Simple test to determine which way your arrows spin

Which way do my arrows naturally spin when they come off my compound bow?

That’s a common question archers ask before sitting down to fletch a fresh batch of arrows. If you plan to incorporate a right or left offset and/or helical into your fletchings to promote arrow spin, you might want the arrow to keep spinning in the direction it naturally spins anyway.

At left is an arrow fletched with left offset vanes. At right is an arrow fletched with right offset vanes.

This is called indexing your arrows. And there’s a super simple test you can do to figure out which way your arrows want to spin as they leave your bow.

The reason an arrow spins one way or the other has nothing to do with whether you shoot right or left handed. It is commonly considered to be related to the direction the bowstring is twisted, although there have been discrepancies observed with that theory.

But don’t worry about string twist. Here’s the simplest way to determine which way your arrows naturally spin when shot from your bow without any influence from fletchings.

Take an unfletched arrow and nock it on the bowstring. Draw a short line down the center of the top of the shaft, just behind the nock.

Stand about 10 feet from a target and shoot the arrow. When you inspect the arrow, you will see the line is now to the left or right of its centered position when it was on the bow. If it’s to the left, then your arrows spin counterclockwise. If it’s to the right, then your arrows spin clockwise.

Notice how this arrow is tilted left of its vertical position, indicating a counterclockwise spin.

Archers often ask at this point, “How do I know the arrow didn’t spin all the way in the other direction and stop there?” The simple answer is that it doesn’t have enough time to spin that far in such a short distance. But you can check to verify this further.

Take two more unfletched arrows and mark them just as you did the first. Now take three steps back from where you shot the first arrow and shoot a second. Take three more steps back from that spot and shoot your third arrow.

Shot from a greater distance, this arrow clearly spun a bit more counterclockwise than the first, confirming the rotation direction.

When you walk up to inspect all three arrows, you will see the graduated rotation. As you increased the shooting distance, you gave the arrows more room to spin.

So let’s say your first arrow spun a bit to the left. Your second should be a little more to the left and the third arrow even more to the left. If the arrows truly were spinning clockwise, then the graduated rotations would be the opposite.

Once you determine your arrows want to spin counterclockwise, then you know to fletch using a left offset and/or helical configuration, which will enhance that counterclockwise spin. If they spin clockwise, use right offset/helical.

An exception would be if these are hunting arrows, and you are shooting fixed-blade broadheads which have the blades set at an offset – which is almost always a right offset. Fletch to match the blade offset regardless of the results of your bareshaft test so your broadhead and your fletchings can work together to promote arrow spin.

How to Build a Hunting Arrow

Have you been searching for the perfect hunting arrow? One that’s perfectly matched to your bow, is the right length, has the fletchings you like and flies flawlessly?

Why not build your own?

We put together a four-part video series that walks you through the process of building an arrow, from picking the right shaft, to determining the proper length, to cutting it down and installing components to deciding how to fletch it and ultimately installing the fletchings.

Part One covers figuring out the right spine for your bow, deciding on the appropriate shaft weight and then figuring out how short to cut it down.

In Part Two, we review how to properly cut the shaft, and then demonstrate prepping it for installing components, before we actually install those inserts and nocks.

Part three covers arrow indexing. This involves shooting a bare shaft into a target to figure out which way arrows want to spin as they leave your bow, before fletchings are installed. This information is key in determining how to install fletchings to promote that natural spin.

Part Four, which is the last in the series, covers fletching selection, fletching jigs and a demonstration of installing wraps and fletchings on an arrow shaft.

Explained: Finding the Perfect Fletching Match

John Dudley, professional archer and host of Nock On TV, in this 12th installment of Nocked and Ready to Rock for 2016 runs through a test he does when he’s looking for the best fletching configuration on a given arrow for a specific bow setup.

In his test, Dudley shows how some fletchings work better than others on the same arrows shot from the same bow. Finding that perfect configuration will help shrink your arrow groups and tighten your accuracy.

Explained: Fletchings Experiment

John Dudley, host of Nock On TV, talks about different fletching options in this 10th installment of Nocked and Ready to Rock.

Dudley says he likes to set up a few arrows each with different types and configurations of fletchings to determine which ones seem to work best with a particular bow setup. According to Dudley, there can be a difference from bow to bow.

Explained: Fletching Arrows

In the ninth episode of Nocked and Ready to Rock, professional archer John Dudley talks about fletching arrows.

Dudley describes the fletching jigs he uses, demonstrates how to set them up for fletching and then walks through the process he uses for fletching his arrows. Throughout the narrative, Dudley discusses why he does what he does and the benefits of using his methods.

If you’ve ever thought about fletching your own arrows – and Dudley recommends all archers learn to do this – this is an excellent tutorial on the process.

Explained: Fletchings

John Dudley, host of Nock On TV, talks in this video about different types of fletchings available to bowhunters. This is part five of the 2016 series Nocked and Ready to Rock.

