The Complete Guide to Arrow Rests

Jan 11, 2021Archery Equipment

When shooting a bow, you’ll quickly find that an arrow rest is an essential piece of equipment. An arrow rest ensures that you are able to properly and safely shoot an arrow. It’s a very important piece of gear that provides plenty of options.

What is an Arrow Rest?

So what exactly is an arrow rest and what does it do? An arrow rest is a piece of gear that connects to your bow and holds the arrow in place while shooting. The arrow rests on the arrow rest, hence its name. It holds the arrow in place throughout the entire shooting process until it is fired. While its function is very simple, there are many different types of arrow rests to choose from.

Types of Arrow Rests

There are several different types of arrow rests available. Each type of bow has its own set of arrow rests associated with it as well. Every arrow rest comes with its own unique advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a look at each type of arrow rest and see what might work best for you.

Recurve Arrow Rests

Recurve bows generally utilize very simple and basic arrow rests. Most of them function in a similar matter. However, some recurves don’t even use or need an arrow rest. They allow an archery to shoot from the arrow shelf itself. However, for more accuracy and comfort, you will want to add an arrow rest. Here are the options available:

Shelf Rest

A shelf rest is the most basic type of arrow rest used by both longbow and recurve archers. It is different from other rests as it’s generally fabric material placed on the bow itself than a standalone arrow rest. To put it simply, a shelf rest is material that helps protect the arrow shelf and provides a surface for the arrow to rest. The most commonly used material is felt.

Another commonly used material is called a rug. This is very similar to felt, although it’s thicker and provides a little more protection. Some archers even use the soft side of a piece of velcro for a shelf rest. For a very traditional look, you can even use animal hair for a shelf rest. This is the most simple type of arrow rest and can be used on certain recurves and longbows.

Stick-On Rest

Stick-on rests are very simple and function exactly how they sound. These rests simply stick on to a recurve bow via double-sided tape or other adhesive. They come in a variety of different styles and are very affordable.

The design consists of a small arm or prong that extends to support your arrow. Many archers opt to use a stick-on rest if their recurve is not drilled to accept a screw-in rest. This provides them with a consistent arrow rest that can be used with either vanes or feathers.

Screw-In Rest

Screw-in rests are similar to stick-on rests except they actually screw into your recurve bow. This makes them much more durable and accurate. This is a step up from the stick-on rest for recurve bows as they provide solid and secure arrow support. Their design is similar to stick-on rests with the use of a small arm or prong for the arrow to rest upon. Screw-in rests are a great, affordable option for archers looking for improved accuracy and adjustability.

Rest & Plunger

The last option for recurves is the rest and plunger design. Arrow plungers are not necessarily a type of rest, but rather an accessory to be used along with a rest. A plunger is a small cylinder that screws in above your arrow rest. It contains a spring and contacts your arrow horizontally. These plungers serve two main purposes. First, they help center the shot and support your arrow. Second, they help to absorb any arrow imperfections when the arrow is shot. Arrows flex when shot and a plunger absorbs any inconsistencies from lateral flex, giving it a straight path as it leaves your bow.

Compound Arrow Rests

Compound bows use much more modern technology, so it’s no surprise that their arrow rests do the same. Compound bow arrow rests are very different from recurve bow rests. Each rest has it’s own design and application which we’ll cover below.

Launcher Rests

Launcher rests are the most basic type of compound bow arrow rest. These rests are made up of two prongs or a single blade that sticks up to support your arrow. This very simple design helps to minimize contact with the arrow and is extremely reliable and affordable. The downside, however, is that the arrow can easily fall off of the rest as the bow is tilted. Launcher rests are best suited for the target shooters. If you are a hunter and will be shooting at odd angles, you will be better suited with one of the other options here on our list.

Containment Rests

Containment rests were designed to solve the issue of launcher rests, by providing full containment and support for the arrow. When your arrow is on a containment rest, it fully encapsulates and prevents it from falling off the rest. There are no moving parts and your arrow is fully contained at all times.

These rests are perfect if you’re moving around with a nocked arrow or shooting at odd angles, making them a great option for hunting. While they are great for hunting, they are not great for perfect accuracy. Full containment of the arrow means the arrow and fletching have more contact with the rest, which can introduce inconsistencies. However, they are very easy to use and affordable, which makes them a good option.

Drop Away Rests

Last but not least, we have drop away rests. These rests are the most technologically advanced rests and by far the most accurate. I’ve been shooting a drop away rest for a number of years and it performs well for me. These rests usually offer full containment but drop away from the arrow upon release. This means nothing is touching the arrow as it clears the riser, allowing for much more accuracy.

There are two basic types of drop away rests, limb driven and cable-driven. The difference between the two is where they connect to the bow. Both work to lift the rest as you draw back by physical changes to the limbs or cables.. Limb driven is connected to your bow’s limbs, while a cable-driven drop away functions thanks to your bow’s cables. The biggest downside to drop away rests are their complexity. They can be a little tricky to set up and tune, but they offer the most accuracy out of any other rest in this list.


As you can see, the archery industry offers plenty of great options for arrow rests. It does not matter what type of bow you are using, you are sure to find an arrow rest that fits your needs. After you figure out what type of arrow rest might work best for you, the next step is to get plenty of practice with it!

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