How to Measure Your Draw Length

When you make the decision to learn archery and you decide to invest in your own bow, you will want to head to the sporting goods shop with an understanding of your draw length. It is important that you record the draw length accurately as it will influence the size of the bow you need to buy. It also influences the size of arrows you will need to purchase for use with your bow. Whether you are using a recurve or compound bow is really of no consequence: You will still need an accurate measurement of your draw length. What’s more, since compound bows are made with pre-established draw lengths, if you’re in the market for a compound bow, you’ll need to know that all important length of the draw.

It is vital that when you buy a bow for the first time that you get one that accurately works with your physical needs. Buying a bow in a hurry because you’re eager to get started shooting can end with negative consequences as it can influence the accuracy of your shot, the level of comfort you experience while using the bow, and in a worst-case scenario, it may even lead to an unwarranted injury. It is far better to take a few minutes time with the help of another to record your draw length before you shop.

Full Draw: Form and Stance

Full draw is a position you take when you are ready to release an arrow from your bow. Hold the bow with your non-dominant hand and in front of you while keeping the bow parallel to the ground. Imagine a target you want to shoot and keep the side of your body facing that target. Your feet should straddle an imagined line that runs all the way to the target. One foot should be a bit more forward than the other should. With your dominant hand, take the bowstring and pull back and slightly upward with your arm until your hand is at your face and the string touches your nose, cheek, and mouth. The string is tense and this full draw stance is your positioning moments before the arrow release.

Measuring Full Draw Method #1: Measuring Your Arms Outstretched

Standing up straight with your hands out to each side, keep your arms parallel to the ground. Keep your arms in a comfortable position. Do not lock your elbows. Do not overstretch to the left or right. Keep your shoulders back and your head up with the bottom of your chin parallel to the ground. Have your assistant take a tape measure to track and record the distance from the tip of your middle finger on one hand to the tip of the middle finger on your opposing hand. The figure collected is then divided by 2.5 to get a quotient that equals your full draw measurements. For instance, if you are the distance from one hand to another is 70 inches, and then you divide 70 by 2.5 to get a full draw length measurement of 28 inches.

There is a spin on this formula where the mathematical calculations vary, but you still end up with close to the same result. Some archers choose to take a full measurement from one hand to another and take 15 from the sum. The sum is then divided by 2 instead of 2.5. For instance, with a measurement of 70 inches from one hand to another, if the archer takes away 15, the remainder of 55 is divided by 2 for a quotient and full draw measurement of 27.5 inches.

Measuring Full Draw Method #2: Chest to Hand Measurement

An alternative method for taking a full draw measurement is to stand straight with your arms out to your sides. Have your assistant take the tape measure to record the distance from your chest’s center to the wrist of the hand on one of your fully extended arms. The measurement should start where the button on your shirts would appear. Essentially, this is just a different positioning of half the full arm measurement, and by foregoing the measurement of the hand, you are making allowances for the few extra inches that are not included in full draw measurements.

Measuring Full Draw Method #3: Fist to Mouth Measurement

Unlike the first two full draw measurement methods described above, the fist to mouth measurement does not require any division. All you have to do is to have someone make one simple measurement. Position yourself so you are standing in front of a wall at about arm’s length away. For this measuring tactic, you are going to pretend you are holding a bow in the air. With one arm outstretched and formed into a fist (as if you are holding a bow in the air in front of you), rest your fist against the wall. Keeping your arm in position, take the other arm and draw back your hand to your cheek and mouth where your hand would be when in full draw. Remain in this imagined full draw position and consider your posture as you do so. Have someone measure from your mouth to your fist that is up against the wall to get your full draw measurements.

The Ideal Measurement

Many compound bow owners have a tendency to set their equipment with an excessive draw length. The incorrect length leads to a host of issues, including shooting inaccuracies, issues with the archer’s form, and the archer may be subjected to a the painful and very much undesired sting from the slap of a bowstring against the arm. Having your draw length correct ensures your comfort and will allow for ease of equipment use. A good tip to remember is if you are ever in any doubt as to what measurement to set your full draw length at on a compound bow, always opt for a draw that is less than a bit more. On many bows, it is pretty easy to make a simple adjustment to the draw if you need to tweak the settings.

Draw Length and Arrow Speed

It is important for you to remember that a longer draw length results in a longer power stroke for your bow. When you have a longer draw length, it adds more to the power and speed of your shot. In fact, for every extra inch of draw length you have, you get another 10 feet per second when it comes to the velocity of the arrows you are shooting. With this notion in mind, consider that in archery speed is an important factor to the archer. Full draw length determines how fast the arrow moves. If you have a draw length of 28 inches, this equals 280 fps (191 mph) in terms of speed. Likewise, if you have a full draw of 32 inches, this equals 320 fps (218 mph) in terms of shooting speed. The latter figures are important as manufacturers rate their bows based on standards established by the International Bowhunting Organization (IBO). An IBO speed of 300 fps (205 mph) or less is a bow with a slow velocity while a bow with an IBO of 340 fps (232 mph) is an ultrafast shot.

The three chief things influencing the speed of a fired arrow are arrow mass, draw length, and draw weight. The lightest arrows fly the furthest. The bow stores extra power when the draw weight is higher, and the draw length also contributes to the amount of power a bow stores up before the shot.

Your Exact Draw Length or Thereabouts

By now, you have come to understand the importance an accurate draw length. If you noticed a bit of a difference in the measuring results from different techniques, you may wonder how accurate you need to be when calculating your draw length. Give or take a half inch to an inch in either direction is fine, as long as you are comfortable when you are shooting the bow. Your comfort when using the equipment is one of the most important factors to your success in any archery endeavors.


Hunter’s Friend. “ARCHERY HELP – BOW SIZING AND ADJUSTMENT GUIDE.” Website. URL: “Learn How To Determine Your Proper Draw Length.” Website. URL:

Mike’s Archery Center. “How to Calculate your Draw Length.” Website. URL:

Sole Adventure. “4 Ways That Archers Can Measure Their Draw Length.” Website. URL:

Additional Resources:

PSE Video. “How to Measure Draw Length.” Video. URL:

Santa Fe Archery. “How to Check your Bow for Proper Draw Length and Shooting Position.” Video. URL:

Discover Archery. “Measure Your Draw.” Website. URL: