How to choose the best carbon hunting arrows for your bow ?

The modern carbon arrows market has changed dramatically in recent years with the emergence of Chinese production. It is a bit difficult to navigate the multitude of names, the different diameters offered, and the tolerances claimed by a particular manufacturer to justify superior performance or a more competitive price. What exactly is it? We will try to help you see through it more clearly:

First, the diameter and the standard (expressed at Easton by a letter and taken up by the manufacturers of illuminated notches):

The first carbon arrows to appear on the WA (FITA) shooting market in the 1980s were pultruded, that is, constructed from glued longitudinal fibers. Versions adapted to hunting quickly emerged. If these arrows were already heavy and thin (we come back to that later on), they had the disadvantage of being fragile and breaking into wires and splinters, which was rather penalizing for an arrow dedicated to hunting (Beman Hunter). The reluctance "of the ancients" towards carbon arrows dates from this time.

Very quickly, manufacturers switched to carbon mixed with fiber wrapped around a die; this technology is still in use today. The notch and insert then being fitted internally (Beman ICS, Easton Evolution, Carbon Express Mahyem and Heritage). The internal diameter of approximately 6.2 mm is still in force on current productions: the Easton S Standards, Carbon Express .244 and Gold Tip .246:

• Easton Powerflight or Flatline
• Carbon Express Mahyem Hunter DS Maxima Red or Maxima Hunter
• Gold Tip Tradition or Hunter
• Maximal Hunt, Edge or Savage
• Buck Trail Timber, Frontier

Different tube diameters

Easton and Beman then developed the 5.2mm X standard. These tubes of reduced diameter had for argument (justified) to favor the penetration for the hunting arrows (but also in the 3D targets), and to a lesser extent to limit the sensitivity of the arrow to the crosswind. This last argument can be justified in the great American plains where we shoot at great distance, but less in the dense forests of our regions. This X standard is found in a lot of current productions, American or Chinese:

Easton Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) and Axis
Carbon Express Maxima Red SD
Gold Tip Tradition Classic
Buck Trail Ebony and Outback
Maximal Back Bone
Easton also offers a new intermediate diameter for its Aftermath and Full Metal 6mm tubes, between the S of 6.2 and the X of 5.2, this is the H standard:

• Easton Aftermath and Full Metal 6mm

Consult the hunting tubes gallery

Spine, weight, and straightness tolerances

The stiffness of a carbon tube is expressed in Spine (deflection). The stronger or faster the bow, the more draw the archer will have, and the more rigid (but not excessively) spine arrow he will have to use.

An arrow that is too soft or too hard will be less precise and less consistent, especially when shot with a hunting blade. The spine is expressed by a number which can change from brand to brand. Easton, Win Black, Gold Tip and Chinese imports sold under private labels have common nomenclatures:

• From 800 (the most flexible) to 250 the hardest
• The spines 400, 340 or 300 are the most commonly used for hunting
• You will find selection tables specific to each brand

Carbon Express offers its own nomenclature:

• 150 = 500 Easton
• 250 = 400 Easton
• 350 = 350 Easton
• 450 = 300 Easton

Spine tolerance is the homogeneity of stiffness in a bundle of tubes. While twelve high-end tubes will be very consistent, the same may not be true for tubes made in China sold under a distributor name. You will have to deal with more or less obvious differences depending on the price of the arrows. The shooting translation will be a better grouping with a reduced tolerance arrow. An experienced archer who groups in a tennis ball at 30 yards with high-end arrows may have to be satisfied with a handball with a first-prize arrow. Blade shots will have an even wider spread!

The weight tolerance is reflected, like the spine tolerance, by more or less serious weight differences in the same bundle of arrows. The top-of-the-range arrows being of the same weight except for a few grains (1 grain = 0.0648 grams). Again, this lower tolerance of a first prize arrow will affect the group of arrows. A beginner will have a harder time noticing these differences which will be obvious to an experienced archer.

