How to Select the Correct Arrows for Your Traditional Recurve

The main purpose of this page is to help guide our customers in the right direction when choosing arrows to match their recurve bow, but hopefully I can also explain a couple basic things about arrow flight in the process. Choosing arrows for your bow can sometimes seem a daunting task at first, but by understanding what’s actually going on, things can become a lot simpler.

*If you wanna skip the technical stuff, you can scroll down to the bottom to find the spine charts.



Example of different arrow spines on a right handed recurve or longbow.


Spine

To give an (extremely) simplified explanation without delving into the variables just yet, you want to choose an arrow that matches your type of bow, your draw weight, and your draw length. All accuracy depends on matching the correct arrow to these three things. If you were to choose random arrows for your bow, every shot would go in a different direction, as every shaft would behave in a different manner once launched from the string. The determining factor here which decides whether an arrow goes where you aim it or goes astray is called spine.



Static Spine VS Dynamic Spine

But what exactly do I mean by spine? When you hear someone talk about the spine of a shaft, or whether an arrow shaft is too stiff, or too weak, you may believe that all they mean is how much the shaft flexes when you bend it, and that’s it, (if only things were that simple!). However, when referring to spine, there are two types of spine we could be talking about. One is Static Spine. The other is Dynamic Spine. The difference is self-explanatory: Static Spine is the spine, or stiffness, or an arrow shaft when it’s not moving, i.e., static. The spine reading of a shaft when measured on an arrow spine reader, or when just flexing the shaft in your hand, is the static spine. The Dynamic Spine is the actual spine of the arrow when in flight, and will determine how the arrow behaves, dynamic here meaning in motion. So while it is important to understand what both static and dynamic spine means, dynamic spine is what really matters.

There are 3 main factors which effect dynamic spine:

  • The actual physical stiffness of the arrow shaft (static spine)
  • The Arrows Length
  • The Weight of the Point


Archers Paradox

Before going in to how each of these 3 factors effect dynamic spine, I think it would be good to explain what is actually going on with the arrow when it is shot from your bow.

Archers Paradox Corrected

Arrow direction when braced and when at full draw.
A = bow riser/grip, B = median plane of the bow, C = arrow aiming line and trajectory

"Archers-paradox-corrected" by Hagis123123 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

 

The above image is an example of a right handed bow at both brace and when drawn, the left being braced, and the right drawn. When the arrow is nocked on the string, you can see that the angle of the arrow is pointing off the to the left. As you draw the bow to aim and point your arrow toward your target, you will notice that this angle decreases. So what happens when the arrow is released? Remember how the arrow was pointing off to the left at brace? What puts the Paradox in Archers Paradox is that at brace the arrow is not pointing at the target, but when the arrow is drawn, aimed, and shot, the arrow flexes around the riser and continues on toward the target. All three properties, physical stiffness (static spine), arrow length, and point weight, all have to come together to decide whether the arrow flexes (or paradoxes) around the riser just enough to ensure that the arrow goes where you want it.

Arrow Shaft Flexing

Arrow flexing around the riser of a bow.

"Arrow-flexing" by Hagis123123 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

 

Upon release, the arrow shaft flexes. Why does it flex? The reason is inertia; the arrow’s center of balance being in the front, as the string propels the arrow, the heavier front of the arrows wants to move forward. Because of this inertia of the heavier front of the arrow (and the point), the arrow shaft flexes around the riser and continues on down range. Because of this phenomenon, in theory you could shoot an arrow shaft with the static spine matched for a 300lb bow, on a normal mortals 50lb bow, as long as you use a heavy enough point weight to compensate for the extremely stiff static spine of the shaft… in theory. The arrow might only make it a foot or two if you used something like a bowling ball as a field point, but you get the idea. Along with stability this is one of the reasons an arrows center of balance needs to be in the front, and because of how point weight effects spine, also one of the reasons why we use specific grain weight points. More on point weight in a minute.



How arrow length and point weight effect dynamic spine

To keep it short (and that isn’t an arrow shaft pun!), the shorter the arrow is, the stiffer it is, and the stronger the dynamic spine. Therefore the shorter the arrow shaft, the harder it is to flex around the riser. The longer the arrow, the weaker the dynamic spine, and the easier it is to flex around the riser.

How Arrow Length is Measured


Arrow length:

The length of an arrow is measured from the beginning of the point (not the tip, but where the shaft meets the point), to the crotch of the nock (the crotch of the nock is where the string rests inside the nock). If you have a lighter bow, around 15 – 20 lbs draw weight, it is sometimes better to leave your carbon shafts full length at first. With a lot of carbon shaft manufactures, they don’t make spines for 15 - 20lbs bows, so by leaving the shaft longer, we can effectively weaken the dynamic spine of the shaft. And if the spine is too weak, you can always have it cut down an inch. I would let a pro shop advise you with that though, as you don’t wanna cut too short of course. Some guys who shoot primitive, will use hardwood shoots or river cane as shafts. When collecting natural materials like this (that don’t cost 80 bucks a dozen), you can start out shooting the shaft longer, and cut an inch down until the shaft is tuned to match your bow. One thing that is important to remember though is to always leave the shaft at least one inch longer than your draw length! This is to insure that you don’t over draw your arrow, which can be dangerous, and possibly send the arrow right through your bow hand.

