Most Common Archery Terms Explained

In this article, we will define the most common archery terms. So, if you ever wanted to get up to speed with archery lingo, then you are in the right place.

If you want to sound like an archery veteran, then a good way to start is to incorporate these common archery terms into your vocabulary.

Here we go.

Lets begin with the term “grouping” what is a grouping and how does it relate to archery?

Grouping In Archery

Grouping is the word archers use to describe the layout of their arrows when they land on the target. The smaller the grouping the greater the consistency and skill of the archer. 

The grouping of your arrows is measured by taking a measuring tape and measuring the distance between the furthest two arrows.

Example of a Grouping

The larger the grouping the greater the inconsistency in the archer’s shots. If you are shooting outside wind can be a factor, sure.

But if you notice wild inconsistencies in how your arrows land, or in other words if you have a wide grouping then something is wrong.

Time to examine your form, your bow, and your arrows. Usually, you will find the reason in one of those.

Now, let us continue to “fletching”. What is fletching in archery?

Fletching In Archery

Fletching is a stabilization device made from light plastic or feathers you find on the back of the arrows. Its main job is to stabilize the arrow as it is fired from the bow and in some cases it even spins the arrow for greater accuracy.

In modern times, fletching is usually made of light plastic materials and is aerodynamically shaped to reduce drag as much as possible and lightweight to enable the arrow to travel as fast as possible.

Any archer has the option of either having plastic fletching on their arrows or feathers. Both have their pros and cons as you can see here.

Now let us discuss what is a vane in archery.


Vanes are aerodynamically shaped devices from plastic or feathers whose sole purpose is to stabilize the arrow upon firing. 

Example of vanes on an arrow

Let us take a look at the next archery term called firing off the shelf. What does that mean?

Firing Off the Shelf

Firing off the shelf means you are shooting your arrows without any aides other than your bow. This method of shooting offers the greatest contact between your arrow and your bow and generally hurts the archer’s performance.

While it is slightly easier to aim, this method works best if you’re using feather fletching on your arrow (you have feathers at the back of your arrow, not plastic).

Firing off the shelf is not a good thing if you are firing with plastic vanes. Your aim will get worse. As a result, archers invented a cool thing. Firing off a rest. Let’s discuss what that means next.

Firing Off A Rest

Firing off a rest means that an archer is using a device called an elevated rest to minimize his arrow’s contact with the bow before firing. Thus increasing the accuracy of the arrow.

Using a rest is practically a necessity if your arrows have plastic vanes. You can see why by clicking on this article.

Suffice it to say, you should get an elevated rest. 

The next archery term we are discussing is Helical or Offset.

Helical Or Offset

Helical or Offset is used to describe the positioning of the vanes on your arrow. Helical means that the vanes on your arrow are curved, like a propeller, which induces the arrow to spin upon firing for greater accuracy.

Offset means the vanes are straight but placed on the arrow at an angle of a few degrees thus also inducing spin for accuracy without the negative side effects of helical fletching.

Offset vs Helical

For a more detailed breakdown of what are the pros and cons click here to see which ones should you use and why.

Whisker Biscuit

It’s an arrow rest used for the purpose of increasing the accuracy of your arrows by holding the arrow in place and minimizing its contact with the bow upon firing.

It’s perfect because it can be used with vanes or feathers.

It looks cool too.

Whisker Biscuit

Available on Amazon by clicking here. It will take you to Amazon where you can order yours if you wish. The whisker biscuit is an archery accessory in the same vein as a bow wrist sling.

Now, on to the next topic, which is the “spine of the arrow”. Let’s see what that means.

The Spine of the Arrow

Arrow spine is an archery term that refers to the stiffness of the arrow. Archery arrows must bend while leaving the bow to ensure greater accuracy.

The spine of the arrow (or how much the arrow bends) should be compatible with the bow that is firing the arrow.

A common rule of thumb is, the higher the draw weight of the bow the stiffer the arrow has to be. The lower the draw weight of the bow more bend the arrow has to have. 

Example of Arrow Bending Mid Flight

An archer with a well-tuned bow and arrows will have tighter groupings a.k.a greater accuracy.

To find the best spine of your bow you can rely on the manufacturer’s charts which provide good starting off points.

Shooting arrows with different spines and seeing which one works best for you is also an option. Your local archery shop or archery range should have everything you need to see which one is the best fit for you.

If you want more information on how to choose the best arrow for yourself then click here for an article on just that topic.

