Finding The Best Crossbow Bolts: A Buyers Guide
Crossbow hunting isn’t your average sport. It’s a lot more than that. It’s a combination of focus, intelligence, and meticulousness. This is neither an easy task nor one for the faint-hearted.
Good bolts and arrows can help you with that, though. However, it’s quite hard scanning the market for the best crossbow bolts, which is why I decided to help.
I’ve been there, not so long ago. I’m writing this article as an attempt to walk you through the experience of how to choose crossbow bolts and which ones are the best.
The Best Crossbow Bolts
With the plethora of products online and otherwise, shopping has become more difficult and confusing than ever. In this section, I’ll try to narrow down your several options into a few.
Here are my two cents on the best crossbow bolts.
Carbon Express Maxima Hunter Fletched BuffTuff Plus Carbon Crossbolt: Best, for Hunting
Crossbow hunting is all about quiet, accuracy, and speed. Carbon Express presents all three in its Maxima Hunter Carbon Crossbolt. It’s ideal for game hunters, especially those shooting at long distances.
It comes in 2 lengths; 20 and 22 inches, which makes it compatible with most crossbows. Its diameter is around 0.34 inches, allowing for more powerful target penetration and longer lifetime. It weighs around 350 grains, putting it more on the lightweight side of the spectrum without compromising on power of impact.
More importantly, the Maxima Hunter bolt has two spines, allowing for better energy management, closer spinning, velocity retention, and above all, exceptional accuracy.
Furthermore, the BuffTuff carbon weave is a remarkable precision design, unparalleled in strength. The bolt is also designed with laser checked straightness up to 1/10,000 of an inch, with a maximum of 0.0025 inches.
Finally, the design is a great addition to an already outstanding crossbow bolt. The mossy oak treestand design is one of the most efficient camouflage bolts, helping your hunt be more stealthy.
- Sharp field point
- Two Spines
- Carbon Weave
- Camouflage design
- Not suitable for shorter ranges
Carbon Express PileDriver Fletched Carbon Crossbolt: Best for Hunting on Budget
Carbon Express Piledriver Crossbolt is an all-inclusive bolt at a fraction of the price of other models and brands. It’s a combination of top-notch quality, advanced construction, and novel definition.
First, it’s considered one of the heaviest bolts on the market, and although weight usually has a bad connotation, that’s not the case in the Piledriver bolt. With 420 grains in weight and a sharp field tip, the bolt quickly gains maximum kinetic energy and provides immediate bone-crushing penetration of the target.
Second, the spine and straightness allow for consistency midair, maintaining speed and power throughout the flight. The straightness ensures shot after shot persistence of +/-0.004 inches. The composite material combined with the superb straightness count for better durability.
Last but foremost, Piledriver is equipped with G5 Montec fixed blade broadheads that go for the kill. They can penetrate targets from as far as 50 yards away.
- Strong Penetration
- Accurate and consistent
Relatively low speed
BARNETT 16075 Outdoors Carbon Crossbow 20-Inch Bolt with Field Points: Best Crossbow Bolts for Target Shooting and Practice
Barnett 16075 crossbow bolts are economical and durable, which puts them as one of the best options for day-to-day archery practice and target shooting.
A strong wall impermeability is the main factor in the bolt’s durability. It’s a bit thick and heavy in weight, weighing around 450 pounds. Although the weight decreases the velocity of the bolt, it helps give it kinetic energy needed for deep target penetration.
In terms of good penetration, the bolt is also equipped with a field point tip for optimal accuracy and entrance. Moreover, the bolt has a half-moon nock, which further decreases the risk of misfiring or dry firing.
As for trajectory, Barnett offers a nice flat one for targets that aren’t easily judged. It can also go for more than 50 yards.
Finally, the cherry on top is that Barnett offers a 5-year manufacturer’s warranty, which is a huge bet they place on their products.
- Deep penetration
- Impermeable walls
Incompatible with some crossbows
TenPoint Omni-Brite 2 Lighted 20″ Pro Elite Carbon Bolt: Best Carbon Crossbow Bolts
Tenpoint is possibly the most reputable and well-known crossbow brand on the market. It has been around since the nineties, delivering first-rate products and catering to every taste.
Every single bolt they make is tested by laser technology to ensure quality. Their Omni-Brite 2 carbon bolt is no different. It’s made of fine carbon that’s a cut above the rest.
First and most notably, the patented Omni-Brite™ 2.0 nock has a three-string alignment setting. This is a novel way of positioning against the crossbow, minimizing slippage, misfiring and reloading trouble.
