Arrows have gone through many changes over the centuries and have likely been made from every material you can think of. From bamboo and river reeds to complex, expensive composites of fiberglass and carbon, everything is worth trying to make better arrows for archery. Manufactures spend millions of dollars today on arrows for archery, are always working to design the next fastest and most efficient arrow on the market.
What are Arrows For Archery made of?
The basic materials used to make arrows for archery have been carbon, fiberglass, aluminum, and of course wood. Today we also have composite arrows which often combine aluminum with aluminum.
Wood is the oldest material used for arrows and is still used today by those who prefer the traditional. Cedar is usually the wood of choice for arrows because it is a straight, even grain wood. The negatives of Cedar are its strength, and the big enemy of all things wood, humidity. Bows with heavy weights would not be suitable for cedar arrows. Many traditional archers today who shoot recurves and longbows still use cedar arrows, and many archers even make their own.
Fiberglass is an inexpensive and durable modern material often used for arrows. This is a good choice for shooting clubs who provide arrows, and things like youth programs where expensive arrows are not a good choice. The negatives of fiberglass arrows are that they need to be inspected before shooting to make sure there is no splitting, as this can be dangerous.
Aluminum arrows are frequently chosen by tournament archers. Aluminum shafts tend to be slightly larger in diameter than arrows of other materials, and this can be an advantage in target archery. That makes aluminum a good choice for shorter distance target shooting, especially indoors.
Outdoors, they can cautiously be used for shorter distance but the wind has to be considered as larger diameter shafts can be negative. Because aluminum shafts are so widely used, there is a large selection of spine choices. There is also a wide range of prices for these arrows, but the durability is great as even if they are bent, it is not difficult to make them straight to use again.
Carbon is used in the form of filament strips which run down the shaft length wise. This filament is incredibly straight and thin which makes it an ideal material for arrows. With thinner arrows you will encounter less wind resistance and achieve better velocity for long distance shooting. Carbon arrows are a popular choice for bowhunters and 3d archers.
The negatives of carbon arrows for archery are price and like fiberglass, they have to be checked out for splitting. In addition to looking over the arrows before you shoot, it is a good idea to flex the arrow back and forth and listen for cracking sounds. If the arrow is splitting, often you will be able to hear it when you are flexing it. You should never use an arrow that is split as this can be extremely dangerous.
- Composite Arrows
Composite is just a word meaning multiple materials are used. Composite shafts are possible today because advances in technology that allow separating layers of carbon or aluminum and bonding them together. This is done to utilize the best characteristics of both materials. Composite arrows are used in the Olympic Games and World Championship.
As you consider what arrows to buy, know that you don’t have to have the very best especially when you are getting started. There are many different good choices and a wide variety of prices ranges. The most important thing for archers just starting out isn’t getting the best equipment; it’s practice. You can learn more about arrows and arrow materials in this article.
Nocks are small but important pieces of arrows for archery. Most nocks are a notched piece of plastic glued on the back of the arrow. This notch snaps onto your bowstring which likely has serving wrapped at your chosen nocking point, holding the arrow in place while you draw. Some nocks also have a bump inside the notch which further secures the arrow to the bowstring.
Attention needs to be given to nocks on your arrows because although it is important for your arrow to be secured to the bowstring, it is also extremely important that it releases the arrow fairly easily when you shoot. It is worthwhile to test the connection and release of your knocks before you head out shooting.
As you bring the nock back to the string, it’s good to feel a slight resistance as push it back against the string. You should also feel a slight snap as the notch fully seats against the string. Then, by hand, as you pull the arrow from the bowstring, you should again feel slight resistance, but you should not have to pull very hard to remove the arrow.
If there is too much resistance, you may have to “break in” the nock a little. I like to pick an area of serving above or below my regular knocking point (to avoid too wear), and push the nock on and off quickly 40-50 times. If you feel there is still too much resistance at this point, it’s a good idea to head over to the pro shop and let them find some different knocks that fit your bow a little better. It’s also important to check out your knocks from time to time and visually inspect them to make sure they are not cracked or loose.
