2017 Fixed-Blade Broadhead Test
December 12, 2017
We Rank 16 Top Models on Sharpness, Accuracy, Penetration & More
It's that time of year when the air turns crisp, days grow shorter and smoke begins to roll from chimneys across the countryside. There is no better time to be alive, and many of us anticipate autumn like a kid anticipates Christmas morning. Deep down inside, you know where you belong — perched in a ridgetop oak tree, nestled in a ground blind at the edge of a cornfield or slipping through the aspens and listening for a majestic elk bugle. Very few things energize the way fall does.
If you are the typical bowhunting fanatic, you have already launched what seems like a million shots over the past six months. You have tinkered, tweaked and tamed your rig to your satisfaction, and you are finally ready to thread a broadhead onto the end of your arrow. The question is, which head?
In today's marketplace, there are literally hundreds of broadhead makes and models featuring various weights, shapes, cutting diameters, blade designs and a host of other new-fangled features. You could make your selection based on your hunting buddy's recommendation, convincing commercials or the ferrule color that matches your bow accessories. Better yet, you can take advantage of the most thorough broadhead test ever put together to narrow down your choices in the arrow cutlery buffet. The test staff at Petersen's BOWHUNTING has no bias, gives favor to no participant and reports results as they are produced — no exceptions! In fact, we wait until the results are tabulated before picking our own broadheads for the season. (And no, we're not making any endorsements!)
We alternate our broadhead testing between fixed-blade and mechanical heads, and this year's installment focuses on the latest fixed-blade designs. While you will see plenty of familiar faces among the competitors, you'll also notice several new and interesting heads. Cold Steel's Cheap Shot, for example, is the first mainstream molded polymer head that sells for only a little over a dollar a piece, while Blood Therapy enters the arena with a circular blade that breaks free and spins when it encounters too much resistance. Muzzy's Trocar Switch has a simple adjustment that allows the shooter to select one of three cutting diameters, and Bloodsport's Wraith Deepcut features a deeply scooped ferrule for improved flight performance characteristics. With a whopping 16 heads in this year's test, there are too many to discuss them all here. So, let's stop all the talk and get right to the good stuff — the tests and results.
Our team of testers and support staff includes construction experts, development engineers, material testing experts, product specialists and computer engineers. Our goal is to objectively test a series of performance characteristics 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.
To that end, we employ an array of high-tech tools such as 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 IDT 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 ship broadhead blades across the Atlantic each year to bring bowhunters the most reliable sharpness results you'll find anywhere!
Total Cutting Potential: The ability of a head to cut — and the amount of cutting that takes place — 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 is 2.0625 inches, which means you will cut slightly more than the 2-blade head with a 2-inch cutting diameter.
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 caliper 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.
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 is 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 plastic bags were filled with exactly two gallons of red water and marked with a reference line near the bottom. Each bag was also vented to ensure an equal amount of internal pressure.
We then suspended the bags in front of our target and used a Ravin R9 crossbow to shoot each test head through one of the bags. We recorded elapsed time from the instant the arrow was fired to the time the water level drained to the reference line.
Zero-Penetration Test: The zero-penetration test is a violent test designed to test the outer limits of a broadhead's durability. Each head was shot into the flat surface of a field stone at 20 yards and evaluated for damage after impact.
The accompanying chart reflects the damage to each head. High-speed video equipment was also used to capture these impacts in slow motion.
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 20 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.
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.
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.
Of the 16 heads in this year's test, 10 pounded the same 1x1-inch square, while four additional heads were within a couple tenths of an inch from that same square. Only two heads strayed from the pack, and neither of those made it outside the 2-inch range. The bottom line is all these heads can be tuned to hit where you want out to at least 25 yards — and probably a lot farther for most shooters.
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.
Bloodsport Wraith Deepcut
The Deepcut is one of five models in the Wraith family. Built around a universal ferrule and multiple blade designs, other options in the lineup include specialized treestand, turkey body, turkey head and widecut models. Armed with a 416 hardened stainless steel ferrule and chisel tip, the system's core is designed for durability.
The Scooptail ferrule is said to increase efficiency and accuracy. Stainless steel blades measure 1.25 inches long, .032 inches thick and flare out at an angle that creates a 1.125-inch cutting diameter. A unique, reversible blade design is advertised to double the life of the head.
