The Arrow Maker’s Conundrum
Why Arrows Scatter
The Arrow Maker’s Conundrum
How do we balance the competing issues of arrow stiffness, weight, balance, and toughness? It can be a conundrum.
Let’s look at the data. This is the sweet spot for my 43 pound saluki horse bow which I shoot with a thumb ring.
I am now certain that this information is extrapolatable and transferable to any other traditional bow.
Both sets of arrows were shot at a 20 yard target. Both sets had the same static spine. All arrows were aimed directly at the center of the target. The white arrows were manipulated to have a slightly stiffer dynamic spine by using a lighter head and shortening the arrow length one inch. You can see the predictable outcome, if your form is good enough.
The Arrow Maker’s Conundrum is a term which I use which describes a problem:
We have already learned that an arrow can be manipulated in flight, but how do we take an ENTIRE set of bamboo (or any wooden shaft for that matter) which vary slightly in stiffness (spine), weight, and other unknown variables…HOW CAN WE MAKE ALL 12 OF THEM TO GROUP IN A TEACUP? Most archers are quite happy to group them all in a “pie plate” sized group. This is just fine, and represents a good day on the range. But since I CAN exceed this goal, why not shoot for a teacup sized group. It can be achieved…sometimes! But this will always be my goal on the range, and my arrows MUST be this consistent throughout the group. Unlike other wooden arrows, bamboo is a hollow tube with nodes that can grow inward as well as outward, or not much at all. So, if we have learned what we can do with one arrow in flight, how do we create a dozen of them? This is the Arrow Maker’s conundrum.
Why Bamboo (And Wooden Arrows) Scatter and How To Fix This Problem
When your arrows begin to scatter, there is a reason. Sometimes you are having a bad day on the range. Sometimes you are too fatigued to practice good form, but sometimes it isn’t that at all. Sometimes very small errors in making an arrow can really be magnified at 20 yards!
Regardless of what you hear, Brace height may make little difference on where arrows hit and how badly they scatter, or brace height can make a profound difference! I suspect that for high speed primitive bows with no shelf will be greatly affected by brace height changes much more than a recurve.
Let’s don’t bore ourselves with too much math here. The geometry behind this shot is simple and surprised me quite a bit. In the photo, you can see that the one arrow is out of the group. Not only is out of the group, but is over 5 inches away from the nearest other arrow in the group. Basically, if you have a triangle which is 20 yards long on one side, (720 inches) a second side which is also 720 inches, and a third side which is 51/2 inches long, we can run this problem, and discover that the arrow out of the group and either one or both ends which were a total of 1/16 inches off from the rest. So, while this seems painful to look at, small problems become highly magnified at 20 yards. When you can group a set of arrows tightly at 20 yards, YOU ARE LITERALLY SPLITTING HAIRS. All of your shots have been made with ALL of them having been launched with either end of the arrow within 1/16 of EVERY OTHER ARROW shot in that group…AND we haven’t discussed the effect of good follow through on a shot. Don’t dispair!! I pulled my arrows and reshot that miss. As you can see, the problem was not the arrow, it was the archer.
But, how can we know if it is the archer or the arrow? This is the same group of arrows a few weeks later on the same range and distance. As you can see, one arrow continually lands high, but it wasn’t doing so a few weeks ago. I reshot this arrow repeatedly, and got virtually the same result every time, as you can see. Suddenly, one arrow isn’t grouping. Since I am repeating the same result with this arrow, I can assume my form isn’t at fault. So, the question becomes “WHAT IS WRONG WITH ARROW #8”?
You may recall that in the section on the left, we just discussed how good archery is like splitting hairs. We have approximately an 8 inch variance, so how is it that this arrow consistently lands in such a way that it is launched 1/8 inch higher then every arrow, and only this arrow is, and it is doing so every time?
After considering, it came to me that I had split a nock in my arrows a few weeks before, and I began wondering about the nock. As you can see in the third image, a moment of inattention on my part two weeks ago when I replaced this nock led to an arrow that will never group.
I believe you can see my point. Sometimes arrows scatter because of the archer. But sometimes a very small (virtually unnoticeable flaw) can lead to an undesirable outcome. I now can generalize about my groups. When arrows are landing right or left, and the problem isn’t my form, then the problem has to be that the dynamic spine doesn’t match the rest of the group. When arrows land high or low, and the problem isn’t my form, then I need to start looking at my nocks. I also think this demonstrates a second point about nock placement. PAY ATTENTION!