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The Evolution Of Carbon Arrows
In the early 90’s carbon arrows began to draw the interest of bowhunters. The extremely rugged arrow shafts were preferred because they were lighter in weight than most aluminum options and they penetrated well. But the pultruded arrow shafts of the day were hard to work with. They had very small diameters that made it difficult to keep the fletchings from hitting the arrow rest. Also, the arrow shafts were made with carbon fibers that ran parallel to the arrow shaft so there was little resistance to internal forces. The prompted the need for external components such as point outserts and large arrow nocks that overlapped the arrow shaft. Because of these external components carbon shafts of the day were less streamlined than aluminum arrows.
Despite these negatives, carbon shafts continued to slowly grow in popularity. This was a significant point, showing that bowhunters wanted them work badly enough to work harder in an effort to get a carbon shaft to perform well.
Realizing the demand was there, two companies began working on arrow shafts that would eliminate the downside of carbon shafts without sacrificing the advantages. Gold Tip and Beman introduced internal component carbon shafts in the years from 1997 to 1998. These arrow shafts had cross-weave carbon patterns that gave the arrows enough internal strength that external point outserts and arrow nocks could be eliminated. Immediately both companies were swamped with orders. Since that time, uni-directional pultruded fiber carbon shafts have nearly disappeared from the scene. In their place has come a veritable cascade of new internal component carbon shafts.
Rapid Growth Of Carbon Arrow Companies
It seems that every company in the archery industry is offering a new internal component carbon shaft for 2001. Now there are new carbon arrows from Beman, PSE, Scout Mountain Equipment, Carbon Express, Carbon Tech, Blackhawk, High Country, Carbon Revolution and Deltagraphite. Even Forge Bows is offering a carbon arrow. Throw in the existing carbon arrow companies that didn’t add a new arrow shaft this year: Carbon Impact, Cabela’s, Custom Archery Equipment, Arrow Dynamics, Gold Tip and you’ve got a market that is flooded with product. As a result, prices are starting to come down dramatically for these arrow shafts, especially among the secondary companies that are just beginning to offer carbon shafts this year. It has become something of a buyer’s market.
How Carbon Arrows Are Made
This research turned up two primary carbon shaft manufacturers from which many of these companies are getting their stock. Both are foreign companies: one in Mexico and one in Korea. There are also a few companies getting their arrow shafts from sources within the United States, only two of which own their manufacturing operations. There are also a few small sources (both domestic and foreign) that we failed to uncover.
Most (not all) internal component carbon arrows start as sheets carbon fiber impregnated with resin with an adhesive backing. The sheets are cut to the right size and wrapped around a mandrel (like a dowel rod) that is coated with a release agent. Cellophane covers the arrow shaft to hold the wrap tightly in place and then the combination is heated in a curing oven to turn the resin into a liquid that bonds everything together. After the mandrel is removed, the raw arrow shaft is ground to create a consistent and smooth outer diameter.
Anyone with access to a curing oven and a center-less grinder (you’ll find both of these at golf club shaft and fishing rod blank companies) has the capability to make carbon arrows. If you’re ambitious enough, you can even go out and buy a few used curing ovens and set up some mandrels in the garage. Line up a supplier of pre-preg and someone to grind the arrow shafts and you’re in business.
Some weird stuff happens when you remove the mandrel. The arrow shafts can take sets and twist out of shape when the mandrel is removed. The manufacturers then must go through the arrow shafts to select only those that meet their straightness requirements. If the manufacturer is not strict in this regard, there is potential for arrow shafts with very poor straightness to find their way into your quiver. As a result, it pays to buy from companies you trust.
Aluminum/Carbon Shafts For Hunting
Arrow shafts made from aluminum core tubes covered with uni-directional carbon fiber have been available for many years, (consider the Easton ACC) but they have really begun to grow in popularity among bowhunters during only the past four or five years. Because the aluminum tube controls the straightness, these arrow shafts have the potential to be very precise right out of the curing oven. Also, because the aluminum core produces plenty of internal strength, these arrow shafts can also accept internal components. The biggest mark against these shafts is their price. They are range from about $75 to over $100 per dozen fletched arrows.
Carbon has quickly overtaken aluminum as the number one arrow shaft material. It keeps getting better every year as we learn more methods to manufacture it straighter and more consistently. If you have ever considered trying a carbon shaft, this may be the year to test the water.