MSRP: $29.99 per 3 | www.bloodsportarchery.com
Blood Therapy OCD
There is no mistaking Blood Therapy's OCD thanks to its one-of-a-kind, circular main blade. This round blade runs through the middle of the aluminum ferrule and is anchored with a single screw, which loosens on impact so the blade can rotate freely. This is said to decrease resistance at entry and when encountering bone, thereby improving penetration.
The main blade is 1 inch in diameter and .059 inches thick, while the cut-on-contact tip provides a .5625-inch diameter and .039-inch thickness. Blood Therapy focused its design and testing efforts on improving flight and accuracy.
MSRP: $34.99 per 3 | www.bloodtherapybroadheads.com
Cold Steel Cheap Shot
The Cold Steel Cheap Shot is not just different from all the other broadheads in this test; it is different than any other broadhead I have ever seen! At only $12.99 for a 10-pack or $39.99 for a 50-pack, you can see why the Company calls it the Cheap Shot and follows that with the tag line, "Affordable Broadheads."
The Cheap Shot is made from a polymer specifically designed as a replacement for steel and advertised to be impervious to nearly all weather conditions. The reinforced tip is built to withstand harsh impacts,, and each bladed side is home to Cold Steel's signature "grip n' rip" serrations.
MSRP: $12.99 per 10 | www.coldsteel.com
Dead Ringer The Butcher
Dead Ringer's The Butcher is deadly looking with its large, stainless steel main blade that reaches out to a point approximately one inch in front of the aluminum ferrule. The 1.935-inch long blade creates a 1.0625-inch cutting diameter and is vented toward the rear to cut down on weight and planing.
Bleeder blades are seated in the rear of the ferrule at 90 degrees to the main blade and reach out to a .7-inch cutting diameter. The cut-on-contact style blade, which is the go-to for many large-game hunters, is intended to maximize penetration.
MSRP: $29.99 per 3 | www.deadringerhunting.com
G5's Montec has been around for years, yet its simple, effective design continues to keep it among the industry's most popular heads year after year. Featuring true one-piece construction, the stainless steel Montec is made with MonoFlow manufacturing technology, which results in consistency and in turn, repeatability on the range.
The cut-on-contact design is intended to improve penetration, which many who chase the biggest of game require. Blades are multi-tapered, with tapering in two directions from the blade edge. G5 offers a sharp, carbon steel version of this popular head as well as pre-season practice heads.
MSRP: $41.95 per 3 | www.g5outdoors.com
The 3-blade Slice features a center locking system that forms a unique and seemingly escape-proof blade retention mechanism. Blades are angled along the attachment edge and fit through slots in the ferrule. Once in place, the blades are secured as the shaft, which is part of the stainless steel trocar tip, reaches through the ferrule and threads into the base, trapping the hooked portion of the blades against the inside wall of the ferrule.
This system basically creates a floating ferrule and blade unit that can be positioned in any orientation desired before clamping the unit together. Matching tapers on the base and inside of the body join for a precise fit and alignment. Innerloc calls this Blade Alignment Technology (BAT).
MSRP: $39.99 per 3 | www.innerloc.com
Muzzy Trocar Switch
Muzzy outfits the 3-blade Switch with a trocar tip and short, stainless steel ferrule. The .035-inch thick stainless steel blades rotate on a single pin near the tip, while the base of the blades, each with three position notches, swing freely.
A blade collar slides up into your choice of the three notches to lock the head into cutting diameters of 1, 1.125 or 1.25 inches. This is designed to offer the archer three application-based choices in a single head. Blades are also offset to induce spin, which is known to stabilize flight and tighten groups.
MSRP: $39.99 per 3 | www.muzzy.com
QAD's Exodus had gained a reputation over the years for its notable strength, durability and lethality. Blades sweep back over the shaft to create a short head designed for strength and accuracy.
This configuration also allows for longer blade lengths and in turn shallower blade angles to reach the relatively wide 1.25-inch cutting diameter in spite of the short ferrule, which is intended to increase penetration. QAD's Rock-Buster hardened tip leads the way for this all stainless steel head, while the .04-inch thick replaceable blades do the cutting.
MSRP: $39.99 per 3 | www.qadinc.com
Rocket Ultimate Steel
Rocket's Ultimate Steel broadhead has been in the lineup for years and continues to be a top seller. The 3-blade head sports a 1-inch cutting diameter designed to get the job done on game while producing tight groups at long distances. Blades are .035 inches thick and measure approximately .625 inches long.
