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Arrow Rest Selection
Arrow rests are like other archery accessories: there are plenty of new products every year and there is more than a little confusion about how they work, if they work and for whom they work. This article is intended to compare the basic function of two hot trends in arrow rest design with products that have proven themselves in the field for nearly 30 years.
Drop Away Arrow Rests
Drop-away arrow rests aren’t new. In fact, this is at least their second time around the block with an earlier trip courtesy of Keith Barner in the 1980’s. With the proliferation in designs hitting the market right now (at last count there were 15 companies making drop-away arrow rests), it would seem that this category has finally come of age.
Of course, drop away arrow rests are designed to snap downward out of the path of the fletching within a controlled amount of time after the string is released. Bowhunters tend to be most interested in this arrow rest style as a way to beat fletching contact with the rest – one of archery’s most common tuning problems. They work great in this capacity, making it possible to shoot very aggressive helical fletching with small diameter carbon arrows without fear of contact between the fletching and arrow rest.
Because the launcher drops before the fletching has any opportunity to collide, these arrow rests make it much easier for most bowhunters to get total fletching clearance without the need to fine-tune the nocks of each individual arrow. If a bowhunter has ever put an arrow on the string wrong while using a conventional and reaped the poor arrow flight that comes from such a sin you won’t have to tell him twice that eliminating this variable is important.
Because carbon arrows are smaller in diameter than most aluminum shafts they present a greater likelihood of fletching contact when using conventional arrow rests. With a drop-away arrow rest, bowhunters can expect clean arrow flight with carbon arrows even if they apply a fairly aggressive helical offset.
The third advantage of drop-away arrow rests is somewhat overlooked but just as important – both in performance and when making the pitch. These rests offer the potential to cradle the arrow very securely once the draw is initiated. Because the rest clears the fletching during the shot, the launcher can be designed to securely hold the arrow. Some are even shaped like an upsweeping hook to lift and center the shaft all in one motion.
When selling a drop-away arrow rest, make sure you understand every concern bowhunters might have and properly address them. Remember, the customer may not even bring them up but his buying decision will be based on them nonetheless.
Just as there are three primary positives related to these arrow rests, there are three opposing sides to consider. First, all drop-away arrow rests bring additional moving parts, more linkages and more complexity to the gear equation. I’ve always selected my bowhunting gear with one all-encompassing standard: keep it simple stupid. I’ve been a brain-dead passenger on too many moment of truth adrenaline roller coasters to believe I can reason my way through a successful encounter. Things have to be very simple for me. I suspect I represent the majority of bowhunters in that regard.
What if the cord slips on the harness or the rubber tubing breaks or the rising launcher misses the arrow or it doesn’t properly center? Sure, problems can occur with conventional arrow rests too, but generally these can be identified in advance. Having said this, I did use a drop-away arrow rest last season while hunting with carbon arrows and never had a single problem. But, more than once I had guys in camp ask me, “Do you ever worry that on the next draw the rest won’t rise?” I have to admit that the thought was always in the back of my mind.
While adding complexity to a bow is akin to bowhunting heresy, if the design is bulletproof these arrow rests can be trusted. It just takes some time and experience.
The second downside: not every bow can be tuned well with a drop-away arrow rest. In some cases, a conventional arrow rest actually produces better arrow flight. For example, I’ve shot and tried to tune several bows through the years that kicked the arrow out tail right. I believe cam lean is at fault here, but regardless, with a cushion plunger I can get decent arrow flight by stabilizing the shaft a little before it leaves the bow. With a drop-away arrow rest the ensuing paper tear is nothing short of monumental. So it is not possible to simply sell a drop-away rest and assume the bowhunter’s tuning problems are solved.
Finally, there is the matter of accuracy. I spoke with Vince Troncoso at Golden Key Futura about drop-away arrow rests. Bear in mind the Golden Key arrow rests have two styles of drop-away arrow rests and a large number of conventional rests. Vince stated that arrow’s need a bit of guidance to shoot most accurately. He felt that a drop-away arrow rest that clears the arrow shaft shortly after release encourages the arrow shaft to find its own center.
If the arrow shafts are all perfect they will all react the same, but there are many factors that can cause inconsistencies. The arrow shaft could be slightly bent, the nock slightly off-center and the spine slightly different from one shaft to the next. With a conventional arrow rest the flexing launcher or cushion plunger smooths these differences out somewhat, but with a drop-away arrow rest the arrow is on its own – for better or for worse.
If your customer is a carbon arrow shooter who simply can’t eliminate fletching contact with his or her hunting arrows, these arrow rests should be recommended without reservation. But, if your customer is shooting aluminum shafts that permit the launchers of his conventional arrow rest to be spread wide enough to produce what should be adequate fletching clearance, chances are the arrow flight problems can (and probably should) be cured in other ways.