What’s the Best Arrow set up for me
How to build a “perfect Arrow”
Best Arrow set up: It is very easy to go down a rabbit hole when it comes to building an arrow for your bow, I know I’ve been down a few of them myself… So Before you get to crazy there is no perfect.. in physics/mechanics you always have to give up something to gain something else so there is only best for what I need.
What I’ve learned in my 30 + years of archery is the most important thing next to consistency is your starting point. What do I mean by starting point ? Keep in mind. Your bow, your arrow and its components is a system in which everything is connected and not independent of each other. Meaning when you adjust one parameter or change one component it has an effect on a different part of the system. Example you want high FOC so you load up the front of an arrow now your spine gets weakened.. So it is important to enter the system at a level that will yield the best results and since you can enter it at any point like buying a broadhead first and building around that. You need to pick a starting point. For most of us we are not going to have multiple bows for different situations nor do we all have the means to retune our bow for different set ups.
Starting point: What I‘ve learned is that in order to enter the system at the right level you need to know what your end goal is. So my starting point is always my arrow because I can arguably tune my bow to any arrow, it’s the thing I can change the most about the system and it’s the thing that does the work in the end. So for me it makes the most sense to build the arrow then worry about my bow. In order to figure out how to build my arrow I need to start with what am I gonna be hunting, what will my hunting style be, and what types of shots can I expect? Then really have a serious come to Jesus with yourself about your abilities and start planning accordingly. So what do I need out of my arrow to achieve my goals? For me in a given year I typically hunt everything from coyotes to elk with my bow and will be shooting (because of my style and lack of stalking skills) anywhere from 20-80 yards. I need an arrow I can count on to be fast enough for long range work, have enough punch for heavy big game and still be stupid accurate… I also look at terrain, weather, and vegetation. I hunt in South Dakota each year and AZ monsoon season so wind is a huge factor, when I hunt coyotes I’m often shooting through brush, when I hunt elk I often need to snake an arrow trough low hanging branch etc. all these things you must consider. Make a list and think about what you need and expect out of your arrow. Now I’m sure this is gonna create even more questions than answers, as it should. It is designed to make you think about the mechanics of an arrow how changing components and messing with weight and spine etc. all have a cause and effect.
What makes an arrow work: Before you can really start making guesses as to how you can achieve an arrow to meet your goals you need to learn the basics at least of how to affect change in an arrow and what making a change on one part does to another. I’d have to write a book to teach you all this so go do some research on youtube read articles etc. to find out this info. You will want to understand Spine, FOC, Dynamic spine, arrow noise, and broadhead performance. Like I said earlier and I will repeat there is no perfect! You always have to give up something to gain something else so there is only best for what I need. To sum up what you will be looking at in your research and give you the important bullet points:
In no order of importance:
FOC: more weight up front typically translates to better penetration, more true of an arrow flight ( more consistent arch or trajectory but not necessarily actual flight of arrow). Drawbacks too much weight degrades spine and causes inaccuracy and shaft failure. Super heavy FOC can also cause instability at rear of arrow and need more feltch to control.
Spine: well let me say this to make it short and sweet in a compound bow where I don’t need to get around a shelf or riser you really can’t go too stiff but you can go too weak which will translate to poor groups, poor penetration and loss of energy.
Sound: there is fletching sound and bow sound. In my opinion through vane testing all the vanes I tested are audible within a range that is great enough for an animal to react to it. Every single vane out of the 12 I shot made enough noise that a humane had time to react from 20yards or more. This is one of those areas where there are diminishing returns so I choose my vanes based on arrow control, durability, adhesion, and wind performance. Bow sound, the rule of thumb the heavier your arrow the quitter the bow but slower the arrow giving more time for an animal to react. So if you have slow quiet bow with a loud slow arrow you could be dealing with animals ducking your arrows.
