What Is Bow Let Off? Archery Basics

What Is Bow Let Off? Archery Basics

“Bow let off” is a confusing term that can seem to be quite complicated.

However, it’s an important factor to consider when participating in archery.

How is bow let off defined?

Basically, the bow let off refers to compound bows. Since these bows make use of cams and cables to maintain energy and decrease holding weight at full draw, that lowered weight is referred to as let off. You can calculate it as a percentage of the draw weight.

Confusing? No need to be! In this article, we’re going to explain compound bow let off in greater detail.

Bow Let Off: How Does It Work?

Bow let off is something the bow manufacturers will inform their customers of, usually in the form of the bow’s specs, so that’s always worth checking when you purchase a new bow.

Let off is something really important to know about because it basically tells you how difficult it will be to hold the bow at full draw.

If the let off is not right, it could totally prevent you from making a clear, precise shot at your target.

Earlier we mentioned that a bow’s let off will be calculated as a percentage.

It tends to be between 65 and 85 percent, but this will vary depending on the type of bow you have.

Now, this percentage is the weight you will have to hold when your bow has been completely drawn.

So, if the bow is 70 pounds and it has a let off of 85 percent, what does that mean?

It means that you will reach the maximum weight of 70 pounds before ending up with a holding weight of 10.5 pounds, as Go Hunt explains.

The holding weight is basically the weight you need to hold the bow at full draw length.

As you can imagine, 10 pounds is much easier to handle than 70, and this highlights an important feature of compound bows: the fact that they’re mechanized makes it easier to draw than other types of bows.

Now, there are some important things to consider when talking about bow let off.

Let Off Is Linked To Draw Weight And Length

Woman Shooting With Bow

In order to understand let off better, we need to look at the bow’s draw weight.

This is basically how heavy the bow will be when it is drawn, and it’s usually listed in pounds.

But, it can also be defined as the amount of energy that is required to pull, or draw, the bowstring back.

So, a bow that has 40 pounds in draw weight will require that amount of force in order to be pulled back before the arrow is released.

However, if you pull it out more or less, that weight will change a little depending on its draw length.

Things become a little trickier when we speak of compound bows because the above rule doesn’t apply.

These bows will have a set draw weight that doesn’t change if the draw length fluctuates a bit.

Now, based on the above, the bow’s let-off percentage can be understood as the difference between the bow’s draw weight (such as 40 pounds) and how much force you need to hold the bow when it’s drawn completely, such as 14 pounds.

So, if your bow has a draw weight of 40 pounds and you to put 14 pounds worth of force on it to keep it at full draw, your bow will have an 80 percent let-off, as explained by Archery 360.

What Is A Good Let Off?

There are pros and cons to both lower and higher let offs.

For starters, a high let off can enable the archer to hold the full draw for a longer time, which is especially advantageous when you’re outdoors hunting game.

Imagine the scenario: you’ve been stalking deer and see an opportunity to shoot it.

You’ve drawn your bow and are ready, when it flinches and that catches you off guard. You need a few more seconds to wait and perfect your shot so that you don’t miss it.

That’s where a higher let off can give you the extra few seconds you need!

You can comfortably hold the bow’s draw weight at full draw in order to make your shot in the most successful way.

What’s The Average Let Off?

Woman Holding Compound Bow

Generally, though, archers will have approximately 65 to 75 percent bow let off, and no higher.

This is because it takes more energy to hold a higher let off.

Sound confusing?

Well, a higher let off requires tension to be held in the back muscles in order for the arrow release to be done in a steady and accurate way.

Lower let off the can, therefore, feel more comfortable for the archer.

It makes the archer feel much steadier in how they hold the bow, which also ensures that the archer is careful about how much energy to put into the draw and avoiding misfires of the arrow due to being unable to hold the weight, which could result in injury – whether to him/herself or the animal in question.

Ultimately, it depends on what feels good for you.

Some archers don’t want a higher let off because it can cause them to reduce their arrow speed. Others prefer it.

So, it really depends on you, but if you think you might not like a higher let off, it’s worth experimenting.

It’s best to choose a compound bow that can have its draw stops or cams adjusted. In that way, you’ll be able to find what’s right for you.

However, there is something to consider: there are rules and regulations in place when it comes to how much bow let off you’re allowed to have.

Bow Let Offs: What’s Legal?

Man Holding Compound Bow

It’s worth knowing that some states do have a bow let off maximum percentage.

This ruling actually goes back to the late 80s when Pope and Young Club, a leading bow hunting organization, decided that an animal killed with a bow that had a larger let off than 65 percent wouldn’t be listed in the record books, as Outdoor Life reports.

It might sound strange, but there was a good reason for this rule.

It aimed to maintain the primitive element of bow hunting, so by limiting the percentage of a bow’s weight when fully drawn, the organization could prevent technological advancements from getting in the way of what should be simple bow hunting that’s as natural as possible.

Today, you’ll still find regulations regarding bow let offs in various states.

For instance, in South Dakota and Colorado, you can’t have a let-off greater than 80 percent.

How To Set Up Your Bow’s Let Off

  • When using your compound bow, you’ll likely notice that the mechanical stop when you hit full draw is steady and secure. When you reach that point it will be really tough to pull the bow anymore. But don’t even try because here is where the bow’s draw length comes into play again. If the compound bow has a 30-inch draw, it won’t be able to move further.
  • When you draw your bow, you want to do so in a smooth way and when it reaches its maximum let off, you’ll feel that it’s at its maximum and it’s a sign you can now shoot arrows with it.

Note: Full draw shouldn’t feel that draining on you because the compound bow will have removed some of the weight so that you don’t have to exert yourself so much. If you’re still exerting yourself, that’s a sign that you’re trying to overdraw the bow, as Hunter’s Friend reports. Try to relax your body when you hit that peak. And, if you really can’t achieve a full draw, then you know you’re dealing with the wrong bow weight.

Related Questions

How do you know you’ve got the right draw weight?

You should feel comfortable to pull back the bow string all the way to full draw.

If it tires you out to do so, then you know you’ve got the incorrect draw weight and this can hamper your shooting success.

Do you need let off for target practice?

You don’t need the benefit of more time when preparing to shoot as in the case of hunters so let off won’t be as important for you.

You’ll find a range of 60-75 percent bow let off to be sufficient, as Complete Guide To Archery reports.


Bow let off is something important to consider, especially if you’re interested in hunting game.

At full draw, a compound bow is much easier to handle because it will have had some of its weight removed.

This can enable you to shoot with greater precision while also taking your time before aiming for your target.

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