MECHANICAL AND HYBRID BROADHEADS
Today’s compounds deliver arrows 150 feet per second faster than bows of the early 1990s, leaving broadhead manufacturers scrambling to build heads that fly field-point accurate at speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour. More important, broadheads must remain structurally sound and withstand potential forces in excess of 1,400 pounds on impact and a deceleration G-force exceeding -4000. That’s a lot to ask of a tiny piece of metal a bit over an inch long and weighing a mere 100 grains.
29 Fixed-Blade and Mechanical Broadheads, Tested
We tested 29 of the most popular models to determine which delivered best on their promise of superior penetration, durability, and lethality.
BROADHEAD SELECTION CRITERIA
Don’t see your favorite broadhead? As is the case with all our gear tests, this was an invitational. Requests for samples were sent to the broadhead manufacturers who exhibited at the 2015 Archery Trade Association (ATA) show in January. We also reached out to those popular manufacturers who did not exhibit. Our test field includes results from brands who provided test samples by our deadline.
1. G5 Montec CS
$42 per 3-pack _/ Score: 83.47 / g5outdoors.com_
▶ G5 is the originator of solid, one-piece metal-injected molded broadheads. The CS is noticeably sharper than previous models due to its improved carbon steel content. Its tip is exceedingly sharp; however, extra-large vents seemed to limit penetration in our test.
2. Carbon Express F-15
$40 _/ Score: 80.22 / carbonexpressarrows.com_
▶ The F-15 features a pressure-injection molded main blade that is sharpened into a cut-on-contact tip. Dual bleeder blades are set into the main blade, offering a large total cutting surface of 5.16 inches. The F-15, with its slender profile, dominated the penetration test, sinking 20.19 inches.
3. Flying Arrow Archery Toxic
$40 _/ Score: 73.37 / flyingarrowarcheryusa.com_
▶ Hunting with the radically rounded Toxic might take a leap of faith for some bowhunters—until they check out our penetration test, in which the Toxic outperformed many traditionally designed heads. Although a large, spiral-shaped wound channel promises extensive tissue damage and blood loss, it required 24.4 in./lb. of energy to penetrate its length.
4. Muzzy Phantom SC
$40 _/ Score: 82.21 / muzzy.com_
▶ The Phantom is a workhorse, with sharp 0.05-inch thick blades. The main blade is sharpened into a cut-on-contact tip that is beveled to preclude folding. The head is short, and set at an acute angle of attack to achieve the 1 ¹⁄₈-inch cutting diameter, which limited penetration.
5. QAD Exodus
The super-short Exodus measures just 0.912 inch from tip to back-blade edge. This, along with its aggressively cut trocar-style tip and surgically sharp blades, makes it deadly on all big game. The non-vented, 0.04-inch-thick blades are stout and seemingly unbendable. Widely swept blades offer a generous 1 ¼-inch cutting diameter. Special reliefs in the blades allow the head assembly to screw down over the arrow shaft, increasing its compactness. Overall, the Exodus does everything well, despite its comparatively small cutting surface, which measures just 3.2 inches.
6. InnerLoc Slice
$40 / Score: 83.78 / innerloc.com
▶ The Slice features a unique blade assembly system, which lets users align blades with their arrows’ vanes for optimal in-flight performance. It also increases columnar strength, making it one of the toughest replaceable fixed-blade heads in our test.
7. Hartcraft Scooptail
$38 / Score_ 79.41 / hartcraftbroadheads.com_
▶ The Scooptail features all-stainless-steel components. Its sharp cut-on-contact tip and blades result in great penetration. Reversible blades double the broadhead’s life while reducing the need to purchase replacement blades. But just in case, three extras are included.
8. Magnus Black Hornet
$40 / Score:_ 78.91 / magnusbroadheads.com_
▶ The Magnus is a beefy head with fat, 0.06-inch-thick blades that proved durable. Angled bleeder blades ensure massive wounds that break skin tension perpendicular to the main blades. A diamond grind on the cut-on-contact tip decreases the propensity of the sharp point to roll over.
