Aluminum vs Carbon Arrows – Which is Better?

Jeff
| Last Updated June 1, 2021

Can’t figure out what material to choose for your arrows?

Don’t lose your mind wading through hundreds of lengthy and confusing reviews. We’ve found that one is excellent for beginners and the other for those who want something more durable. 

We’ll tell you everything you need to know without making it overly complicated and complex!

Photo credit: archerybull.com

TL;DR: Aluminum vs Carbon Arrows

If you’re in a hurry, here’s a quick summary of the information we’ll cover: 

Aluminum Arrow

Carbon Arrow

PROS

PROS

  • Cheaper

  • Easier removal

  • Won’t crack in the cold
  • More durable

  • Deeper penetration

  • Quicker recovery

CONS

CONS

  • Slower

  • Easily bends
  • More expensive

  • Fewer sizes

BEST FOR

BEST FOR

New archers or people shooting in colder climates

Hunters targeting animals with thick fur or people who are looking for speed

What Are Aluminum Arrows and When Did They Start Being Used?

Product makers often use aluminum because it is cheaper. In 1939, James Easton created an arrow shaft with this material. Many archers still have this equipment today because people have tested them for decades. 

Before this invention, people made arrows with wood. For thousands of years, this material was the go-to. However, archers found their equipment would warp and break. Easton solved this problem by using a sturdier material that was still cost-effective. 

Some people still use wooden arrows today. But most archers only choose these arrows when they’re feeling nostalgic, and aluminum is much more common. This material isn’t the most popular on the market today, but many people love its accuracy and price point. 

Photo credit: archeryguru.net

What Are Carbon Arrows and When Did They Start Being Used?

Eventually, archers grew tired of how heavy and slow aluminum arrows are. This need for speed led to the invention of carbon arrows. This product has since become the most popular type on the market. 

Carbon arrows are still relatively new, only about 30 years old. Despite being more expensive, people are willing to buy them because they are stronger and faster than aluminum ones. 

This equipment also has deeper penetration. Next to accuracy, this factor is the most critical in choosing an arrow, especially for hunters. 

Relevant Characteristics Between Aluminum and Carbon Arrows

Here’s a quick break down comparing aluminum and carbon arrows: 

Aluminum Arrow

Carbon Arrow

Less expensive

Cost

More expensive

Heavy (up to 600+ grains)

Weight

Light (about 350 grains)

May begin with +/-.003" but quickly drops through use

Straightness

+/-.001" - +/-006" average

Susceptible to wind drift

Wind Resistance

Less wind drift

Low; not resilient enough for long-term use

Durability

High; rarely cracks upon impact

Can permanently bend from hard impacts

Reusability

Recovers fast; returns to original shape when bent

Similarities and Differences

Now that you know the history of these arrows, we’ll explain the differences between them. Both arrows have advantages and disadvantages. Learning about these factors will help you decide which arrow is best for you.

Let’s get started!

Aluminum and Carbon Arrow Differences

First, let’s discuss how they’re different:

Weight

Carbon arrows are much lighter than aluminum ones. With this reduced weight, you get a much faster shot. However, remember that speed isn’t the most critical factor in an arrow. 

Having an incredibly fast arrow is enticing, sure. But speed only matters if you’re already an accurate shot. Speed can be helpful if you're hunting a quick animal, but you also need to consider other factors, such as penetration. 

Durability

If you’re looking for a strong arrow, carbon is the way to go. These arrows are more flexible and have less vibration, making them less likely to weaken. 

Photo credit: gohunt.com

Aluminum arrows are much weaker and bend easily. You will need to straighten them often. They will need extra care or to be replaced often. 

Reusability

Because they’re weaker, you won’t be able to reuse aluminum arrows as much. If you are very careful with them, you can stretch out the usability. However, you will simply never be able to use them for as long as a carbon arrow. 

Sizes

Aluminum arrows have a lot more size options than carbon arrows do. These extra options allow archers to fine-tune their arrows to a near-perfect fit for their bodies and needs. 

Penetration

If you want to hunt animals with thick hides, you should consider using carbon arrows. Because they’re sturdier, they can penetrate more deeply. 

Aluminum and Carbon Arrow Similarities

Next, we’re going to cover a few areas where these two arrows are more similar:

Price

While they are cheaper than carbon, aluminum arrows have increased in price over the years.

Today, some brands even have ones that cost just as much. With this factor, many archers choose to spend a little more to get a stronger carbon option. 

