Getting Started with Archery: All About Arrows

J5 Tactical Flashlight

Getting Started with Archery: All About Arrows


There are different types arrows that are designed to fill a specific purpose.  Everything from the material the shaft is made from to the style of fletching or shape of the head makes an impact on its performance.  Let’s take a look at the basic components of arrows as well as how you can choose the right one based on your needs. 

Main Components

Arrows share common components no matter what their design is or what they will be used for.  Thee include the head, shaft and spine, fletching and nock. 

The Head

The head is the tip, and there are two broad categories they fall under:  Broad heads or field tips.  Field tips are mainly used for target practice and competitive sport.  Broad heads are specifically designed for hunting, and you a lot of choices in terms of the different styles and features that are out there. 

They are also designed to produce maximum damage once they strike a target, as long as the right head is used for the right target.  For example, there are broad heads designed to hunt birds whereas others are meant for larger animals.  There are also universal or all-purpose options that can give a hunter greater flexibility.  Finally, you can also choose between spring loaded or fixed broad heads.  Spring loaded heads are streamlined until they impact a target, then the blades pop out and cause the head to become anchored in place.  They are also designed to cause maximum damage.  Fixed heads to not have this feature, however they can be just as lethal when the right head is used for the right target.

The Shaft and Spine

The shaft is the main body of an arrow, and they are made from a wide-range of different materials.  Shafts are designed with varying degrees of firmness and flexibility, and different lengths will produce different flight characteristics.  Fiberglass arrows are the most flexible in terms of their usefulness, and they are also relatively inexpensive.  Wood arrows are usually used with longbows.  Both fiberglass as well as wood degrade easily over time, and they are prone to splintering or fracturing so they need to be inspected on a regular basis.  Aluminum and carbon arrows are considered to be the best for hunting due to their strength and durability, but carbon tends to be the most expensive as well.

The spine refers to the resistance to bending the shaft has as it is launched and flies through the air.  It’s important to note that all arrows will bend to one degree or another, but the trick is to choose one with just the right amount of rigidity to make its performance optimal under specific conditions.  The material, weight and design of the head, and the overall length of the shaft all contribute to the spine of an arrow.  Unfortunately, there is no universal rating system that covers spine, so it’s important to do a little bit of research before choosing the appropriate shaft, particularly if you will be using it for hunting or self-defense.

The Fletching

Fletching is broken down into three general categories:  Straight, offset and helical.  Straight fletching is when the feathers run in a straight line along the back end of the arrow.  Offset fletching is angled slightly to the left or right, and helical refers to curved feathers.  Offset and helical fletching causes the arrow to spin as it flies, and this helps to keep it in a straight line, but it also produces more drag.  There are limitless variations to fletching out there, and each one will impact the flight characteristics of the arrow.  There is also a type of fletching called flu-flu which is very feathery and is intended to shoot down aerial targets, but they also have a lot of drag and don’t travel great distances.

Aside from the different characteristics of fletching, there are also two main types of material used, feathers or vanes.  Feathers are just that, and they are preferred by hunters, but they don’t travel all that far.  Vanes are generally made of some sort of plastic material and can help the arrow to fly farther.  They also hold up pretty well in the rain.  Again, there is a lot that plays into the benefits and drawbacks to each one, and only knowledge and experience will help you to choose the best fletching based on your equipment, style of shooting and targets you are after. 


Finally we have the nock.  The nock is the notch that is cut out of the back of the arrow where the bowstring will go.  Nocks vary in their depth as well as width, and it’s important to choose one that will match the thickness of the string.  Nocks that are too tight or too loose will produce negative impacts on performance. 

Keep in mind that you can attach different components to standard shafts and swap them out as necessary.  You can also buy fixed arrows that are not adjustable as well.  At the end of the day, arrows play just as much of a role in successfully hitting targets as bows, and it’s important to learn as much as you can about their characteristics in order to make put them to work for you in the field.