Arrows for my safari

Brad Matteo

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I'm headed back to Africa in about a year. This time I'm taking my bow and going after Nyala and sable as my 2 trophies, plus whatever might trip my trigger. I shoot 29in at 65 to70lbs, looking for a quality arrow for this hunt. I'm planning on using tooth of the arrow broadheads. I currently use 350 cx reds for deer, but I know they are a light arrow. What do you recommend??? Axis 4mm???
 

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I’ve had good luck with carbon express piledrivers…with a CE 350 spine you’re getting 11 gpi… which isn’t a bad start on building a heavyish PG arrow… I’ve got mine over 600 grains with a good FOC.. and have them shooting nicely from my 65 lb bow…
 

SikaMDhunter

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I've been using Sirius archery arrows for the last 2 years and will use in upcoming SA. I don't shoot any of those micro arrows just the standard size. I run around 530 grains with most upfront, 100 insert and 200 broadhead. Not super heavy but has higher foc. I run 250 spine and shoot 70lbs.

I will also have a second scope I will run lighter arrows and much lighter broadheads. This is for a night hunt in SA for smaller game, looking for small cat. This way I have 2 sights and 2 separate arrows without needing a second bow. I'll keep a higher spine as it'll still be 70lbs but no insert and lighter broadheads.
 

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No, not 4mm. They break so much easier than even the 5 mm arrows. The only theoretical advantage is less wind drift at long distances due to smaller cross section. Not applicable in most Africa situations.

I personally like 5 mm axis arrows with a brass hit insert you could go 340 or 300 spine depending on your final desired weight- a 340 cut to 27”-28” with 50 gr insert and it will be 450-500 gr depending on your Broadhead, while the 300 spine I would go 28”-29” and the 75 gr insert for 500-600 gr depending on Broad-head.

after 2 bow hunting trips with many friends I am Not convinced heavier is always better. get over 400 grains and should be fine for plainsgame.

Perfect flight and a super sharp broad are more important. Iron Will broadheads though expensive have been the most impressive by far, though any other sharp head put in the vitals will work
 

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after 2 bow hunting trips with many friends I am Not convinced heavier is always better. get over 400 grains and should be fine for plainsgame.

Not trying to be critical of your opinion. You are certainly entitled to express yours.. However, I am genuinely interested in what set of circumstances you experienced that makes you say heavier is not always better?
 

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I'm headed back to Africa in about a year. This time I'm taking my bow and going after Nyala and sable as my 2 trophies, plus whatever might trip my trigger. I shoot 29in at 65 to70lbs, looking for a quality arrow for this hunt. I'm planning on using tooth of the arrow broadheads. I currently use 350 cx reds for deer, but I know they are a light arrow. What do you recommend??? Axis 4mm???

I have personally never shot the tooth of the arrow broadheads, but at a quick glance they look like they should work extremely well. They have all the characteristics I would recommend in a fixed-blade with a short, compact design, and one-piece solid steel construction. They look nasty!

Considering that you have plenty of draw weight and length to begin with, I also agree with most of the others who have already recommended an arrow with a front-of-center weight of 20% or more of the total arrow weight which should be at least 475 grains for the momentum you will need for effective penetration.

With that said, you would only improve penetration by increasing your total arrow weight up to as much as 650 grains. With the broadhead you plan to use, any total arrow weight north of 475gr should get the job done on most African plainsgame animals. More FOC and total arrow weight should only help, but also make sure whatever final build you use flies well from your set-up. An out of tune arrow robs you of precious momentum. In most circumstances, more FOC in the arrow will actually tune and fly better than lighter or balanced arrows.

You may be able to simply add a heavier insert/outsert and/or heavier broadhead to your current arrow and get the FOC and TAW you need assuming they will tune with the added weight to that spine.. If you do go with different arrows, I use Carbon Express Piledriver Hunters that weigh 11gr per inch with great success, but there are several other manufacturers that offer similar heavy shaft options like Gold Tip, and Easton.. Grizzlystiks and Bishops are also great heavy shaft choices but expensive.. Good Luck!
 

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It's also interesting in what is considered a heavy arrow. My heavy arrows are 530ish. That's what I use for all big game hunting

Good question.. Your average brand name hunting arrow shaft weighs about 8.5 grains per inch cut to @28" comes to 238gr. Standard aluminum inserts weigh 25gr. Most hunters use standard weight broadheads from 100-125gr. Add in fletching, nock, and maybe an arrow wrap for another 30-50 grains combined, and you come out at 380-420 grains of total arrow weight which is what I consider to be a light arrow.

