how to measure brace height on a compound bow

Ultimate Guide to Measuring Brace Height on a Compound Bow

Brace height is one of the most important measurements on a compound bow, yet it’s often misunderstood by archers. Simply put, brace height is the distance between the bowstring and the pivot point of the handle when the bow is at rest.

An accurate brace height is crucial for getting optimal performance out of your compound bow. The proper brace height improves arrow speed and kinetic energy delivery, while also decreasing noise and vibration.

While every compound bow model has an ideal brace height range specified by the manufacturer, taking the time to precisely measure and adjust your individual bow’s brace height is key to accuracy and achieving a smooth, quiet shot. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know about how to measure brace height on a compound bow.

What is Brace Height?

Brace Height

Brace height refers to the perpendicular distance between the bowstring and the pivot point of the handle riser. The pivot point is located where the handle starts to curve out from the riser. Brace height is measured with the bow at rest, not drawn.

On a compound bow, the brace height affects the power stroke – the distance the arrow travels while still in contact with the string during the draw cycle. The power stroke transfers energy into the arrow for speed and kinetic energy. An optimal brace height creates the most efficient power stroke for any given bow design.

Common misconceptions about brace height exist. Some archers believe that a lower brace height automatically equals faster arrow speed. While a lower brace height provides a longer power stroke, going lower than the manufacturer’s recommendations can actually decrease efficiency and velocity. Too high of a brace height can also be detrimental to performance. That’s why properly setting brace height is imperative.

Importance of Accurate Measurement of Brace Height on a Compound Bow

The brace height distance determines how much force is applied to the limbs and how quickly the cams roll over during the draw cycle. The proper brace height allows the cams and limbs to operate smoothly, quietly, and efficiently. An improper brace height strains the bow limbs and can cause excessive noise and vibration on release.

For maximum accuracy, it’s critical to tune the brace height specifically for your draw length. A longer draw length requires a higher optimal brace height, while a shorter draw favors a lower brace height.

Always start by setting your brace height according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Then make micro-adjustments while shooting until you find the “sweet spot” for your draw length.

Tools You Will Need For Measuring brace height on a compound bow

Measuring brace height on a compound bow requires just a few essential tools:

Bow square – This device has pre-marked holes for setting nock points and a perpendicular block for measuring brace height consistently.

Tape measure/ruler – The bow square won’t work for all riser designs, so you’ll need a basic measuring tool as well. Make sure it is precise down to 1/16 inches.

Compound bow – Your unstrung compound bow, after ensuring the axle-to-axle measurements are identical on the top and bottom limb.

Notebook & pen – Recording your measurements is key for comparing adjustments.

Optional tools like a draw board or digital bow square can also be used but are not mandatory. Just make sure your tools allow for an exact perpendicular measurement.

Safety First: Preparing Your Compound Bow

Before starting any bow maintenance, safety should be the top priority. Compound bows store massive amounts of energy in their limbs when strung. Any mistakes in the process could lead to injury or damage. Here are a few tips for safely measuring brace height on a compound bow:

  1. Remove all arrows from your Compound bow before beginning. Accidentally releasing an arrow can cause serious harm.
  2. Use a bow press to relieve tension in the limbs before removing the bowstring. Attempting to twist the string while strung at full draw weight is dangerous.
  3. Once unstrung, examine the cams, axles, and limbs for signs of wear before proceeding. Address any issues first.
  4. Secure the bow in a vise or stand so your hands are free for measuring. Never perform maintenance on a handheld bow.

Step-by-Step Guide to Measuring Brace Height

Now let’s get into the specific steps for accurately measuring your compound bow’s brace height:

Step 1: Setting Up the Compound Bow

With your unstrung compound bow secured horizontally in a stand or vise, you’re ready to begin the measuring process. Ensure the top and bottom axles are equal distances apart to guarantee the limbs are not twisted.

Center the handle section in the stand with the cams on either side.

Step 2: Locating the Pivot Point

The pivot point, or throat of the grip, is located where the handle begins to curve out from the riser. On some bows, you may see an engraved reference mark indicating the pivot point.

