Bows > Crossbows

The Truth About Bow Speed

To give you a fast and easy guide to bow speed, here’s the good, the bad and, finally, the ugly.

Other than making the bow quieter, I don’t see any major advantage to shooting a slower arrow; however, there are trade-offs worth understanding.

The Good
Fast arrows fly on flatter trajectories, which makes range estimation a little less critical when taking shots past 25 yards. While arrow speed won’t save a grossly  inaccurate estimate, it will help you out when you are off by only a few yards. When you have the time, you should use a rangefinder. Unfortunately, about 25 percent of the shots I’ve taken didn’t give me enough time to use a rangefinder. I do recommend using a rangefinder to note the ranges to trees and other landmarks when you take a stand. But even so, some stands, such as those along fields, don’t give many markers, so range estimation and arrow speed are still important.

If you are shooting a 240 fps arrow using your 30-yard pin, you will hit within a 7-inch vital area if the actual distance is between 24.6 and 33.9 yards, making the total margin for error 9.3 yards. Now if you bump the speed up to 290 fps, you will hit the same zone at all distances between 20.6 and 35.5 yards. The total margin increases to 14.9 yards—more than 50 percent. That is enough to make a difference. If you have ever ricocheted an arrow off the brisket of a big buck (and I have), you know that a couple of inches can make a huge difference. 

A flatter trajectory also makes it possible to shoot through smaller holes in the brush. I’ve missed four big animals because my arrows hit branches that were above my line of sight. I have since learned to recognize the size opening I need, but I’m sure there will still be times when the hole I want to shoot through is too small. A fast arrow can pass through smaller holes in the brush without deflection better than a slower arrow. 

If you are shooting a 240 fps arrow at a target 40 yards away, the arrow will be roughly 12 inches above your line of sight at the midway point. If you are shooting a 290 fps arrow, it will be just 8 inches above your line of sight at the same point. That lets you shoot through a much smaller hole. That is a big deal; in fact, I would shoot a fast arrow even if this were the only benefit........


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