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There are three types of arrows that are commonly used with compound bows: aluminum, carbon, and a much less common hybrid type that is a carbon cover over an aluminum core. There are various grades of straightness for each kind, and the spine (stiffness) must be matched to the draw weight of the bow, the arrow point weight, and the type of cams on your bow. Formerly for carbon arrows there was a relatively simple spine rating system of only three series: 500 series (most flexible), 400 series (moderately flexible) and 300 series (stiffest). Using the common 100 grain arrow points the 500 series is good to about 55# of draw weight, the 400 series from about 57-73#, and the 300 series for draw weights over 73#. If you buy your arrows from Wal-Mart this may still be the case. However, picking the proper arrows has gotten much more complicated. It is probably best to let the expert at your archery shop recommend the proper arrow for your bow. If you want to choose yourself you can use the arrow shaft selector chart at Carbon Express, for example. You enter the data relative to your bow to calculate the "adjusted draw weight" and a chart shows the proper arrow for your bow. Of course the chart only lists Carbon Express arrows. Other arrow manufacturers will also have an arrow selection system on their web sites.
One warning about carbon arrows. They can become damaged, yet at first glance appear OK. Under the stress of shooting, however, they may splinter causing injury to the archer. Carbon arrows should be examined before each shot.
Fletchings of an arrow come in two types, feathers and plastic vanes. An arrow with feather fletchings will be less deflected upon contact with the arrow rest or bow riser, but the plastic vanes tend to be more durable. The fletchings are usually not parallel to the axis of the arrow, but slightly canted to impart a spin to the arrow in flight. The spin stabilizes the arrow in flight.
Arrows come without points. Be aware that field points come in different sizes corresponding to different arrow diameters. If the diameter of your field point is larger than your arrow shank it will be hard to remove from targets so be sure they are the same size.
Concerning the choice of carbon or aluminum, either will serve you well, although the carbon arrows are much more durable. The carbon arrows are also lighter and thus will fly faster and flatter. But when you switch to broad heads, they don't give as tight a pattern as the aluminum arrows. This may be because their lighter weight makes them more vulnerable to air currents, with the effect showing up more with broad heads because of their greater surface area.
The traditional broad heads have 2-4 fixed razor sharp blades that cause massive hemorrhaging without causing much tissue damage or bruising. Some hunters claim that there is a direct relationship between the sharpness of the blades and the quickness of the kill. Even new broad heads are sharpened before hunting. Instances are cited where their extremely sharp arrows pass right through a deer without spooking it!
Mechanical broad heads have two or three blades on pivots that remain closed like a jack knife (held closed by a rubber band) that swing open upon impact. These fly truer than fixed broad heads, but some penetrating power is lost in opening the blades. If your bow's draw weight is less than 65# it would probably be better to use fixed broad heads. Some of the newer mechanicals have rear opening blades that loose far less penetrating power to open. These may be appropriate for lower draw weight bows.
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