Arrow Anatomy – All You Need To Know About Arrows


Hunting has been ingrained in human nature for as long as we have existed. Our ancient ancestors hunted for food and fur but nowadays it is seen as a more recreational activity. But one thing that no one can doubt is the legacy of bow and arrows in hunting. From being made from wood and feathers to now more advanced materials, arrows have gone through a tremendous revolution. But still, not many hunters can accurately tell you the different parts of the arrow and what they do!

That is why I am here to help you understand all there is to arrows and arrow anatomy! Come learn of all the different parts from the arrow heads to the nocks of the arrow. By understanding more about arrows, you can learn to use them more effectively and even find out things that you haven’t even known about to enhance your hunting experience!

Key Takeaways

  • An overview of the arrow anatomy is 4 main parts of the shaft, fletching or vane, arrow point, and nock. More modern bows have arrow inserts in them which becomes the 5th part.
  • The arrow shaft is the main part of the arrow and it holds all the other parts together in place.
  • The arrow fletching or the vane is the stabilizer for the arrow. It helps to correct the motion of the arrow while in the air to be more accurate.
  • The arrowheads or arrow points determine what type of hunting you are going to do as there are specific points that you need for specific hunts and/or practice.
  • The nock is where you rest the arrow on the bowstring so that it does not fall off. There are two main types of nock which are relatively the same.
  • The arrow insert is where all the customization takes place for the arrowheads which can enhance the hunting experience.
  • There are many things to consider for arrows as a beginner but it is important to understand the basics so you can buy the right arrow for practice and get used to shooting with a bow.

An Overview of Arrow Anatomy

An overview of arrow anatomy

For an over of the arrow anatomy, an arrow is made up of 4 main parts. These are called the arrow shaft, fletching, points or arrowheads, and the nock. These have been making the bulk of arrows for many years! More modern arrows have something known as the arrow inserts which I will be explaining a bit later.

The arrow shaft makes up the bulk of the arrow. It is the part in the middle which becomes the primary structure for the arrow to hold the rest of the anatomy together! The arrow fletching or vanes are located at the bottom of the arrow which is responsible for all the aerodynamics of flying through the air when the arrow is shot. The arrow point or arrowheads are what defines the typification of the arrow and determines what type of hunting the arrow is used for. And the nock is what holds the arrow to the bow. Think of it like the point where all the draw weight of the arrow is concentrated before being shot. Finally, the insert is a new invention located near the top and inside of the shaft, where it places the different tips of the arrow.

This is just an overview of the whole arrow anatomy so let’s now look at the individual parts of the arrow in more detail, what they are made of, and how it contributes to the arrow’s functionality! Let’s go through each of the different parts one by one.

Arrow Shaft: The Primary Structure of an Arrow

The arrow shaft, or the body of the arrow, is the main structure that holds everything together in the arrow. It determines a lot of different things for the arrow, from strength, stability, and durability. There are a few things to dissect about the arrow shaft so let’s get into that.

Arrow shaft the primary structure of an arrow


I can’t talk about the arrow shaft without first mentioning about the type of material that is used to make the arrow itself! The material is important because it will determine other factors for the shaft. There are many different materials that are used for the arrow, from traditional wood, to more modern aluminum, fiberglass, carbon fiber, or even a combination of two types of wood. Basically, this is to determine the strength and durability of the arrow because some materials work better than others.

For example, wood arrows are great but they are very inaccurate because they move too much in the air. Aluminum arrows travel much straighter and are more consistent but not really that durable. Aluminum may be a metal but it is surprisingly light and very inexpensive to produce as well. Then there are carbon fiber and fiberglass materials. They are considerably more durable than aluminum and just as accurate as them!


The spine of the arrow is not like the skeletal structure of the arrow. It might sound like it but the spine refers to the flexibility of the arrow material instead, just like how the human spine is curved and able to act as shock absorbers for impact! The spine of the arrow is determined by the material that is used and it is marked in numbers on the shaft itself. The higher the spine number, the higher flexibility of the arrow.

The force from the bowstring is not even distributed no matter how accurate the nock is. That is why arrows are made so they are able to bend shape while in flight. This also means that the higher the spine the less likely it will break on impact as it will bend further than other arrows.

Length and Weight

We can’t talk about the arrow shaft without talking about its length and weight. If you really think about it, the rest of the arrow is pretty much set in size, where the shaft can grow in size depending on personal preference. That is why the length and weight of the arrow are related! The longer the arrow the heavier it will which makes it shoot at less speed. The length also determines how stiff the bows are as well, so the length is also connected to the spine of the arrow! Most arrows measure up to about 32 inches and below and the weight mainly depends on both the length and material of the bow combined!

Arrow Fletching: The Wings of the Arrow

With all that said about the arrow shaft, it is time to move on to the next part of the arrow that is important for how it travels in the air when it is shot: the arrow fletching! The fletching or the vanes of the arrow are located at the bottom of the arrow and there are many things about it that need to be discussed!

