Shooting a bow with the proper draw length is extremely important. A draw length that is too short, or too long, will negatively affect your shooting form, down-range accuracy, and comfort level while shooting. There’s more to finding your proper draw length – and ensuring that your bow matches that draw length – than you might think.
I want to begin a series of posts about draw length – both the draw length of you, the archer, and the draw length of the bow itself.
Let’s begin with a bow’s draw length…
Unfortunately, there tends to be some variation in draw lengths from some manufacturers. You may haveheard that a certain bow “runs short”, or a certain brand tends to “run long”. What that means is that a 29″ bow may not actually be 29″ – maybe it’s a half-inch short/long.
Why Does It Matter?
The bow’s draw length matters for several reasons. First, if you know that you’re a 28.5″ draw length, you want to ensure that the 28.5″ draw length bow you pick up is labeled accurately and going to fit you properly. It isn’t uncommon for an archer to switch bow brands and find that they need a different draw length for their new bow. (Which bow wasn’t rated correctly?)
Secondarily, it is helpful to be able to check the draw length of a bow at any time, to ensure that it is still in proper tune, within the manufacturer’s specifications, and that your strings haven’t stretched. There are other reasons as well, but we will get to those later.
The Industry Standard – AMO Draw Length
Thankfully, there is an industry standard for measuring draw length. By using this standard measurement you can ensure that your bow’s draw length is what the manufacturer says it is, or know if your bow runs short/long in length.
The industry standard for measuring a bow’s draw length is the AMO Draw Length.
AMO stands for the Archery Manufacturers and Merchants Organization. The AMO changed it’s name to the Archery Trade Association (ATA) in 2002. “ATA” might sound familiar from the popular archery and bowhunting industry trade show, commonly referred to as “The ATA Show”.
Alright, history lesson over, back to draw lengths…
You would think that the AMO draw length is a simple measurement, but it’s actually a calculation, which can cause some confusion.
How AMO Draw Length Is Measured
AMO draw length is determined while the bow is at full-draw, by measuring from the “throat” or “pivot point” of the grip (the deepest point on the back of the bow’s grip), back to the string, where the arrow is nocked. Once that number has been measured, add 1.75 to achieve the calculated AMO draw length.
To make things even more confusing, the pivot point to nocking point draw length measurement (the number before you add 1.75″) is sometimes called the “True Draw Length”, but this measurement typically isn’t used anymore.
How to Measure Your Bow’s Draw Length
You could have someone measure your bow’s draw length while you hold the bow at full-draw, but that is dangerous.
Your next option would be to use a “draw board”, which is a mechanical device that will draw the bow for you, and hold the bow at full-draw while you make the measurements. Draw boards are capable of doing much more than measuring your bow, and I will sharing more about them in the future, including how you can easily build one with parts from any hardware store.
If you don’t have access to a draw board, or have yet to build one, then you can build a “draw arrow”. A draw arrow is the easiest, most versatile way to measure the draw length of any bow. And in the next post you will learn how to build one!