Dan McCarthy’s guide to killer 3D archery arrows

For more than a decade, pro archer Dan McCarthy has been working his way onto podiums at 3D archery tournaments.

He knows what it takes to succeed at the game’s highest level.

Not surprisingly, McCarthy is meticulous about setting up all his equipment. But when it comes to his arrows, he is especially particular. And he builds his arrows with a single purpose.


“Accuracy is the most important factor, PERIOD, for any tournament shooting,” McCarthy said.

Let’s find out what McCarthy has to say about building tack-driving, 3D arrows.

LAS: What is your bow and arrow setup for the 2016 3D season?

DM: I have two bows that I’ll be using this 3D season – a Mathews Halon-X and a Mathews Chill-X. Both bows will be equipped with Axcel Achieve sights with Feather Vision 4x lenses; AAE Pro Blade Rests, AAE Hot Rodz stabilizers, my signature-series PS23 arrows by Black Eagle Arrows, High Demand Archery Grips, and I’ll be shooting a T.R.U. Ball Absolute 360 release with both bows.


LAS: What is your draw length and weight, and what is your arrow speed.

DM: My draw is 27.25 inches. I usually pull around 73 pounds. My arrows weigh approximately 370 grains, and my bows are shooting 293 feet per second.

LAS: What is it you look for in a 3D arrow?

DM: Accuracy is the most important factor, PERIOD, for any tournament shooting. Other less important, but still influential factors, include the arrow’s weight. I need to get that arrow up to speeds around 290 fps. So the arrow must be light enough to achieve those speeds. It must also be heavy enough to not exceed the 298 fps limit enforced by the tournament organization. Also important is arrow diameter. I choose the largest diameter arrow that I can shoot accurately without going so large that wind and minor form and shot execution flaws hinder my accuracy and score.

LAS: Describe your whole 3D arrow for this season.

DM: My Signature Series PS23 arrow by Black Eagle is a 23/64-inch outside diameter shaft, and I shoot a .350 spine. The shafts weigh approximately 7.9 grains per inch. My arrows are 26 inches long, they’re fletched with Flex Fletch Silent Knight Vanes, and fitted with a standard .245-inch bushing and nock, and a 120-grain point.




LAS: What’s a common mistake you see archers make in choosing a 3D arrow?

DM: Thinking that they need to use as large an arrow as possible to “cut lines.” Large diameter arrows, by simple theory, should cut more lines. However, an archer that has the tiniest form flaw or shot execution flaw, will generally lose more in minute of angle accuracy (MOA) than what they will gain from using the larger arrow.

The smaller an arrow is, the more accurate that arrow will be. Small arrows are affected less by outside factors like wind, rain, or the archer’s form and execution flaws. The best solution is choosing an arrow in the middle that’s not huge and not tiny.

LAS: When you are on a course, do you shoot one arrow over and over? Or do you rotate arrows?

DM: I always shoot one particular arrow, over and over, until it gets damaged. I number my arrows, and I start with the arrow that is numbered “1.” I only will switch to the arrow numbered “2” when No. 1 becomes damaged or compromised.



LAS: When you get to a shoot-down, how many arrows will you pick to compete with? Do you mark them in any special way to shoot in any special order? If so, why?

DM: I choose 5 arrows for my shoot-down because there’s 5 targets to shoot in the shoot down. I don’t mark them special for the shoot down; they’re already marked and numbered as I mentioned above. I don’t shoot them in a special order. Every arrow, that I bring with me to a tournament, is an arrow I’ve already tested and I’ve made sure, at home before the tournament, that it will hit behind my bow’s sight pin–if I do my job correctly.

LAS: Do you put fletchings on your arrows straight, simple offset or helical?

Fletchings can be glued to an arrow shaft in several configurations. They can be placed to run straight up and down the shaft; they can have the point end offset from the nock end to encourage the arrow to spin; or they can be curled around the fletch in a helical fashion, which is the most conducive for causing arrow spin. The flight of a spinning arrow is more stable than one that doesn’t spin.

DM: I fletch using a simple offset. I use a straight clamp and about a 1-degree offset. My reason for choosing this is to minimize the likelihood of vane contact on my rest. Generally, the more offset you use, or the stronger the helical you use, the more common it is to get fletching contact on your rest. In short, vane contact will hurt your accuracy more than strong helical fletching will help it.


LAS: Why do you use the fletchings you use?

DM: I’ve used, tested and compared all different kinds and brands of fletchings. I sound like a broken record, but the reason I use a certain vane on a certain arrow is because of ACCURACY! The Flex Fletch Silent Knight vane works incredibly well on my PS23 arrow.  The AAE Pro Max vane is also an accurate vane choice for the PS23 arrow.

LAS: Why do you use the nock system you use?

DM: I always use the heaviest-duty nock system I can – that the diameter arrow I’m using will allow. The plastic nock is the weakest link of the fully-built arrow. Choosing the strongest, most heavy-duty nock helps with accuracy. If your nocks get hit by other competitors’ arrows, the stronger nocks won’t bend as easily as smaller/thinner/weaker nocks. Arrow accuracy suffers if the nock gets hit and bends.

LAS: Why do you use the points you use?

DM: Accuracy. I shoot all different weight points. The 120-grain points shoot the best for me, and I’ll choose accuracy over speed, shape, or any other point characteristic – ALWAYS!

Follow Dan McCarthy on Facebook for more archery advice and answers.

And here’s a look at how you can custom order arrows from LAS by calling us at 800-829-7408.

Leave a Reply