Choosing the right arrows for your recurve bow

The goal of this guide isn’t to be a comprehensive tutorial on choosing arrows for a recurve bow. Rather, I want to give beginners an idea on what they should be buying. You could spend weeks upon weeks researching the most appropriate arrows for your recurve, and you would end up being more confused than you were at the beginning. I want to spare you all of that and simply give you some basic guidelines to follow as a novice archer – as you advance, you’ll be able to fine-tune your arrows (spine, diameter, etc.) to your particular needs.


Arrow material includes Wood, Carbon, Aluminum, or Fiberglass. Each has different benefits and drawbacks discussed below.

Wood arrows

They are one of the least expensive options, yet require constant maintenance to keep them in shooting condition. Often you must straighten the shafts due to improper care, or due to glancing shots when a target is missed or the arrow is shot into the ground.
Wood arrows fly quieter than hollow carbon and aluminum arrows, as wood arrows are constructed from of a solid material. Weight can vary depending upon the type of wood the shaft is from. Ramin is the most popular wood arrow material. Most wood arrows come in diameters of 5/16″, 11/32″, and 23/64″.

Carbon arrows

Tired of dealing with broken wood arrows? Carbon is a great solution, as they are straighter and more durable than wood. There is no need to be concerned with straightening shafts; just check for cracks.
Carbon arrows are easily customized using different arrow nocks, inserts, adapters, and weight systems. The carbon composite is very tough and known to take some abuse that would break other materials. Be sure to watch for cracks around the ends, since when a carbon arrow does break it usually shatters, which can be dangerous.
The standard grain weight on carbons is normally lighter than wood.
Consistency and tight tolerances are a big advantage to using carbon. Once you find the proper set up of spine, length, and weight it is easier to match this when buying carbon arrows in the future. Most carbons only have a few spine options, as carbon arrows have faster in-flight recovery thus making them more forgiving with spine.
Be sure to use a test kit or at least use a spine chart when choosing spine.

32″ Carbon Arrows

Aluminum Arrows

Aluminum shafting has been around for decades. Heavier than most wood and carbon shafting, aluminum arrows offer great penetration, an affordable cost, and have tight tolerances that produce a dependable performance time and time again. Though the selection of different aluminum shafts is small, they are tried and true.
Offered in more spine groups than carbon arrows, aluminum arrows have more fine tuning options for the perfect arrow flight. Many offer nock bushings to allowing for the use of press in nocks for improved accuracy. Aluminum arrows are very tough, but will bend from hard impacts or glancing hits. Bent arrow shafts can be straightened if the bend is not too severe, but in some cases a bent shaft can’t be salvaged.
Very cost effective for those on a budget. Diameters vary from spine to spine, typically offered in 11/32″, 21/64″, 5/16″, and 9/32″.

31″ Aluminum Arrows

Fiberglass Arrows

Though not very common on the target range or in the woods, fiberglass can be a great shaft for bowfishing or youth archery. The big reason is they are extremely strong. The price can be more affordable and the weight is the heaviest of all arrow shafting options. For young archers the advantage is the durability. Other than loosing them, your young archers will be hard pressed to break a fiberglass arrow under normal shooting conditions and bow weights.
Most common sizes are 5/16″ (bowfishing shafts) or 1/4″ (youth arrows).

28″ Fiberglass Arrows

Finding the Right Spine and Arrow Length

Nothing can have a bigger impact on your shooting accuracy than the arrow spine. Spine is the static measurement of deflection of a shaft. Basically, it is how much the shaft bends. Shafts that bend more have a higher deflection and are better for lower weight bows, and “stiffer” spines are better for heavy weight bows. Be sure to use a test kit or at least a spine selection chart when choosing your arrow spine.

When selecting the correct arrow length it is recommended you have an arrow at least one or two inch longer than your draw length. The reason for this is that as the point is always in front of the bow, you don’t want it to get caught up on the shelf or inadvertently draw a sharp broadhead onto your hand. Use the arrow length as a tuning feature also. The longer an arrow is, the weaker the spine will be. Arrows can be tuned by starting with a full length arrow and incrementally cutting a 1/4″ to a 1/2″ at a time off until the arrow flight is perfected.

In conclusion, choosing the right arrows can make a big difference in your shooting. Be sure to take the time to find the right arrow for your needs.
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