How to choose an arrow rest for your compound bow

There are many different types of arrow rests available on the market. Especially if you are new to compound archery, you might wonder what the difference is between these options. Choosing the wrong arrow rest can cause a lot of frustration both for target archers as for hunters. Therefore, we discuss in this article how you can choose an arrow rest and give you some clear recommendations. No time to read this entire article? At least read this short summary:

Launcher arrow rests are specifically designed for target archery and are, therefore, not practical for hunters. Bristle arrow rests, on the other hand, are only useful for hunter since they slightly decrease the accuracy of the bow. Drop away arrow rests can be used by both target archers and hunters but are more difficult to install and require more maintenance.

Keep reading if you want to know more about the different arrow rests available on the market.

Different types of arrow rest

Often when archers discuss compound arrow rests, we talk about shoot through arrow rests. The so-called ‘’side pressure’’ arrow rests are associated with recurve archery, by most archers. Some compound archers prefer a side pressure arrow rest. Therefore, I wanted to discuss both options so you can make that choice yourself.

Side pressure

As mentioned before, these types of arrow rests are mostly found on recurve bows. These arrow rests have a canted rest; therefore, the arrow is pushed by gravity to one side of the arrow rest. To make sure that the arrow doesn’t hit the riser, archers using these types of arrow rests have to point the arrow to the left (if you are right-handed). This makes sure that the arrow flexes around the riser which is called the archer's paradox. Watch the video below for more information about the archer’s paradox.

To tune the archer’s paradox, recurve archers often use a device called a plunger (also known as a button). This device allows you to configure how much pressure is applied to the arrow and at what angle the arrow is set. Since most compound archers do not use side pressure arrow rests, I won’t discuss these any further. If you are considering a side pressure arrow rest, the article below will be helpful:

How to choose an arrow rest for your recurve bow

Shoot through

Almost all compound archers use shoot-through arrow rests. When you install a shoot-through arrow rest, you don’t have to place the arrow at an angle. You simply place the arrow in the center of the string. This makes that you don’t have to tune the plunger because you don’t need a plunger at all.

Shoot through arrow rests are, therefore, more convenient and cause fewer clearance issues. Configuring the plunger on a recurve can sometimes be quite difficult, but if you don’t do it right it will hurt your accuracy.

Shoot through arrow rests also tend to be more forgiving because the arrow isn’t bending around the riser. Therefore, minor inconsistencies will not cause clearance issues that influence the arrow.

In general, shoot through arrow rests are just more convenient and increase the accuracy of the bow. The only reason why recurve archers use a side pressure arrow rest is that shoot-through arrow rests are forbidden by World Archery rules (11.1.1). Within compound competitions shoot-through arrow rests are allowed, therefore, most compound archers use this type of arrow rest.

Shoot through arrow rests keep the arrow in the center of the string. Therefore, the arrow shoots through the riser, instead of around it.

Different arrow rest models

There are three distinct arrow rest models available for compound bows. These arrow rests all have their pros and cons. Although there are many variations on these models, basically every shoot-through arrow rest can be categorized as one of these models.

Bristle arrow rest/whisker biscuit

An arrow rest that is commonly seen on hunting bows is the bristle type arrow rests. This type of arrow rest is also often called a whisker biscuit. This arrow rest guides the arrow by means of small bristles. When the arrow is shot, the arrow will glide through the bristles.

This arrow rest keeps the arrow rest firmly in place between the bristles, which makes it a popular option for hunters. But the bristles also tend to slightly influence the accuracy. It also minorly influences the arrow speed, but that difference is negligible. Therefore, archers that shoot at longer ranges (50 yards/meters and beyond) tend to prefer the other two options.

 

Launcher/blade arrow rest

A blade arrow rest consists of a small blade on which the arrow rests. The blade has a small V-grove, which gently keeps the arrow in place. This type of arrow rest is also often called a launcher arrow rest.

Since this blade is made from thin spring steel, the arrow rest will have almost no interference with the arrow after the shot is released. We will discuss interference with the arrow in more detail in this section.

The major benefit of a blade arrow rest is the simplicity of the device. When you buy a bristle arrow rest, you have to configure the bristles to accommodate the diameter of the arrow. Blade arrow rest on the other hand can be used for all arrow diameters.

Since the V-grove on the blade is quite small, the arrow is not kept firmly in place. Therefore, the arrow can easily fall off when you tilt the bow. Since the blade is made from spring steel, it can also easily fall off when you shake the bow. Therefore, this arrow rest is primarily popular amongst target archers.

Drop away arrow rest

Drop away arrow rests are a relatively new invention within compound archery. This type is very different from the other two arrow rests. The other two arrow rests stay in place when the arrow is shot. Therefore, the arrow will touch the arrow rest well after the archer released the shot. This will influence the flight of the arrow.

The drop away arrow rest achieves this by a little piece of string that is attached to either the cables or the main string. This piece of string pulls the arrow rest up just before the archer is at full draw and lowers it again when the shot is fired.

This type of arrow rest, on the other hand, drops out of the way just after the shot is released. Therefore, the arrow will be shot from mid-air and will not be influenced by the arrow rest. This tends to make drop away arrow rests more accurate than the other two options.

To benefit from this effect, you must configure the drop away arrow rest correctly. That can be quite difficult if you are unfamiliar with this system. Therefore, this arrow rest is primarily used for experienced archers. Both target and hunters like to use this type of arrow rest.

