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The Great Arrow Debate | Heavy & Slow vs Light & Fast | Choose The Best Arrow Set Up For You

The Great Arrow Debate | Heavy & Slow vs Light & Fast | Choose The Best Arrow Set Up For You
March 25, 2022

By: Andrew Muntz, The O2 Podcast

Disclaimer: this is a MASSIVE topic.  I’m only going to touch the tip of the iceberg, and let you do some research to find what works for you.    

For centuries man has debated many important topics.

Chicken or the Egg? Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb? Are there more doors or wheels in the world?

Okay, we won’t get into those fascinating topics, but let’s talk about another topic that perhaps has been around as long as hunting. 

I’m no expert, we will get that out of the way right off the bat, but I’ve taken to trying to learn and try some different arrow set ups over the past couple years. I can only explain my side of this story with a very brief background of my archery experience. 

About 20 years ago I picked up my first compound bow. It wasn’t the latest and greatest on the market, but it had what it would take to do the job.  I practiced, and practiced, and practiced to become proficient with the weapon before I went to the woods.

That fall, I shot a doe. It felt like a good shot, but in the moment, I can’t really tell you exactly where I hit her.

After searching for hours, I did not find her.

The arrow had penetrated, but not passed through. This was the first time I came to the realization that even if you hit the animal, it might not die.

I was mildly traumatized by this fact, but I continued to hunt for about 10 years with that same set up.

I tried some different broadheads, practiced from different elevations, etc. and I was able to harvest numerous deer over the years.  I also had more incidents of hitting deer, but not finding them. Eventually I grew fed up with this, and switched to a crossbow.

I hunted with the crossbow for a few years, and I never lost a deer with that set up. It was efficient and humane for me, and I was confident in that setup. 

Dr. Ed Ashby of the Ashby foundation

Then, I listened to a podcast with Dr. Ed Ashby of the Ashby foundation. This guy was talking about his 27 years of research, on these so-called “heavy arrows”. I had always wanted to get back to an upright compound bow, so I looked into these arrows and made the plunge to get back into the upright game.

I soon realized that this idea of heavy arrows was quite the hot topic, and even considered a “fad” by some. Dr. Ashby has a 12-point check list for a properly set up heavy arrow. Each of the 12 points is important in its own right. You can find more info at https://www.ashbybowhunting.org about the 12-point check list for arrows. 

The archery industry for a long time has been pushing faster and faster bows. Dr. Ashby was claiming that it had little to do with speed, but was more about momentum and weight.

So which one is it? Fast and light or Slow and heavy?

I’ve talked to numerous people on both sides of this, and to be honest I can’t really tell you that one is better than the other. It’s, well, complicated. 


Heavy Arrow Flight & Light Arrow Flight

Fast arrows will fly flat, and get to the target quickly giving an animal little time to jump the string. When they are placed in the perfect location, you will kill the animal in a humane way. 

Heavier arrows fly slower, depending on the distance will have more of an arch, but will deal a bone breaking blow upon impact.

You will get greater penetration with a heavier arrow. The margin for error is much larger because of the damage inflicted.  This idea, larger margin of error, often brings out the “well if you aren’t good enough to shoot the animal in the right spot you shouldn’t be shooting at all” comments.  I’m hear to tell you, that yes that may be true, but for somebody like myself, who’s picked off squirrels at 25 yards, but who’s mind goes blank when the deer walks out, we need that extra room for error. 

In my pea brain, I equate the difference of being hit with a tennis ball at 100 mph, vs getting hit with a baseball at 75 mph.

Both are going to hurt, no doubt about that, but if I had to guess, I’d say the baseball will inflict more potential damage in the long run. This has to do with the overall mass and momentum behind the weight of the baseball. 

Research and testing continue to be done with a plethora of different arrow set up combinations. Heavy arrows, light arrows, micro diameter, tapered shafts, single bevel broadheads vs. double bevel vs. mechanical, different spine, etc. There are a million or more combinations for arrow set up. 

Some parts of the equation that both sides of the argument can tend to agree on: Arrows need to be properly tuned, broadheads sharp, arrows structurally sound, and the shot should be placed as ideally as possible.


Final Thoughts

This past year I was able to harvest 3 does with a 650 grain, single bevel broadhead, properly tuned arrow.

I did lose one deer, but that was because of not being able to properly pursue the deer on private land, but I know that deer is dead on the neighbor’s property. Was my arrow to thank for the success this season?

That I can’t be certain, but what I can tell you is that with that set up I’m VERY confident that when I let go of that string, that animal will die quickly and efficiently.

I’m not a perfect archer, so having the confidence that I can accomplish my goal even with my flaws, is refreshing. Being confident in your set up can be almost as powerful as any weapon you use.  I’m going to stick with the heavy set up moving forward, but by no means does that mean it’s the only option.

We all know there are a million ways to skin a cat, and turns out there’s more than one way to kill a deer as well!

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