9. Wasp Boss
$34 / Score:_ 83.60 / wasparchery.com_
▶ The Boss 3-Blade is a great head at a reasonable price. The short edges give it a good aerodynamic profile. It is also stout, making it a legitimately reusable broadhead. Two sets of replacement blades are included.
10. NAP HellRazor
$40 / Score:_ 82.69 / newarchery.com_
▶ The HellRazor is actually a two-piece head that’s welded together to form a one-piece assembly. Three conjoining blades create a very sharp cut-on-contact tip. The one-piece design will appeal to fans of fixed-blade heads who have experienced issues with blades falling out upon impact.
$40 / Score:_ 81.63 / ramcatbroadheads.com_
▶ A fixed-blade hybrid of sorts, the Ramcat’s blades are shot-deployed, and are capable of pivoting forward. This feature prevents them from being categorized as barbed by some states. Large machined cups in the chisel tip limited penetration during our test.
12. Solid Legend
_ $80_ / Score:_ 84.00 / solid-broadheads.com_
▶ Machined from knife-grade S30V stainless steel, this large head has an immense overall cutting surface—an astounding 6.12 inches. The main blades are 0.06 inch thick, offering ample beef to prevent bending or breakage. This is also the most expensive head in our test group by a wide margin.
13. Clean-Shot Hollow Point
$30 / Score:_ 79.90 / clean-shot.com_
▶ As its name suggests, the Clean-Shot features a unique hollowpoint tip. The aggressive point cores tissue on impact opening a shallow hole for the large main blades to follow. The big blades are ultra-sharp and open a large wound channel. However, considerable energy is required to accomplish this.
14. Cabela’s Copperhead
$25 / Score:_ 82.28 / cabelas.com_
▶ The Copperhead, with its 420-stainless-steel blades, performed well. The metal-injection-molded one-piece ferrule is rugged and allows for easy blade replacement. At a very reasonable retail price, this head is a great value. The only negative was its relatively poor penetration in our test boards (see “How We Test,” below), where it seemed to suffer slightly from its sharply angled blades.
15. Muzzy TroCar
$30 / Score:_ 81.71 / muzzy.com_
▶ The Muzzy features three .035-inch thick offset blades. This configuration results in a right-helix twist capable of opening wide wounds. A small three-sized bevelled tip sits atop a solid steel ferrule, promising a good wound channel. With super-sharp blades and good fit and finish, the Trocar is an excellent value.
16. Bass Pro Shops Blackout Toxik
$30 _/ Score: 82.73 / basspro.com_
▶ Featuring metal-injection molding, a one-piece chisel-ground tip, and German blades, the Toxik is a fantastic bargain. The extra-sharp 0.03-inch-thick blades promise great durability no matter the game. While some bowhunters may shy away from box-store brands, inToxik’s case, you shouldn’t. This is a quality offering.
17. Rocket Ultimate Steel
$30 / Score:_ 79.02 / trophyridge.com_
▶ The Ultimate Steel is a tough head with short, 0.035-inch-thick blades. Its slim profile and resulting aerodynamic scores make this a great head for lightning-quick bows. While it will give you great fixed-blade flight, we had some concern about overall sharpness and the minimal total cutting surface.
18. Grim Reaper Hades
$35 / Score:_ 79.87 / grimreaperbroadheads.com_
▶ The Hades has an internal locking feature, which prevents the blades from dislodging when passing through a target. The 0.035-inch-thick blades are strong and will resist bending. They are also sharpened on all edges to help with cutting proficiency.
MECHANICAL AND HYBRID BROADHEADS
19. Cabela’s Incision
$35 / Score: 83.5 / cabelas.com
With its 0.03-inch-thick blades, beefy ferrule, and hardened trocar-style tip, the Incision is best described as an industrial-strength mechanical. The wide-shouldered blades and large retaining fastener mean that the head will stay together no matter what it hits. The minimalistic design will be appreciated by those searching for simplicity.
