Spin wings vs normal vanes – are spin wings worth the trouble?

Spin wings cause quite a debate within archery, some people really like spin wings and others hate them. Almost all archers at the Olympics shoot with spin wings so many people believe that they should switch. While switching many archers notice that it isn’t so easy, you can’t just change your vanes and expect an increase in your accuracy. In this article, we will, therefore, discuss the entire idea behind spin wings, how it affects the arrow and whether it’s really worth it. If you don’t have time to read this entire article, here is my conclusion:

I wouldn’t change your standard vanes to spin wings if you don’t experience any issues. There is no real evidence that spin wings actually improve your accuracy. Spin wings require more maintenance so in most cases it’s better to spend that time actually shooting instead.

You now know that I don’t really recommend spin wings to pretty much anyone, but you might not be convinced. That is actually quite hard to do in three sentences, so I will get in much more detail.

The idea behind spin wings

The main idea behind spin wings is that they increase the spin of the arrow. Most archers arrows don’t spin when there are no spin wings attached, but that is simply not true. If this were the case, all the vanes should point in the same direction, which is seldom the case. Since you can never get the vanes 100% symmetrical on the arrow, the arrow will always spin. The only thing a spin wing does is increase the amount of spin.

It does seem to make sense that something that spins gets more stable. We can see this with modern riffles. The riffled barrel makes the bullet spin. If you shoot a bullet through a barrel that isn’t riffled you will see that the accuracy starts to suffer. This is because the bullet will start to tumble in the air, which creates inconsistent drag and therefore decreases your accuracy.

There is, however, an important difference between an arrow and a bullet. An arrow will never tumble because an arrow has a long shaft and vanes, which always straightens the arrow in flight. Therefore, an arrow doesn’t really need to spin. If you shoot a bare arrow, without vanes, your arrow will still fly straight.

 

The upper arrow has spin wings and the lower has standard vanes. I have to mention, however, that the upper arrow is not fletched correctly. The vanes should be at an angle to create the spin.

How it technically affects the arrow

When you change something in your setup it changes a lot of things without you even knowing. As archers, we only notice the result on the paper and the feedback on the bow. A lot of hidden, unobservable things will change to make this happen. In this section, we will discuss these things in more detail.

Arrow spin

The first and most obvious result is that the arrow will spin more while airborne. Whether this spin actually increases the accuracy of the arrow is still up to debate. We will discuss this in more detail later in the article.

Drag

Spin wings create more drag at the back of the arrow. The arrow spins because air resistance is turned into a rotational force. This entire process creates more drag which means that spin wings decelerate your arrow faster than traditional wings. You will, however, hardly notice this, because the effect is really minor.

The increased drag also has an advantage. When we shoot an arrow the arrow will always bend side to side. Since the tip is heavier than the rest of the arrow, the tip is reluctant to move. This makes the arrow bend around the riser of the bow, which is called the archers' paradox. Over distance the arrow should straighten out before it hits the target, otherwise, your accuracy will suffer. This can happen for example if you shoot an arrow with a too weak spine.

Because spin wings create more drag at the back and of the arrow, the arrow will straighten out faster. If you have an arrow that has the proper spine for your bow, this isn’t really a benefit. Only if you have a two weak arrow, spin wings might alleviate the problem.

Weight of the vanes

Spin wings are a lot lighter than standard vanes, therefore the overall arrow will be a bit lighter. You won’t notice this directly but in theory, this should increase your range. It also changes your dynamic spine which makes your arrow behave differently. Therefore, when you attach spin wings you have to make adjustments to the tuning of the bow.

What you will notice

You will probably hardly notice any of the changes mentioned in the previous section. The changes can, however, have a tremendous effect on your bow. So let’s discuss some changes that you will actually notice.

Clearance issues

Although you don’t necessarily have to experience clearance issues many archers do. As discussed earlier the dynamic spine will change which causes clearance issues. These issues can be quite annoying especially because spin wings are quite fragile, which means that they will start to rip or tear.

