CHAPTER 1: BASICS & MEASUREMENTS
PROPER ARROWS ARE ESSENTIAL
If you're one of the many bowhunters who select arrows each season by just grabbing a handful from the miscellaneous arrow bucket at the local super-mart, you may be surprised to learn that you've been cheating yourself. Shooting the proper arrows will greatly improve your accuracy and success in the field - and for less money than you might think. If you want reliable and accurate performance from your compound bow, your arrow must be specifically matched to YOUR bow setup. There is no such thing as a "one size fits all" arrow. An improperly sized and/or poorly constructed arrow will not only fly erratically, profoundly degrading your accuracy, but it may present a safety hazard for you and your expensive compound bow. If you are serious about bowhunting, you owe it to yourself (and the game you pursue) to shoot the right ammunition.
Modern archery is a technical sport. So there are a number of technical considerations to juggle when selecting arrows: proper spine, FOC balance, weight, straightness, fletching material, fletching angle, arrow length, etc. And if you're feeling a bit lost, don't worry. This isn't exactly rocket-science - our selection guide will provide you with all the information you'll need to choose the right arrows for your bow. These next sections will take you step-by-step through the process of selecting and ordering custom carbon arrows for YOUR bow system. We hope you find this help section useful.
PARTS OF AN ARROW
Let start with the basics. The parts of a modern hunting arrow are pretty straight forward, but these parts will be referred to throughout this help guide. So before we really get going here, let's take a moment to bone-up on our arrow jargon.
The foundation of every arrow is the SHAFT, a long hollow tube usually made of aluminum or carbon/graphite composite materials. The rear of the arrow is fitted with a small piece of molded plastic called a NOCK, which allows the arrow to physically attach to the bow's string. At the front of the arrow is a small aluminum (sometimes plastic) sleeve called an INSERT. The insert gets glued into the end of the shaft and provides a threaded hole in which to screw in the arrow's TIP. A tip doesn't necessarily have to be a practice point (as pictured here). A standard insert allows you to screw-in and use of a variety of tips in the same arrow (broadheads, judo-points, blunt-tips, field points, fishing tips, etc.). The last component is the arrow's FLETCHING. The arrow's fletching is usually done with colorful parabolic shaped pieces of soft plastic (vanes) or feathers. In most cases, the three fletches are glued onto the shaft in an equally spaced circular pattern, with two fletches one color (the hen-fletches) and the the third fletch a different color (the cock-fletch).
STANDARDS OF MEASUREMENT
The standard AMO Method of measuring an arrow is to find the distance between the bottom of the groove of the nock (where the string rests in the nock) to the end of the arrow, not including the tip. We measure and trim all arrows to length using this standard AMO (now the ATA) method. Be advised that some archery shops, particularly the "basement bandit" type stores may be unaware of industry AMO standards. So don't trust anyone else's declared measurement of your arrows. If you are buying replacements for your existing arrows, be sure to MEASURE FOR YOURSELF USING AMO STANDARDS before ordering custom carbon arrows. Once an arrow is cut, the process can't be undone. So as in carpentry, the measure twice and cut once philosophy must be observed.
If you already have existing arrows which fit your bow properly, simply measure one by this method and order the same size. If you are unsure about what arrow length is appropriate for your bow setup, the next section may help. If you are already sure about your arrow length, skip the remainder of this chapter and Proceed to Chapter 2. If you are setting up a new rig or you're just getting started in the sport, please read on.
MEASURING THE ADJUSTED DRAW LENGTH OF A BOW
The proper length for your arrow will depend upon several factors: the draw length of the bow, the type of bow you have, and the type & position of your arrow rest.
Before we dive into this issue, we should briefly discuss how the draw length of a bow is measured. Officially - according to the standard AMO method - a bow's draw length setting can be found by measuring the distance between the groove of the nock - to a position 1 3/4" forward from the pivot point of the grip - when the bow is at full draw. Confused? Not to worry. There's a simplified method too.
Conveniently enough, for most bows, 1 3/4" forward from the pivot point of the grip puts you roughly at the outer edge of the bow's riser. So without splitting too many hairs, we can say that a bow's draw length is approximately from the nock point to the front of the riser - when the bow is drawn back. So if you drew back a 29" arrow, and the insert of the arrow lined-up with the front edge of the bow's riser, the bow is set for approximately 29" draw length. Whew! Glad that's covered!
If you're truly an archery junkie, you may have also heard about the concept of True Draw Length, which is an older and much less popular method of measurement. Officially, True Draw Length is the distance at full draw from the nocking point to the low (pivot) point of the grip. So a True Draw Length measurement will be 1.75" short of an AMO draw length measurement. There isn't much talk about True Draw Length these days, and it's fine point of archery jargon that really isn't worth dissecting. But if the question ever comes up on Jeopardy, you'll know.
