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How To Determine The Perfect Arrow Length

An Arrow with Vane

Outside of your bow itself, there are few items as valuable to an archer’s overall level of success than their arrows. When arrows are properly selected and prepared, an archer has presented the opportunity to make the most of their shooting.

One particular task associated with preparing your arrows for the range is ensuring that they are all cut to the proper length.

This leaves many archers questioning how to determine perfect arrow length. Luckily, calculating arrow length requires little more than simple measurement, and can be determined in a matter of minutes.

We have heard the question “How long should my arrows be for a 29 inch draw” plenty of times.

The right answer is to cut them to the length that creates the proper spine for your setup. If you´re a beginner I would recommend a good pro shop where they help you figure this out.

Why Is Arrow Length Important?

Using only those arrows which have been cut to the proper length is important for several reasons. These reasons vary in nature, encompassing concerns related to both safety and efficiency.

An arrow that is too long poses additional weight that must be stabilized mid-flight, and that has the potential to affect an arrow’s trajectory.

As a general rule, it is advisable to leave an arrow no longer than what is needed to provide a safe shooting scenario.

Arrows that have been cut too short are an even greater concern, as they can become an enormous safety liability.

An arrow that is too short in length has the potential to make contact with a bow’s riser, or an archer’s hand upon release.

This can lead to injury and/or erratic arrow flight.

a lot of arrows in a display

How To Measure & Calculate Arrow Length

There are multiple schools of thought on the best possible way to measure for proper arrow length.

While these methods vary slightly from one another, they all accomplish the same goal, which is to provide an archer with an arrow that is safe to shoot.

Standard Draw Length Based Measurement

Many archers choose to measure their arrows before cutoff by adding 1 ½” to their draw length, which should provide a ballpark length measurement that positions the arrow’s tip slightly past a bow’s riser at full draw. 

In general, this is an excellent way of measuring arrow length when shooting a recurve bow or any other type of traditional bow.

This ensures that enough arrow length remains, that an archer does not put themselves in harm’s way, should their bow be slightly overdrawn.

Shaft Marking At Full Draw

Another alternative way of measuring an arrow for length is to mark its cut off point when drawn as if being fired.

This is especially popular with compound archers, as overdraw is often less of a factor with the presence of a somewhat rigid back wall.

When measuring an arrow with the use of this method, the help of a second individual is required.

The arrow that is to be measured will be nocked as if it is to be fired, and the bow will be pulled into the full draw position. 

Once at full draw, a helper will mark the arrow shaft at a designated point in relation to the bow’s riser.

For many archer’s this point of intersection will be that of where the shaft is even with the front edge of the riser itself.

Once a mark has been made, an actual measurement can be taken and applied to all other arrows that are to be cut.

The use of a safety release is also highly advisable when taking arrow measurements in this manner.

The use of a safety release prevents the bow from being accidentally discharged while being held for marking the arrow for length, thereby ensuring the safety of all involved.

Measurement Arrow Use

a woman aiming her recurve bow

Another form of arrow length measurement involves the use of a purpose-built arrow.

These arrows are marked along their shaft in designated intervals down to ¼”. An archer simply nocks the measurement arrow and comes to full draw. 

Once at full draw, an assistant notates the correct arrow length measurement based upon those provided by the specialty arrow.

This measurement is then applied to all arrows that are to be cut to length, providing a simple, yet effective template to guide your efforts.

To see this technique of measuring an arrow used, watch this video.

How Arrow Measurements Are Defined

When measuring an arrow’s overall length, any measurement that is taken should encompass the distance from the throat of the nock, to the point where any cut is to be placed at the arrow’s opposing end.

By definition, the throat of a nock is the recessed internal section wherein the bowstring rides when an arrow is placed on the rest. 

Once all arrows have been cut to length, one should carefully inspect each arrow shaft, making sure that all cuts are perfectly square, and no cracking or splintering of the shaft material is observed.

