I was at my local archery shop the other day, and I heard a customer asking one of the workers if he could reuse arrows. I talked to a buddy of mine about it, and he said that he had the same question when he got into archery.
So, are archery arrows reusable? Yes, archery arrows are reusable. Before reusing your arrows, you should inspect them to make sure they are in good working order. If the arrow is damaged, you can usually fix them or salvage some of the parts to use in crafting a new arrow.
Being able to reuse arrows helps make the sport more affordable. Can you imagine having to buy a new arrow every time you wanted to shoot? One archer I know claims he's shot his arrows over 1,000 times. While I can't confirm this from my own experience, you can generally get a lot of life out of your arrow.
If your arrow does get damaged, they are reasonably easy to repair. So how do you check your arrow to see if you need to repair or retire it?
Check Your Arrows
When you're out shooting, you need to be checking your arrows every time to make sure that they aren't damaged. Firing damaged arrows can cause problems such as the arrow not flying true or - in rare cases with carbon arrows - the arrow exploding. It only takes a few minutes to make sure your arrows are ready to go.
What to watch for
When you check your arrows, you need to check each part of the arrow for damage. Doing so will allow you to make sure that your arrows perform as expected. It doesn't take too long to do a visual check before nocking your bow.
There are a few times when you should do a more thorough check:
- If you think your bow may have hit another arrow
- If you missed your target
- If your arrow passes through the target
- If your arrows don't fly as you expect it too
- If you take an animal with the arrow
So, what should you look for when you inspect your arrows? You should examine each part to make sure that it is not damaged.
There's a Problem with the Flight of Your Arrow
If you notice a problem with the flight of your arrow, there is likely a problem with it. Damaged fletchings or problems with the shaft of the arrow will cause it to fly differently than your other arrows.
If you have any arrows like this, perform a visual inspection. If you don't find any issues with the arrow, you may want to set it aside for a more thorough examination.
The sound the arrow makes when it flies can also clue you in to an issue with the arrow. Fletchings are notorious for making sounds when they're loose or damaged. If you notice an arrow making more noise than the others, make sure you inspect the arrow.
How to check the Fletchings
One of the most common things that get damaged is the fletching. These can come off or get loose from normal usage.
To check the fletching, do a visual inspection to make sure they're all there (duh) and make sure they haven't come loose or damaged. Pull gently on each feather or vane to make sure that they don't move.
If you use plastic vanes, make sure that there aren't any tears.
If you use feathers, check for missing or damaged sections. If the feathers are misshaped or clumping, you can use steam to help restore them.
If your arrows have curved fletchings, you need to check to see if the curve is correct symmetrical to each other.
If any of the fletchings are missing, damaged, or loose, you can repair them.
How to Check the Nock
Nocks are also frequently damaged. These can get broken just from regular use without hitting something to jar them loose. I usually recommend that you carry a few extra nocks with you in case you need to repair one while you're out shooting.
To check the nock, do a visual inspection. Check to make sure that it hasn't come loose or has any noticeable damage. You should also check to make sure that the nock snaps onto the string.
If the nock is loose or damaged, you can usually fix these rather quickly with a pair of pliers.
How to Check the Shaft
The shaft of the arrow isn't as common to get damaged, though it is critical that you make sure that it is in good working order. The inspection process is a little different, depending on which type of arrow you shoot.
How to Inspect the Shaft for Carbon Arrows
Start by doing a physical inspection of the shaft. Look for any cracks, breaks, chips, or gouges in the arrow. Scratches are typical, and shouldn't affect your arrow's flight.
If you shoot with carbon arrows, you should check its flexibility by gently bending the arrow. You don't need a lot of pressure. You only need enough to check that it hasn't started to become brittle.
To test a carbon arrow for cracks, grab the head with your finger and thumb of one hand. Grab the nock with your finger and thumb of the other hand. Then apply pressure to test the flexion of the arrow.
Make sure you check the shaft to see if there are any cracks or splits. Also, listen to the arrow as you flex it to see if it makes any squeaking or cracking noise.
Here's a video that demonstrates how to check for cracks in the shaft of a carbon arrow:
If the shaft is damaged on your carbon arrow
If your carbon arrow shaft if damaged, the solution is usually to replace the shaft. You can generally salvage the tip and nock can so don't just throw out the arrow.
If you know someone who shoots a shorter draw length than you, then you can cut the shaft shorter and put the tip back on. However, if the other person shoots a different spine than yours, it isn't a good idea to repurpose your arrow for them.
How to Check the Shaft for Aluminum Arrows
Checking aluminum arrows starts with the same visual inspection as a carbon arrow. Check for any visible damage. If there is a hard bend or indentation in the shaft, it's usually time to retire the arrow.
With aluminum arrows, you need to check for straightness of the shaft. If you're in the field, you can do this visually by looking down the length of the arrow for noticeable bends. If you have a hard surface, you can try rolling the arrow on the surface to check for any distinguishable wobble.