Another important part of arrows for archery is the fletching. Fletching is the plastic vanes or feathers that work to steer the arrow while it is in flight. Arrows have three vanes or feathers glued on near back, and one of them is usually a different color than the others two.
This off-color fletching is called the index vane, and it is positioned so that when you knock your arrow, it will always be pointing straight up. This is done so that the other two vanes clear the rest or plunger when you shoot the arrow. Fletching works to steer your arrow in flight through wind resistance.
Since they are at the back of the arrow, this helps to keep the tip of the arrow on target. You want fletching to provide stability to your arrow without causing too much drag. Fletching will either be vanes, which are soft plastic, or feathers often from turkeys. There is an endless selection of colors, sizes, and shapes and you may want to experiment with the best combination of your arrows.
At one time, bowhunters liked to use larger veins for their arrows believing them to provide superior accuracy for shorter distance shots. Compound bows and insanely fast composite arrows have changed that and today most hunting arrows often have smaller plastic vanes. Target shooters have utilized both small and large vanes and feathers.
Today, target archers use small vanes for outdoor shooting which helps give the arrow lest wind resistance, and larger feathers for indoor shooting which provides better stability. This is one area where you will have to experiment. What works for someone else may not work great for you.
The length of your fletching is in part determined by the length of your arrow. A 4inch feather stabilizes a longer arrow better than a 3inch. But again, there is no standard in this because a longer feather increases drag which gives you slower velocity. If this is confusing, don’t worry! When you are starting out you really, don’t need to be overly concerned with fletching.
As you progress in archery and if you choose to compete, then it will be time to give more thought to this aspect of your shooting. At that point though, you will have more experience and also the advice of fellow archers. They can help you determine the best fletching for the competition you are in. There are so many variables that affect fletching performance that it tough to give set guidelines to go by. You will have to factor the distance you are shooting, what types arrows, whether you are shooting inside or outside, etc., and more you shoot in these different conditions, the better you will understand what fletching performs best for you.
Feathers are used by many archers today, and their unique design makes them optimal for fletching. In general, feathers cause more drag than plastic vanes, which gives your arrow more stability in flight. Feathers also help to avoid negative contact when you shoot because they collapse against shaft when they come into contact with any part of your rest or plunger.
If you decide to go with feather fletching, keep in mind that they are not symmetrical like plastic vanes. Feathers will be categorized as right or left wing depending on the bird’s side they came from. Each arrow has to have feathers from the same side to be accurate. If you mix right and left wing feathers on an arrow, it can severely effect the flight stability.
Vanes create stability for an arrow in flight by causing drag and steering the arrow, which keeps the tip flying toward the target. Often vanes are angled slightly on the shaft which is referred to as an offset. This works to spin the arrow on axis while it is in flight and gives it added stability.
Cresting an arrow is a very old practice from the days when families had a crest. Thus, an archer would be identified with their family crest on the arrow for archery. Today, most families don’t have a crest, so why do we still crest arrows?
It is done by arrow companies today for aesthetics, and to identify the brand and model of the arrow on the spine. Some traditional archers paint a crest on their arrows, many times on arrow they make themselves.
Crests are useful for identifying arrows at competitions, especially if other archers have the exact arrows and fletching! Today there are also arrow wraps which serve to protect the arrow and are also a platform for endless designs. Camouflage wrapped arrows are often used by bowhunters to help them remain undetected while hunting.
Points enable arrows to stick when they hit the target. Because they are weighted, they also increase the flex on the arrow shaft while the arrow is in flight. There are endless choices for arrow points. You can choose between sharp points or round, short point or long, and every combination in between. For fiberglass arrows, the point is capped on the shaft. Other points can be inserted into the shaft and glued.
Bowhunters often use field points to practice with. An insert can be glued inside the shaft, so that field point can be screwed in for practicing, and then switched with broadheads which are used for hunting. Because there are so many options for points, they are usually sold separately from arrows. They are in many different styles, lengths, and weights. They are measured in grains and available from 100-400 grains. For references to show you how little they weight, 1 pound is approximately 7,000 grains!