When it comes to archery I think I am similar to most bowhunters out there in that I like to tinker with my set up, and try out new toys. A while back I came across an advertisement for the FOB arrow vane, if you want to call them that. Some of you have no doubt heard of them and some of you may be reading this, scratching your head wondering, what in the heck is a FOB. Well for those of you who have never heard of one, let me explain. The acronym FOB stands for Fletching Only Better. Believe it or not, they have been around for over a decade. According to their website, they were invented by an aerospace engineer and bowhunter named Paul Morris. Together with his partner Larry Peterson, they first released the FOB. More recently, 2018 to be exact, the company Advanced Archery Solutions, out of Anderson SC, acquired FOB. After some rebranding they have re-released the FOB into the market. Basically it is a ring supported by 3 fins or airfoils. It fits snuggly between the nock and back of the arrow shaft. There is no gluing or fletching jig needed. If you can insert an arrow nock into the back of the arrow shaft, you can install a FOB.
According to the web site there are advantages the FOB has over standard fletching. Aside from the already mentioned ease of installation, they also list a reduction in crosswind effect and what they call “Pop – Off” design. I’ll talk more about that later. So after checking out their website I decided to do a little digging. I asked around at the local shop and archery club to see if any of my fellow archers had any experience with them. I talked to one person that had tried them but the general consensus was, “I have heard of them but I’ve never tried them.” So I figured there must be a bunch of archers out there in the same boat. So I decided to pick up a tube of FOB’s, put them through their paces, and post my results.
While conducting my research by talking to my fellow archers I came up with the following list of questions concerning the performance of the FOB’s. Now I know that the Blazer vane is one of, if not the most popular hunting vane out there. I have quite a few arrows fletched with them myself, so I wanted to see how they did in a head to head match up; FOB vs Blazers.
- Weight comparison. What is the difference: if any, between 1 fob and 3 Blazers? Also if there is a difference what is the effect on the arrow’s FOC?
- Will they group with Blazers at 20 yards?
- Is there a difference in trajectory? This will be a comparison of how they carry at a longer range.
- Is there a difference in their ability to stabilize a broadhead?
- Is there is difference in flight noise? I call this the whistle test.
Now before I get into the meat of my results I feel I have to talk about one very large variable in my testing; me. I don’t have a shooting machine so I naturally had to do all the shooting myself. I am not the best archer in the world but I’d like to think I’m a little better than the average bear. Let me put this way, I’ve been shooting bows a long time but I don’t make my living doing it, so I hope that puts it into perspective. That is why I made sure I took plenty of shots to try and get as large of a data sample as I could. So here is what I found.
Test 1. Weight Comparison. First, the Blazer vanes. I had about 2 dozen and I weigh all of them in groups of three’s. I mixed and matched them to ensure I paired different vanes with vanes I already weighed and so on. I came up with about 50 different weights when it was all said and done. I found that on average three blazer vanes will weigh right at 20 grains. I bought two tubes of FOB’s and I weigh each one. They ranged from 23 to 26 grains. Most of them were coming in at 25 to 26 grains which put the average right at 25 grains. Now I don’t get to upset over a difference of 4 or 5 grains. By the time the Blazers are glued on it will probably add a grain or two at and will make up for a little of the difference. To check my hypothesis I weighed all the test arrows and as I expected they were all within a few grains of each other. The lightest to heaviest was no more than a 10 gran difference.
Next I checked the FOC or Front of Center of the test arrows. Since the FOB’s were just a touch heavier I expected them to have a smaller FOC and as it turned out they did. I found that it came out to only about half a percent difference. Not enough to make that much of a difference in my opinion.
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After I had all the number crunching finished, it was time to do some shooting. I started with test number 2. Will they group with the Blazers at 20 yards? I shot at a 3, 1.75” circles. I shot a total 10 rounds of 6 arrows per round for a grand total of 60 shots. 3 of the arrows fletched with Blazers and the other 3 sporting a FOB. My finding indicate that when I did my part, and made a good shot it didn’t matter if I was shooting a fletched arrow or FOB’ed arrow, they all hit their mark.
