Does this scenario sound familiar? You purchase a six-pack of crossbow arrows (a.k.a. crossbow bolts) to use for the upcoming hunting season. After you bring the arrows home, you shoot one arrow with a field point (maybe multiple times) to check that the bow is sighted in properly. After you have verified that the sights are set correctly, you then use the same, or perhaps an additional arrow, to test the flight with a broadhead. After you have shot the arrow with the broadhead and made any additional sight adjustments, you are satisfied with the performance and you mount the broadheads on the remaining unshot arrows and head to the field.
This is a common practice of many hunters when they are preparing for the upcoming crossbow hunting season. But, if you really wish to shoot as accurately as possible with your crossbow arrows, you should shoot each arrow separately to verify that it is grouping with the others. Taking this extra step will help to guarantee that all your crossbow arrows will accurately hit your aiming point. This process is known as “shoot-tuning” the arrows.
Here are the steps necessary to shoot-tune your crossbow arrows for tighter groups and deadly accuracy:
Set up your target exactly at 20 yards, using a rangefinder to verify the distance.
Prepare your arrows to be shot by attaching field points and by using a marker to number each of the arrows – for instance, if you bought a three-pack of arrows, you will number the arrows “1”, “2” and “3.”
Next, assign letters to the vanes of each of the arrows – in other words, each arrow should have an “A” vane, a “B” vane and a “C” vane. It is best to be consistent and begin by marking the odd colored vane on the arrow as the “A” vane. Note: some crossbow arrows now come with a circle preprinted on the vane specifically for shoot-tuning.
Shoot the crossbow arrows at the target in the order in which you numbered them to determine how closely the arrows group out of the box. Be sure for this first round of shooting that you are sliding the “A” vane down in the flight rail when loading. If possible, shoot one arrow at a time and pull it before shooting the next arrow – you don’t want to damage any of your arrows by shooting them into one another.
After each shot, number the hole left behind in the target with the arrow number that you shot, so that you can remember which arrows did not group well with the others.
Review the grouping after shooting all of the arrows one time each. You will likely notice that most of the arrows hit in nearly the same spot. That means that these arrows are grouping together when you use the “A” vane in the flight rail. Collect these arrows and put a check or some other type of mark on the “A” vane so that you will know to always shoot it in the down position in the flight rail when using this arrow. Set these arrows aside.
Collect the arrows that did not shoot in the group with the others. Shoot these arrows again, but do not load the “A” vane in the flight rail. This time, rotate the arrow and shoot the “B” vane in the down position. Shoot at the same spot on the target to determine if the arrows will now hit in the original group. If you are shooting a flat nock or OmniNock, you will not have to re-index your nock to shoot the “B” vane. If you are shooting J-nocks, capture or moon nocks, you will have to re-index the nocks to the “B” vane prior to shooting the second time.
Collect the arrows that now shoot in the original group and mark the “B” vanes on each so that you will know to always shoot these arrows using the “B” vane in the down position in the flight rail.
If you had any arrows left that still did not hit in the original group, shoot these arrows again, but load the arrow with the “C” vane down in the flight rail. You will likely see these arrows shoot into the original group. Mark the “C” vanes on each arrow so that you will know to load the “C” vane in the flight rail when shooting these arrows. You are now finished with the shoot-tuning process.
You can now be confident that your crossbow will shoot each of these crossbow arrows consistently, and that you will have more accurate hits, ultimately leading to tighter groups.
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