Arrows Matter!

May 25, 2016Getting Started

In the last post, I covered choosing the right bow to get you started, but a bow is no use without those all important arrows!

Sounds easy, right? But there are an overwhelming amount of options out there, and not all of them are right for your bow and your draw length. Hopefully, this article will get you on the right track.

There are two main aspects to your arrow choice that make the difference between a safe arrow and an unsafe arrow, so let’s look at these first…

Arrow Length

Correct Length for an Arrow

This is how your arrow should look at full draw!

Getting the length of your arrow right is critical to shooting safely. An arrow that is too short for your draw length can result in the arrow dropping off the arrow rest at full draw, and possibly being sent at full force into your hand, instead of towards your target. You really don’t want that to happen!

If you’ve read the last post, then you should have measured your draw length, which will be used to safely determine your minimum arrow length. Your arrow length, from the groove of the nock to the point where the tip meets the shaft, should be at the very least the same as your draw length. For beginner archers, your draw length is likely to increase slightly as your form and strength improves, so it’s wise to add another 1″ to your final arrow length to account for this as you progress (arrows can be expensive – if you can avoid growing out of them, you should!)

If you have your own equipment, you can have someone check your existing arrows easily – if you haven’t yet bought your first bow and arrows, find a club or instructor to do your measurements (I’m happy to help with this!)

Now you’ve determined the *length* your arrows should be, you need to determine the ‘spine’, which is a measurement of how stiff the arrows are.

Arrow Spine

Archer's Paradox - How an arrow needs to flex on release

Archer’s Paradox – How an arrow needs to flex on release

Arrow spine, or stiffness, is a complex subject involving what’s known as The Archer’s Paradox, which relates to how an arrow flexes as it is released form the bow. The amount an arrow is able to flex is determined by it’s stiffness (its ‘spine’) and needs to be matched to the draw weight of your bow to ensure the flex is just right and the arrow can correct itself in flight.

Too stiff for your bow, and your arrow won’t flex enough and veer off to the side of your target. Not stiff enough, and the arrow can actually snap or explode as it leaves the bow, which is a very dangerous issue!

To make it a little more tricky, the length of the arrow also affects its stiffness – the shorter the arrow is, the stiffer it will become (imagine snapping a pencil in half – pretty easy, right? Now take one of those halves and try to snap it again – it got a lot harder didn’t it… the pencil gets stiffer and stronger the shorter the pieces)

Because of this, you need to take into account your draw length, which determines the length of your arrow, and the spine of the arrow, as well as your bow’s weight.

So…. you’re now crying in frustration and ready to give up, still not knowing what da#@N arrows you need! We’re nearly there, I promise!

Luckily, all arrows are rated by their ‘spine’ (stiffness), and so things get a little easier. The spine is rated as a number – the higher the number, the weaker the arrow, the lower the number, the stiffer the arrow. Arrows range from weak spined (for lower powered bows) or around 1200-1300 spine, all the way to super stiff arrows (for 70#+ bows) with a 250-300 spine.

Armed with your bow weight, and your draw length, you can use this rough guide to get a good idea of what spine your arrows should be…

Bow Weight Draw Length
23″ 24″ 25″ 26″ 27″ 28″ 29″ 30″ 31″
Under 17# 1300 1300 1100 1000 900 800 700
17-23# 1300 1300 1100 1000 900 800 700 600
24-29# 1300 1100 1000 900 800 700 600 500
30-35# 1300 1100 1000 900 800 700 600 500 500

If you’re shooting a bow over 35#, it’s highly likely you’re either a) overbowed, or b) experienced enough to know your arrows, so I won’t go higher in this article!

Luckily, most major arrow manufacturers provide ‘spine charts’ for their own lines, making it at least a little easier to find your perfect arrows, and online stores, such as the highly recommended Lancaster Archery (I use these guys for all purchases) allow you to specify the length you want your arrows cut to when you order them.

Your Comments & Questions

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