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Have you ever heard anyone say “my bow shoots so fast that I only need to use one pin to 40 yards!”  Archery Report investigates this claim and gives you the low down on what is fact and what is fiction.

I have heard this bold statement since the days when bows first started to break the 300 fps barrier.  As bows are starting to push past the 350 mark and even into the 360s, this claim has been echoing across ranges and message boards more and more frequently.  The claims vary from time to time but the general theme is the same, that only one pin is needed to shoot to up to 40 yards.  The claimant will sometimes admit they hold high or low to do so, others say that this one pin can be held dead on at any yardage to 40 yards and hit dead center.

Before getting into the nitty gritty and some fun graphs, let’s first get a couple of things straight.  The laws of physics, and more specifically those of gravity and fluid dynamics, govern arrow flight and these laws do not change.  If I hear at the range or read one more claim on any message board that we have re-written or changed the laws of physics with our advancements in archery technology, I’ll personally be tempted to dig up Sir Isaac Newton and resuscitate him so that he can beat whoever claims such nonsense with a wet noodle (Archery Report does not condone physical violence that results in any real harm!)  Our understanding of the laws of physics and their governing equations deepens and grows, but the law themselves do not change, nor will they ever change.  Even if someone markets a bow that shoots laser beams, it will still have to follow these same laws of physics.

When an arrow leaves the bowstring, it does so with a certain amount of energy which is commonly referred to as kinetic energy.  This energy is manifest in the arrow’s vibration, flexing and mostly in its forward velocity.  The instant that the nock leaves the string, the energy begins to be lost as the arrow flexes, spins and decelerates.  There is no arguing this; it is fact.  Gravity also immediately begins it’s pull on the arrow and draws it toward the earth.  The arrow will begin it’s downward acceleration at a rate of 9.8 m/sec^2 or 32.2 ft/sec^2 minus minor losses to air resistance.

The data shown in the following graphs was obtained from two setups that I am currently shooting along with some other data gleaned from TAP (The Archery Program).  My two setups are an Elite Envy shooting a 349.5 grain arrow leaving the bow at 342 fps (my hunting bow pushed to its speed limits) and a Hoyt Ultra Elite shooting a 320.1 grain arrow leaving the bow at 285 fps (my 3D bow setup for ASA speed limits of 280 fps).  TAP was used to get all of the in-between speeds of 366 fps (the fastest claimed IBO rating of the PSE Omen), 330 fps, 300 fps and 270 fps.

This first chart shows the total drop for the six different initial arrow speed out to 100 yards.  These cases show the total drop at 100 yards is about 105 to 210 inches!  If you have ever shot a FITA event at 90m (just over 98 yards) you’ll understand what a rainbow the arrows follow at that distance.  If you haven’t ever shot a 90m FITA event you really should because it’s a ton of fun to arc those arrows into the target that far away.

This is the same chart only zoomed in to give a better idea of what is happening out to 40 yards.  It can be seen that the arrows start at just about four inches under the line of sight, rise above the line of sight, then drop down to be even at twenty yards, the dead-on sighting distance.  At 30 yards the fastest arrow has dropped just over 2″ and at 40 yards it has dropped over 7″.  If you were to aim dead on with a pin sighted in at exactly 20 yards and make a perfect shot, those are the distances that the arrow would be under the bulls-eye.  The 300 fps arrow which is more typical of a very fast hunting setup drops about 4″ and 13″ respectively.  If the single pin is sighted in at 30 yards instead of 20 yards, the picture is a little different:

At 100 yards the total drop from the zeroed in pin has now been reduced to around 90″ for the fastest arrow and 185″ for the slowest.

Here again is the zoomed in chart that tells a very different story from the pin being sighted in at 20 yards.  With the pin zeroed at 30 yards, the fastest arrow is a little over an inch high at 20 yards and just over 4″ low at 40 yards.  The more typical 300 fps arrow is nearly 3″ high at 20 yards and 7″ low at 40 yards.  Sighting in at 30 yards instead of 20 yards gives a little over 40% improvement in reduction of the total drop seen at 40 yards, with the addition of being high at 20 yards.

It’s obvious that the physics and data don’t lie.  While these charts are not exactly what any particular archer would see for their own setup (arrow diameter, fletching type, FOC, and more will all effect the results to some degree) they are very close to what is to be expected.  I encourage every archer to run their own tests and data to fully understand how their bows and arrows are performing.

When someone makes the claim that they can shoot one pin to 40 yards, and will admit that they have to hold high or low depending on the actual distance, they certainly could be telling the truth.  It’s very possible that with a bow shoot 366 fps to hold about 4″ high with a pin sighted in at 30 yards and hit the mark at 40 yards.  On deer size game it’s always best to know exactly where your arrow will hit, but aiming at the middle of the body and being within 4″ vertically will in most likelihood result in a kill shot.  As the initial arrow velocity becomes lower, this margin of error becomes much greater and holding a 30 yard pin on a buck at 40 yards with a 300 fps or slower arrow will mostly likely end up in a very low shot or a complete miss.   Shooting a 3D tournament with even the fastest arrow and not properly compensating for distance will definitely keep you out of the 12 ring and most likely the 10 ring as well.

There are those folks who will claim that they hold dead on with their pin and any distance up to 40 yards and hit the center.  This is blatantly false and these people are either telling tall tales or subconsciously holding high or low.  I have had the personal pleasure of shooting some of these “magic” bows and holding dead on with the pin and watching the arrow hit high or low.  It’s not possible to outrun gravity!  Some of the bow’s owners will claim that I aimed lower or such, and they have surely deluded themselves into either trying to save face or completely believing their own defiance of gravity.

Whatever the case, it is up the the individual archer to know their own equipment and how to use it properly.  I have no qualms with people that hunt with only one pin and keep their shots to 40 yards and under if they are practiced enough to know how to compensate.  This can be a great method for those that don’t like the confusion of multiple pins and trying to pick the right one when the shot of a lifetime is on the line.  I do take issue with hunters that believe they can magically shoot at any distance with one pin and make ethical and quality kill shots.  Personally, I’ll be sticking with my multiple pin shots and practicing every chance I get so that I can put the right pin in the right place at that critical moment.

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