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How to Inspect Your Arrows


Arrow safety isn’t only about where your arrow is pointed, but also about the condition of the arrows being shot from your bow. Shooting a damaged or broken arrow can result in injury to you, your bow, and other people around you on the shooting line. Inspecting your arrows does not have to be an arduous chore and can simply be done while walking back from the target.

The first thing that you should check is the fletching and nock. When your shooting is consistent, arrows will group tightly together, and the fletchings tend to get damaged because of the impact they have with each other. Torn and damaged fletching will not be dangerous but can cause some erratic flight to the target, which can make the arrow hit in an unexpected location, something that no archer wants while scoring in competition.

A more dangerous scenario is shooting with a cracked or broken nock; the nock absorbs a lot of energy from the bowstring upon release, and any flaw to its structure can cause failure of the nock. The best case here is that the nock detaches itself from the arrow upon release and the arrow still flies downrange without a nock. The worst-case scenario is if the nock breaks when the string is released and does not allow the string to push the arrow out of the bow, usually leading either to the string hitting the archer’s forearm, or to dry-firing the bow.



You can check your fletching by looking for tears or detachment from the shaft. Checking nocks for damage will require you to hold the nock up to a light source (if it is transparent) and inspect for cracks by looking for irregularities in the plastic. If the nock is a solid color, you will be able to see cracks by looking for dark lines (fractures) in the plastic. Just remember that nocks do have a shooting life and should be replaced periodically, depending on how frequently you shoot.

After checking over your nock and fletching, check on the physical condition of the arrow shaft. If two shots are the same, there is a chance that you will hit an arrow that was already in the target with the incoming arrow. This has been coined a “Robin Hood,” and such arrows are sometimes displayed as trophies for accurate shooting, even though both arrows are generally destroyed in the process.

Minor damage is more common. The first thing that you can check is the straightness of the arrow shaft (which admittedly can be kind of fun). Place the arrow point in the center of your upward-facing palm with the nock pointed straight up, and with your other hand, spin the arrow so that it rotates around the apex of the point. With this method, you are trying to feel for a wobble in the arrow while it is spinning, which can tell you one of two things: a medium-to-slower wobble can indicate a bent arrow shaft, and a high frequency wobble can indicate a bent point. A bent arrow shaft can be caused by grouping too tightly, hitting the frame of the target, or a non-shooting-related incident such as equipment falling onto your arrows.

You should discard the bent arrows, as these will not fly with the rest, and in certain cases, they are susceptible to breaking.


The most critical damage that you should be watching for is any cracks in the arrow shaft. This can happen because of very tight groups in the target or from another arrow’s impact. You can use the arrow spinning method previously described or visually check the arrow shaft for any cracks. You can also run your fingernail across the arrow’s length to feel if a crack has created a “ridge” that catches your fingernail. For carbon arrows, in certain instances, you can hear a crack that has developed in a shaft. Carefully bend the arrow and then repeat after rotating it to bend in a different orientation. Listen for any creaking sounds coming from the arrow — this indicates structural damage in the carbon and is a sign the arrow should be discarded immediately. You don’t want a carbon arrow to explode on you upon release.

Arrows don’t last forever and, like most things, have a shelf life where they will perform optimally. You can tell if your arrows are well used when the front end of the arrow is noticeably thinner than the rest of the arrow or there is discoloration in the anodized aluminum. This results from thousands of shots with the arrows being stopped by the target, and the friction wearing away at the material. This takes years to do (unless you’re shooting thousands of shots every week), so it is a good indicator of the life of the arrow and when you should change yours. Once you get a new set of arrows, you’ll most likely find that they fly slightly differently from the old, worn-in arrows you’ve been shooting.

Checking arrows should be a habit that you do every time you shoot, especially if you hit an object you’re not supposed to (a tree, the target stand, etc.). Safety in our sport is very important, so you should make sure to take the condition of your arrows seriously — you don’t want to be responsible for injuring yourself or anyone around you on the shooting line.





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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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