Weight-Forward Arrow Designs

Why You Should Consider Weight-Forward Arrow Designs

By Patrick Meitin

Weight-Forward Arrow Designs – Traditional bowhunters have understood the advantages of tapered wood arrows for ages. One of the obvious advantages directly regarding traditional gear is that arrows are typically shot directly off the shelf, so a nock end smaller in diameter than the front provides improved arrow clearance around the riser. This is a real world advantage, and many single-string archers no doubt choose tapered shafts for this reason alone. But the obvious question is what advantages are to be found while shooting a compound bow with a cutting-edge drop-away rest? Like many archery-related subjects, a simple explanation offers only a small portion of the overall equation. So in order of importance, here are some reasons for choosing a tapered or weight-forward arrow design while shooting modern compounds.   

Weight-Forward Arrow Designs – Improved F.O.C.

F.O.C., or Front of Center, is the percentile difference between the mathematical center verses the center of gravity—or balance point with point installed—compared to an arrow’s overall length. An easier way of looking at this is how far forward an arrow’s balance point is situated from its exact center. F.O.C. is vitally important to many things, including reliable flight and penetration. Without sufficient F.O.C. or weight forward a situation is created where the nock end of the arrow is attempting to overtake the front end while in flight. Put into simpler terms: unstable flight and poor accuracy. 

Weight-Forward Arrow Designs
Weight-Forward Arrow Designs

It has been generally accepted that 8 to 9 percent F.O.C. is the minimum required for reliable field-point and streamlined mechanical-broadhead flight. When the point is a fixed-blade broadhead, 10 to 12 percent minimum F.O.C. is typically recommended. 

F.O.C. is discovered by first determining the exact mathematical center of your finished arrow, measured between the nock throat and cut-off point. That point is marked with a pencil or magic marker. Second, find that arrow’s balance point on a sharp edge with field point or broadhead installed. Carefully mark that point. Finally, divide the distance between these points by the overall arrow length (nock throat to cut-off point) and move the decimal point two spaces right to create a percentage.       

Straight arrow flight is obviously highly important, but other benefits are also realized. Higher F.O.C. percentages tend to lend arrows added forgiveness in flight, whether subjected to a sloppy release with fingers, light deflection or crosswind. The higher the F.O.C., the more that arrow wants to remain on course. High F.O.C.—all other factors remaining equal—also leads to deeper penetration on game, the heavier front end literally dragging the lighter tail of the arrow through wound canals.

There are several ways to increase F.O.C. The easiest approach is to simply increase point weight, using a 125-grain point/broadhead, for instance, instead of a near-standard 100-grain. Most bowhunters seem averse to this, preferring to stick with heads they already own or trust. Another approach is to increase insert/outsert weight, choosing a brass or steel system instead of standard aluminum. Fletching arrows with lighter feathers instead of heavier plastic vanes can boost F.O.C.  

Another F.O.C.-boosting option for the modern archer is to simply select arrows with built-in weight forward characteristics, which doesn’t require buying new points and broadheads, while also maintaining every foot per second of velocity possible. 

Built-in weight forward shafts—as an idea—include either tapered profiles, as already mentioned, or arrow construction seamlessly melding denser carbon materials at the front end of the shaft with lighter materials at the rear. Tapered carbon shafts I’ve used successfully include Arrow Dynamics Nitro Stingers, Carbon Tech Panther, Quest Archery Power Punch, Alaska Bowhunting Supply GrizzlyStiks, and more recently Easton FMJ T64 (aluminum-alloy/carbon). Carbon Express is the sole manufacturer of patented Built-In Weight-Forward shafts—as a trademark name—I’m aware of. These shafts are part of the CX Maxima lineup that expands annually, all including single-diameter construction but different stiffnesses/material densities along their length.       

Dynamic Forgiveness

If you have thrown a dart, F.O.C. balance is pretty intuitive, but there is more here than meets the eye. When you introduce a taper to an arrow, or assemble a shaft including varying carbon stiffness/densities along it length, you also create dynamic spine. Standard-issue, straight-walled shafts with even material construction are able to flex anywhere along their entire length during launch. This was how things were done for eons, and it has obviously worked—fletchings doing a commendable job of creating order from chaos. 

That said, weight-forward, dynamic-spine shafts bring a new world of accuracy potential to the field, particularly with fixed-blade broadheads. The smaller rear end of a tapered, or engineered “softer” mid-section of a dynamic spine shaft, allows specific areas of the arrow to absorb parallax flex or acceleration oscillations during launch, while the broadhead is held on a stiffer front end that flexes or oscillates less or not at all. This helps the leading broadhead remain parallel to the initial direction of travel and translates into a leading point less apt to grab air and cause arrows to veer off course. Furthermore, since arrow flex/oscillations are isolated to specific portions of the shaft, each arrow is launched more evenly, leading to more consistent grouping.           

In general, I’ve observed that dynamic spine gives an arrow more spine/deflection latitude, translating into easier fine tuning of today’s faster compound bows—especially when using fixed-blade broadheads. Dynamic shafts usually come in fewer deflection grades due to this. Tapered shafts, like boat-tail rifle bullets, also have the potential to exhibit superior long-range aerodynamics. This advantage isn’t likely to reveal itself when limited to the intimate ranges at which we shoot Eastern whitetails, but can spell flatter trajectory for the bowhunter who takes longer shots at Western game. It is also safe to say that a tapered shaft, like today’s ultra-thin arrows, also lead to less cross-wind drift, and deeper penetration. 

The obvious advantages of higher F.O.C. include a positive influence on flight characteristics, and increased forgiveness and penetration, while the hidden benefits of dynamic spine, such as improved broadhead accuracy, come along for the ride.

Visit Us On FacebookVisit Us On InstagramVisit Us On TwitterVisit Us On Youtube