20. Gravedigger Chisel Point
$40 / Score: 82.8 / xecutionerbroadheads.com
▶ The Xecutioner was the sharpest mechanical in our test and features an O-ring retention system, which adjusts for varying bow poundages—a neat feature for those who desire to shoot a mechanical with lower-poundage bows.
22. NAP Spitfire
$40 / Score: 78.3 / newarchery.com
▶ A slim ferrule and tucked deployable blades promise very good flight. The non-sharpened tips on the blades ensure that they deploy—sometimes an issue with sharp-tipped blades. The snap-locking, blade-retention system, however, required the most amount of force to open.
23. Rage Kore
$50 / Score: 82.2 / ragebroadheads.com
▶ The Kore resembles something you’d see in a Transformer movie. Though we were initially concerned about penetration, the Kore finished second to the Carbon Express F-15. The tip on the Kore, though, is in dire need of improved sharpness.
24. Rocket Steelhead
$30 / Score: 77.8 / trophyridge.com
▶ The Steelhead is a very small mechanical with a rubber-band blade-deployment system. The solid-steel ferrule with a machined tip is minimally sharp. The blade tips are almost even with the ferrule tip, which can cause jackknifing.
25. Grim Reaper Razortip
$43 / Score: 79.3 / grimreaperbroadheads.com
▶ The Grim Reaper features a spring-loaded collar blade retention system, which worked flawlessly. A uniquely designed tip offers both a trocar-style ground point and inserted mini blades to help with cutting chores.
26. G5 Havoc
$50 / Score: 81.7 / g5outdoors.com
▶ The Havoc was the best-engineered mechanical in our test. Unique slip blades slide in a channel and are held in place by a polymer collar. Shoulders on the back of the blades initiate blade deployment flawlessly. The metal-injection molded ferrule is as rugged as you’ll find.
27. Bass Pro Shops Gator
$35 / Score: 83.7 / basspro.com
▶ The Gator is a simply designed mechanical. Its machined one-piece ferrule houses the two blades with a friction fastener. The blades are free floating once deployed, allowing them to pivot around bones.
28. InnerLoc EXP
$39 / Score: 85.4 / innerloc.com
▶ The EXP features a unique stop collar, which allows for either a 1 ¹⁄₈- or 1 ⁷⁄₁₆-inch cutting diameter. The collar also helps keep the blades from crushing the arrow shaft when deployed. A well-engineered clip-loc retains the blades, while a gently rounded blade tip ensures deployment.
29. Carbon Express F-15, DuaL-Blade Expandable
$40 / Score: 75.2 / carbonexpressarrows.com
▶ The four deployable blades on the F-15 cut a wide swath through a target. With the best penetration score of the field, the F-15 will result in plenty of pass-throughs, too. The pressure-injected molded ferrule offers a rock-solid design.
HOW WE TEST
We performed this test with a bench-rested Carbon Express Covert SLS crossbow with a 185-pound draw weight. Arrow speed was 298.6 fps.
Each set of heads was weighed with a Sartorius E2000D laboratory balance and an average weight was recorded. Broadheads that deviated from their 100-grain advertised weight were downgraded.
Scores were assigned according to the perceived quality of construction. Quality is reflected in fit-and-finish, tolerances, sharpness, and design.
Heads were graded according to their ability to remain intact when shot through six 5/8-inch sheets of fire-code-rated drywall. Durability scores reflect sustained damage.
Blades and points on each broadhead were graded for sharpness by utilizing an Olympus SZX10 Stereo Microscope.
Heads that provided outstanding performance at a reasonable price received the highest price/value scores.
Total penetration was measured by firing broadheads through a composite Ethafoam block with an internal density of 6.0 pcf. Range was 3 yards.
Kinetic energy (ke) consumption
Broadheads were driven through Ethafoam and force in pounds was recorded. Broadhead length was measured (threaded area not included in total measure) and multiplied by the recorded force and divided by 12, resulting in an inch-pounds of force measurement.
