Heavy and Hard vs. Light and Fast
Just as every archer likes to weigh in on the debate between fixed-blade and mechanical broadheads, each bowhunter has an opinion when it comes to arrow weight. Both lightweight and heavier arrows offer unique benefits, but is there a general winner?
Relatively heavy arrow setups hit hard, penetrate deep, and resist wind drag. They can produce less vibration and noise, resulting in a quieter shot. And they can be more forgiving when arrows are less than perfectly placed on an animal.
On the downside, they aren’t quite as quick and drop faster than lighter arrows. So they’re not as effective for long-distance shots and make accurate ranging — rather than pin-gapping — incredibly important.
Lightweight arrows travel fast and shoot flat, making them popular among some hunters who typically take long-range shots.
But this lightning-fast performance comes at a cost. Lightweight arrows can be more difficult to tune and more susceptible to wind drag. They also don’t penetrate as well as heavier arrows. And while some shooters argue the added speed of a lightweight arrow can help it make contact before a deer can jump the string, the added noise it generates can make your target more likely to react.
Just as different broadhead designs can each have their place, optimal arrow weight will vary from shooter to shooter and depends on a few variables.
For new archers, small-framed shooters, and youth hunters who have a shorter draw length and/or lower draw weight, better penetration outweighs the need for speed.
For experienced hunters pulling heavy poundage and consistently taking long-distance shots, a lightweight arrow setup might be beneficial.
Hard-hitting penetration is a bigger concern on big-game animals, while the speed and trajectory of lightweight arrows will better suit target archers slinging carbon 100 yards.
With either option, you’ll make some type of tradeoff. But as a general rule, momentum outranks velocity. For most hunting situations, it’s better to sacrifice some speed for passthrough penetration. It’s easy to get caught up in the marketing hype of ultra fast rigs and micro-diameter shafts, but speed itself isn’t what kills.
Heavier is usually better.
Fortunately, arrow weight doesn’t have to be black and white, and ideal setups exist on a sliding scale. It’s easy to tinker with your arrow to add a few grains here or there for a customized setup that’s a little light or a little heavy — or one with middle-of-the-road weight.