Photo by Adobe Stock/Ekaterina Senyutina
Arrows have evolved over 10,000 years to become the highly efficient projectiles we know today. Many different components work together to make an arrow shoot straight and true, and they can all be adjusted to achieve the best shot possible.
Here, I’ll discuss the point on the front of the shaft, including the different types of points available, how point weight impacts an arrow’s flight, and how to choose the right point for your setup.
But first, you should know that modern arrow points can either be glue-on or screw-in. Traditional archers who shoot wooden shafts are about the only people who use glue-on points. These days, nearly all archers prefer a screw-in mounting system with a threaded insert that’s been glued into the end of the arrow shaft. Screw-in points are versatile because they allow you to exchange points. The following instructions assume you’re using screw-in arrow points.
And Your Point Is?
A variety of different arrow points are available to choose from.
Competitive and hobby target archers commonly use field points because they cause limited damage to a target. These smooth points also allow the arrow to be easily withdrawn after striking the target. I recommend you keep at least a few field points in your kit.
Broadheads are most often used when hunting big game. Broadheads fall into two categories: fixed-blade and expandables. Fixed-blade broadheads generally have two, three, or four exposed cutting edges without moving parts. You’ll need to put these edges to a sharpening stone from time to time. Some newer fixed-blade designs incorporate “bleeders” — basically, small razor blades that can be removed and replaced. This eliminates the cost of replacements, and ensures a super-sharp point for hunting.
Expandable broadheads have moving blades that are triggered by impact. Their big advantage is that they fly more like field points because the blades are tucked away during flight, improving their accuracy. On the other hand, some hunters believe the moving parts make them more unpredictable when they strike an animal.
Small game points come in a variety of styles and are designed for hunting rabbits, squirrels, and other small critters found in deep woods, thick brush, and other situations where a broadhead’s point would quickly be ruined. Small game points are more durable than broadheads and are also easier to find after the shot, because they don’t bury themselves under foliage.
Judo points are also made to be easy to find. They have a small central ferrule and long wires fanning out from the ferrule’s base. While judo points can be used on small game, they shine when you’re stump shooting, or “ranging” — walking through the woods or hills and shooting at natural objects, such as stumps, brush, or gopher mounds. Ranging is a great way to hone archery skills, and the judo point prevents the arrow from burying itself, so you’ll save lots of money in lost arrows.
You have many different types of arrow points to choose from, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Photo by Cody Assmann
Broadhead vs Field point: Compare the broadhead arrow point on top with the field point on bottom. Field points are great for target practice, while broadheads excel for hunting. Photo by Cody Assmann
Field point: These smooth points cause limited damage to targets, and are easy to remove during practice. Photo by Cody Assmann
Small Changes with Big Impacts
Be aware that the weight of a point affects an arrow’s flight.
Arrow point weight is designated in grains, a unit of weight commonly used in shooting sports. You don’t need to be familiar with how much a grain weighs, but it’s important to understand that heavier grain weights identify heavier arrow points. Common point weights are 80 grains, 100 grains, and 125 grains. Changing the arrow point’s weight has a big impact on the arrow’s flight. Smaller heads will make your arrow shoot flatter because they’re lighter. Heavier points will cause more drop because they’re heavier. If you plan on changing points — for example, from field points for practice to broadheads for hunting — make sure the point weights are identical.
In a previous issue, I explained how changing the weight of an arrow point can help with arrow tuning (See “Flyin’ True: How to Tune Your Arrows to Perfection,” May/June 2020.) Tuning is altering your arrow setup to perfect your arrow’s flight. Small point weight changes will have small arrow flight impacts, but are worth considering.
Here’s an example of using point weight to get better arrow flight from a traditional bow. Imagine you’ve bought new arrows for your traditional bow and have cut them to your desired length. Then, you shoot a few arrows and notice the arrow is slightly nock left. If you want to keep your arrow length the same but perfect your shooting, you could reduce arrow point weight. This will create less resistance as the arrow launches off the string, and affect how much it flexes.
For hunters in particular, point weights can impact an arrow’s ability to penetrate into an object downrange. Bowhunters talk about how well their arrows perform by referring to momentum or kinetic energy, meaning how well the arrows penetrate, or pass through, an object. Good arrow penetration is crucial when bowhunting.
To achieve better penetration in the field, you need to understand your arrow’s speed and mass. Some archers opt for fast arrow speeds and lighter arrow points, but traditionally, the solution is to increase the point weight. Think of the problem this way: A heavy full-sized pickup truck that hits a wall at 40 mph will do more damage than a small car doing 50 mph.
When you consider point weights, you’ll inevitably be introduced to the concept of front of center (FOC). This refers to the percentage of the total weight of the arrow that’s carried to the front of the center of the shaft. Imagine you have an arrow that’s 28 inches long. The combined weight of everything on the arrow (shaft, point, nock, inserts, and so on) is 500 grains. If your arrow has poor FOC, you’ll be able to perfectly balance the arrow at the halfway point, 14 inches. This means 250 grains of arrow weight are carried in the front 14 inches of length, and 250 grains of arrow weight are carried in the back 14 inches.
To improve your FOC, you can increase the point weight and thereby create a heavier front end for the same 28-inch-long, 500-grain arrow. Now the front 10 inches weighs 250 grains, and the back 18 inches account for the other 250 grains. So long as your arrow flight is still perfect, increasing the point weight is a proven way of getting better flight stability and improved penetration. However, never sacrifice perfect arrow flight for FOC.
Fixed vs. expendable: Both point styles are excellent options for hunting. Expandables (botton) are generally considered more accurate, although some hunters believe they’re unpredictable on impact. Photo by Cody Assmann
Expandable open and closed: Here you’ll see a closed expandable broadhead 9left), and one whose blades have deployed on impact (right). Photo by Cody Assmann
Expandable options: A variety of expandable broadhead styles are on the market, including three-blade models (left) and two-blade models (right). Photo by Cody Assmann
Broadhead options: Fixed-blade broadheads are available in multiple blade options, including two-blade models (left) and three-blade models (right). Photo by Cody Assmann
Judo: Nothing beats a judo point for shooting stumps and sticks in the woods. Photo by Cody Assmann
Specialty: This bird point is designed for small aerial targets, such as doves. Photo by Cody Assmann
Bowfishing: Designed for rugged underwater use, this bowfishing point will help you retrieve fish after they’ve been shot. Photo by Cody Assmann
The Right Point for You
How do you choose the right point? Begin by determining the intended function of the point. If you’re a bowhunter, select a broadhead or specialty point for specific animals you’re after. Practice with field points that match the weight of your broadhead. If you’re a target archer, field points will work for you almost every time.
Next, determine the point weight. Are you shooting a really fast bow and looking for less arrow drop? Consider a lighter point. On the other hand, if you’re trying to increase your FOC (that is, improve the penetration), try a heavier point. Whatever you choose, remember that an arrow needs to be tuned and sighted to a specific point weight, so you’ll need to start from square one in this process.
As an archer, you can choose from a variety of arrow points that will allow you to customize arrows to suit your needs. I hope this article has helped you sort through all the choices and, in the end, become a better shooter.
Cody Assmann is a lifelong outdoorsman who’s passionate about archery and passing on traditional outdoor skills. He lives in Nebraska with his family and runs a living history and outdoor business here.
Check out specialty points designed for bowfishing, turkey hunting, and other specific archery situations. You might want to leave the flaming arrows to the movies, though.
Illustration by Brad Anderson
Now that you have the right point, are you feeling the need to perfect your shooting? Read more about arrow tuning here.