Arrows seem like simple things until you're trying to decide which is the best for hunting or target practice. Then the range of options and the numerous differences between one arrow and another make the choice much more difficult. Since there is so much confusion out there about arrow parts and how they work together, we thought putting together this guide might help novice archers understand the differences and how to choose the best arrows before their next hunting trip. Even experienced hunters can benefit from learning about the different parts of an arrow to select the best arrows for hunting and for target practice.
What are the Different Parts of an Arrow?
There are four main parts of an arrow you need to know about. The parts of an arrow are the point, shaft, fletching, and the nock. Each of these parts work together to provide a means for archers to accurately shoot arrows. We are going to break down the various options and explain the differences of each part of an arrow.
Located on the rear of every arrow, there is a piece with a channel. This is so that the bowstring has a spot to securely push the shaft when you shoot. A nock that is too loose will cause your shots to be erratic, while a nock that is too tight will snag on the arrow as it leaves the string. There are several different types of arrow nocks you should familiarize yourself with before buying arrows.
Press Fit Nocks
Press fit nocks press into the hollow part of the arrow shaft. This is the most commonly used type of arrow nock on the market. Press fit nocks are easy to replace by removing the damaged nock and pressing a new one in. Press fit arrow nocks are sold in different diameters to fit different size arrow shafts, so you'll need to know what diameter your arrow shaft is before buying press fit nocks.
An overnock slides over the arrow shaft. You don't need any glue to hold the nock in place. Overnocks come in dozens of sizes to accommodate a wide range of shaft sizes. They are most commonly used on carbon arrow shafts.
A pin nock fits inside the shaft like a press fit, but allows the nock to be replaced without removing the pin. Pin nocks can prevent damage from other arrows. The nock itself will break without damaging the shaft of the arrow. Pin nocks are most commonly used by competition shooters using expensive arrow shafts. Pin bushings are a universal size, so there is no guess work when selecting replacement parts.
Conventional nocks are for aluminum arrow shafts that feature a tapered cone on the nock end of the shaft. These nocks fit over the cone and can be glued in place for durability. The term conventional is somewhat of a misnomer, as these nocks can be more difficult to find than other types. Like the pin nock, the conventional nock is intended to prevent arrows from splitting when hit by another arrow.
The Groove and the Throat
The final thing you need to know about arrow nocks is the groove and throat. Each nock has two posts, called ears, that taper inward to the string opening. The tapered part is the throat, while the groove is where the string sits. The throat snaps onto the string slightly while the groove should just barely fit loosely on the string. The groove helps you keep the arrow on the string in between shots and stabilizes the arrow before you release the string. There are different sizes of throat and groove available to accommodate thinner bowstrings (like those on low draw weight bows) and larger ones for heavier bow strings.
The fletching is the vanes or feathers that give the arrow stability in flight. Without the fletching, your arrows would suffer accuracy, distance, and speed because of wobbling in flight. Most arrows come pre-fletched with either synthetic or natural materials. A fletching jig is used to replace damaged fletches or to install custom ones.
Synthetic materials are the most common on modern arrows today, but many bow hunters still use natural feathers. The feathers are frequently from the right flight feathers of turkeys.
Why is One Feather a Different Color on an Arrow?
You'll notice that one of the vanes is a different color than the others. Sure, it makes the arrow look cool, but you may wonder if there is actually a reason. In fact, the different colored vane (called the cock feather) is to help you index the arrow into the correct position for the nocking point to align with the string. The cock feather points away from the bow so that the other vanes will not strike the bow when the string is released.
The arrow shaft is most commonly a hollow fiberglass, aluminum, or carbon fiber rod. Solid shafts are most often made from wood. The shaft of an arrow can be one of many different diameters and weights that are better for heavier or lighter draw bows. Lighter arrow shafts fly flatter and faster, but lack the impact power and penetration of a heavier arrow shaft.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Shafts:
The diameter of an arrow is a factor many hunters take into consideration. Thinner arrow shafts may fly more accurately and can carry more kinetic energy for better penetration. The common diameters are 5/16" and 9/32".
When an arrow is shot from a bow, it will flex in air. The stiffness and flexibility of an arrow is determined by the spine. Finding the correct spine for your bow can be a complicated experience, but most bow shops can hep you determine the correct shaft spine for the type of shooting you are doing.
Weight is also a critical factor to consider when choosing arrows. Weight is identified in grains- a unit of measurement equal to 64.79 milligrams. Heavier arrows won't fly as far or as flat as a lighter arrow. The weight of an arrow is often determined by the thickness of the shaft sidewall.
Arrow shafts are made in different lengths. The length of arrow you will need depends on the draw length of your bow. Bows with longer draws will require longer arrows.
The point is the striking end of the arrow. There are several different types of arrow points that have different uses. The most common points are field points and broadheads. Field points are used for practice. They typically have a dull, conical bullet point to allow easy arrow retrieval. Similar to field points, blunt arrowheads are used for hunting small game like rabbits and are intended to cause impact damage rather than penetration.
Broadheads are used for hunting arrows and are designed to penetrate and not be easily removed. There are two basic types of broadheads – fixed and mechanical. The mechanical type have sharp cutting edges that deploy on impact to help create a larger wound. Our favorite is the RAGE Crossbow X, 2-Blade Archery Arrow Broadhead. However, fixed blade broadheads are considered to be stronger than mechanical ones.
Figure Out What You Like
You will likely need to purchase several different types of arrows for practice and hunting. Choosing the best arrow for your bow can be a challenge when you don't know what you need, so it's always a good idea to talk to an expert at your local bow shop about your rig. You may find that aluminum arrows are a cheap way to practice, but a carbon arrow may be more effective for hunting. Most of the time, shooters will end up trying a variety of weights, lengths, and points before finding the ideal setup for their needs.
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