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Arrows 101

Your bow and your arrows are key pieces of archery gear. You can make a strong argument that the arrows are the most important component of that duo. That’s why you’ll find so many options when it comes to choosing arrows.

Just like your bow needs to fit you, your arrows need to fit your bow and your chosen archery discipline. By understanding the different components, you can pick out the ideal arrows for you.

Arrow Anatomy

Let’s get to know the parts of an arrow. The shaft is the body of the arrow. The nock clips onto the bowstring. The fletchings, located next to the nock, stabilize the arrow in flight. The tip is pretty obvious – it’s the pointy end of the arrow that sticks into the target.

Arrow Shaft Material

Carbon fiber’s strength and light weight make it a favorite arrow material for recreational and professional archers. Carbon is extremely durable, and returns to its original shape when it bends. That means your arrows stay straight no matter how much you abuse them. Manufacturers offer budget-friendly carbon arrows that are ideally suited to new archers.

*Safety Tip: During a hard impact, carbon arrows can sustain small cracks that aren’t visible without close inspection. If you miss the target or hit something hard, carefully inspect your arrow for damage. Then, flex it while listening for cracking noises. If your arrow makes noise or breaks, throw it out or turn it into an arrow pen.

Aluminum arrows are as straight and consistent as carbon arrows, but cost less. Their biggest downside? They aren’t as durable as carbon. Aluminum can bend from a hard impact or mishandling. But if you’re on a tight budget and take care of your arrows, aluminum is a great option.

Wooden arrows have been used for thousands of years. They’ve been employed to both hunt wooly mammoths and to wage wars, like the battle of Agincourt. There’s no denying the nostalgia of wooden arrows in a well-oiled back quiver. They embody archery’s romance and mystique.

Unfortunately, wooden arrows have some drawbacks. Wood can warp and is less consistent than other arrow materials. These arrows aren’t as durable as carbon or aluminum. But for some archers, the traditional feel and look of wooden arrows outweighs the negatives. If you’re a purist or just want to step back in time, give wooden arrows a try.




Fletchings stabilize the arrow in flight, and come in two basic materials: feathers and vanes.

Plastic fletchings are called vanes. Vanes are usually preferred for compound bows and modern recurve bows with an elevated arrow rest. Vanes are popular because they’re durable and waterproof.

Feathers are a great choice when you need maximum forgiveness and arrow stability. That’s why feathers are the choice for traditional archers and many competitive archers during indoor tournaments. When an arrow launches from a recurve or longbow, its fletching contacts the bow. Feathers are supple, so they flatten out of the way when contacting the bow, and don’t disrupt the arrow’s flight. Feathers are not waterproof, but can be made water resistant with powders and sprays.

The length and design of your fletchings are another consideration. In general, a shorter low-profile vane is a good choice for shooting outdoors and longer distances because they have less wind drift and less drag. A longer vane with a higher profile is a good choice for indoor archery or if you’re not shooting long distances outdoors.

Arrow Spine



Spine is the measurement of the amount of flex or bend in an arrow. You’ll find the arrow’s spine number on the arrow label. Some examples are 350, 400, 500 and 600. Typically, the higher the number, the more flex in the arrow.

Once you choose an arrow spine number that works for your bow, you’ll stick with it. The only exception is when you make changes to your bow, such as increasing your draw weight. A bow with a heavy draw weight will need a stiffer arrow; a bow with a lighter draw weight will need a softer one.

Many variables – bow design, arrow length, and point weight – will affect arrow spine. Your local archery shop professionals will consider these factors when selecting your perfect arrow size.

Nock Fit

The fit between your arrow nock and bowstring is an important consideration that’s often overlooked. The ideal fit has an audible click onto the bowstring – with a light tap, the arrow comes off the string. If your nock is too tight it won’t cleanly release from the string and can disrupt accuracy. If your nock is too loose, the arrow might come off the string while you’re drawing, which is unsafe.

Arrow Length

The standard way to measure arrow length is from the back of the point to the throat of the nock. Your draw length and arrow spine will influence your arrow length. If you’re a 28-inch draw length and want an arrow that ends at the front of the riser, your arrow length would be around 27 inches. However, your arrow length can be longer if you need to weaken the spine of your arrow. For safety reasons, your arrows shouldn’t be cut too short. Your archery shop will make sure your arrows are the proper length.

You have a lot to think about when it comes to choosing arrows. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, the expertise available at archery shops makes the process really easy. Just tell the technician your budget, your bow specifications and the type of shooting you enjoy (field, 3-D, indoor, target archery). To find an archery shop near you click, here.



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Learn the basics here, from the different styles of archery to how to choose the bow that’s right for you.


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