Dudley lays out the varieties of feathers and plastic vanes bowhunters can put on their arrows. At the same time, he talks about the pros and cons of each, such as the fact that feathers offer great steering capabilities, but they’re high maintenance and can be a problem in the rain. On the other side, vanes are weather resistant, but they might not steer an arrow as well as a feather.

Dudley also dives into special considerations bowhunters must weigh in choosing fletchings for arrows that might have fixed-blade broadheads or expandables.

Feathers vs. vanes: Here’s what you need to know

So you’ve got a fletching jig, and you’ve decided to build your own arrows for all your shooting needs – indoors, outdoor target, outdoor 3-D, hunting, etc. And now the question is…..Do I use feathers or vanes?

According to the LAS TechXPert crew, there are many factors individual archers must consider in making such a determination, i.e., shooting style, venue, personal goals, etc. And the answer is going to vary from shooter to shooter. But there are some generalities.

Before we get to that, though, let’s discuss the purpose and composition of fletchings. Think of fletchings as propeller fins for your arrow. They induce spin and stabilize its flight. As the shaft slices through the air, the wind flows over the fletchings, which spin and help align the shaft toward your aiming point. Arrows most commonly are fletched with three feathers or vanes. Some archers use four to stabilize large broadheads or to allow them to lower the profile of all the fletchings.

fletches

From the top: 5-inch feather; 3-inch low-profile, outdoor target vane; 2-inch high-profile, broadhead vane.

Feathers are just that. They typically are made from the primary flight feathers of a turkey wing. Vanes, on the other hand, are plastic. Although they can be treated to protect them from rain, feathers are prone to getting water logged, where vanes can withstand any weather.

Feathers impart more drag and spin on the arrow, along with being lighter and more flexible than vanes. Vanes are more durable. Whatever you decide to use, put one or the other on each individual arrow. For example, don’t put two feathers and a vane on an arrow.

Traditional archers often shoot arrows directly off the shelf of the riser, which leads to much more fletching-to-bow contact. For this reason, they mostly choose feathers, which easily give way to that contact without causing erratic arrow flight and inaccuracy like vanes would with direct contact.

trad fletch

A traditional or recurve archer using an elevated rest, like a rest-and-plunger combination or a stick-on style rest, may choose vanes because of the greater arrow clearance afforded by the elevated rest. The vanes would be preferable in rainy conditions, because feathers can get soaked to the point that they simply lay flat.

Indoor compound archers seem to be split between feathers and vanes. There’s no wind or rain to contend with, so the climate will always be prime for both. Feathers are said to be more forgiving, because they flex and fold in the air and around parts of the bow as an arrow is released. Both vanes and feathers have great steering capabilities indoors.

Indoor Olympic recurve archers tend to choose feathers for their forgiveness sliding across rests and risers. But there are those archers who simply shoot their outdoor arrows indoors, and therefore shoot vanes.

And speaking of outdoors, most competition compound and Olympic recurve archers shoot vanes outdoors. You can get much less wind drift using low-profile vanes, plus, they’re waterproof. Olympic recurve archers frequently use curled Mylar vanes, such as those made by XSWings, Range-O-Matic, Eli and Gas Pro, which promote maximum spin, outdoors.

curly vanes

Bowhunters these days commonly use vanes to withstand the elements, but there are some who still put feathers on their arrows for maximum guidance when using fixed-blade broadheads. Both are great for steering arrows tipped with most fixed or expandable broadheads.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to choosing between feathers and vanes. The best way to figure out what will work with your rig under the conditions you expect to encounter is to try both and gauge the results.

DIY Arrow Repairs

There’s nothing finer than taking home a brand new set of arrows. The shafts are clean. The fletchings are crisp and pristine. They’re visions of beauty.

Spend a couple weeks on the range with those arrows, though, and they might not look so pure. They can take a beating, and get damaged. Learn a few simple repair tricks, and you can keep those arrows flying for a long time.

FLETCHING

At some point, whether you shoot arrows fletched with feathers or vanes, you’re going to either lose a fletching, or one or more is going to be damaged and need to be replaced.

arrow1a

Of course, you can take such arrows to your local pro shop, and they’ll take care of them for you. But with a fletching jig of your own, this is an easy fix you can do at home.

Let’s say you take a shot with an arrow, and one fletching flies off or partially separates from the shaft. Some archers like to take such an arrow, strip off the remaining fletchings, and put three or four new ones on. Nothing wrong with that. And, in fact, if your nocks are glued in place, this is the easiest solution. Otherwise, you’ll have to cut off your nock, put a new one on without gluing it, and then follow the steps below.

With movable nocks, you can replace only the missing fletching. Use a stripping tool to remove any remaining vane material and glue. With carbon arrows, be careful not to gouge the shaft with the tool. You only want to remove extraneous surface material.

arrow stripper

When finished, the shaft should feel smooth where the fletching had been. Wipe the spot with a lacquer thinner to remove any remaining glue, followed by 100 percent denatured alcohol – 91 percent isopropyl works too.

Place your arrow in the fletching jig and spin the shaft, while holding the nock in place, until you line up one of the remaining fletchings in the spot it would be if you had just glued it in place in the jig. Now turn the arrow rotation dial one click toward the missing-fletching section. When it stops, you should be in the right spot to glue on a new fletching.

