Arrow Rest Selection

By: Staff
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Arrow rests are like other archery accessories: there are plenty of new products every year and there is more than a little confusion about how they work, if they work and for whom they work.  This article is intended to compare the basic function of two hot trends in rest design with products that have proven themselves in the field for nearly 30 years.

Dropaway arrows rests can be very beneficial for bowhunters.

Some drop-away rests are very simple in design.  Essentially, they are little more than conventional rests with the spring reversed and a cord to pull them up as the string is drawn.  A number of archers build good homemade drop-away rests this way.


Drop-away rests aren’t new.  In fact, this is at least their second time around the block with an earlier trip courtesy of Keith Barner in the 1980’s.  With the proliferation in designs hitting the market right now (at last count there were 15 companies making drop-away rests), it would seem that this category has finally come of age.

Of course, drop away rests are designed to snap downward out of the path of the fletching within a controlled amount of time after the string is released.  Bowhunters tend to be most interested in this rest style as a way to beat fletching contact with the rest – one of archery’s most common tuning problems.  They work great in this capacity, making it possible to shoot very aggressive helical fletching with small diameter carbon arrows without fear of contact between the fletching and rest.

The pros: Because the launcher drops before the fletching has any opportunity to collide, these rests make it much easier for most bowhunters to get total fletching clearance without the need to fine-tune the nocks of each individual arrow.  If a bowhunter has ever put an arrow on the string wrong while using a conventional and reaped the poor arrow flight that comes from such a sin you won’t have to tell him twice that eliminating this variable is important.

Because carbon arrows are smaller in diameter than most aluminum shafts they present a greater likelihood of fletching contact when using conventional rests.  With a drop-away rest, bowhunters can expect clean arrow flight with carbon arrows even if they apply a fairly aggressive helical offset.

The third advantage of drop-away rests is somewhat overlooked but just as important.  These rests offer the potential to cradle the arrow very securely once the draw is initiated.  Because the rest clears the fletching during the shot, the launcher can be designed to securely hold the arrow.  Some are even shaped like an upsweeping hook to lift and center the shaft all in one motion.

Muzzy Zero Effect arrow rest
The Muzzy Zero Effect was one of the first drop-away rests.  It works off a mechanical linkage that attaches to the cable rod slide.

The cons:  Just as there are three primary positives related to these rests, there are three opposing sides to consider.  First, all drop-away rests bring additional moving parts, more linkages and more complexity to the gear equation.  I’ve always selected my bowhunting gear with one all-encompassing standard: keep it simple stupid.  I’ve been a brain-dead passenger on too many moment of truth adrenaline roller coasters to believe I can reason my way through a successful encounter.  Things have to be very simple for me.  I suspect I represent the majority of bowhunters in that regard.

What if the cord slips on the harness or the rubber tubing breaks or the rising launcher misses the arrow or it doesn’t properly center?  Sure, problems can occur with conventional rests too, but generally these can be identified in advance.  Having said this, I did use a drop-away rest last season while hunting with carbon arrows and never had a single problem.  But, more than once I had guys in camp ask me, “Do you ever worry that on the next draw the rest won’t rise?”  I have to admit that the thought was always in the back of my mind. 

While adding complexity to a bow is akin to bowhunting heresy, if the design is bulletproof these rests can be trusted.  It just takes some time and experience. 

The second downside: not every bow can be tuned well with a drop-away rest.  In some cases, a conventional rest actually produces better arrow flight.  For example, I’ve shot and tried to tune several bows through the years that kicked the arrow out tail right.  I believe cam lean is at fault here, but regardless, with a cushion plunger I can get decent arrow flight by stabilizing the shaft a little before it leaves the bow.  With a drop-away rest the ensuing paper tear is nothing short of monumental.  So it is not possible to simply sell a drop-away rest and assume the bowhunter’s tuning problems are solved.

Many dropaway arrow rests also provide ful capture making them close to fool proof.
Many modern drop-away rests also hold the arrow securely during the draw and shot, not allowing it to bounce off the launcher.  A great example of this is the NAP Quiktune Flipper Rest, available in the online store.

Finally, there is the matter of accuracy.  I spoke with Vince Troncoso at Golden Key Futura about drop-away rests.  Bear in mind the Golden Key makes two styles of drop-away rests and a large number of conventional rests.  Vince stated that arrow’s need a bit of guidance to shoot most accurately.  He felt that a drop-away rest that clears the shaft shortly after release encourages the shaft to find its own center. 

If the shafts are all perfect they will all react the same, but there are many factors that can cause inconsistencies.  The shaft could be slightly bent, the nock slightly off-center and the spine slightly different from one shaft to the next.  With a conventional rest the flexing launcher or cushion plunger smooths these differences out somewhat, but with a drop-away rest the arrow is on its own – for better or for worse.

If your customer is a carbon arrow shooter who simply can’t eliminate fletching contact with his or her hunting arrows, these rests should be recommended without reservation.  But, if your customer is shooting aluminum shafts that permit the launchers of his conventional rest to be spread wide enough to produce what should be adequate fletching clearance, chances are the arrow flight problems can (and probably should) be cured in other ways. 

Full capture arrow rests such as the Whisker Biscuit hold your arrow securely in place until shot.

Capture rests, such as the Whisker Biscuit, are very useful because they hold the arrow in place until you release the string, no worries about whether it will be resting properly.


