Battle of the BroadHeads
By Matt Adcock
How many times have you sat around with your hunting buddies and talked about which brand of broadhead is best? I know I've thrown my two cents in whenever someone would listen. Well Larry Rooks of Precision Archery in Macon finally decided to quit talking about broadheads and actually test them to see which one came out on top. Larry tested both expandable and fixed blade broadheads, and when I obtained Larry's test results, I was surprised at what I saw. Listed below is a summary of Larry's test results and the parameters for doing these tests.
On May 27, Larry began testing with seventeen different broadheads. Larry's goal was to conduct a nonbiased test to determine the durability of each of these broadheads and gain some insight on their penetration. Instead of getting on the phone and asking companies to send free samples, Larry walked his shelves and took all of these products from his own inventory. And to be sure each broad head was tested fairly, each was shot from the same bow, a PSE Primos STL and with the same arrow, a PSE Carbon Force 300. The bow was set on 66lbs and had a 28-inch draw length. The total arrow weight was 380gr for 90gr broad heads and 390gr for 100gr broad heads. The arrow speed for each arrow was 280fps with 100gr broad heads and 282 with 90gr broad heads. This set up was chosen because it is similar to what an average hunter might shoot while hunting.
Now a broadhead durability test would not be accurate unless you break some broadheads, so do not be surprised if your favorite broadhead was destroyed or damaged during the testing. It was Larry's goal to break these broadheads. And just to make sure these broadheads met their match, Larry shot each of them into ½-inch and ¾-inch plywood at a distance of 15 yards. Not only would this give reliable durability data but would also provide some realistic penetration data to compare as well. If you have ever shot a deer that was slightly quartering towards you and hit it in the shoulder on the spine of it's scapula, you know what a formidable obstruction it can be. The ¾-inch plywood in this test also proved to be such an obstruction.
The winner of these tests and the most durable broadhead was surprisingly, an expandable broadhead. The Rocket Steelhead 100 proved to be the most durable broadhead Larry tested and all of the Rocket broadheads performed well. None of the fixed blade broadheads penetrated the ¾-inch plywood except for the Rocket Ultimate Steel 100. Here is a list of Larry's test results in alphabetical order.
- Crimson Talon - The penetration was good thru the ½-inch plywood at 21 inches, but the blades were destroyed on the first shot. The head was not shot through the ¾-inch plywood because of the damage sustained from the first shot. This broadhead is advertised as having flexible blades and that practice shooting on hard targets is not recommended by the manufacturer.
- Fast Clear Cut - Upon shooting into the ½-inch plywood, this broadhead was completely destroyed. The blades were completely sheared off and achieved little to no penetration. No test was performed on the ¾-inch plywood.
- Innerloc 100 - The penetration was 12 inches through the ½-inch plywood but barely stuck out of the back of the ¾-inch plywood. The ferrule was in perfect condition as were the blades. There was a slight bending on one of the blades along the back edge. The tip remained in perfect condition and only a set of new blades was needed to put the broadhead back in perfect hunting condition.
- Muzzy 75 3 Blade - The penetration was 10 inches through the ½-inch plywood and the blades bent slightly. This broadhead did not penetrate the ¾-inch plywood and the tip was pushed slightly back onto the ferrule causing the ferrule to bend slightly. This broadhead would have to be replaced and could not be used again.
- Muzzy 90 4 Blade - Penetration was 8 inches through the ½-inch plywood and the broadhead remained in good shooting condition. When shot through the ¾-inch plywood, only the tip and a ½-inch of the blades were sticking out the other side of the plywood. The tip was cracked and the blades were slightly chipped. The ferrule remained straight and in good condition, but the tip and blades had to be replaced to be ready to shoot again.
- Muzzy 100 3 Blade - The penetration was 10 inches through the ½-inch plywood and the broadhead remained in good shooting condition. The ¾-inch plywood stopped the broadhead with only the tip sticking out the back. The ferrule remained in good condition and the blades were only slightly bent. A new set of blades and this broadhead was ready to shoot again.
- Muzzy 100 4 Blade - The penetration was 8½ inches through the ½-inch plywood and the ferrule remained in perfect condition. When shot into the ¾-inch plywood, the broadhead only penetrated ¾-inch through the other side. The blades were chipped and slightly bent but the feral remained in good condition.
- NAP Shockwave - The penetration in the ½-inch plywood was 12 inches and there was no damage to the ferrule or blades. When shot into the ¾-inch plywood, the broadhead was stopped with no penetration. The ferrule busted and the blades separated completely from the broadhead.
- Rocket Sidewinder 100 - The penetration was 18 inches through the ½-inch plywood and the broadhead was in very good shape. When shot into the ¾-inch plywood, the broadhead only penetrated 1 inch through the other side of the plywood. The feral was in perfect shape and only a change of blades was needed to get this broadhead back into hunting condition.
- Rocket Slammerhead 90 - The penetration was 22 inches through the ½-inch plywood and the blade remained in good condition. The broadhead barely penetrated through the ¾-inch plywood and one blade was damaged. After a new set of blades, this broadhead was ready to shoot again.
- Rocket Steelhead 100 This head easily penetrated through the ½-inch plywood and penetrated all the way to the fletchings, or 25 inches of penetration. When shot into the ¾-inch plywood, it penetrated 6 inches out the other side. The head and blades were still in perfect condition after shooting through each piece of plywood. Other than needing to replace the now dull blades, this head was ready to shoot again. Because this head held up so well upon initial testing, Larry shot it repeatedly through the plywood trying to break it. After three shots through the ½-inch plywood and three shots through the ¾- inch plywood, Larry finally damaged the broadhead. One of the screws that held the blades in place either broke or vibrated loose causing one of the blades come out. A set of new blades and this broad head was ready to shoot again.
