If you’re looking for the skinny on some sleek new arrows for your carefully picked crossbow, you’re in luck.
Buying some can be confusing and wading through the jargon can be tough, but it’s really quite simple. You’re essentially looking for a straight stick to put behind a point to launch at a game.
The 4 Top Crossbow Bolts of 2018: Outdoor Empire Reviews
These are our top recommendations for crossbow bolts in 2018:
- Best for deer hunting: Get Bloodsport arrow or Easton Full Metal Jacket crossbow
- Best for the money: Get Carbon Express Piledriver Crossbolt or Carbon Express Maxima Red
*Looking for a specific feature? Check out our quick-reference chart below:
|Size||20 in||22 in||20 in||20 in|
|Material||Carbon||Aluminum Jacket/Carbon Core||Carbon||Carbon|
|Diameter||0.344 in||0.344 in||0.348 in||.300 in|
|Shaft Weight (GPI)||325 grains||13.7 grains||442 grains||10.4 grains|
|Straightness Tolerance||+/- .003 in||+/- .003 in||0.004 in||±.0025 in|
|Nock Type||Half Moon Nock||Half Moon Nock||Half Moon and Flat Nocks||Launchpad|
|Fletching Type||4" Vanes||3" BTV Crossbow Vanes||4" Vanes||Blazer® vanes|
|Cost||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
1. Best Crossbow Bolts for Deer Hunting: Bloodsport
Bloodsport arrows is very much a boutique arrow manufacturer.
They make full carbon fiber arrows and have unique qualities that help hunters out in the field. They’re a bit pricey but if you can shoulder the cost, they have great features like a slim diameter, blazer vanes and a Blood Ring.
The main selling point of Bloodsport arrows is their proprietary “blood ring”. They’ve added a ring of a white compound that picks up anything it passes through, especially blood and stomach contents.
This helps you judge where you made your shot by taking a sample of the tissue it passed through. It goes a long way to help you decide whether or not you need to track and follow the deer or wait a few hours before pursuing it.
2. Easton Full Metal Jacket
The Easton FMJ is a new kind of hybrid construction arrows that blend the best worlds of carbon fiber and aluminum to create a thin but resilient arrow.
They work better in the field than you’d expect, especially in tough hunting situations such as extreme angles and high winds.
This is because of its stiffness when it flies, not to mention its thinness. They shed wind easily and penetrate better than just about any arrow in the market.
The downside to this thinness is the proprietary inserts you must use and the price.
All say that these are very expensive arrows, well it’s worth the price if you can stomach it though. One thing’s for sure, every time you lose one you’ll feel it in your bottom line.
3. Best Crossbow Bolts for the Money: Carbon Express Piledriver Crossbolt
Not exactly cheap, but these crossbolts are of great value.
The Piledriver Crossbolt offers a huge amount of performance for a mid-market price. It is the heaviest carbon composite crossbow bolt in the lineup.
They are for hunters who want ultimate penetration. They come with the traditional 4-inch vanes with nocks and inserts installed.
All you need to do is to select either your field tip or broadhead, then head off to practice or to the woods.
4. Carbon Express Maxima Red
If you’re looking for a no frills hunting arrow ready for the woods but light in the wallet, then Carbon Express is your brand.
They make all kinds of arrows but hunting arrows has been their forte for a long time. They make high-quality, low-cost arrows.
The Maxima Red is an example of what they make, a decent all around arrow for cheap. It’s substantially cheaper but it still gets the job done.
They come in two sizes with standard inserts and blazer vanes. In fact, everything about them is standard. They are no frills high-quality arrows that offer performance in spades.
They offer a full carbon fiber construction and dual weight forward of center that allows for a stiff flight and deep penetration. The stiffness and even construction also aid in accuracy.
That little design tweak makes it a reliable hunting arrow that you can depend on.
Essential Aspects to Consider
There are three main materials that crossbow arrows are made of: aluminum, fiberglass and carbon fiber. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.
- Generally the cheapest arrows available
- Very robust on impact
- Not susceptible to shearing apart or arrow spine separation
- Bends easily and once bent, they’re useless
- Hard to make a clean cut to size properly
- Very heavy compared to other options and getting weight forward of center can be a problem
- Naturally bends and absorbs shock well
- Less expensive than carbon fiber
- Won’t bend
- Prone to losing hairs that irritate skin
- Will explode if bent too far or is damaged
- Some arrow making glues don’t bond well to fiberglass
- The straightest and highest quality offerings
- Very tough when maintained well
- Sensitive to correct arrow spine
- Dangerous if using a damaged arrow
The straighter an arrow is, the more consistent it will be when it flies.
This is important because accuracy is a measurement of how often you can repeat something, such as an archery shot.
It’s essential to have more than a single straight arrow, the straightness of the entire bunch has to be taken into account.
