Ever wondered how your draw length relates to your arrow length? Especially for a newer archer, you may wonder about how the two things relate to each other, and we will cover that here.
I will do my best to give you the most information on this subject so that you will walk away smarter at the end. To sum it up, draw length means how far back the bow can be drawn from your anchor point. It measures the distance of the nock point to the throat of the grip plus an additional 1 ¾ inches.
Understanding Draw Length
Keep in mind, your arrow length should always be longer than your draw length because you don’t want the arrow to fall off the rest and shoot through your hand.
I wrote an article about what happens when you have an arrow length too short for the bow here.
To determine your draw length, first, stand against a wall with your arms outstretched. You want to stretch your arms out as wide as possible for the most accurate reading. Ask a buddy to stick masking tape at the end of your middle fingers on each side.
Next, you measure the masking tape to understand your draw length. Take the number found and divide it by 2.5 while rounding it to the nearest ½ inches. Let’s say that you have a draw length of 70 inches. Divide it by 2.5 to equal 28.
This equation means that 28 inches would make for your draw length. You can use that information to buy a bow. The outlined method hands you a general rule, but some archers will shoot fine without it.
Draw length determines the size of your arrows and the size of your bow. A longer draw length will give you up to 20 fps more since it creates more kinetic energy at release. For every inch of draw length under 30 inches, subtract 10 fps. Likewise, for every inch of draw length over 30 inches, add 10 fps.
Understanding Arrow Length
To measure the arrow length, you take the arrow from the back of the point to the throat of the nock. Your draw and the arrow spine will influence the arrow length. Let’s say that you have a 28-inch draw length. You will want an arrow that ends right at the front of the riser. This means that you want the arrow length right at around 27 inches.
The longer the arrow, the more limber it acts when you shoot. A shorter arrow, in contrast, will act more stiffly. You don’t necessarily want that because of how it can cause the arrow to hit the target from strange angles. I wrote more about why your arrow hits the target from an angle here.
You can shoot too long of an arrow. Longer arrows especially tend to be better for beginners because of a lower risk of injury, but too long of an arrow will cause abnormal flight and decrease accuracy.
Cutting Your Arrows for Length
Let’s say that you have an arrow length of 29 inches and a draw length of 29 inches. That wouldn’t pose a problem to your shots, but most people cut the arrow down ½ inches to 1 inch. This action puts the arrow near the riser but ahead of your hand so that it doesn’t pose a danger of going through your hand.
Important to note: Do this at your own risk. Beginners shouldn’t cut their arrows.
Too short of an arrow also poses a risk of getting a stiff spine. A stiff spine means that the arrow won’t correct itself during flight, and it won’t follow your intended target.
When cutting your arrows, don’t cut all of them down to the same size at once. You want to experiment to see what size works best for you. People often cut arrows this way because of how it increases the speed. Granted, speed doesn’t make a huge difference, but some people like to take as many advantages as they can.
You do have one exception where speed can make a big difference. For example, on a windy day outside when hunting, you want an arrow with a smaller diameter and a shorter size because of how you want the arrow to hit the target as quickly as possible. The sooner, the better.
The less time it takes, the lower the risk that the wind will influence the direction of the arrow. It has a lower chance that it will drift with the wind because the wind has a smaller size to pull on.
A great deal of this depends on your equipment, the venue and how you want your equipment to perform. Most shaft manufacturers will make the arrow length 1 inch longer than the draw length. However, some come quite a bit longer than needed, and this is where archers will cut the arrow’s size.
Particularly when hunting, you may find it advantageous to cut the arrow down an inch because of how it will increase the momentum during impact. An increase lowers the risk that the deer would escape injured. If you hit the deer, you want to make sure that you kill it, rather than having it suffer and die slowly.
Hunting Arrow vs Target Arrow: Draw Length and Arrow Length
The length of a hunting arrow and the length of a target arrow will differ. With each type, the arrow length gets determined based on your draw length. Many hunters don’t like the hunting arrow sitting at the front of the riser or too far inside the shelf.
Let’s say that you have one of your blades oriented to where it catches and nicks the riser on the shelf. That will pull the nock off the string. It doesn’t bode well because you have an animal up ahead that you want to hit, your arrow flopping around off its string and if it catches in the cables, it becomes an unsafe scenario with the broadhead.
