By now, you have probably decided what kind of bow you want to buy and you may have already decided on a recurve vs compound bow. If not, you can get some pointers here to help you with your decision.
To select the correct arrow length, beginners should add 1 1/2 to 2 inches to their draw length, making the total length of their arrows (in the example below) 29 1/2 inches or 30 inches. If you order your arrows online they will be cut at 1 inch increments meaning you should get arrows cut to 30 inches. If you go to a good archery shop they will usually custom cut your arrows to the half inch if you like.
For now, as a beginner, you should find YOUR draw length and add 1 1/2 or 2 inches to that measurement to get your proper arrow length.
HOW TO DETERMINE YOUR DRAW LENGTH
If you can’t get to a pro-shop or you are ordering arrows online then a really accurate way to determine your arrow length is to do the following;
To determine your draw length
Spread your arms as wide as you can and measure from middle fingertip to middle fingertip. (we will call this your wingspan) You’ll probably need someone to help you take the measurements.
Make sure you measure using inches and divide the total number of inches by 2.5
EXAMPLE: if your wingspan is 5 feet and 7 1/2 inches convert feet to inches (5 x12 inches = 60 inches) + 8 inches that is a total of 67 1/2 inches. 67 1/2 inches divided by 2.5 = 27 inches.
If your arrows are too short bad things can happen. As a beginner your control during the draw won’t be perfect. On occasion your arrow may fall off of the rest. If your arrow is too short, then as you try to let off of the draw, the arrow could stab you in the arm, wrist or hand. If, however, your arrows are a little longer by an inch or two and they fall off the rest as you draw the arrow, the point of the arrow point will still be beyond your arm, wrist or hand and when you let off of the draw the arrow can not stab you.
Once you become a better archer and after a lot of perfect practice under your belt, then you can fine tune the length of your arrows to get the best performance from both your bow and your arrows. For now longer arrows won’t affect your shooting very much at all.
Target arrows are usually larger in diameter than hunting arrows.
Target shooters often shoot bulls eye targets with larger and larger rings around it. Those rings are worth points even if you miss the bulls eye. Each ring has a narrow out line around it and if the arrow is touching that out line of the ring, then it counts for points. Larger diameter arrows will touch that ring on a marginal shot that a skinnier arrow would not.
Hunting arrows are usually skinnier so they will cut down on wind resistance and they will penetrate deeper into an animal also because of less resistance.
The overall weight of your arrows is determined by the weight of the combined total weights of the nock, fletchings, arrow shaft, tip insert, and tip or broad head. It will be expressed in grains per pound of draw weight. For compound bows it could be 5 grains per pound of draw weight up to 8 grains per pound of draw weight or more. The ATA (Archery Trade Association) helps set guidelines for the industry but the minimum arrow weight recommendations can vary quite a bit from manufacturer to manufacturer.
As a general rule of thumb 5 grains per pound of draw weight is a good starting point for beginners.
Remember to include the weight of the arrow shaft plus the nock, the fletching, the tip insert and the tip .
Lighter arrows allow the bow to vibrate more thus the bow is louder when fired. At the 8 grains or higher per pound of draw the bow hunter can take advantage of a quieter bow shot on animals. Less chance of scaring everything away before you can take a follow up shot in case you miss. Target shooters don’t worry about noise or penetration so they prefer light arrows for flatter arrow trajectories.
Lighter arrows will shoot faster than a heavier arrow and usually fly a bit flatter which makes them appealing. The trade off is the lighter arrows can’t be fired in a heavy draw weight bow. It’s not safe.
Here’s why: A high poundage bow exerts tremendous forces on the arrows, and all of the components of the bow when it is shot. If your arrows are too light then your bow will literally rattle itself apart. The weight of the arrow must be heavy enough to absorb enough of the bows energy and dampen the forces imparted to the limbs, cables, pulleys, riser and bow string.
Basically the arrow has to be heavy enough to slow down (dampen) the bow string upon release. Lightweight arrows won’t be enough to dampen all that energy. Too heavy of an arrow could slow down your bow but not by enough to try to use too light of an arrow.
Not having enough arrow weight to dampen the bows energy release will cause the bow to absorb too much of its own energy and this can damage your bow.
This is why you never draw back on a bow with no arrow and let it go.(It’s called dry firing.) The extra energy that should have been absorbed or dampened by the arrow is now absorbed by the bows components. The limbs, cable, bowstring and pulleys get a jolt of energy that should have been used for pushing the arrow. Your bow could fly apart sometimes after just one dry firing. It can even happen to a recurve or crossbow. The correct arrow weight is necessary to keep the bow from vibrating itself apart.