Fletching Jig

A fletching jig is a device used by archers to fletch their arrows. The fletching jig fixates the arrow in place and allows the archer to precisely attach a vane or a feather to the arrow. Thus fletching the arrow, hence the name the fletching jig.

As you well know the vanes on your arrow get damaged eventually, maybe your groupings are tight and one arrow grazes the other one. Or simply the arrow passes another object thus damaging the vanes.

Whatever the case eventually you will have a damaged vane or a feather on your arrow. Getting it off is easy, you simply cut it off.

You can attach the newer vanes by hand with some glue. Though, that probably won’t be as accurate. So, you can use the fletching jig for added precision placement of the vanes.

You can see the fletching jigs here, it will take you to Amazon where you can see all the models.

The Mediterranian Draw

The Mediterranean draw is the most common way archers draw their bow. It involves using the index, middle, and ring fingers of your dominant hand to grab the bowstring and then pulling the bowstring toward your face.

Mediterranian Draw

It’s by far the most popular way to draw the bow. Drawing the bow exerts a lot of pressure on the knuckles of your three fingers. That is why archers commonly use some sort of protection for their fingers when doing this.

Aside from the Mediterranean draw, the other well-known way of pulling the bowstring is the thumb draw.

You can see the details of this unique way of pulling back the bow if you click here. In essence, it’s an eastern style of shooting that involves using the index and thumb fingers of your dominant hand.

The next common archery term we will discuss is nocking the arrow. Let’s see what that means.

Nocking the Arrow

Nocking the arrow is an archery term that refers to placing the back of your arrow on the bowstring.

Nocking an arrow

Every arrow is made of many different parts. The back of the arrow has a part called the nock. It’s the smallest but one of the most important parts of the arrow.

The nock is the back part of the arrow that connects the rest of the arrow to the bowstring. The purpose of the nock is to most efficiently transfer the power of the fully-drawn bowstring to the arrow.

When it comes to nocks these can and often do get damaged. In many cases for the same reasons as vanes.

The next common archery term we will discuss is dry fire. Let’s see what that means.

Dry Fire

Dry fire in archery is an action where an archer pulls back the bowstring and releases it without having an arrow on the bow.

Your basically doing everything required to shoot an arrow without the arrow.

The practice is well known to be dangerous for you the people that happen to be around you and of course your equipment.

The purpose of the bow is to efficiently transfer power to the arrow. If there is no arrow that means all the stored energy gets released back into the bow thus causing damage to the equipment if you are lucky.

Or in worst cases, damage to the archer.

So, avoid doing it!

The next common archery term we will discuss is draw weight. Let’s see what that means.

Draw weight

Draw weight is a term that refers to the difficulty of pulling the bowstring. The higher the draw weight the more difficult it is to draw the bow. The lower the draw weight the easier it is.

Beginners begin with lower draw weights to ingrain good shooting habits and after a while, they can transfer to bows with higher draw weights.

The draw weight of a bow is expressed in lbs. If a bow is marked with 25 lbs of draw weight, that would mean it takes roughly 25 lbs of force to pull back the draw weight.

Most beginners and junior archers start with draw weights between 20 lbs and 30 lbs, the intermediate usually use bows between 35lbs-50lbs of draw weight.

The next common archery term we will discuss is draw length. Let’s see what that means.

Draw Length

Draw length refers to how far back the bowstring of a bow can be drawn. The draw length is an important piece of information for any archer since it allows them to choose the correct bow for themselves and the correct arrows.

Draw Length of the Bow

You can see more in detail how to measure your draw length here in this article. Suffice it to say it depends on your size and reach. Based on those two factors you can calculate the correct draw length for yourself and even choose the right arrows for yourself.

The next common archery term we will discuss is string slap. Let’s see what that means.

String Slap

A string slap happens when the bowstring repeatedly hits the archer’s forearm when firing a bow. This usually happens due to bad technique of the archer or fatigue.

Let me show you.

Nasty Case of Wrist Slap

Looks nasty, doesn’t it?

So in order to avoid these painful bruises, archers wear forearm protectors. These cheap and, usually plastic, protectors do a great job protecting you from unnecessary and painful bruises.

You can avoid painful bruises for yourself by going on Amazon and choosing your own forearm protector. If you want to find a detailed explanation of what the archers paradox is then click here.

And If you are an archery and history enthusiast then I recommend you click here for an article on why the musket replaced the bow.

So there you have it. The most common archery terms and their definitions. As always, thank you for reading, and take care.

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