Draw weight can have a big impact on accuracy, especially for long distance shots. A heavier bow draw weight will result in greater arrow speed. But there are limits to how fast the arrows can travel in 3D ranges. Also, a heavier draw weight can be fatiguing and learn you improper form. This begs the question: What is the best draw weight?
The best draw weight is the most weight you can comfortably draw without sacrificing form. A too heavy bow will impair your learning and form. Beginners should start with 20-35 pounds. Children should start with 10-20 pounds. Experienced compound archers average 50-70 pounds, and recurve archers average 50-60 pounds. Consider the arrow speed limits of your 3D archery class have when choosing bow setup.
What is draw weight?
Draw weight is a measurement of the bow strength. The draw weight is always labeled on the limbs, and the actual draw weight can be measured with a bow scale. The industry standard for calculating draw weight is done a string extension of 28 inches.
Best draw weights
The following draw weights are good starting points. These are general guidelines. You always know best what works for you. If you can draw less or more weight, don’t be discouraged. There are many variables to consider, such as age, gender, weight, and fitness level. Do what works best for you. Remember: it is way better to use a too light bow, then a too heavy bow. You don’t get extra style points for using a heavier bow.
Beginners using compound bows
Beginner compound archers: 20-45 pounds.
Children: 10-25 pounds
Males with medium to large frame: 40 pounds.
Females with a small to normal frame: 25-30 pounds.
The compound bow let-off function
Compound archers can use a heavier draw weight compared to other bows. This is because of something called the let-off. The let-off is a mechanism that occurs when the bow is drawn past a certain length, and it supports a portion of the draw weight. This makes heavier draw weight more manageable. However, you still need to pull the bow far enough until the let-off mechanism kicks in.
The let-off can remove up to 90% of the weight. That means that a 70-pound bow with 90% let-off only has a holding weight of 7 pounds at full draw. Personally, I find that bows with a too high let-off have a very unnatural feel. For me, around 60% is the charm.
Beginners using recurve bows and longbows
Children: 10-20 pounds
Teenagers: 12-25 pounds.
Adults: 18-35 pounds.
Males with medium to large frame: 35 pounds.
Females with a small to normal frame: 25 pounds.
Longer bows usually have a smaller draw weight in comparison to shorter bows.
How to know if you’re using to much weight
- If you need to aim down or up before drawing the bow.
- If you can’t hold the aim for more than a few seconds.
- If you’re shaky at full draw.
- If you fatigue before the tournament is over.
How to adjust the draw weight
Most compound bows can be adjusted about to lower or increase the draw weight in a range of 10 pounds. This is done by tightening or loosening the limb bolts. To increase the draw weight, tighten the limb bolts clockwise, and vice versa. Be careful with loosening the bolts too much. You can also buy new limbs and/or risers that are shorter or longer. Shorter limbs equal higher draw weight, and longer limbs will result in a lower draw weight
Measuring actual draw weight
The draw weight increases as the string get drawn further. This means that your actual draw weight can be lower or higher than the labeled draw weight, depending on your draw length at full draw. Most people have a draw length of 27-29 inches, however, the averages vary depending on what type of bow you are shooting, your build, your bow etc.
The actual draw weight can be measured with a bow draw weight scale. This should be done without an arrow for safety reasons. Draw the bow fully, with proper form and pull the string slightly longer than you normally would. Take the draw scale size into account when extending the string, so that you end mimic your real stance. Use your anchor point as a reference.
Bow length & arm length
A longer bow will generally speaking have less draw weight. If you have longer arms or use a shorter bow, the draw weight will be higher compared to someone with shorter arms or a longer bow. Arm length is an important factor when choosing a bow setup. This also means that bow draw weight does not increase as bow weight increases.
How strength effects draw weight
The stronger you are, the more draw weight you’ll be able to handle. More draw weight means more power, which is advantageous especially for longer distance shots. If you’re new to archery, you might find that you can’t handle a lot of draw weight. That is because archery uses a very specific set of muscles that are not used much otherwise. So don’t worry if you feel weak, your strength will pick up quickly, and you’ll be able to handle more draw weight within weeks. I highly recommend you to try several bows at your local archery store to get a feel for what works best for you.
3D archery is fatiguing. If you start to weaken after a few shots, even after having practiced with your bow for several weeks, then you should consider changing to lighter limbs.
Do not trade a few pounds of draw weight at the cost of form.
A heavier draw weight puts more stress on the arrow, which results in higher travel speeds. The speed is measured in fps (feet per second)
Rules for 3D classes
Arrow speed is a concern when it comes to 3D shooting.
ASA has a maximum arrow speed travel limit of 290 fps, and lower limits for certain classes.
IBO have varying speed limits, starting from 260 fps to no limit depending on which class you’re shooting. For classes with no speed limit, the arrows must weigh no less than 5 GPP (grains per pound) of draw weight. If the arrow weighs less than 5 GPP, the speed limit is 290 fps. This is because lighter arrows have greater accuracy since they fly faster. That is considered a light arrow, so you’ll most likely be fine with most arrows.