Understanding Bow Specs:
What Are You Buying? Understanding Bow Specs: What Are You Buying?

If you don’t understand bow terminology, browsing a bow catalog or an archery store can feel like reading an unknown language as you try to interpret numbers and abbreviations used in bow descriptions. We hope this article translates bow terminology so you can pick the best bow for you.

Arrow speed is measured in feet per second, or fps. The higher the number, the faster the bow. Photo Credit: World Archery

Speed Ratings

Arrow speed is measured in feet per second, or fps. The higher the number, the faster the bow. A bow rated at 300 fps is faster than a bow rated at 290 fps.

Bow companies list “ATA” or “IBO” next to their speed ratings. ATA and IBO ratings evaluate bow speeds a bit differently. Bow companies use one of these industry standards to keep bow specifications consistent.

bow specs

A compound bow’s length is measured from axle to axle, which is where the bow’s limbs connect to the cams. Photo Credit: Aliexpress.com

Bow Length

A compound bow’s length is measured from axle to axle, which is where the bow’s limbs connect to the cams. Recurve bows are measured unstrung from string groove to string groove.

Draw Length

Draw length is how far a bow is pulled back. Draw length varies by person, depending on their size. Some bows offer a range of draw lengths because they can be adjusted to differing draw lengths. An archery shop can measure your draw length and fit a bow to you.

bow specs

Draw length is how far a bow is pulled back. Draw length varies by person, depending on their size. It’s estimated by measuring a person’s wingspan, and dividing that number by 2.5. Photo Credit: World Archery

Draw Weight

Draw weight is the amount of force needed to pull a bow. Draw weight is measured in pounds. In archery, it’s common to use the pound sign – # – (hashtag) to indicate pounds. Therefore, 45 pounds is written 45#.

Although a compound bow’s draw weight doesn’t vary with differing draw lengths, a recurve bow’s draw weight increases as it’s drawn. A recurve bow’s draw weight is measured at 28 inches. Therefore, if your draw length is less than 28 inches, your draw weight will be less than the bow’s listed weight.

Let-Off

A compound bow uses cables and cams to store energy and reduce the holding weight at full draw. This reduction in holding weight at full draw is called “let-off,” and is calculated as a percentage of the overall draw weight. For example, a 40-pound bow with a 75 percent let-off would be ten pounds at full draw. Let-off is especially helpful for competition or hunting because it allows shooters to hold a bow at full draw – and place an accurate shot – longer than if they were using another type of bow.

bow specs

Draw weight is the amount of force needed to pull a bow. Draw weight varies by person. The more you use your bow-shooting muscles, the more weight you’ll be able to draw, and the farther you’ll be able to shoot. Photo Credit: ATA

Now that you can speak the archery language, you’re ready to read some bow catalogs and test a few bows at an archery store. An archery pro will help you pick the bow that best fits your size, strength and needs.

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