Five ways to build a better arrow
Archery hunting is a lifestyle for some, and a hobby for others. No matter where you stand regarding how seriously you take it, it is supposed to be fun, challenging, and rewarding. Archery is a dynamic sport and in order to become extremely proficient it takes a concerted effort. This means time, energy, and money. In this blog I wanted to touch upon arrow building and offer some insight that might help shorten the learning curve, or, at the very least, get you shooting in a timely manner without going down the proverbial rabbit hole. My intention here is not to completely nerd out on building the absolute perfect arrow but rather a functional, consistent, and accurate set up for the purposes of bowhunting.
#1 - Start with good components
Not all arrow components are created equal, and if you are taking the time to read this blog post, my guess is that you are looking to build a premium sort-of-arrow. While there are many good arrow companies and carbon manufacturers, I have had fantastic luck with Victory Archery Products and Easton. I say this from a quality as well as selection standpoint. Both companies offer a variety of shafts which will undoubtedly perform. These include but are not limited to the Easton Axis Match Grade and Procomp as well as the Victory VAP, RIP. You may also find variants (Like the VAP TKO) which feature a more robust Grains Per inch (GPI) Measurement. These shafts are great options for people looking or needing, in the case that your draw length is particularly short, to maximize finished arrow weight.
Generally speaking, arrows will come with an aluminum insert or what Easton calls a half out. These are typically lighter and less durable alternatives to the upgraded options which often are composed of stainless steel or titanium. I highly recommend upgrading these components to the heavier and more durable options. There are a couple of trains of thought regarding point weight, but generally these upgraded options will yield a desirable Front of Center (FOC) when paired with a 100g or 125g broadhead.
Vanes. There are so many options when it comes to vanes, and you can really go down the rabbit hole trying to find the perfect one. There are several companies that make a great product, with which you can build a do-all set up. These include but are not limited to Heat, Blazer, AAE or my current favorite, Q2I. Without writing a novel about arrow flight, you may have to 4 fletch your shafts with some of these options, depending on the vane profile, in order to steer a fixed blade broadhead with “field point accuracy.”
Broadhead selection varies greatly with demographic, species pursued and even at times, state law. I don’t have an issue with mechanical broadheads whatsoever, but I do prefer fixed blades because they are guaranteed to perform in all situations. I have been using Kudu Points for the last 4-5 seasons and have really come to appreciate their tolerances, toughness, and consistency. If I use mechanicals, it is likely that it will be on a species other than elk. SEVR is my personal choice for mechanicals, but I encourage everybody to do their due diligence when making their selections. Some other manufacturers that are worth consideration are QAD, Ozcut, Grim Reaper and so on and so forth.
#2 - Consider Your Arrow Length
Choosing the right arrow length can be as basic or as complicated as you are willing to make it. I encourage folks to start their search by utilizing the arrow selection charts provided from manufacturers or by asking questions at your local shop. If you are looking to super-tune your set up, you will want to spend more time here trying to find the length that yields the perfect arrow spine. Otherwise, it is a fairly safe bet to cut the arrow to a length where the shaft will terminate just inside of the front of the bow riser at full draw. Something that is worth consideration here is the size of your broadhead. If you plan on running a large, fixed head or a turkey guillotine style head, you will need to make sure your shaft is cut beyond the riser at full draw. This will eliminate the risk of your arrow popping off the string due to broadhead-riser contact during the draw cycle. Most of us can’t outshoot an arrow that is slightly over/under spined, so don’t lose sleep over this process.
#3 - Square Your Arrow
Concentricity is king! Squaring your arrow after cutting it to the appropriate length is a quick and easy way to make sure that your insert or half out is going to be seated and glued in square to the arrow shaft. I don’t over think my arrow builds but this step is too easy and quick to overlook. Squaring your shaft is less crucial if you are only planning to screw on field points; but if these are hunting arrows that you are building, we want the truest and most consistent set up to ensure that our broadheads don’t do “funny” things when we begin to test them. Have your local pro shop square your arrows for you or invest in an arrow squaring device. It will pay dividends come hunting season.
#4 - Fletching Configurations
This is a loaded category. Too many options and too little time. Vanes come in all different sorts of profiles, lengths, heights, and compositions. If you have a vane configuration that is working, stick to it. Seldom is changing your vane set up going to give you any serious return on your investment…unless you have vane clearance issues. Sure, pro archers run multiple set ups, but they are trying to achieve pinpoint accuracy in a multitude of conditions where every minute detail can be the difference between razor thin margins of victory or defeat. We are, for the sake of this blog, looking to achieve consistent hunting level accuracy.
There are instances where you may need to tinker with your vane configuration when experiencing issues. Before you attribute accuracy issues, particularly with a broadhead, to your vanes, let’s make sure we have a perfectly tuned bow, the right arrow spine, good form and even better shot execution. These variables are the more likely culprits for bad arrow flight. If we feel good about all the aforementioned variables, then we can look at making some changes to our vanes.
When choosing vanes there is certainly a balance regarding noise, wind deflection, steering ability etc. There are two primary performance metrics to keep in mind when choosing your vanes. The first is that we need enough surface area to compensate for and steer the arrow correctly, particularly with a broadhead. This often means lower profiles with longer vanes and higher profiles with shorter vanes. The other consideration is applying an offset or helical. The application of either of these is sure to reduce arrow speed but what it does for arrow forgiveness is well worth the reduction in speed. I want my arrow to start spinning as fast as possible once it departs the bow string and there is no better way to do it. If you’re trying to make sense of this concept, imagine a bullet leaving a rifled barrel as opposed to a smooth bore, or even Tom Brady throwing a perfect spiral for a game winning touchdown late in the 4th quarter to win the super bowl (Go Pats).
#5 - Nock Tune, Index, Spin Test
Once you have a completed build and you are happy with the outcome, there are a few final steps we can take to further ensure accuracy and potentially weed out any arrows that have manufacturing inconsistencies.
Spine alignment is important, and even when the manufacturer claims to have labeled the arrow, it is worth checking. The easiest way to do this is to nock tune. This entails shooting each arrow through paper and continuing to rotate the nock with every shot until you have the most consistent tear across your lot of arrows. This is somewhat rudimentary, but it is an easy way to ensure that the energy from your bow is being transferred into each arrow in constant alignment with the spine.
Spinning your arrows is a quick and revealing way to see if you have any issues with concentricity. I mentioned this previously, but I want to reiterate the importance. When you change from field points to broadheads, you effectively add a planing or steering device to the front end of your arrow. If your broadhead is not concentric then you are almost certainly going to run into issues with broadhead accuracy. Lacking concentricity can easily be related to the machining on one or multiple components, so make sure to spin test multiple broadheads if you are experiencing issues.
Indexing your broadheads is by no means a necessity but for the sake of my hand, as well as consistency, I prefer to do it. There are a couple of ways to perform this task but I will let you figure that out on your own.
Conclusion: I hope that this information is valuable to some or all of you who took the time to read this. At the end of the day, utilizing some of these techniques will probably save you from some degree of frustration or adding gray hairs to your head. 99% of the arrows I build with these steps in mind meet my personal criteria for a hunting arrow. My hope here is to help you garner the same sort of results and go on to have fun and successful hunting seasons. There is only one absolute in archery hunting, we owe it to the animals we pursue to be well practiced and highly proficient with our equipment. It is exclusively your responsibility to make sure that you issue the cleanest and most ethical death that you possible can. Remember to grind hard this season and leave it all in the hills. Cheers.