Choosing Arrows for Your Recurve Bow (2019)

a target full of different arrow types and sizes

At the Olympics, competing archers use a recurve to try to hit targets 70 meters away. 

At stake, an Olympic Gold medal and a chance to enter into the sport’s folklore.

And while the athletes have different opinions on how to win, they all agree on one thing: wrong arrows will mess up your shots.

Similarly, if you’re to achieve your shooting goals, you owe it to yourself to get the correct arrows for your recurve bow.

Which brings to the big question: Which are the best arrows for recurve bow?

We will approach this question from several angles….

What type of arrows for recurve bows? – The background

Archery dates back many years ago probably 20,000BC and even though the concept is still the same- take aim and shoot – the equipment have really evolved.

Recurve bow arrows are among those to exhibit the greatest variations and are today quite different from what our forefathers were shooting.

Such has been the advancement that today there’s an arrow to fit practically any style of archery, every skill level, targets, and more.

There are even companies which make customized arrows, for example, Viking Archery to meet your personalized, specific requirements.

I want to briefly explain to you the anatomy of a recurve bow arrow to help you understand the rest of our discussion.

The Anatomy of recurve bow arrows

Note that this is just a simple introduction to the parts of an arrow.

You’ll learn in a short while that the construction plays a huge role in determining whether a certain type of arrow is okay for you or not.

Overall, an arrow has 4 crucial parts: Shaft, fletchings, arrow head, and of course, the nock.

A short description now:

Shaft- this is the spine/backbone of the arrow. It’s obviously the foundation. Our interest will be on the materials used to make the shaft since the material can favor or disadvantage you.

The arrowhead– This is the piercing point or simply the arrow’s pointed end. It’s also influential as myriad arrow points exist to serve varied purposes. Each again has its own pros/cons.

Fletching –You could be familiar with these. If not, these are the feather or plastic vanes (fins) mounted on the shaft of arrows for help stabilize the flight. Feathers get water-logged whereas vanes can outlast any weather.

Feathers again create more drag on the arrow, are lighter not to mention flexible than vanes. But vanes are generally more durable.

Your typical shooting needs will help you decide between the two.

Nock– This is the notch found on the fletched end of arrows that engages the bowstring to hold the arrows in position. Most arrows come with standard nocks installed but they’re sometimes a hindrance depending on your shooting needs.

Got it?

Coming up next is a detailed explanation about the shaft materials and the best type to pick.

What type of arrows for recurve bows?

When many people ask about the type of arrows for recurve bows, what comes to mind is predominantly the materials used for the shaft.

And it’s a good way of looking at it because the shaft’s construction can make or break your shooting efforts.

Let’s see how…

The material used determines the weight of your arrow and related factors like its velocity.

Consider this:

If your arrow is heavier, it will maintain exceptional accuracy down the range thanks to the extra weight. Think of shooting a heavy wind-resistant bullet….

But it comes at a cost.

You will have sacrificed speed unless you have a championship-level draw weight. We are speaking about 70+ poundage, no less!

Can you now see why many shooters tend to prioritize the spine material?

Question is, what are your alternatives and how do they fare against each other?

Continue reading to get the answer including the best material type for starters..

Different type of recurve bows classified based on shaft materials

Now, modern recurve bow arrows’ shafts are made from:

  1. Wood
  2. Fiberglass
  3. Aluminum
  4. Carbon.
  5. Composite materials

Here comes the strengths/weaknesses of each..

1. Wood

Are wooden arrows great?

First, you won’t find them very common among latter-day archers.

But if you have been hanging out with traditional enthusiasts, you have certainly met them.

How do they rate?

Pros of using wooden arrows

  • They are among the prettiest.
  • Nostalgia- you go back in time and this could give you some fulfillment and pride.
  • Easier handling- for some traditionalists, you can’t beat the grasp, control, and warmth of wooden arrows.
  • You can easily learn to fashion wooden arrows yourself.

Disadvantages of shooting wooden arrows

Wood is on the whole weak in terms of shooting abilities (they lack consistency and uniformity) and gets destroyed quickly by weather and other elements.

Verdict: Wooden arrows will likely better serve your long bow than your recurve. Having said that, I would encourage you to try wood even if once in your shooting sessions to see how it pans out.

2. Aluminum

Many of us have shoot aluminum at some point. I say so because they are very common in archery introductory classes.

Aluminum arrows are actually also old – they have been around since the late 1930’s/40’s.

Upsides of using Aluminum Arrows

  • They are way cheaper than carbon arrows.
  • You have more choice in terms of weight and spine specifications.
  • In hunting, they tend to be dead quiet while they’re just as good for target practice especially since they’re easier to pull out of targets.
  • You enjoy a more dependable shooting consistency (than wood).
  • It might be possible to straighten out the arrow if bent.

Downsides of using Aluminum Arrows

Your aluminum arrow may bend much more easily than carbon making straightness a worry. Plus, nowadays prices have been on the up so the price advantage may not be that big in the near future.