Also, we recommend you not automatically trust the factory sticker on your bow that indicates draw length. Measure for yourself. In many cases, the manufacturer's sticker and the ACTUAL draw length of the bow can be quite different - sometimes dramatically. And since changing your draw length may necessitate changing arrows too - we can avoid some trouble here by thinking ahead. If your bow does not already fit you comfortably, you should have the draw length adjusted before ordering your custom arrows. Arrows which may be perfect for a bow at 29" draw length, may be totally inappropriate for the same bow set at 27" draw length (much more on this topic later).
MEASURING THE DRAW LENGTH REQUIREMENT OF THE SHOOTER
Obviously, the draw length setting of the bow and the required draw length of the shooter should match. If they don't, we have some work to do first before thinking about what arrows to select.
Unlike a traditional recurve bow that can be drawn back to virtually any length, a compound bow will draw back only a specific distance before it "stops." Compound bows are designed to be shot from the full-draw position. If a compound bow is set for a 29" draw length, it should always be shot from the full 29" draw position. A bow that's set for 29" draw cannot drawn back to 30" or 31", without modifying the setup on the bow (or forcibly overdrawing the bow - a dangerous practice). Similarly, a compound bow should not be shot from a position less than full draw either. Where the bow stops, you stop. So if you're a 29" draw, then your bow should be a 29" draw. Easy enough!
To measure your draw length, determine the length of your arm-span in inches. Stand with your arms out and palms facing forward. Don't stretch when measuring. Just stand naturally. Have someone else help you, and measure from the tip of one middle finger to the other. Then simply divide that number by 2.5. The quotient is your approximate draw length (in inches) for your body size.
The majority of compound bow owners set their bows for too much draw length, which results in poor shooting form - inaccuracy - and painful string slap on the forearm. You will better enjoy - and be more successful with your compound bow when it is fitted properly to your body. And if in doubt, choose a little LESS draw length rather than a little more.
If you've heard that longer draw length bows shoot faster, you heard right. But don't even think of shooting an excessively long draw length just for the sake of generating more speed. That's a very poor trade-off which you will regret. Shooting your bow at an overly long draw length won't make you more macho. It will just make you miss the target. So don't do it. Shoot the correct draw length.
If you are a person of average proportions, your arm-span will be roughly equal to your height (in inches). So there is often a direct correlation between a person's height and their draw length as well. Once you have computed your draw length using the method above, you can double-check yourself by using the scale below - to see if your number is within the expected range.
MORE DRAW LENGTH DISCUSSION
How close do you need to get? Within an inch? Half-inch? A quarter-inch? This issue could be debated, as there probably isn't a right and wrong answer to this question. For most shooters, a ±½" change in draw length is hardly noticed. To be realistic, half-inch sizes are probably precise enough (27½", 28", 28½, 29", 29½", etc.), particularly for the purposes of hunting and recreational archery. Besides, as your bow's string ages and stretches over time (as ALL strings do), your draw length will slightly increase - a little fraction at a time. So constantly maintaining a razor-specific 28 13/16" draw length may be a frustrating endeavor for you and the pro-shop.
If you're new to the sport, and unsure what draw length is appropriate for you, we strongly recommend you just play the averages and use the chart above. But admittedly, there is no perfect formula to solve this problem. Every shooter is different and the opinions on the methodology for measuring and checking draw length varies considerably throughout the industry: the yardstick against the breastbone, the fist against the wall, tip of the finger to the top of the shoulder, the arm-span method, etc. Without the benefit of an actual bow to draw back and actually check - each of these methods only provides us with an estimate.
You'll likely find that even the "pros" don't necessarily agree. If you go into several different archery shops to be measured for draw length, you're bound to get a variety of "expert" opinions. So before you get frustrated, remember that determining an individual's draw length isn't exactly a measurement of scientific certainty. So if you're just getting started in the sport, there's no need to get too carried away computing the square-root of your hypotenuse. Instead, we recommend you just play the averages and choose an initial draw length that's similar to others of your same size and stature (reference the chart above). There will always be time to "tweak" your draw length a little as you gain experience and learn to analyze your shooting form more closely. YOU will ultimately be the final judge on your own perfect personal draw length. If you're still unsure, read our Additional Discussion on Draw Length.
CHAPTER 1 SUMMARY
Before moving on, you should be clear on the following:
- What are the parts of an arrow?
- What is the proper method for measuring the length of an arrow?
- If you already have a properly adjusted bow with matching arrows, how long are those arrows?
- How do I determine the actual current AMO draw length setting of my bow? For new setups
- What draw length setting is most appropriate for me and my particular size? For new setups
- Why must the draw length of the shooter and the draw length of the bow match?