How To Change the Draw Length on your Compound Bow

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Archery is truly a game of inches, and a huge part of getting the best possible shot is making sure your bow is set up as accurately and efficiently as possible. One important aspect of this is draw length; a draw length that is even one inch too short or long can be catastrophically detrimental to your shot.

But what is draw length, and can you fix your bow’s draw length at home? Fortunately, making draw length adjustments on a compound bow is usually straightforward. Our guide discusses what draw length actually is, as well as how you can determine your ideal draw length and adjust it without needing to go to a bow shop for help. Read on to find out more!

What is Draw Length and Why is it Important?

Draw length in archery can actually refer both to your bow’s draw length and your own draw length. Basically, everybody has an ideal draw length based on their arm span, but compound bows can also be adjusted to work at a particular draw length. Knowing your draw length is crucial for shooting accurately and safely at every part of the draw cycle.  

As far as the importance of your draw length goes, it plays a big role in the feel and success of your overall shot with a compound bow. Recurve bows are built in such a way that you can draw them back as far as you can physically muster. For compound bows, though, your draw length has a direct impact on the bow’s let-off.

Draw length is also an important factor in choosing the correct arrows. In order to choose arrows of the correct length, for example, you need to know the draw length you will be shooting at. Additionally, draw length influences your arrow’s dynamic spine and the speed at which it travels when shot.

Finally, shooting at an incorrect draw length can have a number of negative outcomes for your shot. Not only can your accuracy take a serious hit, but shooting at the wrong draw length also puts you at a greater risk of injury. So, it’s vital that you take the time to ensure your draw length is correct when setting up a new bow.

Measuring your Draw Length

Measuring your draw length is a very simple process. All you really need is a tape measure and someone who can measure your arm span for you. Stand with your arms spread out in a T shape, and then ask your helper to measure your arm span, starting from the tip of one middle finger and ending at the tip of the opposing middle finger.

It’s important that you ask whoever is measuring you to take the measurement across the back, rather than across the chest. This will give you a more accurate measurement, as our backs tend to be far flatter than our chests (this is especially true for female archers).

Once you have the measurement, you simply need to divide that number by 2.5. You can use this number as the starting point for your draw length. We’d recommend shooting your bow at that draw length to see if you need to make any adjustments. Depending on your stance when you shoot, you may need to shoot at a slightly higher or lower draw length than your arm span measured.

You’ll know your draw length is correct by how the bow feels and where the bow string rests when you draw the bow. Ideally, at full draw, your bow string should meet the corner of your mouth and the tip of your nose. You can use this as a barometer for whether or not your draw length needs to be adjusted and by how much.

How Can I Adjust the Draw Length on my Compound Bow?

Adjusting your bow’s draw length should be a fairly simple process, provided that it doesn’t require too much fine-tuning. It’s worth noting that the draw length on some compound bows can’t be adjusted, and with some models, it may require replacing the cams and the use of a bow press. So, knowing your draw length before buying a new bow is pretty important.

Anyway, if your compound bow has a configurable mod, then adjusting the draw length should be relatively straightforward. Many newer compound bows come with configurable mods, which are found inside the cams at either end of the bow. If your bow’s mod comes with a set of holes and screws in its face, then it is configurable.

Single cam compound bow cam closeup
A single cam with a configurable mod

To adjust it, you’ll need to loosen the screw and turn the mod. Some bows will have a set of numbers next to the holes in the mod, while others will have symbols. The symbols will correspond to different draw lengths, which you should be able to find in your bow’s user manual. Once you’ve twisted the mod, you can put the screw into the whole that corresponds to the correct draw length.

Ensure that the screw is screwed in tightly. Some bows have a mod at both ends, so if your bow comes with two mods, you’ll need to make sure that both are adjusted to the same draw length.

Replaceable Mods and Cams

Some bows come with replaceable mods (more common for high-end compound bows) and replaceable cams (typically older models). You can replace the bow’s mod by loosening the screws and then swapping it out with the mod that corresponds to the correct draw length. Some bows will come with extra mods, while for other models you’ll need to buy them separately.

However, if your bow has replaceable cams, we’d recommend that you take it to a bow shop to get the draw length adjusted. Doing so will require the use of a bow press and can be considerably more complex than simply adjusting or replacing the mods on a bow.

If you’d like a visual guide to refer to, then we recommend this handy video made by the archery shop Cabela’s. The video quickly but thoroughly covers bow draw length and how you can adjust this at home.

Fixing your bow’s draw length may seem daunting, but it’s an important part of getting your bow set up properly. Besides, most newer compound bows have configurable mods, which are fairly easy and straightforward to adjust. So, don’t be intimidated by the prospect of adjusting your bow’s draw length if it’s incorrect; it’ll probably be over before you know it!

Hi there! I'm a passionate bowman and a fan of all target sports in general. You'll often find me at my local archery and shooting ranges honing my skills.

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