One of the most common questions archery professionals hear when people are buying new arrows is, “How long should my arrows be for my compound bow?” While it seems like it should have a simple answer, there are a few factors that go into what your arrow length is.
For an optimal arrow setup that allows you to tune your arrows easily, you need to know if you are using your arrows primarily for hunting or target shooting. You need to know your draw length. You need to know if you want heavy or light arrows. You also need to know how your arrow rest is mounted on your bow and what type you are using. Then, you also need to know what type of broadhead you plan to use. All of these factors play into selecting the right arrow length for your compound bow and I will go through them all below.
How to Measure Arrow Length
Arrow length is measured by measuring the distance from the groove in the nock where the bowstring rests (throat of the nock) to the end of the arrow shaft where the broadhead is inserted. This is measured in inches and does not include the length of the broadhead. This is the standard set by the Archery Trade Association (ATA). See the picture below.
Short vs. Long Arrows
Some archers want to have the shortest arrows possible because they want to optimize the speed of the arrow while other bow hunters want longer, heavier arrows that maximize the kinetic energy and penetration capabilities of the arrow. When you change the length of the arrow, you can also change the spine deflection required for your specific bow setup.
Shorter arrow setups are excellent for target and 3-D shooting or even if you like to use mechanical or expandable broadheads (see below) for hunting. The shorter arrows can be set up to be lighter and faster, thus optimized for targets or hunting. Your arrow length should be set to your draw length or minus one inch if this is your goal. For example, if your draw length is 27 inches, have your arrows cut to either 27″ or 26 inches. Make sure you know how your arrow rest is mounted before deciding. See below.
The shorter the arrow, the stiffer the spine must be. For example, if you have a 28-inch draw length, are shooting a 65-pound draw weight, and want a 29-inch arrow; then you are most likely shooting a .330-370 spine deflection (depending on your bow’s IBO Speed). If you drop this an inch to a 28-inch arrow, the spine deflection could require a .380 to .420 range depending on the arrow you are buying. If you lower or raise your draw weight, this could affect it too.
A longer arrow can be heavier than a short arrow, but this depends on the make and model you are buying. If you are worried about arrow weight or want to maximize arrow weight, make sure you check out our arrow weight calculator here. A longer arrow (draw length plus one inch) helps minimize issues with your arrow rest and broadhead and can make tuning easier.
Arrow Rests and Broadheads
The type of arrow rest you use can affect arrow length due to the type or mounting placement of the rest. It is recommended that when at full draw, your arrow extends past your arrow rest at least one inch (for safety). If you are using a whisker biscuit this is easy to manage, especially when using field points or mechanical broadheads.
If you use a large fixed blade or single bevel style cut on contact broadheads, you may find you don’t have enough room for it to clear your rest. This is why drop-away rests are recommended when using these types of broadheads. You also need to make sure that the broadheads you plan on using have enough room between them and the riser of the bow when shooting. If not, you may need to lengthen your arrow by another inch or change the mounting of your rest to a different position.
*Note: Remember that if you change the weight of your broadhead that it can change the flight of your arrow and its spine deflection too. Always ensure the weight and length of your arrows are within range so you don’t have an arrow come apart while shooting. Make sure to understand the limitations of the arrows you purchase by monitoring the vendor’s spine charts and other resources.
Now you should have a better understanding of what your arrow length should be. I highly recommend learning the arrow buying process and knowing the spine deflection, the type of arrow, arrow weight, and broadhead before cutting to length. Luckily there are arrow vendors out there that can figure this out for you like Vector Custom Shop and Sirius Archery.
As always, I always recommend going to your local archery shop and talking to your local archery professional for help when looking for answers to questions like this. Every situation is different and they can focus on your unique situation.
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