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How Tight Should An Arrow Nock Be?

Archery arrow nock fit

A proper arrow fit on the bowstring is an often overlooked part of bow accuracy and speed. So how tight should an arrow nock be? It should: 1. The arrow should hold on the bow string by itself.  2. Rotate freely on the bowstring. 3. Can be taped off with two fingers.

See below for more detail on how to check it and why proper arrow nock fit is important.

Too tight of a nock fit, and the arrow pulls against the bow string upon release and energy is lost.

A tight fit can also cause an inconsistent release from the bow string, thus effecting accuracy. Trying to tune your bow is also harder, as an improper nock fit will distort the tuning results.

Extra wear on the bow string serving and excess noise is also affected by a tight fit.

Too loose a nock fit and the arrow can fall off the string easily. Picture this, you spot a trophy of a life time and you go to draw back, the arrow half falls off the string making a clatter, scaring the game away.

Also a very loose nock may cause the arrow to fall off before releasing, thus dry firing the bow.


Finer points on checking, how tight should an arrow nock be?

So how do you check for proper nock fit? It doesn’t matter if you shoot a recurve, longbow or compound bow with or without a D-loop rope, this simple method will indicate if arrow nock fit is correct.


arrow nock fit archery

1. Nock the arrow on the bow string.
Place the bow horizontal. The arrow should hang and hold its own weight and stay on the string. This will check that the fit is firm enough. If it falls off the string the by itself, the nock is too loose.

Archery hot to adjust arrow nock

2. Rotate the string back and forward with the bow still horizontal. The arrow should not rotate left and right with the string but hang vertical. This will check that the throat of the nock is wide enough.



3. Last step is to lightly tap the nock and it should release the arrow from the string. This will test that the nock groove (slit) is not too tight of a fit. Some bowhunters prefer a slightly firmer nock fit than target archers.


Adjusting arrow nock fit and three ways not to do it!

There are a few techniques to get the correct fit. Let’s look at some various ways to achieve proper nock fit, some good and some not recommended.

Some archers use a nail file or emery board to enlarge the nock, this is a very inconsistent way.  As to file down 12 arrow nocks precisely the same as one another is a tall order.

Another way is to try a pry open the groove of the nock, but this method is also prone to being inaccurate and can damage the nock.

One more so called remedy is to dip the plastic arrow nock in boiling water and then placing them on the string in a hope they will expand the fit. This also a hit or miss for precision and depending on the type of plastic / construction may or may not work, as well could damage the integrity of the nock. Making it a possible dangerous method, that shouldn’t be used.


So what is the best way to ensure proper arrow fit?

With the wide range of brands of plastic arrow knocks and models, changing nocks is one simple answer.

arrow nock sizes

There are two basic sizes (I am not talking about the part of the nock shank that inserts into the arrow shaft.) when it comes to arrow nocks, small size .088 (2.24mm) and large size .098 (2.5mm).

Beiter nocks have three different sizes.

If your nock is too loose, you might be able to build up the serving with dental floss and a light smear of glue. Important do not apply the glue directly to the string in case too much glue comes out and the bow string fibers absorb the glue.  Place a drop of glue on needle and apply that to the dental floss.

Besides changing nocks, the other best way to get a perfect arrow nock fit is to reserve your bowstring.

With a wide variety of serving sizes and quality materials from BCY and Brownell, it is easy to get the correct size diameter serving for your nocks.

Sometimes the bowstring is just too darn big, this is especially common with cheap quality mass produced Dacron strings.  Even if reserved with smaller diameter serving, these strings are generally too thick.

There is no use getting a $1200 dollar bow, $150 dollar arrows and putting a poor quality $7.00 dollar bow string on that doesn’t fit the arrow properly. So don’t be afraid to spend some money on a better quality fitting bow string.


Pinching on the arrow and bowstring.

Another factor in ensuring accuracy is avoiding nock pinch.  Nock pinch occurs when the top and bottom nock sets, squash the arrow nock from above and below at full draw. (Or fingers placed to close together on bowstring and arrow.)

Regardless of set up and shooting style, release aid device, or finger release, nock pinch can happen. Even with a D-Loop, tied in double nock sets, or brass nock sets if they are too close together it can pinch the arrow.

Short axle to axle bows are more susceptible to the arrow pinching because of the steeper string angles.

Too tight can also cause the arrow to be pushed of the bow string as the angle, especially with metal/ brass nock sets, or short arrow nock designs.

To minimize arrow pinch, allow about 1/16 inch or so, (About 1 to 2mm.) between the seated arrow nock and nocking locators, depending on your set up.

Too much gap and the arrow can be placed on the string differently from one shot to the other, causing poor accuracy and tuning issues.


Click on, Nocking Points & D Loop Set Ups for more information.

For more information on bowstrings and FAQ, click on, Bowstrings



Should arrow nocks be glued in?

No, they shouldn’t be glued to the shaft. As you can twist the arrow nock on the shaft to get the best clearance for the fletching through the arrow rest.

By gluing the arrow nock, you can’t rotate the arrow shaft for clearance through the rest.


How far back should fletching be from nock?

Around an inch is a general rule. Although you can move the fletching up and down the shaft a little bit more either way.

For barebow shooters, you might use the fletching as an extra anchor point or reference. As an example if you are shooting three fingers under and have a high check anchor point, when the fletching touches your nose, you are at full draw. The location of the fletching might be an inch and a half from the arrow nock.


How does nock pinch affect arrow flight?

Too tight nock pinch will badly affect the arrow when released from the bowstring.


Conclusion – How tight should an arrow nock be?

To summarize a proper arrow nock fit, the best fitting is a “Goldilocks” nock fit, that is, not too tight, not too loose, just right.

Make sure you can tap the arrow off, with a tap. This will be the best fit for getting the most out of your bow and accuracy.