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How to Choose the Right Arrow for a Compound Bow or Recurve Bow

How to Choose the Right Arrow for a Compound Bow or Recurve Bow

An easy guide - Part I

You’ve got the bow, you’ve got the will to conquer this stuff, but you still lack something crucial: the right arrows for a compound bow or recurve bow. It’s easy to underestimate just how important this detail is to your shooting journey— finding the best arrows for your bow is simply essential to conquering the sport!

How to choose arrows, though? There are so many offers, deals, and types of arrows that it can get pretty baffling. Lots of factors like length, weight, fletchings and vanes get thrown into the mix and the result is one confused would-be archer.

Fear not! This is your guide to choosing the right arrows for both recurve bows and compound bows.

We’ll take a good look at all the essential items you have to consider.


Let’s start with the basics: the stuff your arrows are made of. This will influence other factors like weight and accessories. For compound bows, the best and most common arrows are made of:

  • Carbon: Very stiff and heavy, carbon arrows are typically good for heavier compound bows, especially if you’re taking yours hunting. Why? They are really strong and thin, meaning they’re accurate and sink deep into your game.
    The downside: carbon arrows are not bendy, and that can cause them to splinter. And, when they do, they create shards capable of hurting you. Also, they can get pretty expensive.

  • Aluminum: Cheaper than carbon but still resilient, aluminum is a good investment for both compound or recurve archers.
    These arrows are much sturdier and less likely to splinter, which makes them great for target shooting: the arrows won’t break as they hit each other in a group. Many hunters (beginners and experts alike) use these arrows as well.
    You’ll probably even be able to find these with replaceable screw-on tips and other perks.

  • Composites: Usually, composites consist of an aluminum core surrounded by carbon. This makes these arrows a winning combination of lighter and more stiff as well as wind-resistant— best for competitive target shooting. All that tech is usually reflected in the price tag, though!

  • Fiberglass: These arrows are a good starting point— they come in many different sizes, aren’t expensive, and they’ll get you started. Cons: only for recurve bows! Take care: fiberglass arrows can splinter, and their heavier nature makes them somewhat inaccurate.

  • Wood: Lots of archers enjoy using and, yes, even making their own wooden arrows. If that’s your passion, go for it! However, wooden arrows are not the best option for compound bows, as they’re too light and fragile.


Just like wearing shoes that are too small or too big would eventually hurt you, using the wrong length of arrows for your recurve or compound bow will damage it. Only more spectacularly— it can ruin the entire set-up for good (too short) or lose both accuracy and speed (too long).

Your bow requires a specific length of arrow, just a tad longer than your draw length. How do you calculate arrow length?

First, you need to figure out your draw length. Here’s an easy way:

  • Measure your arm span: Stretch your arms at your sides (shoulder height) and get someone to measure the ‘wingspan’ with a tape. Write it down.
  • Divide that number by 2.5.

If you’re a beginner, it’s better to err on the side of caution. For a compound bow, pick arrows that are on the longer side of your draw length by 3 inches (7.6 cm). For a recurve bow, make that 2 inches (5 cm) instead.

This will make your shots a little wobbly but, as you progress, you can get more accurately-sized bolts— an advanced archer aims for 1 inch (2.5 cm) longer than the draw length.

Keep in mind: many arrows come in one size but can be professionally cut to fit the length you need. You can only do this one time, however, so pay close attention!


How thick is the arrow? Here, what you’re looking for depends on what kind of archery you practice:

  • Target archery:  Because of competition rules and the rules of physics (a thicker arrow is more likely to win), you have clear parameters. Think of it this way: the thicker the better, but check the competition’s rules to avoid going above what’s fair.

  • Hunting: For hunting and outdoor shooting, you’re better off with thinner arrows— they sink into the target better and let you aim in tougher conditions (aka, lots of wind).

Now you know the basics about arrows for compound bows and recurve bows. In PART TWO of this guide, you’ll find more crucial factors for choosing your arrows as well as the calculations to figure it all out. You’ll be shooting in no time!

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