Breaking Down the Arrow Speed vs. Arrow Weight Debate
Few topics in the archery world will spark more debate than discussing high speeds versus high arrow weights. The high arrow speed camp tends to feel that the high FOC (front-of-center) camp follows a modern fad. The high FOC guys tend to think that the speed freaks are living in the past.
Are either of them right? Is there a middle ground?
I will break down the age-old question: is arrow speed or weight more important?
Is Arrow Speed Important?
Arrows flying at high speeds offer two distinct advantages over slower arrows; their trajectory is flatter, and they reach their target sooner.
When you have an arrow with a flat trajectory, mistakes that you make in knowing your animal's range will matter less. I
f you range an elk at 60 yards, and he takes two steps back, and you don’t have a chance to range him again, this difference of a few yards will matter less than with a slower arrow with a steeper trajectory. There is a great benefit to this, to be honest.
I remember being 14 years old, sitting over a water hole in Wyoming, when I took my first shot at a pronghorn. I had him ranged at 40 yards, and he had moved a few yards back from that point. I didn’t range him again; my arrow went right under his belly. Was it the fault of the change in range? Probably not, but it certainly had something to do with it.
Faster arrows reach their target more quickly than slower, heavier ones.
The benefit here is that animals are less likely to jump the string, or rather, they have less time to do it. String jumping has been menacing the lives of bowhunters for centuries, and fast arrows are about the only thing that can help counter the ninja-like reflexes of the animals we hunt, which have spent centuries learning and evolving to protect themselves against predators far more dangerous than us at close ranges.
It is simple. A fast arrow is in the air for less time between points A and B, giving the animal less time to react to the sound of the shot.
So why is there such a trend lately of people moving to high FOC, slower arrows?
Is Arrow Weight The Most Important?
An analogy can best explain this debate as with many things in physics.
You are playing football as a running back, and you can take the ball up the left side of the field or the right side. On the left, the only thing that stands between you and the endzone is a 140lb kicker. He isn’t big, but he sure runs fast. On the right side is a 250lb linebacker. Which one is likely to stop you if he contacts you?
Which one will likely send you flying backward onto your back on the field? Which one are you more likely to shake off and get through to the end zone?
This is how many people look at the arrow speed vs. weight debate, and this analogy often leads people to build heavy but slow arrows. And yes, they have a point.
A heavy arrow will penetrate much better once it hits its mark than a light arrow, despite having a slower velocity on impact. Heavy arrows penetrate better than light and fast ones, period. This, however, leads us back to the discussion of string jumping.
String jumping is a serious issue for bowhunters, and sacrificing 20-30fps (or even more) of arrow speed to get better penetration won’t matter if the animal jumps the string and you miss or wound the animal anyways. So, what is the right answer? Is there a happy middle ground?
What Is The Golden Rule of Arrow Building?
I must preface this by stating that this is only my opinion. This isn’t the only answer, but it has worked well for me, my dozens of clients, and my friends.
All projectiles have an optimum speed at which they fly. Darts are thrown by professional dart players a certain way because it makes them fly well. They don’t simply throw the dart as hard as they can.
Anyone who has reloaded their own cartridges knows that there comes a point where you add too much powder to the casing, and your groups start to get bigger.
You are pushing the projectile to fly faster than it’s intended to, and the flight characteristics of it will suffer.
The same is true for arrows.
We (and many archers who are much smarter than me) have found that arrows fly optimally in the 270-280 fps range.
Just like the bullets that had too much powder and started to group poorly, arrows will lose their ideal flight characteristics when they fly too fast, and the groupings can suffer, particularly at long range.
This is not to say that you can’t shoot amazing groups at 310 fps, but a bow at 280 fps will shoot better groups, at least from a theoretical standpoint.
I shoot quite a powerful bow, at 70 lbs and 30.5”. I could have an arrow that flies over 300 fps out of my bow, but I will always increase the weight of my arrow until my speed falls in that 270-280 range.
This is what I refer to as The Golden Rule of Arrow Building. This is how we find the best of both worlds in the speed versus arrow weight debate. Shoot the heaviest arrow you can while maintaining speeds of 270-280 fps.
If you shoot at 300fps, you can add weight to your arrow to slow it down. Go from a 100gr to a 150gr broadhead, for example!
Doing so will slow down your arrow and put it into that speed range where your arrow flight can be perfect. It will also add valuable weight to your arrow, providing greater momentum and better penetration when hunting.
If you shoot at 240fps, you can increase your draw weight, shoot a lighter point, or build an arrow using a lighter shaft to increase the speed. You are likely not benefiting much from the added weight at that point if your arrow is flying too slowly.
This Golden Rule combines both sides of the speed and weight debate into one concise solution.
You will have an arrow heavier than the ‘speed freaks’ and an arrow faster than the ‘Team High FOC’ guys. You will have phenomenal arrow flight, tight groups at long range, and that all-too-valuable penetrating power to get through thick hide, muscle, and bone!
The Golden Rule of Arrow building has been a critical factor in my performance as an archer in the past decade.
I am often asked how I never seem to have issues getting my fixed blade broadheads to fly with my field points out to 80 or even 100 yards. How can my groups remain softball sized at 80 yards with fixed-blade broadheads?
Quality fixed blade broadheads and The Golden Rule of Arrow Building are two key components of the recipe!
If you want to know more, checkout this YouTube video
If you have any questions or would like to discuss the topic further, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are always more than happy to talk arrows and broadheads with fellow bowhunters!
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