Getting the best performance out of your crossbow is as simple as selecting the best bolts for the job. Crossbow bolts need to create a reliable blend strength, speed, and accuracy to be a difference maker on the hunt. You want a bolt that zeroes in on the kill zone and impacts the target with precision every time. This guide will cover everything you need to know when selecting the best crossbow bolts for your bow.
5 Best Crossbow Bolts Compared
*Last updated 2020-03-28 at 12:03 / Product Links & Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Factors in Selecting Hunting Bolts
Finding a bolt that is a perfect match with what your crossbow requires is absolutely essential. Bolts should always be sized correctly to meet the speed, momentum, and accuracy required to make your hunt successful.
Bolts share some characteristics with traditional compound bow hunting arrows. There are plenty of key differences too. Bolt shafts are constructed to a shorter length to fit the shorter power stroke from a crossbow. They also have special nocks designed to assist in launching the bolt down the rail.
There are some key elements you should consider before selecting from the crossbow bolts covered later in this guide, so you can get the results you need every time you use your crossbow.
Total bolt weight combines the fletched shaft, nock, insert, and the broadhead or field point. Bolt weight is measured in grains. Heavier bolts typically generate more energy downrange, which ultimately means better target penetration. Consult the manufacturer’s recommendations to see what the proper length and weight is needed for your crossbow
Kinetic energy is just as important as speed when sizing your bolts. Speed gets more emphasis as a primary draw for choosing a particular crossbow over another model than just about any other factor. But speed can only do so much once a bolt is released. Drag forces began to slow a bolt from the moment it is released. It’s important to choose a bolt that has maximum penetration power over one that is simply the fastest.
A crossbow will deliver the same amount of force to a bolt every single time it launches the bolt. That means a lighter bolt shoots faster and a heavier bolt shoots with more power. Crossbow bolts come in three standard weights.
- Lightweight (350-400 grains)
- Standard (400-435 grains)
- Heavy (435+ grains)
Lightweight bolts will boost overall speed and create flatter downrange trajectory. On the other hand, they also produce increased vibration, stress, and noise. This heightens the risk of doing damage to the crossbow itself. Lightweight bolts are also more prone to getting deflected away from your intended target by wind, rain or airborne debris. These bolts are best used in open areas where judging distance from the bow to target is more difficult.
Standard bolts are essentially all-purpose arrows that fit with most hunting situations. They offer a good balance between speed and kinetic energy. The increased weight in grains means that more energy is transferred from the crossbow to the bolt. It reduces vibration and noise and improves accuracy and penetration power. Standard bolts can be used in a variety of habitats and weather situations.
Heavyweight bolts produce and retain a larger amount of kinetic energy than lightweight or standard bolts. The end result is a greater ability for target penetration. They offer greater in-flight stability in inclement weather. Still, heavyweight bolts will lose trajectory more rapidly, so judging distance accurately is critical. A heavyweight bolt is the best choice when hunting in poor weather conditions or dense habitats. It is also ideal for pursuing game with thick hides.
Bolt length typically ranges from 16 to 22 inches. The average crossbow bolt is 20 inches long. Check with the manufacturer’s recommendation for your crossbow to see what length you need. If a bolt is too short, the tip can interfere with the rail when you release the bolt.
Bolt diameter is a critical factor in penetration. Small diameter bolts will cut down on wind drag when the bolt is released and offer increased durability, along with a boost in penetration power, compared to conventional diameter bolts.
Shafts on crossbow bolts are typically composed of carbon or aluminum. Both carbon and aluminum are light-weight materials. They are also durable because they are bend resistant and do not splinter. Aluminum shafts typically cost less, are quieter, and offer more spine choices. On the other hand, they do not shoot as flat as other arrows and can decrease in strength as the weight increases. Carbon shafts reduce wind drift better and shoot flatter. But the price is also higher and carbon shafts shed velocity much quicker once released.
