Penetration is a crucial element to consider when choosing an arrow. There are many theories out there concerning which arrow has the best penetration performance. There are also many factors that contribute to the overall penetration of the arrow such as draw weight and length, arrow weight, broadhead type, kinetic energy (KE), and front of center (FOC). While each of these factors are essential to consider and deserve discussion, in this article I am going to focus solely on diameter and type of arrow.
Last year I came across the Victory Armor Piercing (VAP) arrow from Victory. I was actually caught off guard by the extremely thin diameter of the arrow, as well as the outsert design for the broadhead versus an insert design. These were two issues I had never experimented with before. The theory behind this type of design is that because the diameter of the outsert attachment to the broadhead is wider than the rest of the arrow it reduces the amount of drag on the arrow shaft as it penetrates the tissue of an animal. In other words, the initial hole made upon penetration is larger than the shaft of the arrow that follows. The VAP insert is a patented design that Victory has named the Penetrator.
The tapered design of the Penetrator insert is made to fit perfectly flush with the arrow, and the wide end of the insert fits uniformly with the broadhead. The arrow is made with carbon composite fibers. The inserts come in two sizes, 5/16 which is 43 grains, and 9/32 which is 33 grains. The spine is available in .250, .300, .350, .400, .500, .600, .700, and .800.
Another key point in the design of the arrow and insert/outsert combination, is that they suggest to cut the arrow an inch shorter than your normal arrow. The outsert is exactly one inch longer than the arrow. This design should actually improve FOC because of the extra weight of the outsert, thereby increasing accuracy.
There are many variables that come into play when testing penetration of an arrow. My testing was limited to two of my bows and my husbands bow. We compared our current arrow set up with the VAP.
My bow set ups;
Mathews Z7 Extreme Mathews MR5
28 inch draw length 28 inch draw length
55 lbs. 64 lbs.
My husbands bow set up;
PSE Dream Season
28 inch draw length
Gold Tip Arrow is +/- .006” .400 = 55/75
8.2 grains per inch
Total weight was 377 grains
The VAP arrow is V1 .400 = 45/60
6.9 grains per inch
Total weigh was 377 grains
Both arrows were shot with 100 grain field tips, as well as 100 grain Shuttle T Lock broadheads.
The only fair comparison is between the two arrows of the same weight. However, after testing the two arrows of equal weights (377 grains), we added two more arrows of the same length but varying weights. They were the Black Mamba at 427 grains, and the ICS Camo hunter at 399 grains.
The targets that we shot into were a new Yellow Jacket foam target and a Glendel buck foam target. We tested these arrows at 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, and 80 yards. The 15 yard target is the length of our indoor shooting lane. The rest of the testing took place in our outdoor range that is set out to 100 yards.
My purpose of testing penetration was not to promote a specific arrow company, rather to find the best arrow for the particular hunt I was preparing for. I was getting ready for a dangerous game hunt in Africa. I was genuinely in search of a set up that would offer the most lethal results while complying with the guidelines that were required for hunting dangerous game.
The VAP arrow consistently penetrated at least five inches or more than any of the other arrows. It was not a fluke. They penetrated further time after time after time with both field tip and broadhead. I was unquestionably sold on the VAP arrows.
Another point that was very important to me is that a thinner diameter arrow has less wind drift when shot from long distances. I continually practice at long distances, as I believe it improves my ability to group tighter arrows at a closer range. We noticed a definite improvement in grouping at 80 yards with the VAP arrows in comparison to the larger diameter arrows.
There are obviously many limiting factors when testing arrow penetration. As stated above, one of the most crucial elements is to test arrows of equal weight that are tuned specifically to that bow. Other limitations include, differences in FOC, due to weighting the arrows equally, along with variation in each shot due to stance, posture, grip, etc. The only way that could be addressed is to use a mechanical launcher found at archery store, for each shot. In addition, after shooting into a new target, penetration can be affected by hitting an area previously hit. I addressed this by shooting into different areas of the target. It is virtually impossible to make testing 100% standardized, however, I attempted to remove as many variations as possible.
The VAP passed all of the target tests, but we all know that shooting into targets is not at all like shooting into the tissue of an animal, especially when hitting any type of bone. The real test would come from the actual hunting and harvesting of animals. Since switching over to VAP arrows, I have harvested several animals. Two of which were complete pass throughs, and one was a 70 yard shot that was buried completely in the animal breaking a rib on the way in.
I believe that Victory Archery hit the nail on the head when they developed a very thin diameter arrow along with an outsert design that is wider than the rest of the arrow. Their design unquestionably reduces the drag upon entrance of not only targets, but animal tissue as well. The reduction in drag inevitably leads to further penetration, which is an element that all archers are in search of.
**While I was in search of the best set up for my specific bow, I tested multiple broadheads in combination with varying arrow weights and KE, along with targets of differing materials. The results I found were not only consistent, but very unexpected. Watch for future articles that address the results I found throughout my testing.