What Compound Bow Draw Weight Is Right?

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Many factors come into play when determining the speed at which an arrow leaves your bow, and how much kinetic energy it retains when it reaches its target downrange. One of the most crucial of these factors is a bow’s draw weight. This naturally inspires many archers to question what compound bow draw weight is right for them.

If you find yourself with a similar question of this nature, the following information will not only assist you in coming to a well-researched conclusion but will assist you in better understanding how such a decision is made.

Determining YOUR Proper Draw Length and Draw Weight by Diamond Archery

When a correct draw weight is chosen, you will maximize the enjoyment had while shooting your bow.

How Much Draw Weight Is Needed?

The amount of draw weight that is needed centers around what is required to achieve ample arrow penetration, leading to a quick, clean, and efficient kill.

Contrary to popular belief, arrow speed itself does not dictate an arrow’s ability to penetrate its target.

Instead, kinetic energy is the standard figure that is used to determine an arrow’s level of penetration. The formula for figuring the kinetic energy produced by your bow’s current set-up is as follows:

Fps2 X Weight of Arrow / 450,240 = Arrow’s Kinetic Energy

The following factors all play a large role in determining a particular bow’s kinetic energy.

Draw Weight

As a bow’s draw weight increases, so does its potential to create . This stems from the fact that draw weight, along with other factors such as arrow weight, directly influence a bow’s observed arrow speed.

This is of importance since arrow speed is one variable in the equation that is used to figure kinetic energy.

Draw Length

With every additional inch of draw length, a bow’s arrow speed increases by approximately 10 FPS (Feet-Per Second).

This makes draw length a valuable figure in the kinetic energy equation, for much the same reason as draw weight. This stems from the fact that kinetic energy is ultimately dictated to a point by arrow speed.

Brace Height

Brace height is yet another factor that relates to a bow’s kinetic energy. As we have already learned, arrow speed is not the only dictating factor of kinetic energy, but it does play a large role.

The shorter a bow’s brace height, the faster shooting it typically is. This is because short brace heights allow an arrow to remain in contact with the bowstring for a longer period.

Arrow Weight

The other value that must be considered when figuring kinetic energy is the weight of your arrow. The gains produced by the previous three elements can either be enhanced or negated, depending on the weight of the arrow you shoot.

Even a bow with a short brace height, long draw length, and heavy draw weight, can suffer from the effects of an overly heavy arrow.

guy drawing bow and holding
click for full video

How Do You Know If Your Draw Weight Is Too Heavy?

Although conventional wisdom would lead most to believe that the heavier your draw weight, the more efficient bowhunter you will be, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

As draw weight increases, so does the strain on your muscles as they attempt to overcome the significant force that this requires.

Whether you are a bowhunter, target archer, or both, shooting too much poundage can negatively impact every aspect of your experience.

This can ultimately lead to confidence issues and a barrage of frustration. No amount of kinetic energy comes as any benefit if you cannot shoot your bow with precision.   

When shooting too much poundage, target archers become more susceptible to target panic. When this occurs, archers become anxious toward the shot process itself and punch their release, rather than triggering it slowly.

This leads to poor accuracy and worsening anxiety.

When hunting with a bow that features an excessively high draw weight, it often becomes difficult to hold at full draw for the extended periods that are sometimes required before the perfect shot becomes available. 

Additionally, muscle tightness due to frigid temperatures often make drawing a bow much harder than it would be in fair weather, especially with exceedingly high draw weight.

There are several notable signs that an archer can follow to tell if their draw weight is set too heavy.

1.) If a bow cannot be smoothly drawn without aiming upward, jerking backward on the bowstring, or straining excessively, its draw weight likely exceeds what it should be.

Ideally, a bow should be able to be drawn and fired over 20 times in a row, with only minimal fatigue.

2.) If at any point when shooting your bow,  you notice pain in your shoulders, back, or chest, it is quite likely that you are pulling an excessive amount of draw weight.

The regular shooting of a bow that is set to an excessively high draw weight can often cause damage to joints, ligaments, and tendons.  

For more information on determining your proper draw weight, watch this video.

Minimum Draw Weight For Whitetail

There are several differing opinions regarding the minimum draw weight needed to cleanly and ethically kill a deer. However, many of these numbers fall fairly close to one another, in terms of defined poundage. 

While a lot depends upon the above-mentioned elements that influence kinetic energy, most parties agree that 35-40 pounds of draw weight will consistently kill a whitetail deer.

35-40 pounds of draw weight will consistently kill a whitetail deer

This well-camouflaged White Tail Buck is awake and alert before sunrise on this late fall morning.
This well-camouflaged White Tail Buck is awake and alert before sunrise on this late fall morning.

However, several items must be taken into consideration when attempting to hunt with a low-poundage bow.

  • Check Game Laws Many states have laws that govern minimum draw weights for deer hunting. Always consult your local fish and wildlife officials before establishing a draw weight that is minimal in nature.
  • Choose Broadheads Wisely – It is best to avoid the use of mechanical broadheads when shooting a bow with low draw weight. Mechanical broadheads expend kinetic energy as their blades deploy, leading to poor penetration when shot from low-poundage bows. 
  • Meter Shot Distances – Kinetic energy drops rapidly as an arrow heads downrange. Therefore, when you are already faced with a shortage of kinetic energy, you must closely monitor shot distances. When shooting at deer with low-poundage draw weight, it is best to keep shots inside of 30 yards.

Heaviest Compound Bow Draw Weights

In today’s market, 70-pounds is typically the average top-end on draw weight. However, several companies manufacture and sell bows with limbs that are rated for up to 80-pounds of draw weight.

In the past, there have been a limited number of bows that were specified for a draw weight of up to 100 pounds, although this is quite rare.

Selecting The Perfect Draw Weight

Above all other factors, the best draw weight is one that you can draw smoothly, hold at full draw for as long as needed, and shoot comfortably.

The inability to complete any of these three tasks satisfactorily will create difficulty, and limit an archer’s enjoyment, whether target shooting or bowhunting. 

As always, feel free to comment. We value the opinions of our readers and look forward to hearing from you.

Hi. Alex here. I'm the founder of BowAddicted.com. I love my kids, archery, and the outdoors.

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