You don’t want to risk the broadhead catching on the shelf. The other danger is that with your finger up in the air by accident in front of a broadhead while hunting, it will take your finger clean off. It’s even worse than a target arrow. With hunting, we would advise cutting the arrow only a ½ inch since this keeps it fully ahead of the shelf.
Target arrows, on the other hand, differ in that you won’t have a broadhead on it. It will never pose as much of a danger to you. Still, take precautions and never shoot too short of an arrow, but you don’t need to worry as much. For a target arrow, you could cut it down to 1 inch and you should be safe. Just do whatever feels most comfortable and safe to you. If it feels unsafe, don’t shoot it.
Spine Charts for the Right Arrow Length
If you find that you have an arrow that sits 2 or 3 inches past the riser, that indicates that you have the wrong spine. You need to drop it down a spine to cut the arrow to a more acceptable length. In most cases, the arrow length will sit right at the front of the riser after pulling back on the draw length.
Keep in mind with spine charts how they serve as a good starting point, but they won’t give you perfection. You need to experiment to see what works the best with your gear.
How Much Longer Should Arrow Be Than the Draw Length?
How long you want the arrow will depend on the purpose. For example, putting a broadhead on the arrow, you will want it longer to avoid it catching on the shelf. People who want total safety should have the arrow 1 inch past the arrow rest when they have the bow at full draw.
Having at least some of the arrow past the rest will provide you with greater safety. At a minimum, you want the arrow to sit ½ inches past the rest at full draw for the maximum level of safety.
Most shaft manufacturers will make it at least 1 inch past the rest for safety, but a lot of archers will cut the arrow some. Do this at your own risk.
Is My Draw Length the Same as My Arrow Length?
Your arrow length will differ from your draw length because if you have a 28-inch draw length, you will typically want a 27-inch arrow. Most archery experts recommend that you put the arrow right in front of the rest. You don’t want it too far behind because it poses a danger, but too far ahead can hurt accuracy. Most people say that too long of an arrow is better than too short of one.
A beginner archer will even want 2 inches longer to the arrow because it reduces the risk of injury. The arrow may fly more awkward for a beginner having this long of an arrow, but you could consider it a fair trade-off in the beginning. As you get better, you may choose to cut the arrow down.
Draw Weight, Draw Length and Arrow Length: What to Know
Beware of the draw weight with your bow as well because shorter arrows become even stiffer with a high draw weight. As the length of the arrow increases with the draw weight, you will also want to buy a stiffer arrow.
Let’s say that you have a 45-pound bow. You will need to pull back with 40 pounds of force to shoot the bow. No direct relation exists between the draw weight and the draw length, but the draw weight can determine how far back you can pull on the bow.
This will influence how long of an arrow you will want. The higher the draw weight, the less that you can pull back on it, which will influence the arrow length.
Are Longer Arrows More Accurate?
Having longer arrows tend to add an increasing level of stability to the arrow, which can improve accuracy. You still need to experiment to pinpoint the right length for you, which starts with the draw weight. To make a shorter arrow more stable, you will often increase the FOC, which stands for the total weight of the arrow.
Draw Length and Arrow Length Influenced by Arrow Rest?
The arrow rest plays a role in the arrow length as well because it depends on where you want the arrow to sit on the rest. When shooting the arrow, at no point should it be at risk of falling off the rest. If the arrow even has the slightest danger of that, you need a longer arrow.
Can the Draw Length Change over Time?
The longer you shoot, the greater your draw length over time. This increase in draw weight happens because your body feels more comfortable with the movement, and you build strength and flexibility as you shoot. You may want to check your draw length a second time within the first year of shooting, especially if it seems like the arrow sits further back on the rest. Most of the time, the difference won’t be much greater than 2.5 inches.
The draw length can also change from one bow to the next, and it varies on different types of bows.
Are Longer or Shorter Arrows Better?
For beginners, a longer arrow makes more sense because it doesn’t pose as much danger to you, but as you improve in archery, the length depends on the shooter. Also, we previously talked about how you want hunting arrows longer because of the broadhead. The answer depends on the purpose of your shooting.
Understanding the draw length will give you the arrow length on the bow. How long someone wants an arrow will depend on the archer, but you should never shoot too short of an arrow because it becomes a safety hazard, and it can hurt your accuracy. Getting the right arrow size takes some experimentation, and you will want to check this with every new bow that you shoot.
If you’d like to learn more about how to measure draw length, you might check out this article here. The draw length matters because it impacts the arrow length as well.