An easy guide – Part III
Choosing the right arrows is a crucial part of your archery journey. It can make or break your success as a hunter or competitive target shooter, so it makes sense to try to understand all of their different parts and options. Whether you have a compound bow or a recurve, there’s something right for you!
In Part I of this guide, you learned the basics of arrow anatomy: materials, length, and diameter. Then, in Part II, you discovered the impact that weight, spine, and tip choice can have on the performance of your chosen bolt.
Now, you’ll become the ultimate arrow expert (or near enough!): this article gives you a window into the world of fletchings (aka vanes), nocks, and inserts. This knowledge is the last puzzle piece you need to decide on the perfect arrow for your bow. Are you ready?
At the back (the non-pointy) part of the arrow, there are three vanes made of plastic or feathers. These are the fletchings, and they’re crucial for the arrow’s stability and alignment.
The bigger a fletching is, the more surface for stability it provides, meaning that your form when shooting is a tiny bit less critical and can be corrected by the vanes. However, it will also slow your arrow down— it’s a tradeoff.
There are different fletching setups:
- Straight: Makes for a very fast arrow with no spinning motion, great for close shots but can be thrown off by the wind.
- Helical: When the vanes are attached with a bit of a curve, you get lots of stability and long-distance accuracy without being so affected by the wind. It’s good for combining with broadhead tips and hunting, but the arrow is quite slowed down.
- Offset: A middle point between the two other types.
That’s not all, though: you still have to pick the material. Let’s take a look at your options:
- Feathers: Want to feel like a seventeenth-century archer? Feathers are the traditional, earliest form of fletching and they provide exceptional lightness as well as a natural curve that helps stabilise your arrow. Problems? They’re expensive, harvesting them (yes, from real turkeys) is costly, and you need to devote intense care to them in order to keep them in good shape.
- Standard plastic: Rubber-based fletchings are the most common and, for the majority of archers, the most obvious choice. Flexible and easy to adapt to the different patterns above, these vanes are also quiet, inexpensive, and pretty durable. The main disadvantage: they’re heavier than feathers and provide less friction for stabilisation.
- Specialty vanes: We archers are always trying to innovate, so specialty vanes are not uncommon. The best among them is the high-profile vane, which is more durable than standard plastic ones, as well as more stable. The downside: these vanes tend to be more costly.
An arrow’s nock is the little notch at the end of your arrow, the slit you place the bowstring in when you’re ready to shoot. Its main function is to control the projectile’s rotation and make it more accurate.
There are a few different types of nocks for you to choose from:
- Press-fit nocks: These are the most common nocks and can be used on almost all carbon shafts (bar the thinnest ones) and lots of aluminum shafts. To get it in place, you only need to press (didn’t see that coming, did you?). Then, you can change and rotate them as needed. Critical: finding out the arrow’s diameter before buying the nock, as there are different sizes (like G, F, and A) for different diameters.
- Overnocks: Most commonly used with carbon arrows, they come in different sizes to fit your shaft snugly. You simply need to slide the arrow in.
- Pin nocks: These are best for competition archers, as they protect expensive arrows from damage and might even make a shot more accurate. Pin nocks are fitted on a metallic pin insert you install at the end of the shaft.
- Conventional nocks (for aluminum arrows): These cone-shaped nocks are tapered and can be either pressed or glued (for more safety) onto an aluminum shaft.
Before you commit to your choice, you also need to consider groove size. You can find both small (for recurve bows with low poundage) and large (for heavier recurves and all compound bows) groove sizes. You can tell a nock is right when you hear a ‘click’ as you insert the string.
Choosing special inserts is a pretty advanced move, so you only need to worry about it if you want to. You have both composite and aluminum inserts in a lot of different diameters. Whatever insert you choose, make sure that it fits the arrow tightly, as a loose insert will ruin your accuracy.
To install the insert, make that bit of the shaft’s surface a bit rougher (for increased adhesion) and use the right glue: epoxy for carbon shafts as well as for composite inserts onto aluminum, hot-glue for aluminum on aluminum shafts or composite shafts.
There! Now, you’re an expert on arrow components and can make a fully educated choice to slay your next shooting trip. Choosing the right arrow for your compound bow or recurve bow will give you just the edge you need to stand out from the crowd. Get to it!