If you are new to Archery and you are trying to decide the best bow to buy, you might be wondering… What in the world is a brace height? And why is it important? When you are learning about every part of your new bow, you will need to research how each part works with each other to create a comfortable and efficient system.
Bows are very personal, and you need to make sure that your bow is fine tuned for your preferences only. Your friends, family, or others who are more experienced in archery might try to give you advice on your bow settings and influence you on setting your bow a certain way because it works well for them. Although advice is good, you should never alter your bow to a setting that makes it uncomfortable for you. You will learn through your own practice what things you can or should change.
When it comes to brace height, your form and your skill level will greatly depend on what will be considered comfortable. So, if you are having some trouble with your bow and have tried altering everything else, maybe you should consider altering your brace height.
Before you begin, let’s learn more about what brace height its, what it actually does, how it influences the entire bow system, what the benefits and downfalls of different brace heights, and what the most important qualities about your bow actually are.
First, what is the brace height?
The Brace Height of a bow is the distance between the string and the lowest part of the grip. Most Bow’s brace height is around 6 or 7 inches.
Why is it important?
The distance of the brace height determines the speed of the bow. The shorter the brace height, the faster your bow will perform. The more time your arrow stays attached to the string before it lets off, the faster the arrow will go. The minute it leaves the string it starts to lose velocity. That is why a shorter brace height is always better.
Bows with shorter brace heights usually have them close to the 7- inch mark and are commonly Compound Bows. Bows with longer brace heights will not compete with ones with shorter heights.
To get down to the science of it, you can consider 1 inch of brace height equal to 10 feet-per-second. So, if you were to add one more inch of brace height, you would be taking away 10 feet-per-second.
The bad part about shorter brace heights is that is usually calls for more noise. Since there is a stronger force, there is more vibration in the bow’s frame. Most companies have developed things to help with this
Vibration dampeners are usually placed on shorter brace height bows to eliminate a lot of the vibration and sound, so that you get more force without it being any louder than a bow with a longer brace height. Companies have mastered this so you can get the speed you want without sacrificing your silence.
Another common problem with shorter brace heights is that the bow tends to become off balance because the from becomes heavier. Luckily, companies have learned to adapt their bows with more reflexed risers to combat that front heaviness, which results in a more symmetrical weight all throughout the bow. Another common feature to help stabilize the weight exactly to your preference is weight dampening systems. Bow companies often place these at the ends of the bows riser that you can adjust the weights to your liking.
One more problem you will likely encounter with a shorter brace height is a “string slap”. A string slap is when the bowstring comes into contact with your sleeve and your arm. When you have a closer brace height, the string is closer to your lower forearm and sometimes will make contact, especially If you are wearing bulky hunting clothes. A way to prevent this is by adjusting your grip so that only a third of your hand is on the grip. This will give you a little more distance between the string and your arm. Another thing you could do is choose a bow with a greater brace height.
So, when is speed actually important?
If you are a hunter or a 3D target shooter, you are going to want to choose a bow with the fastest feet-per-second possible. If you are a target shooter, speed isn’t as important as accuracy. If you are a target shooter, A 8-9-inch brace height would be ideal. This will always keep the balance in your bow and still has enough speed to suit your needs.
What if you don’t like your brace height?
If you don’t like the brace height you have on your current bow or think it should be higher (lower speed) you can always accomplish this by twisting the strings. You can do this by getting a bow stringer and twist the ends of the string so that it pulls down on the limbs. In turn, this will result in a further brace height.
How to know what brace height is right for you:
When you are first starting out, speed may seem like a thing you want. You’ll want the best, fastest, coolest bow on the market. But, before you go into buying the most expensive and tech savvy bow out there with the highest speed, you will need to be honest with yourself about your skill level.
Havin a bow with a low brace height and a high speed will require you to be comfortable handling that much force and have experience playing with the weight of your bow to balance it out.
