Determining The Best Arrow Length

How Arrow Length Impacts Your Shots

Choosing the proper arrow length is crucial for any aspiring archer. To safeguard against misconceptions and missteps, this article will teach you exactly how to select the right arrow length for your needs.

More often than not, beginners tend to disregard this detail. This can end up being detrimental to their hunt or target practice. We bet that even veteran archers spend their entire careers hunting without this valuable knowledge.

You may be surprised to hear that arrow length plays a significant role in your success as an archer. Not only will you be more accurate with your shots with the correct arrow length, but excellent results will come much easier.

Conversely, using the wrong sized arrows for shooting can be detrimental to your efforts, and perhaps even dangerous to you, those around you, and your weapon. Measuring arrow length is paramount for a high-quality experience.

When I had just started doing archery, I familiarized myself with the importance of the right bow size for my training. However, I would pick my arrows at random; a gross misjudgment.

You might do the same, choosing to pick a handful of arrows at your local store and have done with it. Alternatively, you may be cutting your bolts too short or going for the wrong size altogether.

Sadly, one arrow size will not fit everyone, and we’ve undertaken a ton of research to save you the time. Fear not, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you and put together this comprehensive and informative guide to help you get familiar with the basics.

So, let’s take an extensive look into arrows, how they work, and how to pick the best one for yourself. By the time you’re finished reading, you should be well equipped to make the right decision for you!

Determining The Best Arrow Length
Chapter 1

Parts of an Arrow

If you are at the very beginning of your archery journey, you should understand arrow anatomy before determining your ideal arrow length.

Familiarizing yourself with the terminology will make you feel more confident about your next trip to the shop as well. So let’s take a look at the essential parts – nock, fletching, shaft, and point.

Parts of an Arrow


The nock is the part of arrow closest to you when you shoot. It enables the bolt to sit back into the bow instead of slipping off.

Nowadays, nocks come in plastics, and you can repair and replace them quickly. On traditional wooden arrows, though, they come carved into the material.


Fletching is the name used for the feathers on the back side of your arrow. They allow for proper arrow flight, and also serve to indicate that you have nocked your arrow correctly.


The shaft is the component that you measure to determine the length of the arrow. It is a long piece of material from the tip to the nock.

It is the base of your arrow, and you connect your point and the nock to it.

Shafts come in traditional wood, durable aluminum, and some are even manufactured from top-shelf carbon, although these come at a premium price. Most arrows you encounter will be made from aluminum, as it offers the best balance between quality and affordability.


The arrowhead comes to the end of your shaft. It is the part that pierces into your target or game you’re hunting.

It’s basically the tip of the arrow, and there are three basic arrowhead types: field tips for normal range sports, blunt end for small-scale hunting and broadhead for traditional bowhunting.

Chapter 2

Choosing Your Bow and Arrows

You may think that selecting the proper length will be as easy as accessing an arrow length chart. Although these are a useful point of reference, there is a bit more to it.

Firstly, you need to determine your draw length. This step is critical for your future success, and every successive part leans directly on this one.

Knowing your draw size enables you to pick a bow of the correct size. Only then can you start thinking about your arrow length and comprehend how these factors relate.

Choosing Your Bow and Arrows

Draw Length

The draw length depends solely on your anatomy and physical build. There are several methods to determine it, but the simplest one is the ‘Measure and Divide,’ which most archers use.

For beginners, this method is sufficient. What you need to do is measure your arm span, and then divide it by 2.5 – that’s it!

Bonus tip: if you get a result of, say 20.5 inches, round it up to 21 inches for extra safety and convenience.

Bow Size

This very straightforward step could make or break your performance. Having determined your draw length, you can check a bow size chart to see which bow size will work for you.

Especially if you’re a beginner, this is crucial for developing proper form and a high level of skill. Be sure to test the feel of the bow.

Draw Weight

If you go for a set that is too heavy, this will more likely than not lead to poor form and back issues, lessening your enjoyment.

Your strength and endurance will keep increasing as you practice, but if you start with too heavy a bow (some call this being ‘overbowed’), things can be pretty painful in the short term.

Again, you can access charts for a straightforward calculation, and these are based on your age and type of bow you’re using. Remember, a lighter bow is a much safer option.

Chapter 3

Draw Length vs. Arrow Length

You may be thinking that your arrows should be equal to your draw length. You might also think about getting shorter arrows that are light and swifter?

