You could organize arrows into three categories: lightweight, midweight and heavyweight arrows. Heavier arrows are often preferred in hunting for a number of reasons. You may wonder if this arrow flies better than a lightweight or a midweight arrow.
Heavier arrows will almost always fly better than lighter arrows. Within reason, the more weight put at the front of the arrow, the better that it performs. You want a heavier arrow for hunting because of better penetration, whereas a lighter arrow makes more sense for target practice.
If you’d like to learn more about heavier arrows and how they fly, keep reading because we will provide you with everything that you need to know about this subject.
Heavier Arrows Resist the Wind Better
All archers must contend with the wind during their shots, and the headwinds or tailwinds can direct your arrow either upward or downward. Strong side winds can even cause your arrow to fishtail. If you’d like to learn more about that, I wrote an article here on why your arrows hit the target from angle. Besides wind, you have other reasons that you may want to know about.
In most cases, heavier arrows will perform better in the wind because the wind doesn’t steer them as easily. They do fly slower in some cases, which gives the lighter arrow an advantage. However, in a bowhunting scenario, you want the extra penetration.
Especially when you shoot a heavier arrow against a headwind, you lower the risk that the arrow will drop sooner than it should. Beware of shooting too light of an arrow since it can damage your bow limbs, and you could compare it to the same danger as dry firing the arrow.
The wind can have a big impact on your arrow’s flight. Typically for bowhunting, you want an arrow to have between 500 and 600 grains for a 50-pound and 60-pound draw weight.
You may be wondering, “Is a 500 grain arrow too heavy?” In strong winds, a 500-grain arrow flies slightly better than lighter arrows. I’d recommend a good middle-range grain depending on your bow and draw weight as well. I find anywhere from 500 to 550 grains as the sweet spot. You might experiment until you can figure out a balance that works best for you.
Heavy Arrows vs Light Arrows: Which One Flies Better Will Depend
As we said before, which arrow flies better will depend on the application. Hunters tend to favor heavier arrows because of the quieter shot and better penetration of the animal, increasing your chances of a kill. However, heavier arrows don’t shoot as far of a distance as lighter arrows and shoot best at under 50 yards, but they will hold their speed better.
Light arrows tend to be used more for target practice, and they’re considered to fly better for this purpose. Largely, this has to do with having a tighter grouping than what you get with heavy arrows, which is more necessary with target practice.
Not everyone subscribes to the belief that light arrows fly better for target practice, but many people prefer it. Keep in mind your draw weight and the weight restrictions of the arrow for your bow before buying one.
I found that when I shoot a 3D target, I can hit it better at 21 yards with a heavier arrow than what I could with a lighter arrow.
Other Reasons to Use Heavier Arrow
Along with them simply flying better, a heavier arrow puts less stress on the bow’s limbs, and it produces less noise because of how it has less vibration during the shot. All the kinetic energy transfers into the arrow, deadening the sound.
The lighter the arrow, the bigger the disadvantage in many cases because light arrows don’t fly as well.
Even target practice shooters tend to prefer an arrow with 200 to 300 grain because they get less interruption with the wind.
Are Heavy Arrows More Accurate?
The lighter arrow does offer slightly more forgiveness on longer distance shots than a heavier arrow, but heavier arrows have more kinetic energy behind them to strike the target with momentum. Granted, it does travel more slowly, but many of the other factors that would harm how well it flies, such as the wind, don’t impact a heavy arrow as much.
The accuracy can be impacted on some level with a heavy arrow, but we also don’t want to overstate its impact either. For example, having the bow properly tuned will play an even bigger role in how accurate the arrow flies.
Heavy arrows remain more stable in flight, which makes them more accurate downrange, and they will fly better at the same time. A lighter arrow will have a flatter trajectory than a heavier arrow.
You have varying opinions on the importance of a flatter trajectory with an arrow, which explains why some people still prefer the lighter arrow. Basically a flatter trajectory means that the arrow will hit its target faster and some believe with greater accuracy.
