What is brace height?
Brace height. It’s something every archer should know about, regardless of the bow they shoot, because it affects us all.
But what is brace height? And why should we care about it?
Brace height is the distance between the string and the deepest part of the bow grip.
For modern compound bows, the brace height is going to be set by the manufacturer, and you'll want to stick to those settings to get peak performance out of your bow.
Manufacturers of recurves and longbows will recommend ideal brace heights for individual models, and it’s then up to the archer to twist or untwist the bowstring to achieve the ideal brace height. You add twists to the string to increase the brace height, and untwist the string to shorten it.
If you aren't able to find the recommended brace height for your recurve, below is a chart of brace height measurements generally accepted within the industry for bows of the specified lengths.
Brace height is critical in two areas – arrow speed and bow forgiveness.
Generally speaking, a shorter brace height helps a bow generate more arrow speed. Let's say you took two bows set at 70 pounds, with a 29-inch draw length, and one has a 6-inch brace height and the other 7 inches. If you shot the same arrow from both bows, the bow with the 6-inch brace height should shoot the arrow faster than the other.
The bow with the shorter brace height pushes the arrow longer than the other.
A bow’s forgiveness relates to accuracy. A forgiving bow minimizes an archer’s mistakes, while an unforgiving bow magnifies them.
Bows with shorter brace heights tend to be less forgiving than those with longer brace heights, because the string is in contact with the arrow for a longer period. An archer therefore has to maintain perfect form for a longer stretch, until the arrow is in the air.
Compound target bows intended primarily for precision, bull’s-eye target shooting, for example, rarely have brace heights under 7 inches. Eight-inch and 9-inch brace heights are not uncommon.
Conversely, compound bows made for hunting and 3-D target shooting, where arrow speed is more important, typically have brace heights of 5-7 inches.
Target bows are slower, but more forgiving, while hunting and 3-D bows are faster, but less forgiving.
And it’s all because of brace height.