Hunting Arrows – Aluminum or Carbon Graphite?

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Hunter with bow and arrow

Or…

How Space-Age Fabrication Keeps the World’s Oldest Missile Flying

The business end of the bow and arrow is, of course, the arrow. For centuries, arrow technology has kept pace with the bow, producing shafts of increased spine (rigidity) and decreased weight.

Modern hunting arrows are commonly composed of two materials: carbon graphite and aluminum. Each has properties that give it certain benefits as well as drawbacks. Wooden arrows are still on the market of course, but they have few practical purposes outside of recreation.

Read more about hunting:

Bestseller No. 1
Huntingdoor 12 Pack 31 inch Archery Hunting Arrows Bamboo Shaft Feather Fletching with Pheasant Feathers with A-30A Broadheads 150 Grain
  • 12Pcs Pure Handmade fine bamboo traditional recurve bow arrows
  • Nocked (indexed Classic), fletched (3pcs turkey feather 5" ), and inserted (150grain field point)
  • Length: 31'' , Shaft Diameter: 5/16''
  • Hand spined for flight characteristics matching: your choice of 40-60 lbs spine weight
  • Pre-cut and all ready to shoot and perfect for bow hunting or target practice
Bestseller No. 2
Musen 30 Inch Carbon Archery Arrows, Spine 500 with Removable Tips, Hunting and Target Practice Arrows for Compound Bow and Recurve Bow, 12 Pcs Black
  • Quantity: 12 pcs; Length: 30inch; Outer Diameter: 7.8mm; Spine: 500. Material: Carbon. Fletched with 2 black & 1 white TPU 3” vanes. Suitable for draw weight 30-55 pound recurve bow & compound bow & long bow. Great hunting & target practice arrows for both youth and adults.
  • Precision carbon arrow shafts. Extreme straightness and light weight contributes to optimal accuracy in your hunting and target practice. Best choice for its solidness and durability.
  • Equipped with TPU rubber vanes. Keep a good balance and straight flight path when shooting. Have a good performance in various weather conditions in wild environment.
  • Removable field point is made of stainless steel. Perfect in anti-corrosion and target penetration. Screwed on 100 grain arrow tips are tight enough, and could be replaced according to your personal needs.
  • The orientation of nocks is adjustable to fit for both compound bow and recurve bow. You only need a coin to rotate it easily.
Bestseller No. 3
IRQ 32 Inch Carbon Arrow Quiver Set Spine 400 for Compound Recurve Long Bows Target Practice and Hunting Arrows, 12 Pack Carbon Fiber Arrow Plus 1 Quiver
  • Package Content: Arrow quiver set, high quality carbon arrow x12, quiver x1.
  • Arrow Material: Carbon fiber arrow, light weight and high rigidity, spine 400-450. IRQ carbon arrow is suitable for target practice and hunting on 25-55 lb compound, recurve, traditional or long bow
  • Carbon Arrow length: the overall length of the arrow is 31.5", the diameter of the shaft is 7.8 mm, and the inner diameter is 6.2 mm. Broadheads can be replaced.
  • Quiver Size: Adjustable telescopic arrow carrier tube diameter 3.5", length: minimum 25" and maximum 43". Quiver is made of PE plastic and can hold up to 20 arrows.
  • Note: This is not a toy, children need shooting training with their parents.

The Aluminum Arrow

The aluminum arrow is a bit heavier than many of its carbon counterparts and as such, will sustain greater kinetic energy after release. Greater kinetic energy means a higher force of impact (and deeper penetration), but the weight also means a decrease in its effective range, as well as a more rapid drop in inertia and trajectory after a certain distance.

The aluminum arrow also has the irritating tendency to sustain tiny bends in its shaft from repeated use. These bends are often too small to see with the naked eye, but are enough to grossly affect its flight trajectory. The small kinks in the arrow are detectable – and to a degree, correctable – using a truing device, which spins the arrow rapidly enough on its axis for small anomalies to be noticeable.

Perhaps the greatest advantage the aluminum arrow boasts is its price. Several aluminum shafts may be purchased for the cost of only one carbon.

The Carbon Graphite Family: Pultruded, Cross-Weave and Composite

Since its inception, the carbon graphite arrow has quickly become the modern archer’s projectile of choice. This shaft type is itself available in one of three subtypes currently on the market: pultruded, cross-weave and carbon/aluminum composite.

The pultruded shaft is composed of carbon graphite fibers arranged in a parallel fashion, which run the length of the arrow. This design is simpler to manufacture, and thus less costly to purchase, but the fibers lack the strength to support any internal components.

Basically, this means that the standard receiver apparatus for an arrowhead, called an “insert” cannot be inserted into the body of the arrow. The force of the arrow slamming into its target would exert too much force in the “equal and opposite direction” on the arrowhead/insert assembly for the single-direction carbon fibers to withstand, causing the shaft to split lengthwise.

Consequently, a different type of receiver must be used which slips over the front end of a shaft, allowing the arrowhead to be attached. This “outsert” adds both weight and diameter to the carbon shaft to the point where its encumbered performance more closely equates that of an aluminum arrow than it does other carbons.

The cross-weave carbon shaft solves the structural problem of the pultruded shaft by arranging its fibers in a multi-layered interlace configuration. This fiber arrangement functions, on a microscopic level, like a spring which recoils to absorb the shock of an impact. The increased strength afforded by this design allows an arrowhead to be inserted within the shaft body.

Some of the latest developments in arrow design involve a synthesis of the two main shaft types. The carbon/aluminum composite arrow has in recent years made its debut on the archery stage as the premier shaft in terms of performance – and naturally also as the most expensive shaft available.

The composite shaft capitalizes on the best features of both its constituent materials. Its design consists of an outer sheath of carbon graphite reinforced from within by a thin layer of aluminum. The carbon acts as protection against crimping in the aluminum, while the aluminum lends the carbon graphite added resistance to shattering. The complementary nature of these two materials also means that less of both can be used, resulting in a lighter, faster arrow.

Safety Features of a Carbon Arrow

Carbon graphite has one other noteworthy feature which sets it above aluminum in the archer’s quiver: carbon will not allow a permanent bend in its structure. If the force of impact upon the arrow is too great (or the arrow is shot at a substance too hard for it to penetrate), the material will split or shatter.

This may seem like a disadvantage at first, but the observable demise of a carbon arrow actually has safety benefits. Remember: the small structural defects sustained by an aluminum arrow may not be easily visible. Any archer – no matter how skilled – to unknowingly use a dented aluminum arrow will be inaccurate. An inaccurate arrow is not only a wasted shot, but a serious potential safety hazard. A split carbon arrow can obviously never be used again, but at least it removes any guesswork regarding its usefulness.

Last update on 2021-01-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API