A lot of archery hunters don’t understand how critical it is to choose the right arrows. Archery hunters spend a lot of time finding the perfect bow, sights, rests, etc., but then they end up getting cheap arrows. Unfortunately, this results in a lot of errant arrow flight, problems with target penetration, bow damage, and even injuries. Finding the right arrow for you and your specific bow setup is critical to your accuracy and success when hunting. This is why it is essential to understand how to buy arrows for a compound bow.
It doesn’t matter if you are new to archery hunting or if you have been hunting for over ten years, arrow technology can be confusing and what the experts recommend always seems to be changing. I’m going to help alleviate some of that confusion, eliminate the errors I have made over the years, and help you understand how to get the right arrows for you and your bow setup. Let’s Get Started.
- Why is Selecting the Right Arrows Important?
- Things You Need to Know Before Buying
- The Components of a Hunting Arrow
- Understanding Arrow Spine
- Arrow Sizing Factors
- What is Your Bow’s IBO-rated Speed?
- What is Your Draw Length?
- What is Your Draw Weight?
- What Type of Arrows Do I Need for Hunting?
- What Should My Arrows Weigh?
- Arrow Diameter
- How to Buy Arrows for a Compound Bow
Why is Selecting the Right Arrows Important?
There are multiple reasons why selecting the right arrows for your compound bow is important. The first, and most crucial reason, is safety. Arrows should always be the right fit for you and your bow. This is where arrow selection starts. If you pick the wrong arrow for your setup, you risk severe injury if the arrow breaks or shatters when you are shooting. In addition, when you shoot an arrow that is too light for your bow setup, you can possibly damage or completely break your bow.
Looking for a New Bow? Learn How to Buy the Right Compound Bow here now!
When you buy a compound bow, it has to fit you, your draw length, and you. Then you set it at your preferred draw weight. These details impact the selection of your arrows as well (more on this below). A finely tuned arrow that is optimized for your bow will be highly accurate and fly in a consistent manner every time you shoot. An arrow that is not a match for your bow can be very hard to tune and might not fly straight no matter what you do. A lot of people get extremely frustrated with this process and tend to blame their bow, versus the real culprit, the arrow.
For every type of game you hunt, from deer and turkey to bigger game like elk and moose; the arrows you select will determine your success or failure. The weight, their speed, overall force, and momentum all play a part in how well they penetrate and allow you to execute a lethal shot on your target. I used to focus so much on my bow and all its different components; but now I have learned that the most important part of the equation, outside of the bow itself, is the arrow and how it is built to match me and my personal setup.
Things You Need to Know Before Buying
The single easiest way to make sure you get the right arrows for your compound bow is to go to an Archery Shop or the archery department at places like Cabelas, Bass Pro Shops, etc. Talk to the archery specialists at these locations and they will help you get set up with the right arrows for you and your bow. Plus, they will be able to cut them to the perfect length and then help you paper-tune them before you walk out the door. Just make sure you take your bow with you when you go!
You can get your arrows anywhere. The last ones I purchased, I bought online. I had six (6) custom-built and shipped to my house. I had to do some minor tuning to two of them, but the rest flew perfectly for me. You can find great deals online where they do everything for you. That being said, there are important things you need to know so you can choose the right arrows for the type of hunting you are going to do and help you make an informed decision no matter where you decide to get your arrows. It is important to understand the components of an arrow, what the arrow’s spine is, what your bow’s IBO-rated speed is, your draw length, and your draw weight. All of these factors play a role in arrow selection and will help you make a better choice.
The Components of a Hunting Arrow
An arrow is constructed of multiple components that all have an impact on how it shoots and its flight to the target. All of these items determine the weight and can contribute to the arrow’s forward of center percentage (more on this below). Understanding these components and how they enhance performance before you make any decisions is crucial to your success.
The following are the basic components of an arrow:
- The Main Arrow Shaft
- The Nock
- The Fletchings
- A Tip Insert (to allow you to screw in arrow tips and broadheads)
- Practice Field Tips and Hunting Broadheads
*Arrow AMO Length is measured from the “throat of the nock” to the end of the arrow where it is cut. This length does not include the insert or the tip/broadhead.
