A Complete Guide To Arrow Rests

A Complete Guide To Arrow Rests

It can be surprising how the simplest archery accessories, such as arrow rests, can affect your shot accuracy. As minor as it seems, arrow rests play a crucial part in getting your shot to hit right. They play an important role in ensuring you can properly and safely fire your arrows.

Bad arrow rests, or ones not properly installed, can lead to porpoising and fishtailing, both of which could prevent your shot from hitting the target. Hence the importance and peculiarities of the various arrow rest options available.

What Are Arrow Rests?

Arrow rests are archery accessories that connect to the bow and support the arrow throughout the process of aiming and firing. The name gives away its purpose because the arrow rests on them during this process. It holds your arrow in place all through the shooting process until it is eventually fired. Though it performs a very simple function, it comes in a variety of options and can be made of plastic, metal, or aluminum.

What Is the Point of Arrow Rests?

Arrow rests are more than a place where the arrow passes its time. Their presence or absence has an impact on your bow as well as your shooting accuracy.

For archers that use the recurve bow, it might seem natural to shoot off the bow shelf because they seem to serve a similar purpose. However, it is advisable to use an arrow rest for more comfort and accuracy and to reduce the wear on your bow

On the other hand, if you use a compound bow, choosing not to use an arrow rest will reduce the quality of your shot.

Types of Arrow Rests

Arrow rests can be classified according to various properties. It could be the material they are made of, how they work or the way they are attached to the bow. In this article, we will divide them into two large groups: compound bow rests and recurve bow rests.

Compound Bow Rests

Compound bows are highly sophisticated and use very modern technology. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that their arrow rest come in sophisticated options, each with its own design and mechanism, as will be discussed below.

  • Launcher Rests

This is the most basic design of compound bow arrow rests. Launcher rests are designed to provide raised support for the arrow. Its simple design ensures the arrow experiences minimal contact (friction) while you are taking a shot. The rest has a blade that is shaped like a forked tongue where the arrow rests. It is commonly used in target archery but not advisable for bowhunting, especially if you’ll be shooting at odd angles. This is because the arrow can easily fall off during hunting.

  • Containment Rests

This is also called whisker biscuit arrow rest. It is designed to encapsulate the arrow and secure it in place, so it doesn’t fall off - solving the issue peculiar to launcher rests. The containment rest is more suited for bowhunting as it keeps the arrow in place even when you have to lean at odd angles. The material also ensures no noise is produced as you set the arrow. There is, however, a reduction in accuracy with this type of compound arrow rest. While the full containment these rests offer provides full support for the arrow, it also means more contact for the arrow and fletching, which can introduce shot inconsistencies.
  • Drop-Away Rests

Drop-away rest can be seen as a technological combination of the pros of the other compound bow arrow rests mentioned above. By retracting when the arrow is fired, these rests provide full containment without affecting the quality of your shots. This ensures there is no contact with the arrow. Drop away rests can either be limb-driven or cable-driven - the difference being where they attach to the bow. Both work by lifting the rest as you draw back your bow by physical changes to the bow limbs or cables. The biggest downside to these rests, however, is their complexity. Their setup and tuning can be a little tricky, but they are, by far, the most accurate option on our list.

Recurve Arrow Rests

Recurve rests generally have a simpler and less sophisticated appearance and mechanism. Most of them even work in a similar manner. There are four main arrow rest options for recurve archery available on the market:

  • Shelf Rests

A shelf rest is the most basic type of recurve arrow rest and is a good alternative to shooting from your bow shelf. These rests are installed by simply attaching a material to the shelf. Material can either be felt or rug, providing a surface for your arrow to rest and protecting the arrow shelf from the wear that occurs when your arrow constantly rubs on your bow.

  • Stick-On Rests

This type of rest is applied by simply fixing it to the bow with the aid of tape or adhesive glue. They are mostly plastic and quite affordable. Stick-on rests consist of a small prong that extends to provide support for your arrows. It is a convenient option for archers with recurve bows that are not drilled to accommodate a screw-in rest.

  • Screw-In Rests

The screw-in rest is similar to the stick-on rest, except it actually screws into your recurve bow, making it much more accurate and durable. It is an improvement from the stick-on rest and is installed with the aid of a screw. Compared to the stick-on option, these types of arrow rests provide more solid arrow support and are more accurate. Screw-in rests make a good option for recurve archers looking for a perfect mix of affordability, improved accuracy, and adjustability.

  • Rest & Plunger

Arrow plungers are not exactly a type of arrow rest. Instead, they are an accessory used along with an arrow rest. A plunger is essentially a small cylindrical tool screwed in just above your rest. It consists of a spring and horizontally contacts your arrow. Arrow plungers are specifically designed to serve two main purposes - they help center your shots and support your arrows, as well as absorb any imperfections each time you shoot an arrow, straightening the arrow’s path as it leaves the bow.

What Arrow Rest Option Is Best For You?

It all depends on a number of factors, as shown above. To pick the ideal arrow rest, you will need to consider the type of bow you use, the price, and whether you want to go into target archery or bowhunting. 

Below are some of the main factors to look out for when considering the type of arrow rest to go for:

Degree of Arrow Retention

While it might seem obvious that arrow rests should hold your arrow, it is still important to consider how well it retains the arrow. Archers shooting in the field might not need to worry too much about this. But for hunters who will have to shoot from odd positions as they try to score a game, this is a very crucial consideration. 

Each time your arrow falls off the rest, you’ll have to let your bow down and re-draw. Although this gets annoying even for target archers, it is especially frustrating for bowhunters. While target archers can simply draw their bow and aim again, for bowhunters, the split-second it takes to re-draw their bow is enough to lose the target. 

Arrow Interference

Each time you fire an arrow, the entire arrow will pass through the arrow rest. This means there’s every possibility for the arrow to hit the rest after the shot has been fired, resulting in inaccurate shots, as the slightest contact is enough to send the arrow off course.

To keep the extent of interference to the barest minimum, manufacturers always ensure their fixed arrow rest designs are made from springy materials. However, if the rest material still hits the arrow after it is fired, its flight pattern will still be slightly affected.

For fixed arrow rests, there’s always a trade-off between the degree of arrow retention and interference. Usually, rests that retain arrows well interfere much more with the arrow flight, thus affecting shot accuracy. This means you have to weigh up both attributes when making a choice.

Ease Of Use And Maintenance

This criterion is somewhat relative to the user. The rule of thumb is that the less input required on the part of the archer, the better. This explains why many compound archers do not use a drop-away arrow rest even though it completely removes arrow interference and holds arrows firmly in place. Drop-away rests are quite complex to install and tune, making them more susceptible to break. Hence they require more expertise for appropriate use and maintenance.


While there are archers who prefer the plug-n-play option, many archers like to be in complete control. If you’re the type that prefers to have your rest adjustable in the most minuscule manner, you might want to consider getting a micro-tune rest.

Most really cheap rests don’t have any adjustability whatsoever, while inexpensive options are tuned either by loosening a hex screw or moving the arrow rest by hand. More pricey options, however, allow users to fine-tune their arrow rest with a turning dial.

We generally do not advise getting a rest that can’t be configured on all three axes. But it’s entirely left to you to decide whether or not you want to spend some extra cash on a turning nob.

Final Thoughts

As with other archery gear and accessories, arrow rests come in many great options. Regardless of your bow type, you can be sure you’ll get an arrow rest that best suits your needs. While there are many different options and considerations, the best option for you ultimately boils down to your shooting style and personal preference. Hopefully, this guide will help you make the best decision when next you go shopping for an arrow rest.