2016 Mechanical Broadhead Test
February 24, 2017
Bowhunters are obsessed with broadheads! They carry the same power to spur debate as Ford vs. Chevy. Spend 10 minutes on Google searching broadheads and you will find a seemingly endless list of articles, chats and posts telling you which heads are best, penetrate deeper, fly straighter and kill elk more surely and quickly. And, of course, you'll find out which heads are the spawn of Satan because someone lost a deer.
I too am a broadhead fanatic and look forward to testing them each year. Broadheads are made to slice like a surgeon's scalpel while busting their way through hide and bone. They need to be both precise and tough, which is exactly what makes them so intriguing. A quick look at advertisements will reveal the use of advanced materials, special blade designs, unique blade-retention systems and a wide range of cutting diameters and tip configurations. Some models are simple, having a true one-piece construction and typical 3-blade design, while others are much more complex, with sophisticated blade-retention systems.
One thing I have learned when it comes to broadheads is to let the testing do the talking, as it is easy to get caught up in hype and exaggerated claims. That is what we do here at Petersen's BOWHUNTING; we employ a rigorous testing regimen, placing every broadhead on the same playing field and letting the chips fall where they may. Like a razor-sharp blade, we cut through the advertising, personal biases and wishful thinking to bring you unadulterated test results. We publish them as they are — no filters, no changes, no bull!
For 2016, we alternated back to mechanical heads after a fun and informative test of fixed-blade models in 2015. This year's roster of 11 competitors includes some really interesting designs. For instance, there are two models — the Muzzy Trocar HB and BloodSport Gravedigger — from among a growing group of broadheads known as hybrids. That is, they have both fixed and mechanical blades designed to give you the best of both worlds. Another unique head in this year's test is the Innerloc Shape Shifter, which employs a fieldpoint-shaped plastic case that surrounds the broadhead until impact when it breaks apart and gets out of the way. This design produced a great, slow-motion video explosion in our Zero-Penetration Test! We have first-time participants, such as Xecutioner and Swhacker, and manufacturers that have been involved since the beginning of our broadhead series such as Wasp and Grim Reaper. There is the rear-deploy group with NAP, G5 and Rage. And let's not forget the Wac'Em, which boasts a 2.2-inch cutting diameter.
Our goal is to objectively test a series of performance characteristics that are critical to the successful completion of a broadhead's mission. Tests are conducted with materials and processes that result in accurate, unbiased results. We build on our experiences year after year and continuously look to make enhancements that will improve our tests and provide more valuable information to bowhunters.
In an effort to generate the most authoritative broadhead-testing data anywhere, we employ an array of high-tech tools. For example, we use the Velocitip system from Full Flight Technology to gather in-flight drag and retained energy data. Accuracy is measured via the Petersen's BOWHUNTING X-Ring Machine, which is advanced far beyond any commercially available shooting machine. And to create slow-motion video of the broadheads in action — from slicing through sheet metal to crashing into solid rock — we used an Olympus i-SPEED 3 high-speed video camera.
Where we did not have the in-house resources to conduct our tests, we sourced world-class testing services from the outside. For example, sharpness testing for all our broadhead blades was conducted on a state-of-the-art machine at the Cutlery & Allied Trades Research Association in Sheffield, England. Yes, we shipped the blades across the Atlantic Ocean to get the best sharpness results you'll find anywhere!
Tests & Results
Physical Dimensions: A Mitutoyo 8-inch dial caliper was used to determine the size of each broadhead's cutting diameter, blade length, blade thickness and the length of the head beyond the end of the arrow. Cutting diameter on 3-blade heads was calculated by laying two of the blade tips along one jaw of the calipers and the third on the opposite jaw. That number is divided by 1.5, and then multiplied by 2. Example: Greatest distance is .75/1.5=.5x2=1-inch cutting diameter.
An Easton Digital Grain Scale, calibrated according to manufacturer's instructions, was used to determine the mass weight of each individual broadhead. Three separate heads were measured and averaged for a final result.
Total Cutting Potential: The ability of a head to cut — and the amount of cutting that actually occurs — is a factor of sharpness, cutting diameter and number of blades. With this in mind, we calculate the Total Cutting Potential (TCP) of a head by multiplying the radius by the number of blades. We consider it "potential," because a lost blade in bone or otherwise means you have that much less to do the cutting once the head breaks through into the core of the animal. Blade angle is not considered in the TCP, since angle does not change the amount of flesh that is cut, as long as penetration is equal.
Here are two examples of TCP calculations: A 2-blade, 2-inch cutting diameter head has a radius of 1 inch. To get the TCP you multiply the radius by the number of blades, which gives you a TCP of 2 inches. Now, consider a 3 blade head with a cutting diameter of 1.375 inches. The radius is .6875-inch, so you multiply .6875 by the number of blades, 3. Your TCP would be 2.0625 inches, which means you will cut slightly more than the 2-blade head with a 2-inch cutting diameter.
