What Might Happen If An Arrow Is Too Short For The Bow

By Andy Ryan


Updated at
an archer holding his set of arrows

When an arrow is too short, what might happen? If you shoot too short of an arrowhead, the arrowhead could hit your hand causing a severe cut and possible infection. 

An arrow needs to be long enough to reach the bow when it is in the full draw position, usually about 12 inches.

How Short is Too Short?

As you pull the arrow to full draw if the arrow drops behind the arrow rest it is considered too short. Never let your arrow get too close to your body. An arrow that is too long is better than one that is too short, as discussed in the article, but it is important to find the right length: not too short nor too long.

How Far Can the Arrow Fly?

Understanding how far an arrow will fly is among the most important aspects of archery. The accuracy of target archery is dependent on the distance the arrow is shot from as well as its impact on the target. Arrow shaft properties greatly affect the distance an arrow travels.

A shorter arrow usually has a stiffer spine, so you will be able to hit the target more accurately. They also have a tendency to fly faster. Longer arrows are good for beginners because they reduce the chance of arrow tip or broadhead injuries. The ideal length is determined by the bow’s size, draw length, and how the arrow will be used.

It is important to consider the bow’s size and how you intend to use the arrow to determine the optimal length.

While short arrows might be preferred, there are times when the arrow might be too short. This is when injury risk increases. For this reason, you should figure out what the ideal arrow length is for you. As long as the arrow doesn’t come loose from the rest, you shouldn’t have to worry about it falling off. Concentrate instead on how the arrow flies. There are different arrow lengths for different bows. You need to try them out before determining which one is appropriate. You can get a general idea from a manufacturer’s chart, but don’t rely on it too much. (1)

Example of a manufacturer’s chart for gold tip brand.

General Rule for Checking Arrows That are Too Short

When drawn fully, the shaft of the arrow should pass the arrow rest by 3/4 to 1 inch. It’s important to remember that there’s no set rule for whether an arrow is too short or not. It depends on your instincts sometimes.

The arrow falling off of the rest of the arrow indicates that it is too short. Your focus must be on how the arrow flies at its current length and how the spine dictates everything.

Arrow Selection Chart

Fiberglass arrows, carbon fiber arrows, aluminum arrows, and wood arrows are all available. Using this chart, you can choose the arrow that is right for you.

FiberglassStrong, but heavy.

Able to take a lot of abuse.

Typically used by archery enthusiasts.
AluminumThese lightweight, easy-to-use arrows are made from lightweight tubing and make good arrows for shooting at short and medium distances outdoors.

Most people use these for inside shooting because they’re accurate, strong, and they’re reasonably priced. Bows are available in a wide range of sizes to suit almost all archer sizes and strengths.

As the alloy’s hardness and straightness tolerances improve, you pay more for increased accuracy. When you are shooting shorter and medium distances, it is most common to start out with aluminum arrows. (2)
Carbon Arrows and Carbon / Aluminum CompositeHaving a diameter smaller than aluminum allows them to go further and have less side wind drift, and the arrow rises and falls at a lower rate on their way to the target.

The carbon arrow can be less forgiving of archer errors and needs to be tuned to the bow well to work properly.

Outdoor archers typically shoot with carbon arrows.
 Wooden ArrowsIt begins with entry-level wood arrows and continues with shafts to suit bow weights and arrow lengths are available.

Field archers, longbow archers, and traditionalists all use these bows.

Short Arrows: Unsafe to People in Close Proximity

A short arrow can not only punch straight through your hand but anyone nearby could be hurt as well. If an arrow falls too short, it may fall off the rest as it is being shot, and it could strike someone else.

As arrows become shorter, they become stiffer. It is true that a short arrow improves accuracy, but an arrow that is too short can be dangerous to you and everyone around you.

Important Tips

  • When you use poor form and do not do strengthening exercises before your archery session, you’re more likely to injure yourself. 
  • For many archers, rotator cuff exercises have proven beneficial before archery since they help prevent injuries. 
  • A lighter draw weight on a bow prevents many injuries that would have otherwise occurred. Here’s a tip on how to adjust the draw weight on a bow.
  • Even if you’re in the bow shop, make sure your assistant is behind you when you let loose with the arrow. For beginners, it is easy to forget to use proper bow safety. 
  • As with firearms, you should never fire a bow with someone in front of you.

If Your Arrows Are Too Short, Buy New Ones

an archer aiming to shoot his bow

How to Avoid Injury

Be sure your bow has arrows of the correct length in order to avoid injury. In fact, you may even start with arrows that are much longer than you need. It isn’t bad to be 2 to 3 inches longer, but it can negatively affect your accuracy. It is nevertheless more important for a beginner to learn the fundamentals and to stay safe when shooting.

Beginners in archery should learn essential skills such as proper drawing technique and anchor positioning.

Have an Expert Assist You in Determining the Ideal Length

Visit a local bow shop to speak with an expert. It’s best to talk with someone who knows bows and understands how to determine the right arrow length for you. The ideal arrow lengths will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so you have to take it with a grain of salt. To make it suit your needs, you have to fine-tune it based on your preferences. As a rule of thumb, bow charts from manufacturers can only be used as a guide. There’s nothing wrong with having the experts determine the right arrow length for you as a beginner.

For those who are new to archery, here are more archery tips for you!

(1) injury risk – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4413799/
(2) alloy – https://www.britannica.com/technology/alloy