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Bows: Does Too Long a Draw Length Hurt Your Shooting?

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July 08, 2013

Bows: Does Too Long a Draw Length Hurt Your Shooting?

By Dave Hurteau

Here's the sixth in our seven-part series of tests designed to prove or disprove some common conceptions about compound bows. These tests all appeared in the July issue of Field & Stream, but keep reading for more content exclusive to our website.

The Conventional Wisdom
Many bowhunters shoot a draw length that is too long for them, which hurts shooting form and degrades accuracy. You hear this all the time—that a long draw overextends your bow arm and makes it harder to hold against the back wall and to maintain a consistent anchor point.

But Wait a Minute
Shortening your draw length costs speed—about 10 fps per inch. Is this a worthwhile trade-off?

The Test
We shot three bows, each at the correct draw length (as determined by our bow-shop pro) and 1 inch too long.

The Results
Total average group sizes for correct draw length, too long a draw:
30 yards: 2.77; 3.53
40 Yards: 4.04; 5.95
60 Yards: 5.39; 9.77

The Conclusion
Yes. All three of us utterly fell apart with too much draw length, and for the same reasons. It messed up our anchor points and stretched out our bow arms to where they were in line with the string. And once the string whacks you in the arm a couple of times, you get jumpy, and everything goes straight to hell.

The Inside Story
We all expected to shoot a little worse with too long a draw. In fact, we shot way, way worse, cementing the notion the proper draw length is critical to accuracy. Which begs the question: How do you determine your proper draw length? The simplest method is to measure your arm span and divide by 2.5. My arms, held out parallel to the floor, palms forward, measure 70 inches from the tip of one middle finger to the other, for example, which divided by 2.5 equals 28 inches. That is the draw length I typically shoot, and it fits me well.

If the math doesn’t work out quite so neatly for you, round down to the nearest half-inch. This should put you either right on or very close. If, however, it’s still not quite right—if your anchor point is back behind your ear, or you can’t comfortably drop your nose down on the string, or your bow arm feels over- or under-extended, or the string is frequently slapping you during the shot—you may need to tweak things a bit. Most bows allow for easy draw-length adjustments in half-inch increments without a bow press. But some don’t. Always ask about this before you buy a bow. If the make and model you want doesn’t allow for easy draw-length adjustments, then get yourself down to the bow shop and have your pro determine your correct draw length precisely before you plunk down your money.

Comments (3)

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from Dcast wrote 40 weeks 3 days ago

I bought my first compound from a friend hard up for money and he had a 29" draw while I had a 27 1/2" I could shoot it just fine with one condition! A pay attention to my forearm! I massacred my forearm the 1st time shooting it and from that point paid very close attention. I decided to have the cams changed out to my proper draw length which helped out a lot. The only down fall was I have the same adjustable single pin sight that you guys test and I had to sight it in again which requires 20yds & 50yds shots and I have nowhere with that range that I could shoot it so it was outside and of course you never get a calm day when you need to sight in your bow. Anyway I got it pretty good considering the conditions and it shoots one slash high on all settings out to my max of 40yds.

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from weswes088 wrote 40 weeks 3 days ago

Was the correct draw length what you've all been shooting previously? It would make sense that increasing it an inch would mess everything up, if you're used to the way it was before. I wonder what shooting an inch too long from the get-go (as a beginner) and then decreasing to the correct draw would do (is it a matter of draw length or just being comfortable/used to shooting a certain way).

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from buckhunter wrote 40 weeks 3 days ago

10in groups at 60 yards just makes you guys "normal".

Another question which would spawn from this test is release creep. If your release is a little tight or lose from one day to the next, it may throw off your accuracy. Right?

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from Dcast wrote 40 weeks 3 days ago

I bought my first compound from a friend hard up for money and he had a 29" draw while I had a 27 1/2" I could shoot it just fine with one condition! A pay attention to my forearm! I massacred my forearm the 1st time shooting it and from that point paid very close attention. I decided to have the cams changed out to my proper draw length which helped out a lot. The only down fall was I have the same adjustable single pin sight that you guys test and I had to sight it in again which requires 20yds & 50yds shots and I have nowhere with that range that I could shoot it so it was outside and of course you never get a calm day when you need to sight in your bow. Anyway I got it pretty good considering the conditions and it shoots one slash high on all settings out to my max of 40yds.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from weswes088 wrote 40 weeks 3 days ago

Was the correct draw length what you've all been shooting previously? It would make sense that increasing it an inch would mess everything up, if you're used to the way it was before. I wonder what shooting an inch too long from the get-go (as a beginner) and then decreasing to the correct draw would do (is it a matter of draw length or just being comfortable/used to shooting a certain way).

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 40 weeks 3 days ago

10in groups at 60 yards just makes you guys "normal".

Another question which would spawn from this test is release creep. If your release is a little tight or lose from one day to the next, it may throw off your accuracy. Right?

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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