Shopping for and selecting the perfect arrow can be confusing and time-consuming. How do you know what arrow will work best for your bow? What size do you need to get, and what fletching, shaft, and nock do you need to pick? What is the arrow spine you keep hearing about?
There are hundreds of different arrows on the market, and we know that picking out your next set of arrows (or your first) can be overwhelming. Luckily, we’re here to simplify the process and help you pick your next set of arrows.
In this article, we’re going to be focusing on arrows for a compound bow, but the basic principles will also apply to selecting arrows for a recurve bow. We’ll cover our top picks for different budgets for bowhunters, target archers, and even youth or other beginning archers.
With that out of the way, let’s check out our top arrow picks.
Arrows for Compound Bow Archery Comparison
|PRODUCT||UNCUT LENGTH||OUR RATING||PRICE||BUY ONLINE|
|Carbon Express Maxima Red Hunting Arrows||31½"||$$||check on cabela's|
|Gold Tip Hunter Arrows||32"||$||check on cabela's|
|Carbon Express Medallion XR||31"||$$|
|Easton X23||33" or 34"||$$$|
|Easton Platinum Plus XX75||32¼"||$$|
|Gold Tip Lightning Youth Arrows||28"||$||check on cabela's|
1. Best Overall Bow Hunting Arrow: Carbon Express Maxima Red Hunting Arrows
Our top pick for bow hunting arrows is the Maxima Red, a carbon shaft arrow made by Carbon Express arrows. The Maxima Red arrows feature a unique design that manages the dynamic spine of the arrow so that the arrow is stiffer at the ends. That means that broadheads will shoot more accurately, and you won’t have issues with your arrows impacting your arrow rest. This unique design also means that they only needed to release the arrow in two spine sizes (250 and 350) to have an arrow that will fly well out of any hunting bow.
Another feature we liked was that the tolerances on Carbon Express arrows are so tight that you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a perfectly matched set. The Maxima Red arrows are laser sorted by straightness to 1/10,000 of an inch, weight sorted +/- 1.0 grains, and spine sorted to +/- 0.0025″. It’s hard to find those specs on any other arrow, even on arrows much more expensive than the Maxima Reds.
They come with Carbon Express Launchpad Nocks, Blazer Vanes, and Bulldog Nock Collars. The nock collars don’t come on any of the other arrows we reviewed, but they are a great addition. They protect the back of your arrows from impacts that could potentially shatter them. Overall, you can’t go wrong with the Maxima Red arrows for bow hunting.
- Uncut Length: 31 ½”
- Straightness Tolerance: 0.0025″
- Spines Available: 350-250
- Components Included: Launchpad Nocks, Blazer Vanes, Nock Collar
2. The Best Value Bow Hunting Arrow: Gold Tip Hunter Arrows
Our favorite arrow for a bowhunter on a budget is the aptly named Gold Tip Hunter Arrows. It is a mid-weight carbon shaft arrow that tunes easily and has plenty of speed. It is a versatile arrow; you could easily use it for both target archery and bowhunting. The spines available are 340, 400, and 500, so there is an option to work for any hunting weight compound bow.
The specifications are good for a budget arrow. The straightness tolerance is +/- .006″ and the weight tolerance is +/- 2 grains. The included components are plastic fletchings, nocks, and an Accu-Lite insert to attach an arrow point or broadhead. They even work well as budget target arrows, especially for 3D archery. Overall, the Gold Tip Hunters are great arrows; they’re reliable without any gimmicks.
- Uncut Length: 32″
- Straightness Tolerance: 0.006″
- Spines Available: 340-500
- Components Included: Nocks, Blazer Vanes, Inserts
3. Best Overall Small Diameter Target Archery Arrow: Carbon Express Medallion XR…
Our top pick for target archery arrows is the Medallion XR, a carbon shaft arrow made by Carbon Express Arrows. They are a small diameter target arrow with excellent tolerances, so you’ll get a perfectly matched set that’s ready to win tournaments. The spine selection tolerance is +/- 0.0025″, weight tolerance is +/- 1.0 grains, and the straightness tolerance is +/- 0.003″, giving it the best tolerances of all the arrows in this price range. It also has a huge selection of spines, so you can get an arrow that will fly well, even out of very light youth bows.
The Medallion XR is a very slim diameter shaft, making it an arrow more suited to long-range field or target archery, and some 3D archery. Its small diameter makes it advantageous for those disciplines because it will not drift in the wind. If you’re shooting indoor archery, you’ll want a larger diameter arrow, since there’s no wind to worry about indoors.