Accuracy

Photo credit: bowhunting360.com

Aluminum arrows are just as accurate as carbon arrows. Of course, accuracy will vary depending on many other factors, including how experienced an archer is. But you will get the same results shooting a carbon arrow as you will an aluminum one under the same conditions. 

Pros and Cons of Aluminum Arrows

So, what are the pros and cons of aluminum arrows? 

Pro: Lower Price

While prices have increased, aluminum arrows are still cheaper than carbon alternatives. A tight budget may mean these arrows are the way to go. 

However, you should only buy these products if you know you can take good care of them. For this reason, new archers may struggle with this option. 

Con: Easily Bend

These arrows bend easily, and you have to straighten them often. Shooting a bent arrow can cause a stress crack, which can lead to shattering. 

When an arrow breaks, you can be hit and severely injured. If you choose to go with this type of arrow, make sure to inspect it for bends before every use. 

Pro: Easier to Remove From Target

Pulling out an arrow that is deep into a target can cause damage if you aren’t careful. Because aluminum arrows are thicker, they are easier to remove. 

You can safely remove carbon arrows as long as you go slowly. However, if you have difficulty with this process, aluminum arrows might be best. 

Photo credit: bowhunter.com

Con: Slower

Many archers dislike aluminum arrows because they are slow. The heavier an arrow is, the slower it shoots.  

Speed is never necessary for target archery and very rarely while bow hunting. However, that doesn’t mean people don’t want fast arrows. Shooting a fast arrow gives you an adrenaline rush. If you’re looking for this excitement, you might not want an aluminum arrow. 

Pro: Won’t Crack in the Cold

While it is sturdier than aluminum, carbon is prone to cracking in colder climates. This problem leads to shattering when you shoot and can be very dangerous. 

You can avoid being injured by inspecting your arrows before shooting. However, if you want to avoid this issue altogether, aluminum arrows are a better option. 

Take-Away

If you’re just getting into archery, consider going with aluminum. You may not know how to maintain or shoot your equipment correctly yet, and you're most likely going to lose some arrows. So, you don’t want to spend a lot of money on carbon arrows only to have to turn around and replace them. 

You should also consider these products if you plan on shooting in cold climates. Carbon arrows tend to shatter under these conditions, so they’re not the best option. 

Photo credit: muskethunting.com

Pros and Cons of Carbon Arrows

Now let’s move on to carbon arrows. What are the pros and cons? 

Pro: More Durable

Carbon arrows are a lot stronger than other alternatives. Instead of bending like aluminum, it returns to the original shape. You can abuse this type without worrying about them breaking. 

Con: More Expensive

There’s no getting around it: carbon arrows are more expensive than other materials. This factor turns a lot of archers away because they simply can’t afford them.

However, these arrows will last longer. If you find yourself constantly replacing your aluminum arrows, carbon may be an investment worth making. 

Pro: Deeper Penetration

Carbon arrows will stick further into your target. This penetration makes this type fantastic for hunting. You won’t have to worry about getting through an animal's thick fur and skin with this product. 

Con: Less Variety

These arrows have less variety than aluminum when it comes to sizing and spine types. Archers looking to find the perfect size for their needs may prefer other materials because of this factor. 

Pro: Quicker Recovery

Archers find that this equipment recovers quicker from the flexing that happens when you shoot. This element makes tuning much more straightforward. 

Your bow can handle more types of carbon arrows because they straighten out quickly after bending when fired. So, your bow will only need minor adjustments to switch between sizes. 

Take-Away

If you want a strong arrow that can take a lot of abuse, carbon arrows are your best bet. You’ll need to spend a little more, but it’s worth it for a long-lasting product. This type works fabulously for hunting because it has deep penetration. If you’re after an animal with thick fur or hide, you’ll want to use carbon arrows. Or, if you want the adrenaline rush that comes with shooting very quickly, go with these. 

What About Full Metal Jacket Arrows?

Full metal jacket (FMJ) arrows have carbon inside, with aluminum covering. While this alternative is even more expensive, archers love that it combines the pros of the other two types. 

The thick-wall core ensures substantial penetration, durability, and accuracy. The metal jacket provides a consistent spine and straightness. These arrows also have reduced vibration, are easily removed and have a permanent finish. 

Typically archers switch from carbon to these arrows because they’re worried about shattering. But, a lot of people have trouble with FMJs because they tend to bend.  

Factors to Consider Before Choosing an Arrow Type

Here are a few things aspects to consider when choosing an arrow type:

Photo credit: archery360.com

Budget

Think about how much you have to spend. A tighter budget may warrant a cheaper arrow material. 