Total Weight (TW): The heavier the arrow the better penetration, it sheds speed at slower rate than a very light arrow. However, the heavier your arrow the more precise you need to be with range, the more focused you have to be about the flight path and obstacles in your way, and the more you have to consider the reaction of the game you are perusing
Broadhead performance: Let me start by saying your bow can be tuned to get any broadhead (well made with tight tolerances) to fly well.. Rules of thumb: Bigger broadhead more damage but more drag and more surface area to be affected in arrow flight, smaller broadhead less damage better chance of hitting your target how you intended. Sharpness, ability to penetrate, blade angle, blade bevel, material it’s made from, strength/durability, cost, tolerances, drag, and wound channel. So many things to consider it’s enough to make you crazy. You can look at my latest broadhead test for insight into a lot of this. So 30,000 ft view I really don’t care how tough the head is it just needs to be tough enough to do its job. It’s up to you if you like to re-sharpen and reuse. I would rather buy a $10 head that has everything I need and throw it away after I kill something with it then a buy a $40 head because I can shoot through an animal multiple times chances are I’m not shooting 4 animals with the same head. Broadhead characteristics in order of importance: Tight Tolerances, Drag, ability to penetrate, Sharpness, wound channel, toughness, and cost. Again I can write a book on what I have found but I just can’t put it all in this article. The important things are consistency, how accurate they are to my field point and can they get through what I’m shooting.
Building the arrow: So for me and my needs I am really looking for a well-balanced arrow not too heavy, not too light, stiff as I can get it, straight as I can get it, moderate FOC, super consistent with tight tolerances. You can come at this so many ways but I start with shooting the best arrow I can afford first then work out the FOC,TW and spine etc. For me it’s the goldtip pierce tours. I really like the .166 shafts for wind and penetration, the tours have super consistent spine, tough as nails, .001 straightness just the top of what a hunting arrow should be. So keeping with my having a starting point theory, once I decided what I’m hunting, how I’m hunting and what I need from my arrow. I have to decide which parameter is the most important starting point for me and build everything else up to this. My starting point is speed of the arrow but you can’t use the same speed for every shooter. This will be different for every person based on your ability, what you are shooting and your size etc. Because a hunter shooting a 26” draw and a 50# bow can’t have the same expectations as a one who is shooting a 30” at 70#. But for me at 29” 70# I would like to see my arrow travel at a speed no less than 275FPS and not faster than 295FPS, it gives me the forgiveness of a fast arrow, the pin gaps I need to see and aim properly shooting a 7pin and great stable arrow flight. Once I have determined what TW my arrow needs to be to be within those speeds using the arrow speed calculator. Now I need to look at spine. Using a chart to get me close, I will then go through my needs list to choose the fletching and configuration of helical number of vanes etc. Then I can begin playing with virtual situations first the arrow speed calculator to find aprox TW . Next I look at FOC I have found the best of all worlds for my set up is 14-17 %FOC. Using the FOC, TW and spine calculators on goldtips website then I can see roughly where I need to be. For example sake my arrow needs to be less than 490grn TW and more than 440. If I use a 300 spine at my cut length I can play with the calculator to give me a starting point in the middle of my parameters. With this I can begin My arrow building regime: pro-cut, sort for weight, spine check, first bend index, fletch, glue in inserts. Now I can start Playing with point weight to fine tune the arrow. I will use point weights starting 25grn less to 25grns more and whichever gives Me the best group at my middle yardage which is at 50yds that’s the weight I go with. By now I should have figured out which arrow, what spine I’m shooting, What FOC I want, and the TW of my arrow. Now its just a matter of tuning my bow to that arrow. Once that is done I go through the same metal process of what I need from my set up to choose the broadhead I will shoot or broadheads. I usually will have one expandable for deer size game and under and one fixed head for elk. I promise you if you tune your bow correctly they will all fly the same.
Hopefully this has given you some insight in how to choose the right arrow set up for hunting or at the very least question what’s important and what’s not. Good luck on the adventure on finding the best arrow set up for you… Here is the podcast I did to accompany this article