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Many recreational and even professional archers are not always sure which arrows are best, particularly between carbon and aluminum. Generally, the material of an arrow affects performance.
Both carbon and aluminum arrows are used in archery, and they each have advantages. However, carbon arrows are a much better choice for performance than aluminum ones.
Why are carbon arrows way better than aluminum?
Carbon arrows are way better than aluminum due to their durability, strength, and weight. Aluminum arrows are cheaper than carbon, yet they are not nearly as resilient or effective. Therefore, when choosing arrows for archery, carbon is the best option.
But what carbon arrows should you get?
I’ll cut to the chase.
Here are 3 of my top picks for carbon arrows, all of which can be found at Bass Pro Shops:
- Carbon Express Maxima Red Hunting Arrows
- BlackOut X5 Envy Carbon Arrows
- Victory Archery VAP Elite Arrows
Archery appears to be a simple sport made up of bows, arrows, and targets. However, there are intricacies when it comes to archery equipment—especially the arrows.
For this reason, it’s important that archers, beginning to expert, compare arrow material and make the best investment. Between carbon and aluminum material, carbon is the better arrow and the best investment for archers.
In archery, there are three main types of arrows and each of them has unique properties due to their material and design.
When specifying the material of an arrow, it refers to the make-up of the shaft or the long, hollow tube between the arrowhead (point) and nock (the rear plastic tip that attaches to the string of the bow).
The three primary arrow materials and their distinct qualities are:
- Wood: Wooden arrows are primarily designed for traditional archery. Because of the delicate nature of wood compared to other materials, use of wooden arrows is limited to recurve bows. For those archers who use compound bows, they would find that wooden arrows would not withstand the pressure.
- Aluminum: Aluminum arrows are affordable and less delicate than wood. Unlike wooden arrows, they can be used with recurve and compound bows. However, aluminum arrows are likely to bend from hard impacts or mishandling which limits their reuse.
- Carbon: Carbon arrows are commonly made up of reinforced plastic with carbon fibers. This carbon fiber material is extremely strong and light. Carbon arrows can be used with recurve and compound bows. Unlike aluminum arrows, carbon arrows generally return to their original shape when bent.
Some traditional archery hobbyists would only consider wood for arrow material.
Others who wish to utilize more than a recurve bow for the sport would be drawn to aluminum or carbon. Archers who are dedicated to high performance and modern competition are more likely to choose carbon arrows for their advanced design and execution.
Choosing arrows for archery is one of the most important factors when it comes to succeeding in the sport. Ace Archers estimates that beginning archers who wish to get “good” must practice four to five times a week, using 80-100 arrows per practice session. The same group estimates that Olympic-level archery requires practice six days a week, using 120-200 arrows per day.
Therefore, when it comes to arrows, archers must consider the importance of these five categories:
- Weight: The weight of an arrow is generally measured in “grains.” The grains per inch weight measurement of arrows depends on the shaft diameter, thickness of walls, and material. The weight of the arrow used is related to the construction of the bow; the heavier the bow, the heavier the arrow used to shoot. Archers must consider arrow weight carefully, as heavier arrows move at lower speeds yet lighter arrows are less likely to penetrate targets.
- Strength: Each type of arrow has a different strength. In the context of archery, strength often refers to the arrow’s ability to penetrate a target. When archers pull an arrow back against the string of a bow, the arrow gains potential energy. This potential energy is converted to kinetic energy once the arrow is “loosed,” or shot from the bow. The strength of an arrow is a combination of how well it withstands the kinetic energy and impact of the target.
- Durability: Arrows go through a surprising amount of wear and tear in archery. They are subjected to the launch and velocity of the bow, wind speed, target hits, and even knocking against other arrows in the quiver. These factors can affect the arrow’s resilience and performance. More durable arrows can withstand use, last longer, and perform better.
- Reusability: In archery, arrows are considered reusable if they can be shot effectively into a target more than once. If an arrow is cracked, permanently bent, or damaged in some way, it can shatter when shot from a bow and cause damage to the archer. Using damaged arrows can also ruin archery equipment. Archers must check their arrows before each use to determine if they can be reused properly and safely.
- Cost: When it comes to cost, archers must have an idea of how many arrows they require for a reasonable amount of practice. Some archers feel that using cheaper arrows helps mitigate the practice costs by buying in volume. Others feel that paying extra for more durable and reusable practice arrows makes financial sense. However, experts agree that consistency in choosing arrows for archery, not price, is essential to develop true skill.
Beginning or recreational archers may decide to forego high-performing equipment in favor of more affordable, if less durable, options with which to practice. More serious or regular archers would invest in arrows that meet higher criteria for the five categories mentioned above.
