Delivering a surgically-sharp broadhead to the vitals is essential to bowhunting success, but not all broadheads are equal. With this in mind we gathered a number of today's hottest heads and put them through the wringer in true Outdoor Life fashion. We ranked the 5 best mechanical broadheads and 5 best fixed-blade broadheads on the market. The second photo on each slide is what the broadhead looked like after being shot through ⅝-inch sheet of drywall board (see integrity).
How We Test
Weight/Variance and Cutting Diameter: We recorded the average weight of the heads in each set (3 or 6 heads, depending on package size), and noted any variance from the supposed 100-grain weight. We then used a caliper to measure the tip-to-tip width of both deployed mechanical and fixed blades and recorded the measurements.
Penetration: We shot each head into an Ethafoam block at a distance of 20 yards at 280 feet per second from a mechanical shooting fixture. The depth of penetration was measured and recorded.
Quality: Scores were assigned according to the perceived quality of construction, fit-and-finish, and consistency among each set. As quality of manufacture is reflected in tight assembly tolerances, heads that did not meet the 100-grain target weight were downgraded.
Integrity: Heads were graded according to their ability to remain intact when shot through a ⅝-inch sheet of drywall board. Scores reflect how much damage was incurred.
Sharpness: Each head was scored for its perceived sharpness.
Price/Value: Heads were graded for their value based on retail pricing. Those heads that provide outstanding performance at a reasonable price received the highest price/value scores.
1. Swhacker 100-Grain 1.75"
The Swhacker is one ugly duckling. However, it is as rugged a mechanical as you'll find. Heavily muscled shoulders on the blades eliminate failures that are common with other mechanicals.
The Swhacker design is simple. A shrink collar hugs the blades in flight, eliminating the need for rubber bands or o-rings. The shrink collar conforms to the contour of the ferrule perfectly, minimizing in-flight aerodynamic drag.
Our Swhackers averaged 100.6 grains, providing proof of consistency in their manufacture. The 1 ¾-inch cutting diameter penetrated 7 1/16 inches (third best). The blades pivot on one screw, balancing the head nicely.
We like how the blades' tips protrude from the ferrule about mid-body affording the blades time to open on impact. This feature eliminates veering off or jack-knifing on steep quartering shots. While this is one homely head, we found its simplicity and performance to be a thing of beauty. ($35/3-pack; swhacker.com)
This version of the company's Razortip head boasts a wide 2-inch cutting diameter. A spring collar blade retention system eliminates the possibility of blades opening in flight. We like the chisel-style tip, which is great for cutting quickly on contact. The three very long blades open independently of each other, a plus on quartering shots.
For such a large head, the 0.035-inch-thick blades are tough, sustaining no damage when shot through our sheet rock. This is quite an accomplishment for a head with such long-levered blades. However, you pay for the large cutting diameter with diminished penetration, which taped 6 ⅞ inches.
A practice head (103.8 grains) is included in the package, thereby saving the blades on the heads you'll hunt with (105 grains). You'll have to pay particular attention when sighting in, though, as we found the practice head flew a bit different than the hunting heads. ($40/3-pack, plus practice head; grimreaperbroadheads.com)
The Rage broadhead line has captured a generous portion of the mechanical market over the past few years. Their rear-deploying design loses less kinetic energy when opening than traditional forward-deploying blades. The Rage blades present a less acute angle as they pass through the target. This provides a distinct advantage as more energy is delivered to the animal and better penetration is achieved.
The Rage Xtreme offered the largest cutting diameter in the field at 2 ¼ inches. The giant 0.34-inch-thick deployable blades are relatively sharp. When shot through sheet rock, the head experienced moderate damage to the shock collar. However, the head itself remained intact. The three heads weighed an average of 99.993 grains, which displays very impressive consistency.
We appreciated these heads' ability to remain intact while presenting such an expansive cutting diameter. Equally impressive was its penetration of 8 inches. ($50/3-pack; ragebroadheads.com)
NAP has been pumping out fantastic products for years, but their new Killzone two-blade rear-deploying broadhead doesn't quite measure up to their tradition of performance.
As with all NAP products, the Killzone is a great looking head. The fit-and-finish is fantastic; however, at an average weight of 109.9 grains they missed the advertised 100-grain weight by a large margin. They do provide a practice head for sighting in (106.6 grains).
A spring clip retains the blades in flight, eliminating rubber bands or o-rings. We found the spring-clip tension to be too tight, though, impeding the blades' deployment. We're sure this is why this head produced the worst penetration of the mechanicals--a dismal 5 ¼ inches. On the bright side, the head is rugged, receiving high marks for integrity.