For optimal penetration, the lighter the draw weight and draw length a hunter is shooting, the heavier the arrow needs to be both front of center and in total arrow weight. What many don't realize is that lighter poundage shooters need that precious momentum generated from those heavier arrows much more than hunters shooting much higher poundages and longer draw lengths. For draw weights and draw lengths exceeding 60lbs. and 28" the energy the bow generates will compensate for some of the momentum sacrificed for a lighter arrow that lighter poundage bows simply cannot..

Regardless, even with 65lb. and higher draw weights, I still would not recommend a total arrow weight of less than 480-500 grains, and 20% FOC. And, that's assuming the broadhead is one that is also designed for optimal penetration. Expandables throw a giant wrench into that equation.

As an example, my wife only shoots 50lbs. with a 26" draw length. Back many years ago when everyone was incorrectly hyping arrow speed, we built arrows that had a front of center of less than 10% and a total arrow weight of just at 400 grains with a compact 3-blade fixed broadhead. The penetration she was getting on whitetails and hogs was mediocre at best and very dependent on shot placement. After experimenting with several arrows of different weights, and finding the optimum build, she is now shooting a 550gr arrow with a 25% FOC and the same broadhead. She now gets pass-thrus on the vast majority of animals that she shoots. The difference was really night and day..
 

wildwilderness

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Not trying to be critical of your opinion. You are certainly entitled to express yours.. However, I am genuinely interested in what set of circumstances you experienced that makes you say heavier is not always better?
It would be quite obvious that you can get an arrow so heavy it barely shoots (2500 gr? 5000gr?) the speed would kill the KE to a none lethal level but the momentum would be great!

The opposite is also obvious as well with too light. What one needs to find is the optimal performance window for their particular bow for maximizing penetration ability.

KE does take mass into consideration so as you increase arrow weight the KE will still increase to a point. The momentum will also increase and then plateau. After that point the KE will drop while the momentum gains little.

so going to an overly heavy arrow say 1000g in a 70# compound will suffer huge losses of KE while gaining very little in momentum.

the intersection at the highest KE with sufficient momentum is the “ideal” arrow weight for that bow. And remember highest KE is not a light arrow- usually in this senario 70# bow it’s usually 500-600 gr arrow

I now see momentum as maintaining KE through the animal. At max KE the momentum carries it farther. With a too heavy arrow slightly more momentum has less KE to carry through possible getting less penetration.

this is the anecdotal eveidence I have seen optimized arrows penetrated very well. Heavy (past max KE) arrows did ok, but did not consistently. get more penetration, sometimes less than optimized .

So make a chart, get a chrono. Shoot many weight arrows through and chart the KE and momentum and see what your bow likes
 

BSO Dave

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It would be quite obvious that you can get an arrow so heavy it barely shoots (2500 gr? 5000gr?) the speed would kill the KE to a none lethal level but the momentum would be great!

The opposite is also obvious as well with too light. What one needs to find is the optimal performance window for their particular bow for maximizing penetration ability.

KE does take mass into consideration so as you increase arrow weight the KE will still increase to a point. The momentum will also increase and then plateau. After that point the KE will drop while the momentum gains little.

so going to an overly heavy arrow say 1000g in a 70# compound will suffer huge losses of KE while gaining very little in momentum.

the intersection at the highest KE with sufficient momentum is the “ideal” arrow weight for that bow. And remember highest KE is not a light arrow- usually in this senario 70# bow it’s usually 500-600 gr arrow

I now see momentum as maintaining KE through the animal. At max KE the momentum carries it farther. With a too heavy arrow slightly more momentum has less KE to carry through possible getting less penetration.

this is the anecdotal eveidence I have seen optimized arrows penetrated very well. Heavy (past max KE) arrows did ok, but did not consistently. get more penetration, sometimes less than optimized .

So make a chart, get a chrono. Shoot many weight arrows through and chart the KE and momentum and see what your bow likes

I appreciate your detailed reply, and I agree with the majority of what you have said..

You had me scratching my head a bit when you said that sometimes heavier is not always better.
By putting that statement in context citing that a 2500gr. or even 5000gr. arrow shot from a 70lb. bow would be impractical, I would agree. However, an arrow up to 950gr. shot from a 70lb. bow is not.. I have personally done it with considerable success on both Cape buffalo and Asian water buffalo along with several of my friends and customers who I have worked with to build their arrows for maximum performance. But, I would also agree that this is a special circumstance and a 950gr. arrow is not practical or necessary for the average bowhunter pursuing North American or African plainsgame.