However, remember that spending less won't matter if you have to replace them constantly. If you go with a type known for being less durable, make sure you are taking care to preserve it. Avoid hitting other arrows or hard objects like trees, and be careful when removing your arrow. 

Experience Level

If you’re just starting your archery journey, you’re probably going to lose a few arrows along the way. While you’re still learning proper techniques, you might want to purchase cheaper equipment that you won’t care about replacing. 

As you get more confident, you can choose to spend more money. You’ll be much more likely to break an arrow the more you practice. 

What You’re Shooting

What you're shooting will change what's most vital for you in an arrow. If you’re bow hunting, penetration will be more important to you than it would be if you were only target shooting. 

On the other hand, potential cracking in cold weather won’t matter to you if you plan to shoot targets inside. 

When and Why Would I Use Aluminum Arrows?

Use aluminum arrows if you’re on a tight budget and want to target shoot. Your wallet will smile at the lower price. Plus, you’ll have no trouble removing these thick arrows. 

Photo credit: myarcherycorner.com

However, unless you want to spend more money replacing them, you’re going to need to be careful. Inspect your arrows for bends every time you go to shoot. If you find one, straighten it out. You should also avoid hitting hard objects. 

When and Why Would I Use Carbon Arrows?

You should buy carbon arrows if you want to spend more money on a durable product and plan to bow hunt. These products are sturdier and have deeper penetration. So, you won’t constantly be bending your arrow. Plus, you'll be able to down even the thickest-furred animal. 

Only buy these arrows if you plan to shoot in warm areas where you won’t have to worry as much about cracking. Always inspect your equipment for damage before using it. 

Cautious Considerations to Keep in Mind

Here are a few considerations to think about when buying arrows:

Arrow Length

You need an arrow that is the correct size for your bow. To figure out how long your arrow should be, nock your arrow and then draw your bow. Have someone measure from the end of the shaft to one and a half to two inches from the rest. 

The longer an arrow is, the safer it is. More experienced archers may choose to go with a shorter arrow to increase speed. 

Arrow Weight

Arrow weight is measured in grains. You should have six to eight grains per pound of draw weight. Never go lighter than five per pound. Making this mistake will damage your bow.

Spine Rating

The spine rating tells you how stiff an arrow is. Manufacturers may use different measuring systems. Generally speaking, the smaller the number, the more rigid the product is. Use a spine chart to determine what you need for your bow. 

Photo credit: astraightarrow.net

Bottom Line

Aluminum arrows are fantastic if you’re new to archery or live somewhere cold. These products are cheap and easy to pull out of your target. However, you’ll find they’re slow and bend easily.

On the other hand, carbon arrows work well for hunters or anyone looking for speed. This equipment is stronger with better penetration. However, it is more expensive and has fewer sizes available. 

No matter which you choose, you’ll make an accurate shot if you know what you’re doing. So pick the best option for your needs and get shooting!

People Also Ask

So, you still have more questions? Well, look for the answers below!

How Long Do Carbon Arrows Last?

Carbon arrows can last about two years. However, this may vary by brand. They can also last longer or shorter amounts of time, depending on how often you shoot. 

Photo credit: archershub.com

Can an Arrow Be Too Stiff?

Yes, an arrow can be too stiff. If your spine rating is too high, your arrow will lose energy and be off target. 

To determine if your arrow is too stiff, have someone record its flight. If it veers to the left, you need a higher spine rating. 

Do Carbon Arrows Wear Out?

All arrows wear out with time. For carbon arrows, this reality means losing spine consistency, flight ability, and accuracy. If your arrow shoots off to the side, buy a new arrow. 

How Long Should My Arrows Be For a 29-Inch Draw?

The length should be one to two inches longer than your draw. So, if you have a 29-inch draw, your arrow should be 30 to 31 inches. 

What Happens If Your Arrows Are Too Lightly or Too Heavily Spined For Your Bow?

When you shoot your bow, it bends. This problem is known as the “archer’s paradox.” If your spine rating is too light or heavy, the bending will be extreme. The arrow will fly poorly and won’t be accurate. 

Jeff

My name is Jeff and I have been hunting and fishing for over 40 years. I am an avid archery lover, bass fisherman, and all-around outdoorsman. Currently, I'm obsessed with elk hunting but I'm sure I'll move onto a different favorite soon. You gotta love hunting for that reason :) If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at admin@biggamelogic.com. Read more about Big Game Logic.