It is also important to double-check that the lengths of all shafts match and that no mistakes have been made during the measuring and cutting process.

Arrow Length Calculation Made Easy

While the thought of measuring and cutting an arrow to length can seem intimidating to some, the process itself is far less troublesome than many would believe. And the best thing is, you don’t need a fancy arrow length to draw length chart to be on the safe side!

Simply keep in mind that you can always cut additional shaft length off if arrows are found to be too long, but you can never add to an arrow’s length if it has been cut too short.

By taking your time and employing a “measure twice cut once mentality”, you will be rewarded with arrows of the perfect length that will offer a safe, enjoyable shooting experience well into the future.

Parts of an Arrow

a lot of arrows in a display

Even before the ideal length of an arrow can be determined, one must familiarize themselves with the overall anatomy of an arrow, and be capable of understanding varying terminology associated with its parts.

The following is a breakdown of an arrow’s individual components and segments.


An arrow’s nock is found at its rearmost point, opposite that of the arrow tip. This component allows an arrow to be fitted to an archer’s bowstring in preparation for an upcoming shot.

Most modern carbon or aluminum arrows feature nocks made of plastic, that are easily replaceable if damaged.


Fletchings are thin, angled pieces of material that protrude outward from their attachment point with the arrow’s shaft at a 90-degree angle.

The purpose of fletchings is to stabilize an arrow’s flight. Fletchings come in two main varieties, feathers and vanes.

  • FeathersFeather-style fletchings offer maximum arrow stability when in flight and resist any possible deflection upon the arrow’s release. On the downside, feather fletchings are not waterproof and can be adversely affected by wet weather.
  • VanesVanes-style fletchings typically consist of a thin plastic construction, and are extremely resistant to the elements. 

Fletchings can influence arrow flight slightly, in the event of coming into contact with any component upon the arrow’s release.

However, the advent of modern drop-away arrow rests has largely eliminated issues of this nature, in their entirety.


The long cylindrical segment of the arrow’s body, to which every other component attaches, is known as the shaft.

When cutting an arrow to length, the shaft is where the parting cut will take place.

The three most common arrow shaft materials are carbon, aluminum, and wood.

  • CarbonCarbon is the most popular of all arrow shaft materials, as it is highly resistant to deformation and extremely durable. However, carbon arrow shafts can begin to develop small cracks within their fiber composition in time and should be regularly inspected for any defects. 

Carbon arrows are also somewhat pricey in relation to alternative arrow shaft materials, such as aluminum.

  • AluminumAluminum arrow shafts were quite popular for several years, though their popularity began to wane with the popularization of carbon arrows. Aluminum arrow shafts offer the same notable accuracy and consistency as carbon arrows, though at a more economic price point. 

However, aluminum arrows are prone to deformation when striking solid objects, and do not return to their original form once bent.

  • WoodThe use of wooden arrows dates back nearly as far as recorded history itself. These arrows are suitable for use with any type of bow, though their primary use in the modern era is almost exclusively by traditional archers. Wooden arrows are more prone to distortion and breakage than the other above-mentioned shaft materials.


The bulk of today’s arrows utilize inserts that are affixed at the end opposite the arrow’s nock.

These inserts are glued into the hollow end of an arrow shaft and feature internal threads.

With an insert in place, an archer’s head of choice can be threaded into place as desired.


Attached to the business end of an arrow is a point or head. The exact type of point or head that is to be used is ultimately dictated by the type of shooting that is to take place, with many such heads available for purchase.

Feel free to leave any comments or questions that you might have, as we appreciate any feedback from our readers.


Why Is Arrow Length Important?

Using only those arrows which have been cut to the proper length is important for several reasons. These reasons vary in nature, encompassing concerns related to both safety and efficiency.

An arrow that is too long poses additional weight that must be stabilized mid-flight, and that has the potential to affect an arrow’s trajectory.

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