Feathers vs. Vanes

By Jeff Smith
September 2002


With archery season right around the corner, bow shooting is in full swing around the state. It seems the debate of feathers or vanes is ringing throughout the archery circles once again this fall. It appears most things in life operate like a wheel and come full circle. Sometimes you’re at the top of the ladder and at others just holding it for someone else. This wise old man once told me that he spent his entire life climbing the ladder to get to the top and not only find it was the wrong ladder but leaning against the wrong building. The same is true for feathers and vanes. In my neck of the woods, vanes ruled a dozen or so years ago, then feathers took control and now it appears vanes are back on top.

Which is right for you?

When trying to make any decision in life, you should look at the pros and cons of each choice. I always try to base my decisions off what is right for me and not let others “pressure” me into using a product that is not right for my setup. I listen to what others say about a product or situation, I store that away for use in the decision making process. However, the bottom line is I’m going to use what’s best for me and not what someone else wants me to use. I find that the ones who laugh or poke fun at a person’s equipment are the ones with an empty freezer at the end of the season or the ones who have a guide say, “Shoot that one”.

Some of the arrows I have harvested deer with.

Some of the custom arrows I've built. I build wood and aluminum arrows that are dipped, crowned, crested and fletched.



Better rest clearance
Much better at broadhead stabilization
More durable for target practice grouping
Can fletch with as much twist as needed
Tend to have better “correction” capabilities when hitting a limb



Less Expensive
Less noise when released from bow
More common in pro shops
Slightly easier to fletch

The Weight Factor:

According to my RCBS digital scale:

Three 5” feathers weigh 10.2grains
Three 5” vanes weigh 40.1grains

The feathers weigh approximately 30 grains less than the vanes. Most bows will change approximately one foot per second of velocity for every 4 grains of arrow weight.

30 grains / 4 grains = 7.5

Therefore, 5” feathers should gain 7.5 ft/sec of velocity over 5” vanes.

By removing 30 grains from the rear of the arrow, you change your Front of Center value. This should not be a problem unless your using a heavy broadhead, > 150-grain, and light weight shaft.

In years past when I shot Thunderhead broadheads, I used a 125-grain broadhead with feathers and carried a couple of 100-grain broadheads with vanes for days when it was raining. The 25-grain change in broadhead weight equaled out to the change from feathers to vanes and the arrows flew very close to the same location.

The Cost Factor:

If you fletch arrows yourself, the cost is $7-$8 more per dozen for feathers. If you buy your arrows fletched, it can cost from $5-$12 a dozen more per dozen.

100 pack of vanes - $9.00
100 pack of feathers - $30.00

Cost Difference per Dozen Arrows - $7.56 more for feathers

Broadhead Stabilization:

I have a very hard time getting my broadheads to fly correctly with vanes. The retractable broadheads are much easier to get flying correctly verses fixed-blade heads. I shoot the Muzzy 115-grain 4-blade and they’ll only fly with 5” feathers. That has a lot to do with me shooting a long shaft and 70 lbs. of kinetic energy. As a general rule, I feel that feathers do a much better job of broadhead stabilization than vanes.

Vanes are Sweet Dot Shooters:

Brand new shafts with 4” vanes are hard to beat for shooting dots. If I were shooting dots instead of hunting, I’d shoot 3 or 4” vanes straight fletched. That would be a sweet shooter!

In Conclusion:

Shoot the components that are right for you and your setup. Both feathers and vanes have their place in target and hunting applications. Make sure to practice a lot with broadheads and not just field points. Almost any arrow combination will shoot field points well; broadheads are the teller of the tape, reaper of the rewards and the end-all for many big bucks this hunting season.

Have a safe hunting season.

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