One debate that comes up periodically is whether to use straight fletch, helical or straight with an offset. This especially comes up when shooting broadheads or long distances under adverse conditions. I have played with all sorts of different ways of fletching arrows but up to this point hand never done any in-depth testing up until now.
In the past I have had the same arrows fletched with a helical and with a three-degree offset in the same dozen and never really saw a difference. However, I had never tried a straight fletch but have heard of many claims that they fly just fine, even with broadheads. The most common reason for choosing straight is that they, in theory, should fly faster because there is less air resistance and energy is not lost to spinning the arrow.
This first article will deal with just the accuracy and repeatability of straight vs. helical, whereas another article will deal with the speed issue in the near future. I have the speed data collected, it is just going to take a while to get it sorted out and correctly analyzed as there is a boatload of it. I also collected data across differing weights of arrows.
The first task was to fletch some arrows with both straight and helical fletchings. I chose to use the venerable Blazer vane as it is probably the most common vane in use today and something nearly everyone can relate to. My fletching tool of choice is the Bitzenburger fletcher which as served me well for many years. The clamps use are the standard right helical and straight clamps.
Too make sure that it was possible to see any accuracy differences, I did the shooting from 40 yards. The test bow was my Elite Envy set at 60 lbs. and 29.5″ draw length. For this testing standard field points were use. The target is a standard FITA target, though printed with three faces on one piece of 8 1/2 x 11″ paper. At the time of the shooting, it was overcast, but there was little to no wind.
The results after 23 shots with each (yes, 23 is an odd number but the rain really started coming down at that point!) are shown below. It looks pretty obvious that while both shot consistent patterns, the helical held a tighter pattern and overall was much more accurate and repeatable.
The difference in this particular test is that with straight fletchings, approximately 1/3 of the shots scored in the 10 ring and with the helical slightly more than 1/2. There are several shots in the red with the straight and only one with the helical (which I’d like to blame on the mosquito making a meal out of my forehead on that shot!) Both patterns are very consistent with no real abnormalities so I believe this test to be valid under these shooting and equipment conditions.
In my experience, shooting under adverse conditions and at longer ranges, or using a broadhead, will almost certainly make any difference in performance more exaggerated. I can imagine that with a broadhead difference in pattern size would be more pronounced, though I would like to do separate testing to confirm this.