Traditional arrows are made of wood (cedar or pine), a flexible and resilient material still used today. Aircraft grade aluminium arrows are lighter (and therefore faster and more accurate) as well as cheap to buy. ‘Carbon’ arrows (composed of carbon fibre and aluminium) are thinner and lighter still but possess the same strength and travel the fastest with a flatter trajectory. They can cost up to six times more than aluminium arrows.
The speed of arrows depends on the draw weight of the bow, your draw length, limb material, energy profile of the bow, bowstring material, the weight of the arrow, type of fletching on the arrow and the prevailing wind conditions. Humidity and rain also slows arrow flight. The faster an arrow travels, the flatter the flight trajectory and less deviation from wind.
Recurve bow arrows can travel up to 225 feet per second (fps) or 150mph while compound bow arrows can travel up to 300fps (200mph). Longbow arrows travel slower due to the weight of the arrows. Even at 300fps, it takes around a second to reach a 90 metre target. You hear your release first followed by the thud of the arrow hitting the target a second later (you can’t see it unless you use a telescopic sight). If you didn’t hear the thud, you’ve missed the target!
Arrows don't fly in a straight line towards the target, but 'fishtail' through the air.
6. Why are arrows made of different materials and how fast can they travel?