three arrows on a red background
From left: A Victory VAP micro-diameter shaft with 2-inch vanes; a Carbon Express Heritage shaft with 4-inch feathers; and a Gold Tip Velocity shaft with offset 2-inch boattail vanes.. Ralph Smith

Buy a dozen factory-assembled arrows, and invariably one or two won’t group with the rest, especially at longer distances. And what’s left might not be exactly right for your specific hunting needs and preferences. Eliminate flyers and perfect your arrows by micromanaging your build process with these nine steps, then bare-shaft tune them to ensure proper arrow-to-bow fit.

1. Pick your shafts

Micro-­diameter shafts penetrate better than standard diameters and do a better job of bucking the wind in flight. But they can make bow tuning a headache. If you like tweaking your bow tune, go micro. Consider grains per inch too. Heavier arrows hit harder than lighter shafts but don’t shoot as flat.

2. Choose your fletching

What is your maximum shot distance? If you hunt whitetails inside 40 yards, standard 2-inch straight-fletched Blazer vanes are hard to beat. Helical fletchings to 6 degrees will somewhat slow your arrows in flight but will produce tighter groups downrange. Larger 3- or 4-inch fletchings or feathers also stabilize arrows better on long flights. Bottom line: Use less fletching for speed, more for long-range accuracy. Big fixed-blade broadheads may require more fletching for stabilization too.

3. Find the stiff side

Arrows in flight flex like a snake moving through water. Determining the stiffest side of each shaft can help you get a uniform flex—and therefore tighter groups. Use a spine tester or float your shafts in a tub of soapy water to find the stiffest side, which will face the bottom of the tub. Mark it so you can fletch the cock feather there.

4. Perfect the spine

It’s tempting to cut all your arrows at once, but don’t. Cut and build a single arrow first, minus the fletching. Shoot this bare shaft at 20 yards to ensure it sticks in the target perfectly straight on—i.e., perpendicular to the target and parallel to the ground. If it doesn’t, subtract length from the shaft by 1⁄4 inch, or cut a fresh shaft longer, until it does. That’s the perfect spine for your bow.

5. Square the arrows

All saws wobble, so once your arrows are cut to length, square the insert ends, nock ends, and inserts with a tool like the G5 Arrow Squaring Device.

6 Clean the arrows

Drugstore rubbing alcohol (91 percent) has oils that affect adhesion. Instead, get denatured 200 proof (99 percent) and clean the shaft inside and out with a Q-tip and a rag. With an abrasive scrub pad, roughen the shaft where you’ll glue the vanes. If you like arrow wraps, which make refletching easier, now’s the time to apply them.

7. Weigh everything

Sort all your shafts, inserts, and nocks by weight. Match a shaft that’s a grain light to an insert that’s a grain heavy, and so on. Dry-fit everything; try to get the weight of each individual arrow as close to identical as possible.

8. Glue it up

Superglue can crack on arrow impact, and old-school hot melt can pull free with high-velocity setups on a hot summer day. I like rubberized superglue like Goat Tuff Impact for inserts and Loctite Super Glue Gel for fletchings. Arizona E-Z Fletch jigs do a great job for about $50 but are slow to use. The JoJan Multi-Fletcher makes building a lot of arrows go quickly. Leave one ­arrow without any vanes for bare-shaft tuning later.

9. Test-shoot

Shoot the fletched arrow and the bare shaft at 20 yards. They should be touching, or at least impact the target the exact same way—level, no nocks up, no nocks down, etc. Finally, number each arrow on a vane. While practicing, if you notice one arrow flying unlike the rest, retire it.