As you get into crossbow hunting, one of the first choices you’ll come across is what kind of broadhead you want to shoot. All broadheads are designed to cut a wide path in their target, resulting in maximum blood loss (for a quick, clean kill) and a strong blood trail for tracking the wounded animal. This guide will look at differences between a crossbow broadhead vs. conventional broadhead and help you determine which head is right for you.
Mechanical vs. Fixed Broadheads
This is one of the larger debates you’ll encounter within the crossbow hunting world, mechanical vs. fixed broadheads. Fixed broadheads have a set of two to four blades extending laterally from the tip of the arrowhead. These blades are designed to penetrate the flesh of the target while also being aerodynamic enough to allow the arrow to remain accurate. Mechanical broad heads are a little different in that they look just like a field point until they contact the target. At this point, spring-loaded blades extend out of the sides of the head to leave a large wound in the target. Both are incredibly effective at taking down game, but each has their advantages and disadvantages.
Fixed Broadheads are More Reliable
As they have no moving parts and the blades are rigidly connected to the tip of the arrow, there’s not much that can go wrong in their functioning. Mechanical broadheads can fail to open properly once they hit the target. They can also open prematurely, causing the arrow to deviate from the intended flight path.
Mechanical Broadheads are More Accurate
The blades have no effect on the arrow’s flight as they only open upon contact with the target (hopefully). There’s no need to design the blades to be aerodynamic either, which means that can instead be set up for maximum blood loss. For fixed blade broadheads to have the same level of accuracy, the bow needs to be properly tuned to that specific head. That means always shooting the same brand and weight of broadhead each time unless you want to spend more time tuning.
Fixed Broadheads have Better Penetration
Fixed broadheads are rigid, which is ideal for tough-skinned game such as elk and bears. Mechanical broadheads are more likely to deflect or have low penetration when the less-rigid blades are released. For big game, it’s usually best to shoot fixed broadheads.
Crossbow Broadhead vs. Conventional Broadhead?
The simple answer is that they’re not that different. Broadhead manufacturers are capitalizing on the crossbow market and trying to differentiate their product. That being said, there are a few small differences.
Crossbow Broadheads are Bit Heavier
Crossbow arrows are shorter, and accuracy can be improved by having a little more weight up front. While you might use 100 grain broadheads with your conventional bow, it can be beneficial to use 125 or 150 grain with a crossbow.
Crossbow Broadheads are Shorter
Since crossbow arrows are shorter than those used with conventional bows, it only makes sense that the head should be shorter to keep the arrow balanced.
Mechanical CRossbow Broadheads Take More Force to Open
Crossbows shoot at higher velocities compared to conventional bows, which can wreck havoc with the operation of some mechanical broadheads. They’re designed to open when pressure is exerted on the tip of the head, however wind resistance can be enough to open them on high velocity crossbows. This can impact accuracy as the blades create drag on the arrow. Crossbow broadheads take more force to open, which eliminates early deployment. Some crossbow hunters will use broadheads designed for conventional bows and place a piece of thin tape around it to prevent early deployment.
The Packaging is Different
It’s sad, but true, much of the difference between crossbow and conventional bow broadheads is just the packaging. The weight, length, and retention collar on mechanical heads might be exactly the same as those used for conventional bow broadheads. It could just be a marketing ploy.
Choosing Your Broadheads for Crossbow Hunting
Now that you know a little bit more about how different crossbow broadheads function, you should have an easier time finding the right ones for your next hunt. Fixed blade heads are best for larger animals and when you want something that’s absolutely reliable. If you’re less concerned about deep penetration and are going for absolute accuracy, a good set of mechanical broadheads is a great choice. Just remember that when tuning your crossbow, it’s best to always use fixed broadheads as any any problems will be exaggerated. Once you’ve got it properly tuned for fixed heads, it should have no issues when you fire mechanical heads through it. Lastly, crossbow heads aren’t that different from those used on conventional bows, but a shorter, heavier head is going to perform a bit better with a crossbow.