Drag & Retained Energy: The Velocitip system, which features an electronic arrow adaptor with built-in accelerometer, was used to compare the flight performance of various broadheads. The primary data collected from the system was drag (a direct measure of aerodynamic performance) and retained energy (how much lethality the arrow retains).
Since the exact same arrow was used for each shot, we can eliminate the drag created by the vanes. So, the differences you see in our results represent a direct comparison of one head to another. We also included fieldpoint data to provide a benchmark for performance.
Hemorrhage Test: One of the more entertaining tests in our lineup was the hemorrhage test, so named because it is designed to provide a relative measure of how much bleeding each broadhead will cause.
A series of thick, sealed plastic bags marked with reference lines and containing two gallons of colored red water was suspended in front of our Rinehart target. Using a Barnett Razor crossbow, each head was fired low through one of the bags. We recorded elapsed time from the instant the arrow was fired to the time the water level matched the reference line.
Sharpness: Three blades from each test model (one blade each from three brand new heads) were sent to CATRA (Cutlery & Allied Trades Research Association) in Sheffield, England, to measure blade sharpness with their Razor Edge Sharpness Test (REST) machine.
The machine measures the force required, in Newtons, to cut through a rubber test medium. The less force required to cut the rubber, the sharper the blade. As a reference point, a shaving razor will typically result in a reading near .3 N. Additional information about the REST machine can be found online at www.CATRA.org.
Hard-Impact Test: The hard-impact test was designed to simulate the performance of a head after it encounters and passes through a hard material such as bone. This test was performed at 25 yards, and the impact material was .03-inch sheet metal.
A thin, dense foam panel was placed approximately 18 inches behind the metal to "catch" the heads after passing through. High-speed video equipment was also used to capture these shots in slow motion. You can check those out on our website.
Zero-Penetration Test: The zero- penetration test was a violent test of the broadheads' durability. It was conducted by shooting into the flat surface of a field stone at 25 yards and evaluating the overall condition of the head after impact.
The accompanying chart rates the damage for each head. High-speed video equipment was also used to capture these impacts in slow motion. You can check those out on our website.
Penetration: We compared penetration using two kinds of custom-built, block-style targets. One was made of pure foam plates wrapped in plastic film, and the other was a three-material combination of rubber-backed carpet, .03-inch sheet metal and foam plates, also wrapped with film.
Each head was shot three times into each block, and the depth of penetration was recorded and averaged for a final result. We use manmade materials to maintain consistent media properties (hardness, firmness, density, etc.) required for valid test results.
Fieldpoint Comparison Test: A fieldpoint-tipped arrow was shot from the X-Ring machine at 25 yards to give us a reference point for comparing the broadhead impact points on the target. No additional tuning was performed outside of the initial paper tune, as we did not want to give any one head an advantage. Three shots of each model are averaged to plot the data.
The heads in this year's test all basically hit the same 1-inch hole all day long, which was slightly to the right of the fieldpoint impact point. After testing, there is no doubt all these heads will crush the bull's-eye shot after shot out of a finely tuned bow.
BloodSport Gravedigger Cut on Contact
Built on a 7075 aluminum ferrule, the Gravedigger features a hybrid design that employs three 420 stainless steel blades. One is a cut-on-contact, two-sided blade fixed at a 1-inch cutting diameter. The other two blades, which are curved and sharpened to the point, can either be locked down for half-inch bleeders or allowed to open to a 1'‰¾-inch cutting diameter. The cross-opening, expandable blade system is advertised to require less energy to open compared to other over-the-top designs. MSRP: $39.99 per 3
Datt Outdoors Xecutioner
The Xecutioner had the largest cutting diameter in this year's test, at 2'‰½ inches. Blades are replaceable, made of stainless steel and measure .04-inch thick for a robust, durable construction. This head opens over the top and features a unique blade-retention system based on draw weight. A rubber retention band is positioned in any one of three ferrule and matching blade grooves that cover draw-weight ranges of 30-45, 46-71 and 71-200 pounds (to include crossbows). A sharpened, cut-on-contact chisel tip is attached to the end of the machined aluminum ferrule. Datt also offers a small-game collar that can be added to the Xecutioner. MSRP: $39.95 per 4
G5's Havoc sports a big, 2-inch cutting diameter and 100 percent stainless steel construction. The replaceable blades, produced by industry icon Lutz Blades, were the sharpest in this year's test lineup. G5's Dual Trap retention system combines a stainless steel collar and an elastomeric ring. A pin, which protrudes out both sides of each blade, slides up into a channel on the ferrule and snaps into place while tabs on the inside of the blade also slightly push against the elastomeric ring for a two-point connection. MSRP: $49.99 per 3
