Gear Guide: Best Broadheads 2017 – Fixed Blade & Mechanical
The broadhead is a simple tool in its most basic form, think back to the ancient Native Americans with the stones sharpened into a blade. Today there are far more many choices out there when it comes to the best broadheads.
Broadheads can be broken into two main categories; fixed blade and mechanical. Within those categories are tons of options. For example, two types of mechanical heads are the rear deployed or front deployed. The difference between the two is the direction from which the blades deploy. Here is a chart of our top rated broadheads in both categories.
Given all of those differences and styles, there is even more to consider when it comes to choosing a broadhead style. Questions to ask when considering fixed blade vs mechanical broadheads include:
What type of bow do you intend to shoot with? There is a difference to what you should shoot because of the draw poundage.
How much weight or grain do you need? Different bows require different grain ratings, as do crossbows.
How long will your shots be? Your range and accuracy affect the arrow set up and varies with different grain and broadhead types.
Are mechanical broadheads allowed in your state? Every state’s regulations are different, so please consult your local DNR guidelines.
Best Fixed Blade Broadheads
Fixed blade broadheads typically come in two, three, and four blade options, with a wide range of grain, shapes, and cutting diameters. Let’s explore the pros and cons of fixed blade broadheads.
Fixed Blade - Pros
Durability — There is not much that can go wrong with a fixed blade broadhead once you shoot it. If there is an issue, it will be present before you shoot and that is something to correct through arrow testing, balancing, and maintenance.
Strong Penetration — Big game requires deep penetration to reach vital organs and arteries. This comes down to a combination of shot placement, bow strength, distance, and broadhead performance. The cut-on-contact fixed blade broadheads offer exceptional penetration. Larger broadheads are more easily affected by wind, so the choice of cutting diameter depends on the size of the animal, and the power of your bow.
Easy to Maintain — With fixed blade broadheads, you have the option of choosing a replaceable-blade technology which allows you to keep your arrows in the best shape, tuned for accuracy, and capable of delivering lethal damage at a variety of distances. Many fixed blades can be sharpened, extending the life of the blades, and saving you a big of money.
In short, fixed-blade broadheads offer durability and reliability, ease of maintenance, arrow tuning, while still being able to deliver strong penetration for quick, accurate kills.
Fixed Blade - Cons
Flight — Wide broadheads have more surface area, and that introduces flight issues from wind when shot from modern compound bows. Experienced hunters will notice that the size and width of broadheads tend to be smaller these days than they were in the past. As technology improves the speed and power of bows, fixed blade broadheads can decrease in size.
Tuning — With increased arrow speed comes the need for better tuning. Your arrow setup must be tuned to the bow with the fixed blade heads. One point to remember is that heavier fixed blades require longer and wider fletching. This helps balance the arrow at higher speeds and longer distances. Tuning bows for broadheads is an art in itself, which we cover in more detail here.
Design Limitations— The width of cutting diameter affects the accuracy or tuning capability of fixed blade broadheads. Wider diameter blades are less stable when flying. The more surface area on the head the more friction there is. This causes arrows to slow faster and lose accuracy at greater distances. All of which means more detailed tuning, frequent maintenance, and specific arrows for specific bows.
In short, fixed-blade broadheads take more work to fly true, and may require a special set of arrows for each bow you use.
The NAP Thunderhead is a tried and true, proven fixed blade broadhead. They have been around for many years, which is a strong testament to their effectiveness. Thunderheads are known to be scary sharp right out of the box, fly true, and be easy to tune.
The foundation of the design is the tapered and grooved, three-sided aluminum ferrule. The chisel tip then flows seamlessly into the .027” stainless steel blades. If you’re looking for a proven fixed blade design for this season, the NAP Thunderhead is a fantastic starting point. Check Price on Amazon » orCabela’s »
The Muzzy 4 Blade broadhead is another one of those heads that have gained a solid reputation over the years. They are known to fly true and pair great with carbon arrow shafts. The Muzzy 4 Blade typically comes in packs of 6 at a cost similar to that of other brands 3 packs. The bottom line is this is a broadhead many archers have come to trust and rely on for success.
