By Cassie Gasaway
Arrows are as crucial as your bow when bowhunting, so it’s vital you find your perfect arrow. An arrow of optimal spine and weight sharpens your accuracy and helps you harvest game more reliably.
We spoke with Jayson Bentcik, Victory Archery’s national sales manager, to learn why arrow weight matters. He also shares tips for choosing arrows to ensure you achieve your bowhunting goals.
Before discussing arrow weight, let’s recap arrow spine, which measures an arrow’s flex or bend. When you shoot an arrow, it flexes while leaving the bow and then straightens out in flight. Arrows fly poorly if they flex too much or not enough. An arrow that is too weak can be dangerous to shoot out of high-poundage bow.
Your draw weight, arrow length, and point weight affect the arrow’s flex, so you must find the right spine for your setup. Bows with high draw weights need arrows with stiffer spines. As draw weights decrease, so must the arrow’s stiffness. In addition, short arrows are less flexible than long arrows, and heavier points need shafts with stiffer spines than do lighter points.
You’ll find the spine number on the arrow’s label. The spine number is a deflection rating that measures the distance an arrow flexed with an 880-gram weight that is suspended between rollers 28 inches apart. Some common spines are 350, 400, 500 and 600. The higher the number, the more flexible the arrow.
“The more dead-on your spine, the more accurate you’ll be,” Bentcik said. “Once you determine the spine you need, you can pick an arrow weight.”
Arrow manufacturers calculate an arrow’s weight in grains per inch, or GPI. Arrow weights change with many variables, including the shaft’s length and thickness; and its material, such as wood, aluminum, fiberglass, composite or carbon fibers.
Victory Archery utilizes a variety of different carbon fiber “pre-preg” in its shafts to achieve a wide range of weights across several different shaft diameters. Pre-preg is the term for carbon fiber that has been infused with resin and varies depending on the resin type and carbon strand count. Victory also infuses different materials into the carbon layers of its shafts for strength and durability. Its VAP-SS and Xtorsion arrow, for example, feature stainless steel mesh infused with the carbon layers to make a heavier, harder hitting arrow.
The term “arrow weight” is its total weight and includes all components such as: nocks, wraps, inserts, fletchings, broadheads or field points. Bowhunters should also pay attention to their arrow’s FOC or “front of center,” which calculates the balance point of the shaft and how much weight is distributed to the front end. The FOC can significantly affect the arrow’s trajectory, especially when shooting a fixed blade broadhead. Click here to learn more.
For reference, light arrows weigh about 350 grains, a typical arrow weighs 420 to 500 grains, and a heavy arrow weighs over 600 grains. Bentcik said few Americans use arrows weighing 700 grains or more unless they’re shooting traditional equipment. Archers who shoot a recurve or longbow normally use arrows weighing 700 grains or more.
Bentcik said the most important factor in arrow weight is safety. He said bow manufacturers set their safety ratings around 5 grains per pound to prevent injuries. Arrow shafts must be heavy enough to absorb the bow’s energy when you trigger your release.
Follow the bow manufacturer’s guidelines for choosing a safe arrow weight.
“Bow manufacturers set their speed ratings for safety reasons to prevent injuries,” Bentcik said. “If you shoot too light of an arrow, it causes all kinds of issues. It could blow up your bow or make the string jump off the cam, causing an injury or damaging your bow.”
In contrast, an arrow that’s too heavy for your setup isn’t dangerous, but it quickly loses speed, causing the arrow to drop quickly and reduce shooting distances.
Light arrows are fast and shoot flat, making them ideal for long-distance shots. However, they’re often louder than heavy arrows, which absorb energy and noise transferred from the bow during each shot. Heavier arrows also penetrate or pass through animals better than light arrows because they retain more momentum.
You must weigh these pros and cons when buying arrows. Light and heavy arrows have their time and place. Heavy arrows drop faster, which reduces shooting distances. Arrow weights also affect the gaps between your sight pins. The 20-, 30- and 40-yard pins align close together when shooting light arrows, but spread out when shooting heavy arrows.
Bentcik said hunters who take longer shots and target skittish quarry often prefer light, quick arrows weighing less than 400 grains. That choice helps ensure the arrow reaches the animal before it can react and jump the string. Bowhunters who pursue big game often shoot medium-weight arrows (usually 420 to 500 grains) to ensure they drive deep into vital organs.
Your bow setup and where/what you hunt dictates your arrow weight. As long as you shoot the proper spine, however, shooting light or heavy arrows is a personal preference. Bentcik recommends newcomers visit a shop to work with a professional to find the best arrow. Victory Archery also offers an arrow guide with a spine calculator on its website to help DIY archers find their best arrow. Click here to study it.
Bentcik also suggests testing arrows of different weights to find the one that shoots best from your bow.
“[All arrows] fly and penetrate their target differently,” Bentcik said. “It’s fun to tinker with that stuff, and find your perfect setup.”