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The purpose of the fletchings or arrow vanes on the arrow are to steer and stabilize the arrow after it has left the bow.

It can correct or minimize the effect of any errors that might have been made by the archer when shooting the bow.

Arrows with parabolic vanes

These vanes may be long or short, they may be high or low, they may be shield cut or parabolic. Vanes come in any one of a number of different designs, each of which perform a specific role.

In this case we are interested in the role of short and long vanes, the purpose of each and when to use them.

The equipment you use, the type of hunting you’re going to be doing and the expected distance you’ll be shooting over will have a big say in the length of your vanes.

There is no hard and fast rule around what is the right or wrong size of vane.

However, simple physics helps to explain why the length of the vane has an effect on arrow flight and knowing why will help to match up the correct length with your particular set-up.

Does Arrow Vane Length Matter?

The length of the arrow vanes plays an important role in the amount of stabilization the arrow receives.

It matters because it plays a role in keeping the back of the arrow aligned with the front while it’s in flight.

The more surface area there is, the greater the influence any air movement will have on the arrow. At the same time, the greater surface area means there is a greater chance of flight correction taking place.

When Should You Use Short Vanes?

The main reasons why you might choose to use shorter vanes are:

  • You want to maximize arrow speed
  • You’re shooting lightweight, micro-diameter arrows
  • You’re using expandable broadheads
  • You shoot over longer distances

The reason why you’d choose short vanes for your arrows is if you’re trying to shoot with the greatest speed possible or if you believe you don’t need flight correction.

Presumably you’re already comfortable in your shooting technique and are confident of your accuracy so are not looking for any help with flight correction.

If you’re using light, micro-diameter arrows over longer distances you’re not going to need the type of stabilization you get with a larger vane.

Lightweight arrows shot from the modern, high-powered compound bows are not going to get a lot of time for flight correction from vanes anyway.

Instead, the smaller, shorter vanes are ideal for maintaining every bit of speed possible.

Expandable broadheads fly like a field tip so won’t need as much rear end control as a larger fixed blade. In this case it would make sense to fletch with a shorter vane.

Just one final point about short vanes, they generally fly more quietly than longer vanes due to the reduced surface area.

Here are three examples of short (2 inch) vanes that are worth checking out.

TAC Vanes Driver Vane 2"

Bohning Heat 2.5” Vanes

When Should You Use Long Vanes?

The main reasons why you might choose to use shorter vanes are:

  • You value arrow flight control over speed
  • You’re shooting heavier, thicker diameter arrows
  • You use fixed blade broadheads
  • For indoor target archery

Long vanes are required when shooting heavy arrows or larger diameter arrows. In both of these cases you’re going to need the control to kick in quickly after the arrow leaves the bow and that’s what you get with vanes that have a larger surface area.

Larger, longer vanes are also going to provide more consistency to arrows with large fixed blade broadheads at the front.

Again, the added weight and drag has to counterbalance the rear of the arrow. That’s not going to happen if the vanes are too short.

A good set of 4 inch vanes will provide the necessary control to create greater consistency with your heavier arrows.

Here are 3 examples of longer (4 inch) vanes that are worth checking out

Bohning Impulse 4" Vanes
VaneTec V-Max 4" Vanes

VaneTec V-Max 4” Vanes

Glue Them Straight, Offset or Helical

To maximize the effectiveness of your longer vanes you could play around with different methods of applying them to the arrows.

Vanes may be glued on straight down the shaft, at a small offset or in a helical fashion.

Vanes positioned straight, offset or helical

You’re more likely to use the helical fletching method with longer vanes and in most hunting situations.

When applying vanes in this fashion you’re able to get maximum arrow stability through a faster rate of arrow spin. The faster the rate of spin, the more accurate the arrow will fly over longer distances.

You simply have to work out whether to set them as either a left or right helical fletching.

Gluing longer vanes at an offset angle will also provide greater arrow stability over longer distance shots.  


A number of factors come into play when choosing the type of vane for your arrows.

Speed vs control, expandable vs fixed blade heads, arrow diameter and weight. All of these variables will affect arrow flight and must be considered as you try to get the most efficiency out of your arrows.

Then there is the question of whether to create a 4 fletch or 3 fletch arrow.

You have another factor at your disposal too, which we haven’t even touched on here and that’s the height of the vane.

A high profile vane means more surface area and that equals more control. A low profile vane means less resistance and more speed.

You may want to consider low profile vanes for Whisker Biscuit arrow rests.

You can compensate a shorter vane length with higher profile to get faster arrow flight correction.

There are a lot of factors to play with that will change the way your arrows perform. Start with the vane length and start sending them down the practice range to get a good understanding about how each variable will affect your arrow flight.

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Categories: ArticlesVanes


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