Get to the point! Arrows pt 2: Bodkin arrows

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve already caught the first in this blog series on target arrows. If not, have a look here. This time, we’re looking at the bodkin arrow. 

The bodkin is probably the hardest arrow to imagine based only on the name. Unless you paid attention in history class, that is. That’s because it is an old name, going back to its use in the countless wars and skirmishes of the Middle Ages. It was, in fact, the name given to the head of the arrow, not the arrow as a whole.

Before being used to name arrows, bodkin was the term for a type of dagger that was first to have the square cross-section the arrows later adopted. That heavy, square head was devastating against even armored enemies. Steambow’s black bodkin arrow is not there to bring down chain-mailed cavalry, but it is capable of higher penetration than the blue target arrows.

Heavy duty when you need it

Steambow’s own interpretation of this old design comes as a hardened steel, 4-sided pyramidal tip. As with the target arrows, this is either on an aluminum shaft (10.5g), a lighter carbon arrow (9.8g), or a heavier carbon-aluminum one (14.8g). In terms of profile and aerodynamics, the bodkin arrows are as clean through the air as the target arrows since no part of the tip is wider than the shaft. However, the weight is not the same, so don’t expect the exact same trajectory.

As a rule, Steambow recommends that aluminum or light carbon arrows only be used with limb weights of 35-75 lbs. That makes the heavy carbo arrows the only advisable choice for shooters of the 90-lb Pro limbs, the 120-lb Magnum, or 150-lb Hunter limbs.

Heavy arrow, heavy hit

It is a known fact in firearms ballistics that a slower but heavier projectile will have more penetration than a faster, lighter one for the same caliber and cartridge. The same is true for arrows. The bodkin is a bit heavier, and this gives it greater penetration on target. The hardened steel head means that it can punch through tougher materials. So, while shooting a coconut with a target arrow will probably deform the tip of a target arrow or bend the shaft (if it is the aluminum one), the bodkin will likely blast through that hard outer shell.

Common alternative

The bodkins are amongst the most popular products sold on the Steambow website. The feedback has been from many that they are a common alternative to the target arrows as a day-to-day shooting arrow. On the one hand, this makes sense. They are tougher. They fly just as true as the target arrows.

However, if you decide to do this, don’t expect them to fly quite the same. They are heavier, and so, for the same force exerted by the limbs, the arrow will be flying more slowly. And since gravity starts to pull as soon as the arrow leaves the barrel, it will hit lower on a target than the target arrows. Not something you will notice at 10 or 15 meters, perhaps, with 75-lb limbs or stronger, but if you shoot 55-lb limbs at 20 meters, you’ll probably need to adjust your aim compared to shooting target arrows.

Also, if you use the standard foam target, that extra penetration will mean they are that bit harder to pull out. Users of the premium target can ignore this as however deep their arrow goes, as long as they can pinch the tail of it with two fingers, it will slide right out. Priceless.

Hard targets

A word on hard targets. Punching holes in tough materials is cool, and it is fun, but have something to catch the arrow behind it for two reasons. The first is safety: one of the rules of any shooting discipline is to know your target and what lies behind it. If you shoot some metal sheet and the bodkin arrow just sails through like it’s paper, that arrow will have to stop somewhere. The only way to be sure that nothing or no one will be hurt is to have a target to catch the arrow before it can travel any further.

The other is preserving your arrows. Your steel tips might have what it takes to split metal or coconut or other tough stuff, and the shaft will pass through, having the same diameter, but your rubber vanes do not and will not. Don’t ask how I know. Nothing will leave your bodkin arrow smooth and naked faster than shooting it through some sheet metal against a pile of wood. Yes, I found the arrow. But the vanes had “left the building.”

So, there you have it. Bodkins are a fun yet affordable arrow. They can be a replacement or alternative for target arrows (and, indeed, must be if you’re shooting the 120- or 150-lb limbs Steambow offers) if you take their flight into account. You can broaden your target materials, but you still must be vigilant regarding safety, especially when fewer materials have what ti takes to stop a bodkin in flight. Have a look at the three types of arrows on sale by looking here, and have fun.

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