Arrow fletching the wings of the arrow

Types of arrow fletching

Typically, when we talk about types of arrow fletching, it is mainly the way that it looks on the arrow shaft. There are three main types of fletching: straight, offset, and helical. All three have their own unique characteristics that make them special.

The straight vane or fletching is for the ones where you want the arrow to zoom through the air. It is probably the fastest type of arrow around because the vane is straight which creates no spin on the arrow. It is best for short-range hunting and creates the most powerful, but coincidentally also has the least accuracy in the wind. Even the slightest wind at the wrong time and your arrow becomes inaccurate.

The offset vane looks very similar to the straight vane but the back and the front are slightly tilted to create that offset in balance. Don’t think that this makes the arrow any less stable though! It actually makes the arrow more accurate at longer distances. The only price that you pay for this is a little loss of speed and power behind the arrow.

The helical vane is basically straight vane but the broad end is slightly curved. This gives the arrow the maximum stability and longer range but the greatest loss of speed overall. I like these types of vanes especially if I want to wound a deer and track it.

Size of fletching

The length and height of the fletching also matter a lot for the arrow. The shorter they are, the less surface area contact it has with the wind meaning it is strong and powerful but in windless circumstances. The longer the vane, the more likely it will stabilize in the air. Now don’t get me wrong, longer fletching isn’t going to magically make you a sharpshooter, but it will help give you a slight advantage and help correct a bit of the mistake in your shooting form (just not a whole lot).

Plastic vs feather

Since our ancestors did not have access to plastic, they obviously had to settle for feathers in making the arrows stable in the air. There are also some arrows that are still made with traditional wood and feather like the practice of English longbowmen. However, there are reasons why most if not all commercial arrows sold today have plastic vanes.

The first reason is that plastic arrows are far more weather-resistant. They can handle the wind and rainy conditions without falling apart. They are also more durable and better for hunting while you are traveling so you don’t have to worry about your vanes coming off during a hunt and you are left with a dud arrow instead. The only thing that feathers have going for them is being a bit more accurate and flying straighter in the air but that is not really an enticing counter for plastic vanes.

Arrow Points: Arrowheads and Types of Hunting

When most people talk about arrows, they are usually talking about the tips of the arrow. There are many types of arrowheads out there and they have a myriad of uses between them. While it might be tough to go through all of them right here, let’s take a look at how the arrowhead or arrow point contributes to the functionality of the arrow for hunting.


The only arrowheads that are used in big game hunting. The broadhead arrows are made to be razor sharp to be able to penetrate the thick skin and fur of animals like elks, bears, and deer. These are characteristically made with a flat middle part and sharp edge for the highest penetration power possible.


Bullet point & target point

The bullet point sounds exactly like how you would predict it to be. It is shaped like a bullet so that it travels as fast as possible. The tips of the bullet point and target point arrowheads are more for practice than actual hunting. The tips are meant to penetrate grass, foam, or bag targets and be easily removed so that you can shoot it again. They are much the same and can be weighed to match broadhead weight so you can minimize the differences in aiming and shooting during an actual hunting trip. The only difference is the penetrating power of the target point is higher than the bullet point where the bullet point is much more resilient when hitting solid targets.

Bullet point target point

Field point

The most common type of arrow points out there and can be used for practice and small-game hunting. Their penetration power is much more than that of bullet and target points which makes them great for small animals like squirrels and rabbits. They are very precise and their shape is perfect for a secured small game hunt.

Field point

Blunt point

It is kind of counterintuitive to think about arrows that are not meant to penetrate but instead debilitate the prey. The blunt point is meant to cause a shock to small-game prey which is able to kill them. The tips are made out of plastic or rubber and some even go far as to carve out the flat part to produce a wider striking surface for a more definite kill.

Blunt point

Judo point

If you ever went out practicing hunting out in the wild with targets set up in bushes and trees, then you know the pain of losing countless arrows. To alleviate the stress of losing your arrows, the judo point is the perfect replacement! Sometimes also known as the grabbing point, is meant to hold on to whatever surface it hits like grass and branches so it doesn’t get lost. It is not meant for hunting purposes but it does great for simulated hunting experience.

Judo point

Fish point

If you did not know about bowfishing, then you should also about fish point arrowheads specifically for hunting fish with a bow. It is designed with the tip being able to penetrate the tough scales of the fish while the extended arms hooking into the fish so it does not let it go. They are also convenient since most have a screw-off feature so you can easily retrieve the fish without damaging it.

And there are many more types and varieties of arrow points than just these and deserves its own article to explore them in more depth. The main thing I am trying to get at is that arrow points are made specifically for different types of hunting and you get to choose the one that is appropriate for the hunting itself.

Fish point

Arrow Nock: Point of Holding

Arrow nock point of holding

If you ever watched movies of medieval archery, then you probably saw that the base of the arrow is flat. Unlike those times, technology has grown to accommodate a way to hold the arrow at the bowstring without it falling off: arrow nocks!

Arrow nocks are there so that you have the correct orientation of the arrow where the odd fletch is nocked at the correct position. This eliminates the need to check if you are firing the arrow correctly as the notch is perfectly aligned so the arrow is able to smoothly sail through the air.

