On Test: Easton vs Carbon Express

Arrows are the single most important piece of equipment any archer can get. We often get distracted thinking about all the ways our riser, limbs, string, stabilisation etc. can affect the consistency of our shooting, but at the end of the day you’ll be using the same kit for every shot of a scoring round. But with arrows, every end you are shooting a different missile and hoping they will group together. This is where there are the most variables and therefore a huge advantage in getting the most consistent set possible.

For many people this justifies stretching to a high end set of arrows, and make no mistake its frighteningly easy to drop £500 on a full set. This makes it very expensive to try different makes and brands, even before you worry about choosing the correct spine! Recently I’ve been testing two premium models of arrow for target archery, read on to find out my results….

Easton X10 vs Carbon Express Nano-Pro Extreme

Since 2013 I’ve been shooting the same make of arrow for all of my competitive archery, X10s. This barrelled aluminium/carbon design has been THE standard for about two decades and they have an indisputable track record of international success. My most recent set was built in early 2017 and has been used only for competitions and tuning, since I have an older set to use for general practice.

To test against them I have been able to borrow a set of Carbon Express Nano-Pro Extremes, taken from Patrick Huston’s Olympic set in 2016. These are a parallel, all-carbon design which have three different stiffness “zones” along the arrow, with the stiffest part in the centre. The 12 arrows I have were sorted out from a 4 dozen batch taken for testing at the Beiter centre, where Patrick used the best matched 24 arrows at Rio and left the remainder; these are the better 12 of that remainder.

To complete the arrows, I’ve used 110 gn points (tungsten/tool-steel), pins, Easton Pin nocks (large), and P3 Elivanes on both sets.

The Data

Some comparisons can be done without a bow, at the workbench. The three key features to look for in a quality set of arrows are consistency in weight, straightness, and spine. At Lilleshall I had the equipment to test for weight and spine, and these are the results.

X10-450 NPX-450
Shaft Length /mm 720 747
Measured Spine (Avg) 459 447
Weight (Avg) /gn 362.5 359.7
Weight Range /gn 1 1

Both sets of arrows, when fully built up, could be matched to within 1 grain weight range across the set. For the same “Spine” of arrow, the true static spine of the Nanos is stiffer by about 12 thousandths of an inch compared to the X10s. This partly explains why I had to cut them longer, so that they will both spine correctly at the same draw weight, between 45-47 lbs depending which bow I use, although the X10s are clearly dynamically a bit softer. Even with this extra length the Nanos are slightly lighter by about three grains per arrow.

SpineDeviation (1)

With the spine tester I measured the spine of each arrow three times at 120 degree intervals, giving 36 spine readings per 12 arrow set. I’ve subtracted the average spine per arrow set from each of these readings to give the data for the boxplot above. Both sets have similar variation though the range of spines in the Nanos is less, between +/- 5 units instead of +/- 7 for the X10s.

Testing in the field

Numbers are nice to look at but at the end of the day the only numbers that really matter are those written on the scoresheet. To test this I’ve used aggregated plotting; recording every scoring arrow shot at 70m over an extended time period and combining the results.

Testing in this way has a few advantages. It allows me to combine more data than I could do in a single testing session, it makes sure that I shoot both sets in varied conditions (indoors, calm outdoors and in wind), and that the result does not depend on me having a “good day” with one set and not the other. Finally it makes sure I get to test them shooting under match conditions, since I have included scoring from squad training days, training camps and competitions.

To aggregate all the data I used Artemis, which is the only app I know of that allowed me to plot multiple rounds over a 2 month period and then combine all of the results into a single plot. You have to upgrade to the paid version to be able to do this but being able to do arrow testing in such a comprehensive way makes it well worth the cost of half a dozen nocks!

The results

The first place to start is the aggregated plot for each arrow type. These arrows were shot between February and March in 2017. Artemis gives an “Archers Skill Rating” that takes into account distance, face size and group size and shape.

Screenshot_2018-04-18-12-24-55

Firstly, both groups are reasonably centred on the 10, as you would hope over hundreds of arrows shot in competitive conditions! This means we can use score as an indicator of performance without worrying that the results will be biased by one group being off centre. Its immediately apparent that the group for the Nanos is a bit tighter, having hit no blues and receiving a higher skill rating from Artemis.

I then dug a little deeper, calculating the total number of arrows within each scoring ring for both sets of arrows, and therefore the % of the total that falls within each scoring ring.

