The Complete Anatomy Of An Arrow

Here you will learn everything about all of the pieces that make up an arrow. The complete anatomy of an arrow and all of its corresponding parts.

Below you have the main takeaway from the entire article. You can see the 4 main components of an average arrow.

As a general rule an arrow has 4 key components:

  • Nock
  • Fletching
  • Arrow Shaft
  • Arrowhead

Each of these 4 components plays a vital part in absorbing the energy of a released bow and transforming that into a movement toward the desired target.

You will see if you make a mistake with just one of these 4 parts it will mess with the accuracy and movement of your arrows.

I will break down each of these 4 components in detail and explain their function. By understanding the anatomy of an archery arrow you will be able to ensure you have the best possible chance of hitting your targets.

So let’s begin!

The 4 Parts Of An Archery Arrow

4 Parts Of An Arrow

The picture above pretty much sums it up. So, let us break down each part 1 by 1 in detail. Starting from right to left.

The Nock

The nock is a part of the arrow located at the very tail end of the arrow. Its purpose is to grip the bowstring and ensure a smooth transition of energy from the bowstring to the arrow.

There are three essential parts to the nock:

  • The mouth
  • Throat
  • The fitting

A picture here will help you picture things better.

Picture of a nock

As I said. The main job of the nock is to ensure a smooth transition of energy from a released bowstring to the arrow. So, the archer “clips” the bowstring into the nock. The process is called nocking the arrow. Meaning, the bowstring is inserted into the mouth of the nock and into the throat.

The throat of the nock grips the bowstring ensuring that the arrow does not fall or move.

Bowstrings have a nock point, which is a plastic mark on the bowstring which helps the archer know where to nock the arrow. While it is possible to nock your arrow either above or below the nock point, depending on the archer’s preference, most archers nock above the nock point.

As the archer draws and releases the bow the bowstring pushes the arrow away and the mouth of the nock allows the bowstring to complete its movement without hindering the flight path of the arrow.

As you can see, it is a pretty important part of an arrow. Thus, it is worthwhile to know how to pick the right nock for you. A fellow archery enthusiast wrote a pretty awesome breakdown on how to choose the right nock which you can definitely check out here.

Suffice it to say, choosing a nock that grips the bowstring too tight does affect the flight path of the arrow as does the nock which is too loose and does not grip the arrow sufficiently.

The Best Part About Nocks Is …

The beauty with nocks is that they are replaceable (mostly), this means if you want to test out different nocks, or you just damage once because you have very tight groupings (good job, you champ), then you can buy yourself new ones and replace them.

Most arrows allow that.

Now let’s move on to the next important part of the arrow. The arrows fletchings.

The Fletchings On The Arrow

Fletchings are aerodynamically shaped stabilization devices located at the back of the arrow. The main purpose of fletchings is to stabilize the arrow upon firing and ensure greater accuracy of the arrow. Most fletchings are made out of lightweight plastic and in some cases feathers.

An arrow should have at least three fletchings to ensure maximum stability while in flight. You can have arrows with 4 fletchings but that will increase the drag too much with little added benefit.

Feathers or Plastic?

I mentioned before you can have plastic or feather fletchings on an arrow. It largely depends on the type of bow you are using. The more traditional bows don’t usually have an elevated rest therefore to ensure the arrow can move clearly past the bow feathers are ideal because they bend when hitting an obstacle.

This means an arrow fletched with feathers can move clearly past the bow without changing its trajectory.

So if you have an elevated rest this means you can use feathers and plastic fletchings. If you don’t have an elevated rest then stick to feather fletched arrows.

Offset, Straight or Helical?

Different types of fletchings

As I mentioned in this article. You can place your fletchings either straight on the arrow, helical (so it curves and wraps around the arrow), or offset (straight but placed at a slight angle on the arrow).

This is an example of an offset fletching on an arrow.

Offset fletching

I am a huge advocate of having your vanes slightly offset. It provides the best mix between the accuracy and speed of the arrow.

The Arrow Shaft

Arrow shafts in modern times are made out of metal alloys such as aluminum fiberglass or carbon fiber. The arrow shaft is one of the most important things you need to consider when picking your arrows.

The main reason for this is the so-called “spine of the arrow”. The spine of an arrow is a measurement that refers to how much an arrow can bend while in flight. Some might find it weird that an arrow should bend while in flight but it does.

The reason why that happens is when the bowstring transfers the energy from the bow and into the arrow that force can not spread across the arrow evenly. This means that the back of the arrow moves faster than the front of the arrow.

I went into a lot more detail here. Suffice to say, the arrow has to have the right amount of bend in order to be accurate. Most arrow shafts have their spine written on them. Definitely worth taking a look at that when buying your arrows.

The arrow shaft material can play a part in all of this. Obviously, fiberglass is the cheapest material for arrow shafts with carbon fiber and aluminum being the costliest.

My suggestion is, to avoid overcomplicating this part. As long as the spine of the arrow fits your bow, go for the cheaper versions. You will break your arrows and lose them. So, no point in going for the costlier ones.

Now let’s proceed to the last vital part of the arrow.

The Arrowhead.

The Arrowhead

The arrowhead is a metal end of the arrow designed to pierce the target. While in the past it was made from stone, bones, or bronze modern arrowheads are made out of metals such as steel.

If you want to see the history of arrowheads definitely go here. But suffice it to say modern arrowheads have come a long way since their stone versions from thousands of years ago.

The modern arrowhead is made from steel. But modern arrowheads also come in several versions/types. Let’s take a quick look at different types of arrowheads.

As a general rule arrowheads come in three different versions:

  • Target arrowhead
  • Blunt arrowhead
  • Broadhead

These are the most common and widespread arrowheads around. There is also an arrowhead that whistles when fired, which I think is really cool! But that is an exception.

Now here is the picture of the three arrowheads. So you can picture it more easily.

3 different types of arrowheads

Going from left to right you have the “bludgeon” arrowhead which is my least favorite. It is used in bowhunting for hunting small animals. I guess it could be effective, just looks like it doesn’t offer a quick “way out” for the animal being targeted. Unlike the next arrowhead.

The Broadhead is an arrowhead used by bowhunters to take down larger animals. It is made from steel and offers the most piercing power out of all the arrowheads. It basically turns the arrow into a high-flying knife.

And lastly, you have the normal and typical target arrowhead. Used by target archers everywhere. It’s small designed to pierce archery targets. Its clean design allows the arrow to pierce the target cleanly and for the archer to remove the arrow with little effort.

The target arrowhead comes in varying designs but the basic premise is the same. Clean bullet-like design that pierces the target and can easily be removed.

The beauty of arrowheads in modern arrows is that they can be replaced. You most often see this with bowhunters who unscrew and screw back on different arrowheads based on the animal they are hunting.

If you shoot 3D archery or just target archery like most then stick with the target arrowheads.

In Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Hopefully, you got something out of it. Feel free to take a look at other articles on this website.

To see an article on vanes and how you should place them on your arrow then click here.

Take care

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