Finally, the straightness tolerance is the easiest to demonstrate. The composition of the high-end arrows, built with rigor and a better quality carbon, inevitably brings a quality of straightness. This tolerance is expressed by a number:

• 001 for the perfect competition arrows
• 003 for good hunting arrows
• 006 for the most economical arrows

For example, Victory offers the same tubes, sorted at the factory under the names 001, 003 or 006. Buying arrows 006 implies that you will have to accept to shoot arrows less precise than 003 or 001.

Weight, straightness and spine tolerances have a huge influence, as we have seen, on the quality of an arrow. But the best tube in the world is nothing when mounted with a mediocre insert, notch, or tail. Indeed, these accessories are at least as important as the tube. And this is often where first price Chinese productions leave something to be desired: aluminum inserts are of poor quality, they are often ill-adjusted in the tube (come off or are misaligned), they are fragile, affect the straightness, and are the real Achilles heel of these economic arrows. We tested these same Buck Trail or Maximal arrows with German Top Hat inserts, and miraculously, the result is really better. But suddenly, the price is less attractive!

Heavy arrow VS light arrow and influence on the spine

Most modern arrows are quite light. This is a problem for a young compound hunter shooting a soft and not very powerful bow. This is a much more serious problem for a traditional bow hunter who will inevitably be less precise, and who has to deal with less energy.

The solution exists, and we almost should have approached the subject this way: a heavy arrow is more effective in hunting. Especially in France, a country where you can meet a young musk rat or a large wild boar with a strong frame and build. A heavy arrow conserves energy better, like a full speed truck is more difficult to stop. It penetrates more easily a denser body tissue.

It is therefore worth asking the question whether it is not wise to use the brass or steel arrow inserts offered by serious manufacturers:

Each manufacturer offers its heavy inserts

You will find in S format

• The 40 and 60 grit Aluminum Top Hat Insert
• The Top Hat insert in 100 grit Brass
• The Gold Tip 246 100-grain brass insert
• The Win Black brass insert

In H format (Aftermath)

• The 50 or 75 grain breakable brass insert

In X format

• The 60 or 75 grain FMJ brass insert
• The 100-grain steel Top Hat outsert
• The 40 grain Buck Trail outsert

An aluminum insert rarely weighs more than 15 or 20 grains. Adding that extra mass to the head of the arrow will allow you to choose a harder arrow spine, which will effectively shoot an arrow that is a bit stronger, stiffer, and again heavier. This translates into better target grouping, quieter bow and above all more forgiving shooting. The major downside is that the shot is a little less tight at long range.

100 grains = 6.48 grams

The weight gain of a heavy insert combined with a harder tube spine is in the range of 3 to 5 grams depending on the draw and the choice of arrow. It’s far from negligible !!

Arrows mounting:

Fitting the arrows and maintaining good quality tail units is important to ensuring an accurate shot. Although modern vanes such as the Bohning Blazer or the Heat are our favorites for compound bow hunting, it is okay to mount your arrows with natural feathers. For traditional bows, the natural feather is mandatory due to the use of a bow mat.

If the quality of the tail is important, the quality of the assembly is even more so. Do not hesitate to read our recommendations regarding the drying time of the various glues that we offer. The viscosity of the glue is to be determined according to your preferences and the degree of humidity in the environment where you are working.

Finally, the right choice and the arrow sorting. How do you know if it makes sense to buy a premium arrow?

Are you losing more arrows than you break? If so, the economic arrow appears to be the right choice. If not, a more expensive arrow will also be stronger and more economical in the long run.

The arrow sorting technique is the first that comes to mind to answer the first question. Take a new target block, or a new sheet of paper with an aiming mark. Shoot all your arrows (of course identical) at about twenty meters after having taken care to number them. You will write the arrow number on the impact after removing it from the target. After a few shots, you will be able to highlight the trends. If the numbers are scattered randomly throughout your target is that you cannot yet highlight the insufficient tolerances of your arrows. If, on the other hand, you spot the number 7 regularly on the right, or the 3 always at the bottom, you are ready to go to a higher quality.