We are confident that NAP will tweak their blade retention system and eventually have a winner with the Killzone, but it's not there yet. ($40/3-pack, plus practice head; newarchery.com)
We were utterly unimpressed with this broadhead. While it out-penetrated the other mechanicals in the field, it did so with a minuscule 15/16-inch cutting diameter. No matter how we laid our caliper on this head, we couldn't achieve the advertised 1 ⅛-inch cutting diameter.
Adding to the misery, the heads had dull ferrule points. We did like the fact the ferrule is machined from one piece of steel and titanium-nitride coated for corrosion resistance (but let's face facts: When we're forced to talk about the protective coating, there isn't much good to say).
Additionally, the three deployable blades were the dullest of those on any head in the test. Rocket is certainly capable of making some great heads (I harvested my largest buck to date with a Rocket head); however, this Rocket is a dud. ($30/3-pack; trophyridge.com/rocket-broadheads)
1. RedHead Blackout
In recent product testing the editors at Outdoor Life have noticed an increase in great "store brand" products; that is, products that carry a retailer's moniker. Bass Pro Shops' RedHead Blackout is one of those outstanding products. In fact, the Blackout earned our Editor's Choice Award in impressive fashion.
The Blackout was the sharpest broadhead we tested, and the German-made blades are so sticky-sharp it's difficult to handle them without worrying about getting cut. We're confident it is this sharpness that led to the top penetration mark--a whopping 10 ⅝ inches. The one-piece ferrule is strong, and the blade retention system works great.
The blades are 0.03-inch thick, so they'll stand up to the beating animal bone may present on an off-kilter shot. Adding to the appeal of these heads is the fantastic price. ($30/3-pack; basspro.com)
Muzzy broadheads have harvested more animals over the years than any other manufacturer's heads, and the Muzzy 100 is a mainstay of the company's product line.
When our Muzzys hit the scale, they weighed in at exactly 100 grains. Impressive! The Muzzys received high marks for quality, with excellent fit-and-finish.
We love that you still get six heads, plus a set of practice blades (weighing 103 grains) for less that $40. The blades are sharp and sustained absolutely no damage when shot through our sheet rock. The 1 3/16-inch cutting diameter is large, and the head achieved 9 3/16 inches of penetration. Additionally, Muzzys are made in America at the company's Cartersville, Georgia, headquarters. ($39/6-pack, plus practice blades; muzzy.com)
Ramcat is experiencing success with what we call a "hybrid" fixed-blade design. Categorized as a fixed blade, the Pro Series' three blades are capable of folding forward. In most states, "barbed" blades (those which cannot be pulled out without causing considerable damage to the head) are illegal, as they do not allow the broadhead to work its way out of the animal should a non-lethal shot be made. The articulating blades on the Ramcats solve this problem, rendering it legal.
We like the one-piece Pro Series' ferrule design--it's clean and very tough. The machine work on these heads is impressive. We would have given them higher quality scores if they hadn't missed the mark on grain weight (101.53-grain average).
The Ramcats fell a bit short in the penetration category too, sinking 9 1/16 inches into our Ethafoam target (tied for last in the fixed-blade category). This is due in part to the "lobes" in the tip, which the company claims help keep the head from wind-planing. ($38/3-pack; smokebroadheads.com)
Our Slick Trick Magnums featured .035-inch-thick German-made Lutz Mercedes blades that are both sharp and tough. The four-blade design is, in a word, slick. Two blades interlace over and into each other, then slip into the ferrule, making for a solidly constructed head. It's one of the best systems we've seen.
The heads did miss the mark on the scale, with an average weight of 101.3 grains, which hurt their quality score, but the Magnum emerged unscathed after plowing through our sheetrock. On the down side, the Magnums didn't penetrate so well, achieving 9 1/16 inches. This is due to the aggressively raked blades. This raking is required to achieve the 1 ⅛-inch cutting diameter with such a compact head. The friendly price tag is welcomed. ($30/3-pack; slicktrick.net)
Weight & Variance: 101.3 gr. (+1.3)
Cutting Diameter: 1 ⅛"
Penetration: 9 1/16"
Overall: * * * *
5. New Archery Products Thunderhead Razor
The Razor is a variation of NAP's very popular Thunderhead design and features 0.035-inch-thick blades that are secured in the ferrule with set screws. This design ensures the offset blades remain secure no matter what path the head takes through an animal--a great feature.
The slender, elongated trocar/chisel-style tip leads the head through the target. The Razor achieved the second best penetration in the field at 9 9/16 inches. With an average grain weight of 97.7, the Razors were marked down for missing the target 100-grain weight. As was expected, the Razors cut clean through the sheet rock, exhibiting no damage. ($35/3-pack; newarchery.com)