There is nothing too complicated or convoluted about arrow rests when it comes to their purpose. They hold the arrow in place on the bow, giving it support until you draw and let loose, shooting the bow. That is all there is to it. It aids in improving your overall stability and accuracy of your shots. Though its purpose is straightforward, choosing the perfect arrow rest is not that easy. If your choice is a design that is not compatible with your technique, skill level or purpose, the arrow rest will adversely affect your accuracy and aim.
Why Arrow Rest Designs Matter
The complications arise because in archery, there is wide diversity in terms of bow design, archery stances, release aids, body alignment, and whether you plan to use the bow for hunting or target practice. So archery encourages a fair amount of diversity. Beginners may prefer a simpler recurve bow while the more seasoned pros will usually opt for a modern compound bow. You may opt for a traditional finger release or a more modern mechanical trigger release.
Problems arise because the performance of a particular arrow rest will differ depending on how you hold the bow at a particular angle, the type of arrow you use, and your release technique. The fletching of the arrows in particular, will get affected by a particular arrow rest design if it is not compatible to a particular release mechanism. Also some arrow rests will fail to hold an arrow in place in certain situations. So there can be no single design which can claim to be the best arrow design for all bowmen. What works well for one may actually ruin the experience for another. So depending on your requirements, the best arrow rest will vary.
So lets keep things as simple and straightforward as possible. There are three major arrow rest designs popular among archery enthusiasts at present. They are:
- Shoot Through Rests (Prong rests)
- Containment Rests (Capture rests)
- Drop-Away Rests (Fall-Away Rests)
We will broadly analyze their features, capabilities and suitability for different kinds of archers. The reviews of some of the top arrow rest designs in each category will also be included therein.
These are one of the oldest arrow rest designs still in the market. And they are still popular despite the arrival of more modern arrow rest designs because of their simplicity and effectiveness. And they are also one of the cheapest arrow rests around.
The Design: they have two prongs, whose spacing can be easily adjusted, depending on the diameter of your arrow. These prongs create a kind of “cradle” where the arrow will stay at rest until released. They have a spring loaded mechanism that cause the prongs to fall forward creating an extra space for the fletches to pass through without getting impeded by the prongs. After the arrow has been fully released the mechanism brings the prongs right back up again.
Pros and Cons:
- They are easy to operate and adjust.
- They are the cheapest models.
- They don’t work with arrows with helical or offset fletchings.
- They don’t secure the arrows properly.
- They use outdated technology.
Suitable For: A very cheap option for beginners and especially target shooters. Though they can be effectively wielded by all kinds of archers, hunters will face more issues with the prongs. Inclined shots or canted bows tend to cause the arrow to fall away from the rest position, delaying your shot and wasting precious seconds that might allow your quarry to get away. They have been largely eclipsed by the more modern arrow rests.
A very cheap arrow rest that can be had for anywhere between $20-$45, this will work well in all weather conditions. They are very easy to attach, tweak and tune. Good value for money.
If you need a dirt-cheap arrow rest with no frills ideal for beginners, this could be the arrow rest for you. At less than $15, you get exactly what you pay for. Nothing more, nothing less.
Another inexpensive option for beginner target archers looking to improve their scores on the range. You may have some issues if you have a recurve bow as this is better suited for a compound bow.
These modern arrow rests offer a direct improvement over the older prong based models. The patented “Whisker Biscuit” type arrow rest has become one of the most popular arrow rest designs in the market.
The Design: Instead of having the arrow rest precariously on prongs, the containment or capture rest totally encircles the arrow shaft, in essence “capturing” it and holding it firmly in its grasp. While the very popular Whisker Biscuit variant has a disc of soft bristles with a hole in the middle where the shaft of the arrow rests, the “three point contact” models have three spokes that hold the arrow shaft firmly in place. This design has the maximum contact on the arrow shaft.
