Broadhead tuning is often thought of as an exact science, which puts some hunters off tuning their own set up. While you do need to be thorough it isn’t as hard as you think. Although it can be very frustrating at times as there are a number of factors that influence arrow flight that have the same symptoms. I find that 95% of tuning problems are corrected by altering either the arrow rest or nocking point.
There are a few basic things you need to have right before you start to tune your broadheads.
Make sure all of the arrows you use are straight. If an arrow is not perfectly straight then you will struggle to get your broadheads to fly well.
Your broadheads must also spin true when fitted to your arrows. Check them out on a spin tester. When you spin the arrow, the tip of the broadhead must not be out of alignment. If it is out, you may need to realign the arrow insert.
Check the head as well, sometimes (rarely), they can come bent out of the box.
When you are shooting your broadheads you will need to find a safe area away from people and have something to shoot into that won’t damage your broadheads. It will also need to be something easy to pull your arrows out of. A soft dirt bank is fine but make sure that you thoroughly clean your heads after each shot. Ethafoam is a popular material to shoot into. It is a dense self-healing foam that is able to stop your arrows but makes broadhead removal easy. It is available from most archery shops.
Let’s start from the beginning.
The primary objective is to get your hunting arrows to fly straight. It is also an advantage to have their point of impact the same as your practice arrows. Normally this is a relatively straightforward exercise if you follow the basic rules.
There are a few guides out there to help you tune your broadheads; one of the best is Easton’s “Arrow Tuning and Maintenance Guide”. It has a procedure for you to follow and has an excellent diagram which explains which adjustments are required depending on where your broadheads land in relation to your practice arrows. We will assume the bow is tuned and has been correctly set up for you. This means we are looking at making minor adjustments.
The first thing to do is have your bow sighted in for 20metres. I wouldn’t recommend you start shooting any further away than 20metres. I have seen out of tune set ups miss by 600mm at this range. Shoot three arrows with field tips into a target at this range. The arrows should land close to the point you were aiming at. Then shoot three arrows (one will do if you don’t have enough heads)
tipped broadheads at the same point on the target. You need to watch for two things here. The first is the arrows flight. The second is where it lands in relation to your practice arrows. Often when you shoot you cannot see the arrow fly. Having someone behind you looking at the arrow is invaluable. They should be able to tell you how the arrow flies.
If your arrow flight has a circular motion, then chances are you have inadequate fletching length or not have enough twist (helical) on the vanes for the broadhead you are using. If you feel your fletching is Ok then try another broadhead, preferably one with a lower profile.
If your arrow flight is fine then look to see where it lands on the target. If the impact point is lower than you practice arrows then this indicates a high nocking point. You will need to lower it. If the broadheads fly high then you will need to raise your nocking point. Any adjustments you do should be minor as they can make a big difference. After each adjustment shoot your practice arrows at the target again. Any alterations you do will affect where they impact as well. The broadhead tipped arrows will move more than the practice arrows though with each adjustment.
If your broadheads land to the left of your practice arrows then you need to move the arrow rest towards the bow (for right handed shooters, the opposite for left handed shooters). Do the opposite if they land to the right. You will see that on the diagram below that Easton refer to horizontal impact as a stiff or weak arrow spine reaction. While this is correct I find that arrow rest adjustment is usually all that is required. If you still cannot get your arrows to shoot straight try some different arrows. A stiffer spine often fixes it.
All tuning procedures assume your shooting technique is Ok. If you have a poor technique then you can end up chasing your tail. If you have tried everything possible to get good broadhead flight and grouping and cannot, then have someone look at you shoot. A couple of things to look for are gripping the bow very tightly or peeking to see where the arrow has gone. Peeking means you move the bow to the right to see where the arrow has hit (for a right handed shooter, the opposite for left handed shooters). This action along with gripping the bow too tight can cause arrow clearance problems. These can be hard to pick up because they only occur when you shoot and everything on the bow looks fine at rest.
Another factor in broadhead tuning is clearance. If your arrows have too much contact with the arrow rest the arrow flight can be upset. You may not notice this when you are using field points. To check your clearance, spray the vanes with a foot powder or smear lipstick onto the vanes. When you shoot you will be able to see where the arrow is hitting the rest. For finger shooters you may need to try a different nock position or trim your arrow rest. The bottom vane usually gets too much contact so try to position the nock so the vane gets minimal contact. For release shooters the same is true, make sure you get enough clearance with the bottom vane. Release shooters could also try altering the spring tension on the launcher. I would try to lighten it first.
Once you are happy with your arrow flight it is good to get back and have a longer shot. I shoot broadheads out past 40 metres to fine tune my arrow rest position and my line.
Hopefully after following the steps outlined, your broadheads will be flying straight and hitting in the same spot as your practice arrows. If they don’t land next to your practice arrows but fly straight, don’t despair. Some set ups just won’t. You will have to adjust your sights to suit your broadheads.
Another option is to use mechanical broadheads, they fly the same as field points. The most important thing is to have good arrow flight. If you need any help tuning your set up, you can contact us here