Saturday, August 25, 2012

Broadheads: What are the Differences?

Ask any bowhunter "What is the best hunting bow?" and you will usually hear, Bear, Bowtech, Diamond, Martin, Mathew's, PSE with other hunters agreeing that each bow is good and has great qualities.

Ask a bowhunter "What broadhead is good for hunting?" and the answers and facial expressions can be very interesting. There are only three types of broadheads on the market, the cut-on-contact, fixed blade, and mechanical and they range from 2 bladed, up to 6 blades, or cutting surfaces, with cutting diameters from 7/8" up to 3".

With all the opinions, marketing hype, and arguments in the bow hunting world about broadheads, how is someone going to decide what to use? Do your own research based on what your bow set up is and the type of animals your are primarily going to be hunting.

The Different Broadheads

Cut-On-Contact (COC) Broadheads 

This type of broadhead is original design and probably the oldest style of all the hunting tips. The tip is constructed with a sharpened edged point and has to 2 cutting edges. Although it too is a fixed blade, the tip design is where it gets the name cut on contact. This design had been napped from stone for many years, placed in a hand carved wooden arrow held in place by sinew and was effective for hundreds of years. Various designs of stone hunting heads were created to hunt different game. The forged steel broadheads came later which were also attached to a wooden arrow by splitting the wood and held in place with leather. Forging a cone at the base of the broadhead allowed the arrow to slipped over the tapered end of the wooden arrow shaft. Traditional COC blades still to this day are glued to a tapered end of a wooden shaft. There are also 3 blade COC broadheads on the market as well for both wooden arrows and modern arrows with screw in inserts.

Magnus Stinger BuzzCut
with bleeder blades
The modern COC such as the Magnus Broadhead has a main blade with 2 cutting surfaces secured in an aluminum ferrule that will screw into the arrow insert. You also have the option of a 4 bladed broadhead which has an additional 2 cutting blades called "bleeder blades". There isn't a chisel point or a pointed cone like on a standard fixed blade broadhead so as soon as this blade makes contact with the hide it begins to cut. Magnus BuzzCut Broadheads have a serrated blade which has a devastating effect on game. Magnus Broadheads also has Snuffer SS is a stainless steel 3 bladed COC broadhead. The Snuffer SS is a great broadhead for someone that  wants a 3 bladed COC broadhead.

Doe I shot with a Magnus BuzzCut.
A COC broadhead is ideal for lower poundage bows because they are able to cut through hide vs. having to punch through the hide of an animal. Once the COC broadhead cuts through the skin and muscle and enters the chest cavity the COC broadhead immediately begins cutting soft tissue and creates the hemorrhaging process. The doe I shot (pic right) was broadside and when she moved the right leg I delivered the arrow to her chest out of an Ameristep Brickhouse ground blind. The picture was taken immediately after I located here 20 yards away.

COC broadheads fly really well out of the package even when used in the fastest bows. There is little worry about them not planing or not hitting the target where your filed points are hitting. Despite some belief these broadheads are strong and can hold up to hitting bone. Blood trails are great with a COC broadhead as well. I have shot many deer with Magnus Broadheads (Classics, Stingers and BuzzCuts) and never had a blood trail that I disliked.  The cutting diameter of ranging from 7/8" up to 1-1/2"  with most of the COC broadheads on the market, which is ample for creating a good wound channel and blood trail.  Although I prefer and highly recommend the Magnus BuzzCut 100 gr 4 bladed broadhead there are many other COC that will provide great results.
A few other companies that carry 2 and 3 bladed COC broadheads are Thunder Valley Magnus Classic, New Archery Products (NAP), Zwickey, Carbon Express Broadheads, Steel Force, Muzzy Phantom, Woodsmen, and G5 Montec.

Fixed Blade Broadheads
4 bladed chisel point broadhead
The fixed blade broadhead is the modern broadhead on the market with many models offered in this style. and are probably the most commonly used by bowhunters today. Most of the fixed blade broadheads have either a chisel point or a cone shape tip that has to punch through the hide of an animal before it begins cutting tissue. The fixed blade broadhead can come with 2, 3, 4 or 6 blades however, most common fix blade broadheads come in 3 and 4 blade. The fix blade broadhead comes assembled in the package for ready to use application, but these blades can be removed so the blades can be replaced in the event they become dull or broken.