If you're in the field and there isn't a flat surface you can use, you can put the point down on something hard and spin it to check for wobble. This can't find small bends, but if your arrow isn't straight, this should help you confirm it.
However, the best way to test your arrow for straightness is with an arrow spinner - sometimes called an arrow inspector. These allow you to spin an arrow to check for wobble at different parts of the arrow.
Here's a video that shows you how to check the straightness of an aluminum arrow. He also demonstrates how to use an arrow inspector to test for wobble:
How to Check the Shaft for Wood Arrows
If you're shooting arrows with wooden shafts, you need to check for visible damage to the shaft. Check to make sure there aren't any chips, splits, or gouges in the wood.
Last, but not least, you need to check the tip of the arrow. This one is pretty straightforward as you need to inspect the arrow for visible damage.
If you're using a broadhead, you should check to make sure that it's sharp. Most broadheads are made of steel and don't dull very quickly. You can test this with a piece of paper. The broadhead should be able to pierce the paper by cutting it, not tearing.
You can also test the arrow to make sure that the tip or head is square to the arrow shaft. If you have an arrow spinner, you can use it to check for wobble in the tip.
If the tip isn't square to the shaft, you can fix this using a squaring device.
How Do Arrows Get Damaged?
There are quite a few different ways that your arrows can get damaged, which usually involves the arrow hitting something hard.
It's not very common for your arrows to get damaged when you're shooting at the range. There isn't much around that your arrow can hit that will harm them besides other arrows - or if you miss your target. If your arrow hits another one of your arrows, you can damage them.
If you think your arrow may have hit another one of your arrows, it's a good idea to perform a visual check for damaged.
If you find that you are frequently hitting your arrows, you can try shooting from a further distance, which usually creates a larger arrow group.
Target Shooting Outside of a Range
If you're target shooting outside a range, check the area around your target. Check that if you miss, your arrow won't strike something hard that may damage it. Things like trees, rocks, or metal are the typical culprits for a broken arrow.
Pulling Your Arrows
When you're removing your arrows from the target, you can damage them. Especially if your arrow is stuck hard, be careful when pulling them out.
If your arrow is stuck good, don't use pliers to pull it out. Try using an arrow puller to pull out the stuck arrow.
Damage to Arrows when Hunting
When you're out bowhunting, there are a lot more obstacles around that can damage your arrow.
If you're taking an animal, it's possible that the arrow will pass through and strike the ground behind the animal, or the animal could land on the arrow, snapping it.
If your arrow strikes the bone, it can damage the arrow, especially the heads. Clean your arrows and perform a visual inspection to be sure your arrows are still serviceable.
It's essential to check your arrows after you've used them to make sure that they haven't been damaged.
Fix Your Arrows
If you do find damage on your arrows, all is not lost. Most times you can repair the damage or replace the part on the arrow that's damaged.
How to Fix Fletchings
If you use feather fletchings and they are clumping together, you can easily fix that. Hold the arrow you want to fix with the fletchings over a steaming cup of water. After a few minutes, use your fingers to help fan the feathers out.
If you have a damaged fletching, read on to find out how to fix it.
Tools Needed to Fix Fletchings
- Glue - Usually this is some type of superglue, but you should check with the manufacturer of your fletchings to see what kind they recommend.
- Fletching jig - Most archers I've talked to recommend the Bitzenburger Fletching Machine. Just remember to get the clamp for straight, right, or left helical fletchings. If you want to do all three at once, some jigs do that (but you can't repair a single fletching).
- Knife or Scraping Tool - You'll need something sharp to help clean off any leftover parts of the old fletching or traces of glue.
- New fletching - Make sure that your new fletching is a match for the ones still on your arrow. If you don't have matching fletching, it's best to replace all of them.
- Accelerator* - This is an option to speed up how fast the glue dries. If you have a bunch of arrows to fletch or fix, this can dramatically decrease how long the project takes you. The Insta Set Accelerator from Bob Smith Industries works well.
Steps to Fix
Start by using your knife or scraping tool to remove remnants of the old fletching and any glue still on the shaft. Be very careful during this step so you don't hurt yourself or damage the shaft.
After you have cleaned the shaft, insert your arrow into the fletching jig. Line up the jig so that the clamp is lined up with the missing fletching. Place the arrow so that there is 1 - 1 1/8 inch gap between the end of the fletching and the end of the shaft.
Place the new fletching in the clamp. Be sure that you insert evenly, or when you press the clamp into place, the fletching won't line up correctly.
Apply a thin line of glue to the base of the fletching. Then use a toothpick or your finger (not recommended) to spread the glue to make sure you spread glue thin and evenly.
If you're using an accelerator, apply one spray to the shaft where you are placing the fletching.
Finally, slide the clamp down in the jig and make sure you press down firmly.
Wait for the cure time of your glue before releasing the clamp and removing the arrow.
One Final Tip - I forget where I heard this, but if you use a slow-curing glue - such as Bohning Platinum Fletch Tite - on the tips and tail of the fletching, it will make your fletching more durable.