- Rocket Ultimate Steel 100 - This broadhead literally blew through the ½-inch plywood penetrating to a depth of 26 inches. When shot into the ¾-inch plywood, the broadhead completely penetrated out the back of the plywood 6 inches. The blades were now dull, but the broadhead remained in perfect condition.
- Steel Force - The penetration through the ½-inch plywood was 8 inches. The main blades remained in good shape but the bleeder blades were slightly damaged. When shot into the ¾-inch plywood, the broadhead did not penetrate. The blades separated from the ferule and the broadhead was no longer useable.
- Thunderhead 100 - The penetration on the ½-inch plywood was 12 inches and the broadhead remained in perfect condition. When shot into the ¾-inch plywood, the broadhead only penetrated 1 inch. The ferule remained in good condition and all that was needed to get this point back into hunting condition was a new set of blades.
- Trisca - When shot into the ½-inch plywood, the blades sheared off upon entry and broke into several pieces. The penetration was respectable at 14 inches, but without blades, the broadhead was rendered ineffective. Because of the destruction on the ½-inch plywood, no tests were performed on the ¾-inch plywood.
- Wasp Jackhammer 100 - The penetration on the ½-inch plywood was all the way to the fletchings on the arrow. The broadhead remained in good condition with no damage. But when the broadhead was shot into the ¾-inch plywood, the blades remained closed and the broadhead had no penetration. The ferule and blades were intact and in good condition. This was the only failure of a mechanical broadhead during these tests.
- Wasp SST 100 - The penetration was 12 inches through the ½-inch plywood and the broadhead sustained no damage. When shot into the ¾-inch plywood, the broadhead did not penetrate the plywood but had no damage to the ferule. With replacement blades, this broadhead was back in shooting condition.
Now that you have read the results of these tests, I thought I would throw my two cents in to help you understand penetration. Arrow penetration is stopped by one thing and one thing only, …..Friction. Friction is defined as "a rubbing of one object against another" and "the resistance to motion of surfaces that touch." So as far as penetration is concerned, friction is something you do not want. These tests were conducted on broadheads, so I will not discuss how an arrow shaft affects penetration, just how the broadhead will affect it. There are three key factors with broadheads that I believe decrease penetration. These factors are blade friction, ferrule friction, and frontal cross-section.
Blade friction is simple to understand. The sharper the broadhead you use, the better the penetration. A sharp blade produces little friction as it travels through a target, but a dull blade produces a lot of friction and decreases penetration. Blade thickness also has a lot to do with penetration. A thicker blade of .036 inches is much stronger than a .020 inches blade, but it also produces more friction. If you have blades of equal sharpness, the thinner blade will out penetrate the thicker blade because it has less friction.
Ferrule friction is another factor that can decrease penetration. Several factors affect how much friction occurs on the ferrule. The most important factor in my opinion concerning ferrule friction is the material the ferrule is made of. The broadheads in this test that penetrated the farthest were made entirely of steel. The broadheads that had tips made of solid steel seemed to penetrate farther than the ones that had hollow tips made of milled steel. As a broadhead impacts a target, the energy of the arrow is transferred through the broadhead to the arrow. As this occurs, the broadhead can oscillate slightly. This oscillation of the broadhead increases the friction on the ferrule and blades. Steel is a harder or stronger metal than aluminum and does not oscillate as much upon impact. Another factor that can affect the friction that occurs on the ferrule is the actual surface of the ferrule. Most broadheads have smooth surfaces and clean lines to prevent friction, but not all surfaces are made the same. Almost all broadheads are anodized or have a protective film electrolytically imbedded in the metal. This colors the metal. If profit margins were not important for the broadhead manufacturers, each broadhead and arrow would be made of Teflon impregnated metal that would produce very little friction.
The frontal cross-section of a broadhead also affects the amount of friction that occurs. The frontal cross-section of a broadhead is the amount of surface area on a broadhead that is actually exposed to the target. To break this down even farther, it is the surface area of the tip and ferrule as well as the surface area of the blades. But frontal cross-section is not that simple. For instance, you would expect a large diameter cut broadhead that has a big frontal cross-section to penetrate less than a small diameter broadhead. That simply wasn't what we saw with these tests. Some of the larger diameter broadheads actually out penetrated the smaller diameter broadheads. I believe the tip and ferrule design played a key role in these situations. It appears to me that the larger, concave tip on the Rocket broadheads opened a hole larger than the ferrule and decreased friction on the ferrule. Even though there was more friction from the larger diameter blades, the decrease in friction on the ferrule was enough to increase overall penetration. It would be reasonable to think that the smaller the surface area of the ferrule, the less friction that will occur. New Archery Products addressed this issue on their Pro Series broadheads by cutting grooves in the ferrule to decrease exposed surface area.
No matter what broadhead you choose to use this year, you must remember one important factor not mentioned in these tests…..accuracy. Durability and penetration are not worth anything if you do not have accuracy. So the best thing for you to do is get different broadheads and shoot them from your bow. See which ones fly well and which ones do not. Do this before the season starts so you can iron out the wrinkles. And if you are lucky, you just might get a chance at that buck of a lifetime. And if you are like me, all you want is the chance!
Originally published in Georgia Outdoor Adventures, September 2003.