Second, the front-piece is fitted with a 68-grain aluminum insert, which gives the bolt balance and consistency. This gives the bolt velocity, power, and superior target possession, which means the bolt can go faster and further than other bolts.
Moreover, straightness to within 0.003 inches, along with the aluminum insert, allows the bolt to reach up to 50 yards in distance, without losing much of its speed.
Finally, the Tenpoint Omni Brite 2.0 bolts are lighted, making them ideal for use in low light conditions. You can adjust the intensity of light according to the time of the day and the amount of natural light around you. Regardless, the lighted bolts can be seen from 35 yards both at night and in bright sunlight.
- Dual illumination system
- Patented three-string alignment nock
- Replaceable head
- Fast and accurate
- Hard to replace nocks
Summit Archery Products 6 Victory Crossbow Bolts with 6 Red Lighted Nocks: Best for Night Hunting
The Summit Archery Products Victory Crossbow Bolts are the best possible bolts for night hunting. On a price-features scale, they’re practically a steal!
Like Tenpoint, Summit Archery’s bolts are made of top-of-the-line carbon with brass inserts in their front-piece. This works on giving the bolt an Extreme Front of Center (EFOC) which is the main determinant for target precision.
Despite the light weight of the bolt, the head is heavy allowing for deep target penetration and ensuring a kill.
At the back, the bolt comes with a half-moon nock to avoid slippage and misfiring. However, that’s not the most impressive feature. It’s the red light at the end of it.
The lights can help you identify your target from far away, which is essential during night hunting. The Summit Archery bolts are also versatile working both at night and in the morning. All you need to do is turn off the lights by using an Allen wrench in the hole, and pushing towards the back of the nock.
- Red LED lights
- Fast and accurate
- Brass inserts
- Half-moon nocks
- LED nocks have to be replaced when the battery runs out
- Incompatible with some crossbow models
How to Choose the Best Crossbow Bolts?- A Buying Guide
Even after reading about the best brands, it’s still quite confusing to navigate through which one is the best and whether or not they work for you.
In this buying guide, I’ll try to explain what a bolt is and the key features necessary for reliable crossbow bolts.
Arrows vs. Bolts
Arrow and bolt are linguistically interchangeable words, which is the root of this confusion. Nevertheless, bolts are specifically used with crossbows and not recurve bows.
Moreover, there are some anatomic differences. First, a bolt lacks a stabilizing vane at its back, while an arrow has one. Second, bolts are shorter, averaging around 20 inches, while arrows range from 30 to 34 inches long. Bolts also have special kinds of nocks.
Despite this mix-up, when people talk about either, they usually mean the same thing.
Key Specs and Features
Every number on your product’s chart means something for your hunting goals. This section is an attempt to decipher these specs and translate them into clearer terms.
The two main materials from which crossbow bolts are made are aluminum and carbon fiber. Each has its pros and cons.
Aluminum is generally the most common as well as the most economical. It’s durable upon impact, quieter, and doesn’t shear or split apart. On the downside, it’s heavier than carbon and it bends more easily.
On the other hand, carbon fiber is robust and tough on impact, as it’s characterized by more space for flexion. It flies and penetrates the target deeper. The only problem is that it can be quite expensive.
Recently, some brands have been producing bolts made of a combination of aluminum and carbon fiber. They’ve got the best of both worlds, ticking off every item on the list.
Fiberglass and wood are also sometimes used. Fiberglass bolts are affordable, absorb shocks quickly, and are less prone to bending. Notwithstanding, they’re not recommended, as they carry the risk of an explosion, which could be considerably dangerous.
Weight is the second most important factor you should pay attention to. Weight determines speed, momentum, and strength of penetration. Lighter bolts shoot faster but penetrate with less power than heavier bolts.
This is why the arbitrary measures of weight are less important than finding the equilibrium between speed and power. This balance can only be reached by understanding drag forces and considering maximum penetration power rather than speed.
Total bolt weight is a combination of the fletched shaft, nock, insert, broadhead or field point. It’s measured in grains. Each category of weight offers some advantages to your target shooting accuracy.
Although lightweight bolts (300-400 grains) are generally faster, they tend to produce more noise and can cause damage to your crossbow. They’re also more easily swayed or resisted by wind or rain.
Contrarily, heavy-weighted bolts (435+ grains) are more stable and have stronger target penetration. Here’s the catch though, they lose momentum or trajectory more quickly.
