Which Arrows Should I Use?

Some say that getting the correct arrow is more important than the correct bow. That may be overstating the matter, but shooting the right arrows is extremely important. Many archers, especially when starting out, wonder “which arrows should I use?” Arrows are unique in length, flexibility, and weight and must be matched with your bow and with the shooting you are doing.

Arrow Length

Arrow length is the first important issue. When you draw the bow to the correct anchor point, the arrow needs to reach past the riser. Most measure approximately 2 inches past the riser. Any shorter and it’s dangerous. It is less of a concern with a compound bow because your bow should be set to your measured draw length. Once your bow is set, there should be little variation in your full draw, and the arrows can be cut to the appropriate length.

The matter of correct arrow length is more crucial when shooting a recurve or longbow especially for the beginner, as there may be variation in your anchor point. Leaving 2 inches extended beyond the riser with these types of bows if very important for safety.

Arrow Thickness

Arrow characteristics vary greatly depending on the bow, the target and the person shooting. Those using a recurve for target shooting often use slim, lighter arrows, and smaller fletching. This allows for less wind resistance and longer range. There are many choices of fletching, but many archers prefer feathers for indoor shooting and veins for outdoor shooting. The characteristics of a compound bow often work best with arrows that are larger in diameter. Most archers who shoot a compound bow use veins, though some still use feathers for indoor practice.

The correct length of the arrow is more important than the fletching choice, and it’s best, especially when starting out, to have your arrows cut by a professional. I like to do things myself, so I understand wanting to tackle things on your own, but you can’t just take a hacksaw to a carbon or fiberglass arrow. Of course, you can buy the saw you need, and that may be something you end up doing. But if you are buying your arrows from a local shop, many of them will measure and cut the arrows for free.

Having an arrow matched to your draw length is also important because of the arrow’s flex when you shoot. The spine rating of an arrow is its flexibility which varies by draw weight and length. Of course, the spine rating also changes by brand and material used for the arrows which is why most archers have a quiver full of identical arrows. This will increase your chances of shooting better groupings.

Buying Arrows

The next time you are in an archery shop or department, notice how many different arrows they have. Many companies make excellent finished arrows, which already have fletching and nocks and only need to be cut to proper length. This is the best route for the beginner. Arrows are sold individually and in sets, which is preferable. The maker will have some kind of chart available to select the right arrow needed for your bow and shooting needs.

In every archery topic I write about, the advice will always be the same for someone just starting out; go to your local archery shop. Everyone has been a beginner at some point and it is OK to walk in to a pro shop and ask, “which arrows should I use?”

Because there are so many types of arrows available, every archer can benefit from talking to the people at your local archery shop. I’ve been shooting a bow for 10 years and I still ask, “which arrows should I use?” The reason is that arrows are changing all the time. Most archers are not shooting the same arrows they were shooting five years ago. It’s tough to stay up-to-date on it all and the folks in the archery shop definitely know more about what is available than your average archer does.

Arrow Charts

Unfortunately, you cannot just run over to Walmart and grab a box of arrows while heading out to the range. The arrows you need will be determined by a few different variables, and they are specific to your measurements.
Most arrow manufacturers have an arrow selection chart where you find your draw length and draw weight to find the right spine for your arrow. Additionally, arrows will be specific to a recurve bow or compound bow and may have different numbers for the type of cams your bow has. The spine rating number refers to the stiffness of that arrow. Every brand had a different chart, but typically they will have numbers from 100-1000. The lower the spine number, the stiffer the arrow.

Getting Measured

Especially, for your first bow set up, it is best to have a professional at your archery shop figure your draw weight and length. These numbers are determined by measurements of your body type. They will use a bow scale to figure out your draw weight. You bow will typically have numbers for the draw weight range your bow can handle. Your specific number must be somewhere in that range. Once they figure your draw weight, you can select a bow with an appropriate range, then adjust it to your specific weight. After that, they will measure your draw length. Once all these numbers are available, they will head back over to the arrow chart. There are multiple arrow manufacturers, and each one makes different types of arrows.

The archery retailer you are working with can help set you up with the correct arrows if they are in stock or possibly make them for you if they offer that. Some arrows are customizable in every aspect, from shaft material to the wrap, nock, fletching, etc. I have never gone through this process as I feel like there are many pre-made, quality arrows to choose from.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Once you have your arrow selected, the retailer will have you draw the bow with the arrow in to make sure it is the right length. This is determined by measuring the remaining length of the shaft in corresponding with the arrow rest when the bow is drawn. The arrow will be measured and cut if needed and then the insert will be glued in. The insert allows you to screw in whichever points or broad heads you are using. Hopefully, this article gives you a little more information about selecting arrows. If you are just starting out in archery and everything is still confusing, don’t worry! Everyone in archery has been where you are. There are a lot experienced people that can help you with arrow selection. No one is going to laugh, just head over to your local archery shop this week and ask, “which arrows should I use?”