Experimenting with custom components and heavy F.O.C.s will make your hunting shafts deadlier than ever
Arguing over arrow setups is a favorite pastime among bowhunters. And with the recent trends of heavier arrows and front-heavy setups, there’s plenty to argue about.
Most of that commotion is due to the work of one man. In the 1980s, a bowhunter by the name of Dr. Ed Ashby started researching arrow and broadhead penetration, primarily by hunting African game. Ashby’s body of work covers four decades and everything from broadhead performance to shot placement.
Interestingly, he still recommends a build with an overall arrow weight of 650 grains, with a front of center weight (F.O.C.) of at least 19%. These standards were adopted by the traditional bowhunting community at the time; now his theory is becoming popular with both traditional and compound guys. While most of Ashby’s research data was compiled using a longbow, these “new” beefy builds are also valid for use with compounds. Still, it’s important to keep in mind as we take a closer look at arrow weight, F.O.C. and a few other factors you should consider when building the perfect bowhunting arrow.
1. Increase F.O.C.
(Tyler Ridenour photo)
The research is clear: A heavy overall arrow weight and a high F.O.C. help maximize penetration. A heavier arrow penetrates better, which is a byproduct of increased momentum.
Another benefit of shooting heavier arrows is tunability. As long as the spine is correct, arrows with more weight up front are generally easier to tune. Heavy arrows can also reduce the sound of your shot, since more of the bow’s stored energy is transferred to the arrow instead of shed as vibration and sound.
But there are drawbacks to increasing arrow weight and, especially, creating extreme F.O.C. The first affects spine. While arrows with more point weight are generally easier to tune, increasing the point weight weakens the spine. An arrow that is under-spined is not only unsafe to shoot, but can be difficult — if not impossible — to tune. So if you intend to build an arrow with increased point weight, jump up at least one spine rating, if not two, when selecting shafts.
As you might expect, extremely heavy arrows are also slow. This means your pin gaps will open drastically, possibly limiting your range. But finding an overall weight that produces arrow speeds between 270 and 290 fps will usually result in an easy-to-tune arrow that penetrates well.
Shooting a super-light arrow shaft with a heavy F.O.C. can also cause the arrow to porpoise in a cross breeze. An arrow with a moderate shaft weight and F.O.C. will typically perform much better in windy conditions.
I’ve discovered that I prefer an arrow weight that’s about 7 grains per pound of draw weight, and an F.O.C. from 12 to 14%. This build is a killer setup for almost any big game in North America.
2. Select the Right Shafts
(Tyler Ridenour photo)
There are plenty of good carbon arrows on the market, with a range of prices to match. But choosing the best arrow for your setup doesn’t have to be overwhelming. These simple factors can help you narrow your selection.
Budget: Don’t worry if you’re short on cash. You can still get a quality arrow that flies well. Arrows are typically sorted and priced by their straightness, so choosing an arrow with, say, .003-inch straightness instead of .001 inch will save you a few bucks without sacrificing too much. Spin each arrow to find the best in your dozen, and use those for broadhead tuning. If you have a shorter draw length, you’ll benefit most from this trick since you’ll be cutting off more of the shaft to fit your setup. After spinning and selecting the best arrows, cut from both ends. You will almost always end up with arrows that are straighter than their factory rating.
Shaft Diameter: Smaller-diameter shafts are less affected by wind and they penetrate better, but they have their drawbacks. Micro-diameter shafts (those with .166-inch inside diameter) are typically more expensive than the next size up (.204 inch), have fewer component options, and have a limited selection of available broadheads. But if you want the absolute best penetration possible, they might be for you.
I’ve been a fan of .204-inch shafts for a long time, since they’re more versatile but still penetrate well. Arrows like the Easton Axis and Gold Tip Kinetic series are the smallest-diameter hunting shafts that accept standard-thread broadheads, and they have a ton of options for components.
Grain-Per-Inch Weight: An arrow with a high grain-per-inch weight will require more specialized, heavier components up front (inserts, points) to achieve a high F.O.C. That said, selecting an arrow with an extremely low GPI weight can result in a less-durable shaft.
Spine: Determining your spine is easy. Just look at the manufacturer’s chart. Remember, if you want more F.O.C. than a standard insert and point, you’ll likely need to move to a stiffer spine for proper arrow flight.
3. Add Some Weight
(Tyler Ridenour photo)
Plenty of aftermarket products allow you to customize your build while remaining compatible with arrow manufacturers’ shafts and inserts. Some, like Gold Tip’s Ballistic Collars and FACT Weight System, allow you to adjust your F.O.C. and increase durability. My favorite setup is the Easton Axis shaft with an Easton brass H.I.T. insert and an Impact Collar from Iron Will Outfitters. Tinker with your setup until you find the right combination.
4. Fletch Them Right
(Tyler Ridenour photo)
Most pre-fletched arrows come standard with three, 2-inch, high-profile vanes fletched straight on the arrow shaft. But if you’re serious about building the ultimate hunting arrow, opt for bare-shaft arrows. Fletching your own arrows allows you to experiment with different vane styles and combinations. If you hunt where it’s often windy, for instance, low-profile vanes can be a smart choice.
The type broadheads you shoot will also affect your fletching. If you want to use a minimalist-style expandable head, you can use a shorter, low-profile vane, since the arrow won’t need as much rear steering to correct the broadhead impact. If you prefer a fixed-blade broadhead, you’ll need a bit more fletching to stabilize the arrow. You can select a longer vane in a three-fletch configuration, or experiment with 2-inch vanes in a four-fletch set up. No matter which you choose, place your vanes in an offset or helical pattern. This makes the arrow spin faster, helping it recover quickly after it leaves the bow and form tighter groups downrange.
The bottom line? When it comes to hunting arrows, there is no single solution. Determining the perfect build for your style depends on the way you hunt, the conditions, and the rest of your gear. Once a bow is properly tuned, perfect arrow flight is primarily determined by the arrow set-up. Heavier arrows and increased F.O.C are effective and trendy. But there’s no trend that trumps a perfectly flying arrow and a well-placed shot.
Don't Miss: 10 Bowhunting Tips to Help Fill Your Tags
Check out more stories, videos and educational how-to's on bowhunting.
You Might Also Like