Understand that these components all have things that can be added to or modified based on their individual construction. Some shafts come with a larger or smaller diameter, thick or thin walls, different fletching sizes and configurations, and different tip inserts, outserts, and halfserts. Arrow components can be heavily modified to meet each user’s individual needs.
Understanding Arrow Spine
It is critical to know how to read and understand a “spine chart.” The spine chart will show you the best arrow spine from that manufacturer for your particular setup. Arrow spine is normally measured in stiffness levels and/or if it has a weak spine and it determines how much an arrow flexes when weight is applied to it. If you have a high draw weight and shoot a fast IBO-rated bow, you will need a stiffer spine versus someone who is shooting a lower one from a lower-rated bow.
This is where the safety factors come in that we talked about above. On the other hand, if you try to shoot a stiff spined arrow from low poundage, or moderate speed bow, it will not fly well at all. The math required to calculate arrow spine is incredible, but largely not needed by the everyday bow hunter. What you do need to understand is what is required for your specific bow setup.
Here is an example of Easton Arrow’s hunting arrow spine chart:
The image above shows the different model numbers associated with Easton’s different brands. Unfortunately, a lot of people look at these numbers and think the number represents the weight of the arrow. These numbers represent the spine deflection of their various models. This is measured as the static spine (and not dynamic spine) to keep calculations simple and allow everyday hunters to find arrows easily. The chart here is based on the assumption that the tip being used is a 100-grain broadhead. If you are using a different size broadhead, it will change your weight, thus changing the spine requirements.
Easton’s model numbers match the actual spine deflection for their arrows. An arrow with a .400 spine deflection is labeled as a 400 model. Some manufacturers will have their’s labeled as a 4000. A .350 spine deflection could be labeled as a 3500. Some manufacturers do it differently. This is why you need to check the charts at each vendor’s website before assuming you know what model you need from them.
Always Check the Vendor’s Spine Charts!
*Never trust that your arrow’s spine number will be the same from brand to brand. Always check the company’s spine chart and or recommendations before buying.
Arrow Sizing Factors
You will need to know your compound bow’s specific:
- IBO-rated speed
- Current draw length (or proposed arrow length)
- Current draw weight
The three factors listed above are used to determine the arrow spine required for your specific bow setup. The speed and force (poundage) of your bow are critical to arrow selection This includes determining how long it needs to be. The length required for your specific bow setup will determine a lot about its flight and might even make you decide on a different model based on its overall weight (but more on that below). Different lengths of the same arrow make might require a different model number (spine). This, coupled with different draw weights can change them as well. If you look at the image from Easton above, you can see how the different lengths and weights can change the model of a specific arrow you want to buy.
What is Your Bow’s IBO-rated Speed?
The IBO-rated speed of your bow is not the speed your bow shoots after you have set the draw length and draw weight. The IBO-rated speed is the rating provided by the bow’s manufacturer. For example, the 2022 Bear Alaskan bow has an IBO-rated speed of 335 feet per second (FPS). Find what your bow’s IBO-rated speed is and write it down. You will need this to understand the overall force applied to your arrows when shot in conjunction with your current setup.
What is Your Draw Length?
Your draw length is required for two reasons. First, it helps determine how long your arrows need to be. Second, it, along with your bow’s speed and draw weight will determine the overall speed of your arrow when it is shot (see our arrow speed calculator here). All of these factor into the specific spine required for your bow setup. If you don’t know what your draw length is, use our draw length calculator here. This will now help you calculate what your arrow length needs to be. Once you know your draw length, write it down.
What size should my arrows be?
Your arrow needs to be at least as long as your draw length. The type of arrow rest you use plays a big part in this. As a best practice, they should extend at least one inch (1″) and up to two inches (2″) past your rest when your bow is at full draw. This allows you to use a lot of different broadhead variations without interfering with your rest or hand when holding the bow. That being said, some people only add a 1/4″ to 1/2″ to their arrow length on top of this and there is nothing wrong with that. It is better to have a slightly longer one than one that is too short.
