The laws of physics dictate that what goes up (or forward, for that matter), must come down. But how does this relate to crossbow arrows, exactly? Let’s find out. Also, make sure to check out our Kinetic Energy Chart for considerably more useful hunting information.
Crossbow Arrow Drop – Testing Method
In order to figure out exact crossbow arrow drop, we ran a series of extensive tests, conducted by ballistics professional of 30+ years and avid archer/hunter Kim Lockhart of GunnersDen.com, using more than a dozen different crossbows. Arrow weight and crossbow configurations were manipulated to achieve varying shooting speeds, ranging from as low as 200 FPS all the way up to 400 FPS. The crossbows were sighted in at 10 yards (due to indoor shooting range size limitations and because the goal was to get as many readings past zero as possible) and then multiple arrows were shot at each different speed setting. The actual arrow drop was then manually measured at 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 yards for each shooting speed configuration. Based on the results of these tests, the interactive chart below was created.
The chart below, the values displayed within it, and the research conducted is copyrighted material and is the property of www.bestcrossbowsource.com. You are welcome to share it, as long as you mention our website as the original source of the data / research.
How Can The Arrow Drop Values In Our Chart Help You?
The numbers above should help you stay aware of how important proper arrow selection is to keeping your shots on point, and how important re-sighting your crossbow is when switching between arrows of different weights. As a general rule, assume a 1 (one) FPS shooting speed difference for every 5 grain of arrow weight difference – the heavier the arrows, the lower the FPS, and vice versa.
1st Arrow Drop Example: You’ve been shooting 400 grain arrows at a speed of 300 FPS. You decide to try out some new, heavier, expandable broadheads, thereby increasing the weight of your arrows to a total of 450 grain – a 50 grain increase. Since there’s an approx. 1 FPS difference per 5 grain arrow weight difference, the 50 grain difference will translate to a 10 FPS difference (50 / 5 = 10). This means that your new arrow’s initial speed will be 290 instead of 300 FPS. Let’s take a quick look below and compare arrow drop between a 290 FPS and a 300 FPS shooting speed:
At up to 25 yards, the difference is barely noticeable. At 30 yards, however, there is a somewhat noticeable difference of 0.8″ in drop. At 35 yards, we’re looking at a full 1″ difference. At 40 yards the difference is 1.6″. And at our maximum test range of 50 yards there is close to a 3″ difference – quite a noticeable one. So if you were not to re-sight your crossbow, thinking that arrow drop difference between 400 and 450 grain would be particularly non-existent, you would find yourself with a noticeably smaller margin for error when trying to hit the vitals of an average sized whitetail deer should you need to take a 40+ yard shot.
Things get much worse the bigger the difference is, though. Let’s demonstrate this with another example:
2nd Arrow Drop Example:
So your crossbow has been shooting your 400 grain arrow at 300 FPS. Your friend tells you about these great new carbon shafts and expandable broadheads. Total weight of the new arrow: 500 grain. The 100 grain difference means a 20 FPS increase in initial flight speed (100 / 5 = 20). So we’re looking at 280 FPS instead of 300 FPS. Let’s see what our chart says will happen:
This time at 30 yards the arrow drop difference is 1.7″, at 40 yards that difference is 3.4″, and a huge 5.7″ at the 50 yard mark. The difference gets even more devastating as FPS differences increase, just play around with the charts above to compare the various settings and get a feel for what you’re up against.
Conclusions And Considerations Based On These Test Results
#1: Sight-in distance: as mentioned earlier, our crossbows were sighted in at 10 yards – a fairly short range – to allow for the collection of the most varied arrow drop readings. You’ll probably be sighting your crossbow at 20 yards; this will roughly mean that you need to off-set all of our readings from the charts above by 10 yards.
So if you’are sighted in at 20 yards, your arrow drop at 30 yards will be very close to the 20 yard readings in our chart. And at 40 yards, it will be close to our 30 yard readings. And so on – you’ll always be 10 yards “ahead” of us, up to a maximum of 60 yards (which will correspond to our 50 yard readings).
#2: Re-sight with even minor speed changes: whenever your crossbow shooting speed changes, be it due to using a heavier arrow, a different crossbow configuration (new dampeners, , string wear over time etc., you should re-sight your crossbow. As a general rule, try to re-sight whenever there is a difference of 10 FPS or more. If you are planning on experimenting with different arrow shafts and broadheads often, and/or if you’re planning on doing lots of tuning for your crossbow, buying a digital chronograph will save a you a lot of time with the re-sighting process in the long run.
#3: Scope quality is very important on “slower” crossbows: as you’ve learned from our charts, the faster your crossbow shoots, the less drop will the arrow experience. For instance:
– The 30 yard arrow drop will be 13.3″ for a 280 FPS arrow…
– But only 6.5″ for a 400 FPS arrow.
This means that the less FPS your crossbow can deliver, the more dependent your accuracy will be on the quality of the scope, as even the slightest misalignment or stability issues will cause highly erratic arrow behavior. So if you end up buying a slow crossbow (some deals are just too hard to resist!), investing a little more in a quality scope will make a big difference to your enjoyment of the sport.
#4: The further it flies, the faster it drops: taking the 350 FPS crossbow as an example, you’ll notice that an arrow drops 8.5″ between the 10 and 30 yard marks (20 yards distance), but over the next 20 yards (from the 30 to 50 yard mark) drops by another 19.8″, to a total of 28.3″ drop.
Because of this it is always a good idea to take most of your hunting shots from 40 yards or less whenever possible, thereby reducing your chance of a miss due to minor scope misalignment or unexpected weather conditions and sudden wind shifts. This is particularly important if you’re using a slower and/or lower quality crossbow, so make sure to check out our crossbow reviews and rankings before you make a purchase.