Here's a video that shows you how to use the Bitzenburger Fletching Machine to fletch an arrow:
How to Fix Nocks
Most nocks that I see in use nowadays use push in nocks. These are easy to assemble for new arrows, and it makes repairs to nocks very easy. I recommend archers keep a pair of pliers - or this handy multi-purpose archery tool - and a few spare nocks with them in their archery kit.
- New nock
Steps to Fix the Nock
Use the pliers to pull out the damaged nock.
Insert the new nock into place.
a. If you glue your nocks into place, you'll need to cut the damaged nock free and ensure you remove all plastic bits before putting in a new nock.
How to Fix a Point/Head of an Arrow
Fixing the point or head of an arrow is pretty easy to do, and can be done in the field.
- Pliers - Any toothed pliers will work, but I prefer to use long-nose pliers as I feel like it gives me more control
- Adhesive - You want a low-temp adhesive, such as Bohning Cool Flex Adhesive. Having a low-temperature adhesive is crucial with carbon arrows as heat can damage the shaft.
- Source of Heat - Blow-torches are pretty common. You can also use a heat gun, alcohol burner, or even a candle.
- File* - Only really needed if you need to clean up the inside of the arrow shaft. You may not need this.
- New Point/Head
Steps to Fix the Point/Head
Use the heat source to heat the point of the arrow. Make sure you only heat the arrow point, and you keep the heat away from the shaft. Try to use as little heat as possible to get the head removed.
Use the pair of pliers to pull on the old point to remove it from the arrow.
Heat the new point and rub it against the adhesive. Make sure that you cover the whole part that goes into the shaft. Using too little glue can cause you to lose the new point more quickly.
Insert the new point into the shaft. Clean up any residual adhesive around the tip and shaft.
Here's a video that will walk you through the process of inserting and removing an arrow point:
How to Fix Shafts
Most of the time, when you have a damaged shaft, you will need to replace the shaft. However, if you have an aluminum arrow that is bent or a carbon arrow wrapped in aluminum, this is something you can repair.
You can use this to fix bent carbon or wooden shafts, but I've heard mixed results when working with those. I'd recommend extreme caution when trying to fix a shaft other than an aluminum one.
Fixing a bend in the shaft is usually done by trial and error. You find where the bend is, perform a counter bend and test again.
- Arrow Spinner - Not necessary, but an arrow spinner will help you make sure you're fixing the right part of the arrow.
- Arrow Straightener - This will allow you to fix small bends in the arrow
Steps to Fix the Shaft of an Arrow
Check your arrow to see where the curve is in the shaft. The best way to do this is to use an arrow spinner to pinpoint where the arrow bends.
Grasp the arrow around the bend and apply firm but gentle pressure in the opposite direction as the bend
a. If you have micro-bends or sharp bends, you can try using an arrow straightener to fix these.
b. Find where the bend is and insert it into the straightener. Make sure the apex of the bend is towards the single-pin side.
c. Gently squeeze the arrow straightener to apply pressure to the arrow.
You need to check the arrow after each time you try to fix a bend. If you're careless, you can easily put a new bend in the arrow.
Here's a video that goes shows how to use an arrow straightener:
What About When Arrows Get Lost
It is hard to reuse arrows when you can't find them. Arrows are usually brightly colored to help with arrow retrieval - not to mention it makes them more striking (pun intended) when you're shooting at the range.
If you find yourself frequently losing arrows - notably if you shoot in a wooded area - you can use lit arrow nocks to make them easier to find.
If you're a target shooter, make sure you know when to stop. After you start to become fatigued, it is more likely that you'll miss the target. If you shoot while tired, you can expect to have bad form anyway. Make sure you pay attention to your body and stop when your shot is suffering.
Can you fire a broken arrow? - While you can technically shoot an arrow in any shape, it is not advisable to fire a broken arrow. It is best to repair broken arrows or retire them if you don't want to try fixing them.
What causes arrows to break? - Many things can cause an arrow to break, but it is usually hitting something hard. Rocks, bone, trees, and even other arrows can break an arrow.
What are the best arrows? - The best arrow is usually a matter of personal preference and is highly dependent on what type of bow you're using. Given the same spine, carbon arrows are stiffer and lighter than aluminum, which generally gives them a flatter arc. Aluminum arrows are heavier and absorb more kinetic energy from the bow and are extremely quiet. Carbon/aluminum hybrid arrows combine the best of both arrow types but are more expensive than either aluminum or carbon.
Can I reuse my arrows on a new bow? - You can reuse your arrows on a new bow as long as your draw length and poundage are the same. If your draw length changes, you will need a longer or shorter arrow. If your draw weight changes, you'll need an arrow with a stiffer or more flexible spine. Check with the manufacturer of the bow to see what the recommended spine is for your draw weight.
Can you make crossbow bolts? - Yes, you can make crossbow bolts, but the process it is generally accepted that the process is more complicated and involved than making arrows for other types of bows. It is usually more cost-effective to buy arrows for your crossbow.