Point weight:

To be blunt (and that’s not an arrow point pun either!), the lighter the point, the stiffer the effect on dynamic spine. The heavier the point weight, the weaker the effect on dynamic spine. Adjusting the point weight by 25 grain increments is a good inexpensive way to adjust the dynamic spine of your arrow, and it much easier to remedy if you want to go back to a different weight point, verses adjusting by arrow length, where you can’t go back in time. For heavier draw weight bows, you don’t wanna go too light with point weight. In order to achieve stable arrow flight, the point of an arrow needs to be heavy enough to keep the center of balance in the front of the arrow. This is called the arrows FOC, which stands for front of center. Imagine tying a string to a baseball and throwing it; the baseball is the point, and the string is the shaft. When propelled through the air, the string follows the baseball, as the shaft would follow the point. Now imagine tying a heavy rope to a tic tac and trying to propel that through the air… The lighter the point, the less FOC, so the less stable the arrow is. The heavier the point, the more FOC. But the more FOC, the quicker the arrow will nose dive. So it is up to the archer to find their happy medium, depending on the arrows intended purpose. The standard point weight is 100 – 125 grains. As point weight plays a part in penetration, naturally some hunters will prefer a heavier broadhead point, such as 145 grains.



So Finally, How do I Select the Correct Arrows for my Recurve Bow?


Before you can select the correct arrows for your bow, you will need to know:

  • Your draw length
  • Your draw weight

Finding Your Draw Length


The measure and divide method

There are two ways of finding your draw length. The first method is the measure and divide method, which you may have heard of. It is extremely simple:

- Measure your arm span (like your making a T ) from tip to tip
- Divide by 2.5

However, I have a problem myself with this method. Using this method, I come out with a draw length of 25.8”, as I am a shorter archer with an arm span of only 64.5”. If I used an anchor point at my chin or the corner of my mouth, this would be accurate. But in practice, my anchor point is somewhat of a floating anchor point under my ear, as I am used to shooting English Longbows, which tend to have a longer “across the chest” draw. And although a floating anchor point can make your shot less consistent, and therefore less accurate, it is a habit I have brought over from my primitive archery days, and a lot of the time I prefer it when casually shooting, stump shooting, etc. I could probably go on for a while about the problems with my shooting form; my point is that sometimes an individual’s draw length can vary from archer to archer, despite the above tried and true method. So for the most accurate measurement of your draw length, I recommend the second method:



The Long Arrow Method

This method requires some assistance. Take a full length arrow shaft that has not been cut yet, preferably as long as possible so as to not succeed your draw length, and draw it on your bow. Have a helper mark with a sharpie where the arrow shaft meets the back of the bow (the back of the bow is the part of the bow which faces away from the archer). And you got your draw length. (And once again, you want to add an inch on to that to find your arrow length)



Finding Your Draw Weight

Although you may shoot a recurve that is rated at 50 lbs, if you only draw the bow 26 inches, you likely are shooting at a peak draw weight closer to 45 lbs. Most bows are rated at 28” draw. With traditional bows, unlike compounds, the draw weight increases or decreases the longer or shorter the draw. For this reason you can’t go by just what the bow says on the bottom limb. A good rule to follow is that for every inch of draw length you differentiate from 28", add or subtract 2.5lbs draw weight. So if you have 50lb Samick Sage Bow, but your draw length is 25", than you can estimate that you are pulling about 42.5 lbs draw weight. Now that you know your draw length and your draw weight, you can take a look at the spine charts below.



Easton Carbon Arrow Spine Chart


The above chart has been created using information from the Easton 2014 Bow hunting Arrow Selection Chart, which can be found here: Easton 2014 Bowhunting Arrow Selection Chart. It is meant to be a general Easton carbon arrow selection chart. To use the chart, find the point weight (in grains) of your arrow and draw weight of your bow on the right, and slide on over to the left to find your arrow length. Then, find your letter in the key, and that is the Easton size of carbon shaft that your need. This chart will work with the following Easton carbon shafts:

- ST AXIS, ST AXIS RT, ST Axis Traditional, Carbon Hexx, da'Torch, Aftermath BloodLine, BloodLine Realtree, FlatLine, Bowfire, and Nemesis.



Carbon Express Heritage Spine Chart


The above chart was created using information from the current Carbon Express Hunting Arrow Selection Charts which can be found here: Carbon Express Hunting Arrow Selection Chart, and is meant only for Carbon Express Heritage Shafts, as that is the most popular shaft we sell at the moment. To use the chart, find your draw weight, and slide on over to the left to find your arrow length. Then find your letter in the key, and that is your recommended Heritage shaft size.

*Note: Although some people will use 9/32" size points and nocks for all 5 sizes, the correct size and best fit is to use 9/32" points and nocks for size 75 and 90, and use 5/16" size for 150, 250, and 350.



Last Word About Fletchings

With traditional bows, you wanna use feathers. The first and main reason I recommend feathers is because on traditional bows (unless you use something like a flip rest, which you can if you really wanna use vanes) the fletchings are going to rub up against the riser. Feathers are a lot more forgiving than vanes with this. They are also a lot more forgiving if you are shooting a selfbow with no rest off your hand. (If you are shooting a primitive bow off the hand which does not have a riser, remember to whip the front end of the feather so you don’t get a fletching embedded in between your forefinger and thumb!) The second reason, is that feathers are somewhat God's gift to archers. They are designed by nature to be extremely light, are very good at creating drag on the air (which stabilizes the arrow shaft), are very good at recovering from rubbing against a traditional bows riser repeatedly, impart a natural spin to the arrow during flight due to the their shape, and are even somewhat waterproof to boot.


If you have any questions about choosing arrows for your traditional bow, please contact us at:
Phone: 855-653-9753
Email: info@oldworldarchery.com
,and I will do my best to help you choose the correct arrow length, point weight, and shaft spine to match your draw length, draw weight, bow type, and shooting style!

Daniel

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