I would also push back on this a bit.. Perfect flight and a super sharp broad are more important.
As an example, If a hunter is shooting a 50lb. bow with a 2' Rage broadhead screwed into an arrow with a total weight of 380gr., I would argue that with this kind of set-up, prefect flight and a super sharp broadhead would not be the most important factors in an attempt to optimize penetration.. I guarantee this hunter would have poor penetration 9 out of 10 times due to a combination of inadequate total arrow weight & FOC, and poor broadhead choice. Whereas an arrow built with 20% FOC and a total arrow weight of 475-550gr. topped with a compact, sharp, fixed-blade broadhead will significantly outperform and out-penetrate any lighter arrow with the sharpest broadhead. Near perfect arrow flight is a default requirement for any scenario regardless of total arrow weight and broadhead choice.

I agree with you that for most hunters, there is a optimal point for each individual that maximizes their penetrating capability depending on all of the variables discussed, and that optimal balance lies somewhere in that 500-650gr. range. However, where I would push back somewhat is that I believe that optimal threshold, especially for hunters shooting lower poundages and shorter draw lengths, is actually higher than you might have indicated. Heavier arrow builds benefit them exponentially more than those capable of shooting higher poundage bows at longer draw lengths.

I have been a bow hunter for nearly 40 years. I have owned a bow shop for the last 15. We have seen tremendous advances in technology over the last 20 years. We also have a much better understanding of the physics that affect arrow & broadhead performance, momentum, and penetration. I came from that traditional school of thought by which the manufacturers of the equipment dictated (incorrectly in most regards) the industry standards. Bow, arrow, and broadhead designs where based on marketing appeal rather than practical field results, and still are in many regards. For decades these manufacturers marketed arrow speed as the paramount factor, while actual field performance was basically being ignored. I bought into it myself early on and got away with less than optimal results because I generated enough KE from my own set-up to compensate for the lighter arrows I was shooting.. It was actually the poor results I was seeing from those hunters who could not generate enough KE that were significantly struggling with penetration issues shooting lighter albeit faster arrows.

Then I discovered Dr. Ashby's research which led me to do a great deal of my own experimentation on his findings and recommendations. Suffice to say, I have seen incredible results in my own hunting experiences by building my set-ups based the physical principles of his findings. And, I have since tried to encourage my hunting buddies and customers to build their set-ups with combinations that will deliver that optimal balance of penetration and practicality. In my experiences, I would offer that heavier is better up to a point, but that point is likely a lot higher than most would expect for the vast majority of practical hunting applications.
 

Hall

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I'm headed back to Africa in about a year. This time I'm taking my bow and going after Nyala and sable as my 2 trophies, plus whatever might trip my trigger. I shoot 29in at 65 to70lbs, looking for a quality arrow for this hunt. I'm planning on using tooth of the arrow broadheads. I currently use 350 cx reds for deer, but I know they are a light arrow. What do you recommend??? Axis 4mm???
I've shot axis 4mm a fair bit on deer, at 29" and 70 pounds I'd want ATLEAST 300 spine, if not 250. I really like the .204s, particularly the victory RIP TKO. If they don't have a weight requirement I'd shoot no heavier than 450gr. If you want me to I can throw something together on archers advantage so you can see all your stats for the arrow. Do you have a preferred fletching? Also I'd recommend ironwill broadheads. Crazy sharp and very tough.
 

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I agree with you that for most hunters, there is a optimal point for each individual that maximizes their penetrating capability depending on all of the variables discussed, and that optimal balance lies somewhere in that 500-650gr. range. However, where I would push back somewhat is that I believe that optimal threshold, especially for hunters shooting lower poundages and shorter draw lengths, is actually higher than you might have indicated. Heavier arrow builds benefit them exponentially more than those capable of shooting higher poundage bows at longer draw lengths.

Excellent summary @BSO Dave!

I especially agree with the significance of finding that optimal performance arrow weight & broadhead choice combination for lighter poundage shooters. Just like yours, my wife struggled with penetration issues with lighter arrows at 52lbs at 27" of draw. After considerable trial and error, she now gets amazing consistent results with a Carbon Express Piledrivers weighing 550 grains in total. She shoots a Muzzy Trocar broadhead that performs extremely well as part of the combination. She gets pass-throughs on most of the animals she has shot including species as large as an eland. Shooting the right heavier arrow weight and broadhead combo has been a huge difference maker in her success. I cannot stress this enough to our bowhunting clients, and especially to those who shoot lower poundage bows.

IMG_1379.JPG
 

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My persoal opinion is that arrow weight and choice is overrated. I have had excellent success with CX piledrivers and slick truck magnums. As well as 830 grain combos of vector HMRs and iron will 250s. On the flip side the other guy is camp had impeccable performance from his whitetail setup with both rage and dead meat broadheads.

