What Size Arrows Do I Need for My Bow?

By Jim MacQuarrie

In any sport, choosing the right equipment is important. In archery, it's vital. Choosing the proper arrows is necessary for performance, but also for safety; using the wrong size arrow can be dangerous.

Length

Make sure the arrow is longer than your draw length; when you draw the bow, you want the arrow to stay on the rest, and an arrow that's too short is dangerous. An arrow that's too long will be heavier and "weak"; it will wobble back and forth (or up and down with a mechanical release) in flight and will not travel as far.

The arrow should be at least an inch longer than the distance from the string to the farthest point of the arrow rest at full draw.

Weight

An arrow needs to be heavy enough to absorb the energy of the shot; shooting one that's too light can damage the bow.

An arrow that's too heavy is not a safety risk, but it won't give you the best possible shot.

Arrow weight is determined by the weight of the shaft, point, nock and fletches, and these components should be matched properly to ensure the best performance.

Stiffness

The stiffness of an arrow determines how it will fly. Stiffness is determined by the combination of length, weight and diameter of the arrow. For hollow aluminum and carbon arrows, the thickness of the shaft wall is also a consideration.

An arrow that is too stiff will tend to strike higher and off to one side and one that isn't stiff enough will strike lower and off to the other side.

How to Measure

You will need an assistant to help you determine your draw length.

Find an arrow that's too long for you or get a wooden dowel about 3 feet long and cut a groove in one end to serve as a nock.

Have your assistant stand beside you, and put the arrow or dowel on the bow. Pointing at a safe target, come to full draw and hold. Have the assistant mark the shaft with a felt pen about an inch beyond the arrow rest. Let down the bow.

Repeat the process two or three times, to make sure you get the longest possible draw.

Measure from the bottom of the nock groove to the farthest mark your assistant made. This is your draw length. Round up to the nearest half-inch.

Other factors

Along with your draw length, there are a number of other pieces of information you will need before you can order your arrows:

  • Draw weight
  • Bow style (recurve, compound or traditional/longbow)
  • Shooting style (finger release or mechanical shooting aid)
  • String material (Fast Flight, Dacron or other)

Each of these factors will affect the final selection.

Ordering

Arrow manufacturers provide charts to determine the correct arrow for a given bow setup, and they can be found online as well as at your local retailer. Many archery clubs, ranges and instructors will also have the necessary information and can help you choose your arrow.

On the chart, find the type of bow, draw length and shooting style, if specified. Move down the chart to find your draw weight. You should find a code number or letter indicating a group of arrows. Elsewhere on the chart will be a listing of the particular arrows in a given group, along with the recommended point weight for each. Any of these arrows will perform safely and within acceptable limits, but only experience will tell you which is right for you. Your local archery retailer will generally allow you to try some out to see which you like best.

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