How Long A Recurve Bow Do I Need?

A recurve bow is one of the more traditional pieces of archery equipment and closely replicates how these weapons would have looked when they were first invented by our ancestors.

If you prefer to shoot in a more conventional manner then it is likely that you will choose a recurve bow. However, these bows do come in different sizes and it is important that you find the right fit for you.

Not doing so could mean that operating the bow becomes very difficult. In this article, we will be giving you all of the information you will need to effectively choose the right length of recurve bow for you.

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What Size Does My Recurve Bow Need To Be?

There is no hard and fast rule on the size of your recurve bow. However, there are several factors that you should consider.

Of course, your personal preference will play an important role when choosing your recurve bow’s size. But you might also want to think about how easy it will be to move around and how accurate you would like the bow to be.

In the main, a smaller bow will be more easy to maneuver but a larger one will give you improved accuracy.

Take a look at the cable to see the draw length compared to the length of the bow. Later on, we will be looking at how to correctly calculate your draw length and this is crucial in finding the right size recurve bow for you.

Draw Length Length Of Bow
14 – 16 inches 48 inches
17 – 20 inches 54 inches
22 – 24 inches 62 inches
24 – 26 inches 64 – 66 inches
26 – 28 inches 66 – 68 inches
28 – 30 inches 68 – 70 inches
More than 31 inches 70 – 72 inches

As a general rule, archers doing bowhunting may benefit from something smaller, purely because this will be easier to take out hunting. Conversely, those doing target archery could stand to work with something a little larger.

One thing that is important to keep in mind is that you would always be better going for a bow that is slightly longer than one that is too short.

For example if your draw length is just over 28 inches, you would find it a lot easier to use a 68 – 79 inch bow rather than a 66 – 68 inch piece of equipment.

Myths About Recurve Bow Length

You only have to take to the internet to be greeted by thousands of opinions on what is right and wrong when it comes to choosing your recurve bow length.

There are many myths out there related to how to choose the proper length but there are two that particularly stand out and it is important for us to address this.

Firstly, it is said that you can obtain the correct bow length every time using the measurement of your arm span. Is there any truth to this?

Yes, you can measure your arm span and divide this by 2.5 to get your ideal draw length. Although you will still need to test out the bow to make sure that it fits out.

However, it is vital that you take this measurement rather than guessing it; this is where the myth comes in. A lot of people suggest that the arm span is the same as your height; please don’t take this as gospel.

While some people may have an arm span that is equal to their height, there is evidence to show that this is not the norm. Always take your measurements.

Furthermore, some people say that you should choose your recurve bow length based on your age. But if you think about this, you will clearly see that this cannot be used as a go-to guide.

Of course, these are purely guidelines based on the average size of a person at any given age. But consider your clothing.

If you are 14 years old and buy a jacket made for a 14-year-old, does this mean that it will fit every person in the world who is 14 years of age? Certainly not. There are 14-year-olds who are 6’6” and very wide whereas others are 4’0” and slender.

Fitting a bow based on your age should never be done, again, you should always make sure that you are measured.

Factors To Consider When Choosing Recurve Bow Length

Before you can confidently declare the size of the recurve bow that you need, there are five main factors to think about.

Each of these is of equal importance and it is vital that you look at each one in detail. It can help to go to your local archery shop where the professionals can help you to choose something that will work well for you.

Dominant Hand And Eye

We all know which is our dominant hand but unless you need to, there are not many of us that pay attention to our dominant eye.

If you are unsure as to which is your dominant eye, you can approach a keyhole and try to look through. The eye that you instinctively go for is likely your dominant one. You will also notice that when you close your other eye, this one feels more natural.

In most cases, your dominant eye will match up with your dominant hand and it is certainly a good idea to work with the hand on the same side as your dominant eye.

If you do not do this, it can have an effect on your overall accuracy. You will find that if you attempt to use your non-dominant eye, you will tilt your head which can in turn create torque, throwing each shot off.

