Archery has always been one of those Olympic sports that can captivate audiences around the world, even if the people watching have never shot an arrow in their life!
However, as you might expect, there’s a pretty significant difference between archery hobbyists and those competing at the highest level at the Olympic games.
Primarily, the equipment used by both kinds of archers is very different.
The draw weight for Olympic bows is often around 48.5 lbs for male athletes and 33 lbs for female athletes.
Of course, there is some leeway with this figure because every archer has a slightly different style and technique.
In this guide, we’ll be teaching you everything you need to know about draw weight and how it can affect your archery.
Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of just how difficult it is to be an Olympic-level archer!
What Does Draw Weight Mean In Archery?
First things first, if you don’t know what draw weight means already, we need to cover that.
Essentially, draw weight refers to the amount of force required to pull back on the string of their bow.
This is something that is discussed most commonly in recurve archery, rather than compound archery. We’ll take a closer look at these two terms later on.
For example, the Olympic men’s average of a 48.5 lbs draw weight means that these archers need to exert 48.5 lbs of force to fully pull back the string of their bow.
There’s no right or wrong answer for what the best draw weight is for every archer because it depends completely on your own muscular strength.
The most important thing to consider when deciding the right draw weight for you is how much you can comfortably control. Again, we’ll have a look at this in more detail in the next section.
How Does Draw Weight Affect The Flight Of An Arrow?
Ok, now that you know what draw weight is, you might still be wondering what effect it actually has on the way an arrow flies.
The main aspect of flight that draw weight affects is speed. With a higher draw weight, an arrow will tend to fly faster from the bow (assuming the archer can control that level of draw weight effectively).
Arrow speed is commonly measured in feet per second (FPS) in archery so we can say that a higher draw weight will often equate to a higher FPS.
The benefits of a higher FPS in archery are pretty straightforward (no pun intended).
When the arrow travels faster, it also travels further, meaning you will be able to hit targets from a greater distance.
Also, with the arrow traveling faster through the air, the effects of wind are less likely to influence the accuracy of each shot.
For example, if your arrow spends more time flying through the air, there is more time for a directional wind to take it off course and leave you with an inaccurate shot.
How Do I Know What Draw Weight Is Right For Me?
As we mentioned earlier, there’s no single right or wrong answer when it comes to the perfect draw weight in archery because each archer is different.
Instead, you should be trying to work out what the perfect level is for your own abilities and level of muscular strength.
In fact, if you’re a casual archer or are just getting into the sport, the Olympic levels of 33-48 lbs aren’t something you should even be thinking about yet!
For new archers, a draw weight of around 20-25 lbs is recommended for both males and females.
Although, if you have the luxury of testing a variety of different draw weights all at once, there’s a simple test you can try to work out what level is best for you.
Simply pull back the string of your bow while it’s set to a fairly low draw weight. If you can comfortably hold the string back for 30 seconds, increase the draw weight and try again.
Repeat this process until you arrive at a level where you can no longer hold the string comfortably for 30 seconds.
This means if your arm starts shaking or feels tired before the 30-second mark, you should reduce the draw weight.
Generally, though, you should be using as high a draw weight as you can comfortably control.
As you improve as an archer and your arms get stronger, you should be able to handle higher draw weights over time.
What’s The Difference Between Recurve And Compound Archery?
We mentioned these two terms earlier as different types of archery where draw weight matters more or less.
Recurve and compound simply refer to the type of bow that is used for each type of archery.
Compound bows will use a series of wheels and pulleys to effectively reduce the amount of force required by the archer to achieve the same FPS from their arrow.
You can basically think of it as a less physically demanding way to shoot an arrow.
For example, a compound archer who pulls back their string with 20 lbs of draw might actually be exerting a total of 50 lbs!
However, in recurve archery, the bow is much less forgiving and a draw weight of 20 lbs will only equate to 20 lbs being exerted on the string.
As the more physically demanding discipline, recurve archery is the one that is used for the Olympics and this is why draw weight is so important for archers at this level.
Hopefully, you now have a much clearer understanding of what draw weight is and how it affects the shots of Olympic-level archers.
Remember, amateur archers won’t be able to control their shots nearly as effectively as Olympians at this draw weight so stick to a level that you’re comfortable with.
Have fun shooting!