Little John Custom Arrows

Reviewed By Steve

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One of the first things a new archer will do is attempt to make his own arrows. It doesn't take too long to discover that there is a lot more to arrow making than sticking some fletches on to a stick.
LJ CustomQuite apart from working out what the archer/bow combination require there are the issues of all that fiddly cutting, cresting and painting. Some folks are happy to shoot whatever they have made, others will have the patience of a saint and produce beautiful arrows.
If you ask said archer how long it took him to make them it will hardly surprise you to learn that really picky archers are happy to sometimes spend weeks on their arrows.

Pretty soon as your archery skills progress you come to realise that unless you have arrows which are matched, accurately tuned to the bow and well made then really top scores will elude you, or for those that hunt it can mean the difference between a successful hunt and yet another wasted trip.

Most archers will realise that they have neither the time, the patience or the skills needed to produce arrows which will take a good archer to the next level.

Why should it matter if the arrows are matched ? for a target archer this is crucial. The archer strives to perfect his form to the point that he can replicate a shot over and over again, now, if the arrows are not matched then the better the archer gets, the less chance he has of putting two arrows next to each other.
For the field archer too a matched set will only help.

LJ Custom

I once spent 2 days at a well known dealer measuring, spining, and testing shafts to find those that would firstly be straight, then spine matched and then weight matched, from 11 000 shafts I finally purchased 155. A professional fletcher will straighten and match arrows for you, on top of that you can expect a nicely finished arrow that works with your bow.

Enter John Cately of Little John Arrows, for some time now we have been hearing tales of tournaments won, titles gained LJ Customand records broken by archers using his arrows so it was with great pleasure that this morning I received by special delivery a box of samples of Johns work. In the next few weeks there will be another parcel with a set of arrows which have been matched to my favourite bow and a full review will be published then.

I like to think I know a little about arrows, I have made several tens of thousands over the years, they hold a fascination for me, as an archer I am hard to please.
I don't suppose I am so much different from anyone else and opening parcels is something that gives me great pleasure, this morning that pleasure was completely overshadowed by the contents of the parcel.
10 arrows all different and each demonstrating a different aspect of the fletchers art.

In the May edition of the magazine part of this site is an article by little John about building the perfect arrow, well worth a read if you put great store by the arrows you shoot. I have been very fortunate to have visited the private Beechin Wood collection - a collection of Longbows and traditional bows dating from the 18th century to the present along with a huge collection of Victorian arrows.

The first thing that struck me was that I had seen arrows in this style before. Victorians put great store by their arrows and they were highly valued and if you look at the target scores for rounds such as The Gentlemen's, York- 6 dozen arrows at 100 yards, 4 dozen arrows at 80 yards and 2 dozen arrows at 60 yards - you will see why. Such scores as have never been equalled in a hundred years.
LJ CustomAny archer will tell you that a great arrow will give you the confidence to hit the high scores.
These arrows positively scream "quality Victorian style", anyone who knows anything about the Victorians knows that there were no lengths they wouldn't go to to achieve their desired result and just because they shot primarily at Target doesn't mean that the same style of arrow would be out of place on a field shoot- after all the arrow only knows how to be shot, it cares nothing for what the target will be.

So, to the arrows. The accompanying pictures can only give you a flavour of the quality finish, the exact placement of each fletch and the straightness of shaft.
Amongst them are several footed shafts, the footing itself is approx 7" from the bop. The tapering is very accurate and the hardwood used is Beefwood (massaranduba) although others are available.
There are several advantages to a footed arrow, who hasn't had their best arrow break off just behind the point?, a footing in hardwood will add strength, it will also add a little extra forwards weight.


There were also a couple of arrows to demonstrate Johns skill at creating horn nocked arrows, like a miniature footing with a carved string groove these look stunning and if used on a footed arrows the effect is almost complete. I say almost as the cresting finish that John does is simply beautiful.
I love shooting arrows which I know are perfect for the bow but to shoot arrows which are also stunning to look at is a wonderful experience.

LJ Custom

The points John uses are parallel fit and to ensure a perfect flush fit of point and shaft he built his own compression tool to compress the shaft to accept the point and so smooth is the transition that you would be hard pressed to find it with your eyes closed.
Each of the arrows displayed a different style of fletch and one was spliced with a red flash through it, on another the crest had been applied by an airbrush and metallic paint, something you might expect to see on a custom motorcycle, the colours even faded into each other and then out to nothing.
John will also produce tapered or barrelled arrows, an arrow with less mass at one or both ends will perform the paradox and straighten out quicker than a parallel shaft, a tapered shaft will also have a higher FOC.

Finally the top finish is as smooth as glass and the overall effect is that you feel you are handling a work of art.

John is a craftsman from a bygone age, his method is to complete the arrow and then apply the final finish, something the Victorians did and something I was a little sceptical about and never do with my own arrows, having seen the result of using this method I take it all back- it's incredible !
Having spent so much of my time making arrows I can tell instantly that each of these arrows has had the care, attention and time lavished upon them that only someone who really loves what they are making spends, it's the reason Chippendale furniture is valued and why a folk are prepared to queue for hours to see a painting from a great master.

