When you're preparing to shoot a crossbow, it's incredibly vital that you have the right-sized arrow. Shooting the wrong sized arrow or bolt out of your crossbow can be incredibly dangerous.
If you have the wrong sized arrow, it can break and backfire, causing damage to yourself or anyone around you. So take a moment to look at this sizing guide and figure out how to choose your own crossbow arrow or bolt.
What's the Difference Between a Crossbow Bolt and Arrow?
Crossbow arrows and bolts look very much the same. In fact, they function in much the same manner. For the most part, bolts and arrows are practically the same in every sense. However, the difference arises in their flight characteristics.
When shot from a crossbow, an arrow's resulting fall is dependent on the lift that it gained while in flight. On the other hand, a crossbow bolt tends to fall at the same rate without dependence on the speed of their flight. For the most part, bolts are also shorter than arrows.
Not to mention, historically, crossbow arrows were often referred to as "bolts" in order to distance themselves from those who shot traditional archery.
It might seem like an arbitrary difference, but it's there. The choice between bolts and arrows depends on what you feel more comfortable shooting with. After a few practice runs with one or the other, most bowmen have developed a preference. Bolts can ONLY be used with crossbows, unlike arrows that can be used for both crossbows and archery.
Knowing Your Arrows
First, let's get to know the anatomy of a crossbow arrow. Most crossbow arrows have a length between 16" 22", though on average most arrows measure in at about 20". Crossbow arrows come in four parts:
The shaft is considered the "body" of the arrow. The rest of the crossbow parts are attached to the shade. It is usually made of aluminum or carbon and hollow inside. There are wooden arrows that are solid through the middle, but they're very rare.
The Bolt Head
The bolt head is capped at the end of the shaft. This is what will enter into your target. For practice shooting, there are "field point" heads that don't have any sharp edges and can't be used for hunting. For game hunters, there are "broadheads," that have sharp edges and points used to take down game.
The nock is at the end of the arrow opposite the bolt head. These are made from either plastic or aluminum. The nock's job is to keep the arrow in place as you get ready to line up for a shot.
Last but not least, all arrows have what are called fletchings. These are at the end of the arrow near the nock. The purpose of the fletchings is to help stabilize the arrow while it's in flight, to prevent it from swaying, and to keep it on its trajectory.
Choosing the Correct Arrow Length and Weight
Most manufacturers have a recommended length and weight of arrow for their specific crossbow. It's advised to follow manufacturer advice when choosing the length. If you don't know the recommendation or don't have it available to you, it's essential to know how to size your arrows.
First things first: it's crucial that your arrow length is never shorter than your crossbow groove. For the most part, the length of your arrow should always be just as long as the length of your crossbow groove. However, it is safe to choose an arrow up to two inches longer than the groove. Some people prefer to use longer arrows since it provides more stability when you shoot.
Weight is also a factor to consider. Crossbow bolts and arrows usually come in two different materials: aluminum and carbon. When choosing the weight of your arrow, think about what you're going to be using it for.
We recommend a lighter arrow weight if you're just shooting for practice. They have both a more extended range and better accuracy. On the other hand, heavier arrows have more strength and are better suited for hunters.
Finding the right-sized arrow is easier than it looks. When it comes to picking the bolt or arrow for your crossbow, all you have to do is know what you're looking to do and how long the grove on your crossbow is. Hopefully, this guide will help new bowmen work out what size arrow do I need so they can pick the right length of arrow for their crossbow.