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How to Determine Arrow Length for Your Bow

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Making sure that you have the proper arrow length that matches you and your bow is crucial to accuracy and success in the shooting field.

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all arrow, so learning how to determine arrow length is vital before making a purchase.

Having wrongly measured or poorly constructed arrows will cause them to fly unpredictably, which is not just bad for performance, but it can also be dangerous.

From measuring your draw length to knowing how long should your arrow be compared to draw length, we’ve got your back.

Whether you practice archery for fun or for bowhunting, finding the right arrow length is key to your success. To do that, you need to know about your equipment first.

Parts of an Arrow

Let’s take a quick look at the terminology that you’ll come across when selecting your arrows, so you know exactly which section you need to measure.

Tip

The tip is one of the most obviously named parts of the arrow. It screws into the threads of the insert.

Insert

The insert is glued into the arrow’s shaft. A standard 8-32 insert will allow you to use a variety of tips with the same arrow.

Shaft

The shaft is the foundation of every arrow and is a hollow tube.

It is usually constructed of aluminum, graphite, or carbon composite materials, depending on your desired weight.

Fletching

The fletching is your arrow’s wings, which are glued onto the shaft.

You will have three fletches, which will either be made from parabolic-shaped soft plastic (vanes) or feathers.

They are usually colorful.

You will have two hen-fletches in one color and a third differently-colored cock-fletch.

Nock

You’ll find a small piece of molded plastic called the nock at the back or bottom end of the shaft.

It has a groove in it that allows you to attach your arrow to the string of your bow.

How to Determine Arrow Length

The Archery Trade Association (ATA), formally known as the Archery Manufacturers Organization (AMO), has a standardized method for measuring arrow length.

The axle-to-axle arrow length is the distance between the groove of the nock, where your string rests, and the front end of the shaft.

This means you should not include the insert or tip in your measurements.

ATA arrow length may appear as AMO arrow length on older products and information on the subject.

Some retailers may be unaware of the industry standards, though, so always measure the arrows for yourself.

Safety Advice

Many stores and shooters are keen to use the shortest possible arrow to increase arrow speed.

Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of safety.

Using arrows that are too short for your bow setup are a serious hazard to you and those around you.

The safest practice is to use arrows that sit around one inch (or more) beyond your arrow rest when the bow is drawn back fully.

Extra arrow length provides an important margin of safety and should especially be observed by beginners.

Arrows that fall (even slightly) short of the arrow rest are in danger of being shot into your hand, arm, or someone else nearby.

The arrow tip could also get stuck behind the rest, causing it to snap and possibly shatter, sending shards into you and others around you.

how to determine arrow length

How Long Should Your Arrow Be Compared to Draw Length?

The right arrow length will depend on several factors, including your bow’s draw length and the type of bow you have.

1. Arrow Length vs Draw Length

Your bow’s draw length should match your draw length, which will depend on your anatomy and build.

Your Draw Length

To calculate your draw length, you need to measure the width of your arm span and divide that number by 2.5.

Your arm span is the measurement between the tips of your middle fingers, when your arms are stretched out on either side, at shoulder width.

Measuring your arm span accurately is usually easier if you are able to stand against a wall and recruit a friend to help you out.

If you end up with a half-inch measurement, it’s safer and more convenient to round the number up to find your ideal bow draw length.

Your Bow’s Draw Length

To be on the safe side, you should also check your bow’s draw measurement by measuring it yourself.

Even a brand-new bow can be up to three-quarters of an inch higher than their rating, so a 28-inch draw length could actually be 28 ¾ inches.

This could leave your arrow short by a significant amount.

Don’t rely on the ATA draw length that is printed up in the bow’s specs, as this is calculated using the draw length, plus 1 ¾ inch.

You also need to be aware of the fact that there may have been a mix-up with the manufacturer’s stickers or the settings could be off.

Alternatively, on used bows, the string may have stretched. This means that if it was accurate before, it isn’t now.

This is why it’s always best to just measure it yourself before making a purchase.

The bow's draw length is measured from the groove of the nock to the point directly above where the arrow crosses the riser at full draw.

2. Arrow Length vs Type of Bow

The type of bow you have will influence your bow length, too.

After all, not every bow comes with the same arrow requirements.

Here are the main types of bow you’re likely to come across, along with the arrow requirements for each.

Longbow

A longbow is a very powerful bow, so beginners should always choose longer arrows for safety.

For this, you would want to buy arrows that measure at least 1.5 inches past the back of the riser at full draw.

As you perfect your technique, you can begin to shorten your arrows, but even experts should never go below their draw length.

Longbow arrows usually have more flexible spines than other arrow types, so don’t forget that the arrow material is also important.

Compound Bow

Due to the different shooting postures that can be adopted when using a compound bow, it’s best to measure your actual draw length rather than estimate it.

This will involve asking someone to measure the distance between the string and the front of the riser while you’re drawing the bow back.

Take this measurement and then add up to one inch, depending on your skill level.

Crossbow

Crossbow arrows have nothing to do with your personal draw length as they are less manual.

The arrow length usually varies between 16 and 22 inches, with 20 inches being the average.

Your crossbow’s manufacturer will recommend what size bolts to use, and you should adhere to their advice.

Longer arrows should be reasonably safe, but as always, arrows that are too short are dangerous for you and others around you.

Recurve Bow

Recurve bows are also incredibly powerful weapons.

Getting the right size arrow can go a long way in improving accuracy and speed.

The ideal arrow length for a recurve bow is usually one to two inches longer than your draw length.

Hence, for a 29-inch draw, an ATA arrow length between 30 and 31 inches should be perfect.

Bowhunting

When it comes to bowhunting, your target is a moving one, so precision is everything in the field.

You’ll need a lot of practice before you’ll be ready to hunt in the wild, as your arrows should offer the best in power and accuracy.

For bowhunting, when you’re ready, you should use arrows that match your draw length.

Proper Arrow Length

You may have hoped that selecting the correct arrow length would be as simple as looking at an arrow length vs draw length chart.

By now, however, you should have a better understanding of why it isn’t so simple.

How Long Should My Arrows Be?

As a general rule of thumb, you are able to roughly calculate your arrow length by adding one or two inches to your draw length.

The exact amount you add will depend on your bow and skill level. If in doubt, start longer and work your way down.

If your draw width is 28 inches, then your ideal arrow length should, in theory, be between 29 and 30 inches. Test several sizes if you need to.

On the other hand, for bowhunting, which needs the best accuracy possible, your arrow length will often match your draw length.

Just make sure that your archery skills are up to it first.

What Size Arrows Should I Shoot?

So, how long should my arrows be?

If you’re a beginner, it’s highly recommended that you opt for slightly longer arrows to increase your safety and the safety of those around you.

Knowing how to determine arrow length all starts with working out your draw length.

You can then buy a bow with a draw length that matches your own after double-checking the length for yourself.

Next is to buy arrows between one and two inches longer than the bow’s draw length.

As you gain confidence, accuracy, and skill, you can try slightly shorter arrows to increase your performance even further.

Just be careful not to change your arrow length before you’re ready.

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