The design is similar to other proven broadheads on the market. You have an aircraft grade aluminum alloy ferrule, with slots for stainless steel blades. The blades are .020” with cutout “vents” for less in flight air friction. The ferrule is then capped off with a hardened steel tip, with a trocar cut. The trocar tip allows the head to cut on contact and deliver a takedown blow to the animal. Check Price on Amazon » or Cabela’s »
Don’t let the unique design fool you; the Toxic is an amazing fixed blade broadhead. The patent pending round blade design helps to reduce the wind plane effect you experience with flat sided blades. The result is less drag and an accurate flying broadhead. The blades are mounted in slots on the chisel tip, and are even replaceable.
The Toxics have a smaller cutting diameter of just 7/8” compared to traditional fixed blades, but there is more cutting surface thanks to the round shaped blades. Just have a look at the devastating effects on impact, leaving an easy blood trail to track. The Toxic leaves a gaping hole for a wound channel, rather than cuts. Check Price on Amazon » or Cabela’s »
The G5 Striker heads are an excellent choice for a 3 blade broadhead with replaceable blades. When comparing the G5 Striker vs Montec broadheads, the have similar cut on contact tips aligned with the blades. The biggest difference is the blade angle and construction.
The Montec is one solid piece of steel, blades and all, that require sharpening for continued use. The Striker on the other hand, has replaceable blades. If you have trouble sharpening a one piece 3 blade, then I recommend the Striker over the Montec. The G5 Striker is known to fly straight with minimal sound, and reliable to inflict a takedown wound. It’s no surprise that the Strikers are loved by bow hunters of all skill levels. Check Price on Amazon » or Cabela’s »
The Stinger is a traditional fixed blade broadhead that just simply gets the job done. There are no fancy marketing gimmicks with this 2 blade head, just high quality components. The blade is formed from .042” stainless steel, the same kind used in the best knives made today.
The Stinger also carries a hardened diamond tip for penetrating strength. The steel blades are mounted on an aircraft grade aluminum ferrule, which can be removed for easy sharpening or replacement. This would be a good broadhead for bows with low to medium poundage, or even traditional bows. Check Price on Amazon » or Cabela’s »
Mechanical broadheads come in rear deployed or front deployed designs. They offer a conical head design that allows them to behave more like a field point rather than a broad head, but they have negative aspects too. Let’s explore the pros and cons of mechanical broadheads.
Mechanical - Pros
Accuracy — The narrow launch geometry of a mechanical arrow allows it to fly in a similar fashion to that of a field point. It faces less wind and flight plane issues than the fixed blade broadheads do. This allows them to fly farther with greater accuracy, especially outside of the 60-yard mark.
Inflicts more Damage — Mechanical broadheads have a wider cutting angle. When they penetrate the blades deploy and create devastating tissue damage. While fixed blade broadheads may penetrate deeper, a mechanical broadhead is going to take out veins and arteries as it penetrates. If it hits an organ you can count on maximum damage. All that damage means that shooter error is marginalized as the damaged caused helps overcome shot accuracy. That does not mean you should not practice because no mechanical broadhead is going to overcome a poor shot.
Wider Cutting Path — Mechanical broadheads work especially well on smaller game whereas fixed blade broadheads are used to kill larger game (Elk, Caribou, Bear). With the mechanical broadheads, you gain more immediate tissue damage which is a benefit when you have small game such as turkeys which have a very small kill zone.
Mechanical - Cons
Decreased Penetration — Mechanical blades often have a wide blade angle when deployed. The wider the blade angle, the more resistance it creates when it strikes a softer target. If you want deep penetration you need a narrow blade design or you need a bow that is uber powerful. Grain in mechanical broadheads tends to be on the lower end of the scale (under 100 grain) which means that inertia is less on impact. Blade angle can be an issue with both mechanical and fixed blade broadheads.
Limits Game Options — Because of the decrease in penetrating force, mechanical broadheads are not always the best choice for big game like elk or bear where the vital organs are deeper and the arrow must travel farther into the target to deliver a killing shot.
Mechanical Errors — Fixed blade broadheads rarely have mechanical failures, which is not always the case when it comes to mechanical broadheads. Blades can occasionally fail to deploy, leaving the animal with a wound to suffer. While still small, the risk of arrow failure is a little bit higher simply because there is more involved in the blade deployment vs a simple fixed blade broadhead.
