Choosing the Best Arrow
By: Allan Gunter (Team Harvester Outdoors)
One of the most common questions I get asked is “what is the best arrow?” or “Am i shooting the right arrow?”
Let me start by saying there are lots of good arrows out there, the purpose of this article is to help you determine what type of arrow you want based on the pros and cons of each type.
What’s your arrow’s purpose?
The first thing you want to determine when choosing your arrow is what you hope to accomplish with it.
Maybe you’re a tournament shooter and indoor season is coming up so you choose a larger diameter arrow to help catch those lines and grab an extra point or two.
Maybe you’re a hunter and you want something that will fly true and penetrate easily. Maybe you’re a recreational shooter who wants a decent durable arrow that won’t break the bank.
No matter what your goals are, there is an arrow out there for you (actually there are many options out there for you).
What makes a good arrow?
Typically with arrows, the higher the price, the more consistent they will be from arrow to arrow. What you’re paying for is sorting. Every arrow type will have a weight and a straightness tolerance. The tighter those tolerances, the higher the price. Better tolerances means one less variable that will affect your shot consistency. Tournament archers will pay almost ridiculous amounts of money to get arrows that have the tightest possible tolerances because they need to be sure that if they don’t hit the X, they know it wasn’t the arrows fault.
Determining the best arrow for your purpose.
There are many factors to consider here, but let’s take a look at a few of the main ones.
We already talked about tolerances, but my recommendation is to buy the best arrow you can comfortably afford. Keyword there is comfortably, you still need to be able to afford other good pieces of equipment so don’t break the bank on just one piece of the puzzle.
Next is weight, do you go heavier, or lighter? That mostly depends on personal preference. A lighter arrow will be faster, which is great if you are shooting unknown distances. I used to hunt without a rangefinder, and am admittedly terrible at judging distance, so I used a light, fast arrow. If i mis-judged the distance by a couple yards, I could still hit in the kill zone. Now that I have a rangefinder I hunt with a heavier arrow because I eliminated that variable from the equation. The advantage to a heavier arrow is that it will carry more momentum, which for hunters is a plus because momentum helps with penetration. (not to say you can’t penetrate well with a lighter arrow, but on the marginal shots, or longer shots, or bigger animals, optimizing penetration is helpful)
Now let’s talk diameter. This and weight are often linked, but maybe not in the way you would think. Most of the time, a smaller diameter arrow will be heavier than it’s equal spine (stiffness) in a larger diameter. This is because to achieve the desired spine they have to build a thicker carbon wall which makes the arrow heavier. Again there are pros and cons to both sides of this decision. A smaller diameter arrow has an advantage in the wind. Less surface area equals less chance of being blown off course. Smaller diameter also has a slight advantage for penetration, again less surface area equals less friction. Larger diameter arrows are great for indoor competition (or recreation for that matter). There’s no wind to worry about, and when keeping score, if you touch the line, you get the higher score value. A bigger diameter arrow gives you a better chance of catching that line.
A lot of western hunters like the smaller diameter arrows because they are generally shooting farther, and out in the open compared to us here in Manitoba where a lot of us hunt big bush, where our shots are close and the wind is less of an issue.
Now the most complicated of the topics, spine. Spine is a reference to how stiff the arrow is. This is probably the most critical thing when choosing your arrow. The great thing is that all types of arrows come in different spines so once you’ve decided on what model of arrow you want to shoot (light or heavy, small or large, etc.) you can find the right spine for your bow. To be honest, I could go into great detail about spine, but I’m going to try to keep it simple. Heavier draw weight, and longer draw length means you’ll need a stiffer arrow. Lower draw weight and shorter draw lengths need softer spined arrows. Your best bet is to determine your draw weight and length of arrow you need. Then go to the website of the manufacturer of the arrow model you want to shoot, and use their selection chart. They have done the work for you on determining which spine should be used for each draw weight/draw length combination.
There are many good arrows in every category. You just have to determine which arrow type suits your needs and goals the best.