Spine comes in two degrees: static and dynamic. Static spine is the stiffness of the bolt. Shafts will vary in degrees of stiffness. If a bolt is more resistant to bending, it has a higher static spine. The stiffness of the materials in the shaft help determine the spine. Dynamic spine refers to how much a bolt bends once it is fired. This can be influenced by string force, fletching, nock weight, and static spine. Bending will impact accuracy and consistency – especially once a bolt is released – so it’s important to control the spine on a bolt.
Nocks keep a bolt in place as you line up your shot. A nock is attached to the back of the shaft and is typically made from aluminum or plastic. Crossbow bolts typically use half-moon nocks or flat nocks. Half-moon nocks have a groove you need to align with your string before firing a bolt.
Fletchings are fins near the back of the bolt in close proximity to the nock. Crossbow bolts have three fletchings made from plastic. These plastic fins vary in length. Longer fletchings are a better fit with longer shafts. Fletchings are crucial for stabilizing trajectory of the bolt and keep it from swaying to either the left or right in flight.
Crossbow Heads are found in two varieties: field points and broadheads. Field points are best suited for target practice and some small game. They aren’t recommended for most game because they possess just a pointed tip without sharp edges, so a field point wounds an animal rather than providing a kill shot.
Field points typically weigh 125 to 150 grains. Broadheads are attached to the tip of the shaft just like field points, but they have the sharp edge to create a kill shot. There are three types of broadheads: fixed blade, removable blade, and expandable blade. Like field points, they range from 125 to 150 grains in weight.
Shaft tolerance is an important part of making sure your crossbow bolt performs at a higher level. You want consistency in weight, spine, and straightness so that you can maintain optimal speed and accuracy on every shot .
Crossbow Bolt Reviews
There’s no need to scour the Internet while searching for the best bolts for your crossbow. We combed through hundreds of user reviews and forums to do the homework for you and combined what we found with our own field experience to assemble a list of 10 crossbow bolts you should be using this year.
1. Parker Hunter Crossbow Arrows
- Durable, lightweight and fast
One thing you will notice right away with these 20-inch bolts is their reliability. Parker has created a bolt that stands strong shot after shot. It flies straight, goes fast, and with very little drop off in penetrating power before it reaches the intended target
Each bolt features capture nocks and is durable enough to withstand repeated use on the hunting range. They have lightweight shafts at 15 grains per inch and their top in-flight speed after release is second to none. These bolts are strictly for hunting. They do not come with field points to use for target practice.
2. TenPoint Pro Lite Bolts
- Consistent, accurate and fast
No bolt is a better fit for the description “lightning fast” than these beauties. They zip along downrange at an amazing speed. The best part is that accuracy isn’t sacrificed for that speed. TenPoint has a bolt here that stays consistent in finding and penetrating your target with every shot. You feel satisfied with the results you get.
Each 20 inch bolt has a carbon shaft featuring slightly offset fletching. Bolts are also fitted with 25-grain aluminum inserts and neon-green nocks. 100-grain field tips are included in the package.
3. Horton Carbon Bolts
- Accurate, durable and powerful
If you’re looking for a bolt that is tough and precise, this Horton product fits the bill. It is accurate shot after shot. These 20-inch bolts also pack a punch. This means you will get excellent penetration on a target in addition to consistently hitting it in the right spot.
These aren’t the only thing going for the bolt. Each bolt holds up under repeated use. The carbon shafts are durable and sturdy. Each bolt features offset 3-inch fletching, an aluminum insert, and a neon nock. They include 100-grain field tips
4. Carbon Express PileDriver X-Bolts
- Powerful, heavy and accurate.
X truly marks the spot on these 20-inch carbon bolts. You get spine consistency to ensure remarkable accuracy even with the weight tipping the scales around 440 grains. The heavy carbon shaft produces a jolt of kinetic energy that drops a target with incredible force. It punches through large game with tons of power.
Half-moon nocks or flat nocks can be used with this bolt. 100-grain field points are not included with purchase. You will love the power from the bolts. The heaviness means that you can lose up to 30 fps of arrow speed, but it makes up for it in penetration.