You will need to know this because some brands will ask you for your required arrow length and some will ask you what your draw length is. Knowing your draw length and arrow length will help you use different brands’ spine charts or other calculating methods and help you make a quick decision when choosing.
I am using a Whisker Biscuit rest right now and my draw length is 27 inches. My arrow length is also 27 inches long and it extends 1″ past my rest when at full draw. This is why it is important to have your bow completely set up before choosing your arrows.
What should I do if I don’t know my draw length?
First, if you don’t know your draw length, use our draw length calculator here.
If you have a new uncut arrow with a nock, nock the arrow and draw the bow to full draw. While at full draw, have a friend mark the arrow at a point approximately 1-inch past your arrow rest. Then, measure the arrow from the throat of the nock (as shown above) to the mark on the arrow. This is now your arrow length.
If you do not have a new arrow to use for measuring, draw your bow and come to full draw. Then have a friend measure from the tip of your bowstring (not the nock loop) to approximately 1-inch past your rest. This will give you an approximate arrow length. This should not be too different from your draw length, but can be up to an inch shorter depending on the type of rest you use.
Once you know what your arrow length should be, write it down.
What is Your Draw Weight?
This is one of the most important questions you will need to be able to answer. You will need to know this as it determines the force (poundage) that will be applied to your arrows when they are shot. It also helps determine your arrow’s speed, kinetic energy, and momentum (penetration) capabilities. This is important to know when determining the arrow spine you will require. Remember, as discussed above, the higher the poundage, the stiffer the arrow needs to be.
If you don’t know your bow’s draw weight, it is recommended that you take it to your local archery shop and have them test it there. If that is not an option, you can get a cheap scale on Amazon and use it as a test once or twice option. Most of these cheap scales do not hold up to repeated use. If you want a more reliable way to measure it, you can use the highly-rated scale here.
Once you know your draw weight, write it down.
What Type of Arrows Do I Need for Hunting?
There are multiple types of arrows on the market. You can find everything from wood, aluminum, carbon, and more. For bowhunting, it is recommended to start with a carbon arrow. The reason is that carbon is light, highly efficient, and extremely modifiable. Modifiable by allowing you to manipulate its weight to fit the type of game you are after. Carbon arrows are the most popular type of hunting arrow there is. This is a pretty simple choice when choosing the type of arrows you want to hunt with. Choose Carbon Arrows.
What Should My Arrows Weigh?
Weight is one of the most debated facets of choosing arrows you will find. The lighter it is, the flatter and straighter it will fly. A lighter one will fly faster than a heavy one. Speed aids in providing the force required to take down your target. Arrow speed is only one part of hunting success though. On the flip side, a heavy arrow provides the momentum and the force required for maximum penetration and the ability to break a bone when required. The key is finding a happy medium between speed, kinetic energy, and momentum. An arrow that is too light could fail to penetrate your target, but an arrow that is too heavy, might not have the speed required to fly flat and straight to the intended target at longer distances.
Arrow weight is measured in grains per inch. The IBO industry standard recommends that you should shoot an arrow that weighs at least 5 grains per inch for hunting. Most arrows are much heavier than this, but weight can vary based on the arrow spine we discussed above and the arrow’s specific construction. A light set up for hunting and maximizing speed might be around 350 grains. A mid-level hunting setup is anywhere between 400 and 500 grains. A heavy arrow is anything above 500, but some large game areas like South Africa only allow setups over 600 grains to be used for the type of game animals hunted there. Understand that this weight includes all of the components we discussed above.
When you are initially choosing your arrows, the weight of the arrow shaft itself will normally be dictated by the specific model you choose. That being said, it can be dictated by the spine requirements and result in a higher grain per inch weight for shorter arrows and a lower grain per inch weight for longer lengths. This will be dictated by the brand and model you choose.
