At the risk of sounding like a commercial for a cancer charity, it is very important to check your equipment regularly and not just when you think there is a problem. In this post I want to write about checking your shafts. No, seriously.
There has been debate about carbon arrows from the moment they were released. On the one hand (no pun intended) there are those who say that they can splinter, explode and leave splinters of carbon in your hand. There are others who say that this is just a scare story put about but manufacturers of aluminium arrows. What is certain is that they are lighter, thinner and faster than any other arrow material, making them the arrow of choice for the huge majority of target archers (the exception being indoor archery, where the range is so short that people would rather use fatter shafts to get more linecutters). But how safe are they?
The first point to make is that carbon splinters are rare. You will meet many archers who will tell you that they have shot carbons for x years and never had a problem. That’s great. On the other hand I’ve been driving a car for over a decade and have never had a crash. That doesn’t mean I’m getting rid of the driver’s airbag. It is still worth taking simple precautions to avoid injury, even if the chances of injury are slight.
Take a look at these photos. They show two sides of one of my Easton A/C/C arrows (an aluminium shaft with carbon shell, and one of the better arrows on the market). You can see that the carbon shell has split between the fletchings. Now, I always practise what I preach so I checked this arrow before returning it to my quiver after shooting, and in doing so I noticed these cracks. Had I not done so I suspect I would have ended up with a fairly unpleasant cut to my bow hand, even if the force of being shot didn’t cause it to splinter and fill my hand with tiny shards of carbon.
It is very rare indeed for a perfectly good arrow to break as you shoot it and damage your hand. If you shoot a damaged arrow then injury is fairly likely. This is true of any arrow material but damage to metal arrows is usually more obvious that damage to carbons and carbon splinters are rather nastier than wooden ones.
The moral of the story, therefore, is to make a habit of checking your arrows every time you put them in your quiver (or in your hand if you’re doing Hungarian). For metal, this means a quick look and feel. For wood and carbon, do that but also give it a quick twist and a gentle bend, while looking and listening for any cracks. If you’re lucky then you will never have a problem. More likely, you will at some point notice a loose feather or a damaged nock. But you just might notice something like my split carbon shell. If you do: don’t shoot it.