Does Broadhead Selection Have to Be One or the Other?
Ask any bow hunter which broadhead is the best, and you’ll get a range of answers that span across sizes, styles, and price points. Everybody has a reason for loving their chosen broadhead type, and there’s often little that can be said to change their minds. Broadhead selection is a very subjective process in archery hunting. They are more than simple bow hunting accessories, and there are some guidelines that can help you choose the best type for a given hunt. Ultimately, the typical argument comes down to accuracy vs. penetration, where you have to sacrifice one for the other. But is that true? Let’s look at the differences below, which center around the basic conditions you’ll be hunting in and which animals you’ll be hunting.
Fixed broadheads come in two basic types, with one being made of a single piece of metal, and the other having replaceable blades (like the G5 Striker). Either way, they don’t change their orientation or cutting diameter after being fired. The one-piece design (like the G5 Montec broadhead) offers a continual, smooth cutting surface from the tip to the end of the blade, which allows the most energy to transfer through the animal. The replaceable blade broadhead may have a chisel tip to smash through bone or a cut-on-contact tip, both followed by the blades. Because the blades are exposed when in flight, wind currents can push it around a little if it’s timed right and the broadhead can even plane off to one direction or another. These broadhead designs are also usually slightly heavier than a field tip. The combination of weight and wind planning can make them a little harder to get field tip accuracy without adjusting your bow a bit, which might influence your broadhead selection.
However, fixed broadheads are extremely durable in the field. Since there are no moving parts or thin blades, you can count on it to deliver the same performance each time, provided you make the shot count. They usually come in three- or four-blade options. They are exceptional when used on larger animals with thick hides or meaty shoulders since they carry the force it takes to punch through these tissues. On smaller animals, they can often break through shoulder blades or rib bones with ease too. That typically makes them the best broadhead for penetration. For replaceable-blade options, you can simply pop the damaged blades out and put new, diamond-sharp replacement blades in. For the solid metal version, you can use G5’s flat diamond sharpener to quickly hone your blades back into deadly condition.
Mechanical broadheads, or expandable broadheads, are made of a few moving pieces, with two or three blades (G5 Havoc or T3, respectively) that will expand out to their full cutting diameter upon hitting an animal. The front- or rear-deploying blades are held in place with a small gasket or clip. This keeps them tightly contained while in flight, which minimizes the amount of influence the wind can have and helps prevent them from deflecting off a branch. It also makes them one of the best broadheads for windy shots in tight quarters. They fly much like a field tip point would fly, which is a bonus since you likely practiced with field tips throughout the summer and will have a good idea of how accurate you are with them. In windy conditions, they are usually more accurate than fixed broadheads since they aren’t as prone to wind planing. Additionally, they can afford to have very large cutting diameters because they are held together while in flight. Once extended out to their full cutting diameter, most mechanical broadheads are much larger than fixed versions. Obviously, this is a good thing since it can cut a larger hole, cause more tissue damage, and leave a clearer blood trail, which should put an animal down quicker and help you recover them.
However, mechanical broadheads also have their limits. Though they fly very accurately and can cut larger wound channels, mechanical things (by definition) can break down. With older mechanical broadheads, a gasket could slip, causing the blades to deploy too soon. This is mitigated with G5’s spider clip blade retention system, which prevents pre-deployment. Historically, the thin blades might get slightly bent from a prior shot, which would prevent it from fully opening through the vital area. They also might hit a larger bone on the animal and deflect off or stop short. Any of these scenarios is possible, though not too probable with today’s technology. Regardless, it’s something to consider in the broadhead selection process.
Ideal Situation for Each Broadhead Type
Drawing on the major points above, we’ve outlined the best possible scenario to use each type of broadhead choice below. Reference this before going on your next hunt to see if you’re taking the best one with you. That being said, you should realize there is a lot of overlap between these two types of broadheads and you can easily use both broadheads for deer. More to the point, correct shot placement and bow tuning will make a much bigger and lasting difference in your hunting performance than broadhead selection will. Also, it’s important to use high-quality G5 broadheads since they are 100% steel tough and diamond cut sharp.
A fixed broadhead is deadly and preferred if the following conditions are true. While they can be used with lethal results in less than these optimal conditions, the performance will likely lag as the conditions get more extreme. Many hunters often wonder, “What grain broadhead should I shoot?” A 100 to 125-grain broadhead is perfect for most deer hunting setups, and the smaller end won’t require as much bow tuning to get your arrows shooting straight.
- Close bow shots (dense woods offering shots within 30 yards);
- Low to no wind current (an otherwise calm day);
- Thick-skinned or larger animals (elk, moose, bears, feral hogs, etc.).
A mechanical broadhead is a better bet under the following conditions. Similarly, 100 to 125-grain broadheads are a good starting point. Again, hunters have used mechanicals to hunt moose as long as the conditions are right and the shot placement is good, so take these for what they are: generalizations.
- Longer bow shots (out past 30 yards, commonly in western states);
- Medium wind currents (blowing 5-10 miles per hour);
- Thin-skinned or smaller animals (deer, antelope, turkeys, etc.).
Broadhead Selection Overlap
While these broadheads will usually perform best under the conditions we mentioned above, it’s not a strictly black and white issue. There are a lot of gray areas when considering accuracy and penetration. Fixed broadheads can still be extremely accurate at close distances, and mechanical broadheads can punch through some thick muscle to leave a huge wound channel as long as it doesn’t hit the shoulder blade. While accuracy and penetration both matter, your broadhead selection process really comes down to personal preference given the conditions you would typically find in your hunting area.