Nock Out® | Guide to Buying Hunting Arrows
Being an informed bow hunter is part of our ethical code. This includes buying equipment that we know can do the job and do it well. Buying hunting arrows that fit our setup is essential. Unfortunately, hunters often end up purchasing the first set of arrows that they lay their eyes on. This quick decision can be costly when arrows don’t fly right and game is lost. Therefore, it should be known that finding the right arrow can be just as important as finding the right bow. There are several elements that every hunter needs to know before purchasing hunting arrows. This ranges from the basics to the finer details of a shooter’s form. Knowledge truly is power in bow hunting. Our “Guide to Buying Hunting Arrows” is the perfect solution for making an informed purchase.
Remember, purchasing the correct arrow for your setup can make or break your next hunt.
Hunting Arrow Basics
An arrow has four main parts: a nock, fletching, a shaft, and a tip. You can purchase arrows assembled, or you can assemble them on your own. All four parts come in different sizes, weights, and have unique features. All of these differences will impact the arrow’s flight.
Arrow flight is also dependent on numerous other factors including arrow weight, shaft length, draw length, draw poundage, bow accessories, speed, and the environmental conditions. Once these concepts are fully understood, you can utilize a system of measurements and charts to find your perfect setup.
One of the first things to consider when going through the arrow purchasing process is measuring your bow’s draw length. The draw length will directly influence the performance of the arrow you will purchase.
Many times, hunters shoot too long of a draw length. Whether it be by mistake, or the desire to gain speed, having too long of length can cause serious form issues. Keep in mind, no equipment can fix poor form.
If you aren’t sure what your draw length should be (or you simply forgot), you can find it by measuring your full arm span and dividing it by 2.5.
The next important factor to consider is draw weight. The greater the draw weight means higher speed and penetration (all else being equal). However, don’t increase weight at the cost of your form. When archers have too high of a draw weight, they become over bowed and their shot becomes negatively affected.
You’ll need to know your draw weight to determine your arrow spine. However, remember to keep your weight comfortable and don’t get too caught up in the speed factor.
Photo: Flatline Whitetails
Hunting Arrow Length
Many people will use their draw length as a standard for their arrow length. Although this works, there is a better way.
Because different rests have different specifications, it’s better to measure arrow length by drawing your bow with a nocked arrow. Make sure to have somebody assist you with the measurement. When most people think of arrow length, they consider the following:
- Shorter arrows are faster
- Longer arrows are safer
To find your proper draw length, pull back your arrow to full draw and have an assistant measure a distance between 1-½” and 2” from the rest. Keep in mind, an arrow that falls too short can cause you to shoot through your hand.
Some experienced archers prefer a shorter length for speed. Don’t cut your arrows for this reason unless you fully understand the repercussions of a short arrow.
Hunting Arrow Weight
As a general rule of thumb, medium to heavy weighted arrows serve hunters better for two main reasons.
- A heavier arrow will penetrate the deer better
- Heavier arrows reduce noise and vibration
However, many archers still choose to shoot lighter arrows because they are faster. Below are some general guidelines when considering arrow weight.
- Lighter arrows are sufficient for competition
- Heavier arrows are better for hunting
- Hunters should use between 6 to 8 grain per pound of draw weight
Never shoot an arrow lighter than 5-grains per pound of draw weight. Shooting too light of an arrow can harm your bow and potentially void your warranty. Also keep in mind that weight measurements include your entire setup (shaft, vanes, nock, tips, and insert). For archers shooting a lower draw weight, say 50# or less, it’s recommended to shoot an arrow on the heavier side of that range.
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Arrow Spine Rating
The spine rating could be considered the most important aspect of an arrow. By definition, it’s considered the “stiffness.” However, it’s much more complex than that. Using the wrong chart or an unfamiliar setup can result in having an arrow that doesn’t shoot straight.
Spine rating is complicated for a few big reasons:
- It’s dependent on numerous variables
- Charts and ratings differ between manufacturers
Unfortunately, the lack of a universal chart makes things very difficult for new archers. There are two common ways to look at stiffness: dynamically and statically. Static spine rating is a standard method for determining arrow stiffness. It is done by taking an 880-grain weight and using it to bend a 28” arrow.
