One of the most important (but often overlooked) parts of an arrow is the fletching. Choosing the right arrow fletching will ensure your arrow flies as best as possible. It will also help you maintain consistent and accurate shots. First, you must choose the right arrow fletching for the job!
What Is Arrow Fletching?
The fletching on an arrow is the material found on the back end of an arrow near the nock. Fletchings are there to help steer and stabilize the arrow after it is fired out of a bow. They can also help to correct any small errors that might negatively affect the arrow’s flight. In order for an arrow to fly perfectly through the air, the back end needs to follow the front end. The fletchings help keep both ends of the arrow in the right alignment while it travels.
Arrow Fletching Materials
There are two main types of fletching materials that you will see on most arrows. Each of these will have its own set of pros and cons but serve the same general purpose. The two main types of arrow fletching are feathers and vanes:
Feathers are the original arrow fletching used for thousands of years. Because of how well they work, they are even still used to this day. You will mostly see feathers on wooden arrows and shot out of traditional bows. This is due to traditional bows like recurves and longbows being shot off of the shelf. The arrow shelf is the flat section near the grip of the bow that an arrow can rest on. Feathers are the ideal choice for this type of shooting because they lie flat as they fly across the bow’s flat arrow shelf.
Vanes, the other type of material, does a poor job for this style of shooting because of how rigid they are and their tendency to bounce off of the shelf. The downside to feathers, however, is that they are usually longer than vanes and prone to wind drift. They are also not waterproof or very durable, both of which can cause inconsistent arrow flight.
Vanes (plastic or mylar)
The most popular option for fletching is vanes. These are made out of either plastic or mylar, and provide a few distinct advantages over feathers which have led to their popularity. They are much more durable and are water-resistant for starters. They can also be made in almost any size or shape that you need. With their production, you will get vanes that are extremely consistent in their size and weight from vane to vane. This means the utmost accuracy when it counts. Vanes can also be made in low-profile designs which help avoids wind drift when shooting longer distances.
Arrow Fletching Styles
Fletching can be placed on an arrow in numerous different styles. How you place the fletching on an arrow will affect how it spins and travels as it flies through the air. When you place a slight turn to the vanes when placed on the arrow, it will result in more spin during flight. The spin can help create a straight flight path and more stabilization. Think about it like a quarterback throwing a football to another player. The more spin the ball has, the better it soars through the air and to its target.
There are three main fletching styles to choose from:
With the straight fletching style, all of the vanes are straight with the arrow shaft. This creates the fastest style of arrow, but you will not get as much spin as other fletching styles. With not as much spin, you will not get as much accuracy at longer distances and there is a greater chance of your arrow being affected by wind.
The offset style has the vanes placed straight on the arrow shaft but with a slight, offset turn from the front to the back of the fletching. This creates spin at the shot, similar to the rifling in the barrel of a gun that causes a bullet to spin once fired. This style increases the stabilization during flight, but you will lose a little arrow speed.
The last style is helical, which involves placing the vanes with a slight curve around the arrow shaft. This style provides the highest level of arrow stability while in flight and excellent accuracy at longer distances. It is the least susceptible to the wind but also results in the most loss of arrow speed. This style can also cause problems with certain arrow rests, as the vanes can potentially contact them at the shot.
The length of the vanes that you place on an arrow plays an important part in how your arrow performs in flight. For example, a short vane with a lower profile will not stabilize the arrow as well as one that is longer with a high profile. When it comes to length, the shorter the fletching the lighter in weight it will be. It will also directly relate to how tall a vane can be, depending on how long the base of the vane is.
The average length for an arrow fletching ranges from two to six inches. The longer the fletching, the more weight and surface area it will have. This will slow down your arrow speeds but as we mentioned before, provide a much more stable arrow flight.
The fletching height is how high the vane sticks out from the arrow shaft. This creates a higher or lower profile that will play a part in how well your arrow is stabilized during flight. Arrow vanes with a larger surface area and size will do more at correcting an arrow while in flight. They also can produce a higher degree of spin depending on your fletching style.
On the other hand, fletching height can mean more weight on the end of your arrow. It also makes the arrow more likely to be affected by the wind while shooting at longer distances. Depending on your needs, you can play around with the fletching length and height to achieve the best possible results with your arrow and bow setup.
How to Choose Your Arrow Fletching
So how do you know what fletching to choose? It all comes down to your personal needs and preferences. Are you a competition shooter looking for the fastest speeds, or are you a bowhunter who needs better stabilization and forgiveness? Think about what is most important to you with your arrows and what you are trying to accomplish.
At the end of the day, there are going to be certain trade-offs when it comes to choosing an arrow fletching. High-profile vanes will increase your arrow stability but reduce your speeds. The larger vanes will also be much heavier and contribute more weight to an arrow but will do a better job at correcting arrow flight.
On the other hand, shorter vanes will allow your arrows to fly much faster. You may not get as good of stability (especially out to longer ranges), but that might not be an issue if you are always shooting indoors at short to medium ranges. If you are looking for speed, smaller vanes will be your best friend.
So what are you looking for? Bowhunters will most likely want to opt for larger vanes that will give them more accuracy and forgiveness rather than speed. While they will be shooting in wind at times, the bigger vanes do a better job at longer ranges that can come while hunting. If bowhunting isn’t your thing, you will have plenty of other options when it comes to your fletching. Think about what you need your arrows to do and build your fletching around your goals.
Arrow Fletching Recommendations
Now that you are a little more familiar with arrow fletchings, let’s take a look at some excellent options to get you started. No matter if you are using your bow for hunting, competition, or target practice, there are plenty of great feathers and vanes that can provide proper fletching. Our favorites include:
Bohning Blazer Broadhead Vanes
Blazer vanes are one of the most popular fletching options you will see with compound bow shooters. These vanes are extremely durable and lightweight. You can also choose from various sizes and colors. Blazer vanes do a great job at stabilizing arrows with broadheads and are widely used by bow hunters.
Bohning Air Vanes
Bohning makes some great vanes, and if you are looking for larger vanes for competition shooting the Air Vanes are a good bet. The 2”, 1.5”, and 1.75” lengths are all popular choices amongst recurve target shooters thanks to their size and durability. They provide better accuracy at longer distances while maintaining a lower profile.
Gateway Feathers Right-Wing Archery Feathers
If traditional shooting is more your style, feathers are the way to go. The Gateway Feathers come in a variety of sizes and colors, so you can pick out the exact ones that will best fit your bow and personal style. These feathers work excellently with recurve and longbows. Not to mention they look great too!
New Archery Products QuickFletch Twister Vanes
Many archers dread the long process of gluing vanes or feathers to an arrow, so products like the QuickFletch Twister vanes solve this problem. With nothing more than a little hot water, you can permanently attach these vanes to carbon and aluminum arrows for a perfect fletch.
As simple as it might seem, choosing the right arrow fletching can be rather complicated. From the various materials and fletching styles to the actual size and weight of each vane, there are many decisions that you need to make in order to choose the perfect fletching. We hope you now have a better idea of