What is the draw weight of a bow

What is draw weight?

Draw weight is simply a measure of how strong a bow is when you pull its string – in pounds.

Draw weight of a bow

It is the weight you will feel on your fingers when the bow comes to 28-inch draw. This 28-inch draw is the industry standard. So, if the draw weight of a bow is, say 45 pounds, you’ll feel your fingers are pulling 45 pounds when the bow will come to 28-inch draw.

Draw weight shouldn’t be confused with the actual weight OR sturdiness of the bow.

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How to Measure Draw Weight of a Bow

Why do I feel more/less draw weight than specified on my fingers when I draw the bow?

However, the actual draw weight that YOU feel varies though. If you are drawing the bow more than 28-inches, you’ll feel higher draw weight. While if you pulling the bow less than 28-inches, you’ll feel less of the weight.

Every inch around the industry standard of 28-inches makes a difference of roughly about 2-2.5 pounds. So, if a bow has a draw weight of, say 50 pounds, then if you pull it at 27-inches, it may give you about 47.5-48 pounds. And on 29-inches it may provide 52-52.5 pounds.

For your comfort, your draw length may not be exactly 28-inches though. It means that the draw weight you are feeling is NOT what is printed on the bow.

Read: How Heavy is a Recurve Bow: The Draw-Weight Question

Does bow length also makes a difference to the draw weight?

The bow length is also a factor. If you are buying a standalone bow, the draw weight mentioned on it is more or less measure for that particular setup.

If you put together an ILF takedown bow (International Limb Fitting – a standard adopted for limbs and risers for the bow), with different combinations of limbs, risers and strings. Typically speaking a longer bow will have a lower draw weight on the fingers. Meaning, if the bow has longer limbs, it’ll be easier to pull with less force applied.

Many ILF risers also allow to adjust where the limbs sit on the bow. This allows you to adjust a little bit of tilt of the limbs, thus helping you adjust the draw weight by about 5-10% for the same riser and limbs combination.

Side note: to know more about ILF, scroll to the Related Questions at the end of this article

Read: Archery by the Numbers: Measurements You Should Know

So what draw weight should I pick?

The biggest variable is how fit you are. Naturally, if you are stronger, you can use a heavier bow. But not everyone is made equal. So, it is important to pick the right weight for yourself if you want to get the maximum enjoyment. There are many factors involved:

Look at that back!
  1. Archery uses muscles that are not commonly used very often. Muscles like back and shoulder muscles are used most in drawing a bow. These are typically not the focus of many activities that we perform on a regular basis, these muscles are not as developed as your biceps, or arms etc. So even if you are “strong”, you may struggle with a heavier bow because muscles that you require for archery are not that strong.
  2. Some rough figures just as a reference that can be used for your first bow depending on your age and fitness are (Of course, these are just reference figures and not guidelines. Your perfect draw weight will depend on your personal circumstances, body type, strength etc. But when in doubt, always go for a lower draw weight):
  3. If you are a beginner then you need to learn proper technique for archery. A lighter bow is easier to handle, and thus easier to learn ins and outs of archery in comparison to heavier bow. Starting with a heavy draw weight can ruin your form and technique for a long time, or even permanently. Many people pick a bad habit by starting on a heavier draw weight.
  4. If you are really going for a very heavy draw weight, you risk an injury. Some people can handle starting out with a 40-45 pounds bow. But if you are a beginner with no prior experience to using muscle groups used in archery in your past, then be prudent and take side of caution by opting for lighter draw weight.

Read: How Much Draw Weight Do Bowhunters Need?

Does the draw weight makes any difference if I am new to the archery?

It is a lot easier to learn with a light bow, and then move up the draw weight as and when you feel it is comfortable physically. Over months and years, you’ll develop the muscles, strength and endurance to comfortably carry on shooting with a heavier bow as well, and at that time you can switch to a heavier draw weight.

If you are having trouble wrapping your head around the idea of what a draw weight feels like, imaging carrying dumb-bells of your draw weight poundage on both your hands. For example, if you are using 20 pounds draw weight bow, can you lift 20 pounds dumb-bells on both your hands comfortably?

You’ll be shooting for hours at a time. It requires strength and endurance. Metaphorically speaking, you will be lifting those dumb-bells dozens of time every hour. Although not exactly like it, but this analogy will give you a rough idea.

In some places, it is required to have a draw weight of 40-45 pounds minimum to go out for hunting. If you are new to the game it’ll be harder for you to handle that kind of draw weight. It is advisable to train yourself for a couple of months to reach that level before you buy a heavier bow. Directly going for a heavier bow can also lead to injury, and/or can ruin your form forever.


Pick the draw weight based on your fitness. If you are not sure, pick a lower draw weight to begin with, then move up with the draw weight when you feel comfortable with your form and fitness.

For casual archers, you definitely don’t need a heavy bow. A lighter bow can shoot quite a distance without any issues and with good accuracy.

Additionally, you’ll be able to concentrate on your form and stance much better if your energies are not focused on the draw weight. This will keep you away from injuring yourself due to uneven or wrong usage of muscles.

Related Question:

Many people starting with a recurve bow or a traditional bow compare with the compound bow by saying that those guys with compound bows can start with a higher draw weight, why can’t they?
Compound bow has cams and pulleys to ease the load on the user!

This is because compound bows have mechanism to hold a portion of the weight after you draw it to a certain point. So, at a full draw with a compound bow, you are only holding a small fraction of the actual weight. You may be holding only 15 pounds at your full draw with a 45-pound compound bow.

Even with a compound bow, it is advisable to start with a lower draw weight. It helps in learning the archery with right technique and without injuries.

What is ILF in Archery

ILF stands for International Limb Fitting.

It is a standard adopted by the archery industry for limbs and risers. It is the mechanism used in the risers and limbs so that they are compatible with each other – regardless of who is manufacturing them.

So, if you have riser (like this) and limbs (like this) from different companies that follow the ILF standard with their equipment, they will fit together, thus you can use them together. This gives you flexibility to mix and match your equipment based on your need.

A hands on guide on ILF limbs on a Recurve Bow!

When takedown bows were first thought of, different companies started making them with their own techniques and systems. In 1980’s, HOYT was also using a system which was quite appealing to the other manufacturers because of its simplicity. Thus, it stood out and became an industry norm we now know as ILF today.

ILF is a very simple and easy to takedown, fit together system used by almost all the bow manufacturers out there now. There are no tools required to fit together or takedown the limbs of the bow.

ILF bows can be tuned or fitted with limbs of different specifications, thus increasing or decreasing their draw weight. That is very helpful for archers by and large who need to adjust the poundage depending on their need.

ILF has allowed archery to become internationalized rather than localized. Earlier any new archer was locked into the proprietary system of the manufacturer they used to buy from. ILF removed this issue.

It also gives lot of flexibility to the new archers as well. It is entirely possible to buy a good ILF riser, and cheap limbs at first, and then when an archer is comfortable with it, replace them with suitable ILF limbs for their need.

However, not all target bows are ILF and not all ILF bows are target bows. Most of the companies has their own systems as well, alongside their ILF offerings.

ILF standard is also not limited to target archery bows or recurve bows only. There are lot of hunting bows and traditional bows that have ILF variants.

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