How To Choose Arrows For a Compound Bow

The subject of choosing arrows for a modern compound bow is vast, to the point where it will make any beginner archer’s head spin. This is why I’ve prepared the following guide for you. While it’s by no means all-inclusive, and I could probably write a short book on arrow selection, I don’t want to burden you with this. I simply want to teach you how to make a quick, educated selection that will let you get started with shooting your compound bow as quickly as possible, without spending weeks researching the subject and studying up on physics.

Step #1: Determine Your Draw Length

If you do not own a compound bow nor have access to one, you’ll need to follow the draw length calculation method outlined in this article. This approach is surprisingly accurate and very rarely delivers inaccurate results. The alternative is to visit an archery pro-shop in your area and have them measure draw length for you, though I understand this is not possible for everyone.

Step #2: Choose Arrow Length

With older compound bows, choosing the proper length of your arrows was a somewhat complicated process. Thanks to advances in technology and improvements in design, things have become much easier. You simple take your draw length and add 0.5″ up to a maximum 1″ to determine appropriate arrow length. So if your draw length is 28″, you should get arrows with a maximum length of 29″.

arrow length

Source: Hunters Friend (click to enlarge)

What this will do is give you an arrow that will be just long enough to clear the front-most part of the arrow shelf. Keep in mind that the length of an arrow is measured from the deepest part of the nock groove, to the end of the shaft. It does not include the length of your field points or broad heads.

Step #3: Choosing Arrow Weight

The weight of your arrows will vary depending on your objectives:

If you want to target practice, you want the arrow to weigh in total (shaft, vanes, insert, nock and field point combined) around 5 to 6 grain per pound of draw weight. So if your bow has 60 lbs. of draw, you want to use arrows that weigh in total between 300 and 360 grain.

If you want to hunt, you want an arrow with a total weight of between 6 and 8 grain per pound of draw weight. So again in the case of a 60 lbs. draw compound bow, this would mean an arrow weight of between 360 and 480 grain.

The values above are not set in stone, however. The only thing you can absolutely NEVER do is use an arrow that weighs less than 5 grain per pound of draw weight, as this will severely damage your bow void your manufacturer warranty.

You probably noticed that arrows used for target practice are lighter than those used for hunting. The reason for this is that lighter arrows travel in a straighter line and hence are easier to shoot in very tight groups, while heavier arrows travel somewhat less straight but deliver more kinetic energy for better flesh penetration.

In reality though, as long as your arrows weigh anywhere between 5 and 8 grain, you’ll have success using them for both hunting and target practice purposes. So if you can’t find arrows that meet the exact criteria outlined above, just go for any in the 5 to 8 grain range. (And remember – this is the total weight of the arrow, including all parts and broad heads / field tips).

What About The Spine Of an Arrow?

Arrow spine is a very important (possibly the most important) trait to consider when choosing arrows for a compound bow. There are a few reasons why I have not discussed this, however:

  1. Learning about arrow spine takes time, and you will need a decent amount of practice before you determine the perfect spine for your shooting style and technique.
  2. Different arrow manufacturers use different values when indicating the spine of their arrows, which confuses beginners significantly.
  3. When purchasing arrows online, manufacturers often don’t mention the spine of the arrows. Instead, they provide a threshold such as “suitable for bows with up to 55 lbs. draw weight” or “for bows up to 70 lbs. draw weight” etc.

As such, especially if you are buying over the internet, don’t worry about spine right now. Just go for arrows that are advertised as being suitable for bows that meet your’s in draw weigh. After a few months of shooting and once you’ve become better acquainted with your compound, you can delve in deeper into the world of arrow spine and buy some extra, better arrows.

I find that many beginners get very confused trying to determine the perfect spine and end up becoming paralyzed due to over-analysis. The result is waiting for months before they finally make their purchase. And even after all that research they are more than likely to want to try out a different arrow spine anyway.

If you insist however, here is a great arrow spine chart for you to consult.

Is There a Better And/Or Quicker Way To Choose The Perfect Arrows?

Absolutely. The easiest and most efficient way would be to:

  1. Take your new compound bow to an archery pro-shop
  2. Show them the bow, your draw length, and tell them what you want to do (hunting or target practice, or both)
  3. They will choose the arrows for you

So if this is an option for you, it’s definitely the best thing you can do as a beginner to compound bows.

Any Specific Compound Bow Arrow Brands To Go For?

Personally I like the Shiny Black® and Easton arrows. I won’t recommend any particular arrows because your final purchase will depend on your draw length. What I would suggest is letting the following two criteria guide you:

  1. Is the arrow of the right length for me? (See above for details on this)
  2. Is the arrow suitable for my bow’s draw weight?

That last part is critical. For example, some Shiny Black® target arrows are advertised as suitable for a draw weight of up to 55#. If your bow is a 60# draw, you should not get those (and instead look for ones marked as suitable for up to 70# draw). As long as you stick to this rating, you’ll be getting arrows with a weight and spine that are suitable for your compound bow’s draw weight. Will these arrows be 100% perfect for you? Probably not. Will they be good enough so you can have tons of fun shooting, learning about your bow, and gaining enough experience so you can determine what you personally want to have in an arrow? Absolutely!

How To Choose Arrows For a Compound Bow – Summary

As always, hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two here. As mentioned earlier, this guide is not intended to be an ultimate guide on arrow selection – seasoned archers will not learn anything new here. The purpose of this article is to help you get started on the correct road towards learning and enjoying the beautiful sport of bow shooting through hands-on experience, rather than spending months studying up on the theory and still end up purchasing arrows that aren’t 100% perfect. Remember: there are no perfect arrows; there are only arrows that are perfect for YOU. To know what’s perfect for you though, you have to start shooting.

Thanks for reading! If you have questions, kindly leave them in the comments section below. See you around!

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