How to Tune Arrows

Develop how to accurately shoot archery whether you are hunting or target shooting for traditional archery.

| May/June 2020

Arrow Tuning
Photo by Getty Images/myshkovsky

Accuracy counts for everything in archery. Whether you’re hunting or target shooting, even small misses can have bad results. Although we see archers consistently shoot bull’s-eyes in Hollywood movies, developing accuracy is actually pretty challenging. Consider that your goal is to strike a point about an inch square with an arrow launched from a distance of 20 yards or more. In addition, even slight tweaks or twists in form or equipment can result in big misses. Depending on the situation, misses of just a few inches might be failures. One way to ensure consistent accuracy is to practice proper form and technique while shooting. However, proper form is only half the battle of becoming an accurate archer. Another part of that equation is to shoot arrows that fly straight. Not all arrows fly true, and all must be tuned to do so.

“Arrow tuning” refers to the practice of modifying an arrow so the entire setup flies correctly. It helps to think of the process as “building” an arrow, because arrows aren’t concrete objects. Arrows can be customized from point to nock, but each change you make will affect the arrow’s flight. Luckily, you can make alterations to get the best possible arrow flight. Before learning about these customizations, however, you’ll need to understand how arrows work.

Defining the Archer’s Paradox and Arrow Spine

Newcomers to archery usually aren’t aware of all that’s happening when an arrow flies from the string. Rather than simply arcing straight toward the target, arrows are constantly wobbling, all the way from the bow to the intended target. If you aren’t familiar with this phenomenon, which is called the “archer’s paradox,” I’d encourage you to get online and check out some slow-motion videos of arrows in flight.

So, arrows flex. Why does that even matter? While all arrows flex, not all arrows flex the same. Manufacturers are well-aware of this and sell arrows according to their flexibility, also referred to as “spine.” Manufacturers determine an arrow’s spine by suspending a weight from its center while the point and nock are supported. The more the arrow flexes during this test, the weaker its spine.

When building an arrow, the trick is to match its spine to the bow you’re shooting. Each bow exerts different force on the arrow, depending on its draw weight and how it’s set up. Fortunately, you can roughly match an arrow to your bow with math formulas, and most manufacturers have charts that’ll tell you the correct arrow spine for your bow. However, a manufacturer’s recommendation won’t get your arrows tuned specifically for you and your bow. That’s why each archer needs to take a little time tuning their own arrows.

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