To bowhunters who select their arrows each season by grabbing a handful from the miscellaneous arrow bucket at the local super-mart, you may be surprised to learn that shooting custom arrows will greatly improve your success in the field – for less money than you might think. If you want reliable and accurate performance from your compound bow, shooting the proper arrow is very important. All arrows are not created equal. An arrow should be built to match the specific settings and output characteristics of YOUR bow setup, so every shot launches perfectly from your bow without fishtailing or porpoisng. An improper arrow will not only fly poorly, profoundly degrading your accuracy, but it may present a safety hazard for you and your expensive compound bow.
There are anumber of important considerations to juggle: proper spine, FOC balance, weight, straightness, fletching material, fletching angle, arrow length, etc., when selecting a set of hunting or 3D arrows. And if you’re feeling a bit lost, don’t worry. This isn’t exactly rocket-science – just a bit of background information you’ll need to know in order to make an informed choice. These next sections will take you step-by-step through the process of selecting and ordering arrows with just the right specifications to match your particular bow system. We hope you find this help section useful.
Parts is Parts: Anatomy of an Arrow
Let start with the basics. The parts of a modern hunting arrow are pretty straight forward, but these parts will be referred to throughout this help guide. So before we really get going here, let’s take a moment to bone-up on our arrow jargon.
The foundation of every arrow is the SHAFT, a long hollow tube usually made of aluminum or carbon/graphite composite materials. The rear of the arrow is fitted with a small piece of molded plastic called a NOCK, which allows the arrow to physically attach to the bow’s string. At the front of the arrow is a small aluminum (sometimes plastic) sleeve called an INSERT. The insert gets glued into the end of the shaft and provides a threaded hole in which to screw in the arrow’s TIP. A tip doesn’t necessarily have to be a practice point (as pictured here). A standard insert allows you to screw-in and use of a variety of tips in the same arrow (broadheads, judo-points, blunt-tips, field points, fishing tips, etc.). The last component is the arrow’s FLETCHING. The arrow’s fletching is usually done with colorful parabolic shaped pieces of soft plastic (vanes) or feathers. In most cases, the three fletches are glued onto the shaft in an equally spaced circular pattern, with two fletches one color and the third fletch a different color (the cock-fletch). The fletching is very important, as it provides steering and stabilization for the arrow during flight.
Method of Arrow Measurement:
The standard AMO method of measuring an arrow is to find the distance between the groove of the nock (where the string rests in the nock) to the end of the arrow, not including the insert or tip. We measure and trim all arrows to length using this standard AMO (now the ATA) method. If you already have existing arrows which fit your bow properly, simply measure one by this method and order the same size. If you are unsure about what arrow length is appropriate for your bow setup, the next section may help.
If you are already sure about your arrow length, skip the remainder of this chapter and proceed to Chapter 2. If you are setting up a new rig or you’re just getting started in the sport, please read on.
Background: Measuring Draw Length of the Bow
The proper length for your arrow will depend upon several factors: the draw length for which the bow is set, the type of bow you have, and the type & position of your arrow rest.
Before we dive into this issue, we should briefly discuss how draw length of a bow is measured. Officially – according to the standard AMO method – a bow’s draw length setting can be found by measuring the distance between the groove of the nock – to a position 1 3/4″ forward from the pivot point of the grip – when the bow is at full draw. Confused? Not to worry. There’s a simplified method too.
Conveniently enough, for most bows, 1 3/4″ forward from the pivot point of the grip puts you roughly at the outer edge of the bow’s riser. So without splitting too many hairs, we can say that a bow’s draw length is approximately from the nock point to the front of the riser – when the bow is drawn back. So if you drew back a 29″ arrow, and the insert of the arrow lined-up with the front edge of the bow’s riser, the bow is set for approximately 29″ draw length. Whew! Glad that’s covered!
If you’re truly an archery junkie, you may have also heard about the concept of True Draw Length, which is an older and much less popular method of measurement. Officially, True Draw Length is the distance at full draw from the nocking point to the low (pivot) point of the grip. So a True Draw Length measurement will be 1.75″ short of an AMO draw length measurement. There isn’t much talk about True Draw Length these days, and it’s fine point of archery jargon that really isn’t worth dissecting. But if the question ever comes up on Jeopardy, you’ll know.