What you should consider

In the previous section, we already discussed some advantages and disadvantages of the different types of arrow rest. In this section, I would like to discuss the three most important factors that you should consider when buying an arrow rest.

How well it retains the arrow

Although it might seem obvious that your arrow rest should hold your arrow in place, it’s still an important consideration you have to make. If you are shooting in the field, you probably don’t have to worry too much about this. But especially for hunters, which often have to shoot from uncomfortable positions, this is something that you should take into consideration. When the arrow falls off the rest, you must let the bow down and draw again.

Although this is annoying for target archers, this is especially bad for hunters. Target archers can just draw the bow again and shoot. But for hunters, the target might move, while you draw a second time. Therefore, hunting arrow rests tend to hold the arrow more firmly in place and target arrow rests.

Interference with the arrow

When the arrow is shot, the entirety of the arrow will pass along the arrow rest. Therefore, the arrow can hit the arrow rest after you have fired the shot. When this happens, the shot will be less accurate, because the arrow will be pushed ever so slightly of course.

Therefore, archery manufacturers always make sure that their fixed arrow rests are made from springy materials. Think for example about the launcher plate which is made from spring steel or the bristles from a whisker biscuit arrow rest. By using springy materials, they make sure that the amount of interference is minimized. But since the material still hits the arrow after the shot is fired, it will still influence the arrow's flight pattern a bit.

With fixed arrow rests, there is always a trade-off between arrow retention and interference. Arrow rests that retain the arrow well will interfere more with the flight of the arrow, thereby influencing accuracy. Therefore, archers with fixed arrow rests have to weigh up these two attributes.

Complexity and maintenance

When you read the following two sections, you might wonder why not all archers use a drop away arrow rest. They completely remove interference with the arrow and hold the arrow quite firmly in place. So, it seems the best option overall.

Although that is true, there is something else to consider. Drop away arrow rests are quite difficult to install right. Additionally, since the arrow rest is more complex, it is more likely to break. For example, when the cord breaks, the arrow rest will not be pulled upwards. Additionally, when the spring brakes, the arrow rest will not retract.

Therefore, drop away arrow rests require more maintenance and knowledge. Since they are more complex, they are also more likely to fail. When the arrow rest fails, you are either not able to shoot or you will shoot very inaccurately.

Adjustability

All three different arrow rests come in different form factors. Most inexpensive arrow rests are tuned by loosening a hex screw and moving the rest by hand. More expensive arrow rests allow you to fine-tune the position of your arrow rest with a turning dial. Some really cheap arrow rests have no adjustability whatsoever.

In most cases, I don’t think you should buy an arrow rest that is not configurable on all three axes. But whether the additional cost of the turning nob is worth it for you depends on how often you think you want to change the position of the arrow rest.

In general, those micro-adjustment systems are useful on a sight, because they allow you to fine-tune your sight. Since you are often configuring your sight for different distances and windage, most archers us a sight with this system.

On arrow rests this is a different story, in general, you should keep yours in one position. When your arrow rest is centered and at the right height you shouldn’t change it. Therefore, most archers will only change the position of their arrow rest when they are making major changes to their gear.

Micro-adjustment system on a sight

Which model you should choose

Below my recommendations for what arrow rest I would buy, based on your situation.

  Target archer Hunter/ 3D archer
Bristle arrow rest   X
Launcher/ blade arrow rest X  
Drop away arrow rest X X

 

For target archers

Since target archers often shoot a long-range and want to be as accurate as possible minimizing arrow interference is a priority. Therefore, bristle arrow rests are not an option for serious target archers. Launcher arrow rests are especially useful for target archers that are just getting started. Drop away arrow rests should only be considered if you know how to install and maintain them.

For hunters and 3D archers

For hunters and 3D archers that shoot at moving targets, arrow retention is very important. If the arrow falls off the arrow rest, you might miss an optimal shooting window. Hunters that primarily shoot a short-range might want to consider a bristle arrow rest since it has superb arrow retention. Hunters that shoot a long-range, however, might want to consider a drop away arrow rest.

Only when you shoot at quite static targets from comfortable positions a blade arrow rest could be considered. For some 3D archers that shoot at static foam targets, this arrow rest might be a good option.

Is a drop away arrow rest worth the trouble?

On this blog, I often recommend archers to put more emphasis on shooting instead of their gear. I believe some archers overestimate how much their gear influences their shot. These archers are constantly focusing on finetuning their bow, while they could have spent time practicing archery.

Therefore, I often recommend simpler options because you can spend more time practicing. But I don’t think the same applies for drop away arrow rests. Although they require more work and are difficult to install, they make your bow more forgiving. Because the rest drops out of the way, minor mistakes in your form after you shot the arrow, will not influence your accuracy.

I do think that it’s a very good option for experienced archers. If you know how to install and maintain it, you will have a lot of benefits from it.

Final words

I have shot with all three types of arrow rests and I prefer the drop away arrow rest. I have shot with a blade style arrow rest for a while, but that wasn’t the best option for me. Since I often start to shake a little during my last few arrows, the arrows kept falling off the arrow rest. Therefore, I had to stop earlier during my training sessions.

A drop away arrow rest retains the arrow more firmly. Therefore, it solved my issue and I can now shoot much longer even though my muscles are a bit tired. But every archer’s situation is different. Most target archers don’t have this issue and like the simplicity of a blade arrow rest.

If you have any experiences, comments, or questions you would like to share, please leave them down below. I will respond to your question as soon as possible and send you an e-mail with my reply.

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