Maximum Arrow Efficiency: Build Your Arrow for Success
Search for maximum arrow efficiency in your arrow.
by Paeton Keller
Finding the perfect arrow setup can be critical in achieving success on the range as well as in the field. Factors such as weight (GPI), size, and arrow components have large effects on your bow’s performance as well as the lethality of your arrow. An archer must be aware of these variables when setting up an arrow for their next hunt or competition in order to have the maximum effectiveness with their bow.
In competition, archers focus on building arrows that will result in the most consistency and accuracy; therefore, resulting in the greatest scores. Consistency and accuracy can be achieved in many ways. For example, for indoor competition, wind is not a factor. This allows archers to use larger arrow shafts and fletching without having to worry about negative effects from the weather and ambient conditions. Arrows such as the Easton X23 and X27 are widely popular in indoor competition because they allow the archer to have a greater chance of hitting a higher scoring ring with their increased diameters. For outdoor competition, such as 50 meter FITA where weather may become a factor, archers rely on smaller arrows and vanes to cut through the air with the least amount of wind resistance, a major reason why the X10 is widely popular outdoors. This will allow an archer to focus more on aiming at the center than worrying about wind drift effects. For competitions with varying target distances, such as 3D competitions, archers worry not only about accuracy, but speed as well. By shooting lighter arrows, an archer can decrease the drop height of an arrow over different distances. A light arrow will have less drop height than a heavier arrow over the same change in distance. This creates a more forgiving setup for variable and unknown distances. By understanding which factors in arrow performance are essential to your discipline, an archer can create a more effective arrow for their needs.
The same concepts are important when setting up your hunting arrows as well. All too many times I hear of archers keeping their mind focused on the speed of their bow. While speed can be very helpful when hunting, focusing on speed can have sever effects. This could include a drastic drop in momentum and kinetic energy and can also result in accuracy issues as well as negative consequences for the animal depending on the game you are hunting. In addition, bows shooting at higher speeds can sometimes be more temperamental to tune, resulting in possible accuracy issues. An archer should instead keep their mind focused on setting up an arrow with greater overall lethality for their hunt. For example, an archer pursuing large game such as elk, moose, caribou, etc. should focus on creating an arrow which will have more kinetic energy to be able to penetrate the hide and even bone that covers the vitals.
To increase kinetic energy, an arrow should be set up with more overall mass than the average arrow. This can be achieved multiple ways. First, choose an arrow shaft with a higher weight per inch (GPI). Standard carbon arrows tend to range in the 8 to 10 grains per inch range, but with aluminum/carbon hybrid arrows, an archer can achieve greater overall mass in their arrow. Easton Full Metal Jackets are a great option for archers wanting to achieve higher arrow mass while still being a smaller diameter shaft. Easton offers the FMJ arrows in 4mm, 5mm, and 6mm. Smaller shaft diameter shafts have multiple benefits as well including less wind effects and less friction when entering the target. This will result in more accuracy and greater penetration. Another option to increase arrow weight is in the insert. Most arrow manufacturers have multiple options for insert materials and weights which can allow an archer to manipulate their overall arrow weight. Lastly, point weight can be increased to add more kinetic energy to an arrow. By increasing the weight of the arrow, it will also resist a change in direction more effectively. This means less wind drift during through the air. Keep in mind, when increasing weight in the front of an arrow, the dynamic arrow spine of the arrow will change. Be sure that your arrow will remain in proper spine range for your bow setup.
For archers that may need to take shots at further range, many times for the western hunter, a proper balance between speed and kinetic energy is essential. This balance many times becomes a large debate for many due to what each individual views as important during the hunt. Speed is important to be able to reach out to the longer ranges, but arrow mass is essential to lethality and wind drift resistance. For most archers (27 to 30 inch draw length and 60 to 70 pound draw out of a modern compound bow), an arrow weighing between 420 to 450 grain tends to lead to a great balance of speed and energy to be effective for hunting. Archers should try to avoid hunting with arrows that weight in under 380 grains due to lack of kinetic energy. This many times will prevent an archer from achieving proper momentum to do sufficient damage to big game and can end in wounding animals. Not only will the bow not produce a large amount of kinetic energy out for the bow, but that energy will rapidly drop at further ranges, leading to less lethality. Proper balance of speed and energy is key to a successful hunt.
Expert archers use calculators to approximate arrow speed, weight, energy, and maximum efficiency. The use of calculators can be extremely helpful in arrow building preparations in order to see what different arrow setups will produce as far as flight characteristics. This will help an archer find the perfect balance without having to try multiple arrow setups.
Paeton grew up in Phoenix Arizona in a family that loved the outdoors but never hunted. His interest in hunting started with the curiosity of a bow and arrow. In an attempt to get into the sport, he built his first bow with a dowel rod and a length of string. Luckily, a close neighbor noticed the young archer and was able to help him learn about archery and eventually Paeton bought his first compound bow at the age of 13. With practice and a neighbor who hunted frequently, Paeton was able to begin archery hunting a year later. He began to shoot 3D as a way to become a better hunter, but he soon began to see not only the benefits of practicing, but the fun of competing with bow in hand. After a couple years of hunting and countless mistakes made, he was able to connect with his first deer in the high desert of Arizona. Since then he has been able to harvest a deer every year along with other games species in the deserts of Arizona including coyotes, pheasants, a turkey and was also able to harvest a Pronghorn from Colorado in 2014.
Paeton is currently a student at Northern Arizona University, studying mechanical engineering. When he isn’t hunting or studying, he competes both locally and on a collegiate team, against other collegiate archers across the nation. Paeton is now a Prostaff shooter for Prime Archery/G5 Outdoors, BeeStinger stabilizers, and Ross Outdoors, as well as active president for the Northern Arizona University Archery Club and Team.