The Complete Broadhead Selection Guide
As the fall archery hunting seasons close in, there’s one question on the lips of bowhunters that we hear time and again at Lancaster Archery Supply.
“Which broadhead is the best?”
That’s a question that has nearly as many answers as there are bowhunters. Everyone has their favorites.
What we like to do at LAS is provide information about the types of broadheads available today, and then let customers choose from there.
Essentially, there are four types of broadheads – fixed-blades, mechanicals, hybrids and traditionals.
And here’s what you need to know about each in making your selection this season.
As their name suggests, these broadheads have razor-sharp blades that are set in place. Once it’s screwed into place at the end of an arrow, there are no moving parts on a fixed-blade head.
An advantage to having a head with fixed blades is that all of the energy behind the arrow is spent on pushing it through hide, tissue, bone, etc.
Combine that energy with the relatively stiff blades of a fixed head, and you get a cutting tool that is well-suited for slicing through bone – the toughest component of an animal’s anatomy. Fixed-blade heads tend to be the hardest-hitting and most durable broadheads.
Also, the blades on these heads are easy to sharpen, since the cutting surfaces are exposed. So if you miss a deer, and your arrow buries into the dirt, it’s possible to sharpen that head and put it back in the quiver, assuming the blades didn’t hit something hard and bend.
Or, many models have replaceable blades, so sharpening isn’t necessary. You can just change blades if you want.
If a bowhunter says his broadhead-tipped arrows aren’t hitting the target in the same spot as his field points, he’s almost always using a fixed-blade head. They tend to be the ones bowhunters struggle with when it comes to arrow flight.
The issue almost always is related to the bow’s tuning or the archer’s shooting form, but fixed-blade heads can require some tinkering to perfect your arrow’s flight.
Most any fixed-blade broadhead will work for hunters who use crossbows, although the short, compact heads tend to fly better at the end of a bolt.
These heads have expandable blades that are deployed when the head strikes an animal.
They are the most aerodynamic, and an arrow carrying a mechanical head will almost always hit a target exactly the same as your field-tipped arrows.
Because the blades fold up inside or against the head’s body, they can be very long, offering devastating cutting diameters up to a little over 3 inches. That’s going to cut a huge hole.
In most cases, however, expandable broadheads are one-shot wonders – whether you hit the animal or not. The blades on these heads tend to be pretty thin, which makes them susceptible to bending and chipping. You can buy replacement blades for most expandables, but don’t count on reusing a head more than once without replacing the blades.
Those thin, long blades also aren’t the best at cutting through bone, and some of the arrow’s energy will be spent on deploying the blades, as opposed to pushing the arrow through the animal.
Crossbow hunters will want to choose mechanicals that the manufacturer has approved for crossbow use. The tremendous force applied to the back of a bolt when a crossbow is shot can cause the blades on some mechanical heads not suited for crossbow use to open prematurely.
These heads are a combination of the previous two types.
They’re going to have two or more fixed blades, and they will also have expandable blades. So you get the ruggedness of fixed blades, matched with the wide cutting diameter of expandables.
Usually with the hybrids, both the fixed and expandable blades are not quite as wide as they’d be if the head simply featured one type or the other.
They can require some tinkering to get perfect arrow flight, and the expandable blades likely will have to be changed after each shot.
As with the mechanical heads, crossbow hunters will want to make sure the mechanical portion of a hybrid head is approved for crossbow use by the manufacturer.
These are broadheads intended for use by bowhunters shooting recurve bows and longbows.
Traditional bows generate less energy than modern compound bows. Most fixed-blade heads can be effective for traditional bowhunting, but traditional bowhunters often choose broadheads designed to maximize penetration for arrows carrying less energy.
To that end, traditional broadheads are often long and heavy, with a low cutting angle and a cut-on-contact design.
Traditional broadheads can be screw-in style heads or glue-on heads used with wooden shafts. We recommend traditional archers not use expandable broadheads.