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Buying guide for best mechanical broadheads

Bow hunting is an intense experience. It requires quiet, concentration, and skill. You also need the right equipment, and at the sharp end, mechanical broadheads are a popular choice.

Many bow hunters wouldn't use anything else, yet there's no denying that mechanical broadheads have occasionally had a bad rap. So how do you know whose advice to trust?

That's where BestReviews comes in. Our mission is to bring you unbiased information that can help you make the right shopping decisions. We've researched the different kinds of mechanical broadheads available, checked the pros and cons, and looked at the advice offered by several hunting experts to bring you this shopping guide.

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A good edge is essential, but mechanical blades are small and difficult to hold for sharpening. Sharpening kits can be a good investment, but replacing the bowhead is easier. Check prices and availability before you decide.

Why choose a broadhead?

Some game takes a lot of stopping, and an arrow with a standard tip can let down even the best hunter. Field points are great for target shooting but just don’t have the penetrating power when it comes to the tough hide of deer or wild hogs. Turkeys are also surprisingly tough old birds!

The answer is to use a broadhead, which combines a fast-penetrating point with razor-sharp blades. These can pierce hide with ease, break through bone, and create a wide wound channel that leads to rapid blood loss. Sounds gory? It's an effective way to ensure a kill and much more humane than letting quarry wander around injured.

In theory, attaching a broadhead to your shaft slows it down. That's true, but a heavier object – while marginally slower – has greater momentum, and that means more penetration, which is particularly important with big game. Put simply, a broadhead carries greater impact downrange. It substantially increases your chances of a swift kill.

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Did you know?
Premature blade release is the major criticism of mechanical broadheads. O-rings and shock collars can keep this from happening.

Types of broadheads

There are four types of broadhead: fixed, mechanical, hybrid, and speciality. Bow hunters eventually develop their own preferences, and may have more than one set, switching from one type to another to suit the game and the environment. Often fixed broadheads are favored for their reliability, though they demand greater accuracy from the archer.

However, those new to broadheads find mechanical models easier to learn. The wider wound channel also means there's more margin of error. If you're a little off target with a fixed head, you might only wound game. With a mechanical broadhead, the same shot is more likely to kill quickly and humanely.

Fixed broadheads consist of two, three, or four blades permanently fixed to the main body.


  • Simple and robust

  • No moving parts

  • More penetration (in general)


  • Steeper learning curve

  • Reduced kill rate compared with other types (smaller wound channel)

  • Permanently exposed blades (handle with care)

Mechanical broadheads have blades that are either completely or mostly concealed within the body of the arrowhead while in flight. The blades extend on impact with the target.


  • Easier to learn to use

  • More accurate

  • Likelier to lead to rapid kill (larger wound channel)


  • Can’t be repaired

  • Reduced penetrative force (blades open on impact)

  • Possibility of opening in flight, ruining the shot

Hybrid broadheads are a comparatively recent introduction but are becoming increasingly popular. Hybrids are a combination of fixed and folding blades.


  • Maximizes penetration (when used with powerful bow)

  • Extremely destructive (with right bow)

  • Capable of killing largest game


  • Fixed blades affect aerodynamics.

  • Fixed blades likelier to cause injuries when handled.

  • Opening blades reduce penetration.

  • Opening blades can lead to mechanical problems.

Speciality broadheads aren't common. These are usually fixed and used for small game and turkeys. The heads are smaller, so flight is more like that of a field point.

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Check your state's hunting regulations. In some places, it’s illegal to hunt big game mammals using barbed, mechanical, or moveable blades – even though it’s legal to sell them! It's important to check specifics as well because the rules differ by species, too.

Choosing a mechanical broadhead

A mechanical broadhead needs to do three things: stay closed during flight, open efficiently on impact, and cut a large wound channel. It sounds simple, but there are several different approaches.

In flight

If a broadhead opens in flight, it invariably ruins the shot. However, it's seldom a problem with good-quality models, which employ one of the following:

  • Rubber O-rings are used on some broadheads to ensure the blades stay closed. The drawback is that these can get caught in the wound channel as the head penetrates, slowing it down.
  • Shock collars are a more modern approach. These do the same job as an O-ring in flight but break on impact so there's nothing to reduce penetration. Manufacturers also claim they’re quieter. Shock collars often have a specific position for fitting, so it's important to check instructions carefully (you'll find helpful videos online).
  • Spring-loaded collars do away with the need to keep buying more O-rings or shock collars but do add complexity. Impact forces need to be considerable in order to deploy the blades efficiently, so these aren’t recommended for bows with a low draw weight.