The Jak-Hammer is my number one rated mechanical broadhead for bows and crossbows. The Jak-Hammer has a proven and reliable front deploying design that is good for use on turkey, deer, hogs, and sometimes larger game. WASP kept things simple on this broadhead, using a neoprene o-ring to retain the blades in flight, and rolls backward on impact.
The Jak-Hammer utilizes quality materials like .036” stainless steel blades, which is a strong gauge to provide power to cut deep wound channels. On the front end is a hardened steel trocar tip to cut on contact. Don’t be surprised if you get complete pass through shots with these heads. Multiple hunters have reported shooting multiple animals with the same head. If you take care of them by sharpening and replacing blades as needed, the Jak-hammers can last you several seasons. Check Price on Amazon » or Cabela’s »
The Spitfire 3 might be one of the most popular mechanical broadheads ever made. The Spitfire is highly regarded as one the best broadheads for deer thanks to a simple blade mechanism. Each blade is sandwiched between a retention clip and the slot in the ferrule, and these parts have a hole that pivots on a small screw. The force of impact pushes the front edge of the blade past the retention clip, exposing the cutting edges. Be sure to replace the retention clips and screws after 5 impacts.
The Spitfire point and ferrule have nice aerodynamic shape that flies and groups very well. When properly assembled, the blades won’t open in flight like cheaper heads. Just like on the NAP Thunderheads, the trophy tip and ferrule has small grooves on all three sides, meant for flight accuracy. A lot of bow hunters try all kinds of mechanical broadheads, only to end up settling on Spitfires. You could save yourself some time by getting set up with the best to begin with. Check Price on Amazon » or Cabela’s »
Ramcat expandable broadheads are supposed to be one of most aerodynamic designs made. The ferrule is larger than other mechanicals, but features 3 air foil lobes that allow air flow, preventing the wind from catching it. Ramcat claims the razor sharp head has market best penetration, and multiple independent tests have proven this to be true.
The Ramcat is actually a hybrid broadhead, where the blades can fold forward, but once deployed are fixed in place. There are no fancy slots or lightening holes in this head, just solid .032” stainless steel cutting surfaces. Should you not get a pass through shot, the back edges are also sharp so you can cut while pulling the arrow back out. One thing to know with Ramcats is to make sure to check the small screws every time you get ready to shoot for consistent deployment. Check Price on Amazon » or Cabela’s »
If you’re looking for a good 100 grain mechanical, the Grim Reaper Razorcut SS is one to seriously consider. If you are one of those shooters who are unsure about an o-ring blade retention system, then have a look at the Razorcut SS. Each blade is fitted with a spring loaded mechanism that holds itself in place until the pressure of impact.
The entire head is made in one piece out of stainless steel. It’s actually specifically designed for today’s modern high KE bows and crossbows. One other feature I like on these heads is the cut on contact tip with a ½” plus setback to the tips of the razor blades. This distance means you get some penetration into the animal before any blades are deployed. This leads to better success on angled shots due to fewer deflections. Check Price on Amazon » or Cabela’s »
Cabela’s makes some really good in-house branded gear, and they hit a homerun with the Lazer Strike II mechanical broadheads. I haven’t seen these in person yet, but I am excited to. It currently has a 4.5/5 star rating with over 100 reviews. A pack of 3 Lazer Strike II heads costs significantly less than major brands. If budget is major factor in your decision, these would be a good bet.
As far as design is concerned, the Lazer Strikes have all the same materials and features as the big brands. The 100 grain is based on an aluminum ferrule and a super hard carbon steel trophy tip. The blades are formed from high grade 440 stainless steel and create a cutting diameter of 1-1/4”. All blades can be replaced or sharpened after use. If you are looking for an excellent value with good performance, the Lazer Strike II is your guy. Check Price onCabela’s »
Wondering what the difference is between crossbow broadheads vs regular broadheads? There is none. The best thing you can do to find the best crossbow broadhead is try out what you already own. Many archers find they are able to accurately shoot their favorite vertical bow broadheads on their crossbow.
