A ‘state of the nation’ plea from arrow builder Adrian Tippins
At the end of 2020, Easton announced the sad news that it was stopping making the popular ACC and ACG hybrid shaft models. More disconcerting than that was the fact that those evergreen models were to be replaced by Easton with modern full-carbon variants known as the Avance and Avance Sport.
This makes total sense for Easton both in terms of marketing and for manufacturing. There are also more pros to shooting full-carbon arrows than cons. For us here in the UK though, it’s the worst possible news. There are lots of arrow manufacturers around the world, but hardly any that produce quality metal core, carbon-bonded shafts; Easton really does have the market sewn up.
I’ve been dreading reaching this point in time. I can’t say for sure how it is in most countries around the world, but I do get the feeling that there is more licence and flexibility to shoot full-carbon arrows outside of the UK. I do know for a fact that in a lot of countries full-carbon arrows are the norm.
Talking with thousands of UK customers over the years, it does seem that most of them are hamstrung by club and shared-use venue rules and policies. These policies prohibit the use of full-carbon arrows, citing the fact that they can be difficult to find with a metal detector should one go astray and that carbon is also prone to dangerous splintering. Obviously all stray arrows should always be recovered, but that situation intensifies if school or club sport is to be played on the sports field after shooting, as is very common in the UK.
We’ve never really given these rules too much thought before, as we’ve always been able to choose from a catalogue of four or five metal core shaft variants and staggered price points to meet and comply with any rules or regulations.
Essentially, there’s always been something for everyone, no matter what stage of the sport the archer is at or how big or small their budget is. The change in line-up certainly came as a shock to me as I can’t really remember life without the ACC and ACG (Navigator) models. I think we all believed that these were carved in stone and would be there until the end of time.
After digesting the news, my mind raced ahead into the future, playing out different scenarios and theoretical conversations with prospective customers. The saving grace was the fact that there were a lot of the discontinued shafts in circulation and that meant we wouldn’t see any decline in availability for a while. This transitional period would allow archers to furnish themselves with another set of arrows should they wish. I can remember announcing the news on the Custom Made Arrows (CMA) Facebook page; it shocked a lot of followers.
For the next year we made heaps of ACCs and ACGs, as people understood the consequences of missing out. The UK, as well as the rest of the European countries, is served mainly by just two distributors of archery products. These are JVD, based in the Netherlands, and SSA Archery, based in Belgium. Other European countries would be thinking the same as us here in the UK, and the race was on to secure shafts. Over the course of 2021, it became progressively more difficult to get the discontinued shafts.
This is especially true of the most popular spine of 600-700. By December 2021, the problems had really come to the fore and we were noticing a lot of ‘out of stock’ listings on distributor and retailer websites. The ACCs hung around for a little longer than the ACGs, but by December it was mainly just the extreme ends of the spine scale that were still available.
Difficult conversations with customers now ensued. One thing we will never compromise on is giving the very best ethical advice – the CMA business has been built on this ethos. Situations arose where a customer was looking to make the transition from a beginner set of aluminium arrows to something sleeker and faster.
The circumstances were fully explained to them, which was most appreciated. I couldn’t professionally or ethically recommend a set of Procomps or ACEs, at £300 to £360, for this type of archer at this stage. The big problem is that’s pretty much all that’s available to ensure being regulation compliant.
It’s my job to ensure that people have the right equipment at the right time. I also need my customers to be happy with their purchase and to derive a performance bump and enjoyment for the financial investment they have made. Prescribing a very sensitive arrow shaft at this stage would be counterproductive. The archer would also not have the required skill set to get the most from the purchase and may well prematurely break many of the set learning longer distances.
I’m not sure if I subscribe to the ‘you’ll grow into them theory’ as I reckon the expensive set will be decimated by the time that happens. The only way to solve the problem and do right by the customers was to issue them with a prescription for parts and purchase these from other retailers. The parts would then come to me to build and work some magic on. Though this was a tiny bit more expensive, it was an option to ensure that the archer had the right kit. This kept us really busy, and it’s something that we’re still doing a lot of in early 2022.
There’s also the worry that a lot of people can’t afford to shell out the best part of £300 on a set of arrows to transition to the longer distances. Most archers do have a finite budget and a change in arrows is usually advised to coincide with a change of limb poundage and quality. As all archers know, we’re always buying bits and bobs, especially consumables such as strings. We all want to see our beloved sport grow in popularity and see new blood come in.
Unfortunately, this situation could not have come at a worse time. Lots of people have less disposable income than they used to, pretty much everything imported is costing more due to Brexit and the pound isn’t exactly strong against the euro (when the distributors are paid in euros). It must have a negative effect on the numbers pursuing the sport and buying equipment.
I don’t want to tell my customers that the choice they have is no choice at all, but we’re fast approaching that. Many customers and archers are complaining, stating that clubs and governing bodies must change their rules to give them more choice, but I can’t see that happening for legal and safety reasons.
I hope there is a white knight waiting in the wings to ride in and save us all. It would be great to see a British manufacturer such as Merlin/Mybo bring out a quality hybrid product with excellent tolerances to fill the chasm that is left by the departure of the ACC and ACG. It would be a British fix for a British problem. I would imagine it would be pretty lucrative, too, as the product and purchases would be driven by necessity. Fingers crossed.
Adrian Tippins is the proprietor of Custom Made Arrows (arrowsocks.co.uk)