Arrows Series – Part 4: Spine, Flex and Stiffness

Before we discuss the topic of arrow spine, for proper safety and best performance, arrows need to match your entire bow setup. If you change draw weight, draw length, limbs, riser size, etc. this will affect you arrows. You may need to adjust the arrow length or require different arrows.

Arrow Myth:  An arrow is always straight.

Arrows SHOULD be perfectly straight when not in motion. However, when an arrow is released the force applied from the string causes the arrow shaft to be compressed against the resistant static weight of the arrow point and therefore bends.

Newton’s First Law of Motion: Every object in a state of uniform motion (rest) tends to remain in that state of motion (rest) unless an external force is applied to it.

Since the force applied is greater than the  resistance (weight of the tip), the arrow is propelled forward, and the shaft continues to flex and oscillate as it straightens itself. Arrow shafts that are either too stiff or too flexible will not fly well and will impact the accuracy of your shots or fail causing damage and/or injury. Therefore, we need to manage the flex properly so the arrow does not make any contact with the bow, or your arrow flight will be affected.

Important Tip: Arrow spine refers to the arrow shaft’s degree of stiffness (how much the arrow resists being bent) and is called spine deflection.

Basic Rule 1:  Shorter arrows act stiffer and longer arrows act more flexible.

Basic Rule 2: Powerful bows require stiffer arrows and less powerful bows require shafts that are more flexible.

Basic Rule 3: The heavier the tip equals greater the resistance, therefore the greater amount of compression.  So, a heavier tip causes the arrow to flex more and a lighter tip increase the stiffness.

According to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) the modern standards (ASTM F2031-05) an arrow’s official spine deflection is measured by hanging a 1.94 lb. weight in the center of a 28″ suspended section of the arrow shaft and is used for aluminum and carbon fiber arrows. (I believe original AMO standard has a basic guide to use for wood arrows spine determination and uses of 2 lb. and 26” section for standard measurement.) The actual distance the 1.94 lb. weight causes the shaft to sag down is the arrow’s actual spine deflection

For example, if a 1.94 lb. weight causes the center of a 28″ arrow to bend down 1/2 inch (.500″) the spine deflection would be .500″.  Stiffer arrows will bend less and more flexible arrows with bend more.

Almost every arrow manufacturer has its own numbering system and there are no universally agreed spine sizes among the various arrow manufacturers. Simply, the lower the deflection measurement equates to a stiffer arrow and higher the deflection measurement the more flexible the arrow. Manufacturers can number, size, and market their arrows anyway they want, as long as they provide the deflection data and test using the industry standard method.

Fortunately for us the engineers have already done the math for us and manufacturers provide spine selection charts. You are able to select an arrow based on your draw length and draw weight.

So when selecting arrows a good rule of thumb is that lighter draw weight, shorter draw length and/or lighter tip weight equals LESS arrow spine OR heavier draw weight, longer draw length and/or heavier tip weight equals MORE arrow spine.

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2 thoughts on “Arrows Series – Part 4: Spine, Flex and Stiffness

  1. Another great posting thanks.
    For those reading this and have an interest in shooting wooden arrows, there ae similar tables / charts of recommended shaft selections.

  2. Pingback: Arrows – A competors guide to the basics of arrows | Rasher Quivers

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