The thing that frequently gets forgotten is that the average mature northern whitetail is bigger than many of the African species. Kudu, for example, are large but relatively thin game. Any whitetail setup is adequate for them provided proper shot placement. I think it’s reasonable to assess the toughest animal you could realistically hunt and base your arrow setup on that animal.

For most hunters I think this is the wildebeest.
 

SikaMDhunter

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My persoal opinion is that arrow weight and choice is overrated. I have had excellent success with CX piledrivers and slick truck magnums. As well as 830 grain combos of vector HMRs and iron will 250s. On the flip side the other guy is camp had impeccable performance from his whitetail setup with both rage and dead meat broadheads.

The thing that frequently gets forgotten is that the average mature northern whitetail is bigger than many of the African species. Kudu, for example, are large but relatively thin game. Any whitetail setup is adequate for them provided proper shot placement. I think it’s reasonable to assess the toughest animal you could realistically hunt and base your arrow setup on that animal.

For most hunters I think this is the wildebeest.
I feel the heavy weight and foc are for when things don't go as planned with a shot. A 380gr arrow with a rage bh at 65# isn't gonna work as well when you misplaced a shot into the shoulder. A 550gr arrow with an ironwill bh at 75# gives me a better chance if I make a mistake and go through shoulder.
If we're just talking white tail hunting at my local public spot it's probably not as big a deal as when someone is spending the money to go to Africa.
 

Hall

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I feel the heavy weight and foc are for when things don't go as planned with a shot. A 380gr arrow with a rage bh at 65# isn't gonna work as well when you misplaced a shot into the shoulder. A 550gr arrow with an ironwill bh at 75# gives me a better chance if I make a mistake and go through shoulder.
If we're just talking white tail hunting at my local public spot it's probably not as big a deal as when someone is spending the money to go to Africa.
I've build from 30% foc @ 702gr (highest foc I could get) down to 15% @ 351gr 3d arrows. All bareshaft tuned to fly with a fletched arrow to 20 yards, giving me bulletholes in paper at 5 yards. My 18.9% 425gr arrow passed through on a nearly frontal shot, breaking scapula and exiting the rear leg. Over 30 inches of penetration at 42 yards. I'll agree with you on iron will, (I'll preach their praise to anyone who will listen) but no amount of weight will make up for a poor shot or an animal reacting. For me the sweet spot is north of 15% foc (18%+ is better) flying atleast 280fps. I've also included the Ashby factors and their order of importance as per Ed. I'd have no qualms loosing a 425gr arrow at up to moose/eland/nilgia sized game, assuming it was permitted by local law.

Screenshot_20220605-190711_Photos.jpg
Screenshot_20230123_204252_Samsung Notes.jpg
 
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I appreciate your detailed reply, and I agree with the majority of what you have said..

You had me scratching my head a bit when you said that sometimes heavier is not always better.
By putting that statement in context citing that a 2500gr. or even 5000gr. arrow shot from a 70lb. bow would be impractical, I would agree. However, an arrow up to 950gr. shot from a 70lb. bow is not.. I have personally done it with considerable success on both Cape buffalo and Asian water buffalo along with several of my friends and customers who I have worked with to build their arrows for maximum performance. But, I would also agree that this is a special circumstance and a 950gr. arrow is not practical or necessary for the average bowhunter pursuing North American or African plainsgame.

I would also push back on this a bit.. Perfect flight and a super sharp broad are more important.
As an example, If a hunter is shooting a 50lb. bow with a 2' Rage broadhead screwed into an arrow with a total weight of 380gr., I would argue that with this kind of set-up, prefect flight and a super sharp broadhead would not be the most important factors in an attempt to optimize penetration.. I guarantee this hunter would have poor penetration 9 out of 10 times due to a combination of inadequate total arrow weight & FOC, and poor broadhead choice. Whereas an arrow built with 20% FOC and a total arrow weight of 475-550gr. topped with a compact, sharp, fixed-blade broadhead will significantly outperform and out-penetrate any lighter arrow with the sharpest broadhead. Near perfect arrow flight is a default requirement for any scenario regardless of total arrow weight and broadhead choice.

I agree with you that for most hunters, there is a optimal point for each individual that maximizes their penetrating capability depending on all of the variables discussed, and that optimal balance lies somewhere in that 500-650gr. range. However, where I would push back somewhat is that I believe that optimal threshold, especially for hunters shooting lower poundages and shorter draw lengths, is actually higher than you might have indicated. Heavier arrow builds benefit them exponentially more than those capable of shooting higher poundage bows at longer draw lengths.