Aerodynamic drag and retained energy
The Velocitip Ballistic System measured aerodynamic drag and retained energy. Flight data was recorded throughout the shot. ––Todd Kuhn
4 Last-Minute Strategies to Help You Cram for Bow Season
Time is a peculiar thing indeed. It can crawl along ever so slowly, or race past in a blink And sometimes, it seems to do both. Such is the case with bow season. Just yesterday, it seemed so far off. Today? It’s practically here.
Are you ready? If you’ve allowed the archery opener to creep up on you, rest easy—all is not lost. There’s still time to get yourself in shape for your best bow season ever. But you need to get started—right now.
1. Tune It
The first task to address is a critical one. To get your entire rig into shooting shape, you must also focus on your broadheads. We’re not talking about a full-scale tuning session here. Instead, the goal is simple: Hit the target where you’re aiming.
Too often bowhunters paint broadhead tuning as a time-consuming and difficult process. Hogwash. Hopefully you’ve shot your bow at least a few times over the summer months and are reasonably happy with the results. If that’s the case, tuning your broadheads should take 30 minutes or less.
Get in Line
If my bow is shooting tight groups at 30 to 40 yards using field points, I’m reluctant to change much. I’ll screw my broadheads onto the same size and weight arrow shaft I’ve been practicing with all summer. The key is to align everything before taking that first shot with a broadhead. If you’re using fixed blades, you’ll want to align each blade with the arrow vanes. Here’s how:
- If you used hot-melt adhesive to install your inserts: Simply screw the fixed broadhead in tight, heat the arrow shaft to soften the adhesive, and align the blades with the vanes.
- If your inserts are glued in: Install a small rubber O-ring between the broadhead and the arrow. This will allow you to fine-tune blade alignment while still screwing the broadhead in tight.
There’s no need to worry about blade alignment if you used mechanical heads—just screw them in tight and start shooting.
Next, spin the broadhead-tipped shafts like a top on a hard, flat surface. If they wobble, they won’t fly right. That wobble could be the result of a crooked insert or bent ferrule on the broadhead itself. Correct the problem before moving on.
With the blades aligned and the shaft spinning true, it’s time to shoot those broadheads. My routine involves shooting from 20 yards, then 30, then 40.
If my bow is reasonably tuned, both fixed-blade broadheads and mechanical heads should hit within an inch or so of where the field points hit.
To adjust for minor variances in impact points of fixed-blade heads, I’ll adjust my sights. I’m far more concerned with groupings than variances in impact points between broadheads and field points. So long as I’m able to shoot tight groups from my maximum effective range, no further tuning is needed and I’m good to go—even if I had to adjust my sight pins slightly.
Mechanicals have a similar profile to field points in flight, so the process is usually simple. If they don’t hit where your field points hit, you either have a major tuning issue (which would likely be apparent when shooting field points anyway) or the blades are deploying early. Try shooting a different broadhead of the same brand. If the problem persists, try a different mechanical brand. If both group erratically, it’s likely a tuning issue. If that’s the case, your only recourse is to paper-tune the bow.
2. Scout It
Put your bow away for the day. Lace up your boots and grab a couple of treestands. It’s time to seek out your early-season spots.
I was once an advocate of the “hang your stands well before the season starts” approach. Not anymore. These days, I prefer to wait until just a few days before the opener to move my early-season stands into position. Admittedly, part of this comes from a lack of time to prepare for hunting season. But it’s also a process born of experience.
I live in farm country where corn and soybeans dominate a whitetail’s diet throughout September and October. If I hang stands too early, I run the very real risk of choosing a location that won’t play when Michigan’s bow season opens on October 1.
Soybean fields start to turn yellow, acorns drop early (or late), cornfields are chopped for feed—all of these scenarios can strike around opening day. They can also turn a great stand location into a deer desert in a matter of hours. Thus, I’ve adopted a “speed scout” routine, which can work for hunters in any location, or for anyone who’s just running late.
Put Boots on the Ground
Head to the area you intend to hunt and evaluate it in a hurry. Get the job done, and get out. Don’t worry too much about bumping deer…so long as you bump them the right way (see “Troubleshoot,” opposite).
