Archer’s Edge: Choosing the Right Arrows.

Have you ever selected your arrows by passing a bucket in the local hardware store and grabbing a handful? C’mon, raise your hand if you are guilty. Shooting an arrow suited to you and your bow is not only safer but will increase your accuracy in the field. There are many aspects to consider when choosing the correct arrow and points for your adventure: What kind of bow are you shooting? What are you hunting? Is it target practice?

The foundation of the arrow is the shaft: usually made of fiberglass, aluminum or carbon/graphite composite materials. At the rear of the arrow is the nock. The nock is a small molded plastic piece which attaches to the bow string. Glued into the front of the shaft is the insert which is typically plastic or aluminum and has threads inside to secure your tips. The fletches complete the arrow. These are the flight wings and are usually constructed of soft plastic or feathers. The most common cadence is 3 fletches with 2 of one color (the hen-fletches) and 1 of another (the cock-fletch).

Arrows are custom cut for length and the standard of measurement is from the bottom grove of the nock, where the string rests, to the end of the shaft—not including the tip or insert.  Remember the old adage measure twice and cut once? This is particularly important when measuring to cut arrows as you can’t add length back on and an arrow that is too short can be dangerous.

Correct arrow length is determined by several factors: the draw length of your bow, the type of bow used and the position of your rest. In order to measure your draw length you need to have someone measure your arm span from fingertip to fingertip. Take this number and divide it by 2.5. This will give you an approximate draw length and a great place to start. Once you obtain this please note that the draw length and arrow length do not necessarily match. The arrow can be shorter or longer depending on the other factors. It does however need to sit at least 1” beyond the arrow rest to be safe. If you ever change the draw length of your bow please remember to check your arrows to confirm they are still the correct size. Do not try to cut your arrows at home unless you have a high speed abrasive wheel saw.

Shooting an arrow that is too short can cause injury to yourself or damage to your bow. An arrow that is too long isn’t better either. Excessive length can cause a decrease in arrow speed and limit performance. The best way to measure arrow length is to grab a friend and your bow. Safely draw back your bow with the arrow nocked. Have your friend approach from the side and draw a mark on the arrow about an inch in front of the arrow rest.

When on a product page or browsing a vendor website you will notice a chart of arrow sizes. This chart is useful to determine which spine, or stiffness, to choose based on your obtained arrow length and draw weight.  The charts are designed for standard bow set-ups. If you have a more specialized or aggressive speed bow the charts may need to be a starting point for consideration only.

Guide Gear Arrow Selection Chart

Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to arrow spine sizes. Be sure to study the arrow charts to ensure the right size for you and your bow. Spine deflection, or spine alignment, is measured by taking a 1.94lb weight and hanging it in the middle point of a 28” arrow shaft. If the shaft sags ½” (.500”) it is a 500 spine aligned arrow. Stiff arrows will sag less in testing and therefore the smaller the number the stiffer the arrow: A 350 is significantly stiffer than a 500. Although many manufacturers use this style of system to classify the spine of their arrows some do not which determines the importance of studying the charts related to the specific arrow type you choose to use.

An arrow function is characteristically determined by its point. Bullet and field points are designed for target practice. Using tips that are matched to the weight of the broadheads you plan to shoot hunting will help minimize sight adjustments before season. Judo, or grabbing, points are designed for field practice. They have small grabbing hooks that help prevent them from disappearing into ground cover. Blunt points are usually used for small game hunting. Typically these are made from rubber, plastic or steel. These points kill by shock. Bow fishing points are made of steel and designed to penetrate carp, gar and other tough scaled fish. They have strong barbs to allow for easy retrieval of the fish. Broadheads are reserved for big game. There are three main types: fixed, removable and mechanical. Blades must be sharpened after practice and before going into the field to maintain efficiency. It is recommended to use a broadhead wrench or cover when screwing them into your arrow insert to prevent injury. Fixed blades have static blade placement and are the best choice for hunters with lower poundage bows. Removable blades are designed to be able to replace the blades attached to the ferrule, the non-blade portion, instead of replacing the entire broadhead.  Mechanical blades are those which the blades are retracted before the shot and upon impact open up to expose the cutting edges. These are only recommended for bows set at 50# or more due to the extra force needed.

Choosing the right arrow and points are essential in your shooting success. Further research into products is always recommended. Utilize the vast information available to determine what setup is best for you and your archery adventures.

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3 Responses to “Archer’s Edge: Choosing the Right Arrows.”

  1. C. Paul Vinatieri

    great article, please do more ,

  2. Vincent Tuell

    Very informative, do more of them.

    • Amanda Zerebko

      Thanks Vincent! Please stay tuned as further Archer’s Edge articles are in the works.