When new archers buy their first bow, a lot of thought goes into the draw weight and draw length the archer can effectively use however not as much thought goes into the arrows. The arrow consists of 4 key components;
- The nock
- the shaft
- the fletching
- the point.
To assist with matching your arrows to your bow this article will cover information regarding arrow shafts and how to select which is best for your needs.
Arrow shafts are made of a range of materials including wood, aluminium, carbon and fiberglass. As fiberglass has no real advantage other than cost and cannot typically be used in bows over 30 pounds, they will not be discussed further in this article.
Of all the arrow shafts mentioned the most forgiving is wood which comes is a multitude of different species which again have different properties favourable to different archers (This includes Bamboo arrows) An arrows ability to be forgiving means that it corrects small flaws in shooting technique which is helpful to both new and experienced archers.
These arrows also tend to be a little less expensive then feather fletched aluminium and carbon arrows which is great for beginners.
The next material to discuss is aluminium which is similar to wood in weight and performance and can be a little cheaper for the economically minded archer.
Instead of breaking like wood it can bend and be re-straightened a couple of times and still be shot effectively. Bending when breaking means that if you lose an arrow in the paddock when shooting from horseback you can feel safe that the horse will not injure itself by stepping on the hidden arrow.
The last shaft to discuss is carbon which is the least forgiving to new archers. It very rarely breaks and as such a set will typically last longer than wood or aluminium.
However, when they do break, they can shatter. You want to make sure you examine your Carbon arrows before you hit something hard as they can have small shatters that can make the arrow break while being shot which can seriously injure the Archer.
These are favoured by experienced archers who are not looking for a forgiving arrow but one that will last considerably longer and be a consistent shot and as such will cost more.
Always buy shafts from known dealers and brands, especially wooden shafts as a cheaply made shaft can easily break causing both yourself and the bow considerable damage.
The spine of an arrow is how much the arrow bends when a weight is suspended from the arrow. This bend is measured as a deflection number which is typically written on the shaft.
The exception is wood which will have no spine indication written on the shaft; however experienced dealers will match arrows with the spine you request. Spine numbers are written differently depending on manufacturer and as such you will need to discuss your spine requirements with them directly or read their notes on arrow spine number, which most will have.
The spine of the arrow is important in determining flight of the arrow and a poorly spined arrow can give inconsistent results.
There is a little experiment you can conduct to see if the arrow is spined correctly for you. You can see that in the video below by Bow Life TV 🙂
For a right handed archer, if the arrow flies to the left of your mark the arrow is too stiff (spine is too high) and you will need a weaker spine. If the arrow flies too far to the right then the arrow is too weak (spine is too low) and you will need a stiffer spine. For left handed archers, if the arrow flies to far right then the spine is too high and if it flies to far left the spine is too weak.
To help with spine selection there are a number of spine charts on the internet, I would recommend the 3 rivers archery spine chart as it has spine rating for wood, carbon and aluminium arrows which appears to be quite accurate.
The weight of the finished arrow is an important factor which seems to go unnoticed by even experienced archers. As you can imagine, if you shoot a heavy arrow out of a low poundage bow it will likely hit the deck pretty quickly and likely not even reach its target.
To combat this most choose to shoot light arrows however this can cause even more problems. This is because a bow is essentially a spring, it stores energy which it transfers to the arrow, however the arrow can only absorb so much of that stored energy.
When the arrow has absorbed as much of the energy as it can the left over energy is converted into vibration which enters the bow. If this is only a small amount of excess energy then what you will notice is some vibration in your hand commonly called hand shock (There can also be other factors to hand shock related to the bow, if you have the right arrow and you still feel hand shock it can be the bow’s shape/material)
When the excess energy is in large amounts it can cause damage to the bow which will shorten its working life or it can break the bow instantly in extreme cases of using way too light an arrow, effectively dry firing the bow. Dry firing when none or almost none of the energy is absorbed by the arrow due to the arrow being too light or there not being an arrow nocked.
This is why a grain scale is an important piece of archery equipment as arrow weight is measured in grains. Grains are a unit of measurement that is used for measuring arrows as it is a small and precise unit of measure like using millimetres instead of centimetres for accuracy. While other units of measure can be used such as grams or pounds (which were used for measuring medieval arrows in the middle ages), grains are more accurate for measuring very light objects. If you try to keep your arrow weight as close to 10 grains of arrow weight for every pound in draw weight you won’t go wrong. This means that for a 35 pound bow a 350 grain finished arrow will work well with no negative side effects.
Arrow length is important to ensure both safety and performance. If you try to use an arrow to short and draw it off the shelf and release, it will likely go through your hand or cause some other injury. This is why having a little extra goes a long way. Most recommend having arrows 1 inch longer than your draw length which allows the arrow to be used safely and will not affect the finished arrow weight in terms of performance. However if the arrow is too long it will add extra unnecessary weight which will hinder performance. I usually go 1 to 2 inches longer.
With matched arrows a lighter poundage bow can perform about the same as a higher poundage bow due to the increase in arrow weight to meet poundage demands. This is why there is no need to try and go high in poundage and to start with what is comfortable.
Once the technique is learned and muscles are developed a higher poundage bow can effectively be used. I would recommend wood or aluminium over carbon for a new archer as they are more forgiving and will allow the new archer to enjoy archery.
Article Written by Matt Surtees