If competition is the goal, however, then archers must assess which type of arrow material they prefer based on these factors, practice with it consistently and exclusively, and then utilize it in competitive archery.
How Aluminum Arrows Measure Up
Aluminum arrows were developed in the 1940s as a means of providing consistently straight and uniform shafts. This was very difficult to achieve when manufacturing wooden arrows.
Another aspect of aluminum arrows that revolutionized archery is the design of interchangeable parts. With most aluminum arrows, the tip screws in which allows it to be switched for different arrowheads. In addition, these arrows can have either feathers or plastic vanes for “fins.”
- Weight: Aluminum arrows are considered sturdy, which allows for good target practice since a heavier arrow will impact a target with more force. However, the heavier weight of aluminum arrows also signifies that they will not travel as fast as lighter ones.
- Strength: Aluminum arrows are stronger than wooden arrows. They can withstand the kinetic energy of most bows and targets.
- Durability: Aluminum is far more durable than its wooden counterpart. However, they are considered resilient only for short-term use.
- Reusability: Unfortunately, aluminum arrows can permanently bend or crack from hard impact or mishandling, which affects their reusability. If archers take excellent care of their aluminum arrows, they can prolong their reusability. Yet the archers most likely to use aluminum arrows would not necessarily be inclined to spend their time managing their equipment with such superior care.
- Cost: Aluminum is less expensive than carbon for arrow material, but the cost can add up quickly when it comes to volume. Due to the low reusability of aluminum arrows, more would need to be purchased for replacement equipment across time.
Aluminum arrows can be a good choice for beginning or occasional archery because they come in a wide range of sizes and are somewhat light-weight and strong.
However, aluminum’s durability and reusability qualities are inferior to carbon arrows. This can affect the cost in that they would need to be replaced more often.
As a result, aluminum arrows are far less practical and sensible an investment—even for the most amateur of archers.
How Carbon Arrows Measure Up
Carbon fiber was not used for arrow shaft material until the early 1990s. At first, carbon arrows were not as streamlined as aluminum arrows. Yet the archery industry continued to improve carbon shafts, and as such their popularity greatly increased.
- Weight: Carbon fiber arrows are very light in weight, which allows for exact and consistent performance.
- Strength: Though carbon arrows are lightweight, they are also very strong and can withstand great kinetic energy. They can be shot from almost any bow into any target.
- Durability: Carbon is extremely durable in that it generally returns to its original shape when bent. In addition, this material rarely cracks upon impact.
- Reusability: The high durability of carbon arrows dramatically increases their reusability rate. Though these arrows should still be treated with care, their reusability is long-term.
- Cost: Carbon arrows are more expensive than aluminum arrows. The price can be mitigated by the fact that carbon equipment doesn’t need to be replaced as often.
Carbon fiber arrows are both lightweight and strong, making them an ideal equipment choice for both recreational and professional archers. Carbon is extremely durable in that it rarely cracks or stays bent permanently.
Carbon fiber is considered the most advanced arrow material available, which means carbon arrows are far less likely to be damaged even with heavy use and can be reused over a longer period of time.
Though carbon arrows are slightly more expensive than their aluminum counterparts, the demand for them among archers has increased. Most archery equipment manufacturers and sellers offer reasonably priced carbon arrow bundles. As a result, carbon arrows are the most sensible and practical investment when it comes to archery equipment.
Carbon has essentially overtaken aluminum in the past decade as the primary material for arrow shafts. In addition, the use of carbon in archery equipment is continuously refined as manufacturers develop better methods of performance and consistency.
Why Carbon Arrows Are a Far Better Choice
Archery is considered both a pastime and competitive sport, with a long history and deep tradition. Modern archers can choose to develop their skills at indoor archery, outdoor archery, or both.
Recreational archers can occasionally visit ranges that provide equipment for beginner sessions. Olympic or professional level competitors invest hours of practice and significant money in striving for archery championship.
The common thread that ties all levels of archers together is choosing the proper and best equipment—particularly arrows. Most archery experts acknowledge that choosing arrow material is significant in determining an archer’s success and enjoyment of the sport.
Based on lesser durability and reusability, aluminum arrows are not a sound investment for recreational or professional archery equipment, even though they are cheaper.
Carbon arrows are a far better choice in almost every way, particularly when it comes to strength, durability, and reusability. Even the cost differential between carbon and aluminum shafts is minimal when taking the resilience of carbon arrows into account.
No matter the skill level when it comes to archery and deciding which arrows to use, carbon is a way better choice than aluminum.
I live in Alberta, Canada where I enjoy indoor and 3D archery with traditional bows and compound bows. On this site, I share everything I’ve learned about archery along the way.