Arrow straightness test — .0025" vs. .006"
Over the past 15 years or so, I have put together a lot of arrows—both for myself and close friends. From the squaring, cutting and fletching process, I have always enjoyed the satisfaction I feel from knowing each individual arrow is built the way I want it. The initial and most important part of that process is selecting the correct arrow. There are many considerations, spine (stiffness), weight (grains per inch), straightness and, of course, price.
Understandably, arrows that have tighter tolerances both in straightness and weight (per dozen) are more expensive. The straighter the arrow, the more consistent the weight within the dozen, the better the accuracy, right?
I have always purchased the higher-priced, tighter tolerance arrows, operating on the assumption that I get a better product. Admittedly, I have never tested them against the cheaper versions and I was always able to get a handful of consistently straight arrows that flew well with broadheads. Because of this, I haven’t seen any reason to change until recently when we had a member reach out and ask if the more expensive arrows are really worth it.
So I decided that I would do a little experiment with the arrows I have been shooting for the past few years: the Gold Tip Kinetic Pierce Platinum. Like most models/brands, Gold Tip sells grades of that same shaft with various tolerances. Most brands and arrow models are this way, providing you with the opportunity to spend more money on a more consistent dozen if you choose. My local pro shop has two grades of the Kinetic Pierce arrows: the Platinum and Pierce. The table below breaks down the specs on those two options.
|Arrow||Straightness tolerance||Weight tolerance||Grains per inch||MSRP cost|
|+/- .0025"||+/- .5 gr||9.1 (300 spine)||$189.99|
|Peirce||+/- .006"||+/- 2 gr||9.1 (300 spine)||$134.99|
For my little experiment, I bought one dozen of the Pierce Platinum shafts and one dozen of the regular Pierce shafts. At home, I weighted each uncut bare shaft in each dozen multiple times on my Last Chance Archery Scale. The table below displays those specs.
|Bare uncut shaft||Peirce|
|Weight range||6.6 grains between low and high||.7 grain between low and high|
As you can see, neither dozen fell within the advertised range. I’m not as hung up on that fact as I am doing this at home with a scale that most archers use and can be bought for about $40. It is worth noting that the more expensive dozen had much tighter tolerances per dozen. The cheaper dozen varied quite a bit, but there were eight arrows of the dozen that were within 1.5 grains of each other.
Straightness is tough to test adequately without a spine tester like the Ram Carbon QC Arrow Spine Tester. I do not own one yet, so it's important to note that my testing for straightness is purely based on spinning the arrow on a Pine Ridge Arrow Spinner and watching the ends for wobble. It’s not an exact measurement and I won’t make any inference about the actual straightness spec for each arrow. I will say that the arrow spinner I own can be purchased for about $25 and is adequate to easily gauge the straightness of an arrow. It’s very easy to see when you are testing each individual arrow multiple times and comparing those to see which arrows are the straightest among a dozen or more.
To test straightness, I spun each uncut bare shaft labeled arrow multiple times as I went through each dozen. I then categorized and placed each arrow in a high, medium and low grade pile. I then compared arrows in each category from each dozen and spun those to see if they were relatively the same. Admittedly this is a judgement call based on spinning and looking at a lot of arrows. I also think most of you at home can replicate this and you’ll see what I mean. In the end, from the more expensive Platinum Pierce dozen I ended up with four high grade, five medium grade and three poor grade. From the less expensive Pierce dozen, I ended up with seven high grade, two medium grade and three poor grade arrows.
The next step I took was to square one end of each arrow in preparation for cutting it. I use the G5 arrow squaring device, which is about $40. I then use the squared end as my guiding end and I cut the other. I then square and cut the end, move my jig and cut the other end. I then square that cut end and, at that point, I have a cut and squared shaft.
In regard to cutting arrows, I always cut equal amounts from both ends. Some try to spin or using a straightness tool to test and then cut the wobble out of one end or the other. For me, I operate under the assumption that middle portion of the arrow is most often the straightest. I also like the consistency of cutting each arrow the same.
