The index feather

Where does the index feather sit on shelf rest?

I have looked into this issue because I love shelf rests, i think they are the best solution for traditional archery. I’m convinced they can work even better than a plastic or more technological rest, but how can you maximize its advantages?

Among the various technical topics that I have studied in depth, the way in which the index feather sits on the shelf rest is the one I am most proud of. How many times have we faced one of those questions in which the answer is… “you shall do this! “… Why?” “Because everyone has always done this “…. It has always sounded like a challenge to me, so let’s see if it shall really be that way.

We are talking about how the arrow “nocks” on the string. Having only three feathers, their position cannot be symmetrical relative to the string. One stays at a 90 degrees angle to one side. This feather is commonly called “index feather” or,  long ago, “the cock’s feather”.

It usually has a different color from the other two just to be identified at first glance. We have always been advised to hold the index feather on the opposite side of the bow. Will this be the best choice?

I’ve tried experimenting the issue by looking more closely at where the feathers hit the shelf after release. Because of the archer’s paradox, the feathers hit the shelf about 8mm away from where they normally sit.

Natural feathers are very soft and they do adapt when fling trough the shelf but if it’s enough to ruin both the feather and the shelf it must for sure have a certain negative effect!

For this reason when keeping the index feather on the side of the bow (opposite than common way) it flies better.

I’ve made this drawing to help you to better visualize what i mean:

Since I’ve discovered this in 1991, I started to modify my equipment in this way:

First of I started always nocking the arrow in the opposite way to what I was always told, and this was pretty easy.

Secondly I made the shelf rest as slim as possible, modifying it on my bow. 

If we use a 6 mm arrow it touch the base 3mm away from the side window. It means a 8-9 mm shelf is more than enough to keep it in position before release.  The arrow will pass 8-10 mm away from the side. A rest shorter than 12mm will be enough to limit the friction with the arrow. Naturally the rests dimensions can vary with more flexible or larger arrows. 

Of course when using a plastic rest, this isn’t relevant.

I have been suggesting this solution to all my friends during competitions, lessons and gatherings. It was a big satisfaction for me when during international gatherings I started hearing this nocking method being referred to as “THE ITALIAN WAY”.

Below are the images of my experiment with which I’ve verified the practical details of this matter.

I pasted on the basis of the window of a bow a strip of drawing paper with a width of about 15mm.

I dyed the bottom edge of the feather with some red paint.

After shooting the arrow nocked the old way it is clear where the bottom feather bumped into the paper mat, 10mm outside of the point where it was placed.

Shoot again with a shaped shelf bow and it shows that the impact was 2mm after the shelfs base ends.

This is what happens in practice to the transit of an arrow nocked the old common way, with the index feather to the outside of the bow.

This is what happens when arrow passes on the shelf rest when it is nocked as I recommend (with index feather towards the bow).