Best Crossbow Bolts (Arrows) for Hunting 2018 Gear Reviews
Even with the snazziest and most cutting-edge crossbow in the world, a user risks inconsistent accuracy and even injury to himself if he doesn’t show care in selecting the right bolts to pair together with his bow. Experienced archers know well that there’s more to proper equipment selection than merely getting your hands on the right bow; the bolts being used have to be right for the job as well. Since there are just about as many needs and situations one can face as there are bolts designed to tackle them, selecting the proper crossbow bolt can seem intimidating and bewildering. However, with proper consideration of all of the relevant factors, it is entirely possible to make a wise and fitting choice in this area.
Here, then, is a list of five of the overall best crossbow bolts on the market today for the money. Below, we will guide you through each bolt’s strengths and weaknesses in order to help you find the one best adapted to your needs. Though this list makes no claims to being absolutely exhaustive, it is quite sufficient to give you a good idea of what to look out for when selecting a crossbow bolt.
1 (Editor's Choice)
Some General Things to Consider
Before beginning our deeper exploration of these five bolts, however, there are a few across-the-board considerations that it would be wise to discuss, things that everyone should bear in mind when shopping around for crossbow bolts.
Why Does it Matter What Sort of Bolts You Use?
This may seem like an obvious question to ask, but it’s also an indispensable one. Crossbow bolts are not one-size-fits-all. Different models differ in all sorts of consequential ways, from length and weight, to the material of which they are composed, to the type of nocks on the bolts and beyond. Certain features make for bolts that are better attuned to some circumstances than others. Therefore, you should always bear in mind the interplay between a bolt’s features and the circumstances that you expect to encounter when using it.
Carbon vs. Aluminum
For instance, carbon bolts are generally far more durable than aluminum bolts. For this reason, carbon bolts are much better able to absorb impact without bending than are aluminum bolts and can therefore penetrate their targets much deeper. However, this fact alone does not mean that an aluminum bolt can never be the right choice for someone in a given situation. Aluminum bolts are generally far cheaper than carbon bolts are and thus tend to be ideal for target practice, despite being significantly weaker than the carbon alternative.
Weight and Length
Lighter bolts travel faster than heavier bolts, all other things being equal. They are also more likely to travel straighter than heavier bolts. However, because they are lighter, they are more likely to be blown off course by crosswinds than are heavier bolts. Furthermore, a lighter bolt transfers more energy to the limbs of your crossbow when fired, leading to more vibration, greater possible wear on your bow with prolonged use and louder firing.
Conversely, a heavier bolt has more kinetic energy, strikes the target with significantly greater force, is more resistant to being blown off course by wind, fires more quietly and does not transfer as much force to the bow upon being fired. Since heavier bolts tend to be less effective at longer ranges, however, it may be necessary to use them in conjunction with a rangefinder in order to better judge target distance.
These considerations indicate that a lighter bolt may be better used for target practice, while a heavier bolt would probably deliver best results when hunting, particularly when hunting large game. Those who desire to strike a balance between the respective strengths and weaknesses of lightweight and heavy bolts are advised to choose mid-weight or standard-weight bolts (generally weighing between 350 and 400 grains).
Bolt length is also an important consideration. The length of the bolts that you require will vary depending on the crossbow that you use, as different crossbow manufacturers make different bolt length recommendations. Typically, bolts are anywhere between 16 and 24 inches long. Ideally, a bolt must be of a size where the nock (see section below) can make contact with the string but the tip touches nothing at the end of the rail.
Shorter bolts will fly faster and weigh less than longer bolts, giving short and long bolts the same respective advantages and disadvantages of light and heavy bolts.
A bolt’s nock is located at the very back of the bolt shaft and it is the part of the bolt that comes into contact with the string of your crossbow. Having the best sort of nock for your bow will ensure maximal energy transfer to the bolt when it is fired.
There are a few kinds of nocks:
- Flat nock - Here, there is a simple flat disk in the back of the bolt. This allows you to position the arrow anywhere on the string, but it also increases the chance of a dry fire.
- Half-moon nock - This nock features a single groove meant to grip the string of your bow. Though it provides less positioning freedom than the flat nock, the risk of the arrow slipping or misfiring is greatly reduced with the half-moon nock, provided that the arrow is loaded correctly.
- Omni nock - This is perhaps the most versatile and all-purpose type of nock. It comes highly recommended among crossbow users, as seen in this video. The multiple grooves in the omni nock create channels that can grip and press against the string, making it virtually impossible to load the bolt incorrectly.
