Broadhead decisions

I was in an archery shop not long ago and was amazed at the number of broadhead choices available. Say all you want about bows, arrows, sights or stabilizers, but a broadhead is the business end of an arrow and it must be designed to fly accurately, penetrate deeply and cut surgically – otherwise none of the rest of matters.

For me, accuracy is the most important criteria when I select a broadhead. The reason is that unlike in the past, just about all broadheads currently available are razor sharp, sturdy and fairly compact, which means they will kill an animal if it is hit in the lungs, heart or even liver. However, if the shot is inaccurate due to poor broadhead flight and the animal is hit poorly, the hunter has a problem on his hands. Consider that a broadhead must not only slice through soft tissue, it must often blast through hide and bone in order to reach an animal’s innards and you’ll see why it’s of vital importance to select a broadhead that will fly true and hold together if the shot is slightly off the mark. 

Choosing a broadhead comes down to evaluating the conditions you expect to face and specific performance needs. Basically, hunters have a choice of fixed-blade broadheads or mechanical heads. 

Fixed-blade broadheads come with either a center ferrule which allows a shooter to quickly replace dull blades with fresh, razor-sharp ones or they are available as a cut-on-contact head with a single blade usually featuring cross cutting – so called “bleeder” blades. The cut-on-contact heads often perform better when shot out of older or low-energy youth bows. 

In recent years many shooters have turned to using a mechanical broadhead because most mechanical broadheads can be easily tuned to shoot with field point accuracy. I was in an archery shop in South Carolina a while back and noted the owner had a chart on the wall listing every successful bow kill his customers reported. On the chart he noted the bow, arrow, sight and broadhead used. I was amazed to see almost three-fourths of the bow kills reported involved hunters using a specific brand of mechanical broadhead. Clearly, this type of head was very popular with S.C. hunters. 

The appeal of a mechanical broadhead is that the blades fold tightly to the ferrule to decrease their in-flight surface area. When they hit the target the blades instantly deploy, creating massive wound channels and excellent blood trails. Many hunters shooting high-performance, high-speed bows prefer a mechanical broadhead because arrow tuning issues are easily addressed. However, other hunters believe a mechanical broadhead produces larger entrance and exit holes and this can sometimes turn a non-fatal hit into a fatal one. 

Although modern broadheads are better than anything offered in the past, there is a downside. They are expensive. Good broadheads often cost $15 or more each, but they are worth it. Good broadheads are expensive to manufacture and are held to very close tolerances. Generally, the higher priced the heads are, the better the quality. When choosing a broadhead ask around to see what other hunters are using and ask them why they like that particular broadhead, then make your decision. You’ll have a lot of choices. 

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