Hop on your favorite internet hunting forum, podcast, or YouTube channel and you are likely to come across bowhunters debating arrow setups and advocating for high front-of-center arrows, often abbreviated to FOC. Trends come and go in the archery world, but this one has been a trendy subject for quite some time, dividing the community as much as the classic mechanical versus fixed-blade broadhead debate. Some archers will swear that high-FOC arrows fly better and penetrate deeper, while others argue that it’s all hype. So, the million-dollar question is, who’s right?
What is Front-of-Center? For those unfamiliar with front of center, this concept refers to how much of an arrow’s weight is located in the front half of the arrow. To calculate an arrow’s FOC percentage you can hop on the internet and use an FOC calculator but the equation is fairly simple:
First measure the length of your arrow from the throat of the nock (the inside corner of the groove that connects to the string) to the end of the arrow shaft and divide by two to find the exact center.
Next, find the balancing point of the arrow. This is the point on the arrow where you can balance it horizontally on your finger.
After finding this balance point, measure from that spot to the throat of the nock.
Next, subtract the exact center measurement in step one from the balance point measurement. Multiply the result by 100.
Finally, divide the resulting number by the arrow’s overall length. This number is the FOC.
You can increase or decrease your FOC by changing arrow length, arrow grains per inch (GPI), point weight, and the weight of your fletchings and nock. High FOC generally results from increasing your point weight by adding a heavier insertor bumping up your field point or broadhead weight. This can also be accomplished by adding external components like half-outs, out-serts, weights, or impact collars. Another option is to shoot a lighter arrow which makes your point weight proportionately higher than the rest of the arrow shaft. If choosing this route, be careful to stick with the correct arrow spine for your bow.
Benefits of High FOC Many archers explain FOC using the example of a string tied to a rock. When you throw the rock, the string simply follows because the rock has much more mass and will dictate where the string ends up. Advocates of high FOC compare the arrow’s point weight to the rock and the string to the fletching half of the arrow. In theory, your arrow’s flight will be dictated by the heavy point weight and therefore will be less affected by opposing forces such as wind, brush, and bones. This theory also lends to the believe that a high FOC will also increase penetration, which also generally results from shooting a heavier arrow.
For additional insight on the subject, I talked with Bill Vanderheyden, co-founder and lead engineer at Iron Will Outfitters.
“Add more mass and it will make your bow easier to tune,” Vanderheyden said. “Slow, heavy mass is a better deal all the way around; it’s going to be easier to tune and it will maintain momentum downrange to get through that animal. I find a good balance is 150-175 [grains] up front, total arrow weight of maybe 450 to 550 [grains] is a great range for hunting in general. With my 70-pound bow I’ve got 160 to 175 [grains] up front, 500-grain total arrow weight, and my FOC is around 15%.”
High FOC Drawbacks While high FOC has many attributes that work in your favor, it comes at a price. Increasing your FOC often goes hand in hand with shooting a heavier, slower arrow. While the emphasis on speed has ebbed and flowed over the years, it’s still something to keep in mind. If your shooting skillset allows you to ethically shoot longer distances, misjudging the shot distance by a couple yards makes a huge difference when it comes to slow, parabolic arrow trajectories.
“It’s hard to have a high FOC and have a good long-range trajectory,” Vanderheyden said. “I wouldn’t go below maybe 12%. A lot of my setups are in the 14 to 16% range. I’ve talked with many long-range target shooters and they don’t typically go over 16% because, at that point, you get a nose-diving effect. I’m typically trying to hit around 280 feet per second. I don’t see any reason to go 290 FPS or above.”
High FOC Verdict Is high FOC overrated? The classic answer is: it depends. Each archer’s setup and situation is different. Some people have long draw lengths, can shoot high poundage bows, and can use as much FOC as they want without paying a huge price in arrow speed. Those with short draws and lighter draw weight need to consciously balance the pros and cons.
Are you hunting field edges or other scenarios that will allow you time to range the animal? How far do you realistically plan to shoot? Do you hunt in thick timber, or do you hunt out West where you may be presented with longer shot distances? The best answer to this question is to build a few arrows and test the results yourself, evaluating things like wind drift, penetration, and arrow trajectory.
Feature image via Captured Creative.