What size recurve bow is right for me?

So you want to get a bow, and the first thing you noticed when checking out a few recurve models is they come in different lengths. And you asked yourself, “What size recurve bow is right for me?” If the target archer chooses one that’s too long or too short, you won’t be as accurate – or have as much fun – as you could with a bow that’s a perfect fit.

And let’s be clear here. We’re talking about recurve bows for the target archer – those who want to get into competitive shooting, or who want competition-style bows for recreational shooting. When choosing a bow for hunting or for traditional shooting, other criteria would apply.

Here’s how to determine the correct bow size for you. Stand with your arms extending out to either side of your body at shoulder height. Don’t stretch. Just extend your arms naturally. Now have a partner measure the distance from the tip of one middle finger to the tip of the other. Take that number and divide by 2.5. This is your calculated draw length, which should be pretty close to your actual draw length, if it doesn’t hit that figure right on the head.

Optimized-measure photo

With your draw length in hand, you can now determine the length of the bow you should be shooting. That length, incidentally, is measured from tip to tip, following the curve of the limbs and along the back side of the riser, while the bow is unstrung.

Here’s a basic chart to follow:


14-16 inches……………….48 inches
17-20 inches……………….54 inches
20-22 inches……………….58 inches
22-24 inches……………….62 inches
24-26 inches……………….64-66 inches
26-28 inches……………….66-68 inches
28-30 inches……………….68-70 inches
31 inches and longer…………70-72 inches

What happens if you go too short? Well, recurve bows are designed for peak performance at the proper draw length. For example, the sweet spot for the 62-inch bow is going to be when it’s drawn 22-24 inches. The draw weight increases at a consistent curve up to those lengths. If you draw that bow 28 inches, you’re going past the peak performance point, and the draw weight will increase sharply. Accuracy will suffer.

Conversely, if you only draw a 70-inch bow to 26 inches, you’re never getting to the peak performance spot. That’s not as big a problem as overdrawing a short bow, but you’ll be sacrificing arrow speed, which is critical for target shooters.

(Below is a sequence of photos which show, from top to bottom, the tip of a recurve bow in the underdrawn, correct and overdrawn position.)

Optimized-length1 (2)Optimized-length2Optimized-length3

When it comes to determining the proper draw weight for your new bow, that’s going to vary from archer to archer. Physical strength, coordination and stamina all play a role. Selecting the proper draw weight is important. Too often, archers start with a draw weight that’s too heavy, which leads to the development of poor shooting habits. Call the Lancaster Archery Supply TechXperts at 1-800-829-7408 for help in choosing a proper draw weight – or with any other questions about choosing the right archery equipment – or ask a coach or your local pro shop technician.