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Carbon vs. Aluminum Arrows: And Interview with Instructor Alex Kobe (Part 2)

By Laura Fisk

Alex Kobe, Instructor at the Rancho Park Archery Range

The following is the second of a two-part interview with Alex Kobe, an Instructor at the Rancho Park Archery Range. In this final part of the interview, Alex focuses on the advantages and disadvantages of carbon vs. aluminum arrows.

Laura: What is the difference between aluminum and carbon arrows?

Alex: Aluminum, per inch, is heavier than the carbon.  There is a measure per arrow.  It is usually measured in grains per inch.  Aluminum, you are going to expect that it is around 10 grains per inch.  Carbon tops out about 8 grains per inch.  ACEs go lighter than that–about 5 or 6 grains per inch.  Then that translates into the durability part.

The thing that makes the ACEs so light is that the wall of the shaft is so thin.  So, when that arrow gets slapped by another arrow that wall just collapses.  That is why my ACEs only lasted 5 months. Because, when you get an arrow in the wall, and if you get another one in there, they snap each other.  Bye, bye arrow.

Laura: For someone who is a pretty consistent shooter, and is looking to buy, they could go either aluminum or carbon. But, aluminum might be a little more durable?

Alex: Actually, if you go all carbon, like the Nanos or even the Medallions–the Nanos younger cousin–they are a lot cheaper.  The Nanos are about $260 a dozen and the Medallions cost about $99 per dozen.  The Medallion is a lot more durable than the aluminum.

One thing is aluminum bends, carbons don’t.

The way you choose is this. There are still a lot of people who think aluminum is more forgiving.  There are still a lot of indoor shooters that shoot aluminum with feathers.  For an indoor shooter that is the way to go because the aluminum diameter is really thick.  So, you get something called the line breaker.  When you shoot all you have to do is hit the line and you get the higher score.

When you are shooting indoors you are not dealing with the wind.  So you want to get the biggest shaft you can get, and make sure you break the line.  That used to be the norm.  You get big aluminum arrows for indoor and thin carbon arrows for outdoors.   And now you have telephone poles.  Now manufactures have begun producing carbon arrows that are really big, the biggest diameter shaft that is legal.  So you can split the line.  Now a days you get that choice.

There are many schools of thought.  Some people still think aluminum is the way to go, big shaft.  Other people think a fast arrow is the key.

Michele Frangilli, the current world record holder for indoor competition, he actually broke his own record.  He used to hold the world record using aluminum arrows at 25 and 18 meters.  And then he broke his own record at 18 meters using carbon arrows, ACEs.  And then again he broke his own record at 25 meters with ACEs.  So, now both world records are held by ACEs.  These are both carbon arrows. 

Laura: What do you think?

Alex: I shoot my carbon both indoors and out.  To me I don’t notice the difference.  It makes no sense to have two different kinds of arrows because then you have to worry about tuning two different pieces.  Personally, I don’t have the time to do it.  Keep it simple. One set of arrows, one bow – just use it for indoor and outdoor. 

Laura: So, you prefer the carbons because they are faster and lighter?

Alex: Yes. If you are going to shoot outdoor you have to use carbon.  You can’t be competitive. Well you can but you’re not going to be good.  Once you go past 60 meters then the aluminum arrows are going to go all over the place. 

Laura: So, you are shooting 18 to 25 meters?

Alex: If you are shooting short distances it doesn’t matter if you shoot carbon or aluminum arrows.  The [Rancho Park] range has walls, which is sheltering you from the wind drift. 

Carbon is much more superior in windy environments compared to aluminum. 

If you are going to rate every single part of your archery system.  Number one is the archer and number two is the arrow.  Arrow is crucial.  Bad arrows with the most expensive bow in the world, you are going to get bad results.  Concentrate on your arrows first and then your bow. 


Carbon, Aluminum or Wood Arrows? An Interview with Archery Instructor Alex Kobe (Part 1)

By Laura Fisk

Alex Kobe, Instructor at the Rancho Park Archery Range

The following is the first of a two-part interview with Alex Kobe, one of the instructors at the Rancho Park Archery Range. In this interview, Alex talks about the equipment he uses and talks about the advantages and disadvantages of carbon, aluminum and wooden arrows.

Laura: What do you do here at the range?

Alex: I am one of the instructor’s here. I’ve been shooting here for about 11 years now.

Laura: What style of archery do you do?

Alex: I do primarily Olympic style archery (FITA).

Laura: There are many different divisions in target archery.

Alex: You have the FITA, bare bow and then traditional.  Traditional is all wood.  Traditional is wooden longbow with wooden arrows.  That is the definition of traditional.  If you are shooting in the traditional category you have no choice but to shoot wooden arrows.  In any other category you have all the other choices, even bare bow you can shoot with aluminum bows.  It just has to fit a certain ring diameter.  You can shoot all the modern equipment even in the bare bow division. 

Laura: What kind of bow and arrows do you shoot?

Alex: I shoot a 25” Hoyt Helix with long limbs.  The limbs I am shooting right now are pretty light, they are 26 pounds limbs.  I have another pair of limbs that are 42 pounds.  My arrows are Nano-XRs.  I’ve tried anything from Easton Aluminum arrows to Easton ACEs, ACCs, and XTens. I just find the Nano-XRs fit the bill for me. They’re approximately the same price as the ACE’s but they last longer than the ACE’s.

Laura: What is the Nano-XR made of?

Alex: They are full carbon arrows.  The downside is if you lose one in the grass you can’t find it.  Shoot on the target, which is the only thing you can do with these arrows.  Any of the arrows today are pretty much all consistent. My only thing about picking an arrow is, pick an arrow that will last the longest. 

Aluminum arrows last pretty long but a good set of arrows will last you a year. Easton ACE’s, when I was using those, they were great arrows in terms of performance. But, a whole set will last me about four or five months.  XTens, last me almost two years.  The Nano-XR has lasted me about the same, so far, as the XTens.  When I say lasted, I mean they have broken.  Like anything else, the arrow flexes in the air.  If you have a lot of flexing then it is going to weaken the shaft.  Certain shafts will just breakdown over time. 

Laura: Why not shoot wooden arrows?

Alex: They are too heavy for starters.  They’re not as consistent.  If you were to compare wood with carbon and aluminum, you will see the consistency issue that I’ve been talking about. Carbon to carbon consistency, there is spine consistency and all that stuff.  Wood has grains that are aligned differently from shaft to shaft.  Even though they are the same size, they’re not going to have the same spine.  They’re not going to bend the same way.  Not only that, they don’t have the same weight—even though they look the same.

That is the thing with wood, it looks nice but for target archery you will not have that consistency.  Wood arrows don’t last nearly as long as carbons.  Wood shaft will break if you hit the wall or another arrow. 

Laura: So in target archery how would you rate the best to the worse arrows?

Alex: I would say carbon, aluminum and then wood. You almost never see wood, unless you see them shooting the traditional.

In the second part of this interview, Alex further shares his thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of aluminum vs. carbon arrows, in regards to speed, durability and competition.

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