Crossbows are powerful weapons that have been used for hunting and warfare for centuries. They have become increasingly popular in recent years as a tool for hunting and sport shooting. A few years back, I was hunting from a blind with my young son alongside me. One doe walked down the trail we were set up on just before last light. I took a shot but missed. Originally, I thought the miss was a graze low, but it turned out that I had grazed the whitetail high, and the arrow was stuck in a tree. That shot was at the limit of my comfortable range, around 50 yards, so I decided right there and then to look into different arrows configuration to try and find something that with fly with a flatter trajectory. Turned out, when it comes to crossbow bolts, there were and still is lots of things to consider when looking into an optimal arrow for your crossbow. Selecting the right arrows is crucial for achieving accuracy, velocity, and penetration. In this article, we will explore the factors to consider when selecting arrows for your crossbow.
Before purchasing arrows, it is essential to know the specifications of your crossbow. Every crossbow has a specific draw weight, which determines the amount of force needed to pull the string back to the firing position. The draw weight affects the velocity and kinetic energy of the arrow. A higher draw weight will result in a faster arrow and flatter trajectory. The crossbow’s rail also plays a role in arrow selection. The rail and arrow guide must match the size and shape of the arrow’s nock for proper alignment and maximum energy transfer.
The length of the arrow is another important factor to consider. The arrow must be the appropriate length to fit your crossbow and accommodate the draw length. If the arrow is too short, it can cause dry firing, which can damage the crossbow and injure the shooter. If the arrow is too long, it can be hazardous at the front of the crossbow, which could lead to an accident. It is important to check the manufacturer’s specifications for recommended arrow length. The longer your arrow, the heavier it’ll be. The common lengths are 16.5, 18 20 and 22 inches long.
The weight of the arrow also plays a significant role in accuracy, velocity, and penetration. The heavier the arrow, the slower it will travel, but it will also have greater kinetic energy and penetration. This seems ideal, but your trajectory will vary greatly when compared to a lighter arrow. With heavier arrows, it’s crucial to know the exact distance to your target. A lighter arrow will travel faster and with a flatter trajectory but will have less kinetic energy and penetration. The weight of the arrow should be matched to the intended target and draw weight of the crossbow. It is recommended to use arrows that are at least 400 grains for crossbows without the tip, along with a draw weight of 150 pounds or greater. Standard arrow weight hovers around the 8 grains per inch mark. See the crossbow bolts paring graph below.
Arrows are typically made from carbon or aluminum. Carbon arrows are lighter and thinner, which allows them to travel faster and with less wind resistance. They also have a higher degree of accuracy and are less likely to bend or break. Aluminum arrows are heavier and thicker, which makes them more durable and resistant to bending. They are also less expensive than carbon arrows. The material of the arrow should be selected based on personal preference and intended use. I personally prefer all carbon arrows because of their durability.
The spine of the arrow is a very important factor to consider when selecting arrows for your crossbow. The spine refers to the stiffness of the arrow shaft, which affects the flexing of the arrow during flight. If the arrow is too stiff, it can result in inaccurate shots and reduced velocity. If the arrow is too weak, it can cause the arrow to bend too much, resulting in inconsistent shots. The spine of the arrow must be matched to the draw weight of the crossbow to achieve the best results. It is important to select arrows with the appropriate spine to ensure accuracy and consistency when using your crossbow. The correct spine and thus flex in the arrow, will allow for the maximum transfer of energy from the bow string to the arrow when released. A very weak spine can break the arrow upon triggering and is dangerous. An over-spined arrow will cause inconsistent flight patterns and won’t allow for maximum speed and accuracy. To find the correct spine for your arrow, you need to know the crossbow’s specifications, specifically the arrow length and draw weight. Find those two values and that’ll help narrow down your choices at the outdoor store or archery shop.
The fletching of an arrow refers to the vanes or feathers that are attached to the end of the arrow to stabilize its flight. The fletching affects the accuracy and trajectory of the arrow. There are two types of fletching: vanes and feathers. Vanes are made of plastic and are more durable than feathers. They are also less affected by weather conditions such as wind and rain. Feathers are more traditional and are preferred by some shooters for their aesthetic appeal but are relatively uncommon with crossbows. Besides the type of fletching, the number of fletching’s usually found on a crossbow is three because of the interference and contact with the rail. There just isn’t enough open space like a compound bow. Finally, some crossbow shooters prefer to use helical fletching, which involves a slight twist in the fletching that can increase arrow spin and stability. This can result in greater accuracy and consistency. It is important to experiment with different types of fletching to determine which works best for your crossbow and shooting purpose and style.
The nock of an arrow refers to the plastic or metal piece that fits onto the back end of the arrow and connects it to the crossbow string. The nock must match the size and shape of the crossbow’s rail for proper alignment. There are two types of nocks: half-moon and flat. Half-moon nocks are the most common and are used by most crossbows. Flat nocks are less common and are typically used for traditional crossbows. With flat nocks, there is no need to align the nock with the fletching’s as the shape does not change anywhere around the nock. On the other hand, half-moon nocks sport that shape and must be twisted correctly into position to align perpendicular to the hen fletching.
Broadheads are the arrowheads that are used for hunting. They come in various shapes and sizes and are designed to deliver maximum damage to the target. There are two types of broadheads: fixed blade and mechanical. Fixed blade broadheads have blades that are permanently attached to the arrow shaft, while mechanical broadheads have blades that deploy upon impact. Fixed blade broadheads are more reliable and have a higher chance of penetrating the target, but they are also more prone to wind resistance and can affect the arrow’s accuracy. Mechanical broadheads are more aerodynamic and can travel faster, but they are also more expensive and can fail to deploy properly, which can lead to a less effective shot. The choice between fixed and mechanical broadheads depends on personal preference and intended use.
The quality of the arrows is also an important factor to consider. Cheap or poorly made arrows can result in inaccurate shots, reduced velocity, and even injury to the shooter. It is recommended to invest in high-quality arrows from reputable manufacturers to ensure safety and accuracy. It is also important to inspect the arrows regularly for any signs of wear or damage and to replace them if necessary. Look for a straightness threshold on the box, something like +/1 .003. The lower this value, the higher quality of arrow.
The intended use of the crossbow and arrows should also be considered when selecting arrows. If the crossbow is being used for hunting, it is important to select arrows with broadheads that are designed for maximum penetration and damage to the target. If the crossbow is being used for sport shooting or target practice, the arrows can be lighter and more aerodynamic to achieve greater accuracy and speed. It is important to select arrows that are appropriate for the intended use to achieve the best results.
In conclusion, selecting the right arrows for your crossbow is crucial for achieving accuracy, velocity, and penetration. Factors to consider when selecting arrows include crossbow specifications, arrow length, arrow weight, arrow material, arrow fletching, arrow nocks, broadheads, quality, and intended use. It is recommended to invest in high-quality arrows from reputable manufacturers and to inspect the arrows regularly for any signs of wear or damage. By considering these factors and selecting the appropriate arrows, you can ensure safety and accuracy when using your crossbow for hunting or sport shooting.