest measurement possible for accuracy.

Wingspan minus 15 divided by 2

This method follows the same process as the one above but incorporates different calculations to determine your draw length. Many archers find this to be more comfortable and use this as their preferred method.

The difference in draw length is slight between the two methods. For example, if you have a 75-inch wingspan, your draw length, according to the first option, is 30-inches. With this option, you’ll arrive at the same result.

However, if your wingspan is 72.5 inches, for example, your results will be 29-inches and 28.75-inches, respectively.

Buttons to base

A third method you can use to determine your draw length is the buttons to base technique. Here, you’ll stand up straight and extend your dominant hand out to the side at shoulder height with your palm facing forward. 

Next, measure from your sternum at the center of your chest (where your shirt buttons would sit) to your wrist on the extended arm.

Note that often this will give you similar results to the two methods above, but won’t be as accurate if your arms have disproportionate lengths. Most people have one arm that’s just a touch longer than the other, but if you have a more significant difference, that could skew the results in this method.

Fist to mouth

 If you have experience drawing a bow and want to refine your setup, you might want to do a test with the fist-to-mouth method.

Start by standing near a wall and position your body as if you are holding an imaginary bow. Draw the bow to a comfortable full draw position, and then make a fist with the hand that’s holding your bow. 

Now touch your bow fist to the wall while maintaining your comfortable, natural full draw stance. Focus your eyes on your fist, and then have an assistant measure the difference from the top of your fist to the corner of your mouth. That measurement should be in line with your draw length.

Note that this option is only reliable if you are an experienced compound bowhunter who is comfortable and confident in your form. Most novice archers won’t be able to find this stance naturally, and it could produce skewed results.

You may be interested in: our guide to the best hunting boots.

FAQs about Draw Length

How can I accurately measure my draw length?

To accurately measure draw length, stand in a relaxed shooting position and extend your bow arm as far as possible while keeping your back straight. Have someone else measure the distance from the nocking point on the bowstring to the center of the grip on the bow.

Is it important to get an exact measurement of draw length?

Yes, getting an exact measurement of draw length is important because it affects how well you can aim and shoot a bow accurately.

How does draw length affect my shooting performance?

Draw length affects shooting performance by determining how much force is needed to pull back the string properly and also how far away from the target you should be standing when aiming at it.

Are there any special tools needed to measure draw length?

No special tools are required for measuring draw length, although many archery stores will offer specialized tools such as scales or lasers that may make this process easier or more accurate depending on their design and features.

Is there a way to adjust the draw length on a compound bow or crossbow if it is too long or too short?

Yes, most compound bows and crossbows come with adjustable limbs so that users can adjust their draw lengths depending on their needs and preferences without having to purchase an entirely new set-up every time they want to change something about their equipment setup or posture when shooting arrows or bolts respectively.

Find the draw length that’s right for you

Whether you visit your local archery or hunting store for assistance or take your measurements at home, any of these methods can help you learn how to measure draw length and find the perfect setup for your needs.


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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