Parts of a Hunting Arrow Explained

With every buyer’s guide focusing on the best archery equipment, the more simple pieces, like arrows, fall by the wayside. Arrows seem simple until you choose between several types for target shooting or hunting. There’s a range of options out there, and it’s not easy to make the right choice, particularly for beginners who don’t know what they’re looking for. This is why I’ve compiled this guide to help you choose the best arrow and teach you what each part of the arrow does. 

The different parts

 An arrow has four critical parts to consider: the nock, fletching, shaft, and point. Every piece is crucial and works in tandem with others to provide you with the means to shoot arrows accurately. Let’s take a look at each part. 

The nock

At the rear of the arrow is a piece with a channel. The purpose of the bowstring is to provide a spot to support the shaft while you shoot. A nock that is too tight will pull on the arrow and hurt your accuracy and momentum. A loose nock will cause your shots to be inaccurate. There are multiple arrow nock variations that you should familiarize yourself with before making a purchase. 

Press-fit nocks

Press-fit nocks are durable and easy to replace, primarily by exchanging the damaged nock and fitting a new one in. This is the most popular arrow nock, and they fit into the hollow area of the arrow shaft. These nocks can be bought in multiple diameters to fit the arrow shaft of your choosing, and you’ll need to know your arrow shaft’s diameter before you can make a purchase.  


 Overnocks are most commonly used with carbon arrows. An overnock doesn’t require glue and fits securely over the arrow shaft. They come in multiple sizes. 

Pin nocks

A pin nock is similar to a press-fit but instead allows the nock to be replaced without pin removal. Pin nocks can stop the damage from occurring to the arrows ; the nock itself will break without compromising the integrity of the arrow. Pin nocks are usually used by competition shooters who use pricey arrow shafts. Pin bushings are universal, so there isn’t any need for guesswork. 

Conventional nocks

 Conventional nocks are used with aluminum shafts that use a tapered cone on the end of the shaft. These nocks can be glued in place and fit over the cone. Despite being called conventional nocks, these can be difficult to find. The conventional nock is similar to the pin nock in that it is used to reduce the chance of splitting. 

The groove and the throat

Every nock has two posts, known as ‘ears’. Each ear tapers inward to the opening of the string. The tapered part is called the throat, and the groove holds the string. The throat will snap onto the string, and the groove will fit loosely onto the string. The groove will help you keep the arrow on the string between shots. The groove’s purpose is to keep your arrow stable before you fire. There are various sizes of throat and groove designed to accommodate thinner and larger bowstrings. Bowstring size often correlates with drawing weight. 

Read our guide on How to Measure Draw Length 4 Different Ways here


The fletching is the feather or vane that provides stability to the arrow while in flight. Without fletching, you would damage your arrow’s accuracy, distance, and speed due to in-flight wobbling. Most arrows come already fletched with natural or synthetic materials, but you can install your fletching or replace damaged ones with a fletching jig. 

While many bow hunters continue to use natural feathers from turkeys, synthetic materials such as plastic vanes are more common on modern arrows.

Why is one vane a different color? 

If you have keen eyesight, you’ll note that one of the vanes is different from the others. It isn’t for aesthetic reasons. The cock feather, or colored vane, is to help you orient your arrow into the correct position to align the string and nocking point. The cock feather will point away from the bow so that the other vanes don’t hit the bow upon release. 


The shaft of an arrow may be made from solid wood, but is usually comprised of aluminum, carbon fiber rod, or hollow fiberglass. The shaft can be of any weight and diameter, better for the lighter or heavier bow. Lighter arrows will fly faster but lack the impact of a heavier arrow. 

Choosing shafts

There are several key points to consider when you’re selecting a shaft. The diameter of an arrow is one of the crucial points; thinner arrow shafts can carry more kinetic energy and fly more accurately. Popular diameters include 5/16″ & 9/32″. 

When you fire an arrow, it flexes in the air. The spine dictates the flexibility or stiffness of an arrow. Choosing the correct spine for your bow can be difficult, but the majority of pro shops would be happy to make suggestions and help you determine the right shaft spine for the best shooting experience. 

 Weight and length are just as crucial when you’re choosing arrows. Weight is usually advertised in grains, which is equal to approximately 64.79mg. If you choose a heavier arrow, it won’t fly as far as a light arrow. The thickness of the shaft sidewall also determines the weight of an arrow. The arrow shaft can be different lengths, and the length required will depend on the draw length. Bows with a higher draw length will require a longer arrow. 

Arrow point

 The striking end of the arrow is called the arrow point. There are multiple arrow points for different uses. There are different types of arrowheads (or arrow points). The majority of archers use broadheads or field points.

 Broadheads are used for hunting  and can be used to penetrate an animal. They’re not too easy to remove. Fixed and mechanical broadheads are the most popular. The mechanical type is more deadly and has sharp cutting edges that expand on impact to create a fatal wound. Fixed blade broadheads have a higher impact, though. 

 Field points are used for practice and have a conical bullet point that isn’t designed to penetrate too deeply; this aids in easy retrieval. Blunt arrowheads are very similar to field points but can be used for hunting small game such as rabbits. Unlike broadheads, blunt arrowheads are designed to cause damage by impact rather than via penetration. 

Check out our review of the Best Recurve Bows

FAQs About Parts of a Hunting Arrow

What is the purpose of a fletching?

The purpose of a fletching is to stabilize the arrow in flight and provide drag to ensure accuracy and consistency.

What are the different types of shaft material used for arrows?

Common types of shaft material used for arrows include wood, aluminum, carbon fiber, and fiberglass.

How should an arrowhead be chosen to optimize performance?

When choosing an arrowhead it is important to consider what type of target you are shooting; field points are typically used for practice targets while broadheads are designed specifically for hunting prey animals or competing in 3D archery tournaments due to their larger cutting surface area.

Does feather or plastic fletching have better aerodynamic properties?

Feathers generally offer superior aerodynamic properties compared to plastic fletchings due to their ability to flex during flight resulting in increased lift and stabilization when compared with plastic vanes which remain rigid throughout the entire flight path of the arrow regardless of air currents or wind conditions encountered along its trajectory.

How do you properly attach components such as vanes, inserts, and nocks to an arrow shaft?

Components such as vanes, inserts, and nocks can be attached properly by first cleaning off any debris from the shaft before applying glue or epoxy according to manufacturer instructions; once applied they should then be clamped down firmly until completely dry before testing them out on your bow setup for optimal performance results!

Wrapping up 

 Shooters should try a variety of points, lengths, materials, and weights to find the ideal setup. You’ll probably need to try various arrows before finding the perfect arrow. There are different types of arrows, and you’ll likely find them to be more beneficial for different things. Aluminum arrows may be better for practice, but carbon arrows are better for hunting. Despite this, all arrows have the same basic parts for easy use and accuracy. If you don’t know what you need or need some extra help, you should talk to the pros at your nearest bow shop.


About the Author

Trey is a lifelong hunter and avid camper. He lives outside Denver, CO with his wife Kaci and their lab mix Ziggy. They spend as much time as possible outdoors - hunting, fishing, and camping.

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