When out and hunting, your arrow will fly better from simply understanding the yardage differences. Pick out some points like the lone tree stump, particular trees, cow piles and ponds. Once you get to figuring this stuff naturally, you will find how you can take better shots.
Want to know how to judge distance better without needing a rangefinder? Check out this interesting video below:
If you’re looking for a great rangefinder to use for practice, I’d recommend the Bushnell Engage Hunting Laser Rangefinder. Like it said in the video, a rangefinder can help with finding the range, but it is better to learn how to do this on your own over time. You can use a rangefinder to practice this essential skill in bowhunting.
Beware of how too lightly or too heavily spined of an arrow can cause issues with the accuracy of your shots as well. This happens because of how the arrow won’t correct itself in flight if too stiff or too weak. Like with the weight of an arrow and how well it flies, you should factor the spine of the arrow in as well.
Penetration: Heavy Arrow vs Light Arrow
Taking the heavy arrow versus the light arrow, which one will penetrate better? Doing an experiment, I learned how the heavy arrow gave me an extra two inches of penetration when I tested it up alongside ballistics gel.
However, while the weight of the arrow does lead to better penetration, we can’t forget how the sharpness of your broadhead matters too. You want an arrow that will cut deeply into your target for the most penetration. Having a heavier arrow will especially matter when you go after big game targets like elk, moose and bear.
For big game targets, you will want a minimum of a 500-grain arrow, and many recommend that you choose a 650-grain arrow for the best penetration. The most seasoned hunters use heavier arrows for a reason.
The diameter for penetration matters as well. You want a thinner diameter because it has less friction as it penetrates the target. As you can see, there’s more to the situation than simply being a heavier arrow. Pay attention to all the factors for the best results. For those who want the most penetration, we would recommend the fixed blade. The expandable blades have some of the worst penetration.
Kinetic Energy: How It Affects the Flight
Many of the people who argue for the lighter arrow flying better use the point on kinetic energy from physics. First, you have the formula of kinetic energy:
K.E. = ½mv²
The m stands for mass and the v stands for velocity. In this formula, however, the velocity or speed plays a bigger role than the weight because of how you square it. The proponents for a lighter arrow over a heavier one in flight use this argument to say that a lighter arrow flies better.
However, you have one issue with this argument: That accounts for how it flies, but it fails to look at how it might act once it hits the prey. Physics doesn’t address the impact and depth of penetration because it looks at a different problem altogether. You might call it a bit like comparing apples to oranges.
As many hunters can attest to with their own eyes, the heavier arrows kill more effectively. In a hunting scenario, the last thing that an ethical hunter wants to do is injure an animal so that it would suffer for months after being hit by their arrow.
Now to look at this equation further. Kinetic energy under this equation looks at the total energy stored within the projectile. Because it acts in a non-directional fashion, when the arrow strikes its target, it will disperse the kinetic energy throughout the target. Firearm experts call this knockdown power or stopping power. When the arrow strikes its target, the kinetic energy disperses throughout the animal.
The sharp blades on the arrow will tear through muscle and tissue and cause the animal to bleed to death. For those interested in learning more about the physics of archery, you can learn more about that here.
The Arrow That Passes through the Target Flies Best?
As a bowhunter, some say your ultimate goal will be for the arrow to pass cleanly through the target. An arrow that passes through will create a cleaner blood trail for tracking purposes. Having two holes in the deer is better than a single hole because it creates a bigger leak and decreases the risk that the deer would escape. Heavier arrows will have an increased chance of doing this because of how it will penetrate deeper.
An arrow that sticks in the target, however, isn’t necessarily a bad thing either because of how you want all the kinetic energy to fall on your prey. An arrow lodged in the vitals should never be thought of as a bad thing because of how it will release the energy right into that area. At the same time, every movement will cut the animal that much more until it drops from bleeding to death.
