Indoor competition season is approaching fast, and for that, a few minor equipment changes can help your score. Recurve archers usually use skinny arrows for outdoor competition. The small-diameter shafts are good for long-range accuracy, and they’re paired with fletching that’s meant to impart minimal drag; just enough to help the arrow straighten out while on its way to the target, 70 meters away. But when shooting indoors at 18 meters, your arrows will need to stabilize a fraction of a second sooner. This can be accomplished simply by changing your fletching, even if you don’t change your arrow shaft size. Here are some options.
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If It’s Not Broken, Don’t Fix It
Quite a few archers are already satisfied with how their outdoor arrows — usually skinny shafts with a spin-vane type of fletching — fly, and so they don’t change a thing. This means keeping the attached spin-vanes with double-sided tape, which makes replacing them with something a little different for indoor shooting quick and easy.
One possible option a recurve archer might consider is a switch to plastic glue-on vanes, commonly seen on compound archers’ arrows. This fletching type is not widely used by top-level recurve archers because the plastic vanes both stiffen the arrow and add extra weight to the rear of it. But glue-on vanes would be a great choice for any archer who is shooting arrows that are too weak for their setup, or for any archer who needs durable fletching that can take a beating (from other arrows, of course). Application of these plastic vanes is usually done with a fletching jig and a fast-curing adhesive that is much like Crazy Glue. Because of how solid the glue becomes when it is cured, it is highly recommended to install arrow wraps to the portion of the shaft where the fletching will be applied, especially on carbon arrows. Removal of damaged vanes is usually done by running a knife between the fletching and arrow shaft, and in doing that, you run the risk of stripping some carbon material away with the vane. Using wraps means that you will need to replace all three vanes at once, but the carbon on your arrow will be unharmed.
Feathers are the most common alternate fletching for indoor archers. Since feathers are much lighter than plastic vanes, they don’t tend to change the tune of the arrow as much, although they do make the arrows slightly less flexible. Also, because feathers are lighter than plastic vanes, you can apply them to the arrow shaft using the same double-sided tape from the outdoor spin-vanes, thus eliminating gluing time and the necessity of using arrow wraps.
If you still prefer to use glue, consider a slow-drying formula, like tried-and-tested Fletch-Tite. Be prepared to wait as long as 10 to 20 minutes for each feather to set while clamped in the fletching jig. Feathers have a natural curl, and it is much better in the gluing process to be patient and wait for the glue to dry while the feather is in the clamp so that the angle and straightness of the feather is maintained on the shaft.
Make sure to try all your fletching options for the indoor competition season, and score each of them against one another. Who knows, you might find some surprising — and pleasing — results.