Why does this trade-off between draw length and arrow matter? We’ve compiled some crucial data to equip you with this knowledge!

Draw Length vs. Arrow Length

What is Arrow Length?

Arrow length is comprised of the distance between the backside of the point to the beginning of the nock. Generally, you can find arrows anywhere from 20 to 32 inches long in stores.

To calculate yours, you should add 1 to 2 inches to your draw length. This is an approximation, but a little trial and error will help you determine the exact measurements you need.

For example, when choosing arrow length for a 27-inch draw, you cannot go for the same arrow one would use in a 28-inch draw.

While most people go for 27.5-inch arrow length for a 29-inch draw, a beginner would be happier with a longer arrow. While this offers less power, it is considerably easier to aim with.

If you need extra help, you could consult this handy arrow length to draw length chart. This tool will give you suggestions on the standard arrow length from which you could benefit the most.

Why Does it Matter?

This distinction is crucial for your safety and success. If your arrows are too short, it can lead to poor shots or dangerous situations.

When you draw fully, your arrow should go over the end of your riser at least a small amount. This way, the chances of it shooting back and through your hand fall to pretty much non-existent.

If you’re not a beginner, you may be thinking that you can benefit from shorter arrows without the risk of injuring yourself. However, accidents do occur in this sport, and we believe that it’s better to perfect your technique than to put yourself at unnecessary risk.

Cutting your Arrows

Once you calculate your arrow length, you will need to get proper arrows. While most stores nowadays do offer custom-length bolts, sometimes you will need to improvise.

We recommend that you buy bare shafts so that cutting will be a less complicated process. Wooden and aluminum arrows tend to be easier to cut than carbon ones, but any level of effort is worth it because you’re getting full control.

If you own an arrow saw, you should be good to go. Not all people do, though, but it’s possible to DIY this.

You could use a cut-off wheel, for instance. Be sure to wear adequate protection and to mark the exact spot for the cut beforehand.

With a little caution and practice, it should be a quick but effective job.

Chapter 4

Different Arrows for Different Bows

You may be wondering, ‘does arrow length really matter this much?’. The simple answer is, it does: your performance and safety depend on it.

Additionally, not every bow comes with the same arrow requirements. Let’s take a look at how to measure the proper arrow length for your particular bow.

Different Arrows for Different Bows

Longbow Arrows

If a longbow isn’t your usual tool of choice, the first thing to remember is that the spine needs to be more flexible than with other bows. Select your arrow material accordingly!

Moreover, with longbow shooting, beginners should go for longer arrows.

This type of weapon comes with a lot of power. As you perfect your technique, you might want to shorten your arrows for better results, but never go below your draw length even if you’re a very competent shooter.

Compound Bow Arrows

Picking an arrow length for a compound bow used to be a tricky business involving several considerations, but not anymore!

First, measure your draw length. If possible, use a measurement method that allows you to hold your compound bow, as not every person will have the same shooting posture.

A good rule of thumb is to use arrows up to an inch longer than your draw length.

Crossbow Arrows

If you use a crossbow as a weapon of hunting, you may have heard that you need to consider many factors when picking your bolts.  Different ammo, but similar principles apply.

However, the length factor is simple to determine with crossbows. The average arrow length for crossbows is 20 inches, and they tend to range from 16 to 22.

As crossbows are less manual compared to other bows, you will usually get a manufacturer’s recommendation on what to use. Stick to it: arrows that are too long are reasonably safe, but we know that arrows that are too short can cause serious harm.

Recurve Bow Arrows

Recurve Bows are incredibly powerful and are not always a beginner weapon, but even for experts, a little information goes a long way. When you get the right arrow length, you boost your performance levels.

Having determined your draw length, add 1 to 2 inches to it, and there you have it. Be sure to test several sizes, as the details make the difference.

So for instance, for a 28-inch draw, arrow length of 29 to 30 inches would be ideal in terms of speed, power, and accuracy.

Bowhunting Arrows

Bowhunting raises the excitement of the usual hunting, as your target is moving. Therefore, precision is far more critical.

For bowhunting, the best advice would be to follow your draw length for the highest chance of good accuracy.

Remember that you will need a lot of practice before you hunt in the wild, and by the time you’re ready, you’ll be able to shoot these arrows when bowhunting (without packing a ton of extra ammo for misses!) If you’re still insecure about your aim, though, go for slightly longer arrows.