A pass through may also be more ideal on a deer but less so on an elk or a bear. The shifting hide on those big game animals will cover up the wound and stop the blood loss. Bears in particular are notoriously difficult to track because of this. I wrote about whether a bow will be an effective hunting tool against a bear here. Being stuck in the animal causes further damage as it moved until it hopefully drops. Some hunters may also prefer one or the other.
Heavier arrows have become a preference because of the increased lethality of them. They carry more momentum behind them to pierce the animal deeply or pass through it.
Why the Heavier Arrow Flies Better
On a lung shot, you may still see a passthrough with a lighter arrow, but the fun and reward of hunting comes from how you may hit the lungs, and you may miss the shot. In some cases, you miss the shot, and in other cases, the wind carries the arrow over to a shoulder blade.
For cases like that, you don’t want the arrow to lodge itself into the bone. You want to pierce as deeply as possible to kill the animal quickly and humanely. Most deer that have a passthrough shot on the chest can be recovered with a heavier arrow. Lighter arrows may do the same, but we don’t find them as ideal.
Don’t Go Overboard on a Heavy Arrow
A heavy arrow does make a difference, but we would strongly advise that you choose one wisely. Between 500 and 600 grains will do the trick. We wouldn’t advise that you choose a 1,000 grain arrow for a very specific reason—the heavier it gets, the slower the arrow—consequently, you have less margin of error with a heavier arrow.
You also won’t get as much distance on a higher grain, and due to the slower speed, even an arrow at 35 yards out will give your target prey ample time to escape the kill zone.
Anyone who has taken a shot on a deer understands how fast they react to the string. Many times, you want as much speed as possible to reduce your risk of missing the shot. You lower the risk with a closer shot, but the danger still exists that the deer would hear the shot and escape.
A heavier arrow does fly better than a lighter one, but you want to find the sweet spot when hunting for the optimal results.
Why Heavy Arrows are Better
Heavier arrows have an advantage in that they don’t put as much strain on your bow due to all the kinetic energy going into the arrow. On a lighter arrow, some of the kinetic energy goes into the bow limbs, causing it to vibrate. The vibrations put extra stress on your bow limbs.
You have an additional advantage with heavier arrows in that they will shoot more quietly than a lighter arrow. Again, this happens because of less vibration. You want the deer to have as little warning of your attack as possible.
How Heavy Should My Arrows Be?
We would recommend hunting arrows between 500 and 600 grains. Check your bow manual to ensure that you don’t use too much or too little weight. Too little weight would be worse than if you shot an arrow with too much weight because of how the arrow will put extra stress on the bow limbs.
In a non-hunting scenario, you may be able to get away with between 200 and 300 grains. This arrow weight would do better for target practice.
Want to learn more about a common myth with arrow weight? Check out this video here:
In truth, the arrow weight has everything to do with being more lethal. When hunting, you want to take down the animal as quickly and humanely as possible.
Does Higher Draw Weight Affect Arrow Speed?
Beware of using too high of a draw weight because of how this won’t necessarily cause the arrow to fly better. In fact, it can be dangerous because of how a weak-spined arrow can’t handle too much weight. Having a higher draw weight does have its advantages in that it hands you a greater velocity to strike the target faster, however.
The higher draw weight can impact the stability of your bow as well because of how it requires a slower release to provide stability.
Do Heavy Arrows Tune Better?
Heavy arrows do have a couple of things going for it that we will cover here:
- They fly more slowly than lighter arrows, which reduces the effect of wind resistance.
- They weigh more, which takes more energy to move them off the line that you hope for. The weight means that it will steer them less than a lighter arrow.
- Heavier arrows in motion don’t experience as much change.
I do think that you can go overboard with a heavy arrow, but it usually tunes better than a lighter arrow.
Putting It All Together
Heavier arrows tend to fly better than lightweight arrows because of the greater momentum in them. With that said, it depends on the application. We would recommend heavier arrows for hunting (500 to 600 grain) and lighter arrows for target shooting (200 to 300 grain). Also, if you were to ask if heavier arrows fly farther, we would recommend that you choose the lighter arrow because it will have a much greater distance due to less weight.