Cutting Arrows – How Long Should You Cut Your Arrows? I’m a consummate gear junky—so much so I even pay close attention to what other bowhunters choose while I’m in hunting camps or on the 3D course. I have specific ways of setting up hunting bows, but am always curious about how and why other archers do things. When asked, most give reasoned answers for why they choose the gear they do and set things up in a particular way. What’s more perplexing is when archers have no idea why their bow is set up a particular way or why certain accessories were chosen. Many archers obviously leave equipment choices up to someone else, most likely a pro shop technician. Cutting Arrows
Arrow length in relation to the bow riser, arrow rest and actual draw length is one of those things some archers seem to give little thought to. No two setups will appear alike, so there is obviously little consensus. Some shooters draw their arrow tips right into the arrow-rest (essentially an over-draw dynamic, given some of today’s drop-away rest designs). Others leave 6 inches of arrow protruding from the front of the riser at full draw. You likely fall somewhere in between.
The question must then be asked: Is there a right or wrong answer to arrow length in relation to draw length, riser reflex and arrow rest location? Do basic rules of thumb apply? Is there a practical or accuracy advantage to one approach verses another? The short answer: yes, and no.
Cutting Arrows – Long Cut
There are viable reasons to leave an excessive amount of arrow protruding before the bow riser while at full draw, no matter how “untidy” it appears to an anal-retentive personality like me. Those reasons are increased arrow weight and creating correct spine dynamics.
Regarding weight, different arrow classes or models are normally presented by four sets of criteria; spine, straightness tolerance, matched weight and grain-per-inch (gpi) specs. This gives you a quick, nut-shell idea of what you’re dealing with. In bowhunting I find gpi as important as any of these facets, as it allows matching the arrow needed for a specific task at hand. For instance, a fast, light arrow weighing 7.5 to 8 gpi might prove ideal for long-range pronghorn or desert deer, while a heavy arrow weighing 10 to 11 gpi would prove more useful for something like elk or moose. Single inches of arrow add up to final weight (plus point and components) when the overall length of the finished arrow is tallied.
This is more important to bowhunters who have shorter draw lengths, which I would call anything less than 28 inches. Leaving a bit more arrow protruding from the front of the riser adds to finished weight, which translates into increased penetration potential. As an example, while assembling hunting arrows for my wife (she pulls 48 pounds to just 25 inches; arrows starting as heavy-for-spine numbers) I leave a few inches of shaft protruding from the bow riser after she hits full draw to add momentum-boosting mass.
A too-long arrow can also solve spine issues. Returning to the example of my wife, leaving shafts longer than needed also allows her to use a slightly stiffer shaft, which generally also increases mass. Dynamic spine is created by the flex imparted by the cams/limbs unloading stored energy into the arrow. Given an equal static spine, a shorter arrow will prove stiffer, a longer arrow “softer.”
In my own case, shooting 70 pounds at 30 inches, I often find manufacturer spine charts put me at a “tweaner” spine rating on the cusp between .340 and .300 spine shafts. That makes an easy choice; I simply go with the .300 and leave it a tad long to ensure easier broadhead tuning. Of course, you can also add more point weight in these situations, as there’s no rule dictating that you must shoot a 100-grain head…
Cutting Arrows – Short Cut
On the other end of the spectrum, and a place I used to find myself frequently before the arrival of carbon arrows, is cutting arrows to minimum lengths to make them stiffer. As a 6-foot, 5-inch shooter I’ve actually purposefully shortened by draw length from 32 to 30 inches in the interests of easier tuning and greater availability of bows accommodating such draw lengths. Many radical cam systems found on modern compounds impart unprecedented dynamic stress during arrow launch, calling for slightly stiffer spine—or shorter shafts.
Cutting a shaft shorter allows me to employ the “softer’ shafts mentioned earlier when I find myself on the cusp between two spine ratings. It might also allow me to use a more robust 125- instead of standard 100-grain broadhead, which I might deem preferable while bowhunting elk, moose, big bears or African game. In some cases this results in broadheads being drawn inside the riser shelf—not so difficult with today’s more generous sight-window cutouts and the slight overdraw effect created by many of today’s top drop-away rest models. Even back in the day, shooting aluminum arrows cut to minimum overall lengths in bows with less sight-window clearance, it was a simple matter to install broadheads into inserts before instillation and orient them to clear the arrow shelf or sight window before adhesive cured.
On a lesser note, a shorter arrow is less prone to clattering and rattling in arrow quivers. Some also choose this route for the very overdraw effect mentioned already and the continued obsession with speed. For every 25 grains of arrow weight subtracted you will see about 5 to 7 fps increases in arrow velocity—meaning losing 2 or 3 inches of arrow results in an additional 5 to 7 fps additional arrow speed. If you find that important…
Down The Middle
In the big picture I usually strive for something in the middle of these extremes. I usually hand a friend or Wifey a felt-tip pen, pull to full draw and snug into a comfortable anchor, asking them to mark the arrow shaft ¼ to ½ inch in front of the riser’s leading edge. This alleviates any concerns of a fixed-blade broadheads contacting the arrow shelf or riser while at full draw, and usually closely represents your actual draw length (unless your compound bow’s riser is heavily reflexed). It’s really that simple.
I have found no accuracy advantage in one approach over another. After consulting a manufacturer’s spine chart, heeding arrow length, draw weight and point weight specs, accuracy becomes a function of fine tuning—manipulating arrow rest, nocking point and cam dynamics. Inherently, carbon arrows measuring between 28 and 30 inches typically prove most efficient, thus potentially most accurate, but any arrow length can be tuned for straight flight with enough tweaking. So, long or short, cut arrows to a length that helps meet the goals outlined above and tune accordingly.
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