What size bow do I need?

One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “What size bow do I need?” My answer to that question, almost unfailingly, is: “It depends on what you want to do with it.” How long a recurve you buy depends on various factors, so let’s get down to brass tacks and help you figure it out. One of those factors is whether you plan on doing target archery only or bowhunting.

These first few sections will apply primarily to target archery, and we’ll cover the criteria that apply to hunters at the end of the article.

Why does it matter what size recurve I buy?

Generally speaking, there are a number of reasons why any piece of archery equipment, including the recurve bow, must be properly fitted to the individual. Here’s what can happen if you try a “one size fits all” approach.

You pick a bow that’s too small for you

If your archery equipment, like your recurve, is undersized, you will be severely limiting yourself. Your body’s ability to effectively manipulate the bow will be restricted to the confines or limitations of the recurve. One common problem will be with your draw weight. In order to pull the bow string back to your proper anchor point, you will have to overcome extra poundage after you reach and exceed the natural draw length of the equipment.

This might not be a problem for you, but the other problem that comes into play is difficulty controlling your shots and keeping them consistent. This leads to quite a bit of frustration, and could turn you off from archery altogether.

Okay, so what about a recurve that’s too long?

This isn’t as serious a problem as shooting an undersized bow. If you pick up a recurve that’s too big for you, what you’ll find is that you don’t draw the string back to its peak performance spot. You’ll sacrifice arrow speed, which can be critical for target shooting. With that said, it’s better for the equipment to be a little bit too big rather than too small.

What’s your draw length?

The first thing you’ll need to determine is your draw length, since that factors into what size recurve you should purchase. If you haven’t already calculated this distance, do so first. We’ve even provided you with a handy guide that outlines a couple of ways to get this crucial piece of information. [Link this up]

Once you know your draw length, you can move on to selecting the appropriate size bow for target archery. You just need to consult the list below, rounding the draw length up to the nearest half inch. Generally speaking, it’s preferable to shoot a longer recurve than one that’s too short.

  • 14“ to 16” draw length = 48″ recurve
  • 17“ to 20” draw length = 54″ recurve
  • 20“ to 22” draw length = 58″ recurve
  • 22“ to 24” draw length = 62″ recurve
  • 24“ to 26” draw length = 64“ to 66” recurve
  • 26“ to 28” draw length = 66“ to 68” recurve
  • 28“ to 30” draw length = 68“ to 70” recurve
  • 31“ draw length and longer = 70” to 72″ recurve

Okay, what were the additional criteria you mentioned for hunters?

Once you get into bowhunting, you’ve hopefully come close to perfecting your archery form and technique. Otherwise, you’re running huge risks of inhumane shots that maim your prey instead of killing it. This extra experience usually means that the problems of an undersized bow won’t be as tragic as they would be for a beginner.

The problem many bowhunters experience if they use a bow perfectly sized for them lies in maneuverability. When you’re hunting from a tree stand or a ground blind, you often have limited space to work with. In this type of instance, a shorter bow will be preferable, assuming you learn to shoot it consistently and accurately. A 70″ recurve just doesn’t move around very easily in the confines of a hunting spot, most of the time.

With that said, you don’t want to go too short. The simple rule is that the longer the total length of the recurve is from tip to tip, the more accurate your shots will be. Under no circumstances should you hunt with equipment that is shorter than 58 inches. Instead, go with a model that’s 60 inches or a bit longer.

You want a recurve that’s shorter than you’d use for target archery, but still long enough to provide you with the accuracy a kill shot depends on. I’ve found that bows as long as 64 inches are fairly comfortable to maneuver even in the tightest of tree stands.

Summing it all up

For the beginning archer, you’ll want a recurve that’s long enough to provide you with a relatively easy pull to your anchor point, one that’s suited to your draw length. Things get a bit gray when it comes to hunting, but you should have plenty of archery experience under your belt before you get to that point.

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