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6 Steps for Selecting the Correct Arrows for Your Bow

“Any old stick will do for a bow, but arrows kill deer.” This truth was spoken by Isihi more than 100 years ago and still rings true. We can buy a top-of-the-line bow, and use every marketed accessory to increase accuracy. However, if you have not selected the proper arrows for your bow, all will be in vain. You’ll never be accurate without the correct arrows, and archery truly is a sport where accuracy is everything. Therefore, selecting the correct arrows for your bow is absolutely as important as selecting the bow itself.

These days selecting the correct arrows for your shooting setup is easier than ever. Companies have made every effort to standardize equipment to make the process simple. Modern arrows are manufactured with precision straightness, have marked spine ratings, and are more durable than ever. That being said, there is still a learning curve when selecting arrows for someone new to the sport. There are terms you must learn, and a few basic decisions to make.

To simplify the process you can follow these 6 straightforward steps for selecting correct arrows for your bow.

Step 1: Arrow Material

The very first decision you’ll have to make when selecting your arrows is to decide what material you would like them made of. Some beginners may believe there is only one choice. In reality, there are four main choices of arrow material to choose from; wood, fiberglass, aluminum, and carbon. Before you decide what material you’d like to use, it’s best to learn a little about each.

Wood is the arrow material of choice for a handful of traditional shooters. Wood arrows are certainly functional, and can be as accurate as anything out there. If you are a history buff, or want to experience primitive or traditional archery, wood arrows might be a good choice. Wood arrows of today are manufactured to many of the same specifications as modern arrows. They are straight and have established spine. Wood arrows may also be marginally cheaper than more modern materials, and have the allure of being natural. On the downside, wood arrows are much more brittle than modern arrows, and are prone to break. Over time you will likely lose any initial money saved because you’ll have to buy more arrows. Many traditional shooters have moved away from them for this reason. Also, these days wood arrows can be difficult to find.

Another material some beginning archers may favor is fiberglass. Fiberglass arrows have the main advantage of being exceptionally inexpensive. This advantage makes them popular for youth camps and for kids learning to shoot. They are straight enough for a beginner, but not to the same degree as other arrows tend to be. On the downside, fiberglass arrows cannot be used from compound bows. They also tend to break and splinter easily, and they are not reputed to be exceptionally accurate arrows. Again, these are best suited for youth archers who are just starting out.

The final two materials are best suited for modern compound bow archers. The first choice is aluminum. Over the years aluminum has been a popular choice for arrow shafts for several reasons. One, aluminum arrows are generally heavier than carbon arrows. This can either be a positive or negative depending on what you are trying to achieve. Heavier arrows will fly slower than light arrows, but more weight is good for penetration when hunting. That is one reason why aluminum arrows have historically been popular hunting shafts. Another benefit of aluminum arrows is they can sometimes be straightened if bent. This may save you money on arrows. On the downside, these heavy arrow do not shoot as flat. Also, they are often hard to find accessories for.

The final arrow material is hands down the most popular today: carbon. Carbon arrows started gaining popularity in the early 1990’s. Since then they have taken the archery world by storm. These arrows offer a host of benefits that make them an ideal choice for archers. To start off, carbon arrows are exceptionally fast because they are so light. Because they shoot fast, they also shoot flat which makes aiming easier. Another benefit of of carbon arrows is they are strong even though they have a smaller diameter than aluminum or wood arrows. Carbon is also a tough material, and shafts can last for years. Finally, these arrows are the norm today, so finding them and their accessories is a cinch. If there is a downside to carbon arrows it may be that they are a bit more expensive than the other choices.

Summary: Your choices are wood, fiberglass, aluminum, and carbon. Carbon is by far the most popular choice of archers today.

Step 2: Selecting the Correct Length

The second step when selecting arrows is to determine the correct length your arrows should be. The easiest way to do this is to add a minimum of 1 inch to your draw length. An archer with a 29” draw length for example, would buy arrows of 30” or longer. You can order full length arrow and cut them to fit, but most distributors will cut shafts for you. It is a good idea to use a specialty high speed saw to cut carbon shafts. With that being the case, unless you have the equipment, it is best to let your pro shop or distributor handle it.

Summary: Add 1 inch to your draw length and have your distributor cut them to size.

Step 3: Selecting Point Weight

One step that is helpful when selecting the correct arrow is to have an idea of what point weight you want to shoot. Point weight simply refers to the weight of the field point or broadhead you will use on the arrow. This will have an impact on the next step in the process. The most common point weight is 100 grains. You can buy lighter or heavier points, but 100 grains is a standard weight for many archers.

