How to Decide What Vanes You Should Use?
by Adam Miller
There are many different styles of vanes (also called fletches or fletching vanes) to choose from, but why would you pick one instead of another? Is it the colour, flexibility or ease of use? What length, what material? Does it make that much difference?
Let's have a look at each type and find a situation when it's the right or wrong choice. As with most things in archery, you will always get a difference of opinion form a different person, but these are a few suggestions to help you decide if you're making the right choice.
What should you consider when making the choice?
The main things to consider when choosing a vane are:
- what style of archery do you do?
- what size arrow will you be shooting?
- will these be for indoor, outdoor or both?
- As a basic rule, if you have long, thin arrows - you would need a bigger vane to help stabilise the arrows flight. If you shoot short, thin arrows - then a very small thin vane would work best.
- If you're shooting long distances, you might want to pick a smaller sized vane to help speed up your shot.
- If you want your vanes to help correct the arrows flight then pick a larger one.
- If you have light arrows, you can pick big or small vanes, depending on your preference.
- If you're shooting heavy arrows, then feathers might be the best choice.
- If you're shooting indoors - any style of fletching will work and if you shoot outdoors you might NOT want to choose feathers as they will be affected by weather more than the other options.
So let's look at each style of vane, and see what they can offer us.
Feather vanes look great, you can get a great choice in colours and patterns, but when would you choose to use them? The obvious answer: if you're shooting longbow or a traditional bow. Why? They are the traditional choice, and lets be honest: if you shoot a longbow with an arrow fletched with spin vanes, it just wouldn’t look right. Is that the only reason? Well... no. Feathers are very popular with recurve/barebow archers for indoor shooting. The large feathers are great for slowing down and stabilising an arrow quite quickly and that's what you want if you're shooting heavy arrows indoors. You don’t have to worry about wind affecting the shot, so large feathers are a great choice. They are also popular for field archery, as well.
They do look very good and they are great for correcting the arrows flight. They will be more forgiving of a bad shot. They're a good choice if you're using wooden arrows (they look much better than plastic ones). Popular for indoor shooting when combined with very big arrows. The feather can fold away if it contacts the bow with little effect to its flight. Popular with traditional, field and indoor archery.
They require a lot of care and attention, they can break very easily. You would need to treat them if you're shooting outdoor as they don’t perform well when wet. You have a choice of left/right spin so you need to make sure all the feathers you buy are the same. They're not a cheap option, a good feather will cost more than a plastic one. They create a lot of drag, as they are usually quite large.
Some examples of popular feathers:
- Gateway - 2.5" Parabolic Feathers
- Gateway - 3" RW Tre Parabolic Feathers
- Trueflight - 4" RW Barred Shield Feathers
- Trueflight - 5" RW Barred Shield Feathers
- Trueflight - Full Length RW Barred Feathers
These are the all round choice. Most arrows you buy will come pre-fletched with plastic vanes, and replacing them is easy. If you're not sure what to buy, plastic is always going to work well.
They're probably the best all round frame you can buy. The most popular style of vane. Easy to glue onto an arrow. They can be cheap, easy to use and hard wearing. There is a great selection of colours, patterns and sizes. There is a vane to suit just about any situation. Popular with compound archers for indoor or outdoor use. You can use a smaller vane for faster speeds, or pick a bigger one to slow things down.
They can be stiffer and heavier than feathers.
Some examples of popular plastic vanes:
- AAE - Elite Plastifletch Vane EP 23
- Bohning - X-Vanes Shield 2.25"
- AAE - MAX 2" Shield Vanes
- Easton - Diamond Vanes
- Bohning - Air Vanes
- Flex-Fletch - No Prep Flex2 200 Parabolic Vanes
- Bohning - Griffin 1" Vanes
3. Spin Vanes
So what are spin or mylar vanes? They are flexible, thin, plastic vanes that have a built in twist. One of the most well know brand is Spin-Wing. These are very popular with recurve archers shooting indoor or outdoor. They are small, light and easy to replace. They are specially designed to spin and stabilise the arrows quickly, and being very light will not affect the arrow speed very much.
They are easy to replace when they break as you don’t need to use a fletching jig. They are fixed onto the arrow using tape so you don’t need to wait for the glue to dry. They're light and because of the preset bend they help to rotate an stabilise the arrow quickly, making them a great choice for longer distances. These are the most engineered of all the vanes available. A lot of research has gone into making them, to ensure you have the best arrow performance you can get.
They can be quite fragile and will need to be replaced quite frequently. They can be expensive. There are many, many different brands, sizes, materials and styles of spin vanes - so you might want to experiment a little to find the right ones for you. You usually only have one colour of fletch, unlike plastic vanes, as different colours can mean a different weight or stiffness, so colour choice might be more about performance than being aesthetically pleasing.
Some examples of popular spin vanes:
- Spin-Wing - 2-3/16" Vanes
- XS Wings - 70mm Low Profile Vanes
- Spider Vanes - Invictus 2 1/8in
- Eli - S3 Shield Vanes
- Spider Vanes - Brady Vane 3.5"
- K&K Archery - KSL Jet6 1-3/4" Spin Vanes
When fletching your arrows and choosing your vanes, there are some additional items you might want to consider:
Arrow wraps are a great addition to your arrows, not only can they make your arrows look more unique and colourful, they will also help to protect the arrow shaft when it comes to removing vanes. If you choose a bright colour, it might also help you spot your arrow through a scope, or in the worst case scenario help you find a lost arrow in the grass.
Some examples of popular wraps vanes:
- Socx - Shoot for the Cure - Version 1 Wraps
- Socx - X10 Comfort Wraps for Spin Vanes
- Designer Archery - FLAGS arrow wraps - Thin
- Designer Archery - The Beez Kneez arrow wraps - Medium
These are essential if you're planning to shoot in any competitions. You could just write numbers and letters on your arrows with a pen, but it doesn’t look very nice and it will wear off easily. Having pre-printed numbers will make it a lot easier for you and for a judge when it comes to equipment inspection, so don’t forget to buy some!
I think one thing is clear: testing different size and style of vane is essential to see what works best for you. Don’t be afraid to buy more than one size when you're planning to setup some new arrows, as one type might give you better results than another. As with most things in archery, you need to spend a bit of time testing your setup if you want to achieve the best results possible. Talk to other people in your club, see what they like to use and why, but remember: every archer is different, so what works for one person might not work as well for you. Spend a little bit of time and try different setups, you’ll get a much better result that way.
Here's an example: if you're a recurve/barebow archer and have found that for you the spin vanes are too delicate and break too easily, your next best option is to try the AAE - WAV Vanes. These plastic vanes have been specifically designed for recurve archers and are almost as light as spin vanes, so these could be a great option for you to try.