Draw Length

As we have already discussed, determining your draw length is a matter of a simple equation. Measure your arm span and divide this by 2.5.

This will allow you to find the right range for your draw length although it won’t be down to the number. In order to find your true draw length you must hold the bow and take the measurement between your grip and the nock point. This can be a little tricky to do so it will likely require help from someone else.

When you are shopping for your recurve bow, you will notice that there is a small range on the bow where draw length is concerned. This will give you a minimum and a maximum and you should always try to source a bow that is within your draw length range.

Draw Weight

If you have recently started out with archery, it is vital that you do not go for a large draw weight from the outset. It is much better to start with something lighter that will allow you to practice rather than trying to prove something and ultimately struggling.

The best way to determine a good draw weight is simply to test the bow. You might notice that you are aiming the bow slightly upwards when drawing and this is a clear indicator that it is too heavy for you.

Other signs that the draw weight may be too heavy for you are:

  • Arching the back as you draw
  • Pain after shooting just a few arrows
  • Bad form and stance
  • Inconsistent shots

You might kid yourself into thinking that you could wing it or perhaps get used to the bow but if you are struggling initially then this problem will likely only get worse over time.

Personal Choice

A lot of how you will feel comfortable has to do with whether you like working with the bow or not. If you do not feel comfortable operating it then this will likely have an impact on how you perform with it.

You can look at various aspects of the bow such as how smoothly it operates, the brand and the style. All of these things are important especially if you will be getting a lot of use out of the bow.

However, you should also consider your budget. The last thing you want to do is purchase a bow that is far out of your price range.

That being said, you also want to avoid badly manufactured or cheap recurve bows that simply won’t give you what you would expect. So always try to get the best piece of equipment you can for your budget.

Working With The Archery Shop

When you are looking to find the perfect length recurve bow for your needs, one of the best ways to do this is to head to your local archery shop where an assistant will work with you to help determine the best fit for you.

However, a word of caution, there are some archery shops that just want to make a sale and the ‘technicians’ won’t be bothered whether you find the right bow or not, as long as they are making money. For this reason, it is vital that you know what to look for in a sales man or woman.

An archery expert should be willing to work with you, take all of your measurements and be prepared to order in a bow if needed.

Conversely, someone who is just looking to make a sale will most likely try to convince you that whichever bows they currently have in store will be right for you.

It is important to never give in to these sales tactics as once you get your bow home to realise that it is too short or too long, or potentially overbowed, you will really wish you hadn’t given in.

Storing Your Recurve Bow

You’ve been measured, you have tried a huge selection of draw weights to find the one that is right for you and you have picked out a bow that you find aesthetically pleasing. Now the fun can begin and you can start shooting.

But in between practices, it is vital that you store your recurve bow correctly as this will prevent it from becoming damaged.

One of the biggest mistakes made by newbie archers is that they will stand their bow up, resting on one of the limbs, leaning against a wall. This might look like a comfortable position for your bow but you are putting unnecessary pressure on that limb, which could cause it to weaken.

But before the limb weakens, you would likely notice that the bow stops performing how you would expect it to. This is just one of the reasons why proper storage is critical.

You can buy a hard case for your recurve bow and this is by far the best way to store it. However, if this is not possible, you might opt to hang the bow.

If you are going for this option, you should NEVER hang the bow from its string, this will affect performance, cause the string to stretch and do all kinds of damage.

Instead, hammer two wall pegs into the wall after having measured the bow. You will hang it from the riser but you should ensure that the weight of the bow is evenly spread over the two pegs.

You should also consider removing the string when storing the bow for long periods of time as keeping it on will likely reduce its lifespan. Furthermore, you should never store the bow in humid conditions or extreme temperatures.


It is important that you buy the correct length of recurve bow as this will help you handle the bow better and will ensure that it is right for the way you want to use it.

In the main, you should measure your draw length and use a chart, such as the one we have provided you with to determine the right length of bow.

But this is not the only thing to consider when looking at recurve bows and you should also factor in your draw weight, personal preference and eye dominance among other things.

About Brad Harris