Broadheads can be divided into two categories based on their physical makeup and further depending on the number of blades they sport. The two main categories are fixed blade, and mechanical blades. Within those main categories you will find additional variations or sub-categories. Additionally, various designs bridge the basic model descriptions by adding features like cut-on-contact blades on the tip.
For most bow hunters, broadhead selection is a matter of personal preference based on experience, the speed at which they shoot, and the game being hunted. Below is some information that will help you determine which type of broadhead is the best for you. As we discussed earlier technology has enhanced significantly over the past five years in bows as well as in broadheads and arrows. Many of today’s broadheads are effective in delivering penetration and cutting.
As a general rule, bow hunters with slower shooting speeds, created by lower draw weights, should use fixed-blade broadheads with smaller diameters of 1-1/4 inch or less to improve penetration. An additional consideration for shooters with slower speeds would be to select a broadhead with less resistance such as a two-blade broadhead with a small ferrule. Lesser resistance typically leads to deeper penetration.
Shooters with higher draw weights and faster speeds have more options. Increased kinetic energy will give the advantage of using larger diameter fixed-blade broadheads or the newer designs in mechanical heads that provide even greater diameters of cutting surfaces. With sufficient penetration, these larger broadheads have the potential to produce significant blood trails. Keep in mind there is a point of diminishing returns with broadhead size. Although mechanical blades are available up to 2 3/4-inches, 2 inches should be the maximum effective size for deer-sized animals. Larger blades should be reserved for smaller game such as turkeys when penetration isn’t an issue.
The number of blades that a broadhead has will have a direct impact on the blood trail, with more blades producing the best effect. The theory is that with broadheads using three or more blades, at least two are cutting across the grain of muscle tissue, making it more difficult to avert blood loss by muscle fibers closing up with a cut that happens to run with the grain.
Fixed-blade broadheads can be broken down into two categories, 1-piece and those with replaceable blades. Replaceable blade broadheads are very popular because you don’t have to worry with the tedious process of sharpening the blades’ edges. When they lose their edge, due to practice or field use, you simply drop in a new razor-sharp blade. Muzzy Broadheads would be an example of this type of broadhead that has replaceable blades. Monotec by G5 would be an example of 1-piece type of broadhead (see picture).
If your bow is poorly tuned, when an arrow leaves the rest, it’s flight will be affected more readily. An arrow that leaves with it’s fletching end raised will tend to catch the wind and take a sharp dive in its trajectory. Conversely, when the fletching end drops on release, the lower rear angle will cause the blade to catch the wind and plane upward.
For the same reason, increasing the number and size of multiple bladed broadheads will have an increasing effect the bigger they get. If you want to minimize tuning your bow, stick with smaller broadheads. You’ll still need to do some tweaking, but not as much.
Leading Edges – Chisel Tip vs Cut on Contact
Broadhead’s that use a chisel tip have to punch or rip through an animal’s tough hide before reaching the head’s blade surface that does the cutting. This will use some of the arrow’s kinetic energy thus impeding some penetration. This style of tip is one of the most durable, and have been known to punch through heavy bone with no damage to the tip. Muzzy 3-Blade Broadhead is an example of this type of Broadhead (see picture).
Cut on contact tips don’t have to punch through the hide, instead they slice through the hide. This requires very little energy, therefore penetration is not affected as much.
Mechanical heads have come a long way since they were first introduced. They have historically gotten a bad reputation due to many failures in delivering performance and results in the field. With that said today’s mechanical broadhead technology has enhanced tremendously. These newer mechanical broadheads deliever better penetration and cutting. Resulting in excellent entrance and exit wounds.
Mechanical heads have one major advantage; they fly closer to field points and require very little tuning to attain tight groups. The critical issue to keep in mind with mechanical heads is that the blades have no support for the trailing edge. Blades that use thicker metal for the expandable blades will withstand greater stress and have less flex upon impact.
While mechanical broadheads are available with blades up to 2-3/4 inches, hunters should limit the size of broadheads to a maximum cutting diameter of 1-1/2 inch when going after elk or big-bodied animals like moose or bear. Smaller blade diameters will give you greater penetration and improved performance with bigger-boned animals.
Mechanical broadheads up to 2 inches in cutting diameter work well for game up to deer-sized animals as long as you have enough kinetic energy to drive them home. Industry experts recommend at least 55 pounds of kinetic energy for the larger heads and 65 pounds of kinetic energy when going after elk and large game. The 65 pounds of kinetic energy translates roughly into the result achieved by launching a 400-500 grain arrow with a 60-65 pound compound bow, but you can use this formula to know exactly what you are producing with your particular set up. See our Kinetic Energy formula/calculator to determine your set ups K.C.
With Mechanical broadheads you still need to tune your bow to achieve maximum performance in both penetration and accuracy. The adjustments required to perfect your setup are less than with traditional broadheads, but even slight variations in flight can rob you of valuable energy. Tuning is time well spent regardless of what you shoot. A good rule to consider is mechanical broadheads with smaller diameter such as 1-1/4 inches, will help you get maximum penetration and still have the advantage of the accuracy characteristics of mechanicals.
The next decision after determining which style of head you want is weight of your broadhead. Industry experts recommend 100-grain heads for carbon and lightweight aluminum shafts, and for heavy aluminum shafts, 125-grain heads.
Once you decide on which weight and style of broadhead you want to use, it is incumbent upon you to set up and tune your bow properly. Before you start tuning your bow, make sure your arrows are perfectly straight and that the broadheads are installed properly. You can check head alignment by spinning your arrows to make sure there is no wobble of either head or shaft.
Originally posted 2010-01-02 23:48:11. Republished by Blog Post Promoter