Bow velocity. It’s one of archery’s most debated topics. One bowhunter wants every last foot per second (fps) his or her bow can muster, and the next wants a smooth-shooting bow that practically lobs arrows downrange.
While both types of bow setups have their individual merits, I like to settle on middle ground. I like the power and flat-shooting characteristics of a speed machine, but I can’t argue enough the benefits of shooting a heavier arrow with sufficient front of center (FOC).
Now, back to velocity (speed). How is it measured and what does it mean? To the best of my knowledge, most bow manufacturers use the following metrics to calculate velocity: 30-inch draw, 70-pound draw weight and a 350-grain arrow.
This yields sort of a best-case scenario in terms of velocity, but note that very few folks shoot a bow at 70 pounds with a 30-inch draw length and a lightweight arrow.
To that end, have realistic expectations when you purchase a new bow and then shoot an arrow through a chronograph (used to measure arrow velocity). As an example, my bows over the years are usually 70-75 pounds set to a 27.5-inch draw length and propelling 420- to 470-grain arrows. These specs usually land me around 275-290 fps, depending on the bow’s listed speed.
That doesn’t seem too great when you consider that most of my bows are listed at 330-345 fps, but that’s because of my specs. And I’m completely happy with my bow velocity landing in that range, as the performance has been very deadly.
Of course, many folks ponder the question: Can I increase my bow speed? If that’s what you want to do, yes you can! The following are some ways that you can increase your velocity along with some precautions to consider as you make changes. Let’s review.
Shoot Lighter Arrows
While decreasing arrow weight isn’t something I really suggest for big game hunting, it certainly will increase your bow velocity. It’s OK within reason, but try not to see how many fps you can milk out by going to the bow manufacturer’s minimum recommended weight.
Penetration and overall arrow flight will suffer. If your current arrows are rather heavy and you want to increase your bow speed a little, try going with a lighter arrow, but keep in mind that the optimal performance on big game is had when arrows are in the 10-15% FOC range. Don’t dip below that just to make your bow faster, because you’ll lose more than you gain.
Crank Up Your Draw Weight
Increasing draw weight obviously will increase your velocity. But, is it a good move? Consider these points.
First, how easily can you draw your bow at its current draw weight? How about when you wear your hunting clothing? And then, what about when the temperatures drop and you’ve been sitting in a stand for several hours? If it becomes challenging with any of those factors considered, you’re probably best off leaving your draw weight alone.
Ditch Bowstring Accessories
Silencers, peep sights and kisser buttons all add weight to the bowstring and therefore slow down your velocity, though minimal. Still, you can consider losing silencers or your kisser button (if not needed) to gain a few fps.
You have to decide if it’s wise, though. If you’re shooting a brand new bow that’s super-quiet, then ditching string silencers is OK, but you’ll probably gain only around 5 fps, tops. Maybe some folks can shoot without a peep, but I won’t part with mine for a couple more fps.
Add Speed Buttons
To contrast my last step, adding weight to key points of the bowstring can add fps. Many high-end and middle-of-the-road bows come standard with these pre-installed on the bowstrings, but if your bow doesn’t have them, it’s worth considering if you’re looking to gain up to 5 fps. These weights are typically called “speed buttons,” and a knowledgable bow technician at your local pro shop can install them.
Buy a Faster Bow
Finally, if you’re shooting a relic or even a bow that’s 10 years old, you could gain speed by upgrading to a new bow. Be careful as you shop not to go for the bow with the highest number.
If you’re a skilled archer and shoot with consistent gripping, then a bow with a short brace height that smokes arrows downrange will likely be OK. But, if you’re an average shot, I suggest not dipping beneath 6.5 inches on brace height. The forgiveness of a slightly longer brace height is far more valuable than sheer fps.
The process of increasing bow speed is all about making wise decisions that won’t do more harm than good. For example, losing kinetic energy by shooting too light an arrow is a poor decision. As well, cranking up your draw weight to the max might mean you can’t draw your bow when your muscles are stiff and cold from hunting all day.
Analyze everything before making changes, weighing out the pros and cons. Then, you’ll be able to healthily add fps to your bow’s velocity without having accuracy-losing repercussions.