Clamp a new fletching in place without any glue on it to see if the spacing between it and the adjacent fletchings looks equal. Also check the distance between the nock and fletching to make sure the new one will match the others. If everything lines up, you’re ready to glue.

arrow3a

(If you’re using a jig that clamps all of your fletchings in place at one time, simply line up the remaining fletchings in the jig and glue the missing one using the empty slot.)

Those of you shooting the curly tape-on vanes can put your arrow in a jig like you’re going to fletch it. Using a pen, mark the spot where the replacement vane should go, then install the vane by hand.

Or you can use one of the tools specially designed to help line up these vanes. There’s the Beiter Tri-Liner Tool and the Spigarelli Spin Wing Fletcher. Both allow you to mark the shafts where you want to install the curly vanes.

arrow8a

CRACKS

It’s a good idea to get in the habit of checking your arrows for cracks. This can be done by visually looking over the shaft or slightly flexing an all carbon shaft. If your arrow is cracked, there’s nothing you can do to save it in its present condition. Cracks compromise the structural integrity of an arrow.

arrow cracked

Assuming the crack is confined to the end(s) of the shaft, you can cut off the shaft at least 1 inch beyond the end of the crack. That arrow is likely too short for your use now, but maybe you can pass it on to someone with a shorter draw length.

BENDS

Carbon arrows don’t bend, so here we’re talking strictly about aluminum, and – to some degree – aluminum/carbon combo shafts.

Provided the bends aren’t sharp, aluminum and aluminum/carbon arrows often can be straightened. To do it right, you’re going to need an arrow straightener, such as the AAE Arrow Straightener or the Grayling Perfect Arrow Straightener.

arrow4a

With this tool, you can spin a shaft, and an indicator tracks high and low spots. Set the high spot under the indicator and press down on a lever that bends the shaft back into place. Some straighteners allow you to fix bends all the way out to the very ends of a shaft. Others will only work on bends more than about 4 inches from the ends.

NOCKS

Nocks crack and break frequently. It doesn’t take much of an impact to render them worthless. In most cases, all you have to do is pull them out and put a new one in place. Keep several with you at all times, and you’ll never be in a jam.

Sometimes nocks break off down inside the shaft and there’s nothing sticking out to grab onto with pliers. Pick up a drywall screw with a set of pliers, heat the pointed end and stick it down inside the shaft into the back of the broken nock. You should then be able to pull the nock remnants out.

If your nocks are glued, you’re going to have to cut a damaged nock free. Remove all of the plastic bits from the shaft end before gluing on a replacement nock.

Nocks can be prone to cracking from repeated use. As with checking your arrows for cracks, it’s also a good idea to check nocks periodically. If a nock no longer snaps on the string, it’s a good idea to replace it.

POINTS

Hit something hard inside a target, or strike a rock on a pass-through or miss, and you can easily flatten or bend an arrow point.

With an aluminum arrow, you can heat the point to soften the glue holding it or its insert in place, and pull it out of the shaft.

You can do the same with a carbon arrow, but you run the risk of making the end of the shaft brittle, due to the heat. Overheating a carbon arrow can damage it beyond repair. If you’ve got a glue-in point, hopefully you used a hot-melt glue. Just heat the tip and pull the point free with a set of pliers as quickly as possible, using as little heat as possible.

arrow5a

Sometimes points bend inside the screw-in inserts in a shaft, making it impossible to unscrew the point. Slide something relatively heavily inside the shaft from the nock end. (Drill bits work great for this.) Hold the arrow in your hand with the point-end in the air, and then whip the shaft downward, so the drill bit slams into the back of the insert. This should break it free from the glue.

Be careful when you do this. That bit and insert can fly out of the shaft and injure you or someone standing nearby. So wear safety glasses to protect your eyes, and make sure no one else is in the room with you.

Now you can glue in a new insert and install a new point.

Range-O-Matic Spin-Wing Vanes

In this video, Lancaster Archery TechXPert Dan Schuller describes how the Range-O-Matic Spin-Wing Vanes work. He talks about how they should be attached to an arrow, and how they will benefit target archers.

Because of their curved shape, the Spin-Wing vanes cause an arrow to spin more than normal fletchings. That spinning motion helps stabilize the arrow in flight. The vanes come in a variety of lengths, so you have several options to choose from when fletching your arrows.

Bitzenburger Fletching Jig

Lancaster Archery Supply TechXPert Randy Groff runs through the features and operation of the Bitzenburger Fletching Jig in this video. The jig is used to attach either feathers or plastic vanes to arrow shafts. It can be set to attach either four fletchings or three.

Randy shows you how to properly set the jig to attach fletchings, and how it can be adjusted to set the fletchings the way you want them. The jig comes with one of three clamps – the straight clamp, which sets your fletchings in a straight line on the shaft; the left helical, which puts a curve in the fletchings that causes the arrow to spin counterclockwise; or the right helical, which puts a curve in the fletchings that causes the arrow to spin clockwise.