Flipping through the pages of your compound bow’s instruction manual, you notice a number of different draw weights listed. But which one is the best for you?
First off, let me say that I’m not going to answer that definitively. There is no one-solution-fits-all. The draw weight is specific to the person using it, so what’s best for one person may be entirely unsuitable for another use.
That said, there are some generalizations you can make and some guidelines that I’ll provide below to help you decide what weight would suit you.
To make things a little easier for you, we put together this chart. You can find out what draw weight we recommend for your body type in the right-hand column and the suggested draw weight in the left column.
|Draw Weight||Body Type|
|>65 pounds||strong men (>190 lbs.)|
|55 – 65 pounds||average men (160 – 190 lbs.)|
|45 – 55 pounds||strong women (>160 lbs.)|
|45 – 55 pounds||small frame men (120 – 160 lbs.)|
|35 – 50 pounds||average women and older teenagers (130 – 150 lbs.)|
|25 – 35 pounds||small frame women and stronger kids (100 – 130 lbs.)|
|15 – 25 pounds||younger kids (70 – 100 lbs.)|
Now, don’t forget, this chart is meant for compound bows only! If you are shooting a longbow or recurve bow, this chart will not apply. If you are unsure which draw weight to pick, stay closer to the lower end of the range for your body type. And if you are new to archery, always start with low draw weight.
It’s better to be conservative and then slowly work your way up in draw weight as you become more skilled than it is to try too hard and injure yourself or damage the bow. And by the way, many newer compound bows offer different draw weight settings.
It is best to select a bow with a draw weight that you can draw about 20 times to full draw without having any difficulties. Over time you will get stronger. Don’t get started with a draw weight not recommended for your body type.
Overreaching is a common term for picking too high of draw weight. Men are particularly prone to overreaching. We are strong and tough guys, 70 pounds of draw weight? Piece of cake. Right?
Nope. That’s not how it works. If you go overboard with the draw weight, you will concentrate mainly on drawing the bow. This will make you lose concentration on your form, and your accuracy goes down. You also increase the risk of injuries!
As a result of the fatigue, you are experiencing, shooting your bow becomes a chore rather than a pleasure, which prevents you from advancing your skill.
How Much Draw Weight for Hunting?
A compound bow’s draw weight is not the only factor to consider when deciding if it is suitable for hunting. There are several other factors you should consider.
Kinetic Energy (KE)
Kinetic energy (KE) is the main factor that you should consider as it determines how much “force” an arrow will penetrate your target. For most North American game species, 55 ft-lbs of Kinetic Energy should suffice.
GoldTip has the following recommendations:
< 25 ft. lbs Small Game (rabbit, groundhog, etc.)
25-41 ft. lbs Medium Game (deer, antelope, etc.)
42-65 ft. lbs Large Game (elk, black bear, wild boar, etc.)
65 ft. lbs Toughest Game (cape buffalo, grizzly, musk ox, etc.)
What is Kinetic Energy?
Kinetic energy is basically determined by the mass of the arrow and the speed of the arrow. There several online calculators available to determine your kinetic energy for a given bow setup.
Here is what GoldTip says about Kinetic Energy and how to determine Kinetic Energy:
“The measurable “power” of your bow – it’s total kinetic energy output – ultimately depends upon just two variables: the mass of the arrow and the speed of the arrow. Kinetic energy of an arrow can be found by using the formula KE=(mv²)/450,240 where m = mass of the arrow in grains and v = velocity of the arrow in fps.”
They further go on explaining, that if you shoot a 400-grain arrow at 250 fps, your actual kinetic energy or “power” will be:
Now you may wonder, what does all of that has to do with my draw weight? Well, the advertised speeds of compound bows are measured in FPS. Feet per second.
Bow manufacturers use a testing environment to determine the fps of their bows. For all IBO speeds, that is:
- 70 lbs. draw weight
- 30″ draw length
- 350-grain arrow
Let’s say you are a beginner and your draw weight is set at 50 pounds. This will result in less speed. Less draw weight = less arrow speed.
Remember from above, where I explained that kinetic energy is determined by two factors? Speed and weight of the arrow. So to achieve a kinetic energy output suitable for a hunting scenario, you need to “work” on those factors.
Is it physically impossible for you to draw 70 pounds? Now, the main factor you can influence is the arrow weight! In other words, it’s entirely possible to have a bow with 70 lbs. draw weight that delivers less kinetic energy than a 60 lbs. bow . or even a 50 lbs. bow.
Obviously, this is a simplification. There is more to it. Here is what Mark Huelsing over at bowhunting.com thinks about hunting effectiveness of an arrow:
“Shot placement, broadhead design, and a myriad of other factors are important to consider when talking about the hunting effectiveness of an arrow delivered from a bow, but kinetic energy is an important part of the equation.”
When choosing a bow, make sure that you select a compound bow with a draw weight appropriate for your body type. Also, remember to consider the draw length and arrow weight. If you are just starting out in archery shooting, start with a lower draw weight and progress gradually. Modern compound bows have a wider range of draw weights available.
If it comes to bowhunting, the draw weight is a factor but more important is how much kinetic energy you can deliver to your target.