5. TenPoint Magnum XX75 Aluminum Bolts
- Best Aluminum crossbow bolts, aerodynamic, accurate and durable.
The reputation this bolt gets as the best aluminum crossbow bolt is warranted. If you want a hard-hitting bolt that can take a pounding and still deliver accurate results, this is exactly what you need. These 20-inch bolts feature aerodynamic aluminum shafts, 4-inch fletching, carbon inserts, and Omni-nocks. 100-grain field points also included in the package.
Each bolt is built to get the job done. They fly straight and penetrate a target with precision. The bolts stand up well under heavy usage without suffering a drop off in lethal accuracy.
6. Cabela’s Stalker X-Bolts
- consistent, quiet and accurate
Getting a consistently accurate shot is the name of the game when you’re hunting. Cabela’s offers a helping hand in that arena with these bolts. Each 20 inch bolt shaft is composed of strong carbon fibers to enhance durability and create a better spine. These bolts pack a punch when they go downrange and they hit the target in the right place at the right time.
You can go with 298 grain flat nock or a 300-grain half-moon nock when getting the Stalker x-bolts. Each bolt features 3-inch fletching to ensure consistent flight after release. Field points are not included with these bolts.
7. TenPoint Carbon Pro V22
- Accurate, durable and consistent.
Going with a 22 inch bolt can mean a drop in speed. That’s certainly the case here. Carbon Pro V22 bolts suffer nearly a nine percent drop in speed in-flight. On the other hand, they are reliable and durable and will give you the most bang for your buck. Each bolt is accurate and consistent in getting to its intended target. And they stay strong and effective after repeated usage.
The 22-inch bolts feature bright orange Omni-nocks which have six microgrooves to form three string alignment channels. They also include 24-grain aluminum inserts and slightly offset fletching. It’s a dynamic package any hunter should enjoy.
8. Barnett Field Tip Carbon Bolts
- durable, accurate and hard-hitting
If your focus is on small game and target practice, Barnett will meet your needs with this quality carbon bolt. The field points can be exchanged with broadheads, so the bolts do work with larger game too, but smaller game is your best bet. They fly straight, are precise in hitting the target in the right spot, and can stand up to repeated use well.
Each 20 inch bolt comes with a durable carbon shaft, 100-grain field points, and moon nocks. The shaft weight is 13 grains per inch and it features offset 4-inch fletching. What you get is a good value bolt and a perfect entry-level bolt for beginning bow hunters.
9. Excalibur Diablo 18 inch Bolts
- speedy, accurate and quiet.
Good things come in shorter packages. You aren’t sacrificing quality and reliability with this 18 inch bolt. It delivers incredible speeds and that lightning fast flight after release is paired with superb downrange accuracy. You can drop big game at intermediate distances with little to no trouble at all.
Diablo bolts feature 2-inch fletching and increased front-of-center weights on the carbon shaft. They also offer flat-back inserts to eliminate the need for nocks. This design is supposed to provide more reliable contact with the string when drawing back and releasing the bolt.
10. EVO-X CenterPunch
- accurate, strong and reliable
Consistency is the name of the game with these bolts. They are specially designed to boost accuracy and they deliver on that promise. Each bolt utilizes a state-of-the-art Lazer-Tech carbon fiber weave to reduce spine variation by 80 percent and improve shaft strength by 40 percent. The end result is a 25 percent improvement in accuracy compared to the typical carbon bolt.
Breakage is not an issue with these bolts since the carbon fiber is rated at 33 million-pounds-per-square-inch. Each 445 grain bolt features Omni-nocks, brass inserts, and 3 ½ inch fletching. Moon nocks can also be used.
Bolt quality makes all the difference between a good hunt and a bad hunt. Using bolts that strike a healthy balance between speed, strength, and accuracy sends your chances of bagging large or small game through the roof. This guide should give a helpful push in the right direction toward finding the best bolts for your crossbow.
*Last updated 2020-03-28 at 12:03 / Product Links & Images from Amazon Product Advertising API