The super short steel ferrule is designed to enhance strength, while the chisel tip is made for penetrating bone if necessary. Rocket's Bacon Skinner blades are replaceable.
MSRP: $19.99 per 3 | www.rocketbroadheads.com
NAP Thunderhead Nitro
The made-in-the-USA Thunderhead Nitro features all steel construction to maximize durability and strength. The head is outfitted with three steel blades that fit into a slot on the ferrule and are anchored by placing the forward point under the lip on the tip and threading a screw through the body.
With a 1.0625-inch cutting diameter, the Nitro is designed for accuracy with today's fast bows and crossbows. The Trivex tip is designed to produce good aerodynamics while also effectively handling bone.
MSRP: $39.99 per 3 | www.newarchery.com
The 3-blade Ramcat Original features a chisel tip with three concave scoops designed to draft the air over the blades, thereby eliminating any planing that can plague other designs. Blade-over-shaft technology shortens the one-piece, stainless steel ferrule for added strength and is advertised to increase penetration.
A double O-ring system, called Aero Insert Technology, on the threaded shank guarantees the broadhead is fully concentric in the insert and eliminates thread play. Blades are cantilevered for enhanced aerodynamics and are sharpened on both sides to provide a back cut and easy arrow removal.
MSRP: $39.99 per 3 | www.ramcatbroadheads.com
Rocky Mountain Advantage
Rocky Mountain's Advantage is a true cut-on-contact broadhead with the single piece main blade coming to a point in front of the ferrule. This type of head is believed to penetrate better as it immediately begins cutting as opposed to punching through.
Together with the bleeder blades, this is technically a 4-blade design with the main blade measuring .04-inch thick and producing a 1.125-inch cutting diameter and the bleeder coming in at .036 inches thick and a 1-inch diameter.
MSRP: $24.99 per 3 | www.huntrockymountain.com
Slick Trick ViperTrick Pro
Slick Trick's ViperTrick Pro is an all stainless steel version of the popular ViperTrick. The .035-inch thick SS Lutz blades are impervious to weather and are said to have scalpel-grade sharpness. Lutz custom blades, engineered in Germany since 1922, are considered an elite product.
Slick Trick's patented Alcatraz Bladelock system secures the blades inside the Super Steel ferrule. The main blade has a 1.0625-inch cutting diameter, while the smaller bleeder blade spans .875 inches. A sleek, 2-edge tip completes the package.
MSRP: $47.99 per 3 | www.slicktrick.net
TruGlo Titanium X 3 Blade
Loaded with features, TruGlo's Titanium X 3-Blade broadhead is built on a one-piece titanium ferrule that includes their integrated Tru-Cut tip. The cutting edges on the tip, which are said to cut on contact, line up with the three Tru-Thru precision sharpened stainless steel blades, which are .031 inches thick and .875 inches long.
TruGlo keeps the bowhunter in mind as they spin and sharpness test the heads before shipping to ensure out-of-the-pack performance and reliability. TruGlo also offers 4-blade fixed and mechanical versions of the Titanium X.
MSRP: $41 per 3 | www.truglo.com
Wac'Em 4 Blade
The Wac'Em 4 Blade broadhead is built on a solid, hardened stainless steel ferrule. It has an integrated chisel tip with four sharpened edges that line up with the four stainless steel blades. Blade tips lock into a pocket under the chisel tip on the front edge, are seated in a slot on the ferrule and then are secured at the back end with a washer and the arrow shaft.
The .027-inch thick blades, which are replaceable if necessary, will sharpen on a flat stone. This head is available in 85-, 100- and 125-grain versions, all of which feature a 1.0625-inch cutting diameter.
MSRP: $39.99 per 4 | www.wacemarchery.com
Wasp's Drone sports a solid steel ferrule milled from 100 percent steel bar stock — no powdered or pressed metals are used. A stainless steel trocar tip with three sharpened edges that match up with the blades is designed to promote aerodynamic flight while also penetrating hide and bone.
The tip is hardened to Rockwell 46C. Blades, which measure .027-inch thick and produce a 1.125-inch cutting diameter, are replaceable and the pack includes two sets of replacement blades.
MSRP: $29.99 per 3 | www.wasparchery.com