Another factor that determines the effectiveness of your fletching is the TURN of the fletch. If your fletching is arranged in a helical (spiral) pattern - like a boat propeller - your arrow will rotate in flight. Much like a football that's thrown with a perfect spiral, an arrow will fly straighter and be more stable if it rotates in-flight. Aerodynamically, a helical configuration is clearly a better choice. However, a helical fletch may not always be appropriate or necessary for your particular bow setup. For example, some arrow rests will not provide enough clearance to allow a helical fletch to pass thru without contact. In this case, many archers use an offset fletch, where 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. For very unforgiving arrow rests with limited clearance, or for competition target setups that don't require much stabilization, the straight fletch may be the best option. Take a look at the diagrams below and the corresponding pro's and con's associated with each fletching configuration. When you order your arrows, you'll need to select one of these options.
Please note that some types of fletching can only be fletched certain ways. Feathers generally come in a right-wing or left-wing pre-formed helical shape. So feather fletching will be right-helical or left-helical. Forcing a feather into a straight clamp to produce an offset or straight fletch is not recommended. Also, some specialty vanes, like NAP's Quikspin Vanes, should not be fletched in LH configurations. If you are a fan of the short 2" Blazer Vane, please note that the turn of the fletch will be much less noticeable. Even when fletched with a full helical clamp, a short 2" Blazer Vane will appear to have only a slight offset.
Right or Left?
If you choose to go with an offset or helical fletch, the arrow will rotate in flight. But which way should it rotate? Right or left? The answer is, sometimes it matters, sometimes it doesn't. So here are a few things to think about.
An arrow with a right turn will rotate clockwise (as viewed from the nock) during flight. An arrow with a left turn will rotate counterclockwise. So what's the big difference? With most modern setups ... nothing. One is as good as the other. The only major difference is that left-turn (counterclockwise) arrows tend to impact the target and loosen your tips, while right-turn (clockwise) arrows tend to impact the target and tighten your tips. Otherwise, it really makes no difference.
Nonetheless, the traditional wisdom that RH shooters should shoot a right turn fletch and LH shooters should shoot a left turn fletch still exists. Unfortunately, this thinking is a leftover rule of thumb from the days before compounds and the center-shot cutaway riser. It doesn't apply to modern compounds. But, if you shoot a traditional bow OR you have an old-fashioned flipper or plunger style rest on a non-center-shot riser bow, this is still good advice for achieving the best vane/feather clearance. If you shoot a modern compound with a bolt-on arrow rest, we suggest you choose a RH turn fletch - as a few broadheads and other arrow components are designed to work best with RH rotation.
Fletching Size: How Big to Go?
Most vanes and feathers are available in several different sizes. The most common are the 3", 4", and 5", with the 4" being the industry standard for most applications. However, you may decide a little larger or smaller fletch is better for you. Here are a few things to consider.
Weight: If you're concerned about your finished arrow weight or your F.O.C. balance (more on this in a moment), it's worth noting that your choice and size of fletching material will have a significant impact on both of those attributes. Take a look at the chart below to see how much your fletching choice will add to your finished arrow. 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.
In addition to the TURN of your fletching, the second factor that determines how much stabilization you can expect will be directly related to the total amount of surface area of the fletching material you select. Larger fletching will have more surface area, small fletching will have less. The more surface area, the more contact the fletching will have with the surrounding air and the more effective the fletching will be at correcting the arrow in flight. So this is a trade-off between stability and speed. Most bowhunters choose the larger 4" fletching to get better broadhead flight, while most target archers opt for smaller fletching material to optimize speed. Of course, the choice is up to you.