There is another breed of arrow rests grabbing attention right now, as well.  They take many forms: three launchers pointing inward toward the shaft, a hole surrounded by bristles and a plastic cone that looks like an oil funnel.  Rests that completely contain the arrow are not really new, but like the drop-away rests they are just now coming into their own. 

Capture rests continue to gain market share because they keep the arrow from falling off the rest at all stages of the hunt: while stalking, while sitting, while drawing, when the wind is blowing, etc.  Also, in the excitement of the moment, it is possible to bounce the arrow right off some conventional rests.  That will never happen with a capture rest, eliminating one more thing that can go wrong.

The pros: I shared an elk camp in New Mexico a few years ago with a guy that missed a big bull because his arrow fell off the rest and he didn’t realize it until the arrow skipped harmlessly off the ground well wide of the bull.  If he had it to do over, how much would John have paid to have a rest on his bow that always kept the arrow in place? 

That illustration summarizes the most positive aspect of capture rests.  Properly set up, they keep the arrow ready for action no matter what.  That’s the main reason bowhunters have been, and will continue to be, buying this style of rest.

There is, however, a second reason that capture rests are a good choice for bowhunters.  Because the rest contacts the shaft on all sides it is better able to guide the arrow and soak up the arrow flight discrepancies caused by minor inconsistencies in shaft construction or nock travel without creating poor arrow flight.  It is kind of like pressing dough through a spaghetti extruder.

The cons: With the goal to fully secure the arrow in the rest, there is necessarily going to be greater contact between the rest and the shaft.  Of course, each additional contact point introduces the chance for fletching contact, and like conventional rests, thin diameter carbon arrows are more likely to hit the launchers.  But, when the rest is designed with small contact surfaces properly spaced around the shaft the downside is reduced.  A great example of this type of rest is the NAP 360 Capture Rest and the Octane Hostage Pro.

Using short, stiff vanes can help eliminate fletching problems when using a full capture rest such as the Whisker Biscuit
Short, stiff fletchings such as the NAP QuikSpin Speed Hunter ST, Bohning Blazer, and Duravnes Predator work best with the Whisker Biscuit because they don’t wrinkle as quickly from passing through the bristles.

For all intents and purposes, the clearance afforded by most capture rests is at least equal to that afforded by most conventional two-prong launcher rests.  Because it is possible to get by with small contact points and still retain the shaft, the clearance on some capture rests may even be better than that on some conventional rests. 

Of course, when you look at rests like the Whisker Biscuit, you find that there is no way to eliminate contact.  In fact, you might call it a full contact rest.  The fletchings pass through bristles and so are guaranteed to cause contact.  However, because the contact is perfectly symmetrical all the way around the arrow, it tends to keep the arrow on track rather than causing it to kick to one side or the other.  The only downside of this full-contact design is fletching damage.  These rests cause pretty noticeable fletching damage.  If you stick with short, stiff fletchings, such as the Bohning Blazer, you will be fine.  But if you use long, supple vanes or feathers, they will show signs of damage after only a few shots and will need to be replaced at least a couple of times each summer if you shoot much.

Conventional arrow rests like this one from NAP are slowly being replaced in bowhunting situations by modern dropaway and full capture rests.

Conventional shoot-through arrow rests are still popular but they are being replaced in the market by drop-away rests and capture rests.


For the most part, conventional shoot-through rests are disappearing from the bows of today’s bowhunters.  These rests don’t do anything better than the drop-away rests or capture rests and do some things much poorer.  They may be less expensive, being their only true virtue – and possibly easier to set up – but beyond that, the drop-away and capture rests are the way to go.


For every bowhunter there is rest, but there is not one rest for every bowhunter.  In other words, the varying ways they set up their arrows, the imprecise way they release the string and the specific way in which they like to hunt all have an affect on the best rest for each bowhunter.  Drop-away rests are good medicine for bowhunters who can’t achieve total fletching clearance any other way and are especially valuable to carbon arrow shooters. 

Fully enclosed “capture” rests work under a wide range of conditions with a wide range of shaft styles but they are not appropriate for target shooting.  They aren’t the most accurate rests on the market. 

Additional Information: Setting Up a Drop-Away rest

Based on personal experience and discussions with both Vince Troncoso at Golden Key Futura and Steve Johnson at Spot-Hogg (makers of the Hooter Shooter shooting machine) the most forgiving way to set up a drop-away rest is to have it maintain contact with the shaft for as long as possible and then fall just in time to clear the fletching. 

Experimentation is the best way to determine proper rest timing for your bow and shooting style, but as a starting point Steve Johnson recommends that the rest reach full height when the string is still about three to four inches short of full draw. 

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5 Comments on "Arrow Rest Selection"

Re: Arrow Rest Selection

whisker bisquet is by far the best rest i have ever used.

Posted by mobhuntr on 8/3/2009 3:38:07 PM

Re: Arrow Rest Selection

G5 expert II is the best (quiet, smooth, no metal to metal contact

Posted by KillinWitDaMaxxis on 1/6/2010 6:35:19 PM

Re: Arrow Rest Selection

Whisker Bisquet all the way!!!!

Posted by Josh on 8/12/2010 12:32:48 PM

Re: Arrow Rest Selection

Hostage pro!

Posted by Reed on 8/26/2010 10:29:32 PM

Re: Arrow Rest Selection

I prefer a bent stick with a piece of string joining the tips, and a thinner, pointy stick that can be shot from it.

Posted by Hiawatha on 9/26/2011 2:01:27 AM

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