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All things being equal a lighter arrow will travel faster when shot from a bow. A faster arrow tends to drop less over a given distance. Both will have similar kinetic energy over a short distance.

A longbow or a compound bow requires an arrow long enough to span the draw length. A crossbow arrow (quarrel or bolt) is supported by the barrel of the crossbow so can made lighter just by making it shorter. Different materials and options (i.e. arrow tips) can also result in lighter weights.

What is the lightest arrow/bolt practical for target practice?

If I am not worried about penetration (killing power) is there any arrow weight that is to low? i.e. is overly susceptible to cross winds or travels so fast that it creates safety issue?

  • Unfortunately, and you'll see this from the only answer here: it's very opinion-based – Rory Alsop Dec 13 '17 at 8:56
  • To be fair. I don't think it's option based at all. It's all about physics and maths. See my second edit – Desorder Dec 16 '17 at 20:18
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The weight of the arrow depends on the material used to make it.

First let’s understand that you pick an arrow based on the weight of the bow (poundage) and the archer’s draw length. That will give the spine (group) of the arrow you should be using.

There are ways to play with spine... longer arrows, heavier points, etc but let’s forget this for now and just follow the recipe.

You will find some aluminium arrows have a similar GPI (grains per inch). As soon as you move to the more specialised top of the line arrows they move from aluminium to carbon and then from carbon to some crazy alloy and the GPI changes significantly.

If you pick the right arrow with the right spine for the right length arrows will vary in weight based on the material they’re made.

Then weight play another part of the game.

Lighter arrows has less drop as you said but are more susceptible to wind and also more fragile. You shoot a few light arrows on a tree and they start to split.

Hunting ones are heavier as they need to hold more energy for penetration. Also it’s unlikely hunters will be shooting further than 30-40 meters/yards so distance is not the point of those kind of arrows.

Olympic archers will be looking for mid ground where arrows are not too light to be influenced by wind in those 70 meter shoots but also not too heavy to avoid the extra drop.

EDIT 1 I have a feeling that as much as I added info RE arrow weights and materials I didn’t actually answer your question. The lightest arrow practical for target shooting will be as light as the material that the arrow is made of allows but strong enough to be shot by a bow of certain poundage.

EDIT 2 Given a certain bow with X pounds and an archer with Y draw length what's the lightest arrows we can use? Taken that James are not going to hide in this garage and make his Jame's special super light alloy to make his arrows we only have wooden, aluminium and carbon arrows available. We know that carbon is lighter (in general) so it needs to be carbon. So the lightest arrow you can shoot from your bow (safely) will be the weakest spine you can find for your bow and archer.

  • 1
    I'd argue that the takeaway message here really is: it depends. On your bows poundage, on the chosen arrow materials (read: how expensive the arrows will be, ranging from maybe 4€ to easily ten times that), on your draw length, on whether you're planning to do indoor or outdoor target practice, etc. – fgysin reinstate Monica Dec 7 '17 at 8:06
  • Yes. It will depend on the material considering all other variables the same. (Bow poundage, draw length, etc...) Even if you pick an Easton arrow model for example, in that same model the arrows get heavier as the arrow gets stiffer. – Desorder Dec 9 '17 at 21:20
  • This sounds like a knowledgable answer, but it is entirely qualitative. A few numbers would be helpful. I know nothing about archery, and am left wondering if we are talking in the range of grams, ounces, or pounds. My guess is ounces, but one or ten? Voted to reopen. – ab2 ReinstateMonicaNow Jan 3 '18 at 19:51
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Currently, the lightest arrows I can find are 5 grains per inch of arrow, plus a few for the head, knock and feathers. You are looking at about 150 to 160 grains for the lightest 28 inch draw arrows.

If you want lighter arrows fired from a normal draw bow, the Turkish use a "Majra" to fire short arrows from standard length bows. With one of those you could shoot an arrow as short as you want, but 14 inches is considered the shortest arrow that is still stable in flight. With a 14 inch arrow, at 5 grains per inch, a head, knock and fletching you are around 80-90 grains total weight.

Edit: 14 inches is from "Flight Archery" where the minimum arrow length is 14". Also, I'm assuming a plastic tip, the fletching is made from the magnetic tape inside a floppy disk, the knock is an "F Nock" at 6 grains.

It is important to note that bow manufacturers don't usually like their bows shot with less than 5 grains per lb of drawweight. So an 80 grain arrow is recommended to only fire from a bow that is 16 lbs or less. Arrows too light will damage the bow.

That said, in "Flight Archery", arrows as light as 1.2 grains per pound of drawweight are used, because speed is needed to get maximum distance and bow life is not really a concern.

Edit 2: Looking at the F Nock, you could use one as the arrow tip if you remove the part that grips the string and sandpaper the tip into the shape of a field tip.

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You can shoot an arrow from a bow that is so light as to cause damage to the bow! There needs to be some resistance/weight in the projectile or you will be - in effect - dry firing your bow, which is at least a very bad idea and in most cases very damaging if not catastrophically damaging to your weapon. Flight bows and arrows are, for the most part, designed to shoot for one given round/tournament, whatever and are most of the time right on the very edge of breaking to begin with, they are designed for extreme performance during one or two matches and then most of the time retired if they survive the match. Hunting weight bows should be expected to have more durability, but they will be damaged or destroyed by to light of an arrow. If there isn't enough mass in the arrow to absorbe the energy from the drawn limbs, then that energy is going to go back into the bow, and that could indeed be bad.

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