What Does It Mean to Spine Align Arrows?

Jaimie Robinson // October 12

If you are a new bowhunter, your arrows can probably hit a hand-sized group at 20-40 yards. You have bought awesome camo. You've found an amazing hunting spot. You've purchased your broadheads. And now you are ready to GO!

If you are a practiced shooter, you have been shooting for months regularly but for many, this is weeks or days. One thing you may notice as your groups get tighter is you have that one arrow that is outside of the group. Some random stranger may suggest you rotate your nock and then everything is all of a sudden better – that arrow starts to behave, and you never think about it again.

{{Read Choosing an Arrow for Hunting}}

I was at the Full Draw Film Tour last week and my friend, Willi Schmidt, showed a video where he shot an elk far to the right. He and his hunting partner proceeded to spin his arrows and then shoot them all. It turned out the bad shot was an arrow issue. We know we do not always shoot every arrow we build. I came home the next day and got all my fletched arrows out to see how they performed. When I shot my Sable last year, my shot was right but still fatal. I assumed my bow was off due to a bad fall but when I came home, my bow was perfect.

Components of Arrow Flight

When an arrow leaves a bow, it does not fly straight to the target. Arrows rotate and flex during flight. Arrows flex due to the front and back of the arrows moving at different speeds as an arrow is propelled from the bow at the nock. This flex can be what is causing that one random arrow to be flying in a different direction than the rest. Carbon arrows are made like a tube. The starting and stopping point of your arrow is called the spine. Spine refers to the stiffness. All arrow companies will have a chart you can use to choose the appropriate arrow spine for your setup.

Having an appropriate spine will help you be more accurate and protect your bow from malfunction should you be using too light of an arrow.

Spine Alignment

Some companies with pre-fletched arrows will spine align the arrows when fletching. This means the nocked arrow is on the spine. There are several schools of thought on where to put the spine. I realized that I had not done this when I made my last few sets of arrows. Spine aligning can also mean that you have the spine in the same place on all of your arrows, so they all fly the same.

One part of my shot sequence is to put my arrow in the bow the same way each time. This helps the arrow leave the bow the same way and hopefully fly the same. Your nocks should have a little nub or piece of plastic on one side. This makes figuring out if your arrows are flying the same a little easier.

I used this nub to keep track of arrow rotation and where the nock started in this process. I found in the 10 arrows I made, I had three groupings of placement. I rotated my nocks until all the arrows were hitting the same spot (as in a group) at 20 yards. Then I moved back to 30 yards because any issues with different arrow flights will be magnified as your arrow flies farther. These were my first three shots:

Spine Aligning Arrows

Now, these were three, calm, and well-executed shots. So, I turned the nock on the “bad” arrow. And then had this arrow group:

Spine Aligning Arrows

The odd arrow was about an inch away from the other two. I would consider on most days this would be within my precision at this distance, but I saw that the nock rotation was different. I rotated the nock a quarter turn again:

arrow spine alignment

All touching, I did this several times and all arrows touched with the same nock direction.

If you are concerned about one errant arrow, try spine aligning your arrows for better flight and tighter groups. I am amazed at how much checking this has improved my shooting.

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About the Author

Jaimie Robinson

Jaimie lives north of Denver, Colorado. She is the mother of two wonderful children. All her life, she has had a passion for the outdoors. She concentrates this passion on archery, hunting, and fitness. She grew up in rural western Pennsylvania, where she developed an appreciation for nature and worked on her knack for shooting guns. Spent hours just watching deer move from her back porch and explored the forest. When she moved to Colorado in 2006, she went on her first hunting trip and harvested an antelope with a rifle. In late 2006, she tried archery for the first time and fell in love. She has been active in the archery community in Colorado ever since. Archery has become Jaimie’s passion and she strives to learn everything she can about it. She does her best to share her passion for archery with everyone she meets. She has expanded her horizons to waterfowl and upland hunting, fishing, and rifle hunting. She spends as much time in the outdoors as she can. Jaimie is passionate about making the sport better for women and helping others become better hunters.