If not, visually inspect for the deepest part of the grip to determine the pivot point. This will be your zero-point reference for measuring.

Step 3: Measuring the Distance

Using your bow square or tape measure, press the fixed end directly against the pivot point, so the tool sits perpendicular to the string. Many bow squares have a stop at the 7-inch mark for quick reference.

But for the most precise measurement, use the measurement markers and read the distance between the tool and the bowstring.

Take measurements in 1/16″ increments. Measure from the exact pivot point to the string on each side of the bow to verify evenness. Record all measurements in your notebook.

Step 4: Double-Checking Measurements

It’s imperative to take multiple measurements when initially setting up your bow’s brace height. As the string angles towards the cams, it’s common for one side to measure slightly differently.

Take at least three measurements from each side and average the results. This ensures an accurate reading.

Step 5: Recording the Measurement

Note down your final brace height measurement in your records, along with details like bow model, draw length, arrow length, string material, and date. Take note of temperature and humidity at the time as well.

This provides reference points to track changes over time and various shooting conditions.

Troubleshooting: Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Measuring brace height is a straightforward process but avoiding simple mistakes takes awareness and care. Here are some potential errors and tips to avoid them:

Not measuring from the exact pivot point – Make sure to locate the actual pivot point, not just a rough estimate. A 1/16″ variance throws everything off.

Failing to check for limb twist – The limbs must be symmetrical with even axle measurements to get a perpendicular brace height.

Measuring the drawn bowstring – Brace height is always measured with the bow at rest only.

Rounding measurements – Those 1/16″ increments matter for fine-tuning. Don’t round to the nearest quarter inch.

Not accounting for string stretch – String materials and age impacts string length. Measure after re-tuning and replacing strings.

Using the wrong tools – Tape measures and bow squares must be precise. Lasers or protractors won’t suffice.

Adjusting Brace Height: What’s Next?

If your measured brace height is outside the recommended range for your bow model and draw length, then adjustments will be required. Here are some tips:

  1. Make adjustments in 1/8″ or smaller increments at a time. Record each change.
  2. To raise brace height, reduce twists in the string to shorten its length.
  3. To lower brace height, add twists to the string to lengthen it.
  4. After adjusting, always re-measure from the pivot point with the bow unstrung.
  5. Do not exceed the manufacturer’s stated brace height limits in either direction. This risks equipment damage or injury.

Now you can proceed to shooting and testing. Take note of how the adjustment impacts draw weight, speed, sound, and arrow flight at different ranges. Fine-tune further if needed based on this testing until you find the optimal brace height for your setup.

FAQs About Measuring Brace Height

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about measuring brace height on a compound bow:

Q: Why does my brace height need to be exact?

A: Even small deviations from the ideal brace height can negatively impact your accuracy, bow tuning, and performance. Taking the time to get it right matters.

Q: How often should I check brace height?

A: Check the brace height as part of your routine maintenance every month or two, especially if you notice changes in accuracy or arrow flight.

Q: Do I need special tools to measure brace height?

A: A basic bow square and/or tape measure reading in 1/16″ increments is sufficient for most setups. Specialty tools offer precision but are not mandatory.

Q: What brace height range should I aim for?

A: Always start with the manufacturer’s recommended brace height for your specific bow model and draw length. Then test for the optimal setting just above or below that spec.

Q: What’s the easiest way to adjust brace height?

A: Twisting the string to add or remove length is the fastest way. However, you may need to re-set the nock point after significantly adjusting the string.


Tuning your compound bow through careful brace height measurement and adjustment is an essential process that reaps major benefits in precision, consistency, and overall performance.

While manufacturers try to preset brace heights from the factory, taking the time to measure and optimize your individual bow will improve downrange accuracy and tight arrow groupings. Just be sure to always prioritize safety by unstring the bow and securing it in a stand before starting.

With some basic tools, a methodical step-by-step approach, and consistent verification of your measurements, you’ll be able to zero in on that ideal brace height sweet spot. Your shooting consistency will tighten up as a result.

So don’t settle for close enough when it comes to brace height on your compound bow. Applying these tips will give you the expertise and precision needed to fine-tune this critical spec and achieve your accuracy goals.

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