What Is Fletching In Archery? - My Archery Corner

What Is Fletching In Archery?

Arrows with real feathers in a quiver.

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I have been asked the question “What is fletching?” so I decided to answer it here on my blog for everybody to read.

If you want to know what fletching is and why it is so important in archery, keep reading:

No Archery Without Fletching

green fletching

Green Fletching. Used under creative commons from: LivingShadow


Yes, it is that important!
Without proper fletching your arrows won’t fly the way they should. You won’t be able to hit your target consistently and you have to depend a lot more on luck.
You will have guessed it by now:
Fletching are the feathers at the end of your arrows.

While it is possible to shoot arrows without fletching (I did that many times with improvised arrows when I was a kid), the arrow won’t fly as well as one with feathers. Especially when you want to shoot on longer distances.

What Does Fletching Do?

If you have ever seen an arrow fly in slow motion you know that an arrow doesn’t just fly straight through the air.
The arrow is bent when leaving the bow which results in a wave-like movement.
This is called “The Archer’s Paradox“.
What you need to know is that an arrow without fletching could be drawn out of line by its arrow tip. It could even start spinning through the air.

That’s where the fletching kicks in. It stabilizes your arrow and works as a counterpart to the arrow tip.
It can be compared to the fins of a rocket which stabilize rockets in flight, too.

So most important to know is, that your arrows will fly much straighter with a good fletching than without.

How To Use A Fletched Arrow

Nowadays every arrow comes with a fletching, so you need to know how to use them properly.
It is very easy, but there is still something you can do wrong.

Arrows have traditionally three feathers. Modern arrows that have plastic fletchings usually have one “feather” that has a different color than the other feathers.
This is called the “index feather”.
When you load your arrow, you have to make sure that the index feather points away from the riser (grip). So, when you are holding the bow with your left hand, the index feather has to point to the left, and the other way if you are holding the bow with your right hand.

index feather

Index Feather. Used under creative commons from: Rafiq

This is most important for longbows and recurve bows.

Compound bows usually have different kinds of arrow rests and that can make the index feather not important anymore.
If shooting with a traditional arrow and all the feathers have the same color, just make sure that one of the feathers is at an angle of 90° to the riser.

(The angle between the feathers is 120° by the way.)

What happens if you load the arrow the wrong way?

If the index feather doesn’t point away from the riser, one of the feathers will punch the bow which will throw the arrow out of its path and make hitting your target almost impossible.
Your arrow will be out of control and might spin wildly through the air.

Different Types Of Fletching

Traditionally, an arrow’s fletching is made of real feathers.
There are still many archers who shoot with traditional equipment and they wouldn’t use arrows with plastic fletching.
Many even do the fletching themselves (but this takes some time, as you can see here):

Modern arrows have plastic fletching which is more durable, but doesn’t have any different effect on the arrow than real feathers.
Depending on what you want to do with your bow, you can choose between different types of fletching:

  • Straight fletch for fastest arrow flight
  • Offset fletch for better stabilization when shooting with broadheads
  • Helical fletch for best stabilization

The problem with the offset and helical fletch is, that you will need special arrow rests to shoot them efficiently, so they are best used with compound bows.

Better Understanding Of Archery

Profile-ImageI hope I was able to answer the question “What Is Fletching?”.
Many people just use a bow and arrow, without really understanding what is behind all that archery equipment.
This is something I am trying to change.

Stay tuned for my next post about “The Archers Paradox”.
If you have any additional questions on this topic, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below.
I will answer you in a very short time.

Have a great day and happy shooting!

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