What is a crossbow bolt and how does it differ from an arrow?
Archery has evolved over time and now incorporates various advancements to enhance your experience. The crossbow was one such invention that was designed to address shortcomings of the traditional archery tools. With it came the evolution of the arrow into the bolt, which is unfortunately not as well understood as the arrow. The crossbow bolt is an extremely efficient and powerful tool if used properly, and we hope that this article can help you figure out exactly what type of bolts to purchase.
Even though the terms are commonly used interchangeably, arrow and bolts feature significant differences. Arrows are significantly longer than bolts but bolts are heavier, basing their weight on the kinetic energy related to the crossbow on which they will be used.
At the end of the day, names do not really count so long as the projectile chosen flies true and makes accurate shots. But because most modern crossbows use arrow hybrids we will refer to them as arrows throughout the article.
While the majority of crossbow arrows in the market fall between 16 and 22 inches, the most popular choice is 20” long. They are all made up of four major parts:
- The Head
There are two major types of arrow heads in the market and your choice will depend on the intended use of your crossbow. Target practice requires the use of field points while hunting will call for the more complex broad heads.
Field Points – this type of head features a pointed tip that is sharp enough to penetrate a target but not so much as to damage it. They are therefore not good enough to take down the prey as they will only cause injury to the target. The lowest quality arrows come with fixed field points but the best ones in the market are usually screwed in. They range between 125 and 150 grains and should always be replaced by points that have equal or greater weight so as not to damage the bow or cause injury to the user.
Broad Heads – these are used for hunting and come in three main options to suit hunters’ preferences. The most popular ones are referred to as expandable broad heads and once they land on target, they open up and tear up the internal organs of the game, causing instant death. The other two types are removable broad heads and fixed broad heads. As the name suggests, they are either replaceable or irremovable respectively.
- The Shaft
This is the arrow’s main body connecting all other components to make a whole. Although there have been many experiments on the material making this body, today’s arrows are either made of carbon, aluminum or a combination of the two. These materials are highly versatile and do not splinter or bend easily. More importantly, they are very light, allowing the arrow to easily travel large distances. Their weight is measured in grains per inch, typically shortened to grains. The level of stiffness that characterizes a shaft is called its spine and the more spine it has, the lower its chances of getting bent.
- The Nock
This is the part right behind the shaft meant to keep an arrow in place as you line it up for a shot. Nocks are either made of plastic or aluminum and are usually half-moon or flat. The difference between the two is that the half-moon nocks have a groove that should align with the string while the flat ones do not. This makes half-moon nocks a little easier to work with for beginners.
The very last bit of a crossbow arrow is tiny wings that increase stability and keep it on its intended flight trajectory: fletchings. They are also referred to as vanes and they keep an arrow spinning in flight so that it doesn’t sway in any one direction.
Important Points to Consider when Choosing Arrows
When it comes to arrows, most manufacturers specify the exact arrow, broad head and nocks that should be used with a specific model. These are very crucial points to keep in mind as they not only determine performance but when this reminder is ignored, a hunter faces the risk of injury to himself or damage to the bow. This could come as a result of dry-firing which will void the crossbow manufacturer’s warranty.
It is usually recommended that you get either the same weight of arrows or heavier to enhance performance. However, a point worth noting is that your bow’s velocity decreases in comparison to your arrow weight. Heavier arrows are harder to launch, making their velocity much lower.
Lightweight arrows (300 to 400 grains) offer increased speed but often generate more noise and vibration as a result of the fact that they transfer more energy to the bow’s limbs. They are also affected by weather conditions and elevation to a greater extent than their heavier counterparts.
Standard arrows (400 to 435 grains) have quite a balance on speed and kinetic energy and also meet the specifications of most manufacturers. In this case, the arrow gets an energy boost from the bow and is therefore better able to offer accuracy and optimized penetration.
Heavy arrows (Above 435 grains) retain much higher energy than the rest and as such are more stable in flight offering a higher momentum and subsequently a greater penetration. However, on a downrange trajectory they lose momentum fast and therefore require accurate distance measurement. They produce the least vibration and noise and are a preferred choice for hunting tough-skinned game and in poor weather conditions.
Most crossbow packages only feature field points to help you sight in the bows scope and get some practice in your backyard range. But in most cases you will have to buy the broad heads yourself before you set out on a hunting expedition.
4.Choice of Game
Your choice of game will also determine the arrow preference as bigger targets like bear and moose require heavy arrows and a superb broad head. This will ensure adequate penetration to kill and not just hurt the animal.
The Three Top Crossbow Arrows
Choosing the right arrows for your crossbow involves striking a delicate balance on the speed of the bow in question and its kinetic energy versus the arrow weight and shooting range.
Carbon Express Maxima
Carbon Express Maxima
On the outside, the Express Maxima looks like any other arrow but the technological details hidden within it are quite a marvel. Its shaft incorporates a dual spine weight technology that keeps it on trajectory and maximizes on accuracy. It features R2 vanes designed for high performance and this combined with the patented BuffTuff carbon weave precision feature ensure perfect shot placement every time. Its mossy oak camouflage pattern makes it the perfect choice for a tree-stand hunter.
TenPoint Pro Elite Carbon
TenPoint Pro Elite Carbon
These 20” arrows feature a 68-grain brass insert and TenPoint’s unique omni-nock that has six miniature grooves, a design feature that seeks to address the common indexing issue that arises with regular half-moon nocks. They are renowned for precision and accuracy, being individually inspected by hand as to straightness. The design and technology behind them have been tailored for consistency featuring minimal loss of speed and kinetic energy.
Barnett Carbon Arrows
Barnett Carbon Arrows
The Barnett Carbon arrows are extremely popular thanks to their highly competitive price point. They come in two main models of 20” and 22” lengths and utilize half-moon nocks. The shaft is compact and lightweight but features a significantly high wall thickness to increase the arrow’s durability. They are therefore able to withstand impact and offer accuracy as well as maximized target penetration. They shoot pretty well for distances of up to 50 yards but can offer even better performance depending on the crossbow being used. They are ideally designed for Barnett crossbows and come complete with removable field points.