[Updated 1 August 2022] There’s a simple technique for determining your bow draw length without a bow. To calculate your arm span (fingertip to fingertip), divide the number by 2.5. The answer will be quite accurate.
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Michael Phelps, an Olympic swimmer, has a wingspan of 79 to 80 inches, which would yield a bow draw using his arm span of 32″.
Arm Span Measurement
To measure your wingspan, stand up and extend your arms on either side of you with your palms facing forward. Don’t stretch out your arms; instead, hold them in position for a natural measurement.
You could need a buddy’s assistance with this (unless you come up with a method to do it yourself, such as standing against a wall with ink on your fingertips, making markings, and calculating the measured distance). Ask your buddy to take a measurement across your back, ensure the tape measure is as flat as you can, and no extra distance is added by curving it around your chest.
This is the same as taking a note of how far you measured your wingspan, then dividing it by 2.5. This is the length of your draw. If the measurement is fractional, rounding it up to the nearest half inch or cm is acceptable.
The draw length is an approximation since it is based on the idea that everyone has the same proportions. However, it is adequate enough to allow you to confidently purchase your first recurve bow since recurve bows are effective with a wide range of draw lengths. After a year or two of shooting, your draw length will increase somewhat and stay the same.
ATA Draw Length
The draw length standard of the ATA (Archery Trade Association) is as follows:
“The distance between the nock point of the bowstrings and the pivot point of the grip is 1 3/4 inches (4.5cm) on a correctly drawn bow.” To get this measurement, you’ll need a bow that will pull smoothly to your estimated draw length, and you can do so with good technique. As a result, it’s most likely best done with the aid of an instructor or a buddy who has the equipment on hand. It’s possible to do this assessment yourself if you have a suitable bow and a “draw arrow,” which is a long arrow with distances marked on it that you may draw back, but not many novices will have access to this type of equipment or will correctly draw!
Recurve – Drawing too Long or Too Short?
Because bows are intended to be drawn to the ATA draw length, it follows that they will be in the greatest tune when shooting at this draw length. The amount of force the arrow exerts is increased when the bow is drawn beyond the 28″ mark, referred to as “stacking.” The potential amount of energy that can be stored in the bow is reduced if it is drawn short. A recurve bow has a little more leeway than a compound bow since it is more forgiving at wider draw lengths.