Loyalty fades fast when bowhunters are talking broadheads. Brand X is the deadliest head ever made right up until we make a bad shot, and then it’s, “Dude, these broadheads suck!” Fact is, a good blood trail has way more to do with shot placement than broadhead design.
But with so many options, how do you know which broadhead really is the best for you? Well, if you’re using one right now that inspires your confidence, my advice is to keep using it. But if, like most bowhunters, you just have to change things up, pay attention. Some broadheads do, in fact, cut bigger holes than others. Some are sharper, some fly straighter, and some are tougher. And the only way to really know which is which is to test them head-to-head. So, this past spring, concurrently with our annual flagship compound bow and crossbow tests, I put 20 new broadheads to the test. That’s by no means every new broadhead on the market—I know we missed some of the smaller brands especially—but it is a good sampling of the most popular brands available today.
2020 Broadhead-Test Parameters
This test was an invitational. I invited companies to submit new broadheads of their choice for any of three categories: Fixed, Mechanical, and Crossbow. It’s worth noting that while many manufacturers are making “crossbow” broadheads, few of those heads actually have crossbow-specific features. There aren’t many broadheads out there that I’d advise against using in your crossbow, and, as we learned in this test, some brands seem to take identical broadheads and simply package them differently for vertical-bow and crossbow hunters.
Once I received all the submissions, I weighed each head from a package of three on a powder scale, comparing the result both to the advertised weight and to the weight of the others in the package for consistency. I checked the blades. Were they sharp or not? Then I did an accuracy test of each broadhead, comparing its point of impact to field points. For the compound test, I used a 60-pound, 28-inch Elite Kure fitted with an HHA sight and drop-away rest, and Carbon Express Maxima Red arrows. I shot groups at 25 yards. For the crossbow test, I used an Excalibur Assassin 400TD with factory accessories and bolts, and shot groups from a bench rest at 45 yards.
For the last phase of the test, I called my buddy Charlie, who owns Hart Farms Meat Processing. He donated a couple dozen sides of raw beef ribs to the cause. I suspended the ribs from a chain, in front of a Rinehart broadhead target, at 25 yards. Then I shot them with three of each broadhead, doing my best to center the rib cages, so as to simulate a good hit on, say, a bull elk. I evaluated penetration, and noted blade breakage, bent parts, and other damage. For mechanical broadheads, I measured entry and exit holes with a caliper, and noted any failures to open (reflected in the “Reliability” columns below). Each broadhead was given a score of 1 to 5 stars in each category.
|Rage Hypodermic NC||***||***||**||***||*****||****|
|RamCat Cage Ripper||**||****||***||****||*****||*****|
|Swacker Levi Morgan Series||*****||***||**||****||*****||*****|
Running four grains lighter than advertised on average, the Shank is something of a classic two-blade mechanical design sporting Muzzy’s proven Trocar tip. It wasn’t the most innovative mechanical head I tested, but it was one of the better ones. Flight was perfect, and all of the test heads punched through the cattle ribs. Two of the six blades were damaged in the process. The Shanks weren’t especially sharp and didn’t leave gapingly impressive holes (0.6-inch entry with 1.1-inch exit on average), but they were solid performers that I can’t find much fault with.
Most hybrid broadheads combine a pair of fixed blades up front with larger-cutting mechanical bleeder blades behind. But this one has a pair of pivoting, wide-cutting blades up front and smaller, swing-open mechanical bleeders. The overall cutting surface is huge, but the design unfortunately didn’t hold up; every single blade on all of the heads was broken or bent by the beef ribs. As a result, the exit holes—when I got them—were smaller than the entry holes. They were the also wildest-shooting broadheads of the test, with some hitting to the same point of impact as my field points, and the next landing 4 inches off.
