3” Vs 4” Vanes – What’s right for you

When it comes to fletch count, there’s no wrong answer. Three-inch and four-inch will work for different setups and different styles of shooting. In this post, I’ll show you the ups and downs of both. 

Before choosing between 3″ or 4″ vanes, consider the following five factors:

  • Arrow size
  • Helical
  • Vane fitting 
  • Bail your using
  • Arrow rest size

1 Arrow Size 

Talking about 3″ to 4″, you’re only going to be using ‘fat’ arrows. In this case, I’ve been shooting the Easton X2312’s. It’s important you know what size fletch to shoot for what game you’re playing. You can generally have the most freedom with this indoors. Outdoor season I’d say 90% of archers will always choose a fletch anywhere between 1.75″ to 2″. That’s just standard. 

Anything more than that like 2.5″ I’d consider being an indoor fletch. So for indoor use for fat arrows, you really want a bigger fletch. This is because we don’t have any wind to deal with, so with bigger fletches, we can make our arrows spin a whole lot more. Speaking of arrow spin, let’s talk about that.

2 Helical 

I feel I can’t talk about helical without first telling you how to figure out which way to spin your arrows clockwise or counterclockwise. First, you’d grab a bare shaft, and you Mark the top of your nock with a gold sharpie. 

Then you’d shoot an arrow at maybe a meter away. This means you can shoot your arrow as it doesn’t have enough time to do a full rotation because you’re so close to your bail. So when you shoot your arrow, and you go to inspect it, see which way your marked side of the nock is facing.

If it’s facing to the right, then you should fletch your arrows to the right visa-versa  

With that nugget out of the way, it’s time to discuss helical for 3″ vs 4″ vanes. Some of you may be able to see where I’m going with this, but there’s only one issue mixing helical and long vanes, and that’s clearance. When you break it down and think about it, it’ll make sense.

The longer your fletch, the less spin you need because if the fletch is that long anyways, any amount of I’d like helical is exaggerated. I would love to sit here and tell you a magic number for the correct fletch you’re using with how many spins you put on it, but I can’t.

But I can tell you this ( something I wish I knew before I started doing up my indoor setup ) The longer your fletch is, any amount of helical makes it much harder to get 100% clearance. It’s all about trial and error. 

3 Vane Fitting Technique

Here’s one that you probably didn’t think about. Going from 2″ vanes outdoor to 3″ or 4″ vanes indoor is a giant leap.

I glue my indoor vanes just ever so slightly differently to my outdoors. I usually give my outdoors just a slightly thicker coat of glue simply because you’re shooting at the same target with all of your arrows, so fletches are prone to coming off, but for indoor, each arrow has its target.

So I don’t feel the need to give it a thick coat. However, I find you run out of glue much quicker when fletching indoors. Even though I’m doing thinner coats, 4″ worth of fletches is a lot. 

As well as indoors, I like to “tip and tail” my arrows (except I tip them!) It’s a tip from John Dudley where he puts a tiny blob of glue on either end of the fletch to secure it that much more 

4 Arrow Rest Size 

This is an interesting one. I’m currently using the AAE Freakshow blade rest. Right now, I own two sizes of blade rests: a 10tho blade which I used for outdoor, and a 12tho blade which I thought I would be using for indoor. Keyword thought.

The 12tho actually has a wider blade which is the opposite of what I want for clearance. Here’s the thing with 4″ vanes, a bit of helical, and a wide blade well. 

It just won’t work. One of your fletches is going to run off the edge of your blade on the way out when you shoot it. After enough shots, they’ll peel away. I discovered this as I had that exact setup, and one night at the end of my training session, 4 out of 6 arrows that I was shooting the fletch on the right were peeling away. 

So this might go against what you’re told, but sometimes a smaller blade isn’t a bad thing for indoors. However, I have to say I’ve never had any issue with a 3″ vane with a bit of helical, so you can almost get away with any blade that you want with a 3.” 

5 The Bail Your Using 

These aren’t written in order of importance. However, this one is probably the least crucial, and it shouldn’t influence your choice of vanes; however, I believe it needs to be mentioned.

If you’ve got a soft target bail, maybe consider the 3″ vanes. Generally if you have an arrow that goes deep into the boss (i.e. down to the fletches) with a 3″ vane, it’s more likely to survive because it’s not so long. 

But with a 4″ vane, the weakest part of the fletch is at the very tip, and it just so happens that that’s where it’ll start to pass through into the boss. The tip of the fletch generally doesn’t survive. Again not a major factor, but I felt like it was worth mentioning.

You may find the following posts helpful:

How to remove fletching glue

How important is Bare shaft tuning

Rogan Cunningham

Rogan Cunningham is an archer and writer for shootingcabin.com. He's a proud member of the National Archery Squad. He writes about his archery training, shooting, and traveling with the national archery team, and he also reviews all kinds of archery kit. He only writes about archery, what can I tell you?..... He's an Archer!

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