ARROW FLEX OR SPINE STIFFNESS
The truly important number to know is your arrows spine stiffness also called flex. When you shoot an arrow the force of the bowstring pushing on it causes it to flex or bend a little. This flex is different for different arrows, different draw weights and arrow speeds.
If the spine stiffness is too low your arrow will wobble excessively all the way to the target, causing you to shoot inconsistently. Too stiff of an arrow will also fly erratically.
That little flex upon firing also does something else. It bends the arrow just enough that the fletching moves away from the rest just a tiny bit but enough to lessen the effect of your fletching touching the arrow rest. If the arrow is too stiff the fletching will contact the fletching too hard knocking the arrow off course and making it hard for the arrow to straighten out. If you have an adjustable arrow rest you can even further minimize contact between your fletching and the rest.
As a beginner if you shoot a bow anywhere from ten to twenty pounds draw weight you just need to know that the spine of the arrows you choose are recommended for bows up to 25 pounds. If you shoot 30 pounds to 50 pounds be sure your arrows are rated up to 50 pounds. If you shoot a 60 pound bow then get arrows rated for your draw weight up to 70 pounds draw weight but don’t buy arrows rated below your draw weight.
A slower, lower draw weight bow benefits from the less rigid arrow because they can be made lighter therefore flying flatter even though they are going a little slower.
The arrows for a really speedy compound bow need to be rigid and this can translate to heavier arrows but the effect on speed and arrow flight are minimized by the extra speed and energy imparted to the arrow.
Remember, as a beginner, it is better to get arrows that are rated for a little heavier draw weight and a higher spine stiffness and a little higher speed rating than your bow requires rather than going lower than your bows requirements.
FINISHED VS UNFINISHED ARROWS
if you order arrows online be sure you check to be sure that the arrows specifications are compatible with the draw weight, spine stiffness, length, and bow speed of your bow.
Make sure the arrows are the correct length, sometimes people mistakenly order unfinished shafts and end up disappointed because they are not prepared to glue on nocks, threaded tips and feathers or fletching.
You should find out if the arrows you are ordering are complete and come with removable threaded tip inserts and threaded field tips so you can swap in target tips or broad heads for hunting.
Be sure you order arrow tips if they don’t come with the arrows you choose. Make sure because you don’t want to have to wait another week for an order of tips to come in after you have already been waiting a week for your new arrows.
Be sure to specify how long you want your arrow fletching or arrows to be. For beginners, I recommend 3 1/2 to 4 inch long. Once you learn proper bow form, shooting techniques and how to read your shot, then you can start tweaking your arrows.
As a beginner just make sure you get arrows with nocks, threaded tip inserts, fletching or feathers and field points that can be threaded in and out so you can try heavier or lighter target points or broad heads and various other hunting and target points. Make sure you also order these arrows at your draw length because most beginners don’t have the equipment or desire to custom build their arrows.
Once you have become a proficient archer you may want to tweak your arrows for a more refined length or weight and maybe get a stiffer or weaker arrow. But in the beginning you should strive to buy the perfect arrow for your set up but if you have to compromise a little bit, it is better to get the over rated arrow. DON’T buy arrows that are under rated for your set up.
WOOD, ALUMINUM, CARBON FIBER OR HYBRID?
Beginners should buy tough arrows, read a lot of reviews of each type of arrow.
Some people only shoot carbon arrows exclusively, some only aluminum and some like aluminum wrapped in a carbon layer.
I personally like quality aluminum arrows for beginners. They are tough, not too expensive and I have had great results. I still have most of my first dozen I bought with my first compound bow many years ago. I’ve upgraded to carbon since then but I only destroyed two aluminum arrows by hitting the steel post holding up my target. I lost a couple hunting and stump shooting but I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot them again if I buy a new bow and need to sight it in and tune it up a little before I settle in and start using my better arrows.
Once you know YOUR draw weight, YOUR draw length and YOUR arrow length and the recommended arrow spine for YOUR bow:
Be sure to order finished arrows cut to your arrow length, be sure to specify fletching type and length of fletching, nock and threaded tip inserts
Be sure to specify the weight of the field tips you want to start with. Be sure to order a set of field or target points that fit your weight requirements and buy enough for all of your arrows.
Now you can buy arrows for your specific bow with confidence.