As you scout, look for active primary food sources, any obvious rubbing or scraping activity, and, of course, any sign of other hunters. I can cover a 40-acre parcel in about 30 minutes by working the edges and avoiding areas that contain thick bedding cover. The goal here isn’t to find the perfect spot—it’s to select a smart observational stand with the potential for killing a deer. You can fine-tune the location as needed after a sit or two.
You won’t be able to keep deer from knowing you’re there, so don’t try. I’m convinced that whitetails in most parts of the country will tolerate some level of human activity as long as they don’t see that activity as a threat. Farmers have been working fields, clearing lanes, and making noise throughout the summer; deer aren’t bothered by this. But sneak up on one, and he’ll have a very different reaction.
Thus, when I speed scout, I don’t try to be quiet. In fact, I want to let the deer know I’m around. I’ll often use an ATV for the task. But if I’m on foot, I’ll make noise and sometimes bring my dog along for the trip. I’ve cleared shooting lanes with a chain saw, and I’ll bang treestands around a bit. I know I’m going to alert deer, so I try to do it in a way that makes me appear nonthreatening.
3. Stand It
The first few weeks of bow season are best suited to afternoon or evening hunts. Whitetails will still be locked into fairly predictable feeding patterns, and the best way to take advantage of that is with an afternoon sit. During the speed scout, take notes on three types of stand locations:
1. Evening Feeding Locations
You should be able to identify the best food sources in your hunting area. Once located during your speed scout, the entry and exit routes to those foods will be fairly obvious, thanks to trails, tracks, and evidence of feeding. That area of heavy sign is where you hang your first stand.
2. Feed-to-Bed morning Routes**
Next, locate one of the most-used trails heading toward thick cover near that food source. Follow it until you locate potential bedding cover. Use caution here: You don’t want to disturb that bedding area too much. If the travel route is located in an area that allows you to enter the stand location for a morning sit without blowing deer off the food source, you’ve just found your second stand location. But even then, understand that many of these locations won’t allow for a detection-free approach in the morning. If that’s the case, avoid hunting there until later in the season, as the rut approaches.
The third stand should be positioned near a hub of active sign. This will generally be an area of scrapes, rubs, and intersecting trails. Most properties have an area that deer tend to use more than any other. Finding this during a speed scout is a hit-or-miss affair. But you’ll know it when you see it. If you do find one, consider yourself lucky and get a stand in place.
- Oats: 2 50-lb. bags
- W. Wheat: 2 50-lb. bags
- Turnips: 5-lb.
- Fertilizer: 2 bags
- AA Batteries
Gear For Hanging Stands
- Extra Gloves
- Pole Saw
- Chain Saw, Ear Plugs
- Safety Glasses
- Tool Kit
- Duct Tape
- Ratchet Straps
- Flagging Tape, Glow Tacks
- Bug Spray
- Bow Ropes
- Bow Hooks/Hangers
- Compass (to check wind)
- Trail cams
- SD cards
4. Plot It
If you’re hunting private land and have the option of planting a food plot, you can still squeeze one in.
Pick Your Potion
Planting oats and winter wheat in late August and early September can yield excellent results. Both germinate quickly, grow rapidly in cooler temperatures, and draw deer like crazy. You can also mix in some brassicas if you like.
Time it right
The key is to plant when there’s rain in the forecast, and to apply fertilizer. If you don’t have time for a soil test, an application of 19-19-19 fertilizer mix (available at most farm supply stores) will help immensely. My own plots get a basic treatment: I start by hitting the location with an application of glyphosate about two weeks prior to planting. I’ll follow up with another application a week later.
When it’s time to plant, I broadcast seed by hand right over the dead weeds and grasses. Then I pull an old harrow drag behind my ATV around the plot. This will get the seed into contact with the soil. The dead weeds act like mulch, helping to retain soil moisture. In about two weeks, you’ll have a carpet of green and, hopefully, a steady parade of hungry whitetails enjoying the fruits of your labor. Just make sure you’re in the stand when they show. ––Tony Hansen