By Josh Sanden, Easton Archery
-- Like many things, including archery and bowhunting, personal preference plays a roll in determining proper arrow length. In my job I have the opportunity to speak with a lot of professional shooters, hunters, and product engineers about equipment. This insider knowledge and being able to try different setups has enabled me to fine-tune my equipment in great detail. Here is what works for me.
Other than when shooting a recurve bow, I usually cut my arrows as short as is safe. My personal preference is to have the arrow cut about 1 inch in front of where the arrow contacts the most forward portion of the arrow rest. I also shoot bows equipped with cams that incorporate hard walls, so the chance of overdrawing the bow and pulling the arrow past the rest and off the string is nearly impossible. If you shoot a cam with a softer wall, or you're a finger shooter, you have to be more careful as your draw length will vary. This could result in drawing back farther than normal under certain circumstances. Under these conditions, more than 2 inches of arrow overhang would be recommended to prevent the arrow from coming off the string at full draw.
A couple of reasons why I prefer a minimum arrow length are increased velocity and more maneuverability. First, let me explain the increased speed, as it is two-fold. When you shorten up an arrow, consequently you stiffen its spine. By doing this you would drop down one spine size and shoot a 340 spine-sized arrow, which has a lighter mass weight or grains per inch (gpi) than a stiffer 300-spine size. (Note: stiffer spine sizes require more material to make the arrow stiffer, which increases the mass weight).
Shooting a 340 FMJ at 28 inches and 11.1 gpi would drop your bare shaft arrow weight to 311 grains, saving you about 50 grains. Depending on fletching type, you would most likely end up with a finished arrow weight (HIT insert, fletching & broadhead) of around 475 grains, in turn, giving a flatter shooting arrow. Equipped with 150-grain insert /broadhead combination, my 27-inch FMJs (400 spine) weigh in right at 450 grains, providing the accuracy and penetrating power I require. These arrows zip out of my bow at nearly 270 feet per second, giving me over 70 foot-pounds of kinetic energy, which is more than enough power to tackle any big game in North America.
Another reason I don't like having more than 1 inch of arrow length past my rest is decreased maneuverability. Oftentimes, I hunt from a Double Bull ground blind or a quickly constructed natural blind. Having my arrow and broadhead sticking out past my hand at full draw is more awkward for me when confined to tight spaces, and this could potentially result in a missed opportunity on an animal that requires me to shift positions in the blind while at full draw.
Bowhunting is a world of trade-offs, and in my opinion it is all about finding a balance. For me, a minimum length and heavier arrow give me the speed and kinetic energy balance that is so critical.
Thanks for shooting Easton, and good luck!