How Short Can A Bow Be?

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If you’ve done some archery before, there’s a good chance you will have come across the terms ‘longbow’ and ‘short bow’ before. These are, of course, different kinds of bows that are better suited to different styles and situations within archery, like hunting or target practice.

The names are also pretty self-explanatory. A longbow tends to have long limbs while a short bow has shorter limbs. However, you might be wondering just how short a short bow can be and how long a longbow can realistically be.

Well, a short bow can be as short as 36 inches on average, making it very small and maneuverable. On the other hand, a longbow can get to lengths of around 6 feet, depending on the size of the archer.

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at how length affects the way we use certain bows and go over the key differences between short bows and longbows.

Does Size Matter?

Naturally, one of the most obvious differences between short bows and longbows is their length. In fact, the difference in length between these two bows can often be several feet! But does this stark size difference have much of an impact when you’re actually using them for different archery purposes?


The thing you’ll benefit from most when using a shorter bow is convenience. Quite simply, they are much lighter and easier to carry around with all of your other equipment.

This factor will be particularly noticeable when you’re out hunting because you’ll often need to travel great distances with all of your gear before setting up in a particular location.

However, if you only plan on using your bow for target practice in your backyard or at a range, a heavier, longer bow won’t be as much of an issue because you won’t have to travel with it on your back.


Another key thing to consider is the price difference between short bows and longbows. Here, the difference between the two price tags is also straightforward.

Short bows require less material to construct so they tend to be less expensive. However, the price will still vary massively depending on the quality of the bow. For example, a really high-quality short bow will still cost more than a shoddy longbow.

The price of any bow will vary depending on a number of key factors:

  • Hand-crafted bows will almost always cost more to construct and will therefore be more expensive to purchase.
  • If there are any accessories already fitted to the bow, it will definitely cost you more money.
  • Bows made with high-quality, rare materials are going to cost a lot more than ones made using regular old wood or plastic.
  • Similarly, bows made with durable strings will cost more, even though you can just replace the string yourself.



The range is simply the distance from that you’re able to fire an arrow with your bow. This is another aspect of the difference between short bows and longbows. Here, size really does matter: shorter bows just aren’t able to achieve as great a distance with their shots as longbows.

This is because you can pull back the string of a longbow further than you can with a short bow, allowing you to build up more energy. This energy is then transferred to the arrow as you fire it, shooting it through the air at a greater distance.

This might not be a huge deal for you, especially if you know you’ll only be shooting at a certain distance from your target.

However, if you plan on using your bow for hunting and you don’t know for sure how far you’ll be from your target, having a longer bow will be more versatile and beneficial to you.

Arrow Speed

Similar to the previous point, the speed at which the arrow travels depends on the size of the bow. Because less energy is transferred to the arrow during a shot taken with a short bow, you’d expect it to travel slower than with a longbow, right?

Well, this isn’t actually always the case. The string of a short bow will always be shorter than with a longbow, meaning it is also tighter.

While this doesn’t equate to a shot with greater distance, it does result in a shot with greater initial speed. Therefore, if you’re shooting at a close target, a short bow will be able to generate more power on impact than a longbow.

How Should You Use A Short Bow And A Longbow Differently?

We’ve gone over some of the key differences between how short bows and longbows operate but how should you actually apply this information while using them in different situations?

The two main uses for a bow in the sport of archery are for hunting out in the wild or for target practice.

When hunting, you won’t ever know for sure how far you’ll be from your target because you’ll often have to set up a great distance from any animals and wait for them to move into the right position.

For this reason, a longbow will often be beneficial as it can reach a further range. However, because short bows are lighter and can generate more arrow speed, they also have plenty of advantages for hunters.

This is why it’s always good to try out different bows to find the balance of length that suits you best. Alternatively, if you know what range you’ll need from your bow for simple target practice, it will be much easier to work out what length of bow you’ll need.


Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed learning about short bows, longbows, and the key differences between them. Remember that while a short bow can be as short in length as 36 inches, this is just one extreme end of the scale.

Realistically, archers will prefer bows that are a much more normal length, to cover all of the needs they might have.

I am the founder and chief editor here at BowAddicted. I love my kids, archery, and the outdoors! It's been an amazing journey so far with some ups and downs, but it's worth it to spend time outside with friends and family.

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