All About Arrows

It can be a numbers game when it comes to selecting the proper arrow

Over the last three years of this column, I have talked about lots of things, including arrow spine, archery form and things like my thoughts on paper tuning. Now I want to talk about arrows, as well as FOC, which means front of centre and the percentage of the arrow’s total weight that is located in the front half of your arrow. There is a relationship between FOC and penetration, and I’m hoping to cover which arrows might help you achieve a deep penetration for hunting. Penetration for target archery or 3D is not an issue.


FOC and diametre, as well as shaft and vane material and construction, are important considerations when it comes to choosing the right arrow for the job. Photo by Nick Trehearne.
Photo by Nick Trehearne.

In 3D, we like an arrow that flies flat and that’s so that if we guess the distance wrong there is not much difference on the impact point. Arrows are usually a little lighter in grains per inch. As far as diametre, some people like the smaller-diametre arrows because they usually group better and fly truer in windy conditions, especially in the longer shots. Others believe in larger diametre arrows to gain line cutting capabilities. As for FOC, a good FOC for 3D arrows would be nine to 12 per cent FOC. Penetration just becomes a by-product of your set up but is not important; in fact, it’s nicer pulling out arrows that do not penetrate too deep because spending your day pulling out arrows that are deeply embedded in rubber animals gets exhausting. Vanes are usually plastic and smaller diametre for less wind drag. What a person wants is flat flight, so if you overestimate your distance and hit high, or not enough distance and hit low, the arrows still catches the 10 ring. If you can put your 20-yard pin at the top of the 10 ring and your 50-yard pin at the bottom of the 10 ring – on most animal targets – even if you guess wrong, you’re still hitting a 10. Taller people with long draws and super-fast bows tend to do better at 3D than those shooting slower speeds and lighter weights. Shafts are usually carbon.

Target arrows are different for indoors compared to outdoors. Indoors, we like to shoot arrows that are as fat as possible. For indoor competitions, you’re shooting at 18 metres, or 20 yards, and obviously wind is not a factor, nor is penetration. If your arrow is so fat it touches the line, then you’ll be scored higher. Vanes vary from feather fletch to plastic. Length of vanes varies because speed is not important, so longer fletches are common for good stability over a short distance. FOC range from 10 to 18 per cent. One of our customers shot a perfect round in Vegas and I confirmed his arrows were 10.8 FOC. Heavy weight out front makes the rest of an arrow follow that weight, making the arrow very stable through the air. Once again, penetration is not important. Shafts can be carbon or even aluminum.


In outdoor target shooting, we are usually shooting longer distances, more like 50 metres instead of 20, so you’ll want an arrow that is skinny, such as VAPs at .166 and X10 ProTours – these arrows are thin and offer little side wind drag, fletches are usually low profile. Outdoors, the wind can have a huge effect on your arrow’s flight. You give up line-cutting capability for the true flight small-diametre shafts offer. The vanes are low and short, so the vanes do not act as a sail when the wind hits them. FOC is usually from 10 to 14 per cent. Shafts are usually carbon or carbon/aluminum combined, like FMJs or X10 or A/C/Cs.

Hunting arrows are usually .245 inches in diametre and usually made of carbon; however, more people are going towards smaller-diametre shafts for better penetration and truer arrow flight, like outdoor target archers want. A few very good and popular arrows are the FMJs because they offer a small diametre, tight straightness tolerance and heavy grains per inch. Heavy arrows carry a lot of kinetic energy and, combined with the small diametre, they penetrate very well. They also are made of aluminum on the outside with a carbon core inside, that’s why they are so heavy. Another great arrow like the FMJs are Xtorsion shafts, which are layers of stainless steel meshed with carbon fibers. The downside to these two shafts is with that much weight, they drop off quickly past 40 yards, so properly judging distance is very important. If you’re a tall person with long draw and fast bow, they are both great arrows for you. If you are a person with a slower-shooting bow due to the length of your draw and weight being down, I do not suggest these arrows, but instead suggest a small-diametre shaft to achieve good flight and excellent penetration, like the VAPs at .166 inches. You will notice right away they go deeper in targets than conventional shafts sizes of .244 inches. Fletching is always plastic because feathers do not do well in bad weather, nor do they go through whisker biscuits, a common rest on hunting bows. FOC on hunting arrows is usually 10 to 17 per cent. Short, tall vanes like the blazers are most common. Broadhead selection obviously has an effect on flight; to keep it short and simple, select a good quality broadhead. I say to finetune your bow with broadheads and re-sight your bow when you apply broadheads, as there is no way something shaped like a field point is going to fly exactly like a fixed broadhead does when the shapes are totally different.


If you go to Victory Arrow’s website, they do a great job of charting the relationship with diametre, speed, wind drift, penetration and kinetic energy of each of their arrows, so you can select an arrow that best meets your needs.

If you want to figure out your FOC, there’s lots of help on the Internet, but I find it simpler to take your arrow length without the tip or broadhead, divide it by two. Mark the middle of the arrow with a marker. Put your tip on, whether it’s a field point or broadhead. Now balance the arrow on your finger or on a table, but make sure the ends are free. Now figure out what percent that measurement is of the overall length and that’s your per cent of FOC. The distance your two marks is of the total length is Y and that’s your FOC: Y/length of arrow is equal to X/100 and cross multiply. For example, 3 inches/29 inches is 3 times 100 divided by 29 equals a 10.34 per cent FOC.