One of the most common questions new archers ask themselves is what bow draw weight suits them best. Not only do they have to understand what draw weight is, but ensure they are using a bow weight that is right for them. If you’ve ever wanted to know the ins and outs of draw weight, then you have come to the right place.
What is Bow Draw Weight?
A bow’s draw weight, also known as poundage, is a measurement used to determine how much force is required to draw a bow. This measurement is taken in pounds, so a bow with a 70-pound draw weight takes 70 pounds of force to completely draw back.
It’s important to first understand that longbow and recurve draw weight will increase incrementally as they are pulled. The standard for determining draw weight on these types of bows is measuring the force necessary to pull the bow back to 28inches. Say for example you have a 40 pound recurve bow. This means the draw weight will be 40 pounds when pulled back to 28 inches. If you pull it back a few inches shorter, the draw weight will be less. Pull it back further and the draw weight will be heavier.
Draw weight on a compound bow is much simpler. Compounds have a set poundage no matter what the draw length is. So for example, a compound bow with a 40-pound draw weight at 29 inches will still have the same draw weight at 27-inches as well. The key difference between a compound and longbow or recurve is that you can adjust the poundage of the bow within a pre-determined range.
Why Draw Weight is Important
Now that you know what draw weight is, you may be wondering why it’s important to know. First of all, it’s simply good to know how much poundage you’re pulling as a reference point. Second of all, it’s very important to know so you can find arrows with the correct spine. Arrow spine is how much an arrow flexes under stress. Your draw weight is one component necessary to determine your arrows spine, so this is crucial. If you need help determining this, here you can see how to find your arrow spine.
How to Measure Bow Draw Weight
So now that you know what draw weight is, let’s cover how you go about measuring it. In order to measure a bow’s draw weight, you need a bow weight scale. You can find scales specifically designed for this purpose in archery stores and online. If you happen to purchase your own digital scale, simply attach it to the bowstring, pull it back, and read the weight on the scale.
Like we talked about previously, longbow and recurve bows will have different draw weights depending on how far it’s pulled back. Correct measurement is at 28 inches, but if you want to find your draw weight, simply pull with a bow scale back to your preferred draw length.
If you’re using a compound bow, simply draw your bow back with a scale to the “valley” of the bow. The valley is the point where your bow reaches the let-off. Be careful not to pull hard against the back wall of the cam as it can provide an incorrect measurement.
Longbow Draw Weight
As we mentioned before, longbows are measured at a standard 28 inches. It is important to remember that these bows require you to hold the full weight during the entire aiming process.
Finding the proper draw weight for you is very important. The right draw weight will help you shoot longer and prevent muscle fatigue. A draw weight that is too heavy will make the bow harder to shoot. If you’re not well disciplined, a heavier draw weight can make you develop bad habits and shoot less accurate. I would recommend starting with less poundage and working your way up as you become stronger and develop good shooting habits.
Recurve Bow Draw Weight
Just like longbows, recurve bows are measured at a standard 28 inches. They also require you to hold the full draw weight while shooting, just like longbows.
Finding draw weight on a recurve bow can be done using the same digital scale we mentioned before. Simply attach the scale to your bow string, pull back to your preferred draw length, and see your draw weight. Again, don’t shoot more than you can comfortable handle. The heavier the poundage, the more challenging it will become to shoot.
Compound Bow Draw Weight
Compound bows are very different from longbows and recurves. While they can be a little hard to pull back, this is only until you reach the “let-off”. Once you hit this let-off, it is much easier to hold at full draw. This holding weight is a fraction of the draw weight of the bow, therefore making it much easier to hold. Most compound bows have an 80 to 90 percent let off, so you’re holding very little weight at full draw. This makes it much easier to take your time and aim with precision.
Compound bows also have a set draw weight and draw length, unlike recurves or longbows. This makes it much easier to determine your draw weight. From there you can make adjustments to both draw weight and draw length to fit your preference.
Bow Draw Weight for Target Archery
So what should your draw weight be if you intend to shoot target archery? The answer depends on personal preference and abilities. However, you may find restrictions on compound bows in certain target archery competitions. For many of these events, compound bows cannot exceed 60 pounds or 300 feet per second.
If you plan on competing, be sure to check the rules and understand your limitations. You can shoot whatever poundage you want, just be sure that it’s within the given limits. When it comes to recurve and longbow competitions, you can shoot whatever draw weight that you prefer.
Bow Draw Weight for Hunting
Unlike target archery competitions that restrict max poundage, most state wildlife agencies have draw weight minimums that you must meet in order to hunt. This ensures that a hunter is using enough draw weight and speed to effectively get the animal they’re hunting.
This minimum draw weight varies from state to state and even species to species. The most common, however, is a minimum of 40 pounds in order to hunt big game species, regardless of the type of bow that you are using.
Choosing Your Poundage
So now that we have covered draw weight, how do you know what draw weight you should be using? Depending on your intended use, you may have a few restrictions to follow. For the most part, however, your draw weight is entirely a personal preference.
In general, when you are starting out, you want to start with a lower draw weight. If your draw weight is too heavy, there is a higher likelihood that you will develop improper form, tire more quickly, and enjoy the process much less.
So how do you go about finding a good starting weight? Well, we’ve provided a couple tables below that give you a ballpark starting point with age, gender, body type, and type of bow. This chart will help guide you towards a draw weight you can expect to pull when first starting out.
Longbow & Recurve Poundage:
|10 – 15 lbs.
|15 – 25 lbs.
|Female & Youth
|20 – 35 lbs.
|35 – 45 lbs.
|Large Frame Male
|45 – 60 lbs.
|10 – 15 lbs.
|15 – 25 lbs.
|Female & Youth
|25 – 40 lbs.
|Large Frame Females & Youth
|40 – 50 lbs.
|55 – 65 lbs.
|Large Frame Men
|60 – 80 lbs.
Draw weight is a topic that seems very straightforward but can become more complicated than it seems. Choosing your right draw weight is one of the most important decisions that you can make in archery, so make sure that you take the time to find a draw weight that works best for you.