In “Mockingjay,” Katniss gets an upgraded bow and arrows, which are color-coded to indicate if they’re razor-sharp, explosive or incendiary (fire). Are Katniss’ arrows real or not? Let’s look.
In Chapter 6 of “The Hunger Games Part Three: Mockingjay,” Katniss says:
“Finally, he [Beetee] straps a sheath divided into three cylinders of arrows to my back. ‘Just remember: Right side, fire. Left side, explosive. Center, regular. …’”
Based on official movie trailers like the just-released final trailer title “Burn,” the movie incorporates the same color-coded system for Katniss that techno-genius Beetee created in the book series. This trailer shows Katniss shooting an arrow with a red nock and tip at a flying plane, and the arrow explodes on contact.
Real. Sort of.
Although a normal arrow isn’t color-coded the same way or for the same reasons they are in “Mockingjay,” they are real.
Four Ways Color-Coded Arrows are Real
Some archery camps and programs color-code an arrow by its length. For example, two red vanes on the arrow might mean it measures 28 inches, while all arrows with two orange vanes measure 30 inches. The color isn’t as important for archery programs as making sure archers and instructors can easily identify length without measuring the arrow.
Arrow length matters because shorter arrows typically fly faster, and arrow speeds can help determine the archer’s score by affecting where shots hit the target. Arrows that are too short can be unsafe, though, so you must know your draw length and – for new archers – shoot an arrow that extends at least 2 inches beyond your arrow rest.
Draw length: This is the distance between the bowstring and bow grip when holding a bow at full draw. A proper draw length improves your shooting form and consistency, which improves accuracy.
Determine your draw length or visit an archery shop for help.
Look at an arrow fletching and you’ll likely see two vanes or feathers of the same color, and one that’s odd-colored, which is an index vane or index feather. On compound bows, the index vane faces up or down. On recurve bows, the index vane always faces away from the bow.
Index vane or feather: Aligns the arrow and nock to ensure the fletching clears the arrow rest.
Fletching: This is a general term for anything that helps steer the arrow. Fletchings can be made from plastic or feathers.
Many archers shoot arrows with an odd-colored index vane or feather. Some advanced archers shoot arrows with fletchings all of the same color, once they are comfortable identifying the proper placement of the arrow on the bowstring without an odd-colored fletching for reference.
Advanced archers perform extensive tests to determine which arrows shoot best from their bow. If all their arrows had red vanes, remembering which arrows fly truest could be tough. That’s why advanced archers sometimes shoot arrows with different-colored vanes when testing arrows.
Competitive archers also use fletchings to distinguish their arrows from their competitors’. This is especially helpful when multiple archers shoot the same target before tallying their scores, which occurs during most archery tournaments.
Arrow vanes are just one way archers customize equipment to suit their personality. Whether they want blue arrows with neon-green fletchings or pink arrows with zebra-print fletchings, the possibilities are endless. Many archers use bows and arrows that match their favorite colors, even customizing colors on their sight and bowstring.
You probably won’t be shooting explosive arrows during a revolution any time soon, but color-coding your arrows is real and totally doable.
Interested in archery? Check out Learn Archery.