A factor that determines how effective your fletching will rotate or turn is the fletching on your arrow. If your fletching is arranged in a helical (spiral) pattern it will typically fly straighter and be more stable as it rotates in-flight. Aerodynamically, a helical set up is a better choice when it comes to ensuring a straight flying arrow. Keep in mind, a helical fletch may not always be the most appropriate for your particular bow setup. For example, some arrow rests may not provide enough clearance to allow a helical fletch to pass through without contact. Another reason is you will lose some arrow velocity with this type of set up compared to slightly off-set or straight set up. In a off-set, the vanes are still straight, rather than in a spiral pattern, but they are slightly turned on the shaft to promote some rotation in-flight without compromising fletching clearance. The straight flectch may be the best choice for very unforgiving arrow rests with limited clearance, or for competition target setups that don't require much stabilization. You will find with many of today's fletching designs provide the speed of a straight fletch but have better stabilization because of design. An example would be the 2" quick spin fletching (see below). View the diagrams/charts below to evaluate the variations in the Fletching Configuration, and Arrow Weight Factors:
|Straight Fletch |
|Right Helical Fletch |
|4º Right Offset Fletch |
|Minimal Rotatation in Flight |
|Rotates Dramatically in Flight |
|Rotates Slightly in Flight |
| Fastest Flying Vane Configuration |
Least Amount of Air Resistance
Works with Any Arrow Rest
Minimal Fletching Clearance Problems
| Superior Stabilization for Broadheads |
Best Arrow Flight at Long Distance
Increased Overall Accuracy
Arrow Corrects Attitude in Flight
| Provides More Stabilization for Broadheads |
Only Some Air Resistance in Flight
Works with Most Arrow Rests
Stable Flight to Moderate Distances
| Less Stable at Long Distances |
Provides Less Stabilization for Broadheads
Best Used in a Well-Tuned Bow
| Notable Loss of Arrow Velocity |
Fletching Clearance More Problematic
| May Cause Fletching Clearance Issues |
Some Loss of Arrow Velocity
STANDARD VANES (Duravanes/Rubber Based): Vanes are made of soft flexible plastic and are the popular choice for today's bowhunter and archery shooter. They're inexpensive, easy to apply, and available in almost any size/color. These types of
vanes are fairly easy to fletch in a number of different patterns that include straight - offset - helical
. In addition, they're also relatively durable. Vanes can be crumpled and abused (up to a point of course) and they still pop back into shape ... or they can be heat-treated with a hair dryer and made to pop back into shape. Either way, vanes aren't nearly as delicate as feathers.
Compared to feathers of the same size, vanes are heavier - as much as three times the weight of a comparable length feather. And since most vanes have a smooth surface, they don't "dig-into" the air as well as the rougher surface of feathers. So all other things being equal, vanes don't stabilize arrow flight quite as well as feathers. There is no right or wrong choice in this scenario it is a matter of what tool is best for the job or task at hand.
SPECIALTY VANES (Blazer Vanes): The standard Duravane style vane is becoming one of the most widely used type of vanes that include (Quikspin Vanes, Blazer Vanes, Spin Wings, Bi-Delta Vanes, FOB's). There are a number of quality Specialty Vanes on the market but a few that stick out as leaders are Bhoning Blazer Vane and NAP Quick Spins. They have their unique differences but overall very effective and high quality products.
The Blazer Vane is a small stiff 2" vane which is more plastic-like (urethane based) than rubber. Below are some of the unique selling features. 1) It's a little tougher than rubber-based vanes, so it stands up to Whisker Biscuit arrow rest abuse without distorting or wrinkling. 2) The surface of the Blazer Vane isn't smooth, it's textured slightly to "bite" into the air better than smooth vanes. 3) The manufacturer claims that the unique shape of the vane - specifically the straight leading edge - provides some kind of aerodynamic benefit.
The NAP QuickSpin ST Speed Hunter has become on of our favorites over the past several years. These vanes claim to fame is greater stabilization through its patented microgrooves on one side channel air for a flatter trajectory than your conventional vane. Additionally, these vanes have a patented kicker that increases arrow spin by as much as 300% (their claim). We have
used these vanes with a great deal of success. They seem to be easy to fletch and are very durable. The one downside is they are slightly louder through the air than standard vane. That being said is minimal but the speed increase we have seen with the 2" Quick Spin ST Speed Hunter is noticable. The newest addition to the NAP family is the Quickfletch with options to have Twister Vane or Quick Spin ST. These wraps are awesome. They are very easy to apply and remove if you have a tear.
A few downsides to the Bohning Blazer are the cost and difficulty fletching them. If you don't have just the right glue, the right temperature, the right humidity, the right phase of the moon, and the right music playing in the background, they don't stick. If you're a home fletcher, keep this in mind before you decide to go Blazer. With that said they have a Blazer Wrap that seems to be an improvment in the ability to fletch these vanes.
| |FEATHERS: Of course, feathers are the original arrow fletching material. First, feathers are very light. Three 4" Gateway feathers weigh just over 8 grains - compared to 24 grains for three 4" Duravanes. This means your arrows fly faster with less loss of trajectory downrange. Feathers also have a natural texture that effectively bites into the wind. So feathers do a particularly good job at stabilizing large broadheads and finger-released arrows. And archery feathers have a natural curvature to them (left-wing or right-wing, depending on which side of bird they're from), so they help arrows to spin in flight - which also aides in arrow stabilization. As a matter of achieving the best possible flight, it's just hard to beat a feather.
But feathers are not for everyone or every application. Forexample: feathers are rather costly. Keep in mind archery feathers aren't a synthetic product - they are made from the primary flight feathers of turkeys (usually). They must be harvested, cleaned, dyed, cut, sorted, inspected, etc. As you might imagine, this is a labor-intensive process. So archery feathers cannot be mass produced with the same kind of speed and automation as plastic vanes. So they cost more. And the fancier the feather, the fancier the price tag.
Feathers also require a little more care from the user. If you rough handle your feather fletched arrows, they won't respond well to the abuse. Feathers can be bent, crumpled, split, and degraded when they make high-speed contact with other surfaces (like arrow rests). And while a little steam and finger-rubbing can sometimes resurrect defunct feathers, they just aren't as tough as synthetic vanes. So you have to treat them well if you want them to last.
A question you may ask your self is "What happens when a feather gets wet?" depends on what kind of feather you're talking about. Fluffy down feathers (like in your pillow) will soak-up water and flatten down like wet hair. But primary flight feathers, like the feathers used for archery, have a much more rigid structure, made from keratin (the same protein found in fingernails), with interlocking rows of barbs, barbules, and hooklets. This interlocking lattice-work allows primary feathers to generally retain their shapes even when wet. Something that does need to be considered is the weight of the water. A wet feather obviously weighs more than a dry feather, which means your arrow will weigh more and will fly differently when its feathers are wet. If you think you may sit for hours in the rain, you might want to consider waterproofing your feathers.
Arrow Weight based on Fletching: If you're concerned about your finished arrow weight or your F.O.C. balance it's worth mentioning that your choice and size of fletching material will have a significant impact on both of those attributes Since all of that weight is going to be concentrated in the rear of the arrow, heavy fletching material means a you'll also need more tip weight to maintain a good F.O.C. balance.