Verdict: Aluminum arrows can be an amazing choice for all your archery activities.

You will generally be happier with their performance than wood whether you’re into casual target shooting or hunting small game.

3. Carbon Arrows

If your budget arrows, you will probably be more at home with carbon arrows.

Truth be told, the battle between aluminum and carbon arrows has been going on for years with carbon arrows managing to upstage aluminum on several aspects as highlighted below.

In what ways are carbon arrows superior?

  • Weight – a lot of shooters shifted to carbon because they’re lighter than aluminum yet attain great penetration as a result of the smaller diameter shaft.
  • Higher tolelance– carbon won’t bend as easily as aluminum.
  • Accuracy– furthermore, their improved speed reduces range estimation errors improving your precision.
  • Customizable sizing– Customized spine and diameter sizing options available.

Where carbon arrows lose out

Nothing is perfect so carbon has its own fair share of issues…

  • If they splinter, you can get hurt.
  • Sure, they accelerate super quick but they also unfortunately lose speed pretty fast.


The balance they bring make them the best choice for competition archery so far.

4. Carbon/Aluminum Composite

Some brilliant minds sought ways of combining the strengths of Aluminum and Carbon arrows.

The result? The excellent carbon/aluminum composite arrow.

The aluminum core supplies consistent straightness while the outer carbon introduces stiffness and required weight.

This is your next most natural step if you harbor dreams of one day lining up next to the crème de la crème of archery.

Benefits of using Carbon/Aluminum composite arrows

  • It’s hard to beat them in long-distance accuracy and spine stiffness.
  • They hence travel lightning fast and farther despite the usual obstacles including strong cross-winds.


  • You will need to dig deeper into your pockets because of their higher pricing.

Final word:  These are the straightest and by far the most uniformly-spined arrows. Unsurprisingly, they’re the arrows trusted by the Olympic/ World champions in the sport.

5. Fiberglass Arrows for recurve bow

Fiberglass is another material used in arrows mostly by novices.

How you gain from fiberglass arrows

  • These arrows are not expensive.
  • Fairly straight.
  • Always consistent.


  • Custom sizes hard to come by.
  • Can splinter and injure you.
  • Inaccurate over larger distances.

Verdict: Not remarkable for serious shooting but can be a superb alternative for youths or anybody else coming into archery.

Don’t forget about the spine rating

Even as you evaluate the aforementioned material types, you shouldn’t forget about the arrow spine rating.

This is, in short, a value that indicates the stiffness of the arrow (and resistance to bending).

Why does it matter?

Well, shooting an arrow with an incorrect spine rating will hurt your accuracy (it veers left/right of the target movements we call “archer’s paradox”), the shaft material notwithstanding.

And so?

You need to match your arrows stiffness to your bow for impeccable accuracy.

Things get a little complex here since you have to take some pivotal measurements to get it right.

I will encourage you to use the recurve bow here.

But just before you go there, you need the following two decisive variables ..

a) Arrow length

To get your correct arrow length, you find out your draw length first as follows.

Stand naturally, hands fully spread out wide (to both ends).

Ask someone else to help you measure the length beginning from the tip of your first middle finger all the way to the other.

Divide the result by 2.5. That’s your estimated draw length (inches).

Now add 1-2 inches to get your arrow length.

b) Peak Bow Draw weight

We measure this at your draw length (and not what is written on your bow) because bows are usually ±2# from the quoted values.

Using an accurate bow scale, you draw the bowstring until you reach your draw length then hold. You then record the weight shown on the scale.


Now you can go to the above mentioned spine chart (here it is again) and successfully pinpoint your optimal arrow spine.

You read the draw weight alongside the point weight that you plan to be using, most commonly 125 grains. From there, move across the spine chart until you locate your arrow length.

Lastly, read the number in the corresponding box. This is your proposed spine rating. Please note the chart just gives suggestions and the final decision rests with you.

PS: You can alternatively use an Android spine selection recurve app such as Arrows/OT2Go  or this software.

You can also act smart and seek advice from a pro in the nearest archery shop or your club.

Caring for your recursive bow arrows

Arrows can get spoilt from improper handling and poor storage practices. Here are some tips..

  • Avoid jamming too many arrows in your quiver lest you spoil the fletchings resulting into wayward flight.
  • Monitor the nock and have it replace if you notice signs of cracking. Cracked nocks are a safety hazard since it may cause your bow to “dry fire.
  • Carry them safely in an arrow tube (you can easily make one) to reduce the risk of bending or breaking.

Final thoughts

All said and done, starters can learn the trade comfortably with aluminum arrows. They’re a decent choice and won’t leave gaping holes in your pocket.

Further up, intermediate archers you can switch to carbons. They’re way lighter than aluminum shafts for equal spine.

Finally, gurus want a flawless experience and tend to favor carbon/aluminum composites. They however come at a premium cost.

I am sure you won’t forget to check on the spine and correct arrow length.

That’s it for now.

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