Q: I’ve heard a lot recently about the ‘wing’ of the fletchings. Does it matter if the left or right turn is used? And is one or the other preferable for a right or left handed archer?
A: Sometimes archers believe that it would make a difference because a left-handed archer positions the nocked arrow in a mirror image to the arrow of a right-handed archer. However, this is based on the notion of what happens when the arrow’s spin kicks in, but they forget that the arrow’s position is locked as long as it is nocked onto the bowstring. This means the flight spin doesn’t occur until after the arrow is loosed from the bow. We have conducted experiments with right and left wing fletchings on arrows that were otherwise identical and determined that there was no discernible difference in performance.
Of course, it is essential that all the feathers on any arrow are either right or left wing feathers. Never mix the two on a single arrow as this will slow the spinning down and result in an unstable flight. What also has to be avoided is forcing a different direction by contradicting the natural turn of the feather. Feathers make the best fletchings because it is a natural product that is optimally designed for flight; forcing it to do something else isn’t conducive for performance.
Many clamps are designed to encourage a slight offset to the left or right to encourage rotational movement. We still speak of these as straight fletching (opposed to helical fletching). It is important to ensure that a right or left wing clamp is used in correspondence to the turn of the feather, that is, don’t use a right wing clamp with left wing feathers.
Determining the turn of a feather is not difficult. Hold the point of the feather towards you with the vane upwards. If the feather turns to the right, then it is a right turning feather, and vice versa.
The Glade Ask The Experts – in association with Fairbow