All Things Arrow
There are a variety of arrows and arrow head types which I have tried to cover in this article. As you would imagine each type or combination is designed with a specific purpose in mind.
There are three types of arrows that are commonly used nowadays with compound and recurve bows: aluminium, carbon fibre, and a much less common hybrid type that is a carbon cover over an aluminium core. There are various grades of straightness for each kind, and the spine (stiffness) must be matched to the draw weight of the bow, the arrow point weight, and the type of cams on your bow.
For carbon fibre arrows there is a spine stiffness rating system:
- 500 series (most flexible)
- 400 series (moderately flexible)
- 300 series (stiffest).
Using the common 100 grain arrow points the 500 series is good to about 55# of draw weight, the 400 series from about 57-73#, and the 300 series for draw weights over 73#. However choosing the correct aluminium arrows is another matter altogether because the shafts come in many sizes, thickness and are composed of different alloys.
Wooden arrows are the original arrow, the ones we envisage when thinking abut Robin Hood. They have been largely replaced by carbon or aluminium arrows which are less prone to breakage especially with the more powerful recurve and compound bows. Unlike their modern counterparts wooden arrows use feather flights instead of the modern plastic vanes.
Carbon fibre arrows are very light but nowhere near as stiff as an aluminium arrow. However they are still stiff and have a tendency to shatter and splinter into hundreds of tiny shards if broken. This can be potentially dangerous if they break in the bow. Their lack of weight makes them prone to flight deviation in stronger winds.
It should be remembered that they can become damaged, yet at first glance appear OK. Under the stress of shooting, however, they may splinter causing injury to the archer. Carbon arrows should be examined before each shot.
Aluminium offers several advantages over carbon fibre. They are heavier, making them stabler in the wind; they are stiffer and are less prone to breaking and if they do break they don’t shatter so are safer. Another great advantage is that they can easily be cut to length to suit individual archers.
Arrows come without points. Be aware that field points come in different sizes corresponding to different arrow diameters. If the diameter of your field point is larger than your arrow shank it will be hard to remove from targets so be sure they are the same size.
Concerning the choice of carbon or aluminium, either will serve you well. The carbon arrows are lighter and thus will fly faster and flatter, and they are also more durable. But when you switch to broad heads, they don’t give as tight a pattern as the aluminium arrows. This may be because their lighter weight makes them more vulnerable to air currents, with the effect showing up more with broad heads because of their greater surface area.
Fletchings come in three varieties, feather, plastic and flu-flu. Each has its own advantages with feathers not being affected by contact with the arrow rest or riser compared to their plastic counterparts; however plastic vanes are far more durable. Fletchings can be aligned parallel to the shaft but can also be offset or helical, both of the latter encouraging shaft spin that produces a truer and more stable flight.
What size Vanes should you use?
Experience shows that broadhead arrows work best with either three 5 inch or four 4 inch feathers. Carbon fibre work well with three 4 inch feathers. However individual style, weight etc must be taken into account. The only way to be sure is to test a variety of different combinations.
One thing worth remembering is that due to the weight and shape, broadhead arrows need more flight guidance then field arrow tips. An arrow that is ‘yawing‘ or ‘fishtailing‘ will be less accurate and less effective at killing the prey due to loss of impact speed and the resulting lack of penetration.
Which is Best, Offset or Helical fletching?
Without a doubt helical fletching is best on all arrow types. The design enables rotation during flight much like the rifling in a gun barrel. The rotation helps keep the arrow flying true and also helps remove the impact of any imperfections in the arrow shaft.
Flu-Flu fletchings are used when hunting small game such as rabbits, squirrels or small birds. The primary function of the flu flu is to shorten the flight length. With ground based game this isn’t a problem but when it takes to the trees or to the air the advantage of having a 70 yard flight compared to the normal fletched flight of +200 yards is readily apparent
There are a variety of arrowhead types and each serves a particular purpose form practice to hunting. Once arrows have been matched to the bow the arrow heads can be changed to suit their specific purpose.
Broadhead Arrow tips
As you can see in the image below traditional broadhead arrow tips have two or three blades that are extremely sharp. The purpose of the broadhead tip is to cause massive haemorrhaging with as little damage as possible.
The two main type of broadhead are the mechanical, (see image below), and the fixed. As suggested by its name the fixed is a one piece construction whereas the mechanical has two or three vanes that open upon impact thereby extending the damage area. An advantage with the mechanical broadhead is a truer flight however the downside is less penetration due to the expanding vanes. It is generally recommended to use a fixed broadhead if the bows draw weight is less than 65#.
Arrow tips are available in numerous styles, shapes, and weights; and each is designed for a specific purpose.
Bullet and Field Target Tips
- Are designed to be shot into soft targets such as paper, foam or grass.
- The weight can be matched to the weight of the tips used when hunting enabling the archer to familiarise themselves with the actual weight.
- Judo points serve several purposes during simulated hunting practice. The can be used on leaves, large sticks and tree stumps.
- The protruding springs prevent the arrow being lost when shot into soft ground or heavier ground cover.
- They have the same weight as most broadhead arrow tips which means less adjustments have to be made.
- If you are hunting small game animals such as rabbits and squirrels then the blunt head is the tool for you.
- The main difference is that they are square-tipped instead as opposed to pointed and are constructed from rubber, plastic, or steel.
- The blunt head arrow tip is designed to kill through shock not through penetration.
- They are wider at the tip than at the base giving a much wider striking surface area; this delivers more shock to the target.
- Because of the nature of the game they are traditionally used with flu-flu fletched shafts.
Bow Fishing Tips
- Fishing tips are made of steel and are designed to penetrate the harder scales of fish such as the carp and other fish.
- the tip has a barb much like a hook on the end of a fishing line that allows the fish to be hauled in.
- The barbs are either retractable or of screw fir design to allow the hunter to remove them from the body of the fish without causing too much damage.