Arrows Series – Part 6: Fletching and Indexing

Now that you have cut your arrows you need to fletch them. Fletchings are found at the back of the arrow, traditionally made from bird feathers and are used to stabilize the arrow by creating a small amount of drag.

Wikipedia: Fletching (also known as a flight) is the aerodynamic stabilization of arrows or darts with materials such as feathers, each piece of which is referred to as a fletch. The word is related to the French word “fleche”, meaning “arrow,” via Old French; the ultimate root is Frankish fliukka. A fletcher is a maker of arrows.

Nowadays, there are two types of fletchings, real or synthetic feathers and plastic vanes. Some target archers have them attached to the arrow with a slight twist to increase arrow spin because a spinning projectile is more stable and helps reduce the effects of Archer’s Paradox (We will discuss Archer’s Paradox in more detail in the Part 7 of the series).

The most conventional style of indexing is a three-feather fletching where feathers or vanes are mounted to the arrow, evenly distributed around the spine of the arrow. One feather, called the “cock”, is set at a right angle to the string and pointed at the archer and the other two fletchings on the riser side are angled up and down away from the bow. This is done so the fletchings/vanes will not contact the bow when the arrow is shot. For compound archers the cock feather’s indexing depends on the type of arrow rest.

Quick Tip: Choose a different colour for the “cock” feather. It is great reminder to always point it towards you and away from the riser for proper nocking of the arrow.

Fletching an arrow is a time consuming and tedious task to do accurately by hand. In modern times, most people use a fletching jig, especially to fletch arrows with a slight twist. Check out my earlier blog about fletching jigs.

It is important to understand that once an arrow is released it starts to bend and if the arrow is not correctly indexed the feathers or vanes will make contact with the riser. This will cause the arrow to react differently than expected, distort your feathers and possibly cause damage to you or your equipment.

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Adjusting your sights

As a recurve archer, your sight is a vital piece of your equipment. Recently, I had a request to do a blog about the anatomy of a sight and how to adjust it. Although every sight is different, they all have similar components. We will use the Cartel Mighty sight in this example.

A recurve sight is typically made of four components; the riser mount with knob, horizontal extension bar, vertical sight bar, and scope. The riser mount is used to attach the sight to the riser and the knob is used to hold one end of the horizontal extension bar. The vertical sight bar is mounted to the other end of horizontal extension bar with the scope attached to it.  The vertical sight bar and scope have thumb screws that are used to adjust and micro-adjust the scope in relationship to the target.

Most sights have three knobs, one to adjust the length of the horizontal extension bar, one to adjust the height of the scope and one to adjust the left/right location of scope. The latter two usually have both large and micro-adjustments available. When you are ready to start adjusting your sight, remember the simple rule, “Follow the arrow”. Check out my earlier blog called Follow the Arrow: Adjust your sights.

To adjust the length of the horizontal extension bar simply loosen the knob and extend it to the desired length and tighten the knob to secure it. The marks on the bar to help you remember the length so you can set it up again.

To make an adjustment of the vertical location of the scope, loosen the thumb screw fastener and either depress the thumb lever for a large move or turn the micro-knob for small adjustment. Once complete then tighten the thumb screw fastener to secure it.

To make a left or right adjustment of the scope, loosen the thumb screw fastener and either twist the scope in or out for a large change, or twist the tension knob for micro-adjustments and then tighten the thumb screw fastener to secure it.

Once you have adjusted your sight make sure to shoot several arrows to confirm your adjustments. Once you are satisfied with the results, record the location of the sight marks on the vertical sight bar. Remember as you grow, develop muscle and change equipment your sight marks will move. One trick is to add a thin piece of white tape over the sight marks. This allows you to adjust the markings without permanently damaging the sight itself.

Follow the Arrow: Adjust your sights

Unless you are a traditionalist, one of the first things you will need to do as an archer is adjust your sight. Unless you are a compound shooter with the same setup for ever, you will need to make adjusts again and again. For recurve archers there are many reasons why you will need to make adjustments including…

Environmental Differences : Every location is different, wind, rain; check out my earlier blog about Weather Conditions here.

New Distances : As you develop and change categories, distances change. Junior women need to shoot 70M and junior men 90M, if you are not there yet, do not worry, you will be.

Growth : As you get older, your body changes, you get taller and stronger and your draw length changes, using a clicker can help with consistency, so check out my Clicker blog.

Equipment Changes : As you get stronger and you are required to reach longer distances you need to change equipment, such as higher poundage limbs. Eventually equipment wears outs and we all want the latest and greatest technology.

Archery Form Changes : As you develop as an archer, you will perform better as an archer and your archery form will get better.

For young recurve archers adjusting a sight is a frequent event and is actually quite easy, the hard part is resisting the temptation to adjust it after every shot. Remember that consistency is your ultimate goal, so track your arrows before making any adjustments. You can do this on paper or there is an awesome free application for your IPod Touch called Archery Score Free by Yakoob Ali.  Once you are warmed up begin to track your arrows and determine the centre of your arrows grouping and then move the sight accordingly. Remember, if your groups were good yesterday and are not today, evaluate your form first. Also, if you have one arrow consistently out of group, check the arrow for defects.

When you are ready to adjust your sight, apply this simple rule, “Follow the arrow” or in this case the centre of the group of arrows. If the centre of your arrow grouping is to the left, then move your sight towards the left or opposite if your group is to the right.  The same principle applies for the group’s height; move your sign up or down if the group is not centered.  By moving the sight towards the arrow, the trajectory of the bow is altered to better centre the arrows on the target.

Remember, consistent form is essential to archery, and before you start micro-adjusting be sure you are grouping consistently first. Otherwise, if you are always making changes to your sight you will never truly know if you will consistently hit the bulls-eye.