Grim Reaper Pro 3-Blade
As one third of Grim Reaper's Pro Series broadhead line, the Pro 3-Blade is the original workhorse of the group and an all-around performer. The stainless steel blades are .035-inch thick, open to a 1'‰3â„8-inch cutting diameter and are swept back at a 40-degree angle to improve penetration. Penetration starts with the steel Pro Tip, which has a trocar design and is sharpened for cut-on-contact performance. An improved retention system uses what the company calls a "snap cup" fixture that holds all the components together, keeping the blades closed during flight from any bow or crossbow and allowing them to open smoothly upon impact. MSRP: $44.99 per 4
Muzzy Trocar HB
One of two hybrid broadheads in our 2016 lineup, the Muzzy Trocar HB is built to live up to the company's "bad to the bone" reputation with a solid, one-piece, steel ferrule and chisel tip. The fixed blades span a 1-inch diameter and are offset to induce spin and stability during flight, while the expandable blades are activated by tabs on the base of the blade and open to 1'‰5â„8 inches. All blades are stainless steel and measure .035-inch thick. When open, the expandable blades can swing either together or independently if forces are applied to one side or the other unequally. A crossbow model, HBX, is also available. MSRP: $39.99 per 3
Innerloc Shape Shifter
Innerloc came up with a truly unique concept in the Shape Shifter. A fieldpoint shaped Exo-Cover snaps over the broadhead, securing the blades in place and giving the head a bullet-like profile in flight. On impact, however, the cover shatters and gets out of the way thanks to the company's Break Rail technology. Blade Pushers inside the cover force the blades to start opening at the same time. In addition to the cool new technology, Innerloc also employs an all stainless steel construction, chisel tip, beefy .04-inch thick blades and a 1'‰¼-inch cutting diameter. MSRP: $41.99 per 3
New Archery Products Slingblade
NAP's Slingblade is a rear-deploying broadhead that opens to a wide 1.785-inch cutting diameter. Blades are stainless steel and measure .03-inch thick. The blade-retention system has no O-rings or bands; instead, it uses a small, flexible washer where the two blades are pinned to the ferrule to create the tension needed to hold the blades in place during the shot and flight. It is designed to handle even the fastest bows and crossbows while promising to never open in flight. Blades also swing side to side when open, which could help increase penetration around bone. NAP's hardened steel Trophy Tip leads the way and is designed to punch through bone. MSRP: $29.99 per 3
Rage Hypodermic +P
Rage was the pioneer in rear-deploying blade technology, and the company's offerings continue to be extremely popular with bowhunters across the nation. The new Hypodermic +P is built to increase penetration through reduced friction, made possible by the swept-back blades and 1'‰½-inch cutting diameter. Rage designed this head for larger game and lower-poundage bow setups. Stainless steel blades measuring .035-inch thick and a steel ferrule that is led by a hybrid "hypodermic" tip ensure ruggedness and bone-penetrating durability. The two blades are held in place during flight with the company's breakaway Shock Collar. MSRP: $49.99 per 3
Swhacker's new 3-Blade model employs a two-stage process for full deployment. First, a set of wing blades, which are essentially mini sharpened hooks at the bases of the main blades (all one-piece stainless steel) catch and start cutting immediately on impact, cutting hair and hide. Those wing blades then rotate back, forcing the shrink retention band out of the way and opening the main blades inside the animal. In flight, the Swhacker has a 7â„8-inch cutting diameter and expands to 1'‰½ inches once deployed. A hardened, high-carbon steel trocar tip is designed to bust bone, while the anodized aluminum ferrule keeps weight to a minimum. A fee practice head, bonus DVD and six extra retention bands are included. MSRP: $36.95 per 3
Wac'Em 2-Blade Expandable
Wac'Em entered the mechanical broadhead market in 2016 with 2- and 3-blade models designed for standard arrows, Deep Six arrows and crossbows. Wac'Em's focus is on engineering an expandable that penetrates like a fixed-blade head. To achieve this goal, the company uses a long, narrow, 7075 anodized aluminum ferrule and swept back blades that are seated near the base of the ferrule. Our test head is a 2-blade model with a gaping, 2.2-inch cutting diameter. Blades measure .034-inch thick. MSRP: $44.99 per 4
Based on the popular Jak-Hammer 3-blade broadhead, Wasp's Jak-Knife features the same mechanics and a 2-inch-plus cutting diameter. The pressed on, stainless steel trocar tip is hardened to Rockwell 46C and has honed/sharpened edges to initiate cutting immediately. Wasp uses a neoprene O-ring to retain the .036-inch thick, 420 stainless steel replaceable blades. Neoprene will not stretch permanently or dry rot, giving you the confidence that the blades will properly deploy every time. The solid aluminum ferrule is milled from solid bar stock to ensure durability. MSRP: $34.99 per 3