When I first started bowhunting, it seemed like everyone had the same razor-sharp tip at the ends of their arrows. Remember those? They were those olive green Fred Bear beauties fashioned after the classic design of hand-made flintbroadheads from yesteryear. Some were two-blade models, and some had that miniature “bleeder blade” insert that made them four-blade tips.
I wonder how many big game animals fell to those Bear Razorheads? I’m pretty sure they still make them, but they’ve evolved quite a bit since then.
It’s staggering to think about how much the archery industry has evolved since the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and into today’s millennium. I remember when the compound bow came out. Holy smokes that was a big, four-wheeled contraption that weighed as much as a canoe and was finicky at best! Sure, the draw weight let-off was pretty novel, but it came at a price of problematic tuning and sheer bulk.
Modern Bows More Efficient
Now look at our modern single-cam bows. Coming in at 3.25 pounds and lighter, they’re a joy to hunt with all day long. But there are no sacrifices with these bows! My Mathews’ bow boggles my mind with its speed and accuracy every time I touch off the release. Modern bows are amazing!
And so are modern arrows, releases, rangefinders, bowsights, and, of course,broadheads. Advanced engineering, aerodynamic testing, ballistic gel testing, and all kinds of computer and laboratory studies have put equipment into the hands of bowhunters that would have blown my mind when I was first starting out. I don’t know how old each person is who reads this, but if you’re from my vintage then I know you can attest to this.
So, for the sake of argument, let’s say you have a modern, two-cam or dual-cam bow sitting safely in its protective case. You have one or two-dozen frequency-matched carbon fiber arrows, too — fletched to perfection. Your bows ight and respective peep are positioned precisely for you, your bow and your shooting style preferences.
So what do you screw on the ends of those arrows? The choices today are fixed blade and mechanical broadheads. Within the fixed category, you have cut-on-impact blade style heads (such as the Bear Razorhead) and broadheadswith more of a chisel-tipped point in front of the blades. Bowhunters will argue for hours about which is better. Both have their advantages. A lot of archers agree that the chisel tip is better for plowing its way through bone on shoulder and rib hits. But the cut-on-impact blade guys will say that their instant slicing action will deliver better penetration and sufficient bone-crushing performance.
If you’re a fixed-blade purist, then only you can make the decision about which camp you’re in. But the drawback to both styles of fixed broadheads is their flight characteristics. Whether it’s a 2-, 3- or 4-blade fixed broadhead, each of those blades is like a wing on an airplane. If your arrows aren’t perfectly built and balanced; and if your bow isn’t perfectly paper tuned; and if you’re taking mid- to long-range shots in any kind of windy condition; then those wings will grab air and could steer themselves off your intended target line. It’s up to each bowhunter to determine whether that’s a drawback they can live with.
Mechanical Heads Fly Like Field Tips
To eliminate those flight issues, companies began making mechanical broadheads that fly like field tips because they don’t have those wings hanging out there. And I think everyone agrees that they do fly more accurately. Aerodynamics proves that.
The problem with almost all mechanicals is that the blades deploy with a scissor action from the front of the broadhead. They have to literally fold backwards, and this really robs the arrow of energy and penetrative power. Plus, unless those scissor blades are folding in unison, it makes the arrow skew off line as it penetrates — which really kicks the butt out of kinetic energy.
The other type of mechanical is the Rage broadhead, which has blades that deploy from the rear. They almost come shooting out like switchblade blades and are swept back at the ideal cutting angle the whole time they deploy. They don’t have to fold backwards. The result is field tip performance in flight, better penetration even than fixed blades in ballistic gel, and gigantic entry holes. Why is that important? It’s because not every arrow is a pass-through, and sometimes you only get the entry hole. And you want that sucker to be as big as it can possibly be for better blood trails and quick, humane kills.
My advice to anyone considering, which broadhead to use is this: Visit your archery pro shop and ask to shoot a bunch of different broadheads. Shoot them inside and out, in calm conditions and in the wind. Whichever head flies best with your equipment, then that’s your broadhead. Because accuracy is absolutely job No. 1. If you find that a few different heads all give you good flight characteristics, then pick the one that slices the biggest hole in that buck’s chest cavity. It’s as simple as that.
Equipment has changed a lot over the years, and it will continue to evolve. The good news for us archers is that with every innovation, we become more efficient bowhunters!
For a fine selection of broadheads, including fixed blade and mechanicals, click here.