Choosing the right broadhead for your crossbow hunt is almost as important as the crossbow itself.
Broadhead Buyers Guide
Our broadhead buyers guide was but together to help you find the perfect broadhead for your crossbow hunt.
Here are the most important factors you should consider before choosing a crossbow broadhead.
Crossbow broadheads come in three distinct styles, fixed blade, mechanical blade, and hybrid broadheads. Each has their own strength and weakness which can also vary greatly depending on variation. Here is a breakdown of each of the main styles:
Fixed Blade Broadhead
Fixed blade broadheads are designed either as a solid one-piece blade or as a ferrule which utilizes separate, replaceable blades. One piece broadheads are machined from a single piece of material and are extremely durable. They do however require blade sharpening after heavy usage. Replaceable fixed blade designs can also be sharpened but offer you the convenient option of simply using new blades instead. These can also be extremely robust and come in two-blade, three-blade and four-blade configurations.
- Durable design can often be reused for a long period
- Low maintenance as there are no moving parts
- Broadheads can be shot and tested in compatible targets without risk damage
- Smaller blades will result in better penetration
- Limited Cutting diameter, fixed blades will plane in flight therefore fixed blade broadheads don’t normally exceed a 1.5” cut diameter
- Open blades affect flight, luckily you can test them to determine how they fly in comparison to field points
- Some designs are formed from a solid piece of metal, if a blade is damaged here the entire broadhead must be discarded
Fixed blade broadheads are tried and true style that’s been around since the beginning. They will never match the cutting diameter and accuracy of a mechanical but the design lends itself to repeatable flight characteristics that can be tested on broadhead compatible targets. In addition they have excellent penetration, are durable and can be reused over a long period of time with minimal maintenance.
Mechanical (Expandable) Broadhead
Mechanical broadheads are designed to fly like a field point by using a system where their blades are folded up during flight and only open on impact, when a mechanical system triggers them to do so. For the most part, modern mechanical broadheads are available in two styles: over-the-top (front deploying) and rear deploying.
Over-the-top broadheads have blades that are hinged at the rear of the ferrule, and pivot out from the front upon contact. The blades typically open up after they are inside the animal, which ensures the blades are razor-sharp when cutting through vitals. The entrance holes from over-the-top broadheads are smaller than rear-deploying broadheads.
Rear-deploying broadheads have front-pivoting blades that deploy outward from the rear of the broadhead, resulting in full-size entrance and exit holes. This style maximizes blood trails and guarantees the blades are deployed before reaching an animal’s vitals.
The mechanisms used to hold and then deploy the blades vary but generally use either a rubber o-rings, or a steel clip system. Both can be effective but it’s important to keep a close eye on both deployments mechanisms. If the o-ring or clips become damaged in any way it could cause premature deployment of your broadheads blades.
It is also important to purchase the crossbow version of a mechanical broadhead. While companies often sell what appears to be an identical broadhead for vertical bows, the deployment mechanism maybe different. Mechanical broadheads designed for crossbow have been adjusted to account for the additional torque of a crossbow to ensure they don’t deploy early.
- Larger cutting diameter makes for quicker/easier game recovery
- Customization is possible, as some mechanical allows you to adjust them to your preference
- Consistent flight performance, embed blades reduce variations while in flight
- Fly similar to field points allowing you to practice with fields points
- Risk of premature deployment is always a factor with mechanical broadheads
- Large cutting diameter can reduce penetration
- Mechanical failure may occur on impact and reduce effectiveness
- Maintenance required before the shot to ensure performance and after if you choose to reuse the broadhead
Mechanical broadheads are popular because of their accuracy and devastating cutting diameters. However, they aren’t nearly as durable as a fixed blade and will require extra care to ensure they perform as intended. Also, don’t forget to make sure they designed for or compatible with crossbows that match the speed rating of yours. This will reduce the risk of a deployment failure.
Hybird broadheads are the newest design on the market and have come about in order to appeal to shooters that are undecided between mechanical or fixed blade broadheads. They are basically two broadheads in one. With that they benefits from both sets of advantages but also suffer for some additional disadvantages.
- Maximum cutting damage caused by multiple sets of blades
- Fixed blades offsets risk associated with mechanical blade failure
- Best of both worlds, fixed blade for initial penetration and mechanical for tissue cutting
- May allow for multiple configurations and blade customization
- Combination of Fixed and Mechanical blades can cause inconsistent flight patterns
- Premature mechanical deployment is still a risk
- Larger total cut can reduce ability to attain a pass through
- Hybrids require most maintenance
- Difficult to test how they fly without using actual broadheads on targets.
Hybrid broadheads can yield some truly devastating results when they impact. Their combination of fixed blade penetration and mechanical blade cutting will result in a quick harvest of your game. However, their combination of both fixed and mechanical blade make them difficult to practice with and can cause erratic flight patterns. They also require the most maintenance to ensure both sets of blades perform. That being said if you want to put the effort into dialing them in they are a great option for someone looking for the best of both worlds.
Broadheads cutting is measured in two distinct ways.
- Cutting Diameter: The width of the cut the broadhead deliver.
- Total Cut: The combined length of the surface area of the blades on the broadhead.
For Example: If you have fixed blade broadhead with four .5 inch blades it’s total cut would be 2 inches because that would be the result of all four blades added up. However, the cutting diameter would only be 1 inch because the total width of the cut it deliver would only account for 2 blades.
While mechanical broadheads almost always have a much larger cutting diameter than fixed blade broadheads their total cut is often comparable.
# of Blades
The number of blades on a broadhead does two things, it:
- Increases your total cut (not diameter) and therefore your odds of slicing through a vital go up.
- It creates friction both while flying through the air which creates problems with flight and while passing through the animal which make it hard for your bolt to attain a pass through.
If a mechanical broadhead used a system where each blade deployed independently it would also increase the risk on a mechanical failure.
The tip of your broadhead is often the last thing people look at but it should be a consideration, especially if you’re planning on hunt small game. If the objective is to attain maximum penetration and score a pass through a chisel or razor tip is what you want. If however your hunt small game and don’t want a complete pass through a blunt tip broadhead maybe a better option as it will attain the same result without wasting meat.
The ideal weight of your crossbow broadhead will depend on a few key factors:
- Bolt – The length and weight distribution of your crossbow bolt will affect how heavy you want your broadhead to be. Lighter broadheads fly faster but their minimal weight may not result in an optimal arrow Front of Center which will hurt your accuracy.
- Use – if you’re hunting very big game then maximum penetration is key. Therefore a heavier broadhead is recommended as it will deliver the most kinetic energy to your target. However if game isn’t excessively larger (bigger than a whitetail) then a pass through can be attained with lighter broadheads .
- Your Crossbow – You need to make sure the broadhead and bolt combination meet or exceed with minimum requirements for your model. If they don’t your crossbow may not be able to handle the additional stresses and could result in similar results as a dry fire.
Most Fixed blade broadheads are reasonably priced and while quality can vary, a good set can get you through a lot of seasons with minimal added cost. On the other hand any crossbow broadheads with mechanical blades will usually be more expensive up front and by nature require tuning, parts and blade replacements.
Most crossbow broadheads will get the job done so this decision is going to come down to compatibility with your crossbow, the game your hunting and personal preference. Just make sure you put the time into dialing in whatever you choose and keep those grouping tights because at the end of the day it’s all going to come down to accuracy..