- Lighted nock - This is a nock that glows when the bolt to which it is attached is fired. Lighted nocks are very useful at night, as they enable you to easily see and find your bolts after you’ve fired them. Lighted omni nocks provide an excellent combination of features for nighttime use.
What Do You Intend to Use Your Bolts For?
Before you even begin your search, you should ask yourself what you want to do with the crossbow bolts that you’ll buy. Do you simply want bolts for target practice that you can use to brush up on your skills? Do you intend to use them to hunt small game? Or do you plan to go hunting for larger game, and so require bolts with more penetrating power? Questions like this are perhaps the most important that you can ask while searching for the right crossbow bolt.
Checking the Manufacturer’s Warranty on Your Crossbow
As stated above, to get the most out of every crossbow bolt, whether in terms of accuracy, safety, power, or anything else, it is critical to use bolts that are suited to your crossbow. Being that your crossbow’s manufacturer is the foremost expert on its function, your bow’s owner’s manual and product warranty are virtually certain to contain vital information about the sort of bolts that it is best to use.
Furthermore, many crossbow warranties are only valid if the owner adheres to the specifications laid out in the warranty. Should you damage your crossbow when using a bolt that the warranty deems improper for that particular crossbow, you will not be able to take advantage of the warranty to repair the damage done or to get a new bow.
Top 5 Crossbow Bolts for the Money
Bearing all of the preceding material in mind, we can begin our discussion of each of the five bolts mentioned above.
1. Black Eagle Executioner Bolts
Ominously named as they are, these carbon arrows have no difficulty in living up to their dark appellation. They are designed, quite simply, to bring down anything living that they happen to hit. Made of carbon, they are built to maximize accuracy, kinetic energy and speed. They come in various lengths, making them widely suited to a fairly diverse array of bows. The 20-inch and 22-inch models come with 3-inch Boning X Vanes and the 18-inch version comes with 2-inch Blazer Vanes.
They come with both half-moon and flat nocks. Since the nocks are removable, however, one can purchase other nocks for these arrows separately.
Probably the most salient feature of these arrows, however, is their so-called Executioner brass insert, which adds to the arrow’s weight but also creates an optimal forward of center. The term “forward of center” refers to the percentage of the bolt’s total weight that is focused in its front half. A bolt with a high forward of center can be trusted to fly stably and is extremely effective at long-range shots. This optimized forward of center gives this bolt a high kinetic energy upon striking its target and therefore, great penetrating power.
Using what they called their Grouped Together Technology, Black Eagle Arrows have made the Executioner very stiff and rigid, adding to both its accuracy and durability.
This excellent combination of features has led customers to effusively gush and rave about the Black Eagle Executioner. However, users should be aware that such an extraordinary level of quality comes at a cost.
- Comes in a wide range of different sizes
- The nocks are removable, allowing you to match the bolt with any kind of nock you like
- Extremely accurate, durable and powerful
- Optimized for long-range use
- Tend to be one of the more expensive bolts on the market
2. Carbon Express PileDriver Fletched Carbon Crossbolt
Of all the bolts offered by Carbon Express, this one is the heaviest – and it delivers exactly the kind of knockdown power that one would expect, given this fact. Just as it gives the bolt additional power, so the heavier carbon of which it is composed adds to its durability. In addition, the heavier and tougher material promotes great rigidity for the bolt in mid flight, increasing accuracy and the stability of its flight pattern.
The bolt comes in both 20-inch and 22-inch versions and comes standard with 4-inch vanes, half-moon nocks and flat nocks. The vanes in particular are designed to enable the arrow to more easily cut through the air as it flies, increasing both its mid-air stability and overall speed.
At a distance of 25 yards, it is absolutely dead-on accurate, though that extraordinary accuracy does somewhat decrease as the distances involved become greater. This arrow is a clear and obvious choice for no-nonsense hunters who simply want to ensure that the game they’re hunting will be hit with a blow from which it will not recover.
Further, it must be pointed out that for a bolt of its quality, it is surprisingly inexpensive and hence, all the more appealing.
However, from time to time, some users have reported that these arrows may fly inconsistenty or break somewhat easily, though whether this is due to a flaw in the bolt design or mere human error is not clear.
- Extremely powerful and accurate, particularly at short range
- Highly durable
- The vanes and added rigidity make for a more stable and wind-resistant flight path
- Inexpensive, given its quality
- It becomes considerably less accurate at greater distances
- There have been occasional report of some inconsistent flying and somewhat easy breakage
3. Barnett Outdoors Carbon Crossbow 20-Inch Arrows with Field Points
Barnett’s arrows have been extremely popular among crossbow users and it isn’t at all mysterious why. For those seeking to hone their archery skills and perfect their aim by firing off a high volume of practice shots, this bolt offers everything that one could reasonably want. Of middling weight – only 13.78 grains per inch, plus a 100-grain point – this 20-inch arrow comes with half-moon nocks and won’t burden the buyer with excessive cost.