Summary: Determine your point weight. Assume 100 grains.

Step 4: Selecting the Correct Spine

The fourth step for selecting the correct arrows is selecting the correct arrow spine. Spine is a term every archer should know and understand. Spine references the amount of bend, or flex, an arrow has when released from the bow.

Unknown to some archers, on each and every shot your arrow will flex from the force being applied to it by the string. With modern high tech cameras, you can watch what is called The Archer’s Paradox in slow motion. While this isn’t necessarily what’s happening to your modern carbon arrows coming out of a compound bow or crossbow, there is still flexing that occurs. Selecting an arrow that flexes the correct amount is important and will increase accuracy.

Fortunately for archers today, all arrow manufacturing companies print the spine on their arrows. Arrows are also sold in bunches of the same spine, so you won’t have to worry about sorting through them. Once you find a spine that you like, you can just buy arrows spined the same the next time. The big trick is deciphering the spine rating for the company that makes your arrow. Each company rates their arrows differently. Carbon Express, for example, uses smaller numbers to signify the most bend. On the other hand, PSE rates their arrows opposite. PSE arrows that have larger numbers will bend more.

Every company generally has a chart to assist archers when selecting arrows. You can get an idea of what arrows might be right for you by referencing the arrow spine selection chart from Carbon Express and PSE. Whatever the company, the charts all work nearly the same way. Start by using the top row to find the arrow length you need. Next, locate the poundage you shoot on the side column. If you come straight down from the top, and straight across from the side, the boxes will intersect. Within the box where they intersect will be information for the arrow best suited for your bow. There are a few other variables at play, but most charts take you through them step by step.

Summary: Arrow spine relates to the flex of an arrow. Each company is different. Reference the arrow spine selection chart of a specific company when buying their arrows.

Step 5: Selecting Arrow Weight

If you have correctly proceeded through the first four steps, you will have an arrow that flies true. One of the supplemental aspects of selecting arrows should be choosing an appropriate arrow weight. Doing so will ultimately provide you with an arrow well suited for the particular task you will use it for.

There are several key differences between heavy and light arrows. Archers wanting a flat trajectory may opt for a lighter, and faster, arrow. A flatter trajectory makes aiming easier. On the other hand, archers may select heavier arrows for several reasons. One, heavier arrows will have more penetrating power on game animals. Two, heavier arrow soak up more vibration and are generally quieter than light arrows. Finally, heavy arrows will also resist more influence by the wind. With this being the case, you can think about what kind of performance you desire and make your choice from there.

Summary: Lighter arrows are faster, while heavy arrows provide more penetration.

Step 6: Selecting Arrow Diameter

The final step in selecting the right arrow is to select a shaft diameter you are comfortable with. Not too long ago shaft diameter wasn’t really a choice. These days though, manufacturers are making micro diameter shafts to meet the needs of archers. One reason hunters like an arrow shaft with a smaller diameter is the increased penetrating power they get. A smaller arrow shaft will have less surface area to contact while passing through a target. With that being the case, arrow shafts with smaller diameters are believed to offer greater penetration. Also, with less surface area they tend to fly better on windy days. Because of this, they are becoming popular for western big game hunters. These micro shafts are also used by outdoor target archers for the same reason.

On the other hand, standard arrows offer a few benefits as well. For one, they are still the most popular design so finding these shafts is easy. Secondly, as the most popular shaft, finding accessories is also easy. Items like nocks and inserts are most plentiful for these diameter shafts. Interestingly enough, many tournament archers also try to get the fattest arrow they can. They call their fat arrows “line-cutters” and they help archers score more points by slicing through cutting lines.

If you are new to archery, and are overwhelmed, this is one of those ancillary choice you can fine tune at a later date.

Summary: Small diameter shafts are growing more popular, but standard shafts are still the most popular choice.

As mentioned, arrows sometimes received too little credit for their role. While bows may be cool, fun, and certainly have a big impact on your shot, they must be paired with the right arrow. In reality, the sport is more about the arrow than the bow. If you can navigate these 6 easy steps for selecting the correct arrows, you will end up with much more accurate arrows flying off the string. Selecting arrows is much easier than it has ever been. Pair that with the exceptional arrows being produced today, and you should be hitting the bull’s eye in no time. Good luck and shoot straight.

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