However, everybody shoots different length arrows, variously weighted bows, and have entirely different setups. All of these various factors will impact the desired stiffness of the shaft. This is considered the “dynamic” aspect of stiffness.
Despite the differences in ratings, there is usually a general pattern between arrow stiffness ratings: the smaller the number, the stiffer the arrow. For example, a 400-grain arrow will be stiffer than a 500-grain arrow according to the static standards. However, this isn’t always the case when shooting a bow with different weight to different length ratios. Other factors such as bow speed, string type, and rest also can influence dynamic spine ratings. Don’t forget that a 400-grain arrow from one brand is different than a 400-grain arrow from another.
Photo: Flatline Whitetails
Although there is no perfect method, be sure to always refer to your manufacturer’s spine chart. This will take into account your draw weight and draw length as mentioned above. This can help assure that you make the most appropriate purchase for your setup.
There are three common types of vane lengths. These are 2”, 3”, and 4”. Although you could find vanes sized between those measurements, these are considered the standards. Picking a vane will depend on your broadhead setup (or perhaps picking a broadhead will depend on your vane setup), so pick carefully. Here are the biggest considerations:
- A longer vane allows greater broadhead stabilization.
- A shorter vane is more forgiving in the wind.
- Longer vanes work better with large, fixed blade broadheads.
- Mechanical broadheads will allow you to shoot nearly any vanes.
Also, note that how an arrow is fletched (how it is turned on the shaft) is just as important as the type of fletching itself. There are three standards:
A straight position allows for an arrow to have the least resistance during flight. This will yield the highest speed but also the greatest variance of the three positions. A straight position is best for competition shooters where environmental conditions are irrelevant, and the bow is perfectly tuned.
The helical position is the most forgiving. It allows your arrows to rotate during flight, improving arrow stabilization and accuracy at greater distances. Although this would be the ideal setup for most hunters, it isn’t always appropriate.
Some arrow rests won’t allow the arrow to be cleared when positioned helically.
An offset is a mix of the two. It’s the most common for this reason.
You can learn more about fletching arrows by referring to our Fletching the Perfect Hunting Arrow for your Bow Hunting Setup article.
There are many different features to consider when purchasing nocks. They not only come in all different sizes and varieties, they also differ in quality. However, there is one thing you can do to improve every shot: buying lighted nocks. This not only helps when fine tuning your bow, but it can eliminate the chance of losing arrows and losing harvested game. Thankfully, Nock Out® has you covered. Nock Out® Lighted Nocks are lightweight, bright, and reliable. They are a perfect all-in-one solution when you are looking for that nock for your perfect setup.
Other Hunting Arrow Tips and Considerations
As most of you are aware, you will need to purchase two types of tips. One type to practice and one type to hunt. They should be the same weight to assure proper tuning.
There are two types of broadheads: mechanical and fixed blade.
These broadheads expand during the shot. The compacted point reduces surface area and increases speed and accuracy. However, you risk the chance of them NOT growing, which is particularly common with low poundage bows.
Fixed blade broadheads have greater surface area and more weight. Therefore, their flight isn’t as accurate, but they are more reliable for those shooting lighter poundage.
Also, don’t forget the relationship between the broadheads and fletching that we discussed earlier. Smaller fletching works better with mechanical and small fixed blade broadheads. The heavier the broadhead, the larger the fletching.
The biggest key to purchasing field tips is shooting the same grain as your broadheads. Also, make sure that you shoot the same arrow and the same setup during practice. Doing this will improve your odds of executing the shot when it matters the most.
Having a strong understanding of your archery setup and your goals can not only improve your accuracy but completely modify your shooting experience. It will change the way you make purchases. Not every shop owner is going to treat you right, and far too often hunters are convinced to buy a setup that isn’t good for them. However, now that you know what to look for when purchasing your arrow equipment, you can make the best possible purchase for your performance and your wallet.
For a more in-depth review on arrow anatomy, be sure to check out our article “What You Should Know About Your Hunting Arrows.“