There are countless numbers of arrow shafts and fletching combinations to choose from. In our experience, more expensive does not always mean better. Whether you’re shooting custom target arrows, aggressive hunting arrows or the inexpensive store brand here are some things to keep in mind. The first two variables you should take into account are the straightness tolerance and weight tolerance. All arrows are rated based upon these tolerances, and this is a major indicator of price.
Every arrow begins as a blank. Shafts are then manufactured with the blank serving as a standard for both straightness and weight. The manufactured shafts are then sorted through and if they are too extreme in either their straightness or weight they are discarded. So, if an arrow’s straightness tolerance is .006″ this means there will be no arrows in the box which are less than .006″ straight. Typically, this tolerance represents the $40-60/half-dozen priced arrows. The weight tolerance works in the same way, a +/- 2 grains means the arrow will weigh within that range of the blank. The more strict the tolerance, .001″ straightness +/- 0.5 grains, the more consistent the arrow. This makes for more consistent arrow flight ending with better groups down range.
Another variable in arrow selection is the spine. This is one of the most commonly misunderstood aspects of an arrow. Spine does not mean weight. It has a relationship with weight but does not reflect the total arrow weight. Spine is the stiffness of the arrow. The inertia transferred from the limbs of the bow, through the string, and to the arrow causes a rapid and massive reaction. In a matter of milliseconds the arrow at rest is sent down range at hundreds of feet per second. In order to harness the most energy from the limbs while providing straight flight, the arrow must be allowed to flex. How stiff an arrow should be depends on the weight being transferred to it. The easiest way to find out what spine you need is to look at the back of the box of arrows. The stiffness of an arrow changes as you shorten it for your draw length. Selecting the proper spine for your draw weight and length combination is critical to achieving the best arrow flight and there are tools online, such as Gold Tip’s arrow calculator to help you. Arrow spine is also measured in tolerances but is often less advertised. For example, a 350 spine arrow may have a tolerance of +/- .005. This arrow will then flex at 345 at its stiffest and 355 at its most flexible.
Now some important clarification: we do not believe in “practice arrows”. If you are practicing with a less expensive arrow and plan to get more expensive arrows to hunt with because they are automatically better, we challenge your logic. The subtle differences between shafts will cause your groups to be more inconsistent, making your hunting less ethical. Hunt with the arrows you’re practicing with regardless of price. Many animals have been taken around the world by store brand arrows. As long as you are competent with your equipment, price has no effect on whether or not you will be successful. That said, if price is a concern, consider foam archery targets or netting to help you retrieve your missed shots!