Just about all popular pursuits and hobbies are full of jargon and technical terms that are specific to it. People who are heavily involved in these pursuits often take the terms that are used daily for granted. Archery and bow-hunting is filled with these kinds of terms, particularly when discussing the bows. One of the phrases used to describe a bow is the brace height. For those trying to buy a compound bow for the first time, trying to work out it's significance might be very confusing.
The following is a brief description of the brace height, what it refers to in a compound bow and what the significance is in terms of the bow's performance.
In the simplest terms, the brace height is the distance between the string when it's at rest and the deepest part of the bow grip.
The reason this measurement is always quoted as part of a bow's specification details is that it indicates the potential speed the bow can shoot an arrow. If a bow has a short brace height and a long draw length (the furthest distance the string can be drawn back) it tells you that the string will be drawn a lot more tightly than a bow with one that is longer. The conclusion to that is that the bow will be capable of shooting arrows at a greater speed.
There is a trade off with the speed capabilities of bows with short brace heights. In general, it is more difficult to shoot accurately using a bow with a short brace height.
Although compound bows with longer brace heights are not quite as powerful as those that are shorter, they are still highly desirable. This is because these types of bows offer more forgiveness when they are fired. For the newcomer to the sport as well as the occasional shooter it is very likely that the technique that is used to fire the bow is going to be less than perfect. A bow that has a larger brace height will not punish the shooter quite so severely and this means it will still be possible to shoot relatively accurately.
If you are new to the sport of archery and you're looking for a new compound bow, try to resist the temptation to buy the fastest, most powerful bow possible. Err on the side of accuracy and learn how to shoot properly before moving up in power. A brace height that is over 7 inches might be a suitable place to start.
There are many compound bow models that cater for all levels of shooting experience. An experienced archery sales representative should be able to help you find a suitable bow. Make sure you test the bow to ensure it feels right in your hands.