On impact

  • Sharpness: It should perhaps go without saying that you need a sharp point, but it's an area where cheap mechanical broadheads are often criticized.
  • Tip style: The trocar-style tip is favored by many. It's a triangular design that is both sharp and robust. Chisel tips can be equally effective.
  • Blades: All high-quality mechanical broadheads have stainless-steel blades. These resist rust and retain a sharp edge. Cheap mechanical broadheads can have blade thicknesses of as little as 0.020 inch. Impact forces can cause these to distort, reducing penetration. There's also a danger of the blades snapping. Better-quality blades are as much as 0.035 inch thick.
  • Cutting diameter: This is the size of wound channel created. Two inches or greater means rapid blood loss for maximum kill efficiency. However, the larger the diameter, the more energy required, so manufacturers often give a minimum draw weight. If your bow produces less poundage than required, it just won't drive the head with enough force to be effective. As a result, some experienced hunters prefer a smaller diameter broadhead. They tell us that a diameter of one to one and one-half inches is still enough for elk and other large game, so long as you shoot accurately.

Mechanical broadhead prices

There are lots of cheap mechanical broadheads around, almost invariably imported from Asia. Don't be tempted. There’s no point in buying a mechanical broadhead if you can't benefit from the in-flight aerodynamics and blade deployment on impact. In our opinion, cheap broadheads aren't an economical option; they are a waste of money.

Good-quality mechanical broadheads cost somewhere between $30 and $50 for a pack of three. Very little falls outside this range – even the best hybrids. While it doesn't give much room for saving money, it does mean you can largely make your choice based on technical specifications and personal preference without incurring huge penalties for big-name products.

Are the most expensive models worth $20 more? While to some extent you're paying for recognized brands, each has a reputation for the highest quality. The additional investment buys unquestionable reliability and unbeatable precision.


  • Practice, practice, practice. Every expert we consulted had one piece of advice that was paramount: even the best mechanical broadheads won't compensate for a lack of practice! A good broadhead is more efficient than an ordinary arrow when it impacts the target, but only you can learn the level of accuracy needed for it to make a difference. Tuning your bow for broadheads is beyond the scope of this guide, but there is lots of valuable information online.

  • Match shock collars to broadheads. You don't necessarily have to buy shock collars from the same manufacturer as your broadheads – other brands are frequently available. However, not all broadheads are compatible with the collars. If you want to use shock collars, you need to check before you buy.

  • Look at crossbow-specific broadheads. It's possible for crossbows to use any broadhead. In fact some experts argue that often the only difference between compound bow broadheads and crossbow broadheads is the name on the packaging! However, among premium brands there can be differences, like stiffer blade-release mechanisms to counteract the shock a crossbow bolt produces when triggered. If you're a real enthusiast, you might want to explore heads designed for crossbows.

  • Examine the structure of securing pins and slides (if present). Though broadheads are small devices, you still want components that look like they’re up to the task. You have plenty of choices. If the parts that hold things together seem fragile, look elsewhere.
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Titanium isn't necessarily a better material for a mechanical broadhead, but because it's more expensive, it usually indicates better product quality and higher standards of precision.


Q. What are the “grains” used to measure weight?

A. The system dates back to medieval times when seed grains were the most accurate way to measure small amounts. These were used for precious metals, gemstones, and gunpowder. Originally, the seed was taken from the middle of an ear of barley, a seed unaffected by moisture and therefore more accurate. Using grains as a weight system allows for fine margins. One grain is just 0.002 of an ounce. So a 100 grain broadhead weighs 0.228 ounces. A 125 grain broadhead weighs 0.285 ounces. In most fine measuring, grams have taken over as the de facto standard, but in armory, grains are still common.

Q. Should I choose 100 grain or 125 grain broadheads?

A. Expert advice is usually to use 100 grain broadheads with lightweight carbon and the lighter aluminum shafts, 125 grain with heavier aluminum ones. That said, the draw of your bow and personal preference are also important. The more powerful your bow, the less impact weight has on distance (we're only talking a difference of 0.057 ounce here). Additionally, more weight gives more momentum and potentially a cleaner kill. However, you shouldn’t try to put a 100 grain head on a heavier shaft. There's then too little mass at the front of the arrow, and flight can be erratic as a result.

Q. Which is better, two-, three-, or four-blade broadheads?

A. This is a question that divides bowhunters. While largely a matter of personal preference, there are some physical considerations. If all other things are equal (weight, sharpness, aerodynamics), a two-blade mechanical broadhead will penetrate more easily than a three- or four-blade model. If you have a comparatively low draw weight bow, a two-blade head is more lethal.

However, modern compound bows are capable of producing tremendous power – driving any head with more than enough force to be effective. In that case, three- and four-blade heads (the latter are usually fixed or hybrids) will maximize penetration, tissue damage, and blood loss, so you're more likely to deliver a kill shot.

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