How to Find The Most-Lethal Arrow for Your Bowhunting Setup

Focus on weight and diameter to pick the perfect arrow for your fall hunt

For bowhunters the new year brings with it the potential for many months of adventurous hunting possibilities, and also something a little more tangible: A slew of confusing new gear choices. Rest assured we’ll soon be seeing new versions and models in most every gear category, including one of our most-critical items: Arrows.

Thankfully, finding the ideal arrow for your setup is much easier than, say, pinpointing your “perfect” bow (unless, of course, you possess near-unlimited cash reserves and have a whole bunch of free time on your hands). Arrows are a different story. You should be able to locate your perfect arrow without too much trouble.

There are many different sizes and styles of arrows available with the necessary stiffness for your particular draw weight and draw length, which offer many possibilities for finding the one that delivers the best blend of speed, penetration, and silence.

Diameter and weight are two very important qualities to consider. Straightness and spine tolerance are also important, but are only truly noticeable if they are absent. Here are a few things to always keep in mind when focusing on weight and diameter.

3 Basic Arrow Weights

There are basically three shaft weight categories: light, mid-weight, and heavy. A light arrow has a finished weight of between 5 and 6.5 grains for each pound of your bow’s maximum draw force. A lightweight arrow for a 70-pound bow would have a finished weight (including broadhead) between 350 and 455 grains. A mid-weight arrow weighs between 6.5 and 8 grains per pound of draw force (455 to 560 grains for a 70-pound bow) and a heavy arrow is anything weighing over 8 grains per pound of draw force (more than 560 grains).

Another, maybe more familiar way to consider arrow weight is in grains per inch of shaft. Using this method, a light shaft would be 5 to 6 grains per inch, a mid-weight arrow 7 to 9 grains per inch, and a heavy shaft 10 or more grains per inch.

Heavier Means Quieter

Because light arrows don’t soak up as much of a bow’s energy as a heavy arrow, there will be more energy left in the bow to dissipate after a light arrow is released—energy that becomes unwanted vibration and noise. All things being relatively equal, a heavy arrow will make your bow quieter. However, with today’s cutting-edge compound bow designs that incorporate a plethora of neat silencing technologies, increasing arrow weight to dampen bow noise today rests mainly in the traditional archer’s realm. Heavier arrows shot out of recurves and longbows can deliver dramatic differences compared to ultralight shafts. When it comes to compounds, a good compromise between speed and quiet shooting (and deadliness on the vast majority of big game animals, including whitetails) is a middling-weight arrow.

Premium Straightness—Is It Worth The Price?

The best premium arrows (and the most expensive) have straightness tolerances of +/- .001 to +/- .002 inch. Lower-grade arrows have straightness tolerances of +/- .003 to +/- .006 inch. The good news here is, unless you’re shooting long range (50 yards or more) you will not be able to tell the difference in accuracy. If you can afford to shoot the most-expensive, straightest arrows you can find (and knowing this gives you more confidence afield) then by all means, go for it. But if your wheelhouse is bowhunting whitetails and shooting 30 yards or less (most all of us) then take heart that mid-price arrows will get the job done nicely. ** Models That Deliver More Penetration** Testing has proven that, all things being more or less equal, small-diameter shafts will penetrate better than larger-diameter shafts. So bowhunters choosing to make the jump (and increased investment) to micro-diameter shafts (such as the Easton Deep Six series or a similar line) should see a penetration advantage.

Truth be told, I’m a big fan of the Deep Six technology, as well as other micro-diameter arrows such as the Victory VAP, and I’ve seen the differences in penetration using them daily in foam 3-D targets—and also in the field, where they have been as deadly on game as any arrows I have ever shot. At the same time, I continue to experience great bowhunting success with fairly “standard-size” carbon shafts such as the Carbon Express Maxima series, and the Gold Tip Hunter XT.

In the end, if you’re using a fairly standard high-performance compound set in the 60- to 70-pound range, like I do, my advice would be to shoot whatever mid-weight carbon arrow produces the best accuracy and gives you the most confidence. However, if you are a short-draw or low-poundage bowhunter, it’s likely you will see some real benefit from switching over to micro-diameter shafts.