As you improve in the sport of archery, you start to look around at different kinds of equipment, different techniques, and different competition formats. It’s the same with any sport really: our competitive nature wants to keep improving!
While you look at different kinds of bows and try each one out, you might wonder what characteristics differ between them and what makes one more effective than another.
One of the key characteristics of any bow is its length. This can have a massive impact on the way an archer will perform.
In terms of accuracy, longer bows are thought to be better because they are easier to hold steady. This is essential because more of the bow’s mass is stored away from your hand.
Even if this doesn’t quite make sense to you yet, read on!
We’re going over everything you need to know about the differences between long and short bows, and helping you work out which is best for you.
The Science Behind It
Don’t worry, we won’t be getting too technical with this explanation! In fact, the reason that longer bows are more accurate is more straightforward than you might think. Think about a tightrope walker who uses a long pole to maintain their balance up on the rope.
In this case, the balance is stored across the entire length of the pole, meaning any small adjustment made by the person holding it isn’t amplified too much.
The same is true with archery. Your hand is like the tightrope walker and the bow acts as a balancing pole.
The longer your bow is, the easier it is to maintain proper balance over it. It’s pretty clear to see how this extra balance can equate to more accurate shots.
A longer bow will not be put off aim as much as a shorter bow, even if your hand isn’t perfectly steady while holding it. We’ll use another example:
If your hand twitches half an inch upwards right before you shoot your arrow, it could lead to a 5-inch miss with a short bow (obviously depending on how far your target is away…)
However, if the same half-inch twitch happens while you’re using a long bow, the actual miss might only be a couple of inches from the target.
Of course, things don’t actually work out this neatly in the real world when other factors come into play but this is generally why longer bows are more accurate.
Why Would I Ever Use A Shorter Bow?
Based on what we’ve just learned about longer bows being more accurate, you might be wondering why everybody doesn’t just use the longest bow they can find. After all, the longer the bow is, the easier it will be to hold it steady, right?
Well, this is the case up to a certain point. However, once a bow becomes too long, it can end up having a detrimental effect on your archery.
Primarily, longer bows are also heavier, simply because there is more material that goes into constructing them. This means a longer bow requires more effort to hold up in a perfect shooting posture than a short bow does.
Regardless of how strong your arms might be, this means you’ll always have to exert more force from your arms to hold the bow in a steady position.
Admittedly, the weight difference between two bows of similar material and different lengths won’t be drastic but it is still worth thinking about.
The other reason archers don’t always look for the longest bow available concerns the type of archery they are doing.
The main thing to consider here is whether you need a bow for hunting out in the wild or if you’re simply using a bow for some backyard shooting or archery competitions.
If you do a lot of outdoor hunting, chances are you need to carry a lot of equipment around with you, including your bow. In this case, a bow and quiver of arrows are already pretty awkward and inconvenient to carry around with you.
Therefore, it makes sense to take a lighter, smaller, and easier-to-carry bow with you for hunting. Also, if you are a bow hunter and hunt from confined spaces (ground blind, tree stand) a smaller bow is just easier to maneuver.
In these scenarios, you’ll have to make your own decision over whether the increased accuracy of a longer bow is worth the extra work required to carry it in the field.
How Long Is The Average Bow?
Choosing the right length of bow can be a minefield for beginners. Experts will tell you all kinds of things about what makes a long bow or a short bow better. Oftentimes, it’s best to simply look at the average of what everyone else is doing to get a starting point.
Recurve bows (the most commonly used types of bow) are most commonly sold in lengths of 58, 60, and 62 inches. There really isn’t much difference between the minimum and maximum lengths you’ll find in sports goods stores for most commercial bows.
If you are a beginner, the general rule of thumb to use when deciding which length is best for you is to work out your draw length. To do this, stand with your arms stretched out on either side of you and have someone measure the distance from the tip of one middle finger to the other.
Once you have this figure (in inches), divide it by 2,5. This should give you an accurate draw length for your body.
- If your draw length is below 28 inches, you should go for a 56-58 inch bow.
- If your draw length is 28-29.5 inches, a 60-inch bow works best.
- If your draw length is longer than 29.5 inches, a 62+ inch bow will probably be best for you.
In general, yes, longer bows are more accurate than shorter bows. However, this doesn’t mean you should head out and buy the longest bow you can find at the store. The best way to find the perfect bow specifications for you is to try a bunch of them out!