Test 3, the trajectory test was next. I drew a horizontal line about a foot long and a half inch thick. I backed up to 50 yards shot at that line. I just wanted to see if there was a difference in the down range trajectory. Were the FOB’s constantly hitting higher or lower than the Blazer’s? I did the same shooting sample size as I did in test 2, 60 shots, Half Blazer’s and half FOB’s. My results were basically the same. When I did my part and made a good shot all the arrows where within an inch or so from the line. I could see no difference in the trajectory of any of the test arrows.
Test 4, the broadhead test. Here is where we get down to the nitty-gritty. Stabilizing field points is one thing but getting broadheads to fly is very different. I only tested fixed bladed heads, no mechanicals. Most mechanicals are going to have field point accuracy anyway so I only focused on the fixed bladed heads. I shot 3 different heads from 2 different manufactures. I don’t want to get into a debate about the best broadhead so I will keep the manufactures of the heads to myself. Here is where I noticed a slight difference. For all my testing I used two different bows. My main hunting bow and my back-up. They are similar almost all the specs except for the draw weight. My primary bow is set at 66 lbs, and my back up is a 60 lb draw. The spine of my test arrows are a better match to bow with the heavier draw. They are just a little too stiff for the backup bow. Here is what I found. When the arrows are properly spined, the FOB’s have no trouble with any of the broadheads I shot. At 20 yards, they group right with blazers, which also group with filed points. When I shot the 60 lb backup, the blazers were constantly left of my field points at 20 yards, by about an inch. When I shot the FOB’s they grouped about inch left of the Blazers which put them about 2 inches left of the field points. Conclusion, if your set up is good and you are shooting arrows appropriately spined for your draw, then I think the FOB’s will do fine. But, if you are shooting arrows that are not properly spined, which I don’t recommend regardless of vane choice, then you may notice some broadhead flight issues. To be fair that is more than likely not the fault of the vane, but an issue with arrow spine.
Test 5, the whistle test. Do the FOB’s make more noise than other vanes? If you have ever heard and arrow go by or have one come in your direction, then you know they make a distinctive and pretty cool whistling sound. While talking to archers about the FOB at the local shop, one of the points of concern I heard multiple times what flight noise. A few people thought or had heard from someone that the FOB’s were very loud in flight. I tested this in two ways. The first method was the most obvious and easiest to do. I listened to them while I was doing all my test shooting. The second method was to place my camera between me and the target and have the arrows go by the camera as close as I could safely get them. I shot vanes, real feathers and of course the FOB’s. My basic finding is this. All three make noise, and if really listen closely I can tell a difference. The sounds all three make are just a little different but to me the volume is pretty much identical. Now I don’t have a device to measure decibel levels or anything, I am an archer on a budget. Is it possible that one is louder than the other? It’s possible, but to my ears, I couldn’t tell a difference. Besides, in the bowhunting world I think a quiet bow is more critical then quiet arrow flight. If the deer is hearing the arrow, it’s already too late!
Before I finish I did want to share a little something I stumbled on while setting up a bow for turkey season. When I bowhunt for turkeys I prefer to take the headshot over a body shot. Because I this I want to shoot a broadhead with a large cutting diameter. If you have tried to get those heads to fly it can be tricky. This is why some archers will go with longer vanes, or even go with more than the standard 3 vanes. I have seen some setups with arrows sporting as many as 6 vanes. This past spring I too was in that same boat and ended up fletching a few arrows with 4 vanes. I was able to get what I needed with a combo of 2, 4 inch vanes and 2 3.5 inch vanes. While looking at some arrows and contemplating stripping off the 3 Blazers to refletch them I had this revelation. What about using a FOB on the arrow already fletched with the 3 blazers? It would basically turn that 3 fletched arrow into one with 6 fletchings in mere seconds. Long story short, it did the trick. They grouped the large broadheads with the 4 fletch arrows, and I didn’t have to go through the hassle of refletching anything!
So in conclusion I was impressed with the FOB. It does has some limitations, but there are some clear advantages as well. They performed very comparatively to arguably the most popular vane in the industry in weight, accuracy, trajectory, and flight noise. I am going to go total FOB and ditch all my vanes? Probably not. But I do think they are always going to be a tube or two of FOB’s in my archery arsenal.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the deer woods.
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