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Choosing Arrows for Recurve Bows – Not So Easy!

choosing arrows for recurve bows
Written by Catherine Weeks
Last Update: January 12, 2023

Whether hunting or doing some target practice, you will need arrows. But there are so many choices on the market; how do you even begin to choose?

Let’s break this down for you and make choosing arrows for your recurve bow easier.

Choosing Arrows for Recurve Bows

1. Draw length choices

Draw length for Recurve Bows

Your draw length is the length from the tip of your middle finger to the side of your mouth.

There are two ways this can be measured; they are as follows:

a) Using your arm

Spread your arms out to each side, be sure they remain at shoulder height and parallel to the floor.

Measure across from the tip of your right middle finger to the left middle finger taking the number and dividing by 2.5.
(My length from finger to finger is 36 inches. 36 inches divided by 2.5 = 14.4, so my draw length would be 14.4 inches)

b) Using the wall

Standing next to a wall, clench your fist and place it against the wall.

Keeping your elbow stiff, measure the from the wall where your fist is resting to the side of your mouth.

This is your draw length (I would be 17 inches using this measure)

To get an exact draw length, take both the wall length and the arm length, add them together, then divide by 2.

This will give you the most accurate draw length. (14.4 +17 = 31.4 divided by 2 = 15.7 inches). My ideal draw weight is 15.7 inches.

2. Choosing a weight and diameter

Choosing a weight and diameter of arrows

Arrow weight is measured in GPI (grains per inch) and is chosen by the weight of your bow.

Also, the arrow’s thickness ( the wall thickness), how wide (diameter)around the arrow is, and the material the arrow is made from.

3. Length of the Arrow

Length of the Arrow for a Recurve Bow

To find the length of the arrow you will need to take your draw length and add 2inches. (My draw length was 15.7, so my arrow length will be 17.7).

The shorter the arrow, the stiffer it will be. If you order arrows, they will come longer than you want them, have them cut to size by a professional for safety.

4. Spine choice

Arrow's spine of a recurve bow

When talking about an arrow’s spine, you are talking about how it moves (wiggles) after being shot from the bow. Always choose the same spine with all your arrows to ensure good groupings.

There are no two identical arrows, no matter who makes the arrows. This is a case of you getting what you pay for; if you buy a cheap set of arrows, they will shoot like a cheap set of arrows.

When choosing your arrows, choose stiff over weak. In general, a stiff arrow will shoot more to the left, whereas a weak arrow will tend to go to the right.

5. Nock choices

Correct arrow nock

There are four kinds of nocks, conventional nocks, over-fit nocks, pin nocks and press-fit nocks.

a) Conventional nocks or swages

They have cones made of aluminum and glue in place. They correspond with the arrow’s diameter.

b) Over-fit nocks

Used on carbon arrows, they slide into place. The manufacturer sets arrow and nock sizes, and matches up by size. For example, if you have a 12X arrow, you will use a 12X nock.

c) Pin-nocks

These nocks fit over an aluminum pin on the tip end of the arrow. When another arrow hits this tip, it is safe from damage due to this tip. Pin nocks come in standard size.

d) Press-fit nocks

They press in place after being slid into place. They are measured against the arrow’s shaft. They are found in the following sizes assigned a diameter: A, F, G, GT, H, HE, and X.

6. Arrowhead or pointer

Choosing a Arrowhead or pointer of a bow

Choosing a tip will depend on what you are hunting or target practicing. For example, hunters use a heavier arrow tip than an archer.

You’ll want a light tip on a light bow and a heavy tip on a heavier bow for the best shot.

You can purchase arrows that a pre-tipped, which works well for beginners.

There are three types of tips used –

a) Field points

Sharper than bullet points and used for target archery and small game hunting (rabbits).

b) Bullet points

Sharp but not as sharp as a field point and used at the archery range for target practice or for hunting small game.

c) Broadheads

They have razor blades and are extremely sharp and used for large game hunting (bear, dear, or elk).

d) Blunts points

Blunts points have a flat tip used to kill small game with blunt force but no penetartion is involved.

e) Judo points

These have clasp like legs on them that grips the prey so the arrow is not lost. They have flat or blunt tips for small game hunting.

7. Material choices

Arrows usually are made of four materials – aluminum, carbon, fiberglass, and wood.

a) Composite arrows 

composite arrows

Composite arrows or A/C/Es are high-quality arrows made for accuracy. Of all the arrows, they are the straightest, most perfect arrow.

They must be an exact fit to your bow, are expensive, and are used by advanced archers.

b) Carbon arrows

Carbon arrows

Carbon arrows have less of a curve and are much stronger than wood. They are second only to an aluminum arrow in price.

Pro archers use carbon arrows for their lack of arc (flatter shots with less wind drift.) Carbon arrows are hazardous, as they splinter.

If you bend this arrow and hear cracking, do not use it since it could shatter in your hand!

c) Aluminumarrows

aluminum arrows

Aluminum arrows are cheap (some are only $6). They are lightweight and have good accuracy.

Hunters use them because they are quiet. They do not break, but they can bend.

d) Wooden arrows

Wooden arrows

Wooden arrows made from cedar found are in Port Orford Cedar in Oregon, located in the US. They are solid where most arrows are hollow and quiet.

Used in traditional archery, they cost the same as an aluminum arrow. Archers frequently make the tips, fletchings, and nocks for these arrows.

e) Fiberglass arrows

Fiberglass arrows

Fiberglass arrows are highly durable. They are the perfect arrow for beginners and young archers. They come in all beginner archery kits.

It is a less accurate arrow because it is heavy but for the young and beginners it is very safe.

Differences in arrows: Target vs Hunting

1. Length

Hunting arrows are thick, short, and less accurate than a target bow, which is much longer.

2. Brace height

When you discuss the belly of the riser grip to the measure of the bow string, you are talking about the brace height.

A hunting bow has a brace height of about 5 – 6 inches and is fast ( the shorter the bow, the quicker the arrow.)

A target bow is about 7 – 8 inches, is fast, but slower than a hunting bow.

3. Speed

Speed is vital to hunters for two reasons: it lets them hit the prey before it can move, and the speed of the arrow helps create the force needed for that arrow to impale or penetrate the prey.

Archers don’t worry as much about speed as they do accuracy. Archery arrows are quick but not as fast as a hunting arrow.

4. Shape

The riser on an archer’s bow is straighter than a hunter’s, making the bow’s release much easier on the archer’s hand.

5. Let-Off

When you hold the bow string back so you can aim, that is let-off. Let-off is more critical to hunters because they need to aim and shoot quickly. You can take their time and aim.

6. Stabilizers

Both archers and hunters use stabilizers (a long rod attached to the bow for stability) when drawing back a bow.

Archery bows have a longer stabilizer.

Huntingstabilizers are short and less awkward when walking in the woods.

7. Arrow Colors

As with all things for hunting, arrows are camo-colored and or black.

Archery arrows come in bright yellow, blue, neon, and red.

About the author

Catherine Weeks

Cathy believes that hunting is not about downing an animal; rather, it’s about enjoying the purity of this challenge and making a connection with nature.

She loves country music, horses, shooting, and hunting; and spends her weekends in the great outdoors with her husband and two kids.

Though Cathy has hunted most of her life, it was not until her partner gave her a bow that she realized she had finally found her passion.

She is always determined to share her missed opportunities, dedication, emotions, and small details that people often forget to mention when they talk about their hunting experiences.

Cathy also works to promote wildlife preservation and protect natural resources. She thinks “patience” is the most important thing that can make a big difference.

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