When you start comparing compound bows from well-known manufacturers such as Bear Archery, Hoyt, Darton Archery, Diamond Archery, and more, one key feature will jump out at you that you might not have ever seen before. That’s brace height. You’ll notice a range of brace heights advertised between five and nine inches.
What is brace height, how does it affect shooting, and what is the ideal brace height for you?
A Simple Measurement
The simplest definition of brace height is that it’s the measured distance between the deepest part of your compound bow grip and the bow string. It’s already been set by the bow manufacturer, so you do not want to deviate from the brace height in order to get the best performance out of the bow.
You can actually measure the brace height yourself. Lay the bow horizontally in front of you, so that the hand grip is on your left and the string is on your right. Take a ruler and measure between the deepest part of the grip and the string. It should line up with the brace height measurements.
You can also change the brace height yourself. You do that by either twisting or untwisting the string to alter the measurement.
The brace height is given as a set of two measurements: the minimum and the maximum. The brace height is also determined directly by how long your bow is. The longer the bow, the longer the brace height. For example, a bow with a height of 58” is going to have a brace height between 7 ¼” and 7 ¾”.
What Does the Brace Height Affect?
Basically, there are two areas of compound bow shooting that are most affected by the brace height. It’s your arrow speed and what’s called bow forgiveness. There’s a few exceptions, but mostly the general guideline is that a shorter brace height does help a bow create more arrow speed. When comparing bows who have the same draw weight, the same draw length, and only a difference in brace height, the bow with the shorter one will shoot the arrow faster.
Accuracy is the other factor affected by brace height, since having a forgiving bow with a shorter brace height actually magnifies any mistakes the archer makes. Your arrow stays on the string for a shorter distance before it’s released. It’s not as affected by other factors on the shot, so that improves the accuracy.
Does a shorter brace height mean the compound bow will be more difficult to shoot? Yes, in fact. A longer brace height makes the bow forgiveness much greater than a shorter brace height. So, while the arrow will shoot faster than a longer brace height, the string is in contact with the arrow for a relatively longer period of time.
A longer brace height has been determined to create a slightly easier draw cycle, so we feel confident recommending longer brace heights for those who are looking for that feature.
So, What is The Best Brace Height?
Before modern compound bow technology, brace height used to be one of the standard measurements for young archers to determine both arrow speed and bow forgiveness.
However, compound bows have come a long way, and they’re much faster than their predecessors. It’s easy to find modern compound bows that don’t make that much of a difference between whether the brace height is 6” or 7”. With these fast bows, the arrow doesn’t have enough of a measured time spent in the string for it to make the kind of vast difference that truly affects performance.
In essence, brace heights that fall in that range will be suited for any number of archers, from novice up to experienced. It also levels the playing field, so to speak, for newcomers with the latest 2018 compound bow models (click here if you are a woman and looks for a bow.
Most of the brace heights that you’ll see on the market today are exactly 7 inches. That seems to be the perfect medium measurement for anything that you want to do with your bow.
Bullseye Target Shooting vs. Hunting Shooting
Where brace height really makes a difference is in the function of the compound bow. Are you primarily going to be using it for bullseye target shooting or for hunting shooting?
Bullseye target shooting is about precision and extreme accuracy to hitting the center of the target. Arrow speed isn’t likely going to play a huge factor but bow forgiveness definitely will. You want a longer brace height of at least 7 inches and would be better off choosing one of 8 inches or even longer. You will, in turn, want to work on maintaining a more perfect form and stay in that posture until the arrow has completely left the bow. It’s similar to other sports like golf, where precision is more important than speed. You’ll want a longer brace height, which could be achieved manually by changing the bowstring or by purchasing a longer bow.
Conversely, out in the field while hunting wild game, you want a shorter brace height; that improves arrow speed. Precision is not as much of a factor, but you do want to hit a moving target as fast as possible. Your bow will not be as forgiving as one with a longer brace height. The typical brace heights for these types of bows are between five and seven inches. So, you’ll want to either purchase a shorter bow or work to make the brace height smaller by altering the bowstring.
Although brace height isn’t as important a measurement as draw weight or draw length, it is still an effective way to determine whether a bow is right for you. A bow with a shorter brace height will have both advantages and disadvantage; the same goes for one with a longer brace height.
In the end, it comes down to what you intend to use the bow for, and which factor (speed or bow forgiveness/accuracy) means more to you as the archer.