The bolts come with field points, though it is possible to attach broadheads to them if one wishes to do so.
They fly quite fast and with a reliably flat trajectory. Also, given how relatively light the shaft is, these bolts are also surprisingly durable.
They also come with a 5-year warranty from the manufacturer.
Although they are extremely accurate and trustworthy at relatively short ranges, accuracy does tend to fade somewhat at distances beyond 50 yards. A few users have complained about some inconsistencies in firing, alleging that each bolt fires differently.
- Neither too heavy, nor too light
- Extremely accurate at short ranges
- Relatively inexpensive and hence excellent to practice with
- Comes with a 5-year manufacturers’ warranty
- Considerably less effective at longer ranges (above 50 yards)
- Some inconsistencies in firing between bolts have been reported
4. TenPoint Pro Elite Carbon Bolt
These exquisitely-made 20-inch, 425-grain carbon bolts come with 68-grain brass inserts that improve long-distance accuracy and increase the force with which the bolts strike their targets. Moreover, they come fitted with omni nocks, relieving you of the hassle of having to buy this useful accessory separately. Being a bit on the heavy side, they are optimized for power, distance and precision, making them ideal for hunting. If you have plans to go stalking large game, you could scarcely ask for a better bolt to help you bring down what you’re after.
After traveling a distance of 50 yards, they are estimated to lose only 8.9% of their initial speed and only 18.7% of their initial kinetic energy.
Also, TenPoint’s customer service tends to receive stellar marks from customers. Should any bolt happen to arrive lost or damaged, they will gladly send you a replacement bolt and even include lighted omni nocks with the replacement.
For the committed hunter, these bolts are well worth the investment. Those merely looking to fire off a few practice shots, however, are strongly advised to choose a less high-end bolt. It should also be emphasized that when paired with powerful crossbows, some have known these arrows to break upon coming into contact with harder surfaces.
- Extremely powerful and accurate
- Excellent for hunting, especially at greater distances
- Come with omni nocks and even lighted omni nocks
- Not particularly suitable if your only intention is to use them for target practice
- Are sometimes known to break when they strike hard surfaces after being fired from powerful crossbows
5. Wicked Ridge by TenPoint Crossbows 20" Aluminum Crossbow Arrows
These may be aluminum bolts, but they are bolts of such exceptional durability and penetrative force that one could be forgiven for believing that they were made of carbon fiber. They have quite significant ability to resist being bent or damaged, which is of great benefit to those wishing to use these bolts repeatedly. Although aluminum bolts tend to be best used for target practice, the power behind these Wicked Ridge bolts makes them more than adequate for hunting as well.
The vanes make the arrows additionally aerodynamic, offsetting some of the problems that aluminum bolts tend to have with maintaining a reliably straight flight path. These arrows come with both flat and omni nocks as well.
One somewhat significant difficulty with these bolts is that the nocks are not easy to remove. To remove them, one needs to drill a small 1/8 hole through the back of the broached insert and tap the nock out using a thin rod. However, since these arrows come with omni nocks and omni nocks are renowned for their versatility, removal is not likely to be necessary, except under exceptional circumstances.
- Exceptionally tough, especially for an aluminum bolt
- Powerful and can be relied upon to fly stably
- Come with omni nocks included
- Only come in the single 20-inch size
- The nocks, should one want to remove them, are a hassle to remove
Selecting the right bolt is crucial to being able to get the most out of your crossbow. As different bolts have different features and different strengths and weaknesses that make them either suited or unsuited to one or another situation, it is important to know what kinds of bolts are compatible with your crossbow and what use you expect to put your bolts to once you have them. Knowing your own needs and requirements in absolutely central in this regard.
However, all things considered, the Black Eagle Executioner Bolts appear to stand head-and-shoulders above all of the rest for the highly impressive way in which they combine a panoply of desirable features: speed, power, accuracy, durability, effectiveness at long range and especially versatility. Some otherwise excellent bolts are limited by the fact that they are only truly fit for a certain range or type of crossbow. The Executioner, however, can not only be fitted with whatever type of nock one’s crossbow may require, but also comes in a wide array of lengths, further increasing its compatibility and appeal among the various crossbow types. Insofar as it is possible for one crossbow bolt to encapsulate the widest range of features attractive to the broadest swath of crossbow users, no matter their levels of experience or their needs, the Executioner does it.