NPX (%) X10 (%)
X 79 (10.5) 43 (8.0)
10 142 (19.0) 108 (20.1)
9 348 (46.5) 243 (45.2)
8 150 (20.0) 105 (19.5)
7 30 (4.0) 33 (6.1)
6 0 (0) 5 (0.9)
5 0 (0) 1 (0.2)
Total 749 538
Average 9.01 8.93

So we have a higher relative probability of scoring X, 9 or 8 with the Nanos comapred to the X10s which gain more 10s, but also more 7s, 6s and 5s. The average score per arrow is 0.08 points higher for the Nanos, which equates to an average of about 6 points per 72 arrow ranking round.

Conclusions

I don’t think there’s many people who would turn down an extra 6 points on their score, and I’m not one of them. Having done this testing over a long period now, subjectively I’ve begun to trust the Nanos just a little bit more, finding it easier to keep the group centred and feeling that good shots are rewarded with Xs and 10s more often. I did not observe much difference in wind drift, which makes sense as both arrows are similar in diameter and weight.

I found myself choosing to use the Nanos in high pressure events such as the spring arrows international tournament in Turkey, where I picked up team Bronze and came 5th individually. More recently I used them to set a new PB at 70m of 675, and having that extra bit of confidence in my kit definitely helped!

20180506_164420_HDR.jpg

Yes this testing has its limitations; neither set of arrows was “out of the box” new for a start. More seriously, I could not blind test them, I was always aware of what arrow I was shooting. While for the first 300 arrows or so with each I was not sure if there was a clear difference, once something started to emerge out of the data then its highly likely that this would have influenced me.

For me though, this test shows that it’s always worth trying new things. As a result of this I’ll be continuing to use the Carbon Express arrows for the rest of the season. Of course there’s always more work to do, and the next stage of testing is plotting of individual arrow numbers to select the best grouping shafts from within a set, but that’s a post for another time!

8 thoughts on “On Test: Easton vs Carbon Express

  1. I am a carbon express pro staff shooter and I appreciate the work put into this article… my issue would be that the inch longer on the nanos doesn’t constitute a fair dynamic spine comparison with an x10 450.
    I believe the CX is an excellent shaft but a fair comparison for this shooter would have been against a sub 400 spine x10

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    • I partly agree Alistair. I think the 410 X10 would have been great to test against. I’ve shot 450 X10s for a long time, and was just on the cusp of moving up to a 410 before starting this testing. Having said that the way I set these arrows up the bareshafts at 30m were within 4cm of the group for both sets of arrows, at about 12 o’clock for the nanos and 1 o’clock for the X10s, so the dynamic spine was reasonably similar and within the region I would usually tune to for both.

      It’s worth noting that I did a lot of this testing with a full MK Korea set up which seems to accept an unusually weak arrow spine as well. As you point it’s a minefield to try and make a completely controlled comparison!

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  2. This is a great article! Would love to see this done with a compound and see how things compared to your findings!

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  3. As a late, picky comment; statistical significance for this comparison is there but not compelling (at about p=0.03) and disappears when the test is restricted to the more reliable high counts in the 7 and above. The only thing that pings it in just above chance is the difference in number of 6’s.
    Having said that, this is about the best back to back comparison you can reasonably hope for; confidence is confidence, and the evidence favours the nanos, here. Plus, well, the blues just look untidy, right?

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    • Agreed Steve. Unfortunately once I started to perceive any possible difference between the two sets, significant or not, I could no longer continue to test as my shooting would then be biased!

      The only way I could have avoided that would have been to not check the results until I hit a higher arrow count, but the number of samples needed depends on the magnitude of the difference in distributions, and if I’d known that in advance then I wouldn’t need to test!

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  4. Thanks for an interesting and thoughtful article Tom. I think you’ve tried your hardest to be objective and answer the question: which arrow is best. Perhaps until there’s a (recurve) shooting machine at your disposal it may not be possible to get truly objective information.

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  5. Very good article

    Sorry this is not a specific arrow comparison question

    I have shot x10’s and xtremes like both but have generally found Xtremes to be quicker and have shot all my PB’s and podium places with them

    I have changed bows from a Hoyt GPX with F7’s at 44lbs shooting Xtremes to a win & win AFT with NS limbs at 44lbs shooting x10’s

    I found to tune my X10’s I had to go two spines stiffer than the Easton charts with them to get them to tune …. do you think this would be the same with the Xtremes given you feel they are stiffer overall

    Currently back shooting my Hoyt and Xtremes due to an issue with my W&W … I live in Perth WA which is known to be a very windy part of the world another question is do you think a heavier x10 (grain weight) would fly better in this sort of regular windy blustery conditions

    Thanks

    S

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