Most crossbow shooters rely on mechanical broadheads over fixed blades. The reason is simply due to the fact crossbow bolts are shot at higher speeds, and are thus impacted more by wind. The main issue with mechanicals is premature deployment at 400fps.
Give the NAP Spitfire or WASP Jak-Hammers a try first, you can find them just about anywhere. If you struggle to get good groupings, then you can move on to a “crossbow broadhead”.
Broadhead companies are coming out with more and more products aimed specifically at crossbow shooters. These are my favorite heads rights now.
The Crossbow X is basically the same broadhead as the regular Rage 2 blade. They don’t specifically say what the difference is, but I speculate there is a small difference in the deployment mechanism to prevent the blades from expanding in flight.
The Crossbow X broadhead has all the other great design features Rage is known for. There is the Shock Collar system that keeps the rear cam deployment consistent. The blades are a solid .035” stainless steel, and open to a massive 2” cutting diameter. If you have trouble with mechanicals opening early, the Rage Crossbow X would be a good head to try next. Check Price on Amazon »or Cabela’s »
The Boltcutter is a beefy 3 blade, 150 grain fixed blade broadhead for crossbows. Excalibur explains the choice of a 150 grain head as a way to improve the accuracy over 300 fps by increasing the front of center balance.
The entire broadhead is constructed from high strength stainless steel to withstand the high kinetic energy impact of crossbows. The Boltcutter is a sweet balance of the strength and durability of fixed blades, with the speed and accuracy of a mechanical. Check Price on Amazon » or Cabela’s »
These are nearly identical to the Grim Reaper Razorcut SS we talked about above, just modified for use with crossbows that shoot up to and beyond 400 fps. The difference isn’t clear as Grim Reaper has next to zero info on their website. Get with the program guys.
The X-Bow heads are available in 100 and 125 grain sizes, with either Razortip or Razorcut SS tips. The cutting diameter is a large 1.5”, and crossbow hunters have been happy with the size of wound channels for humane take-downs. Check Price on Amazon » or Cabela’s »
Here we have Cabela’s brand mechanical broadhead, which are actually very popular. Normally I side with the saying “you get what you pay for”, but the Lazers have the performance and track record to push away fears of the low price.
Lazer Strike II crossbow heads are built with a hardened steel trophy tip design, with replaceable .030” stainless blades. You can tell the difference between these with the regular Lazers by the gold colored ferrule.
These use the o-ring method for blade retention, so if you hate messing with o-rings, you may want to stick with the Rage or Reapers. Check Price on Cabela’s »
Still not sure what type of broadhead you need? An article out of the Quality Deer Management Association provides excellent stats from a study conducted by Andy Pedersen on fixed blade versus mechanical broadheads. Here is a little of what they found.
Fixed blade broadhead arrows recovered 82 percent of their targets. The target field was 1,066 deer and 874 were bagged.
Mechanical broadhead arrows recovered 91 percent of their targets. Out of 230 hits 209 deer were bagged.
Bow Type Matters — Compound bows had an 89 percent recovery rate with mechanical broadheads whereas crossbows with mechanical broadheads have a 96 percent bag rate.
What does this mean?
The target in the study were deer, which are a species that offers a size and kill zone that makes both fixed blade and mechanical arrows somewhat equal.
The bow type mattered greatly as crossbows provide more direct power and deeper penetration using mechanical broadheads. Recall that one of the disadvantages of the mechanical broadhead was penetration. That is overcome with short distance shooting (19.7 yards for crossbows) and more power behind the arrow.
This brings up the question of distance. Both types of shooters in this study were close range. Crossbows took shots at an average of 19.7 yards and compound bow at 17.6 yards. Add distance to the equation and the results of this study would likely be different.
So while it seems that mechanical broadheads outperform fixed blades, you have to really consider skill level, distance, and the conditions in which hunting occurs.
Just make sure to choose a broadhead with a stout tip, whether cut on contact or chisel. A cut on contact style is probably superior in most scenarios when hunting for larger animals like deer. Cut on contact broadheads would seem to inflict the most damage regardless if you strike bone or the vitals.
The conclusion of which are the best broadheads is not a broad statement but more of an individual answer. What is your target? What is your range? What is your accuracy and skill level?