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How to Choose the Right Arrow Rest for Your Compound Bow

Written By:  Aaron Lasco, President Venator Gear, Inc.
November 27, 2009

Whether you’re considering an upgrade, or outfitting a new bow, the arrow rest you choose maybe the difference between perfect arrow flight translating into success in the field, or all out misery when it comes time to tune your valuable investment.

Never mind the fact that you’ve spent hundreds – maybe even close to a thousand on your bow, the rest you choose is paramount in producing a finely tuned shooting system. This overview will help dissect the overwhelming options and designs currently offered today. First and foremost, you must match the arrow rest with the style of shooting you wish to do.

Finger shooting

Finger shootng (to draw and release with your fingers protected by a tab or shooting glove), requires an arrow rest with side–to–side spring tension and support for your arrow. When an arrow is shot from a bow, it flexes (archer’s paradox). When the bow’s string rolls off your fingers, the arrow flexes in a side–to–side action versus the vertical flex of the same arrow shot with a release aid. Arrow rests such as the Cavalier Super Flyte or the very popular Whisker Biscuit type containment designs work great giving the arrow support, yet give or flex as the arrow passes by. A stick–on “flipper” maybe used with recurves or older compounds lacking machined risers since it has a plastic “bump” pad for horizontal support.

Release Aids

When the archer draws the string with a mechanical release aid, and the mechanical “jaws” releases the string – the arrows flex vertically and minimally as they leave the bow. Therefore, your rest must compliment this action and “give” vertically. In the past, prong spring rests such as the TM Hunter or Cavalier Stinger had been the foundation for release aid shooters for two decades. They worked well by supporting the arrow with two launcher “arms” to cradle the arrow. During launch, they are pushed down as the arrow flexes while giving support. They are inexpensive and abundant. The only downsides are “balancing” the arrow atop the prongs when you’re trembling with excitement or just uncoordinated and clearance for arrow fletching as it passes through. The slightest bump of a vane will send the arrow off its intended path.

Whisker Biscuit type containment rests solve the “balancing” problem cold in its tracks. These are probably the world’s most popular arrow rests for their simplicity and range of applications. Since the arrow is supported all the way around the shaft, it yields great performance for both finger shot arrows as well as release shot arrows. Downsides to this design are the contact with the arrow during the entire launch cycle whereby making the system unforgiving to shooters form flaws. If you flinch, it flinches tenfold. Under close range situations, however, the differences are not as noticeable. For beginner archers of all ages, I recommend the Trophy Ridge Quick Shot Whisker Biscuit for its ease of use. Beginners to archery prosper for this rest’s ease of use. The other downside is the wear and tear of the arrow’s fletching, thus requiring more frequent replacement of vanes. We recommend using very durable vanes such as Bohning Blazers.

Drop–away or Fall–away type rests have come back since first debuting in the late seventies (Barner) and back they are! Designs such as Ripcord and Trophy Taker are now much more durable for tough field use and the benefits are worth a look. First off, most come with some type of arrow containment system holding the arrow securely thus enabling automatic alignment for arrow launch position. Secondly, as the arrow is launched, it stays upright to support, and guide the arrow momentarily until it drops out of the way eliminating any chance of fletching interference. This freely floating action greatly improves forgiveability since the archer’s contact with the arrow is greatly reduced. The downsides are greater difficulty in installation and timing, and more moving parts. However, when a durable unit is properly installed and tuned, the benefits are evident in the first group of arrows you shoot. For the most consistent drop–away arrow rests, I recommend the Trophy Taker Arrow Rests and Ripcord Arrow Rests.

Lastly, the newest design is what I call a “snap rest” in which the rest’s launcher is in the up position as a spring prong design until it is snapped down and out of the way of the arrows path at the last second by a cord attached to the upward cable of the bow or the bow’s upper limb. While my experience with this design is limited, the benefit to this approach is longer guidance time in which to stabilize the arrow. However, the downsides are again “balancing” the arrow on prongs while preparing for the shot and a greater length of vulnerable draw cord in which to harm in a hunting situation. I don’t yet see the increased stabilization benefit to out weigh the greater fragility for hunting, but target shooting accuracy could improve.

The majority of the differences that separate the above mentioned options are for the archer’s preferences. However, if an arrow is shot with a release aid out of a rest designed for fingers, the arrow will “bounce” out of the bow since it offers no vertical “give”. The same is true if an arrow is released with fingers out of an arrow rest designed for mechanical release aid that lacks horizontal “give” thereby wildly whipping out of the bow.

I hope this helps the next time you decide to purchase a new arrow rest!