7

A lot of manufacturer (and archers) state that feathers are better in all respects. For example a quote from Trueflight:

Using feathers results in higher arrow velocities, greater stability, better guidance, higher accuracy and more forgiving flight.

Why do most olympic archers, compounders etc. still use plastic vanes?


Some clarification for laypersons:

You can either have natural feathers or artifical plastic feathers on your arrow. Latter are called "vanes".

enter image description here The first arrow has natural feathers while the lower arrow uses vanes.

6

An arrow's fletching should balance between providing good spin and minimizing drag. See the video here.

Feathers:

  • Superior in-flight characteristics: recede well at high airspeed (decreases drag) while springing back exponentially as airspeed decreases (increases stability)
  • Lighter weight
  • Higher arrow speed [1]
  • More forgivingly slides past risers and rests
  • Easier to tune
  • When wet, provide less to no spin
  • More expensive

Vanes (plastic)

  • Not affected by water or most weather
  • More durable than feathers
  • Less expensive
  • Rigidity of vanes causes launch variances brushing past rests
  • Harder to tune, but less variance between similar vanes than between similar feathers
  • Flexibility changes with temperature

The advantages of vanes probably call to many: cheaper and more predictable. I could not find a reason why Olympic competitors use vanes. Maybe it is an Olympic requirement?

  • Could it be that the olympic thing is down to the "less variance". In elite competition the margins are tiny and anything that lowers variance is going to be embraced? Not an Archer though – user2766 Sep 2 '16 at 8:22
9

Artificial vanes are heaps more durable than feathers and being artificial, they are weather resistant.

One of the things I most see in the field on a wet day is long bowers covering arrows with a plastic bag because they won't fly well if feathers get wet.

  • 1
    +1 This. Vanes are getting damaged and have to be replaced often enough as it is... Feathers are less robust and a good bit more expensive. – fgysin Aug 31 '16 at 8:54
  • 1
    As a general rule as to why artificial vanes are used this is a good answer but I feel it falls short with regards to high performance archery (olympics mentioned in the question). Surely in those competitions arrows would be selected purely for performance (and consistency) and if the arrows only last a shot or two so be it. Unless there are rules on maximum number of arrows a competitor can use in which case durability would have to be considered. – gtwebb Sep 1 '16 at 16:10
  • I suspect the Olympic thing has to do with the regulations. Generally in competition your gear is inspected and signed off and you can only use what you have thereafter. Gear that is easily damaged could be a real issue. – Russell Steen Sep 5 '16 at 13:37
  • I think Olympic archers use vanes because of consistency as well as durability. Vanes are factory made and despite of that odd badly made one, they should deliver almost identical results across a pack of 100. I have a set of Axis traditional with feathers and they should fly really nice but I only use that set in novelty shoots around the clubs here. To compete or hunting I find vanes more reliable, durable and consistent. RE the comment above, I don't think Olympic rules restraint archers to use feathers. I think it would just be a pain in the neck to take 100 arrows all the time for a comp. – Desorder Sep 5 '16 at 20:54

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