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Arrow Rest Buyer's Guide
written by Alyssa Haukom

One of the most integral pieces of equipment for all bow setups is a rest.
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The Flipper rests were the first rests to use a folding arm design.

Simple or sophisticated, rests are essential equipment for any bow setup.


As you outfit your new bow, making equipment selections that will enhance your shooting and hunting, you'll find numerous products available -- some essential items and others optional.  One of the most integral pieces of equipment for all bow setups is a rest; a device that holds your arrow securely in the center-shot position as you draw and release.  Finding a reliable and accurate rest that fosters consistency in arrow flight is of utmost importance and a key factor in your shooting or hunting success.


Rests run as inexpensive as ten dollars for the simply designed and quickly attached "Flipper" rests, to the most sophisticated and expensive new "Drop Away" rests, costing as much as a hundred dollars.  The Flipper rests were the first arrow rests to use a simple folding arm design to guide the arrow's flight. They have minimal fletching contact and foster a flat trajectory.  Mounting could potentially be a problem, as their simple design often has a simple adhesive backing to connect it to the riser, adhesive that could be jeopardized in bad weather.  Better Flipper rests will mount on a cushion-plunger.  Though these are seen by some as old-fashioned our outdated, they are still a very effective rest, especially for finger shooters.


Regardless of what amount you're willing to spend, look for these features:

  • Easy and quick attachment and setup for shooting
  • Right or left handed models
  • Lightweight
  • Easy tuning adjustability, with windage (horizontal) and elevation (vertical) tuning marks for added ease

In particular, be certain the model chosen will work effectively with the type of arrow you shoot (aluminum or carbon), the diameter of your arrow, and its weight. 


A heavy helical fletch on an arrow can cause serious clearance problems on prong rests.

Additionally, some models are engineered specifically for either finger or release shooters, so be certain to double-check the specifications of the model you're considering.


These are the three main categories of rests you'll find on the market today:


Prong or Shoot-through Rests


As the name suggests, these rests resemble a "two-pronged fork' which holds the arrow between the two pieces with minimal arrow contact,  and allows for good fletching clearance in the gap.  These tend to be the most popular, invariably for their ease of use, quick tuning, and reasonable price.  Because they've been around so long, shooters seem less intimidated by their use than the newer rests available.  One drawback commonly encountered by hunters is the noise resulting when an arrow is drawn back against the metal prongs.  Easily remedied, the sound disappears when Teflon tubing, shrink tubing, or Teflon liquid is attached to the prongs. 


Care should be used to monitor fletching clearance and to adjust the rest accordingly or even switching to a straighter fletch design.  For best clearance, spread the prongs as far apart as possible, while still maintaining good arrow support. A heavy helical fletch on an arrow can cause serious clearance problems on prong rests.


Cradle rests are wonderful for stalking or hunting in less than perfect conditions.

Cradle Rests


These types of rests encircle your arrow completely or incorporate fins or prongs on multiple sides to encapsulate and securely hold your arrow in place in any shooting position.  Quick to install and tune, these rests are wonderful for stalking or hunting in less than perfect conditions.  Criticisms focus on the excessive contact with the arrows and its feathers or vanes, possibly causing considerable arrow flex problems in tuning.  Generally, the more contact an arrow has, the more potential "fishtailing" or "porpoising" the arrow can have.  Despite these concerns, manufacturers maintain that fletching will pass easily thru the bristles or foam holders for effective and accurate shooting. 


Drop-Away or Fall-Away Rests


In stark contrast to the Cradle rests, the new Drop-Aways's have virtually no contact with the fletching or arrow upon release, meaning little or no flexing problems, no arrow drag and no friction.  With Drop-Aways, there shouldn't be any fletch clearance problems.  These rests are engineered to "fall away" from the drawn arrow after release.


Drop-Away rests offer zero arrow drag and rarely an fletch clearance problems.

This means less contact, resulting in less tuning problems. They easily allow for shooting a heavy helical fletch unlike the prong rests.


A drawback for some Drop-Away models is the increased setup time due to their sophisticated design features, a factor some shooters and hunters like to avoid, in favor of simplicity in setup and in the field. Many hunters fear high-tech designs because the more complicated designs have more parts that can loosen, jam, break, or cause noise.  


Manufacturers are constantly introducing easy to install Drop-Aways, so this factor is diminishing as a concern as new product features emerge. Once set up, further tuning should be minimal due to their design. The increased features and advanced technology incorporated also lends itself to increased expense, making the Drop-Aways the priciest on the market.




To begin with, it's important to first follow the mounting instructions provided by the arrow rest manufacturer.  A Center-shot gauge will aid in aligning your arrow rest for center shot positioning.


Tuning generally requires the use of a wrench, which is included with the rest, or requires no tools at all, a nice feature for bowhunters who may need to make adjustments in the field.   Adjustments may need to be made horizontally or vertically to guarantee straight arrow flight.  Paper tuning is an ideal method to use for fine-tuning and for those unaware of the proper procedure, it would be wise to obtain the help of an experienced archer or pro shop. 


Any of these three rest styles can be effective for hunting or target shooting, just use your personal preference and shooting requirements as your guide in choosing which model is right for you.  Seek out a well-designed rest with easy tuning features for accurate shooting.


Spend some time researching the rest you're interested in, considering how and where you'll use your bow and what features are most important, and rest assured you'll find a device that'll be effective and reliable for your particular bow use.

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