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How to Nock an Arrow (Complete Guide)

One of the first lessons of archery and hunting is to nock an arrow. You might think what’s there to learn as all you need to do is place the arrow on the bow.

It’s not that simple! If you are not nocking the arrow correctly, you will miss the target and might even get injured!

What is nocking?

Nocking is to hold the arrow to the bow and secure it onto the string so that it does not slip upward or downward, missing the target.

If properly nocked, the arrow snaps into place itself and will move only when you shoot. At the end of the arrow, you can see a plastic part that fits onto the string.

This plastic part is below the fletchings and is there to keep the arrow attached to the string. When you press it against the bowstring, a ‘click’ sound will tell you that the arrow is nocked.

How to nock an arrow?

When picking up an arrow, always hold it from the shaft between the nock and the fletchings. This is the end of the arrow, and this hold helps you place the arrow swiftly on the string.

Now position the bow so it faced downwards and placed the arrow shaft onto the arrow rest. The head of the arrow is extended beyond the bow.

The fletchings have three vanes, two similar ones are called hens, and the different one is called cock. As you position the arrow, keep the cock vane facing outward, away from the bow.

This positioning is important as if the cock vane is inwards, the arrow will hit the riser as it leaves the bow, and you will miss the target.

For compound bows, the positioning of the arrow is different as the mechanism is more advanced. The nocking method described here is for crossbows and recurve bows.

Once the vanes are in place, you can snap the arrow against the string to keep it intact. On the bowstring, two plastic beads are called nock locators.

Your arrow has to be fitted onto the string between these locators so that the correct force of the string applies to the arrow as you release.

Sometimes beginners and young archers get intimidated by how easily mature archers nock their arrows without really looking at it even! Everyone has a different way to nock their arrow but believe me, they all started this way.

As you become more seasoned at the game, your style of nocking the arrow will become fine, and you will be able to place the vanes correctly without even looking directly at them.  

Tips to nock the arrow

Many small tips make it easier and faster to nock the arrow. Just as you marvel at mature archers when they nock their arrows without paying too much attention, these tips will help you improve the game and become a pro.

Nock sizes

Just like bowstrings are of various sizes, the nock sizes are different too. The correct nock size will be according to the bowstring thickness so the arrow can ‘snap’ into place.

If the nock is too small, the fitting will be tight, reducing the force with which the arrow shoots out of the bow. Similarly, if you don’t hear a snap and the arrow does not ‘fit’ the string at the nock, then your arrow’s nock is too big.

The ideal nocking will cause a click sound so that you know that your arrow is holding on to the string.

Center serving maintenance

When the bow is strung on the bow properly, you will notice the additional space on your string that is between the nock locators.

The two plastic beads that we talked about are the upper and lower borders of the center serving. This place is where you nock the arrow.

Over time this portion of the bowstring wears out, but if you keep rotating the string and keep different sectors of the string as center serving, this will not happen.


Nocking an arrow seems like an easy task, but there are short steps to ensure that you hold the arrow on the bow so that it does not move and move away from the target.

Practice nocking the arrow this way a couple of times, and you will feel that you are closer to becoming a pro!


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