Something commonly seen across archery ranges is someone who is overbowed, or drawing too much weight. Many times, this stems from archers believing that they need to be shooting the industry “standard” of 70 pounds and conditioning from shops who only carry 70 pound bows in stock. However, archers will get more out of their equipment and experience if they select a draw weight that best matches their physical capabilities.
How do you know if you are shooting the correct weight? This depends on the application and will differ from hunting to target archery. If you are hunting, you should be able to draw your bow in one smooth and continuous motion while pointing at the target without moving your torso. If you must yank, lean back, shake, or struggle, you are pulling too much weight. If you begin to struggle after less than 30 arrows, you are pulling too much weight. The amount of motion required to pull back a bow with too much weight is likely to spook any mature whitetail in sight. You want to be able to take the bow from brace to full draw as smoothly and quickly as possible with the least amount of movement to remain undetected by your target. You should also be able to draw your bow smoothly from a seated position.
By the numbers, compound bows today are faster and more efficient than ever. For most hunting situations, you do not need as much draw weight as you may think.
Bow – 1, 2000 model, 70lbs, 28”, 300fps at IBO specs = 61 ft/lbs KE
Bow – 2, 2017 model, 70lbs, 28”, 340fps at IBO specs = 80 ft/lbs KE
Bow – 2, 2017 model , 60lbs, 28”, 340pfs at IBO secs = 68 ft/lbs KE
As you can see, a new bow at 60lbs can produce more energy than an older bow at 70lbs. This is because todays bows are more efficient (more energy out of the bow vs energy put in) and the cams store more energy throughout the draw cycle. This is an important factor to consider when buying a new bow. Not all bows are going to store the same amount of energy, and not all 70lb bows are going to feel the same to draw. This is because there is a tradeoff between stored energy and shootability. As energy stored increases, ease of draw decreases. At Elite, we try to maximize the energy stored while maintaining an easy draw cycle. This is accomplished by transitioning from peak weight sooner in the draw cycle before leverage and strength starts to decrease. Most shooters start to struggle during the last third of the draw where it feels like they hit a wall or hump. This hump is actually the archer losing leverage or strength due to the position of their arm while the draw weight remains constant.
BIG GAME HUNTING
However, if you are hunting big game animals, you need to make sure you have sufficient energy to ethically harvest your game. The first step is to check your state game regulations, as many states specify a minimum draw weight for hunting. If there is no minimum draw weight, you’ll want 30ft*lbs of Kinetic Energy (KE) as a minimum. You can determine your KE by the equation below.
KE(ft*lbs) = ((Arrow weight in grains)*(Velocity in FPS)^2)/450240
Be sure you are using your actual measured velocity above and not the advertised speed rating. Your draw weight, draw length, arrow setup, and weight on the sting will all effect the speed your bow is shooting. It is rare that a hunting setup meets or exceeds the advertised speed of the bow. Most bows are rated at the 30” draw length setting, 70lbs, with a 350 grain arrow and nothing on the string (peep etc).
Target archery will differ from hunting. When selecting the appropriate draw weight for target archery, the first step is going to be to determine what type of shooting you are going to do and at what level. For example, if you plan to shoot any USA Archery or World Archery (sometimes referred to as FITA) events, their rules state that archers cannot shoot with a draw weight exceeding 60 pounds. Other organizations (NFAA, ASA, IBO) may have speed limits for your class of shooting, so be sure to check the rules for each organization before attending an event.
Beyond the rules and regulations of the event, archers should select a draw weight that helps them be as accurate as possible. This should be a weight that can be drawn without draining strength and provides a holding weight that suits the archers’ preference and bow setup. Holding weight is the amount of weight that you are required to hold at full draw, often referred to as the let-off percentage in bow specifications.
Select a draw weight that allows you to shoot many arrows without struggling to draw your bow. When you start to experience fatigue from shooting, your performance will decrease and bad habits can and will start to take over. Once you get tired shooting, it’s best to put the bow down and come back when you are fresh.
Another factor to consider when purchasing a bow is to buy the bow that allows you to shoot the appropriate weight as close to maxed out as possible. Most bows perform at their best when the limb bolts are tightened all the way. While there is nothing wrong with shooting a bow backed out a few turns, your bow will achieve its highest performance when the limbs are bottomed out. Instead of buying a 70lb bow and shooting it at 60lbs, do yourself a favor and buy the 60lb version and shoot it maxed out.
There are many factors to consider when determining what is the correct draw weight and no single reference or chart to help you to pick without shooting some bows first. Keep in mind that the muscles used to draw a bow are different than muscles used in other activities, so if you are just getting into archery, it may be difficult to draw your bow at higher weights until you start to build your “archery muscles.” We recommend visiting your local pro shop with a range and try out different bows and draw weights to select the one that best fits you.
Written by Josh Sidebottom.