Johns reputation as a "professional" is richly deserved and I can see why folks who could make an acceptable arrow themselves are prepared to pay to have such a skilled fletcher make an exceptional one.

For me now the waiting begins, I can't wait to see what John has produced for us to test. If you like me, appreciate quality arrows and want to shoot not only shafts that fly true but look stunning then John is your man...

Click here for more informaiton and how to order Little John Arrows


Your Comments

Tell us what you think, do you agree with the review or have something to add?


  • Posted by: Richard Dobson on May 14, 16:13

    My son (11) has been shooting for 3 years now and has been using Little John arrows for the past 2. He has up to now come 1st at the NFAS 3d champs and second in the Nationals, he also wins all competitions that we enter. He loves his arrows and on the odd occasion he has broken or lost one has become quite upset. We have just bought a new set that are an inch longer and they fly exactly the same as the original set.


  • Posted by: brian birkett on May 16, 15:16

    My three sets of arrows from John all perform the same straight and true.Which ever set I use i know I have a quiver full of quality


  • Posted by: Virginia Quick on May 19, 13:59

    Little John Arrows are the best. They are made with care and commitment to make the best he can for you the archer,perfectly matched to your bow.My footed and barrelled arrows are fantastic flying straight and true they’ve help me achieve 2national and a number of county records With my husbands bow and johns arrows= PERFECTION [down to me now]!A new set is on it’s way THANK YOU John


  • Posted by: Carl Edwards on May 19, 16:07

    John is easy to talk to, has great patience, and makes sure he understands what you want from his arrows. My set of footed arrows are pefect for up to 80yards. He has recently made me a set of barrelled arrows out of sitka spruce to enable me to reach 100yds without having to pick a cloud as an aiming point.
    With these new arrows I have just shot a York, gained silver and achieved first class status.
    Thank you John for taking so much trouble and making fine arrows.


  • Posted by: trevor astley on May 25, 18:22

    i have used little john arrows for 4 years and have found them to be perfect for my needs i shoot them at all distances,and if i get my end right they fly perfectly,also he is a very nice man,what more can i say


  • Posted by: christopher smith on May 27, 14:36

    Little johns arrows are simply the best.
    I will not purchase my arrows from anyone else.


  • Posted by: Virginia Quick on Jul 20, 20:56

    Oh boy John you have been and gone and done it again,It was certainly worth the wait,i have got a perfect set of beefwood footed arrows air brushed to perfection,
    a perfect matched set.The best part is they fly like the wind, and staight and true.What more could you ask for? Must get some practise in to due them justice.
    Thanks John once again Virginia X


  • Posted by: michael owen on Jun 29, 20:11

    I`ve had 3 sets of arrows from John now, the first, a set of general purpose matched and tapered arrows. The second set are medieval style with 6 inch fletchings and horn insert nocks and the 3rd set are 5/16th barrelled clout arrows with 1/12 shield fletchings. These arrows are not only stunning to look at, they shoot as well as they look.
    If you want top quality arrows made by a craftsman who cares then look no further than John Catley.


  • Posted by: Jim Longman on Sep 19, 12:30

    I have been using John’s arrows for the past 6 years and never had a bad arrow.
    John spends a lot of time ensuring that when you purchase a new set of arrows he has all the details of you and your bow to make a perfectly matched set. The arrows fly straight out of the bow without any tail wagging.
    This attention to detail shows when you open the box on delivery and see the finished arrow. Also the admiring comments you will receive about the arrows at competitions, when other archers pull your arrows is never ending.
    Thanks John


  • Posted by: John Martin on Sep 24, 17:44

    I have been dealing with John for some years now and purchased several sets of arrows.He really is a true ‘old school’ craftsman, who just loves arrows and everything to do with them!.Never have I had anything less than truely perfect arrows. The care and attention-to-detail has to be seen to be believed. 101% reccomended.


  • Posted by: Ken and Virginia quick on Oct 17, 16:46

    WE asked for arrows to shoot clout you made two perfect sets shot them at our first BLBS shoot and i came home with a medal(virginia),couldn’t get more perfect that that so thanks once again john they fly like the wind and i love them.


  • Posted by: Alan Capel on Mar 4, 11:16

    John has made two sets of arrows for my 12yr old daughter. each set was matched to each of her bows. Because her draw is short and the bows fairly low powered she needed bespoke arrows. The arrows john made for her her are excellent. They shoot smoothly and accurately. She totally loves them! Thanks John


  • Posted by: Paul McDermott on Mar 9, 17:54

    As a novice longbowman, I approached John Catley of Littlejohn Arrows with considerable diffidence to ask him to prepare a set of his incomparable arrows for my use. He could not have been more welcoming, full of advice over unhurried ‘phone discussions and taking the greatest care in ensuring that my needs were met to the best of his ability. He even took the trouble of contacting Pip Bickerstaffe, who had made my longbow, to ensure the best possible compatability of bow and arrow. The result is a delight to eye and hand. The improvement to my accuracy, using these excellent creations, has been marked, and I am most grateful to John Catley for the care he took. I shall certainly return to him for the next order.


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