Heavy Arrows vs. Light Arrows By Jack Howard As far back as I can remember there has always been a controversy on which would penetrate further, a slower heavy moving arrow or a fast light moving arrow. Way back in those days I never really had a strong opinion either one way or the other, I did though favor an arrow on the light side for other reasons. I have always been a long distance shooter, and only with a light arrow can you reach out with a good degree of accuracy. My practice sessions have always been a 75 or 80 yards. My reasoning was if I learned to do well here I would even do better for any close shots that might come along. This has worked out well for me as most of my kills have been in the range of 50 to 60 yards, with a few Deer, Elk and Antelope kills ranging from 75 to 85 yards. I have always tested everything I possibly could because without some type of actual test you never have any real true answers. I had delayed though on penetration testing as I had been perfectly satisfied with my hunting results and have always been pressed for time. Back in 1967 Bow & Arrow Magazine asked me if I would do a penetration test article for their magazine. I said I would, this was a good excuse for me to break from the usual grind and find the answer for my own satisfaction, the age old question about penetration. I find that I have some spare room in this catalog issue and think some of you may be interested in my findings. What follows is a condensed version of my 1967 article.
All bow hunters know how important penetration is, yet I have seen and heard of cases where there has been no penetration at all. Cases where the ar¬row has hit squarely in the rib cage and bounced back. Still other instances where penetration was only as deep as the broadhead point. Even though these are rare happenings, for the sake of our bow hunting sport, it is best they do not happen at all. There are an assortment of reasons why such things can oc¬cur. A few hunters in their excitement forget to come to a full draw, thus los¬ing considerable speed and power. Or a combination of shortened draw and a poorly designed or rounded over broadhead point. Broadheads such as a reverse barb (sawtooth) can cut penetration in half in soft tissue and stop the arrow abruptly if gristle is hit. It's not possible for all bow hunters to have the same efficiency in their equipment, but it is important that each of us try to obtain as much penetration as possible. Some of the things that influence the ability to penetrate is bow weight, arrow weight, broad head point design, arrow speed, draw length. A hunter shooting a bow weight, arrow combination that is 60# at 31" will have considerably more power than a hunter shooting a com¬bination that is 60# at 28". When a bow hunter invests large sums into his equipment and costly hunting trips, it is wise to choose equipment carefully so the hunt will be a gratifying success. Because there are certain arrow-bow weight combinations that are more efficient than others if the wrong choice is made, in certain cases a slight gain in bow weight could cause a loss in penetration.
In setting up for a penetration test, the material used that is to be shot into must be as consistent as possible. For this type of test there is nothing I know of that is more consistent than compressed cardboard. I can shoot 6 matched arrows into cardboard and they will penetrate to exactly the same depth. I made up a strong wood frame to hold and compress the cardboard. What would be the best kind of point to use was the next question. Broadhead points were out, not only would they be difficult to work with, but there would be too many misleading results. Things such as alignment, sharpness, size and type of hole opened, etc. would give a varied effect on penetration. You would only use broad head points for a test if you were testing the penetrating ability of one type of brcadhead over another. My test though was not a test on broad head points. I was only concerned on how shaft weight effects penetration, an an¬swer to which could best overcome the binding effect of the carboard against the shaft. Would a shaft on the light side which travels faster, or a shaft on the heavy side at a slower speed have the most penetration. To make this test as accurate as possible, all points had to be exactly the same shape and dia¬meter and remain the same throughout the test. I chose standard steel target points as they are absolutely consistent. Shaft diameters, arrow length, fletch¬ing, all had to be exactly the same, identical in every respect except for what I was testing, weight. As I had no method of making up such arrows, Easton Aluminum made these especially for my test. The arrow weights made were 325 grains for the lightest arrow, 480 grains for the middle weight and 650 grains in the heavy arrow which is just twice the weight of the lightest one.
The bow weights used in my test were 40, 50 and 60 Ibs. Out of a bow of a given weight, I think we all realize that as arrow weight is increased, the speed of the arrow decreases. Also as arrow weight is lessened, then the speed of the arrow increases. How though does all this effect arrow penetration, this was the whole point of my test. As for the figures on how the test came out, I won't give all of the many figures as this would only be confusing. With each bow weight shot, the lightest arrow penetrated the deepest, the mid weight ar¬row had the second most penetration and the heavy arrow had the least pene¬tration. For a comparison with just the light arrow and the heavy arrow. From the 40# bow, the light arrow penetrated 3 ½” further than the heavy arrow. From the 50# bow, the light arrow penetrated 4" further than the heavy arrow. From the 60# bow, the light arrow penetrated 5 ¼” further than the heavy ar¬row. The penetration range of the mid weight arrow was half way between the light and heavy arrow. In the actual depth of penetration, there are some fig¬ures that may surprise a few, in the heavy vs. light division. Just comparing what the light bow with the light arrow versus the heavy bow with the heavy arrow penetrated is somewhat astounding. From the 40# bow, the average depth of penetration of the light 325 grain arrow was 12". From the 60# bow the average depth the heavy arrow penetrated was 11 ½”. If you take a close look at these figures you will note the light bow and arrow penetrated on the average of 1 ½”" further than the heavy arrow with a bow that was 20 lbs heav¬ier. Of course none of us can use a 325 grain arrow for hunting, but I feel the figures still tell us something. For one thing, speed is an important factor that should definitely be considered. Also if you choose the proper arrow-bow com¬bination for your bow, you won't go wrong. In my opinion it is best not to make a decided effort to go real heavy on arrow weight as a few hunters do.
