Stick'em Archery Resources

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. 


:  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.


Broadheads can be divided into two categories based on their physical makeup and further depending on the number of blades they sport. The two main categories are fixed blade, and mechanical blades. Within those main categories you will find additional variations or sub-categories. Additionally, various designs bridge the basic model descriptions by adding features like cut-on-contact blades on the tip.
For most bow hunters, broadhead selection is a matter of personal preference based on experience, the speed at which they shoot, and the game being hunted. Below is some information that will help you determine which type of broadhead is the best for you.  As we discussed earlier technology has enhanced significantly over the past five years in bows as well as in broadheads and arrows.  Many of today's broadheads are effective in delivering penetration and cutting.   

As a general rule, bow hunters with slower shooting speeds, created by lower draw weights, should use fixed-blade broadheads with smaller diameters of 1-1/4 inch or less to improve penetration. An additional consideration for shooters with slower speeds would be to select a broadhead with less resistance such as a two-blade broadhead with a small ferrule. Lesser resistance typically leads to deeper penetration.

Shooters with higher draw weights and faster speeds have more options. Increased kinetic energy will give the advantage of using larger diameter fixed-blade broadheads or the newer designs in mechanical heads that provide even greater diameters of cutting surfaces. With sufficient penetration, these larger broadheads have the potential to produce significant blood trails.  Keep in mind there is a point of diminishing returns with broadhead size. Although mechanical blades are available up to 2 3/4-inches, 2 inches should be the maximum effective size for deer-sized animals. Larger blades should be reserved for smaller game such as turkeys when penetration isn't an issue.

The number of blades that a broadhead has will have a direct impact on the blood trail, with more blades producing the best effect. The theory is that with broadheads using three or more blades, at least two are cutting across the grain of muscle tissue, making it more difficult to avert blood loss by muscle fibers closing up with a cut that happens to run with the grain.

Fixed-blade broadheads can be broken down into two categories, 1-piece and those with replaceable blades. Replaceable blade broadheads are very popular because you don't have to worry with the tedious process of sharpening the blades' edges. When they lose their edge, due to practice or field use, you simply drop in a new razor-sharp blade.  Muzzy Broadheads would be an example of this type of broadhead that has replaceable blades.  Monotec by G5 would be an example of 1-piece type of broadhead (see picture).

If your bow is poorly tuned, when an arrow leaves the rest, it's flight will be affected more readily. An arrow that leaves with it's fletching end raised will tend to catch the wind and take a sharp dive in its trajectory. Conversely, when the fletching end drops on release, the lower rear angle will cause the blade to catch the wind and plane upward.

For the same reason, increasing the number and size of multiple bladed broadheads will have an increasing effect the bigger they get. If you want to minimize tuning your bow, stick with smaller broadheads. You'll still need to do some tweaking, but not as much.

Broadhead's that use a chisel tip have to punch or rip through an animal's tough hide before reaching the head's blade surface that does the cutting. This will use some of the arrow's kinetic energy thus impeding some penetration. This style of tip is one of the most durable, and have been known to punch through heavy bone with no damage to the tip. Muzzy 3-Blade Broadhead is an example of this type of Broadhead (see picture).

Cut on contact tips don't have to punch through the hide, instead they slice through the hide. This requires very little energy, therefore penetration is not affected as much.


Mechanical heads have come a long way since they were first introduced.  They have historically gotten a bad reputation due to many failures in delivering performance and results in the field.  With that said today's mechanical broadhead technology has enhanced tremendously.  These newer mechanical broadheads deliever better penetration and cutting. Resulting in excellent entrance and exit wounds.

Mechanical heads have one major advantage; they fly closer to field points and require very little tuning to attain tight groups. The critical issue to keep in mind with mechanical heads is that the blades have no support for the trailing edge. Blades that use thicker metal for the expandable blades will withstand greater stress and have less flex upon impact.

While mechanical broadheads are available with blades up to 2-3/4 inches, hunters should limit the size of broadheads to a maximum cutting diameter of 1-1/2 inch when going after elk or big-bodied animals like moose or bear. Smaller blade diameters will give you greater penetration and improved performance with bigger-boned animals.

Mechanical broadheads up to 2 inches in cutting diameter work well for game up to deer-sized animals as long as you have enough kinetic energy to drive them home. Industry experts recommend at least 55 pounds of kinetic energy for the larger heads and 65 pounds of kinetic energy when going after elk and large game. The 65 pounds of kinetic energy translates roughly into the result achieved by launching a 400-500 grain arrow with a 60-65 pound compound bow, but you can use this formula to know exactly what you are producing with your particular set up.  See our Kinetic Energy formula/calculator to determine your set ups K.C.

With Mechanical broadheads you still need to tune your bow to achieve maximum performance in both penetration and accuracy. The adjustments required to perfect your setup are less than with traditional broadheads, but even slight variations in flight can rob you of valuable energy. Tuning is time well spent regardless of what you shoot. A good rule to consider is mechanical broadheads with smaller diameter such as 1-1/4 inches, will help you get maximum penetration and still have the advantage of the accuracy characteristics of mechanicals.

The next decision after determining which style of head you want is weight of your broadhead. Industry experts recommend 100-grain heads for carbon and lightweight aluminum shafts, and for heavy aluminum shafts, 125-grain heads.

Once you decide on which weight and style of broadhead you want to use, it is incumbent upon you to set up and tune your bow properly. Before you start tuning your bow, make sure your arrows are perfectly straight and that the broadheads are installed properly. You can check head alignment by spinning your arrows to make sure there is no wobble of either head or shaft


Now that you have paper tuned your compound bow, you can check your broadhead flight. Don't be surprised when you see your Broadhead hit the target in a different place than that of your field point. Having the correct set up such as; proper bow weight, arrow and tip weight combination should help ensure you are not be too far off from your field points.

Set a up a target at 20 and 30 yards that can have broadheads shot into it. Use the same arrow you shot your field points and paper tuned with, pick your spot and shoot. This is your reference point. If you are off the mark and not hitting where you want you need to, make adjustments to your sight.


Next, remove your field point and install your broadhead. Using the same aiming point, shoot your broadhead. If the broadhead impacts close to your field point, shoot the same arrow a few more times to get a pattern. Mark the target and be sure that you are within a respectable group size for your shooting skills. Your shot group is very important. Remember, if you are shooting solid groups but the impact is off from your aiming point, make adjustments to your sight.

If you are not grouping your arrows well, here are a few adjustments you can make to your bow. If you followed the paper tune, these adjustments will be very slight and have an insignificant or minimal effect on your field points. In order for this to work effectively your arrows need to be properly spined or slightly overspined. If your arrow is underspined, broadheads become extremely difficult (if not impossible) to tune. 

      broadhead tuning tips

1.  Broadhead hits below the field point, move the string nock down.   
2.  Broadhead hits above the field point, move the string nock up.   
3.  Broadhead hits left of the field point, move your rest right, or soften the  cushion button spring tension.   
4.  Broad head hits right of the field point, move your rest left, or stiffen the cushion button spring tension.   

Most of the time the minor adjustments you make for broadhead tuning will have very little effect on field point flight.  Once you have gotten your broahead tuned and it is grouping where you want it to.  Practice, Practice, Practice. You have heard us talk about confidence in the field with your equipment.  Knowing your broadhead is going to hit where you aim is vital.

If you are still having problems, go to your local archery pro shop for help.  They will be happy to help. They can check the following things - Shaft spine / Tip Weight / Tiller / Center Shot / Wheel Timing.

  If you need any Archery Equipment or Bowhunting Equipment check out our Archery Shop.

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