Weight is not just dictated by the arrow shaft. It is also dictated by the nock, fletchings, tip inserts, outserts and collars, and halfouts that can be added to the arrow. To see how this is all put together, try our arrow weight calculator here.
Tip Weight and FOC
One of the components of your setup that you will be asked about is your arrow’s field tip or broadhead weight. The standard practice tip or hunting broadhead weight is 100 grains. When you are starting out, it might be best to stick to this standard. The tip weight factors into the total weight of your arrow and can affect your Forward of Center (FOC) percentage. Some hunters discover that their arrows tune and fly better with a higher FOC and look at tip weights from 125 to 200 grains. Some bowhunters find that it is easier to use a 100-grain tip and look at heavier inserts and outserts to screw their tips (broadheads) into to achieve their optimal FOC and overall weight. If you have questions about FOC and what it means for archery hunting, check out our FOC Calculator here.
There are a lot of different thickness sizes of arrows out there, but narrow arrow sizes like 4mm, 5mm, and 6 mm are becoming more and more popular. I personally use a thick-walled 5mm arrow with a narrow insert channel of just .165″. This narrow insert size allows for a heavier arrow, with a small diameter. This small diameter allows for increased penetration capability and allows me to increase my FOC.
How to Buy Arrows for a Compound Bow
Now that you know what you need to know, you can go to virtually any arrow manufacturer’s website or your local archery shop and get ones that fit you, your bow, and your specific setup. All you need to do is make sure you have written down your compound bow’s IBO-rated speed, draw length, estimated length, draw weight, and tip weight. With this information, you can look at different brands, models, and configurations and you will be able to ensure you get the proper arrow, with the proper arrow spine for you.
Example Purchase Situation
My most recent purchase was for the Easton Axis 5mm arrows. These are highly rated hunting arrows and after a ton of research, I decided to look at them for my bow.
My Compound Bow Setup:
- 2022 Bear Alaskan
- IBO-rated speed – 335 FPS
- Draw Length – 27 inches
- Estimated Arrow Length – 27 inches (using Whisker Biscuit rest)
- Draw Weight – 62 lbs.
- Tip/Broadhead Weight – 125 grains
Using the Easton Spine Chart, I was able to determine that I needed a 400-size (.400″ spine) Easton Axis 5mm. I then double-checked and used the Easton Arrow Size Selector tool. This allowed me to really fine-tune my selection entering the IBO speed range of my bow, the fact that I use a mechanical release aid (as most compound bow hunters do), and added that I would be using a 125-grain tip. The result was the same and the tool said my spine range was between 350 and 400. Remember, Easton correlates spine to their model numbers, not all brands do this.
Recommended Arrow Brands
There are a lot of great manufacturers and dealers and tons of arrows to choose from for bow hunting. Here are a few brands and vendors I recommend starting your arrow journey with. You will see a lot of different arrows and different price ranges. But, more importantly, you will find ones that fit your bow and you safely.
Here are a few recommendations:
- Easton Hunting Arrows
- Black Eagle Arrows
- Gold Tip
- Sirius Arrows
- Vector Custom Shop Arrows (I just purchased 598-grain HMRs from Vector with 18.9% FOC. They are incredible and fly great and hit extremely hard (Updated June 2022)). I am still using the same bow listed above, but increased my draw weight to 65 pounds and am shooting 125-grain Tooth of the Arrow broadheads.
*Note: It is recommended that you start with a pack of six (6). Make sure you test them before you get more!
Learning how to choose arrows for a compound bow can be an art and getting started can be tough. That’s why I recommend starting simple with your local archery shop or a store like Cabelas, Bass Pro Shops, etc. The experts at these places can put you in the best arrows for you and your specific budget. Your compound bow is an important part of the hunting equation, but your arrow is what gets it done. Don’t take shortcuts and you will be more likely to see a lot more success and a lot fewer misses or inadequate hits on your targets. With the information you gathered above, you now are armed with the tools you need to not only find arrows that fit you but ones that will help you find success in the field.