When shopping for a traditional bow, the first factor to determine should be your draw length. This will better equip you to navigate length and weight options for your new recurve or longbow.
Simply drawing and marking your arrow is not the correct way to measure your draw length. Most shooters will pull back farther initially, then ease off the draw just prior to release, as they “settle in” to their more natural state. This discrepancy in draw length can make all the difference in reaching the performance goals for your bow — or missing them.
The following technique was used by Bob Lee back in the Wing Archery days, and Rob and JJ still consider these steps to be the best methodology for determining TRUE draw length (the first step to being properly fitted for a traditional bow).
You should also be aware that if you are a compound shooter, your draw length for traditional archery will be different. That’s why it’s important to get an accurate measurement.
1 Measure your arrow
Starting from the index (inside groove of the arrow nock where the string nestles into), measure the length to the end of the arrow shaft (not the field point or broadhead).
2 Enlist an observer
Ask someone to stand beside you at the target so they can watch your release.
3 Eyeball the overage
Ask you draw your bow, ask the observer to focus on the how much of the arrow shaft (minus the point or broadhead) is remaining past the shelf.
4 Watch the release
As you draw and release the bow, make sure the observer records the overage (typically an inch or more) at the point of release.
5 Validate the results
There is a correlation between a shooter’s height and their draw length. If you’re 5’8” and you think your draw length is 31”, you might want to re-measure. The average height shooter (5’10”) will most likely have a 28” draw length.