Pros and Cons:
- Firmly anchors the arrow in place, with zero chance of the arrow falling from the rest, even in different stances, alignments and angles
- Whisker biscuits work with all types of arrows while the 3 point variant will require standard fletchings.
- They dominate the market with numerous models and variants.
- The increased contact means that prolonged use will cause damage to fletching and vanes.
- There will be a decrease in forgiveness as well as performance of shots.
Suitable for: Bow-hunters without even a shred of doubt, especially beginners. The firm grip on the arrow means that it will not dislocate from the rest even while moving. This level of stability is exactly what hunters need in the field. Target shooters will not benefit much from this, since they largely shoot from stable stationary stances. And the performance hit will put them at a slight disadvantage in competition. These rests are great for beginner who are still learning to keep a stable stance and aim.
Incredibly cheap at around the $10 mark, this is a great option for beginners and especially kids to hone their archery skills. A basic Whisker Biscuit design, it offers adequate performance so long as you don’t expect too much from the cheap plastic frame.
A more expensive proposition at around the $80 mark, this original Whisker Biscuit model is nevertheless worth that extra cash. With its sturdy aluminum body frame and durable nylon bushings, this is an arrow case made for rough use in the field. Excellent choice for hunters who mean business.
A decent three point contact model in a sea of whisker biscuits, this design allows minimal to zero vane contact and improved speed and accuracy for pro hunters who don’t like the performance tradeoffs that whisker biscuits make. A good product around at around $30.
A modern improved take on the older shoot through rests have resulted in the fall away or drop away arrow rests. They offer some of the best performances of all arrow rests thanks to zero contact with fletchings upon release. But they are also the most complicated to setup and get running.
The Design: The prong design has been improved to create deep often “Y” shaped cradles where the arrow can rest snugly without much risk of falling off. Some designs even offer an extra arm above the prongs to fully contain the arrow. When the arrow is released, after a set time, the cradle will fall away completely, leaving the arrow fletchings free of any encumbrances in their path. To achieve this, the rests have a push up design, one that has to be raised into position with a nylon cable/cord. The release of the bow triggers a movement in its buss cable or cable slide, either of which is connected to the
triggering mechanism of this rest. This movement triggers the rest to fall forward, but only after the arrow has achieved stability in its flight.
Pros and Cons:
- Combines the best aspects of shot through and containment arrow rests
- Zero trouble with all fletching designs.
- Can accommodate a wide variety of vane sizes.
- They are complicated and require some effort to set up, which can be hard for beginners.
- The most expensive type of arrow rests.
Suitable For: both hunters as well as target shooters. The more experienced they are, the better. The triggering mechanism has to be properly programmed according to the characteristics of the bow being used. This can be a bit overwhelming for beginners. But provided they can get a pro to take care of that, this can be a fantastic option for beginners as well. Works exceptionally well in the target ranges. Is also favored by pro hunters who dislike the performance downgrades on whisker biscuits.
Drop away rests tend to be quite expensive and this model from QAD has a decent price of around a hundred bucks. For that price, you get a sturdy stainless steel frame, a sleek design and all the top of the line features like lock down, vibration dampening and velocity optimization. Excellent for both target shooters and hunters.
For a more budget oriented drop away rest, this TruGlo model ticks all the right boxes at around $80, and can be picked up for as low as $50 on sale online. With sealed bushings and rubber dampeners, it offers superior performance and silenced arrow loading, crucial if you are a pro hunter. For added flavor, it comes with a camo finish.
A top of the line full containment model, this will put you back by a good $140, slightly lesser if you can get it at a discount of course. Designed for pros, this has all the advanced adjustability features that target archer would want. If you want to improve your scores on the range, this might be one of the best option for you that money can buy.
Regardless of you skill level, purpose and choice of equipment and arrows, there is an ideal arrow rest out there tailor made for you, at a budget you are comfortable with. The challenge is in identifying your needs properly. Hope this article helps you in that in some meaningful way. Happy target shooting/hunting!