Archery Arrows 101

Archery Arrows 101

You might assume that archery arrows will come standard, but they really don’t!

There are so many different types of arrows to consider that it can all feel a bit overwhelming, especially to the beginner who was hoping to use the most basic arrow and be done with it.

What’s the simplest type of arrow?

Wood arrows have been around for centuries, and they can be considered the simplest arrows to use in archery. However, they’re not always recommended.

To understand why let’s look at the different types of arrows that can be used in archery.

Time to clear up the confusion surrounding archery arrows, once and for all!

The Basic Parts Of An Arrow

Illustration of Arrow Parts

Before you can choose the right arrow for your archery needs, you first need to know everything you can about arrows.

What are their parts?

If you thought an archery arrow was just a long strand with a tip at the end, you were mistaken!

An arrow actually contains four main parts. These are its:

  • Point – this is the head of the arrow.
  • Shaft – this is the body or length of the arrow.
  • Fletchings – these are the vanes on the back of the arrow that make it fly through the air better, and they can be made out of feathers or plastic.
  • Nock – this is a small notch in the arrow that will enable it to fit properly on your bow’s string.

Let’s look at the parts of an arrow – specifically, the point, shaft, and fletchings – in more detail as that will help you buy the right ones.


Point Of The Arrow

There are many different types of points for arrows. The main ones are bullets, field, blunt, and broadhead.

Let’s look at them in more detail to find out when they’re best to use.

  • Bullets – these points have a tip that’s shaped like the rounded curve of a bullet, hence their name. They’re not as destructive as field points and can be used in both hunting and target practice.
  • Field – these don’t penetrate the target as much as bullet points, so they’re probably best to use if you’ve made your own target for archery and don’t want to destroy it within a day!
  • Blunts – these arrow points are used to kill the small game with blunt force, hence their name.
  • Broadheads – these tips are really sharp, so they’re only suitable for hunting. They’re so dangerous that some states have specific rules for hunters using them, so always make sure to check that out before you go hunting in the woods with broadhead arrows.

Now that we’ve looked at arrow points in greater detail, let’s take a closer look at the different types of arrow shafts. These will help you understand arrows better. 

Arrow Shafts

Carbon with alloy core

These are expensive, carbon-coated arrow shafts. The combination of these materials gives the arrows greater rigidity.

These arrows are used by Olympians and other professional archers.

However, you can also find regular carbon arrows that anyone can use on the market, but they do tend to splinter when they break, which makes them a bit more dangerous.


These arrows are a good bet if you want to go hunting.

This is because they’re thinner than other types of bows, which enables them to penetrate the hide of animals much better.

These arrows are rigid, which makes them suitable for heavier bows, such as heavy compound bows that are a popular choice for hunters.


Arrow Shaft

These are cheaper than carbon arrows and don’t splinter when they break.

What’s especially great about them for beginners is that they can be bent easily and are compatible with lighter bows.

Aluminum arrows are a popular choice for archers because of how you can find them in a variety of different sizes.


Although wood is the classic material used in the production of arrows throughout history, they aren’t often recommended for use nowadays because of how easily they break.

While they do have their place, but you should avoid them in certain situations.

For example, since no two wood arrows are the same, they’re not suitable for competitive archery which usually sets out rules for more modern arrows to be used.

Fiberglass arrows

These are the heaviest arrows out of all, which has its pros and cons.

While this makes them durable, they’re not as accurate as compared to other types of arrows, and they can be a bit slower.

However, they make a good choice for bowfishing.

Important Things To Know When Buying Arrows: What Are Those Confusing Digits On Them?!

Different Arrows

Once you’ve taken a look at the different types of archery arrows, it’s important to explain what those digits are on arrows when you purchase them.

Ever seen them?

They’re usually four numbers in a row that are marked on the arrow, but they’re not a code. They actually point to what type of bow the arrows are suitable for use with.

Clever, right?

The important thing to bear in mind, however, is that different types of arrows will have different measurements, and that’s where they can be quite complicated. Let’s clear it up.

  • On wood arrows, you’ll find a string of four digits, such as “4050” and these refer to the weight of the bow that is compatible with the arrow. So, “4050” means you can use the arrow on a bow that weighs between 40 and 50 pounds.
  • On aluminum arrows, the digits mean something completely different! They tell you information about the diameter and thickness of the arrow. So, you’ll likely find four digits on these arrows. The first two digits tell you what the arrow’s diameter is, and the second two numbers tell you the arrow’s wall thickness. To further complicate things, the diameter (first two numbers) is measured in 64ths of an inch, while the thickness (the third and fourth number) is measured in thousands of an inch, as explained by Complete Guide To Archery.
  • On carbon arrows, the arrows mean something different again! On these, you’ll find three digits. These let you know how much an arrow with a 28-inch spine would bend when it has two pounds of force on its middle area, as Complete Guide To Archery explains. That means that if the arrow has the number “500” listed on it, it means that it would bend 0.500 inches. Which bow to choose? A good tip listed on the site is that the lower this number, the more the arrow will be suitable on a bow that has a heavier draw weight.

Other Things To Consider When Purchasing Archery Arrows

Compound Bow Arrows

Now that you know a bit more about how to read arrow measurements, you should consider the following factors to ensure that you choose the right arrows.

Find The Right Arrow Length You Need

To find out what arrow length will be right for you, you first have to find out your draw length.

With your arms straight out in front of you, get someone to measure from the tip of your longest finger to your shoulder, and divide this number by 2.5.

The number you get is a draw length that you’ll need to add two inches to in order to get the arrow length you need.

So, if you measure 60 inches, you’ll get 24 inches when you divide 60 by 2.5.

That draw length will have two inches added to it to give you a total of 26. That’s your arrow length!

What About The Arrow Weight?

The arrow’s weight is another important factor to calculate as you don’t want anything that’s too light.

Although a light arrow will have greater speeds, if it’s too light it can break and splinter.

Not only is this frustrating, especially if you’ve spent a lot of money on the arrows, but it can be dangerous to your safety and the safety of those around you.

Your minimum arrow weight is important to calculate and you can do so easily. Take your draw weight and multiply it by five.

So, if your bow has a 60-pound draw weight, this means you’ll need an arrow that weighs a minimum of 300 grains – yes, grains. Arrows are measured in grains.

Take A Look At The Fletching

Feathers on Arrow

Should you choose arrows with feather or plastic vanes?

Feathers are popular because they’re stable and light, but plastic will obviously be waterproof and more durable. Here are more things to consider:

Plastic vanes can sometimes be too rigid, which can make arrow flight inconsistent.

However, plastic is more water-resistant, which is a bonus if you’re hunting with them.

Feathers tend to be longer than plastic vanes, and this can make them more susceptible to strong winds.

However, feathers give the arrow greater spin and they’re also lighter than plastic.

There’s no clear winner here!

The best thing to do is to try your hand at using either plastic or feathers to see which one gives you the most comfortable and accurate shot.

Think About The Arrow Spine

The spine of the arrow gets talked about in archery circles a lot and it basically relates to how stiff your arrow is.

Now, this is important when choosing the right arrow for your needs because if you have a bow with heavy draw weight, you’ll need a stiffer arrow.

If this isn’t the case, you risk your arrow bending and not being able to get a flight off the string.

Consider The Cost

Money In Wallet

You don’t want to spend a lot of money on your arrows, especially if they’re not the right ones for you.

Let’s take a look at the average price of different types of arrows that you can purchase on Amazon.

Aluminum arrows cost approximately $30 for a pack of six. As for carbon arrows, you can also find a pack of six arrows for around the same price.

Fiberglass arrows tend to be quite a bit cheaper. You can find a 12-pack for around $26 to $35.

Wood arrows are also a bit more budget-friendly, with similar prices for a 12-pack being available.

Price is something to bear in mind, especially if you’re a beginner. You shouldn’t spend too much money on arrows right away.

You might also need to engage in some trial and error to see which arrows feel the best to use, as sometimes what’s considered the “right” arrow might not feel comfortable for you.

Is Your Arrow Too Long?

You might think that a longer arrow is better, but this isn’t the case. As mentioned earlier, you need to take your draw length into consideration.

Although a longer arrow has some benefits, such as by having increased flexibility when shot, if it’s too long this will backfire.

The arrow’s length could result in it moving around in flight and not penetrating the target properly.

Bear in mind that there are some benefits to having a shorter arrow. It will be lighter and can be more rigid during flight, which allows it to fly longer distances.

Since a shorter arrow has a shorter shaft, this means that it will move less during flight and that can give it greater speed.

That said, avoid choosing an arrow that’s too short for you. It can end up getting stuck behind the arrow rest when the bow is drawn.

If you shoot the arrow with this happening, it could snap and cause you harm.

The safest thing to do is stick to your draw length when choosing a suitable arrow length.

Choosing The Right Arrows For Your Specific Bow Type

Man Holding The Bow

It’s important to consider the type of bow you’re using, whether that’s recurved or compound, for instance.

This will enable you to then choose the right arrows that are compatible with these types of bows.

Let’s take a look at the best types of arrows to use with different bows.

The Best Arrows For A Recurve Bow

This type of bow will work well with carbon arrows, and they can be used for a variety of different activities, such as hunting or target practice.

The reason why carbon arrows are a good choice is that they are both durable and accurate.

The Best Arrow For Compound Bows

Again, carbon arrows come out on top for compound bows! That said, aluminum arrows can also be a good choice, especially when used for bow hunting.

The Best Arrows To Use With A Longbow

Shooting With Longbow

Wood arrows tend to be most suitable for longbows.

In fact, these arrows aren’t meant to be used on other bows, largely because those bows can be too powerful for them, and as mentioned earlier they tend to break easily.

When purchasing wood arrows, always make sure they’re made of quality materials.

Archery Library explains that the best woods for arrows that are going to be used in hunting and/or target practice is Port Orford Cedar and Norway Pine.

That’s something to bear in mind if you’ve got your heart set on using wood arrows.

Related Questions

Are grains the same as grams?

Grains (gr) are a totally different measurement of grams (g).

The grain is a British system unit that’s based on the weight of a grain of barley, as Hunter’s Friend reports.

Will the bow manufacturer be able to tell me what arrows I should use?

This is likely, so it’s always worth checking the bow itself for information about arrows as well as the instruction manual that came with the bow.

This is a good start to finding the right arrows for your bow if you’re really confused about which ones you should use.


When you purchase a bow, you might be excited to use it only to realize you need arrows and you don’t have the foggiest clue of what arrows to buy.

With this guide, you’ll have a much better idea of what you should purchase, based on your specific arrow as well as what you intend to use the arrow to do.

The best thing to do as a beginner is to start with cheaper arrows and then upgrade if you need to, depending on what feels right for you.

Then, also pay attention to important arrow features, such as its length, point, weight, and cost.

These, as well as other, important features, are discussed in this article, giving you a much more comprehensive guide to arrows.

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