These arrows don’t come with any components, just the arrow shafts. This usually comes as an advantage for target archery. You can select different components to customize your arrows to get the best performance for your setup.
- Uncut Length: 31″
- Straightness Tolerance: 0.0025″
- Spines Available: 400-1000
- Components Included: None (Shafts Only)
4. Best Overall Large Diameter Target Archery Arrow: Easton X23…
If you’re shooting indoor archery and want the best performance possible, look no further than the Easton X23 aluminum shaft arrows. They are the largest diameter allowed in all competitions (a few competitions allow slightly larger arrows), so you’ll be able to catch scoring lines and shoot the highest scores you can.
The X23’s are 100 percent made in the United States, and have specs unmatched by any other arrow on the market. The straightness tolerance is +/- 0.001″, weight tolerance is +/- 0.75%, and a strength of 105,000 PSI. Because they are an aluminum shaft arrow, they won’t shatter if they get damaged like a carbon shaft arrow.
Like most other target arrows, only the shafts come with the X23 arrows. Twenty-three-sized arrows are among the most common arrow sizes available, so there are nearly unlimited options for your components, like nocks, points, or inserts. They also work amazingly well with both plastic vanes and feather fletchings. Overall, the X23 is an amazing indoor target arrow with unmatched specs and nearly limitless options for components.
- Uncut Length: 33″ (2312) or 34″ (2315)
- Straightness Tolerance: 0.001″
- Spines Available: 2312-2315
- Components Included: None (Shafts Only)
5. Best Value Target Archery Arrow: Easton Platinum Plus XX75…
For target archers on a budget, it’s hard to beat an aluminum shaft arrow like the Easton Platinum Plus. Aluminum shaft arrows are usually more affordable than their carbon counterparts, won’t shatter like a carbon shaft arrow, and have high tolerances. The tolerances on the Platinum Plus are a straightness tolerance of +/- 0.002″, a weight tolerance of +/- 1%, and a strength of 96,000 PSI.
The Platinum Plus comes in a massive variety of sizes, from a 1716 to a 2213 (Aluminum arrow sizes are listed differently than the spine of carbon shaft arrows). You’ll be able to get a great set of aluminum arrows for any bow at a great price. The only included component is an installed nock bushing. There are many components on the market that will fit in the Platinum Plus arrows, so you’ll be able to test out different configurations and figure out what works best for your setup.
Overall, the Platinum Plus arrows are a great budget arrow with many different options that will get the job done for nearly any target archery setup. The only downside is that aluminum shaft arrows tend to have a higher arrow weight than comparable carbon shaft arrows, so they may not be great in the wind or at longer distances.
- Uncut Length: 32 ¼”
- Straightness Tolerance: 0.002″
- Sizes Available: 1716-2213
- Components Included: Nock Bushings
6. Best Youth Arrow: Gold Tip Lightning Youth Arrows
If you’ve got kids who want to try their hand at archery, a safe set of arrows is necessary. Usually, youth bows will come with a fiberglass arrow set, which is very durable but not accurate. The Gold Tip Lightning arrows are a perfect next step for archers upgrading from fiberglass safety arrows.
The lightning arrows are a carbon shaft arrow, making them quality archery equipment instead of the toys usually marketed as youth archery gear. They are much lighter than other youth arrows so that kids can shoot them from further distances with their lighter poundage bows. The Lighting arrows are also much more accurate than fiberglass arrows.
They come fully assembled out of the box, including plastic vanes, a nock, and a target point. The only downside we could see is that these arrows won’t work for hunting, because there’s no way to install broadheads. This shouldn’t be a huge issue though; when kids are strong enough to shoot a hunting bow, they’ll start using adult arrows anyway.
Overall, the Gold Tip Lightning arrows are a very accurate, ready to shoot option for youth archers
- Uncut Length: 28″
- Straightness Tolerance: N/A
- Sizes Available: Only One
- Components Included: Nocks, 2.5″ Plastic Vanes, Target Points
Things to Consider
When shopping for arrows, there are a few things to consider to get the best arrow possible for your setup. When buying arrows, you should consider what size arrow you need, your budget, what material you want your arrows made from, and whether you want shafts or pre-built arrows.
Selecting Arrow Size
You probably saw on our arrow list earlier that arrows come in different sizes, usually referred to as spines. There is a very technical definition for arrow spine, but all you need to know to understand is that the lower the number, the stiffer the arrow, while arrows with higher numbers are weaker arrows. For example, a 350 spine arrow is very stiff. A 1000 spine arrow is very weak.
