How To Measure Draw Length

The wind is gusting slightly from the east, the sun is at your back and warms your hand as you smoothly draw back the bow string, and hit the target. This is the joy of archery, a timeless art you’ve decided to be a part of.

However, as a newcomer to the sport, there are some technical things you need to get out of the way before you can hit the range. The first and utmost important technique is knowing how to measure draw length.

Determining your bow draw length will help you achieve maximum accuracy and distance, while preventing wear and tear on both you and your bow.

Three Methods To Determine Bow Draw Length

The right draw length will increase the power you get out of your bow, and will also decide the length of the arrow you buy. If your draw length is too short or too long, you won’t be as accurate and may damage your bow.

The point is, you need to get a bow with a sweet spot specifically designed for you. The first method for measuring draw length is…

1. The Wingspan Style

  1. Stand up tall with your back straight
  2. Hold your arms out wide
  3. Have a friend help measure you from fingertip to fingertip, this is called wingspan
  4. Divide your wingspan/arm-spanby 2.5
  5. Round that number to the nearest ½ inch
  6. The number you get is your draw length!

Draw Length = Wingspan (step 3)/2.5

Here’s an example for you:

Kyle asks a friend to help measure the distance between his left middle finger, and his right middle finger.

The distance is 68 inches.

Kyle takes the number and divides it by 2.5

Draw Length = 68″/2.4 = 27.2″

Kyle’s proper draw length is 27 inches.

This is an extremely close estimate, but you should still go to your local archery store to test bows of your draw length. If they don’t feel right, do this process again, or ask one of the guys at the shop to help.


  • Remember to keep your back straight, this is how you’ll be shooting so you want to be measured the same way
  • It may help to use a wall
  • This method is best done with a buddy

2. The Wall Approach

The second method is almost as simple, and the best part is you can do it by yourself!

  1. Find a wall
  2. Stand in a good shooting stance.

This means with your back straight but relaxed. Feet shoulder width apart

This method goes as follows:

  1. Hold your arm up straight from your shoulder and make a fist.
  2. Press your fist lightly against the wall.
  3. Look at your fist on the wall.
  4. Measure the distance from the wall to the corner of your mouth.
  5. This distance is the draw length!

Again, this is a very close approximation, and you should try any bow before you buy it. The most important thing is for the draw to feel right for you.

Reminder: Be sure to measure from the corner of your mouth to the wall, not the back of your fist.


  • Remember to not lean towards the wall
  • Stand with your back straight, and feet shoulder width apart
  • If you’re right handed, you should look over your left shoulder
  • If you’re left handed, you should look over your right shoulder


For these first two methods, we encourage you to watch the following video byBobby Vargas at PSE. He does a good job explaining both approaches.

3. Knock to Pivot

The third method is one designed by the Archery Trade Association (ATA). This method measures “actual draw length”, and is the standard by which most modern bows are measured.

According to the ATA, the systems works as follows:

  1. Pull the bowstring to full draw and hold steady.
  2. Measure the length between a vertical line through the pivot point to the fully drawn nocking point.
  3. Add 1 ¾ inches to this length. This is the Actual Draw Length

This is a little complicated and wordy, so I’ll try to explain more clearly.

Much like the previous method, this method measures your draw length as if you were actually drawing a bow. The nocking point is the place where the arrow latches on to the bow string, the pivot point is the spot between your pointer finger and thumb where the bow rests.

  1. Grab a loose measuring tape
  2. Grasp the tape in your closed fist
  3. Stand in a good archery stance
  4. Pull the tape back to the corner of your mouth as if you were drawing a bow
  5. Measure between these two points.
  6. Now add 1 ¾ inches to that measurement.
  7. This distance is your Actual Draw Length.

The reason for the extra 1 ¾ inches is that almost all modern bows have a 1 ¾ inch distance between the pivot point and the outer edge of the bow

This distance is the Actual Draw Length according to the ATA.


In order to even begin training in archery you must learn how to determine bow draw length. If you train with the incorrect draw length, you could injure yourself or damage your bow.

Above we covered three methods of how to measure draw length, but all are estimations so you should always try out a bow before purchasing it. Remember, your bow must be comfortable from the first time you draw the string back.

In addition to draw length, you should determine the best draw weight for you. Visitthis websiteto learn more.

A friendly reminder: You must, must, must be standing in a proper archer’s stance for any of these methods to work well. If you’re not sure about your stance, go to your local archery shop and they can help you out.


1. Which hand should I use?

​Normally, you will draw the bow string with the same hand you write with.

2. What is a “good archery stance”?

​This one is tough to explain. We suggest you watchthis video, for a visual explanation.

3. Which method is the best?

​All these approaches will give you almost the same measurements, so choose the one you find easiest.

4. ​Is there a difference between recurve and compound draw lengths?

No there isn’t. A compound bow will stop hard at its full draw length. A recurve bow can be overdrawn, but you risk damaging the bow.​

5. ​What if I can’t draw my bow all the way back?

Two things could be wrong:

  • The draw length could be too short for you. If so, try one with 2″ longer draw length.
  • The draw weight could be too high. Try bows at 30 lbs to start, then move down or up accordingly.