Types of Arrows – What’s The Difference?

According to your archery type, you’ll be using different types of arrows and bows. Changing arrows offers different advantages.

Arrows have more variety than all other archery equipment.

But seriously, what is the difference?

different types of arrows

Mainly, the type of arrows you use depends on the type of bow you use and the purpose of your shot (target archery, hunting, bow fishing, etc.)

You can’t shoot different types of arrows and expect the same results.

So, before we start, I should warn you that there isn’t ‘’a size that fits all’’ arrow. Every arrow can cause a different result on different bows.

◊ This article aims to help you in choosing the right type of arrow according to your needs.

Parts of Arrows

Every component of an arrow is changeable. That creates countless options. So rather than categorize the types of arrows, let’s categorize the main parts of arrows.

Archery arrows have four main parts;

main parts of an arrow
Parts of an arrow

Warning! Choosing the right arrow is highly important to accuracy.

Arrow Tips

The arrow point is the most fundamental part of an arrow. There are many types of arrow tips on the market. That’s why sometimes picking one is not so easy. You can choose the tip that is appropriate to the type of archery you are doing, but even then, it’s sometimes hard to select a tip.

In-depth: Different Type of Arrow Tips

Field points are commonly used on the arrows at the archery range. Bullet arrow tip mostly used for target archery or small game hunting.

bullet arrow tip vs field arrow tip

What are the differences between narrow-tipped and bullet-type arrow points? Narrow-tipped points are sharper than the bullet type. It provides higher penetration. Besides, it’s easier to have precision about where the arrow enters the target. On the other hand, the bullet type arrow tips are more durable.

Some shafts come with a fixed arrow tip; other shafts come with glued arrow tips on them. There are screw arrow point options to change the purpose of the arrow as well.

fixed vs glued arrow tip

Target archers don’t change the tip continuously. However, bowhunters might want to change constantly. Screw-in points allow you to change the arrow tips easily. For instance, it’s not so difficult to have some target practice with hunting arrows when arrow tips can be changed within seconds.

Broadheads have sharp design and are only used for hunting purpose. It isn’t legal in every state and country. So before you use it, check the law about this point.

Blunt points are designed for small game hunting. It kills the animal with blunt force rather than penetration. They made by rubber or plastic.

types of arrow tips

Important Tip! Points you chose can be sometimes wider or narrow than your arrow shaft. If it’s wider than the shaft’s diameter, arrow tip can hang up inside the target while you’re trying to pull it out. In another case, the arrow can’t enter the target as smoothly as it should because the tip is narrow than the shaft. Choosing the right diameter is critical!

Arrow Shafts

The shaft is the main structural part of an arrow. So, other components can be attached to it. Additionally, the length of the shaft determines the length of the arrow.

Additionally, the shafts have large diameters are more appropriate for indoor and 3D archers, because they can cut the scoring boundaries with these types of arrows. On the other hand, outdoor archers struggle with the wind. Therefore, they usually choose a smaller diameter.

different type of arrow shafts

Arrow Shaft Parameters

Before we split the shafts according to their materials, let’s look for some critical parameters that affect the performance of the arrow.

Arrow Spine

Arrow spine means the stiffness of an arrow. If an arrow bends less, it can be said that the arrow has more spine. The moment you release the arrow from the bow, an arrow undergoes compression and bend from different directions. This is one of the cool physics facts in archery. Your main purpose should be to match the spine of the arrow.

movement of arrow spine
Daniel Yonononindo / Archers paradox up to the limit (Youtube)

National archery coach Martin Speakman made a diagram that shows 14 different movements in arrow flight.

different movement in arrow flight

Sending the arrow where you want is not so easy under these external forces, right? An arrow is deflected around the bow hand while the archer releases the string. This is an archer’s paradox.

Bow tuning is another important step which aims to make the arrow fly as stable as possible. Choosing an arrow is also a big part of it.

What affects the arrow spine?

  • The weight of the bow
  • The length of the arrow
  • The material of an arrow

If you use a bow with heavy draw weight, you should use a stiffer arrow. In another case, if you use a low poundage bow with a stiffer arrow, then the arrow wouldn’t bend very much. The arrow’s range will be shortened.

Arrow Chart

Every arrow indicates its spine value on it. That value describes how stiff the arrow is.

types of arrows (spine value)

For choosing the proper types of arrows, check the arrow chart that every bow and arrow brands provide.

It’s easy to find an arrow chart on the internet. Nearly all arrow producers have it on their websites. You can choose the arrow that fits with your draw weight and draw-lengths. The arrows you’ll find on these charts is the one that the producer recommends for you.

Here’s the example one of these charts.

chart with arrow spine
GPI Rating of an Arrow

Commonly, the weight of an arrow shaft is expressed in GPI, which means grains per inch. For instance, if you have a 32 inches long arrow and it has a GPI of 10, that means your shaft is 320 grain or, in other words, around 20 grams.

But don’t forget to add the other components (arrowhead, fletchings, nock, etc.) weight to find your total arrow weight.

Balance

An arrow’s balance is quite important, like all other flying things because of aerodynamic requirements. Moving or adjusting weight will affect arrow flights in extreme ways. While in target archery, balance requires minimal work, but for hunting, it’s a critical parameter.


Warning! Your arrow shafts should be long enough. Otherwise, there is the risk of the arrow going somewhere unintended and falling off the rest while drawing. You have to find the correct arrow length and buy arrows longer than that.

