Archery is a sport that makes use of a lot of different bits of kit and every one of them can be seen as crucial to shooting. Arrows are, arguably, more important than most. A badly matched, poorly set-up arrow shot with perfect form and technique is likely to miss whereas an arrow that matches archer and bow well, even if shot badly, is more likely to achieve a half decent result. So get the right arrows for you and you are on the right track. This note looks at the options you have available and how to make a good choice ~ longbow (wooden) arrows are covered in a separate note. It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that getting the right length of arrows with the correct bendability or 'spine' (of which more later) and then getting your pressure button properly set are the most vital considerations in any set-up, get them wrong and you’ll definitely struggle for consistency.
All archers will have noticed their arrows bending in flight, this is to be expected and results from the way they are made and the way in which we shoot them.
Weight at the pile means that end of the arrow has more inertia (resistance to movement) than the lighter nock end, so rather than move towards the target the first movement of an arrow in the shot is that it bends slightly towards the bow. The action of the archer’s fingers in the release adds to and exaggerates this movement. There are plenty of videos on-line which show arrows flexing in flight if you want to have a good look at what happens.
The fact that arrows bend is actually very important, if you want to hit the target with any consistency. If they bend too much or too little arrows may hit the bow and certainly will not go where you want them to. It is, therefore, important to select the correct arrows.
You may have come across the term “Archer’s Paradox” which relates to the fact that arrows typically do not point directly at what you are aiming for with the flexing of the arrow allowing it to move around the bow and continue on its way into the gold. I’ll not go into this in detail here but it’s worth being aware of it.
WHICH ARROWS ARE RIGHT FOR ME?
Which arrows you choose will be dependent upon your budget, as with almost everything archery related, and what you are trying to achieve with them. Some archers shoot very “fat” arrows indoors (maximum 9.3mm in diameter) as this maximises their chance of a line cutter, whereas outdoors where fatter arrows don’t fly as well over longer distances and are more likely to be affected by the wind they use thinner ones. Whilst archers involved in flight shooting often have specially adapted bows which allow them to shoot short arrows that then fly much further than their full length equivalents might. One thing that is certain is that with so many different types of arrow available fine tuning them to your style of shooting needs time and good shooting conditions. If you do change things working on your own you’ll only see the results in the target so working with someone else who can watch the arrow in flight as well as how you shot it is a big help ~ coaches are ideal for this (see we do have our uses!).
Various types of arrow are available:
So what difference does it make if you opt for one type of arrow over another? In simple terms the more you spend the better the quality, with the main thing being that the more expensive arrows are manufactured to closer tolerances and are likely to have less variance between them than cheaper ones. This means they are likely to be more consistent in their performance. However, they are made slightly differently and the more precisely engineered (more expensive) arrows demand more of the archer shooting them. Your driving instructor would probably advise against going straight from the car you learned on to a Ferrari or similar and that’s why most archers, as stated above, start with the cheaper arrows. In addition as aluminium arrows increase in specification and cost they also become more difficult to straighten if bent - XX75 or Platinum arrows may break rather than straighten, unless you are very careful, whilst cheaper arrows such as Jazz or Tribute are made with a different grade of aluminium and are more forgiving when you try to straighten them. Composite (ACCs and such like) arrows can't be straightened at all.
* Using the Easton table to make sure you have the right arrow. Check the table provided with this note. Using myself as a guide- I draw 27.5” and have 35lbs on my fingers at that draw length. Following the table using the 28” column and 32-36lb row I’m pointed towards an arrow in the T4 group. That group, further down the page, gives a range of different arrows that might suit me which includes ACCs ~ I shoot ACC 3-04-680 arrows, which I’m relieved to say are on the table. There again I cannot claim mismatched arrows as a reason for my misses, they are purely down to me. The table is easy to follow, as the notes above show, and give you a starting point. Newer archers should probably consider whippier arrows, especially if they are on the edge of two groups, as they are more forgiving for a beginner. If buying from a reputable supplier take their advice, they’ll want you to come back so are unlikely to steer you too far wrong.
I touched on Fine tuning your arrows with help from a coach earlier. It’s worth bearing in mind that spine can be adjusted by fixing different point (pile) weights and types. This is something commonly done with longbow arrows but is worth bearing in mind with aluminium and composite arrows ~ after all fitting different piles may well be a cheaper than buying new arrows if you find yours aren’t working for you.
At this point it’s probably worth touching on what the markings on your arrow mean. Aluminium arrows normally have a set of numbers on them ~ 1614, 2018, 1412 etc. These need to be looked at as a set of two numbers: 16/14. The first two numbers relate to the diameter of the arrow in 64ths of an inch, whilst the second two refer to the thickness of the arrow wall in thousands of an inch. Increasing either makes the arrow stiffer and decreasing makes them whippier.
Fletchings ~ these are the vanes at the top of the arrow that not only allow the archer to identify their own amongst a forest of arrows on a target but also help the arrow fly.
You can personalise your arrows further by adding cresting ~ stickers with fancy designs that wrap around the arrows shaft, but n.b. World Archery rules state that they must not extend further than 22cm towards the arrow point when measured from the nock groove. World Archery rules also state that all arrows should be marked with the athlete's name or initials on the shaft, so doing so either with a marker pen or using printed stickers, such as available from Arrowsock or other suppliers is a good idea ~ some competitions will not require this but it makes sense to be prepared.
So without going into details such as how to establish where your carbon wrap is thickest and so heaviest, how that impacts on how the arrow flies and what you can do to make sure it does so consistently for you style of shooting, angling and positioning your fletchings and a whole lot more…….that’s arrows in a nutshell. All you need to do is decide is whether the ones you are using are right for you and if not get new ones. If you do want to know more about the issues raised at the start of this paragraph just ask.