How to Choose Arrows for a Compound Bow

If an individual is new to the art of archery and has recently purchased or plans to purchase a compound bow, the archer will want to get high-quality arrows to use with the hunting/archery equipment. A number of considerations go into choosing arrows for a compound bow, all of which are defined by individual need. An archer has to figure out arrow length through full draw measurements. Along with arrow length, the archer must consider arrow weight. Finally, the purpose the archer is using the arrows for, whether target practice, tournament participation, or the actual hunting of prey, plays a role in what arrows are most appropriate for use in a given situation.

Arrow Length & Full Draw Measurements

The length an archer requires is different for every individual. To determine the length of the arrows an archer needs, it is necessary to take up the bow and a long arrow with a nock on it. Someone has to assist the archer in measuring the length of the arrow once the archer establishes full draw.

The archer then holds the bow up with a non-dominant hand. The next step involves placing the nock up against the D loop on the bowstring and pressing it into position until a click is heard (this is the nocking point). The length of the arrow, also called the shaft, is extended forward, and placed on the arrow rest that is perpendicular to the string and accessed just a bit above the bow’s handle within the area of the bow riser.

The archer’s draw helps in determining the arrow length. It then becomes necessary for the archer to draw back the string and arrow to a full draw: The bow string is at full tension; the archer’s elbow locks back, and the bowstring with arrow nock locked into place are stretched back far enough to touch up against the cheek, nose, and mouth of the archer. The full draw occurs on the shooter’s dominant side since the non-dominant hand is holding the bow parallel to the ground and straight out from the chest. Even if the archer does not have an arrowhead on the arrow, it is important to keep the bow in full draw pointed away from other people.

With the bow in full draw, the individual assisting the archer uses the tape measure to determine the length of the arrow. The assistant measures by starting at the nocking point near the face of the archer and measures to the position on the bow where the deepest section of the grip is located. This is where the arrow meets and crosses the bow’s riser. An archer can find this point by eyeing it as it is about one inch away from the tip of the arrow or the archer use a bow square to ensure the greatest accuracy. The measurement does not take into consideration the measurement of broadheads or field points.

The person taking measurements can mark this spot on the arrow. After full draw measurements, the archer can set the bow facing down before attempting to remove the arrow from the nocking point. Now the archer can measure from the bottommost portion of the nock to the end of the arrow where the archer’s assistant put the mark during the full draw measurement session.

The archer can then shop for arrows based on the final measurements with the consideration of arrows that range anywhere from the exact measurement to one inch longer than the measurement collected. When buying arrows, the location selling the equipment will present the consumer with a chart so the archer can choose the correct arrow length. It will be necessary to add between 0.5 inch and 1.0 inch to the initial full draw measurement. For instance, if the archer has a full draw measurement of 29 inches the correct arrow length is then 29.5 inches to 30 inches in all. Adding the extra half to full inch allows the archer to buy arrows capable of clearing the forward-most section of the bow’s arrow shelf.

Measuring Full Draw without a Bow

An archer can measure full draw in the absence of having a compound bow present. This type of technique is useful if the archer has yet to by a bow for the first time, and would like to make a purchase of a bow and arrows simultaneously. Like the above-mentioned full draw arrow measuring method, the individual will require some assistance from another who can collect the necessary measurements.

First, the archer needs to stand up straight with the arms down at the sides. The shoulders should be back, and the archer will need to have on loose fitting, lightweight attire. The archer can then spreads arms out, one to each side, so that the entire body forms the letter “T.” The archer’s arms remain out, straight, and parallel to the floor. The elbows must remain unlocked. The assistant can take the measurement from the tip of the middle finger on one hand to the tip of the same finger on the opposing hand. The figure noted is then divided by 2.5 inches to determine arrow length. For instance, if the fingertip-to-fingertip measurement is 70 inches, the arrows one will require are at least 28 inches in length. It is a good idea to add 0.5 to 1 inch extra when considering the length of arrows one needs.

Arrow Weight

To know how to choose an arrow weight, one needs to know the draw weight of the bow. In considering the weight of the arrows one chooses, the weight will include the field point, nock, insert, vanes, and the arrow shaft. The ideal weight for arrows one plans to use for practicing with a target is between five and six grain per pound of draw weight. If the bow has 60 pounds of draw, then the weight of the arrows one needs for shooting are 300 to 360 grain.

For hunting purposes, the weight of the arrows will be a bit different. Instead, the archer will need arrows that are six to eight grain per pound of the draw weight. Thus, the arrow should weigh 360 to 480 grain when using the arrows for hunting prey. The arrows used for shooting at targets are lighter than those one would use for shooting at an animal simply because they fly straighter and are, therefore, best in tight shooting areas such as those found in a shooting area. For hunting, an archer relies on heavier bows because their extra weight helps in creating additional kinetic energy. The extra energy lends to the ease of penetrating flesh.

Arrow Material

Some of the most common arrows used for different purposes, such as target shooting and hunting, include arrows made of carbon, aluminum, and wood. Copper arrows are also available but are quite expensive and not necessarily practical. A carbon arrow does not have a lot of bend to it and once it hits something, it will not bend easily: This means this kind of arrow has a greater likelihood of snapping and creating dangerous shards that can injure the archer if the individual is not careful.

Arrows made of wood have been around for hundreds of years. The wood arrows today are for use with lower power recurve bows and long bows. These types of arrows are not good for bows with a higher power recurve or for use with a compound bow since wood is more likely to break. Wood arrows, unlike aluminum or carbon arrows using plastic vanes for flight, use features for flight instead.

Aluminum arrows are a bit heavier than the carbon arrows on the market. The aluminum material makes the arrows less stiff when compared to carbon options, and the arrow is a bit heavier in weight than other arrow alternatives. The aluminum arrows are a great option for the compound bow. They are heavy and longer lasting. The arrows can also be cut to size if necessary.


3 Rivers Archery. Arrow Selection Tips. Website. URL: “How to Select Proper Arrow Length for Compound Bows.”Website. URL:

“Archery Tips : How to Select the Right Arrow Based on Weight.” eHow Sports. Video. URL:

Additional Resources:

“How to Choose Correct Draw Length in Archery.” Airhead Archery. Video. URL:

“How To: Determine your Draw Length.” Ike’s Outdoor. Video: URL: