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Archery Equipment Buying Guide

Arrows

As a new archer, every member of your club will want to give you advice on buying arrows.This document is an attempt to pick out the scientific bits of knowledge into a single guide, and to debunk some of the myths and magic that still pervades the sport.
If you haven't already bought your own bow, or have only recently done so, have a look at our Archery Equipment Buying Guide too.
Remember that a cheap bow with the correct set of arrows will shoot higher scores than the mostexpensive bow paired with a badly-matched set of arrows, so don't rush in to a premature purchase.

If possible, it is a good idea to delay buying your first set of arrows until after you have had a little time to get used to your new bow, and have had a chance to measure both your actual draw weight, and your actual draw length.Bear in mind that very little can be done to tune a set of arrows once they have been purchased…

Basics

The first question any archer needs to decide is which type of arrow is needed, which is partly dependant on the category of bow they wish to shoot, and where:


For outdoor use, particularly at long range, Aluminium shafts covered with a layer of carbon-fibre are generally favoured due to their lighter weight and smaller cross-section than All-Aluminium shafts. (Light weight equals longer range, and a narrower tube means less effect from cross-winds.)
Very experienced archers sometimes choose to pick All-Carbon arrows. They will be slightly lighter than composite shafts (and much lighter than All-Aluminium) but at a much greater cost. All-Carbon arrows, by their nature, are very hard to find with a metal detector, and are therefore heavily discouraged at many venues, so check with your own club before you splash out.
Both composite and All-Carbon arrows are more fragile than All-Aluminium, but when shooting outdoors it is much rarer to have two arrows collide than it is indoors. Shooting a carbon-based arrow that has been damaged can lead to it 'exploding' when it hits the boss, or more usually, (and more frighteningly) before it has cleared the arrow rest. In contrast, an All-Aluminium arrow can survive a dent or a bend quite safely, though will never fly as well as a pristine arrow. Thick arrows are generally quite robust, but thinner All-Aluminium arrows can be bent relatively easily just by pulling them out of the boss carelessly, but can then usually be straightened succesfully. A carbon or carbon-composite arrow cannot be straightened.

Barrelling

Some of the most expensive types of arrow have a feature known as 'Barrelling' which means that they arefatter/thicker in the middle of the shaft than at the ends, in contrast to most types of arrow, which have parallel sides.The point of this feature is that the largest amount of flex always occurs in the middle of an arrow, so making it thicker there makes the arrow appear stiffer overall, without weight all along the shaft.
There are two main downsides: quality control needs to be much higher than for a 'parallel' shaft; and management of arrow length is more complex - if you need to shorten a shaft, then you need to cut the same amount off each end, so that the centre remains in the centre.A small difference in the length of cut at either end can dramatically affect the way one arrow flies compared to its siblings.

Points

There are numerous different styles of arrow-point to choose from.
Wooden arrows require a point that encloses the shaft, either as a plain, glue-on piece, or with a coarse thread that screws directly onto the shaft.
All other arrows use points that fit inside the shaft, albeit with a bit of a flange to increase the diameter to match the shaft. (For carbon or carbon/alloy shafts, it is important that the point itself is a little larger than the arrow shaft, to prevent damage.)
Most archers use "glue in" points, since they are cheaper, but "screw in" ones allow you to experiment with point weight much more easily and quickly than glue-in. (Though it doesn't take long to heat up a set of points in a pan of boiling water, and pull them with a good pair of pliers, or certain types of wire-stripper.)
Screw-in points generally have a very long 'permanent' section (which gets glued-in in exactly the same manner as 'normal' points) which can affect the spine of arrows, particularly if they are very short.

Nocks

There are also numerous styles of nock, though only a few basic types.
All-Aluminium arrows are often fitted with an aluminium full taper at the nock end, to which "taper fit" nocks are glued with hot-melt glue.
Larger-diameter arrows are often fitted with a hollow, steel, partial taper bushing, into which a push-in nock is fitted.
Smaller-diameter arrows may take a push-in nock directly into the shaft, without the need for any kind of bushing/adaptor.
Taper-fit nocks are usually seen as a beginners/novices choice, but ironically, the shape of the taper makes them far more resistant to damage than the other types, as the taper usually deflects other arrows, whereas a 'Robin Hood' on other arrows will force itself inside, destroying the shaft in the process.
Taper-fit nocks must be glued on perfectly, whereas all push-in types can be rotated after they have been fitted for perfect alignment. This also means that they can get twisted accidentally, whereas taper-fit nocks cannot.

Compound

One of the benefits of most Compounds is that you can adjust the draw weight substantially, without needing to replace the limbs, which is useful on the face of it, but makes arrow choice harder, so again it's a good idea to beg, steal or borrow a set of reasonably stiff arrows off another archer for a trial period until you get used to the bow and settle on the draw weight that suits you best.

Most Compounds have a 'stop' that prevents the archer over-drawing, which means that the 'clicker' that Recurves use is redundant, and at the same time, also means that exact arrow length is not particularly critical.

Recurve

Most Recurve Archers eventualy choose to shoot with a 'clicker' which requires that they shoot with arrows that are precisely the right length. Until then, choose arrows that are a little longer - your draw length will increase slightly over your first few months of shooting.

Barebow

Most Barebow archers use the tip of their arrow as part of the aiming system.
This means that at short ranges you may want to use very long arrows, and conversely it means that for long ranges, a short arrow makes it easier to get 'point-on'. In both cases, this is purely down to Geometry - the archer's line of sight is always over the top of the arrow, meaning that the arrow is always launched at an upwards angle, rather than parallel to the line of sight.
Be aware that this affects the way that arrow-spine calculations are made - do not blindly follow what a recurve archer tells you, unless you are sure that they know how over/underlength arrows work, both with regard to "effective spine", and with regard to aiming points.

Traditional

Most Traditional archers use the tip of their arrow as part of the aiming system.
This means that at short ranges you may want to use very long arrows, and conversely it means that for long ranges, a short arrow makes it easier to get 'point-on'. In both cases, this is purely down to Geometry - the archer's line of sight is always over the top of the arrow, meaning that the arrow is always launched at an upwards angle, rather than parallel to the line of sight
Be aware that this affects the way that arrow-spine calculations are made - do not blindly follow what a recurve archer tells you, unless you are sure that they know how over/underlength arrows work, both with regard to "effective spine", and with regard to aiming points.
Wooden shafts are carefully selected to be as similar as possible, but they are a natural material and consequently will vary slightly when brand new, and will change slightly over time depending on moisture content. You will therefore need to check them periodically to find those that are most closely matched, which is easiest if you bought a decent sized batch in the first place.