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There is no perfect hunting arrow — every choice you make regarding ammunition, whether it’s with a bow or a rifle, is a balancing act. There are, however, certain elements that you should be aware of when selecting a hunting arrow tip.
If you’re new to archery or bowhunting, you should know that there are a wide variety of different arrow types. These types range from field points, which are designed strictly for target practice, to broadheads, which are designed for hunting.
Selecting a suitable hunting arrow can be compared to choosing a cartridge load for a rifle. There are many factors to consider which affect the range, accuracy, penetration, and wounding power of the arrow.
Hunting Arrow Tips
When you’re searching for suitable hunting arrow tips, one of your first considerations should be the law. Depending on the state in which you live, there may be regulations regarding everything from the minimum diameter of your broadhead and number of cutting blades to the length and weight of the complete arrow.
Once you’ve determined what types of arrows are legal in your state, you can consider your options.
Sorry, Rambo enthusiasts — poison-tipped and exploding broadheads are almost universally illegal.
There are three main options for hunting arrows:
You’ll need to determine the weight and cutting diameter you need. Assuming your requirements are consistent with the law, these factors affect the arrow’s penetration, the tissue disruption and blood loss it causes, and its effective range and trajectory.
Fixed-blade arrows typically consist of a broadhead with two or three integral cutting blades. These types of broadheads are the most straightforward and durable. A fixed-blade broadhead is generally more penetrative than either replaceable-blade or expandable designs. There are also no moving parts or hinges, so there are also fewer failure points.
Replaceable-blade broadheads have two or more cutting blades you can remove. If the blades become damaged or dulled, you can replace them. The replaceable-blade broadhead offers a balanced option for those seeking penetration and reusability.
Expandable broadheads possess two or more cutting blades that fold. On impact with the target, these blades deploy. Expandable broadheads are more fragile and, due to the increased surface area of the cutting blades, may be less penetrative than either the fixed- or replaceable-blade variants.
However, as the expandable broadhead deploys several cutting blades, it also has the potential to maximize tissue disruption and blood loss, improving your odds of recovering the deer or other game animal that you shot.
If you need additional weight toward the front of the arrow, you can also choose from several inserts for this purpose.
When you release an arrow from a bow, it flexes in flight. The degree to which the arrow shaft flexes is called its spine. Archers call flexible arrow shafts weak, whereas a rigid shaft is stiff.
Whether you need a weaker or stiffer spine depends on several factors. For example, if you have a bow with a high draw weight, you should select a stiffer arrow. A heavy broadhead on a weak arrow shaft, however, can cause pronounced bending in flight.
The length of the arrow also affects how flexible it is. A longer arrow will need to be stiffer to avoid excessive bending.
Spine’s Effect on Accuracy
As with ammunition for firearms, accuracy — how close the point of impact is to the point of aim — is a matter of consistency. The more consistent you are, and the more minor your variation from one shot to the next, the more accurate and precise your shooting results will be.
However, accuracy is also affected by the spine. If you shoot arrows with different spines, your groups will not be consistent. There is simply too much variation in the flight behavior from one arrow to another. It’s essential to keep in mind that even arrows from the same manufacturer will exhibit some variation. This is analogous to bullets from the same lot.
The straightness of the arrow is a value to which you should pay careful attention. Manufacturers often express the straightness of arrows as a tolerance. A tolerance denotes a range of deviation. For example, an arrow with a tolerance of plus or minus 0.001” may deviate in either direction. You want as low a tolerance as possible.
Arrow Shaft Materials
The type of shaft to which you attach your hunting arrow tips plays a significant role in the durability, accuracy, and longevity of your arrows. Arrow shafts are made from a wide variety of materials. You can start with traditional wood. This is cheap and good for target practice; however, they’re also fragile and susceptible to breakage.
Aluminum is more expensive than wood but less expensive than carbon. As a result, aluminum offers the archer a well-balanced option. Aluminum arrow shafts also tend to use screw-in arrowheads.
Carbon fiber is the most expensive option but also the lightest. Carbon fiber is also highly rigid. This combination of lightweight construction and stiffness means carbon-fiber arrows can be thinner and more penetrative than either aluminum or wooden arrow shafts.
There are also composite or hybrid arrows that combine the best attributes of both materials.
Work Your Way Up
As a new archer or bowhunter, you should avoid spending hundreds of dollars on expensive, high-quality arrows from the beginning. Buy relatively inexpensive arrows first and learn to shoot them accurately.
There’s no point investing in the best if you’re not ready to take full advantage of them. Arrows can, and will, become damaged or dulled on impact with archery/crossbow targets. It’s only a matter of time. You should also use field points for target practice as much as possible, reserving broadheads for game animals.
The Wrap Up
Hunting arrows are available in a variety of broadhead designs, arrow shaft materials, stiffnesses, and straightness tolerances. Your choice of hunting arrow should depend on local hunting regulations, the game you intend to shoot, your bow’s draw weight, and other factors.