Understanding Compound Bow Draw Weight

Compound Bow Draw Weight - US Air Force - Thrill of the Hunt - Compound Bow Use - U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Ashley J. WoolridgeA general rule of thumb in archery when it comes to equipping yourself is to get a bow with the right draw weight. For the uninitiated, draw weight refers to the amount of force an archer will pull while drawing the bowstring to its full range of motion. It is usually measured in pounds. Getting the right compound bow draw weight is important because this has a direct impact on your accuracy and ability to handle a bow without struggling.

How Compound Bow Draw Weight Is Unique

Draw weight forces behave differently depending on the type of bow you intend to use. As a traditional bow is drawn, resistance of the string continues to increase and peaks at full draw. On a compound bow, weight from the bowstring continues to increase with every inch of the draw, but only to a certain point where it drops to the holding weight. This capability is called “let-off”, which is made possible by the pulley systems or cams fixed on both limbs of a compound bow.

Once an archer reaches the let-off point of a compound bow, the draw can typically be 65-80% less than the original weight. For example, an archer using a bow set to a 70-pound draw weight and 80% let off will have a holding weight of only 14-pounds at anchor. This in turn makes it easier to hold an arrow for longer at full draw, creating more time to aim. Let off also enables archers to shoot compound bows with a much higher peak draw weight than when using other types of bows.

Draw Weight Aspects to Look for in a Compound Bow

Compound bows are designed with different draw weights. Some may feel heavier to pull than others even at their lowest draw weight. The intention of designing them this way is to ensure that there are compound bows to match the needs of different archers. Archery requirements can be dictated by age, experience or type of shooting conditions.

There are a few factors to keep in mind when looking at a compound bow draw weight. To begin with, make sure to choose a poundage that you find comfortable. Drawing a bow puts stress on the shoulders, arms and upper body joints. So, if the weight is too much, you may run into a few problems.


compound bow draw weight - overdoing it

The most common problem of being over-bowed is that you can’t draw the bowstring at all. Of course, this means that making a shot will be impossible. Even if you can get the string back, pulling too much draw weight will still reduce accuracy. This often happens when an over-bowed archer trembles at full draw, which makes it harder to aim. Needless to say, it does not matter how much momentum an arrow carries if it does not hit the target. In addition, pulling too much draw weight can leave an archer feeling fatigued and it encourages the use of poor shooting form.


Besides comfort, it is important to consider the adjustability range of your compound bow’s draw weight. Most compound bows allow users to adjust the draw weight in increments of 5 to 15 pounds while others are adjusted by loosening or tightening the draw screws/bolts. Therefore, compound bow draw weight is often quoted as a range.

For example, you may come across a compound bow with a draw weight of 50-70 pounds. Adjustments for draw weight simply require you to load or unload more stress on the limbs.  Tightening the limb bolts raises the draw weight while unscrewing does the opposite. Typically, draw weight adjustments on a compound bow must be set on both limb bolts in the same fashion. Some limbs have poundage marks while others do not. In the latter case, you would need to use a bow scale to verify the preset draw weight.

Projectile Considerations

It is important for hunters to note that draw weight indirectly affects speed and kinetic energy of an arrow. Any arrow will generally fly at its top speed and pack more kinetic energy when launched using a bow’s highest draw weight setting. Sometimes a compound bow with high draw weight can still launch an arrow with low kinetic energy. The reason for this is that other variables like weight of the arrow, draw length, and brace height influence kinetic energy as well.

When hunting with a compound bow, it is important to ensure that the draw weight of your equipment can project an arrow fast enough to build up the desired kinetic energy for taking down the specific game you will be hunting. Most states set a minimum draw weight for making a clean and humane kill. This is consistent with the type of animals that live within their jurisdictions.

Determining Your Ideal Draw Weight for a Compound Bow

Suggested Draw Weights

Determining the right compound bow draw weight to settle for is an individual endeavor. This is because everyone is different. As such, it is common practice to match draw weight for a compound bow with an archer’s body type. Below is a list of suggested compound bow draw weights for archers with regard to body stature and age.

  • Large built adult males (weighing over 190 pounds) – 60-70lbs
  • Average built males (between 160 and 190 pounds) – 55-65lbs
  • Large framed women (140 to 160 pounds) – 40-50lbs
  • Small framed women (100 to 140 pounds) – 30-40lbs

Although the list above provides a guide for choosing a compound bow with draw weight that is ideal for your stature, the most important thing to understand is matching a bow’s poundage to your strength.


An archer’s experience should also be considered in order to determine the ideal compound bow draw weight. Most archers that decide on compound bows are eager to find out just how much draw weight they can pull. Often, this is motivated by the notion that they will hold much less weight at full draw if they can just pull the bowstring past the let off hump.

However, don’t make this mistake if you are new to archery. Over exertion during the draw cycle will weaken your muscles by the time you reach full draw. Compound bows with harsh draw cycles can pose a problem for a novice archer especially during tournaments where many shots have to be taken.

If you are a beginner, it is best to start with a light draw weight and gradually work your way up to a higher poundage rating. By doing so, you will put less stress on muscles and joints that are new to archery. This in turn helps the muscles to develop sound memory with the proper body alignment.  Listen, it’s like working out.  If you haven’t done it in a while, you will fatigue faster.

Do not worry if you are not able to shoot an arrow comfortably at high draw weight settings. You should remember that archery is a sport of accuracy. High draw weights rarely translate into higher scores or kill shots. New archers eventually manage to pull more weight after several weeks of practice. Muscles that are previously rarely used gain more strength with practice!


When I go hunting, I have my bow set to between 60-70 lbs. I started at 45 lbs and quickly moved up until I found my comfort level. Every year bows seem to get better and better and are able to maximize the draw weight efficiency. I know guys who shoot 50 lb draw weights and reach as high or higher fps speeds than mine at 60-70.  The PSE Stinger is a good option with adjustable draw weights of 50-70 lbs.  The SAS Rage also is a relatively nice option with decent adjustability.



If you are an experienced archer, it is important to choose a compound bow draw weight that is ideal for your type of shooting.  Leave room for upward adjustment. You will quickly get used to the motion, and be able to increase your draw weights.  Make certain to compare the speed achieved with the bow as well.  Although you may not know the exact speed, once you have shot it you will be able to tell if it needs to be adjusted or not.  Arrow drop is definitely evident from even 30 yards away if you don’t have your weight set right.

Once you become an experienced archer, it will be easier to find your “sweet spot” of good body alignment at a draw weight that won’t put undue stress on your muscles and joints.  Please leave us a comment or contact us here with any questions you might have and we will be happy to reply.

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