Archery Talk: Proper Arrow Selection

Indeed, not all arrows are created equal; weight, balance, straightness, roundness, spine consistency, stiffness and durability are but a few of the critical considerations.

I recently had an epiphany; a profound realization of the importance of arrow selection. No, I’m not naïve; I’ve always lived by the cardinal rule of balancing my arrows to the bow, draw weight and poundage I’m shooting. But, this latest intuitive leap of understanding was more acute. Like a lot of us, I’ve come to lean on the tried-and-true. When I find something that works, I stick with it. To this end I’m admittedly more of a bow hunter than a techno-archer. Even still, understanding our equipment is a crucial part of shooting today’s compound bows and arrows. Needless to say, selecting the right arrow for your bow and hunting (or target) application is imperative. Thankfully, there are plenty of options from which to choose.

We’ve Made Progress

Historically speaking, arrow technology has come a long way. In recent times, cedar shafts have evolved to fiberglass, which in turn evolved to aluminum, and the current trend is carbon and carbon hybrids. Why such a dramatic change? In an eternal quest to develop a straighter and stronger arrow, these materials have evolved in succession to deliver better performance. Each material was deemed to be straighter and more durable than its predecessor. Thank goodness for ambition and engineering know-how. Motivated to improve accuracy, each increasingly sophisticated evolution keeps getting better. I can’t even fathom where arrow fabrication will go in the future.

Understanding Arrow Flight

When you select an arrow, consider how it flies. For instance, did you know that arrows flex in flight, dramatically in fact? If this is news, visit YouTube and search the key words arrow in flight, then watch a couple of the video clips. Several show the slow motion action of an archer at full draw releasing the arrow. It’s amazing just how much flex and movement there is in mid-air. When a bowstring is released and the arrow launches, the shaft is loaded with energy causing the arrow to flex from side to side. The goal of arrow manufacturers is to stabilize that arrow as fast as possible, in turn achieving better down-range velocity, accuracy and penetration.

A few months ago, I asked this question, and I’ll ask it again: have you ever picked up your bow, thrown a few arrows and discovered that you just can’t shoot with any consistency? With compound bows, there may be any number of things going on. It could just be your shooting but chances are your bow may be out of tune (i.e., timing and centre shot), or in a surprising number of instances, your arrows may be over- or under-spined, in other words you may be using the wrong arrow for your rig. Yes indeed, this is more common than you might think. I’ve encountered this myself when switching to a new bow and trying to shoot the same arrows as I did with my previous set-up. Go up or down in draw weight, change your draw length, or any of a number of variables, and the best-suited arrow may be different altogether.

Carbon, Carbon Hybrids or Alloy

Easton still makes a few alloy arrows and, yes, I do know a few folks who are still shooting XX78s or XX75s, but these archers are the exception these days. With all of the high-tech options available, most are shooting the much preferred carbon or carbon hybrids. Go online or peruse the archery shops and you’ll see options like Easton’s N-Fused Carbon, Carbon Core, Carbon even Alloy Carbon hybrids. For my money, I’m a big fan of Easton’s Carbon Core Axis Full Metal Jacket; they’re straight, strong and deadly accurate. Check out the Carbon Express line and you’ll see similar variations with models like the Maxima and Mayhem topping the roster of high-end arrows. With the introduction of the Aramid-KV (Kevlar/Carbon hybrid), this arrow now ranks as one of the finest on the market today.

Thankfully, most of today’s arrows range in straightness from + or – .001 to .003 inches in variation, or so their marketing material states. Impressive numbers for sure, what exactly these straightness measurements refer to is heavily debated. Remember, the key is spine consistency and roundness. I will qualify this by saying I’ve been blown away more than once when I actually measured the roundness and consistency of different arrows using a spine tester. What I found was shocking. The old adage, “straight as an arrow” definitely didn’t apply to some. Even with the carbon shafts, the variation was mind-boggling. So it’s buyer beware, just because it’s a carbon arrow, doesn’t necessarily mean its straight — hence, not all arrows are created equal. In turn I’ve been on a continual quest to learn as much as I can about the latest and greatest arrow technology and what it means for today’s archer and bow hunter. In the end, I’ve come to appreciate higher end arrows simply because they’re built to perform.

Does Price Matter?

To the naked eye, one might speculate that today’s arrows are all similar. Many look and feel the same. The logical question is why such a variation in price?

This past spring I hunted bears with a fellow who didn’t care much about which arrows he used. When I asked him about his arrow choice, he dismissed the subject quickly, stating that he goes with, “Whatever is cheapest.” If memory serves he paid around $60 a dozen for his arrows … I don’t recall which make or model they were. My stomach turned a bit as I suggested he throw a few at my portable target before we embarked on our hunt. My suspicions were realized as his arrows were all over the map. He had selected the least expensive arrow and would now pay the price in another way, sacrificing accuracy for a few extra dollars.

No doubt, you can pay less, but frankly, you generally get what you pay for. By in large, your arrow and broadhead ultimately determine the outcome of your hunt, so why cut corners? At the economical end, you can pick up a dozen fletched Carbon Force high performance Radial X Weave arrows for around $100. This arrow made by PSE, incorporates a patented computer process that wraps individual carbon fibers to create a weave pattern in an arrow that’s said to be faster, stronger and straighter than conventional carbon arrows.

At the higher end, if you’re looking for nothing but the best, Carbon Express Aramid KVs (Kevlar/Carbon) Hunting Shafts are an obvious choice. High-tech in every aspect, they are unbelievably tough, strong and designed to recover quickly in flight. They too are said to have a straightness of + or – .001 of an inch. Priced at just under $200 a dozen, they are an investment, but if firsthand testimonials mean anything, I’m a firm believer in the accuracy of this arrow.

How to Choose

As a rule, hunting arrows should weigh around six grains per pound of draw weight you’re shooting. To calculate this, take the total weight of your arrow (i.e., grain weight per inch multiplied by your arrow length, then add the combined weight of your nock, fletching and broadhead/field tip) and divide this number by your draw weight. If the final number falls around six grains or even a fraction higher, you’ve probably got a well-balanced hunting arrow for your set-up.

Remember, each manufacturer has arrow selection charts that simplify your choice, but this is really just one step. If you’re at all intrigued and want to make the best choice possible, do your research. A competent bow technician is a precious commodity these days. Most are so-so, some aren’t worth speaking to at all, and still others are worth their weight in gold. One technician I’ve come to trust implicitly is a fellow by the name of Lawrence Huot, owner of Accurate Archery near Spruce Grove, Alberta (780.499.0664). If you’re at a loss or just want to speak with a pro about which arrow you should be using, don’t hesitate to give him a call.

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