What is a Nock in Archery? +Why they’re Important!

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Of all the parts of your arrow, the nock may seem to be the simplest. Appearing to be nothing more than a simple grooved piece of plastic, beginners to archery could be forgiven for overlooking the nock completely when examining an arrow for the first time. Despite its unassuming appearance, however, the nock on any arrow plays an absolutely crucial role in its functioning.

Nocks are what allow your arrow to slot into the bowstring and achieve maximum accuracy when shot. Without nocks, we would seriously struggle to hit just about any target or even shoot effectively at all. This article covers the basics of arrow nocks, the different types of nocks, as well as providing some guidance on maintaining and replacing your nocks.  

What is the Nock and What is it Used for?

The nock on your arrow has a simple but crucial role; it’s what allows your bow string to properly get purchase on the arrow, which is vital for your shot. Nocks allow for the transfer of momentum and power from the bowstring through the arrow, propelling it to the target. You’ll know an arrow is properly nocked when you feel it click into the bowstring.

Most nocks are made from plastic, keeping them both lightweight and durable. There are a number of different types of nocks on the market, as well as a range of different sizes to choose from. The functionality of these varies, as well as their practicality.

Different Types of Arrow Nocks

Nocks can be made from different materials, and there are also multiple types of nocks which function differently from one another.

Conventional nocks are made to use with aluminium shafts that have a swage at one end. Conventional nocks can be tightened onto the arrow shaft by hand, or you can attach them with specialized glue.

Overnocks are a type of nock that are generally used with carbon arrows. You attach overnocks by sliding them over the end of the arrow shaft into the nock. Overnocks come in a range of different sizes and fit most carbon arrow shafts.

Pin nocks are less accessible than the other types of nocks, but are often preferred by competitive archers due to their superior accuracy when shot and the fact that they are effective at protecting the arrow shaft from being damaged by other arrows. Pin nocks slot onto an aluminium pin which is mounted on the end of the arrow shaft.  

Press-fit nocks are perhaps the most widely used type of nock. Like the name suggests, you can place them onto the arrow shaft by pressing them onto the end, and they don’t require glue to stay in place. They can also be removed with relative ease.   

Arrow nock types - pin, overnock and press-fit
Arrow nock types – pin, overnock and press-fit

Another aspect of nocks that is important to understand is their groove sizing. The groove sizing that a nock has determines the kind of bowstrings your arrow will fit onto. Smaller groove sizings are made for thinner bowstrings, which you can mostly expect to find on lower-poundage recurve bows.

Nocks with larger groove sizings, on the other hand, are suited for use with thicker bowstrings like you’ll generally find on compound bows and higher-poundage recurve bows. So, if you’re buying a type of nock that you haven’t used before, it’s generally a good idea to try to try them out beforehand and see if they fit your bowstring properly.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that crossbow bolts utilize different kinds of nocks to arrows, too. So, if you predominantly shoot crossbows, then you should familiarize yourself with flat nock, half moon, and omni-nocks, which are the kinds you’ll find on crossbow bolts.

Crossbow nock types, flat. omni and half moon
Crossbow nock types – flat. omni and half moon

Maintaining and Replacing Arrow Nocks

Take care of your nocks and you’ll get both the best possible performance and greatest lifespan out of them. Given that nocks do experience a good deal of wear and tear as you use them, you’ll likely need to replace your nocks at some stage if you practice archery often.

It’s good practice to inspect your nocks before shooting for cracks or other visual signs of degradation. You should also be aware of performance issues that might suggests that your nocks need to be replaced; for example, struggling to get the nock to properly attach to the bowstring, or dry fire.

If you notice issues such as these and suspect your arrow nock may be the culprit, then we recommend that you look into replacing them. You can order replacement nocks and either replace them yourself or get them replaced at a professional archery shop.  

Nocks may look small and unassuming, but they play an absolutely crucial role in the success of your shot. Understanding and maintaining them properly is an essential part of archery.

Hi there! I'm a passionate bowman and a fan of all target sports in general. You'll often find me at my local archery and shooting ranges honing my skills.

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