There are many different types of notches, but most of them look the same with their two prongs in a certain orientation. Now if you are using different fletching, screw-on nocks are there so you can adjust the nock to have the correct fletching position. However, there are ones like the LED nocks or glued-on nocks in which you cannot change the position so you are stuck with the arrow type. The LED nocks are great for twilight hunting or hunting in dark parts of the forest because you are able to see them in the dark and know where they are if you ever happen to lose your arrows.

Arrow Inserts: Arrow Customization

Arrow inserts arrow customization

The more modern inclusion, arrow inserts is a great way to customize your arrowheads to the type that you want. Some are positioned at the top of the shaft on the inside with a visible lip on the outside. The main thing about inserts is that you can switch between arrowheads as you please!

The visible arrow inserts and hidden insert technology don’t have much difference between them, just how they accommodate different types of arrowheads. But what I find so great about arrows with inserts is how customizable they are! You can add weight to your arrow, or add a modification such as a spin point which helps the arrow to spin more in the air so that it goes faster and is able to penetrate faster as well.

Sadly, the only problem with arrow inserts is you have to find the arrowheads that fit into them because of how specific they have to be. And there is the adage of it being unusable on wooden arrows which you might be using for practice. Nonetheless, arrow inserts are great for customizing your hunt to how you want it to be.

6 Things to Consider When Choosing Your Arrow for Hunting as a Beginner

Now that you know all there is to the whole arrow anatomy, it is time to figure out how you will be able to choose the best arrow for hunting! There is a lot to navigate in choosing the best arrow for your needs, but with some helpful tips, you can at least narrow down the choices!

  1. Weight of arrow: when choosing your arrow, consider its weight. The heavier they are, the harder they will hit but will be a lot less stable.
  2. Price of arrows: to be quite honest, the cheaper the arrow the better it will be. You won’t land all your shots and some might get lost or broken. That is why get as many arrows as your quiver can hold so that you are at least prepared for a long hunting session. Carbon fiber and aluminum are expensive but fiberglass arrows might be better for small game hunting.
  3. Type of bow: your bow will be a major factor when it comes to the bow you are using! That means you then have to consider the spine and length of the arrow since more draw weight would mean you need to get one appropriate for it.
  4. Customizable shafts: some arrows come in the form of ‘shaft-only’. These are my little piece of heaven because I am a nerd when it comes to customizing and finding just the right arrows that I can make on my own during the off-season. You might need a bit of expertise when it comes to customizing your arrows but it is a great way to learn and understand the full capabilities of your arrows and bow.
  5. Length of vanes: your fletching or vanes need to be appropriate for the type of hunting that you are going to do. So I would say study all you can about vanes and how they affect your hunting so you know which is the right one to choose for the type of hunting you will do. If you are a beginner, then there are others that will be able to help!
  6. Preferred type of hunting: as you know different arrowheads serve a different type of hunting. That is why be sure of the type of hunting that you are willing to do! If you are looking to only practice, then I would suggest getting bullet points, field points, and target point arrows. Then when you are more ready for an actual hunting experience, then the field point arrows will work perfectly for small-game hunting!

There are many more little things to consider because each part of the arrow is so unique that the possibilities with them are nearly endless! But that is exactly why I placed these more broader factors to consider for your arrows as a beginner so that you at least can try them out and test them out yourselves! Hunting or general archery is a very personal thing and you won’t find two archers who have the same habits. That is why you should take these things into account and explore the wide world of arrows to find one that fits you perfectly!


1. What are the main differences between arrows and crossbow bolts?

The main differences between arrows and crossbow bolts are the shaft, spine, and fletching. Bolts are larger in diameter, have much higher spines, and don’t have the stabilizing vanes at the back when compared to regular compound bow arrows.

2. How many arrows should you carry for your hunting trip?

Typically, most quivers can hold up to 7 to 8 arrows at a time. For most hunts 5 arrows are fine but for extended hunts that last days you might need as many as possible.

3. Are sights important for bow and arrow?

Sights can be really helpful to be as accurate as possible. When you have a limited amount of arrows in your quiver, all shots matter which is why sights can help to increase accuracy and success chances.

4. Can bows be used by both hands?

Bows are supposed to be used on whichever eye is the dominant eye to you. Manufacturers are making more ambidextrous bows but usually, bows have an orientation: either left or right-handed to make the matter of archer’s paradox more simple.

5. What is the most common type of arrow?

The field point arrows are the most common arrows because they can be used for practice and small-game hunting. Aluminum arrows are the most common material for arrows because of how accurate they can be.

Final Thoughts

Arrows are such intricate things that you can get lost in them. Even the smallest changes in the weight of an arrow can result in large differences in your hunting experience! The arrows may only be made up of 4 or 5 different things, but each part plays out like a symphony in an orchestra. The shaft is the conductor, the fletching is the wind instrument, the nock is the percussions holding the beat, and the insert and arrow are the string instrument making it all come together! There is a lot to unpack when it comes to arrows so hopefully I gave you a foothold into the world of arrows.

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