Look on the box to see what the tolerances of the arrows are. Ideally, you want this number to be as small as possible. It’s viable for a +/-.006 to be affordable but you still get a good performance.
The ideal situation is a group of arrows in a matched set for straightness of +/-.001.
No matter how straight the arrow is, if the arrow spine is off you’ll have poor accuracy.
Arrow spine is the measure of toughness that the arrow has when the string of the crossbow is pushing against the nock.
Getting it right is critically important because when the string fires, it sends out vibrations that shake the arrow back and forth like the old rubber pencil trick from grade school.
These vibrations are tuned for the stresses that the arrow will receive. Harder cammed bows and those with more draw weight shake the arrow differently, and they’re made to accommodate this.
If you use the wrong arrow with an incorrect spine, then one of two things can happen:
- The bow will be horrendously inaccurate and you’ll have a hard time hitting anything, let alone placing an ethical kill shot.
- If it’s a fiberglass or carbon arrow, it can explode on your hand.
Arrow weight is important because too light and penetration will suffer, but too heavy and your range will be limited.The balance of the load is important as well.
Here’s how to know your arrow weight:
- Start out by selecting a broadhead.
- Add up the weight of the nock, insert, and vanes.
- Multiply the grains per inch by the length.
There are tons of decisions that go into the arrow weight and each manufacturer makes recommendations on how heavy it should be. Follow what they have to say and you won’t go wrong.
When you build your own arrows, you get to choose which kind of fetching to use, whether you have a right-hand or left-hand spin, what kind of insert, whether or not to use lighted nocks.
There are also plenty of options and features you should consider before buying a set of arrows.
Start with the correct spine, trim them to size and add in the nocks, vanes and inserts you like. Don’t use equipment prohibited by your local game regulations.
Check before you use lighted nocks, expandable broadheads or a recovery string.
It goes without saying that you can’t have the prime arrows in the world if you can’t afford them.
Look for a good medium-quality arrow that you can afford to shoot and have at least 12 bolts. Having a dozen helps out by having enough that you can select the top 6 for hunting and have another set for high volume target practice.
The ideal thing that you can do before investing in a set of arrows is to do your research then buy the leading quality that you can get your hands on.
After that, run what you’ve got. Unless you have a problem, stick with your setup and hunt as hard as you physically can. And never forget the crossbow hunting basics!
Buying Arrows for Hunting
Buying arrows for hunting need more consideration than simply buying target arrows. Toughness of the arrows, especially at the insert, is important.
If it is cheaply made, it’ll shatter when it contacts a bone or tough muscle and inhumanely wound an animal.
The rule of thumb is that the tougher the game, the heavier the arrow should be. Make sure you have the correct spine. But as a general rule: the more meat in the arrow, the tougher it is.
Innovations such as hybrid aluminum & carbon fiber arrows are changing the game.
So be on your toes when shopping and don’t be afraid to upgrade if you decide you want something new. There’s a huge market for used archery equipment that is worth checking.
Ethics & Accuracy
Hunting accuracy is the ability to make an ethical shot on a game no matter what or you pass on that animal.
If you hunt all year for a chance at a single buck or hog, then you want to be sure that you can place an ethical shot and take home the bacon. To do this, you need quality arrows.
The truth about arrows is that you can be the best shot in the world but if you have some bad equipment, you won’t hit the target and you’ll spend all day chasing a problem thinking it’s your form while it’s really your bolts.
With the amount of time it takes to find a safe place to shoot and set up targets, make sure you have everything ready to go. Remember that you are the one responsible for every shot you do with that arrow. You might also want to check our article on how to shoot a crossbow.
How Many Should I Buy?
Simply, as many as you can afford.
In a perfect world, you want to have several arrows for hunting and a bunch for practice. Don’t cheap out and buy arrows that are different from your hunting arrows specifically for target practice.
This is going to lead to confusion and make it hard to dial in your setup when the time comes to hunt.
You don’t need two dozen arrows for practice either. If you shoot too many arrows close together, you can damage the arrows. Six bolts for hunting and another six for practice is plenty.
A dozen arrows can be pricey so you can do two things to spread out the cost.
Buy arrows in bulk during off-season.
If you can, buy a dozen.
Most companies sort arrows and the dozen box will be more consistent than buying two 6-count boxes. The bulk boxes can sometimes save you 10% compared when buying them after the season closes.
From about February to July, most outfitters are trying to move last year’s models. Use this to your advantage to buy them at a discount. You can sometimes get them at 50% off if you lie and wait ready to snatch them up.
Buy arrows half now and half later.
Let’s say that it’s mid-summer already and you need arrows. In a pinch, you can buy a box of 6 when you get your bow and just start practicing. Then a week or so before the opener, buy another box of 6.
This is a good way to spread out the cost. You’ll end up spending more in the long run, but you’ll have the gear you need when you need it.