3 bladed cone point
A fixed blade broadheads require a higher poundage bow to be able to punch through the hide and some muscle tissue. Once it has penetrated and into the chest cavity the blades begins to cut soft tissue.Fixed broadheads often fly very well out of low poundage bows but often with higher poundage bows they will tend to plane or drift off there mark. Additional tuning of your bow or broadhead may be needed to assure that the fixed broadhead hits where the field points do.
Blackbuck Antelope I shot
Muzzy 100 gr 4 bladed
broadhead @ 42 yards.

Fixed broadheads do hold up well when striking bone because of the tip design however, because of the tip size when it strikes bone it will have a great reduction in speed and penetration. Cutting diameters of fixed bladed broadheads range from 1" up to 1-1/2" and with 3 to 4 blades these broadheads can also create good blood trails and tissue damage.
I have used a 4 bladed fixed broadhead before and had no blood loss despite making a perfect double lung chest shot from an elevated position. The doe that I shot ran 30 yards before piling up in an open field. The Blackbuck Antelope (pic right) ran 100+ yards after being delivered a lethal hit from 15 foot tall ladder stand.
I am not going to list all the companies that offer fixed bladed broadheads just because there are so many however, New Archery Products (NAP), Muzzy, Slick Trick, Wasp are a few companies that offer a good Fix blade broadheads. Look at any major online archery supply and you will find many more fixed broadheads.

Mechanical Broadheads
The mechanical broadhead have been around for some time however the popularity if the Rage Broadheads makes it appear that they were the leader in the industry. Believe it or not mechanical broadheads date back to the 1950's. I can remember the Puckett BloodTrailer Broadheads that were sold in retail stores several years ago but were not highly sought after. In the early 1980's prototypes for Mar-den Vortex Broadheads were created and the Vortex broadheads are still in production today.

L to R: Geronimo solid ferrule, Ply-Flex
Barbed Fishing Point,
Red Bow Star Point (1953),
Pioneer Game Tamer (aka: Pizza Cutter)
Mechanical Killer
Fast-forward in time and you will find now there are many more mechanical broadheads on the market. There are 2 and 3 balded mechanical broadheads and even a COC broadhead with mechanical blades behind the main blade. Puckett's had a piston design,  traditional over tip broadheads, which used O-rings to keep them closed, have been popular for many years and now the slip-cam design and similar rear deploying broadheads floor the market today.  The cutting diameter on mechanical broadheads range from 1-1/2" to 3", which will leave a gaping hole.
NAP BloodRunner
Rage Broadheads have become a very popular broadhead and well sought after. Their slip cam technology assured that the blades are open fully when they reach the animal's hide. Typically, a mechanical broadhead requires a higher poundage bow, however Rage has designed a mechanical for low poundage bows.
A mechanical broadhead does tend to fly more like field points and planing is not an issue, a wider cutting diameter allows for a bigger hole, more tissue damage and larger blood trails. A mechanical broadhead is not a substitute for not tuning your bow. In order for a mechanical broadhead to get optimal penetration your bow must be tuned.

A deer shot with a
Mechanical Broadhead
Even though the mechanical broadheads have made a significant improvement in the past several years they are still not as popular as Cut-on-Contact or Fixed Blades. The opening of mechanical broadheads pulls a little energy from the arrow that could otherwise be directed to arrow penetration. The concern that deployment failure will occur and still occurs from time to time.
Mechanical broadheads with the over the tip design can cause arrow deflection at extreme angling shots.   Even though the cutting diameter is large with mechanical broadheads it doesn't mean it is better. The large blades means more hide, tissue and muscle to cut, which could lead to reducing the arrows speed and preventing the arrow from passing through the animal. Also, having the blades move and the sear length they could strike bone which can cause arrow deflection, blade breakage of the small and thin blades, or arrow deflection.

In conclusion a Cut-On-Contact broadhead in my opinion is going to be the best all around broadhead to use for any game animal in the world and with any bow and it can leave a nasty wound and create rapid blood loss.

The COC broadhead can easily penetrated the course hair and thick hide of a big Texas hog, pass through an New Mexico elk with ease. It can also be shot at long ranges while hunting Muleys and Pronghorn from traditional archery (recurve, long or self bow) and compounds of any draw weight or draw length with filed point accuracy as well.  However, always make sure that your gear is in great working order, properly tuned (paper tuned), and that you practice on a regular basis before you can expect any broadhead to be effective.

Whatever broadhead that you select use MUST be sharp and shot placement is the key to taking down any animal. The double lung shot with a razor sharp broadhead is going to do the job every time!