After I squared and cut, squared and cut and, then, squared the ends again, I spun and selected the six straightest arrows of each dozen. For hunting, I’m always looking for at least six straight consistent arrows. The table below displays the results.
|Bare cut shaft||Pierce|
|Weight range||1.5 grains||0.4 grains|
As you can see, the grain variance from low to high is still better within the more expensive arrows. The straightness of the two variances is interesting. I ended up with all six of the less expensive arrows in the high grade range while the more expensive shafts had four that were high grade and two that were medium. I even had two more of the less expensive shafts that were high grade in straightness, but both were as much as three grains heavier.
The next step was to weigh each of the components. Each vane, each insert/outsert and nock. In doing so, I was able to put all the arrows together and ended up with the following finished set of arrows.
|Weight range||1 grain||0.7 grains|
Finally, there is a dynamic that I have not discussed, which is spine and consistency. Spine consistency is probably the most critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to an accurate group of arrows. Spine rating is essentially the stiffness of the arrow and companies use static spine to categorize shafts. That is measured by suspending a 1.94 lbs weight from the center of the arrow. The test arrow is 29” in length and supported by two points, which are 28” apart. The number of inches the arrow deflects or bends x 1000 when the weight is hung from the center is the spine measurement of an arrow. So, a 300 arrow bends .3” when the weight is applied. If your arrow is too weak for your setup, the arrows will not fly or group well. The same goes for an arrow that is too stiff.
Assuming that you have the correct spine for your setup, the arrows within the dozen you choose may vary slightly. If the individual arrows flex more or less than the others in your set, you are likely to get some inconsistency in your groups. Unfortunately, spine consistency is the one factor that cannot be easily measured by the average archer. I do not own a spine tester—most bowhunters don’t—but you can label and shoot groups and monitor the results. You can also shoot each arrow as a bare shaft at 20 yards and monitor the results.
If you have a flyer from the group or a bare shaft that is flying and contacting differently, turn the nock of that arrow a quarter at a time and reshoot. It may be that you just need to get each arrow coming out of the bow and reacting the same way. You could also float each arrow in water and mark the stiff side of the arrow. I’ve had mixed results using that method. I prefer to shoot groups and each individual arrow with my fixed blade broadheads to get the spines indexed. I am still shooting the arrows from both dozens and from early testing I would suggest that both sets are consistent in spine and are grouping well.
In conclusion, my take-home message would be that if you are meticulous and dedicated to building your own arrows, weighing and testing each part of the process, then you can very likely put together an adequate number of arrows that are as straight and accurate as the more expensive models. The weight range among your six best arrows is also very likely to be within a grain of the more expensive shafts. If you have a shorter draw length and are cutting more off of your arrow, it’s also much more likely that you can get arrows that are as straight as the more expensive models.
If you are having a shop build your arrows where they are unlikely to take the time to go through all the steps outlined above then I would suggest that a better grade more expensive set of arrows will result in more arrows within a dozen that are within the weight tolerances and straightness.
A few other factors I have not addressed is the mental factor (i.e. placebo effect) and the ability of the shooter. If you believe the arrows you are shooting are superior—whether they are or not—you might actually shoot those better. I certainly see value in that.
Concerning ability, the likelihood is that only the top 10% of the archers out there have the ability to shoot well enough to see the results of using a higher grade arrow. I would suggest that you be realistic with your abilities, your perceptions and, if you have the ability to build your own arrows, you can purchase the less expensive arrows and still get very good results.
- Gold Tip Pierce or Pierce Platinum
- 300 Spine (9.1 grains per inch)
- 29 ⅛” carbon to carbon
- .166 GTO Nock (5.3 grains)
- .166 Insert (19.5 grains)
- .166 Ballistic Collar (24 grains)
- 3 Bohning Blazer Vanes (6 grains per vane)
- QAD Exodus Broadhead (100 grains)
- Final weight—approximately 433-435 grains
- Mathews Halon X
- 70 pound draw weight
- 30” draw length
- 289 FPS
- KE 80.41
- FOC 12.655%