Some archers actually like that spin wings are less durable. Clearance issues can seriously mess up your shot. When clearance issues are quite subtle it can be quite difficult to notice. A damaged spin wing can, therefore, give you a clear indication that you have to retune your bow to solve clearance issues.

Fletching the arrow

When you attach spin wings to an arrow for the first time, it will take some time to get used to. Instead of gluing the vanes in place, you will use the sticky tape on the spin wing. Some archers prefer adding spin wings and others find it a frustrating process. I see pros and cons for both options.

When you are fletching your arrows with spin wings, you don’t have to wait to let the glue dry. This means that you can fletch all your arrows in one sitting. Another advantage of spin wings is that you don't need to buy glue and a fletching tool.

The advantage of standard vanes is that it’s less finicky. The sticky tape and the wrap have to be properly attached in one go. You can’t reattach them again, because the sticky tape will lose its stickiness.

What you need for spinwings

What you need for standard fletching

Durability

Spin wings are quite fragile, the material is just a lot thinner which makes it more prone to tear. This isn’t only a problem if you have clearance issues, they can also get damaged while in the quiver or when you store them.

So you have to be more careful with arrows that have spin wings. You can’t just drop your arrows in a bag or leave them on the ground. That’s why you will never see club arrows with spin wings, they require a lot more maintenance.

What science says

Sadly, not a lot of research is done in the field of archery. There are so many things that can be explored but our sport receives limited academic attention. Luckily there is one study that compares spin wings to standard vanes.

The main findings of the research are: that spin wings create more drag and that they because of this fly more straight. This tells us, of course, little about the actual benefit of the spin of the arrow. If we would attach larger vanes, we would also create more drag and this will also make the arrow fly more straight.

Source: Free Flight and Wind Tunnel Measurements of the Drag Exerted on an Archery Arrow

So why do Olympic archers use spin wings?

There is no clear proof that spin wings actually improve accuracy. If spin wings are more stable, the effect will be minuscule. Note that I say more stable instead of accurate. Spin wings cannot make your arrow more accurate in a technical sense. Vanes are there to make your bow more forgiving for tuning and technique mistakes. If you would shoot a bare arrow shaft in a vacuum with everything 100% right, it will shoot exactly where you are aiming. That is, however, impossible to achieve which means that vanes are very valuable to correct for these minor mistakes.

So spin wings might be more stable in flight even when we make minor mistakes, but we don’t know that for sure. One thing is certain, however, using spin wings has little disadvantages to an Olympic archer. Therefore, even if it helps just a tiny bit, it will be worth it for an Olympian archer.

I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if this changes over the years. There have been many traditions and techniques that were very popular and fell out of favor just a few years later. If you look at pictures from the 80s and 90s, you will see that almost all bows have an upper and lower stabilizer. Nobody used these stabilizers anymore, because the extra stabilization was minimal and it added extra weight to the bow. Read the article below if you want more information about the upper and lower stabilizer.

Upper and lower stabilizers

The benefit of the spin wing is therefore primarily in the mind. It seems very logical that spin wings increase your accuracy. But since we can’t directly see the difference on the target, we can’t really tell whether this is true or not. It might be universally accepted in the future or it might fall out of favor just like the upper and lower stabilizer.

The verdict: are spin wings worth it?

I wouldn’t advise changing your vanes to spin wings if you are not experiencing issues. You don’t want to change anything that isn’t broken, in my opinion. When you will have to tune your bow again, therefore I wouldn’t really recommend it. For most people regularly replacing the spin wings would be kind of a nuisance. Instead of spending that much time on your gear, I believe it’s better to spend that time shooting.

I would only recommend it for people that like to experiment. If you are not that guy and you just like the shooting part of archery, I would stay far away from spin wings. That said, I have used spin wings in the past and I switched back because I didn’t notice any difference in accuracy. I only noticed that I had to replace them often.

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