Many have been mislead by a few manufacturers advertisements, especially when they talk about heavy arrows and heavy broad heads giving shock type knock over power. There is no such thing as knock down power when it comes to killing game with a bow and arrow. Knock down power means shock from being hit by a projectile, this does not happen with an arrow. On rare occasions one might catch an animal off balance, but this has nothing to do with shock or knock down power. The fact that the broad head is sharp and pointed in itself takes what little striking shock that might be generated out of the arrow. If striking shock was the name of the game, we would be using blunt points. In conclusion I would like to mention that I made this penetration test because of a request from Bow & Arrow Magazine, plus my own information. I have given the results here as I feel some may be interested. I have no ax to grind on this subject and will be pleased to make a customers arrows any weight he wishes them to be.
I'd rather see archers who actually "can" consistently connect beyond 20 yards, but choose to keep shots close to maximize chances. Not those who can't hit at 20 paces and are obviously forced to shoot under that distance - those guys are generally terrible even at point blank.
First deer I killed with a recurve was shooting a 350gr'ish arrow and 44# of pull at 27.5" and a Muzzy 3bld, which broke through the shoulder blade for a complete pass-through. Trad-E-Trads will tell you tht can't be done, even though they don't know why......More food for thought.
I shoot bows around 45#. I picked an aluminum shaft based on the Easton chart. I mounted a Zwickey 2 blade. I shot it. It flew good. I'm done.
I think the completed arrow weighs around 470gr?
Nowhere in the process did I think about all the technical aspects of arrow flight/penetration. I'm not hunting mastadons so I'm not too worried about it.
Besides, there's nothing to shoot at in 2C anyways! :)
No matter what your set up is.!
60# hickory selfbow 150 fps. 680 gr laminated birch arrow.
Complete pass thru on an adult whitetail doe @ 18 yds.
I have a old Jack Howard catalog, they had a lot of tips in them.
The Gamemaster Jet---WORLDS FASTEST BOW---Guaranteed Weights from 35 to 80# and $200.00 with out options.
Merill 4 pin heart shot bow sight $7.95
Deluxe xx75 arrows $51.95 Budget xx75 arrows $46.95
My guess is that the due to less surface area of such arrows, there is less resistance to penetration.
But the object with the most weight will go into the ground deeper.
Arrows bend alot on impact, and alot of energy is lost out the side of the arrow.
The bigger arrow has a stiffer spline and will not lose kinetic energy as fast as the smaller arrow will on impact.
Addtionally, that an arrow is "bigger" does not necessarily mean that it's either heavier or stiffer, and I don't know where your getting that it is. Due to factors regarding arrows that your not taking in to consideration, heavier arrows do not necessarily penetrate further because they weigh more.
First off, it's spine, not spline. And like Roger said there are several factors that must be considered before declaring that a fatter arrow has a heavier spine. Noodling has been known about forever but all arrows noodle.
Take a 2217 or 2216 and put a 145 grain point on it and the spine is less than that of the same length 2020.
In that scenario which arrow do you think would penetrate more?
Chuck, wasn't including weight. Was only talking about shaft diameter. Weight adds another variable. Different speed would add yet another.
all this stuff good for alot of postulation, though.
Postulation is good...I "guess' ? v:)
Yep, many variables. The most important thing about tests and comparisons are the variables. Often, one can choose the variables whose changes offer the effect he's looking for. It's no different with arrow weight, speed, drag, KE, Momentum, spine, etc and their effects on penetration.
I would have liked to read Jack's full article as I'd like to have more info on actual arrow speeds, bow info and such, if it was in fact included, as I would like to crunch the Momentum and KE numbers. But from what I've read so far, I'm not surprised. Just as; neither would I be surprised if arrow speed was maintained throughout the variously weighted arrows by going up in draw weight for each of them as needed, and as a result, each progressively heavier arrow penetrated farther than the last.
I'm a proponent of heavier arrows, but when shot from bows heavy enough to maintain adequate speed and trajectory... and as such, heavier arrows penetrate farther.
What I did like about Jack's test better than some others is that he was able to isolate weight as the only variable, in so far as I can see anyway. The caveat there may be, however, that there is more to the story regarding dynamic spine that we're not seeing in the results, but might be more evident in the test......Who knows. Great discussion for sure and it gets even better when it involves knowledgable men like yunz, who care enough about what they're doing..... :)
It always happened on the long yardage shots, but we all used just about the same length and weight 2117.
But he used the shorter bow.
Ha! You're right Chuck! I used to think shooting alum arrows from a stickbow was blasphemy! Six years ago I secretly tried alum and was blown away by the improved flight and lack of unexplained fliers. I recently made up some woodies just for nostalga sake, but my #1 choice is aluminum.
There's just no good answer that I can think of that wouldn't upset Phil.
And I had some good ones too.
I'll just say "No", how's that?
(You have PM)
Also does anyone notice better penetration at the 15 to 20yd range, than at 8 to 10 yds?? Just wondering!
Ed's selfbow is actually pretty quick. If he were shooting 500gr arrows then their speed would be approximately 185fps'ish. Wondering his draw length....??
Braggart.... Just goes to show ya... there's always somebody slower...~(8o)