When you are just starting out, you should aim for a bow that has a medium brace height (around 8 or 9 inches). The professional at the shop you buy your bow from will likely set your brace height for what is recommended on the particular bow that you buy. Once you get used to the brace height they set for you, you can test out lower brace heights by taking the bow back and having them twist the strings to lower it, or you can try your hand at twisting them yourselves. If you have a compound bow, it is best to always take it to a professional to have this done. If you are making the switch from a recurve to a compound, this is a good way to introduce yourself to a lower brace height while slowly getting used to it.
Using a bow with a shorter brace height will require you must have an excellent form in tuning and shooting in order to have good accuracy. You typically get more accuracy out of your bow with a longer brace height. That is why you will need to practice with different brace heights before working yourself down to 6-inch height right away. You will have to relearn your shot with each measurement.
If you go down to a short brace height and you are noticing that your accuracy is not the best right away, do not get discouraged. It takes a lot of practice to be able to shoot a bow accurately with a short brace height.
What is the standard?
If you bought your Bow secondhand, or are wondering how store’s determine what brace height your Recurve Bow should have, you can use this chart:
Bow length: minimum and maximum brace height
- 58 inches: 7.25-8-inch brace height
- 60 inches: 7.5-8.25-inch brace height
- 62 inches: 7.75-8.5-inch brace height
- 64 inches: 8-8.75-inch brace height
- 66 inches: 8.25-9-inch brace height
- 68 inches: 8.5-9.25-inch brace height
- 70 inches: 8.75-9.5-inch brace height
For Compound Bows, the brace height is typically shorter than on a Recurve. You can usually find a regular Compound Bow Brace Height being around 6-7 inches. It is normally shorter because Compound Bows have other qualities that will assist in stabilizing your arrow. Tech on Compound Bows is way more in depth, and thus they can make them shoot pretty fast and help keep your shot steady and the string rebound more silent.
Here are some examples of popular Compound Bows on the market and their brace heights:
- Hoyt Helix Ultra Compound Bow: 5 7/8” Brace Height = 350 feet per second
- Bear Divergent EKO: 6.5” Brace Height = 338 feet per second
- Mathews Monster Safari Compound Bow: 6” Brace Height = 350 feet per second
- Mathews VXR 28 Compound Bow: 6” Brace Height = 344 feet per second
- Mathews Conquest 4 Compound Bow: 7” Brace Height = 310 feet per second
- Bowtech Revolt X: 6.5” Brace Height = 340 feet per second
Other things to consider:
Although the brace height is important, it is not the only thing you need to focus on, especially when referring to compound bows. Bows work as a whole system, and although the brace height determines a lot of the speed and accuracy, compound bows have a lot of other tech that come into play. Shooting form, grip comfort, and the overall fit and feel of the bow should all be equally assessed when you are choosing your bow. If you can find a bow that fits all of these marks, brace height wont matter as much. All three things are critical to your performance with your bow.
If you are not comfortable shooting yet, it is always best to start off with a longer brace height. As you get more comfortable you can always work your way down to a shorter height. There are ways to adjust the strings on your recurve bow to result in a shorter height, so as you get used to one measurement you can adjust your own bow instead of purchasing another one each time.
Compound Bows have shorter brace heights than Recurve Bows but know that you will have other tech to assist in keeping your stability and thus make it more comfortable. Don’t get discouraged by seeing a low brace height on a Compound Bow if you are making the switch from a Recurve. It is best to practice on a few different Compound Bows before making a purchase because every bow has different Tech that will aid in your shot. It is best to learn what tech is more comfortable to you, so your shot is as accurate as possible.
And finally, don’t be too obsessed with speed. Although Bows with a shorter brace height typically deliver a faster feed per second, you don’t want to go out of your comfort zone to achieve speed. Working on your stance and form is just as important when affecting the speed of your shot as brace height. Once you get comfortable at the height you are at and have perfecting all other qualities, you can look to increase your speed.