It’s better to lose your prey than hurt yourself.

Chapter 5

Busting the Common Myths

If you spend a lot of time associating with other archers, you may have come across some conflicting information. Doing research is the safest way to work against that, so here is some ammo to dispel some common myths surrounding arrow length!

Busting the Common Myths

Common Arrow Length & Draw Myths

  • “Height is equal to arm span” is a myth which takes a mere minute to dispel, but somehow it persists. Going by this rule is a lazy way to injure yourself: take our advice!
  • The ‘1-inch allowance’ says that you will remain safe using arrows an inch above or below your draw length. While this does hold for longer shafts, shorter ones may snap and seriously hurt you: archers refer to this event as an obstructed path shot, and you should be aware of it.
  • “You can cut arrows to make them faster” admittedly holds true because cutting arrows lowers their weight. That said, the effects are mild, and the dangers increase with every half an inch you cut off, so be sure to prioritize your safety.
  • Arrows that are too long are safe” is the opposite extreme, and not the right solution, either. While there are smaller chances of injury with longer arrows, they can harm your efficiency dramatically.


We hope that we have helped you become acquainted with the simple science of arrow length, as it can make a huge difference in your shooting endeavors.

We recommend that you refer to this guide before your next hunt or trip to the archery store so that you’re equipped with all of the information that you need to get the right arrow for you!

If you have enjoyed reading this article, you should take a look at our Best Takedown Recurve Bow article or jump over to our review of the Best Target Arrows.

Best of luck with your bullseyes!


Prefer to Read the Video Transcript?

Josh: Finally got this bow set up. Got all the accessories and components on it as much as I’d like to hit the range right now and start shooting some arrows. There’s a few things we got to do including cutting the arrows to the right length. So explain a little bit about what you’re looking for in terms of cutting the arrows so that they match my bow and my draw lengths and everything else.

Instructor: Okay, what we’ve got right now, is we’ve put on a measuring arrow and it’s got increments on there of length so that once you draw back that I can see with the length that I want to cut it at I don’t have to put a tape measure in it or anything. So it’s kind of nice to have. A lot of times what you could do, if you don’t have something like this, you can have someone stand next to you with a marker so you can draw back your arrow and they can just take and make the mark on and then you can draw down and then go and cut it up to that. So what we have to do right now Josh, is go ahead and what we do is we’ve got a safety release here for you.

Josh: Okay.

Instructor: A lot of times we like that because as you pull back sometimes you’re kind of more worried about what I’m doing in measuring and people have been known accidentally to hit the trigger so it’s kind of nice we don’t have to worry about that. So go ahead and draw back and I’ll show you what we’re going to do.

Okay, so you’ll get back to your Anchor Point, so what we’re going to do now is, I’m going to set it to the front of your riser, I’ll explain that in a second why that’s 29 inches. And so go ahead and draw down and I’ll explain one of the reasons why we have a tendency to keep a little bit longer than maybe some. What happens is if you look on the front of the bow here, if you cut the arrow too short and we’re not really paying attention and you could draw back and if you’re shooting a fixed broadhead, you have your wing span to your blades out there and depending on how big they are, you might accidentally hit your riser as you draw back. So if you do that you draw back, it’s going to hit that, it’ll let you pop your arrow off.

The other thing is we’ve set the timing of the rest to the proper sequence as far as how long we want it to stay up. But what happens you want at least an inch in front of that riser, so maybe if you shoot in a different type of a rest. You wanted at least an inch in front of where it sits on the rest because otherwise it can have a tendency to springboard off that rest.

Josh: Okay, makes sense.

Instructor: So we cut them up to the front of the riser, also some guys will have a tendency if they’re shooting a fixed broadhead or even expendable, they’ll put their finger up there, kind of the old rule, everybody had to keep their finger on there. So by putting it up to the front of the riser, which is 29 inches, we eliminate a lot of the safety problems that might happen.

Josh: Yeah.

Instructor: So again, If you don’t have a measuring arrow, all you would have to do is just take the marker and just mark it and now we can go up and cut your arrows and get you shooting.

Josh: All right, so I’ve got some Carbon Express Maxima sitting upstairs. And so let’s go get those babies cut.

Instructor: Good.

Josh: Sounds good.

Share the Love

If you found this post useful, please let others know about it by sharing it.