Many factors determine what size arrow you should pick, but in general, higher draw weight bows use a stiffer shaft, and lower draw weight bows use a weaker indicator.
The easiest way to determine what spine arrow you need is to check your bow’s draw weight (a bow shop can help with this). Then, consult the manufacturer’s website of the arrow you want, and use their arrow selection chart or arrow selection program.
The website arrow selectors make it very easy to pick an arrow size that will work great with your setup. The site will usually help you pick out other components like nocks and points. It’s important to pick an appropriately sized arrow so you get good flight and an arrow that shoots as safely as possible.
What’s Your Arrow Budget?
We would all love to have a set of top of the line arrows with amazing straightness and other specs, but most of us don’t have the budget for that. Fortunately, budget arrows are better today than they have ever been. The difference between high end and budget arrows comes down to two factors. The biggest factor is the tolerances the manufacturers build them to. Less often, more expensive arrows will incorporate technology like multiple spines in one arrow.
The tolerances manufacturers build arrows to are a set of numbers. They tell you how straight your arrows should be, how close they will be to each other in weight, and sometimes how close the spine is to the listed number. You want arrows with good tolerances so that you have a matching set that will all shoot the same. Generally, the more expensive your arrows are, the better the tolerances will be.
PRO TIP If you can’t afford top of the line arrows, we have a tip that will help you get a great matching set. When installing points in your arrows, weigh your arrow shafts and points beforehand and match them. Put heavier points in your lighter arrow shafts and vice versa, to bring them as close to each other as possible.
Arrow Material Selection
Manufacturers make arrow shafts out of a few different materials. The most common materials are carbon and aluminum. There are also wooden arrows, but those should only fire from traditional recurve or longbows for safety reasons. Both aluminum and carbon arrows have their advantages and disadvantages.
Carbon arrows are lighter than comparable aluminum shafts, meaning they’ll shoot faster, but may not be heavy enough for some hunting situations. Carbon shafts come in a wider variety of sizes than aluminum, so if you want skinnier arrows, you’ll have to get carbon. Carbon arrows are prone to crack or shatter if they are damaged, so you’ll have to check them for damage before shooting.
Aluminum arrows can be much straighter than carbon arrows. This means that nice aluminum arrows will have much tighter tolerances than carbon options. They won’t ever shatter when damaged like carbon. Instead, they bend, usually only after an impact with a hard surface like a rock. This can make them a better choice for some youth archers because they won’t have to worry about shattering an arrow if they miss the target.
You’ll notice on our arrow comparison chart that we listed the components included with each arrow we reviewed. It’s important to know what’s included with the arrows you’re ordering so that you’ll know if you’re getting a set of arrows that’s ready to shoot, or if you need to order extra components.
It’s probably best for beginners to buy an arrow that’s ready to shoot or comes with at least some components. When you’re just starting, you’re worried about learning to shoot and getting all your equipment set up. It’ll be better to leave arrow assembly to someone else. Shopping for components and learning how to install them and fletch your arrows correctly can be overwhelming for someone who hasn’t been around archery for very long.
If you’ve been shooting for a while, you’ll probably want to buy arrow shafts and build your arrows yourself. Experienced archers will know what points, fletching, and nocks work best with their bow, and will know the best ways to install them. In that case, buying premade arrows would be worse because you’d have to disassemble them to install the parts you want.
Compound Bow Arrow FAQS
Can hunting arrows be used for target archery (or vice versa)?
For the most part, yes. You can use any arrow without a broadhead for target archery. You should do most of your practice for hunting without broadheads anyways, to prolong the life of your target. Target arrows usually can’t be used for hunting, because they don’t have a way to attach broadheads.
How do I safely check carbon shaft arrows for damage?
The best way to check a carbon arrow for damage is the flex test. Hold your arrow near your ear, hold it at each end, and gently flex and listen for any popping or cracking noises. If it makes noise, it’s damaged and you should discard it. When in doubt, check the arrow safety information from your arrow manufacturer.
Compound Bow Glossary
The percentage amount of your bow’s draw weight that will “let off” when you pull it all the way back.
The measurement (in inches) of how far you can draw your bow back. Compound bows need to be set to the correct draw length.
Axle to Axle Length (ATA)
The length (in inches) between the pins that attach the cams to either side of a compound bow.
A machine used in bow shops to safely adjust and repair compound archery bows.