The shaft is everything for an arrow. Let’s divide the types of arrows according to their shafts.

Alloy Core with Carbon Cover

These types of arrows keep weight down with the core but also add stiffness with the cover. Arrows are made from carbon fiber cover with alloy core are usually in the top of the price range list. That makes them ultra light and significantly faster. These are certainly not for new archers.

Using them might require some advanced techniques. Because of their lightweight, it makes the shaft more sensitive. We can easily say that these arrows are advanced-level archery equipment.

  • Most expensive ones
  • These are good for professional Olympic archers

Carbon Arrows

If you don’t use carbon arrows properly, it could cause damage to your bow or even to you. It can splinter into lots of small shards. These arrows can fulfill general requirements for an arrow.

  • They’re not as flexible as the other arrows.
  • Light, study but less stiff
  • Inexpensive categories
  • Best-selling arrows

Aluminum Arrows

aluminum type of arrow
Image source: huntingdoor.com

Aluminum arrows are one of the most common types of arrows in today’s archery world.

  • Lightweight (heavier than carbon. So they don’t fly as far or as fast as carbon arrows)
  • Straight and consistent in spine or bendability
  • Better accuracy and performance with lightweight bows
  • Less expensive than carbon arrows
  • Break less easily than the carbon arrows

Fiberglass Arrows

fiberglass arrow type
Image source: huntingdoor.com

Fiberglass arrows are a perfect way to start archery. That’s why they used in youth camps.

  • Inexpensive
  • Consistent from batch to batch
  • Prone to splintering
  • For recurve bows only
  • Heavier and durable
  • Mostly used for bow fishing

Wood Arrows

The most basic types of arrows are wooden arrows. Used for thousands of years with longbows and recurve bows. Traditional arrow shafts are made from lightweight wood, bamboo, or reed.

If you use wooden arrows with compound bows or high power recurve bows, they could easily break. One thing that makes them less durable is they also use feather vanes rather than plastic ones. Beginners who might lose the arrow after shooting it typically choose cheaper wooden arrows.

  • Cheapest of all archery arrows
  • Traditional bow shooters use wooden arrows
  • Mostly have feather fletchings
  • Break easily

Additional info! The first evidence of using a bow and arrows is from 10,000 years ago. These arrows are made of wood, which is probably the oldest material used.


◊ For beginners only! The bottom line of the price range for arrows are wooden and fiberglass arrows. They are more appropriate for beginners or people doing archery just as a backyard hobby.

Arrow Vane- Fletchings

In today’s modern archery world, most of the fletchings are made of plastic. These vanes give the arrow stability on its way to the target. Besides, it’s really important for accuracy. It can usually make arrows fly straight with spinning.

If you’re a compound bow shooter, you’ll use plastic vanes. On the other hand, traditional shooters mostly use feather vanes.

Plastic Vanes

Plastic vanes are easily installed and ready to fly. The durability of the plastic vane is exceedingly enough for rookies.

plastic arrow vanes
Image source: worldarchery.org
  • Stiffer than feathers
  • Waterproof
  • Commonly used by Olympic outdoor archers

Feather Vanes

Feather Arrow Vanes
Image source: arlinn-tower.com

Maybe the biggest advantage of these vanes is they’re so light and easily change its shape when it’s contacting with arrow rest. This connection sometimes causes another problem with other vanes. That’s why indoor Olympic archers love feather vanes.

  • Mostly made from turkey wing feathers
  • Less durable than plastic
  • Doesn’t waterproof. Might cause problem shooting in the rain.
  • Commonly used by traditional archers

What is the difference between 3 vs. 4 Vanes? The arrows that have four vanes are more accurate and maintain smoother flight than the arrows that have three vanes. But having four vanes adds extra weight on the arrow and causes drag through the air. As a result, four vanes arrows have a shorter range than three vanes arrows.

Arrow Nock

Arrow nock has over 5000 years of history. Since that time, they are still made for the same purpose. Even if for most people it’s position won’t matter. But it does matter!

Nocks are small plastic part of an arrow that attaches to its back. They help in positioning the string while shooting. A nock is important to keep the arrow on the string without being tight or loose.

Your connection should be neither too tight nor too loose.


Choosing the right nock depends directly on which shaft you choose for your arrow. They can be either glued onto the arrow or threaded into the arrow like the arrow tips.

Here’s a good test to choose the right size arrow:

  • Step1: Nock the arrow on the string and turn your bow down. It should stay on the string.
  • Step2: Twist the string with your finger. An arrow should stay again.
  • Step3: Lastly, give a rapid tap on the string (1-2 inches near the nock). The arrow must fall off.
Press fit arrow nock
Image source: bowhunter-ed.com

There are also press-fit (no glue required) options. Besides, this type of nocks is commonly used, as they can fit nearly all skin carbon and aluminum shafts.

nock with led light
Image source: bowhunting.com

There are even colorful led options like UP100. These nocks are automatically lighted after you shoot. They can be perfect for night shots!

Arrow Choosing Reminder

  • If your bow generates more power, your arrow should be stiffer for accuracy. That’s why most of the compound bow archers look for stiffer arrows.
  • Don’t forget about checking the length. It should be longer than your draw length.

Conclusion

Arrows generally do the same thing. Top brand arrows won’t give you extraordinary abilities. So, find yourself the best combination. You can collect all parts of an arrow and combine it by yourself or just choose one of the arrow models according to your needs.

References

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