How to choose an arrow rest for your recurve bow

One of the most overlooked components of a recurve bow is the arrow rest. It seems like a very simple device that shouldn’t influence your shot that much, right? Well no, especially when your accuracy is increasing the wrong arrow rest can really keep you back. I will, therefore, in this article, discuss everything you have to know about arrow rests.

In short: If you buy a modern recurve bow, you will have to buy an arrow rest. In general, a simple plastic arrow rest will do the job just fine if you have a beginner's bow. If you have a more advanced Olympic recurve bow a metal arrow rest is recommended since this enables you to more accurately tune the bow.

Although this answer might be enough if you already know what you are looking for. If you are looking for additional information and a full comparison on all the available options, I would recommend keeping reading. I will discuss all important aspects you should consider when looking for an arrow rest and at the end of this article, I will also give some practical tips.

Is an arrow rest really necessary?

A first common question many people ask is whether you really need an arrow rest. For experienced archers, this seems a bit silly but if you have never seen a bow up close, you might wonder whether an arrow rest is essential. Let me quickly answer this question:

In most cases, you have to buy an arrow rest for your first bow. Only if you buy a traditional bow with an integrated shelf you won’t need an arrow rest. Most beginner bows and all Olympic recurve bows do not have an integrated arrow rest; therefore you will have to attach one yourself.

In this article I will often use both the terms ‘’beginner bow’’ and ‘’Olympic recurve bow’’. Both bow types are recurve bows, but beginner bows tend to lack some features of an Olympic recurve bow. If the riser (the part between the two limbs) is wood, it is probably a beginner bow. When it’s metal, it’s probably an Olympic recurve bow. If you want to know more about the differences, I would recommend reading the following article:

‘’Are cheap recurve bows any good? – Different types of bows’’

What to consider when buying an arrow rest

Most archers that are just getting started will buy a beginner bow or Olympic recurve bow; therefore you will need to invest in an arrow rest. When looking for an arrow rest you should consider the following four points:

  1. How well it retains the arrow: The first obvious but important point is that it should retain the arrow. It will not only be very frustrating if it doesn’t retain your arrow, but you can also experience misfires if the arrow drops from the rest while you release the shot.
  2. How much it interferes with the arrow: Arrow rests that keep a tight grip on the arrow often also interfere more. This interference will decrease your accuracy; therefore, you should strike a balance between these two evils.
  3. The adjustability of the arrow rest: When you are first assembling your bow, you should make sure that your arrow rest is correctly tuned. But it doesn’t always stop there, sometimes you have to make minor adjustments since you experience issues with either interference or that the rest doesn’t retain the arrow.

Different types of arrow rests

There is a plethora of different arrow rest available. In general most of these options fit in five distinct types of arrow rests

Thick plastic arrow rest

You often see this type of arrow rest at events and training sessions for new archers. The advantage of this arrow rest is its durability and its cheapness. The thinner counterpart, which we will discuss in a bit, will be more likely to break which is really impractical for these types of occasions. Another benefit of this arrow rest is that it retains the arrow really well. Therefore it will even retain the arrow even if you start to shake or use improper technique. The thick plastic also has a negative side, it is less flexible and therefore interferes more with your arrow. When you are just getting into archery, you probably won’t notice this, but it is something to consider.

 

This type of arrow rest is often used within more traditional archery styles due to the higher poundage

Thin plastic arrow rest

A lot of archers that buy their first bow often start with this type of arrow rest. Just like the thick plastic arrow rest, this arrow rest is really inexpensive. Although it is less durable than the previous arrow rest, with normal use it will last a long time. If you are gentle with your bow, you don’t need a very sturdy arrow rest. The advantage of this arrow rest is its flexibility, therefore it will not interfere with the arrow much.

This type of arrow rest doesn’t allow you to change the elevation of the arrow. Therefore you have to make sure that you align the arrow rest correctly, when you stick it on. You can change the angle of the arrow rest, by bending the plastic shelf, but this is less than ideal.

 

This type of arrow rest is more flimsy, but it interferes less with the arrow. The built in button was removed, since I used this arrow rest with a standalone button.

Metal stick on arrow rest

This arrow rest is very similar to the plastic arrow rest, the overall form factor and attachment mechanism is the same. You attach this with a piece of sticky tape just like the other two options. The big difference of this arrow rest is that this one is made out of metal and is fully adjustable. You can both adjust the elevation of the arrow as well as the angle of the shelf. Most of the arrow rests in this category also allow you to change the wire.

Another advantage of this type of arrow rest is that it reduces the amount of interference with the arrow to a bare minimum. Most of these arrow rests use a small magnet which will slap out of the way if the arrow hits it. There are also a few cheaper options that use a spring, but the magnet type is the more preferable option.