To conclude, go for lightweight bolts if you go shooting in good weather conditions, but in areas where the distance between bow and target can’t be assessed. They’re great for target shooting, especially shooting competitions.
Go for heavy-weighted ones if the weather conditions are perverse.
Bolt’s Length and Diameter
These dimensions are indispensable factors in terms of propulsion and penetration. A bolt’s length ranges between 16 and 24 inches, with 20 inches being the average as well as the ideal length. Still, what actually matters here isn’t the length, but the compatibility with your crossbow.
As for diameter, it’s related to penetration power. Smaller diameters tend to face less resistance leading to more powerful target penetration as well as longer lifetime and increased durability.
Spine and Straightness
Spine generally refers to how tough the bolt is when the crossbow pushes against the nock. If it’s incompatible with your crossbow, you’re likely to miss your target. This can be classified into the static and dynamic spine.
The static spine indicates the stiffness of the bolt. It depends upon the material from which the shaft is made. The higher it is, the less prone to bending a bolt is.
On the other hand, the dynamic spine refers to how much a bolt bends once fired. It can be influenced by string force, nock weight, and static spine.
Moreover, straightness is related to the consistency of the bolt midair. Straightness and spine work hand in hand to achieve shot accuracy. One can’t do without the other.
Nocks and Fletchings
The nock is the part of the bolt that the crossbow pushes against. It’s typically made of plastic or aluminum.
Nocks keep the bolts in place while you fire the shot. Their quality determines the amount of energy transferred. There are several types of nocks you should choose from.
Flat nocks are the simplest and the oldest nock design. They are, well, flat at the back of the bolt. This makes it easier to position the bolt anywhere on the string, but it doesn’t guarantee a successful shot.
Actually, it’s quite the opposite. It increases the risk of dry shots.
Half-moon nocks have a single groove at the back designed to clasp the string, decreasing the risk of misfiring or slippage.
Omni Nocks (Also called Half-moon Hybrid)
Omni nocks have multiple grooves at the back, giving more positioning freedom while maintaining a tight grip against the string. This feature gives Omni nocks immense versatility, significantly reducing the risk of loading the bolt incorrectly.
Lighted nocks are basically “glow in the dark” nocks. These are extremely useful when shooting at night, allowing you to localize their positions once fired.
Fletchings are plastic feathers or wings at the back of the bolt. Their purpose is more concerned with balance rather than accuracy.
There are two types of crossbow bolts heads; target points and broadheads. The choice depends on your aim from crossbow shooting. Both options weigh the same, around 125-150 grains.
Target or Field Points
Target points are blunt heads with pointed tips but no sharp edges. They’re designed for striking soft targets, ideally in practice. They’re not suitable for hunting though, as they’re likely to wound the animal rather than kill it.
On the other hand, broadheads go for the kill. They’re razor-sharp and can penetrate and kill a target right away. There are three types of broadheads; fixed blade, removable blade, and expandable blade.
Fixed blades are the toughest with an outstanding penetration depth, this is because the position of blades is ‘fixed’
Removable blades are more convenient as they’re easy to replace if damaged. Expandable blades produce a more powerful impact and a deeper penetration. The only problem is that they’re more expensive than standard types.
Warranty isn’t only a form of insurance for your product. It’s also a way of knowing that the brands believe in their products’ durability.
Bolts are additions that are frequently damaged, therefore it’s only rational to buy many. The ideal number as a start is 6 to 12 bolts, after which you can decide for yourself how many you need.
Shopping for crossbow bolts among all this information is an impossible task, especially that a lot of what’s going around is technical. However, I believe I’ve written in this guide everything you need to know. To the best of my knowledge, here’s my final conclusion.
All the models above are some of the best on the market, but my absolute favorite has got to be Carbon Express Maxima Hunter Fletched BuffTuff Plus Carbon Crossbolt. Carbon Express is arguably one of the biggest and best brands on the market. With outstanding products and a 5-year warranty, I think they win this fair and square.
Their Maxima Hunter bolts are a combination of speed and precision wrapped in an intricately designed camouflaged look. It’s such a unique bolt, that remains till this day unmatched.
Nevertheless, if you think the Maxima Hunter bolts are over your budget, I recommend considering Carbon Express PileDriver Fletched Carbon Crossbolt. It’s everything you need in a hunting bolt for a fraction of the cost of other models.
I hope this article has cleared up any confusion you had about the crossbow bolts and has helped you pick your favorite ones.