I have been a bow hunter for nearly 40 years. I have owned a bow shop for the last 15. We have seen tremendous advances in technology over the last 20 years. We also have a much better understanding of the physics that affect arrow & broadhead performance, momentum, and penetration. I came from that traditional school of thought by which the manufacturers of the equipment dictated (incorrectly in most regards) the industry standards. Bow, arrow, and broadhead designs where based on marketing appeal rather than practical field results, and still are in many regards. For decades these manufacturers marketed arrow speed as the paramount factor, while actual field performance was basically being ignored. I bought into it myself early on and got away with less than optimal results because I generated enough KE from my own set-up to compensate for the lighter arrows I was shooting.. It was actually the poor results I was seeing from those hunters who could not generate enough KE that were significantly struggling with penetration issues shooting lighter albeit faster arrows.

Then I discovered Dr. Ashby's research which led me to do a great deal of my own experimentation on his findings and recommendations. Suffice to say, I have seen incredible results in my own hunting experiences by building my set-ups based the physical principles of his findings. And, I have since tried to encourage my hunting buddies and customers to build their set-ups with combinations that will deliver that optimal balance of penetration and practicality. In my experiences, I would offer that heavier is better up to a point, but that point is likely a lot higher than most would expect for the vast majority of practical hunting applications.
This ^^^ is spot-on based on my experience.

note: arrows are very inexpensive when you consider the cost of a safari. Two boxes of .375 H&H ammo for practice will be more than an expensive set of 6 built arrows and broadheads. It is worth it to test some of the heavy stuff because it is cheap!

Also, someone who can pull 65-70lb bow can easily shoot a 650 gr setup. The pin separation is easy to get used to and how often are you really taking shots over 50 yards?
 

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Brad,
I just returned from a safari archery hunt this past July. I used a 550 grain setup which was a Victory RIP TKO 300 spine shaft with 140gr stainless insert, 100 grain Magnus broadhead, 3 fletch Blazer vanes and Nocturnal nocks. Shooting out of a Mathews VXR 31.5 70lb bow at 278fps with 94 ftlbs of kinetic energy. I harvested several plains game including Nyala, Sable, Kudu etc and had pass troughs on all with great terminal performance. Every bow and each set up is a little different play around with your FOC weight and overall weight. As your overall weight increases you’ll probably need a stiffer spine arrow. Build something that shoots good for you around 500+ grains with a good broadhead and you’ll be fine. Shoot straight and have fun!
 

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I'm headed back to Africa in about a year. This time I'm taking my bow and going after Nyala and sable as my 2 trophies, plus whatever might trip my trigger. I shoot 29in at 65 to70lbs, looking for a quality arrow for this hunt. I'm planning on using tooth of the arrow broadheads. I currently use 350 cx reds for deer, but I know they are a light arrow. What do you recommend??? Axis 4mm???

Sirius Archery arrows and ethics archery inserts.

Axis are so-so and their integrity sucks unless you add an ethics insert/collar system. At that point, might as well go with a Sirius shaft too. 65-70lbs, you should be able to get a setup around 625-650gr and 18%+ FOC with little effort. It should make your bow very quiet and it will surely plow through plains game like butter.

My son used a setup just a bit lighter than that when he was bow hunting africa with his 40lb setup. Full pass throughs as should be expected with the right arrow and broadhead.
 

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I feel the heavy weight and foc are for when things don't go as planned with a shot. A 380gr arrow with a rage bh at 65# isn't gonna work as well when you misplaced a shot into the shoulder. A 550gr arrow with an ironwill bh at 75# gives me a better chance if I make a mistake and go through shoulder.
If we're just talking white tail hunting at my local public spot it's probably not as big a deal as when someone is spending the money to go to Africa.
It just seems as if people won’t think twice about taking a 450g total weight arrow with a standard broadhead and sending it at an elk 50 yards away, but we start talking about African game and all the sudden we need to fully redo our setup to hunt impalas and thinner game like kudu at 20 yards.

IMO the cost of the hunt or animal shouldn’t be the deciding factor on what arrow you choose to use. The decision should be made upon the ability to make an ethical harvest. So it is equally as big of deal in Africa or your local public spot.

With regards to when the shot doesn’t go right. It seem that the most common issue with shot placement is hitting too far back or too high. You are probably more likely to recover animals hit with a 400gn arrow and a G5 Mega Meat than you are with a 700 gn arrow with an iron will on the end. Those situations benefit more from a larger wound channel than more penetration.
 

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