Archery is a tricky pursuit. It takes years of practice to build up your strength and accuracy, but could using the right gear be a shortcut to bow mastery?
Well, it’s clear that if you have all the gear and no idea, you’re not going to be hitting any bullseyes any time soon, but if you’re an intermediate with some real promise, the right equipment could well polish your aim.
After all, what is there to distinguish between archers of equal skill besides their setup. Someone with an expensive, all-singing-all-dancing bow is going to shoot better than their contemporary with a bargain bin bow, but what about arrow rests?
Do these nifty little additions improve accuracy?
Let’s discuss the matter in more detail.
Arrow Rests: More Complex Than You’d Think
What many burgeoning archers don’t realize when they pose the question “does an arrow rest improve accuracy?” is that arrow rests are insanely varied bits of kit.
There are many different types, and then even some subtypes pertaining to each of the primary types.
And to confuse matters to an even further degree, there isn’t really one rest that’s best. Rather, each type of rest is suited to a specific application and specific situations.
However, to give a general answer to our burning question… Yes, in many cases an arrow rest will slightly improve your accuracy.
This isn’t an absolute guarantee, as the quality of the release, the adeptness of your aim, and your ability to compensate for the weather conditions will ultimately determine the accuracy of your shot. But a good arrow rest will certainly facilitate your best work!
How Will An Arrow Rest Make For A More Accurate Shot?
Arrow rests aren’t going to take the shot for you in a flawless display of razor precision, but a good one will make for a cleaner release and an optimized flight path, and, more often than not, it will lead to a slightly more accurate shot.
Rests achieve a cleaner release and smoother flight path through the use of optimized materials such as hair and leather that provide a slick travel for the arrow.
Another way in which an arrow rest may aid in accuracy is if you’re just not gelling with your bow’s shelf, or indeed if the shelf is damaged in any way.
In fact, I would recommend investing in an arrow rest whether you need help with your accuracy or not, as it will take the brunt of usage off the bow shelf, thereby keeping your pride and joy in pristine condition.
Having said that, an arrow rest isn’t the only way you can keep that shelf of yours in perfect condition. If you’re not that taken by the concept of a rest, then you could just invest in something like a shelf or side plate covering.
These are essentially just protective layers that you install on your shelf and the horizontal plate. They prevent direct impacts and friction between the bow and the arrow when you knock and release.
Being that they can facilitate a smoother release, coverings, to a certain extent, can also improve accuracy.
Not All Arrow Rests Are Going To Help You
As I mentioned earlier, there are a number of different types of arrow rest, and each has its pros and cons that determine what sort of application they’ll be suitable for.
Mismatching an arrow rest with your other equipment or the purpose of your archery, may detract from rather than improve your accuracy.
Overall, I’d say there are probably 5 distinct primary rest types. Let’s take a look at them one by one to give you an idea of whether they’ll help or hinder your shooting.
Shoot-Thru Arrow Rests
These are a popular choice because they’re easy to install, and when properly tuned, they can be devastatingly accurate. Shoot-thru rests are also easy to understand, so they appeal to a lot of beginners looking to level up their first or second bow.
A simple design, the shoot-thru blueprint typically uses two prongs either side of a central cradle where the arrow sits. When loosed, the cockfletch of the arrow shoots through the gap between these two prongs, which is where it gets its name.
There are a lot of benefits of using a shoot-thru rest, but they also come with a few drawbacks, the most significant of which is the possibility of an inhibited flight path.
Certain fletchings (offset & helical) may make contact with the prongs, leading to a disturbed shot.
Furthermore, shoot-thru rests are better combined with a mechanical release system. Finger shooters, with their horizontal arrow oscillation, may experience contact between the vanes and the prongs.
One last issue is the lack of arrow containment, by which I mean that nothing is holding your arrow securely in place. A strong gust of wind could misalign your knock, leading to poor accuracy.
Containment Arrow Rests
These rests succeed where shoot-thru rests fail, as they provide a very secure cradle for your arrow, ensuring external conditions can’t compromise your alignment and aim. This makes them a favorite of bowhunters who often deal with challenging conditions.
They’re also fantastic for novice shooters who still have work to do on their form. The security of these rests allow them to work on their fundamentals without worrying too much about arrow stability.
One of the downsides of this rest is that it’s not the most forgiving, as the enhanced contact with the arrow increases the severity of technical errors. Another flaw to speak of is derived from the same core issue. The excess contact, over time, will cause fletch damage.
So, while these are the perfect rests for hunters who need to be ready to fire off a shot at any time in any conditions, they’re not great for target archers.
Here’s an example of an affordable, yet quality, containment arrow rest.
Drop Away Arrow Rests
These are similar in form and function to shoot-thru rests, having two prongs and a central cradle, but their mechanized drop away function that clears the path for a smooth release makes them the best choice for accurate target shooting.
That said, they suffer from some of the same drawbacks as the shoot-thru design, namely, the possibility of the arrow shifting whilst knocked.
Here’s my drop away rest recommendation!
Pressure (Plunger) Arrow Rests
This rest type is all about compensating for that horizontal oscillation finger shooters are constantly battling against. They’re not the most advanced bits of gear, but if you’re a consummate finger bowman, they’ll help you optimize your tune and increase your accuracy.
Needless to say, they’re not suited to mechanical releases or situations that require steadfast containment.
Specialist Arrow Rests
This is a miscellaneous grouping of arrow rests. They are each custom-made to suit a very specific type of bow/arrows, so it’s best not to invest in one until you’re absolutely sure of what you need and why.
And that’s that, folks — An arrow rest can indeed improve your accuracy; however, quality does come into play here.
Most of the time, you get what you pay for, and even though there are some fantastic affordable options out there, rests that occupy the loftier realms of the market will garner better results.