Also, we recommend you not automatically trust the factory sticker on your bow that indicates draw length. In many cases, the manufacturer’s sticker and the ACTUAL draw length of the bow can be quite different – sometimes dramatically. And since changing your draw length may necessitate changing arrows too – we can avoid some trouble here by thinking ahead. If your bow does not already fit you comfortably, you should have the draw length adjusted before ordering your custom arrows. Arrows which may be perfect for a bow at 29″ draw length, may be totally inappropriate for the same bow set at 27″ draw length (much more on this topic later).
Background: Measuring Draw Length of the Shooter
Ideally, the draw length setting of the bow and the proper draw length of the shooter should match. If they don’t, we have some work to do first before thinking about what arrows to select.
Unlike a traditional recurve bow that can be drawn back to virtually any length, a compound bow will drawback only a specific distance before it stops. Compound bows are designed to be shot from the full-draw position. If a compound bow is set for a 29″ draw length, it should always be shot from the full 29″ draw position. But the bow cannot be over-drawn, say to 30″ or 31″, without modifying the setup on the bow. Nor should the bow be shot from the 28″ draw position. The draw length on your compound bow must be set to match your particular size.
To measure your draw length, determine the length of your arm-span in inches. Stand with your arms out and palms facing forward. Don’t stretch when measuring. Just stand naturally. Have someone else help you, and measure from the tip of one middle finger to the other. Then simply divide that number by 2.5. The quotient is your approximate draw length (in inches) for your body size.
The majority of compound bow owners set their bows for too much draw length, which results in poor shooting form – inaccuracy – and painful string slap on the forearm. You will better enjoy – and be more successful with your compound bow when it is fitted properly to your body. And if in doubt, choose a little LESS draw length rather than a little more.
If you are a person of average proportions, your arm-span will be roughly equal to your height (in inches). So there is often a direct correlation between a person’s height and their draw length as well. Once you have computed your draw length using the method above, you can double-check yourself by using the scale below – to see if your number is within the expected range.
More Draw Length Discussion:
How close do you need to get? Within an inch? Half-inch? A quarter-inch? This issue could be debated, as there probably isn’t a right and wrong answer to this question. For most shooters, a ±½” change in draw length is hardly noticed. To be realistic, half-inch sizes are probably precise enough (27½”, 28″, 28½, 29″, 29½”, etc.), particularly for the purposes of hunting and recreational archery. Besides, as your bow’s string ages and stretches over time (as ALL strings do), your draw length will slightly increase – a little fraction at a time. So constantly maintaining a razor-specific 28 13/16″ draw length may be a frustrating endeavor for you and the pro-shop.
If you’re new to the sport, and unsure what draw length is appropriate for you, we strongly recommend you just play the averages and use the chart above. But admittedly, there is no perfect formula to solve this problem. Every shooter is different and the opinions on the methodology for measuring and checking draw length varies considerably throughout the industry: the yardstick against the breastbone, the fist against the wall, tip of the finger to the top of the shoulder, the arm-span method, etc. Without the benefit of an actual bow to draw back and actually check – each of these methods only provides us with an estimate.
You’ll likely find that even the “pros” don’t necessarily agree. If you go into several different archery shops to be measured for draw length, you’re bound to get a variety of “expert” opinions. So before you get frustrated, remember that determining an individual’s draw length isn’t exactly a measurement of scientific certainty. So if you’re just getting started in the sport, there’s no need to get too carried away computing the square-root of your hypotenuse. Instead, we recommend you just play the averages and choose an initial draw length that’s similar to others of your same size and stature (reference the chart above). There will always be time to “tweak” your draw length a little as you gain experience and learn to analyze your shooting form more closely. YOU will ultimately be the final judge on your own perfect personal draw length. If you’re still unsure, read our Additional Discussion on Draw Length.
Chapter 1 Summary:
Before moving on, you should be clear on the following: 1. What are the parts of an arrow? 2. What is the proper method for measuring the length of an arrow? 3. If you already have a properly adjusted bow with matching arrows, how long are those arrows?
For New Setups…..
4. How do I determine the actual current AMO draw length setting of my bow?5. What draw length setting is most appropriate for me and my particular size?
If your draw length and your bow’s draw length do not match, have your bow’s draw length adjusted before you begin selecting arrows to match your setup.