The most common form of arrow consists of a shaft with an arrowhead attached to the front end and with fletchings and a nock attached to the other end.
Shafts are typically composed of solid, fibreglass, aluminium alloy, carbon fibre, or,composite material. Wooden arrows are prone to warping. Fibreglass
arrows are brittle, but can be produced to uniform specifications easily. Aluminium shafts were a very popular high-performance choice in the latter half of the
20th century due to their straightness, lighter weight, and subsequently higher speed and flatter trajectories. Carbon fibre arrows became popular in the 1990s
and are very light, flying even faster and flatter than aluminium arrows. Today, arrows made up of composite materials are the most popular tournament arrows
at Olympic Events, especially the Easton X10 and A/C/E.
The arrowhead is the primary functional component of the arrow. Some arrows may simply use a sharpened tip of the solid shaft, but it is far more common for
separate arrowheads to be made, usually from metal, stone, or other hard materials. The most commonly used forms are target points, field points, and
broadheads, although there are also other types, such as bodkin, judo, and blunt heads.
Fletching is traditionally made from bird feathers, usually Turkey. Also solid plastic vanes and thin sheet like spin vanes are used. They are attached near the
nock (rear) end of the arrow with thin double sided tape, glue, or, traditionally, sinew. Three fletches is the most common configuration in all cultures, though
as many as six have been used. Two will result in unstable arrow flight. When three-fletched the fletches are equally spaced around the shaft with one placed
such that it is perpendicular to the bow when nocked on the string (though with modern equipment, variations are seen especially when using the modern spin
vanes). This fletch is called the "index fletch" or "cock feather" (also known as "the odd vane out" or "the nocking vane") and the others are sometimes called
the "hen feathers". Commonly, the cock feather is of a different colour. Traditionally, the hens are solid and the cock is barred. However, if archers are using
fletching made of feather or similar material, they may use same colour vanes, as different dyes can give varying stiffness to vanes, resulting in less precision.
instinctive shooting (i.e., without sights), is a technique often preferred by "traditional" archers (shooters of longbows and recurves). When four-fletched, often
two opposing fletches are cock feathers and occasionally the fletches are not evenly spaced.
The fletching may be either parabolic (short feathers in a smooth parabolic curve) or shield (generally shaped like half of a narrow shield) cut and is often
attached at an angle, known as helical fletching, to introduce a stabilizing spin to the arrow while in flight. Whether helicial or straight fletched, when natural
fletching (bird feathers) are used it is critical that all feathers come from the same side of the bird. Oversized fletchings can be used to accentuate drag and thus
limit the range of the arrow significantly; these arrows are called flu-flus. Misplacement of fletchings can often change the arrow's flight path dramatically.