 

By loosening a screw in the back, you can raise and lower the arrow rest, or change the angle. The wire is held in place with a small magnet, therefore very little force is required to move the arrow rest out of the way of the arrow, reducing the interference to a bare minimum.

Metal screw on arrow rest

The previous arrow rest was still attached with a piece of sticky tape. Some archers noticed, however, that due to vibration, your arrow rest will fall off. I have experienced this many times; therefore I ordered a pack of 10 extra pieces of tape. As you can imagine this is really annoying especially if this happens during a competition. Therefore manufactures developed an arrow rest that isn’t attached by a piece of sticky tape but by a screw.

Many people wonder what the second screw hole is in most modern recurve bows. It looks very similar to the screw hole to attach the button and you could even screw a button in it. So does this allow you to put the button a bit forward? No, you should always use the first screw hole to attach the button, the one closest to you if you are drawing the bow. The second screw hole is used to attach this type of arrow rest. Since these arrow rests are attached with a screw, it is more securely attached. All other features are the same as the previous arrow rest. These two options are often called ‘’wire arrow rests’’.

Whisker biscuit

Although all the other arrow rests seem very similar, this arrow rest looks very different. The ideal usage for this type of arrow rest is also very different than the other four options. The whisker biscuit is an arrow rest specifically designed for hunting. When you are hunting, you are moving a lot, therefore you need an arrow rest that can retain the arrow very good. This arrow rest traps the arrow between the bristles and therefore makes it impossible for the arrow to fly out.

Since this arrow retains the arrow very well, it will also interfere with the arrow if you fire the shot. Therefore, you will notice that you shoot in generally less accurate than with any of the other arrow rests. Especially if you are shooting with a light arrow or with a bow with a low draw weight you will notice a severe decrease in your accuracy. Because of this, many hunters that want to shoot from long distances don’t prefer this arrow rest. Therefore the effective uses of this type of arrow rest are very limited.

 

This type of arrow rest is not used by target archers, the bristles retain the arrow very well, but it interferes with the arrow a lot. Therefore this arrow rest is only suitable for hunting at short distances.

With what arrow rest should I start?

If you carefully read the past paragraph you probably know that I believe the screw on arrow rest is the most ideal option. Because of the attachment mechanism and the amount of adjustability, this is my preferred option. I don’t think, however, that all archers should start with this type of arrow rest. Although it offers you a lot of flexibility it also tends to be the most expensive option. Although there are some cheep options around $10 available, you might think that this is a lot of money for such a small piece.

If you want to save some money you can also opt for the thin plastic option. Although it doesn’t offer the same adjustability as the metal one, it doesn’t interfere with the arrow too much. I wouldn’t choose the thick plastic one, because of the interference issues.

To get back to the beginning of the article I would recommend to buy a plastic arrow rest if you have a beginners bow. This type of bow doesn’t really lend itself for a more advanced arrow rest. If you have an Olympic recurve bow, however, I would recommend buying a metal arrow rest. This type of bow is fully tunable; therefore it would be a shame if your arrow rest limits your options.

If you don’t know the difference between an Olympic recurve bow and a beginner’s bow, please read this article:

‘’Are cheap recurve bows any good? – Different types of bows’’

Some extra tips

Since I have been into archery for quite a while, I made a lot of mistakes. Therefore, I quickly want to give you some tips, so you can avoid them.

  • Wire arrow rests: if your arrow keeps falling off the arrow rest, don’t try to bend the wire. It will most likely break since the wire is very stiff. You can, however, use a hot glue gun or a bit of solder to make a little notch, which will prevent the arrow from falling off.
  • Stick on arrow rest: make sure to align the arrow rest correctly the first time. If you have to move it the sticky part will be less strong. Also make sure to properly degrease and clean the surface, before applying the sticky tape. Buy an extra sticky tape; it might fall off after a few months of use, especially when it’s hot or when it rains.
  • Plastic arrow rests: if you are using a button, make sure to snip off the ‘’build-in button’’ from the arrow rest. This is the little plastic flap just in front of the hole. You can use some pliers to cut it off.

Final words

When you are looking for recurve arrow rests online, you will see a lot of compound arrow rests as well. These arrow rests are for compound bows that have a shoot through riser. Therefore, these options aren’t suitable for recurve bows. If you find an arrow rest that doesn’t look anything like the arrow rests I have mentioned, it’s probably an arrow rest for a compound bow.

I hope this article was helpful to figure out what arrow rest you want to use. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. I will respond as soon as possible.

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