How to Choose the Right Long Bow

Updated February 21, 2017

Longbows have changed little since medieval times, when the weapons were used in warfare and for hunting, sporting matches and guarding king and castle. While modern longbows are used primarily for recreational target shooting, some traditionalists also prefer the weapons for hunting wild game. Aside from aesthetic considerations, the critical factors in choosing a longbow are brace height, bow length, draw length and draw weight. Carry weight is also a consideration, especially if you will be using the bow for hunting..

Consider your longbow's primary purpose. If hunting is your goal, select a longbow with a carry weight light enough so you will not get tired carrying it through the woods. If you will be using your bow primarily for target shooting, a heavier bow may be a better option; the extra weight will help stabilise the weapon as you are shooting. Note that carry weight relates to the actual physical weight of the bow, not the bow's draw weight.

Select the right length of longbow. Ideally, the bow's length should be within three or four inches of your height. Do not select a bow that is more than six inches longer than you are tall, since this may cause the bottom of the bow to snag on obstacles or uneven ground.

Measure your draw length -- the length from the front of the bow to your anchor point when you bring the bow to full draw. Extend your non-dominant hand in front of you. Pinch the end of the tape measure between the thumb and index finger of you outstretched hand, with the tip of the tape measure at the tip of your thumb. Stretch the tape to the opposite corner of your mouth with your free, or shooting, hand and pinch the tape between your thumb and index finger to determine the endpoint. Read the resulting distance on the tape measure to determine your draw length.

Check to determine if the bow's brace height is a comfortable distance for you. The brace height is the distance between the riser, or bow handle, and the bowstring. Hold the bow at arm's length with your non-dominant hand. You should be able to easily reach the bowstring with your shooting hand, without having to struggle.

Select a draw weight that you are able to manage comfortably. Draw weight is the amount of force the bow string exerts while the bow is at full draw. Try different bows until you find a bow you can comfortably hold at full draw. Draw weight is not as critical for target shooting as it is for hunting. For hunting, select a draw weight suited to the game. For instance, while a bow with a draw weight of 18.1kg. would be adequate for turkey, deer would require a draw weight in the 45- to 22.7kg. range.


Note that draw length is also used when determining arrow length.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
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