Rage Hypodermic NC
The Hypodermic NC punched huge holes, but had penetration and durability issues. $55 for 3. FeraDyne Outdoors
The NC (for “no collar”) version of Rage’s wildly popular Hypodermic uses small tabs to hold the Slip Cam blades in place, which a lot of hunters prefer. But across the board, the test’s most expensive heads didn’t fare particularly well. They did punch the huge holes Rage is known for, with 1.3-inch entries and 2.2-inch exits—but that was only when I could get them to punch through the beef ribs at all. Of the three I shot into the ribs, only one passed on through and into the target, and every single blade was ruined or broken. One of them centered a rib, broke, and didn’t penetrate beyond the ferule. That aside, they rain nearly 4 grains heavy on average, and hit 2 inches high from my field points.
The CageRipper was one of the toughest heads in our test. $45 for 3. Ramcat
This CageRipper is an interesting two-blade design with a plunger-style deployment (in which the tip compresses to release a spring and then the blades), and it was among the more rugged mechanicals tested. The blades were a little tricky to lock into place, but seemed secure once there. They punched through the ribs without issue, leaving 1-inch entry holes and 1.5-inch exits, though some blades were destroyed in the process. They were one of the few mechanical heads that didn’t shoot perfectly straight for me, however, averaging more than 3 inches off my field tips’ point of impact.
This rear-deploying titanium head is unique in that the blades, once opened, lock together and pivot with the ferrule, theoretically steering around heavy bone and aiding penetration. Looking at the beef ribs, it seemed to work, since all of these heads punched right through, with only slight marring to a couple blades. They left 0.7-inch entry holes, and 1.3-inch exit wounds. They ran a little light, but they hit exactly where my field points did. The blades can be locked into place for practice, too—which is a feature I really like. These broadheads are sold individually, which I think is more of an aggravation than anything, but they’re priced with the competition.
This newcomer was the best mechanical broadhead of the test. Weight-wise, they were the most consistent. They were also sharp, hit exactly where they were supposed to, and they punched through the cattle ribs virtually unscathed, aside from some minor nicks to the blade edges. Best of all, they left 2-inch holes on both the entry and exit sides. No other mechanical I tested could claim that. My only complaint is that the plastic, one-time-use blade retainers (called FliteLoc clips) are a hassle to put into place, but once the blades are secure, they seem to stay there. Each package comes with extra retainers, too.
Swhacker Levi Morgan Series
These swing-open mechanicals flew perfectly, despite 3 grains difference between the heaviest and lightest in the package, and they punched right through the beef ribs. The arched blades were pretty sharp, leaving 1-inch entry holes and 1.7-inch exits, and they were held into place with old-school rubber bands. All of the blades did show heavy damage on the other side of the beef, and a few broke. But by then, your critter is already dead. If you’re after a mechanical with a larger cutting diameter that penetrates reliably and flies well, this one is a good choice.
Fixed Blade Broadheads
G5 Montec M3
The new Montec M3 is scary-sharp and tough. $45/3 G5 Outdoors
I bought a 3-pack of the original Montecs a decade ago, and have shot them through a pile of whitetails, pigs, turkeys, an antelope, and a mule deer. I still have two of them left. My only complaint was that they were too dull to hunt with out of the box, and needed sharpening. The new M3 version fixes that. These are scary to touch, and non-vented for a supposedly quieter flight. They were predictably unscathed after punching right through the cattle ribs, too. The only problem was that they consistently hit about an inch off from my field points, but that’s an is easy fix with a little broadhead tuning.
The Muzzy One flew straight and showed deep penetration. $45 for 3. FeraDyne Outdoors
Another one-piece, cut-on-contact design, these were consistently about a grain heavy, and they hit perfectly, right alongside my field points. No surprise, they punched right through the cattle ribs without issue, too. My only complaint was that they did seem to be the dullest out-of-the-package fixed blades that I tested. The angle and design is one that should allow for easy sharpening on a flat stone, though. All in all, a very good and reliable broadhead.
The Diamondback punched though cattle ribs like they were paper. $40 for 3. Ramcat Broadheads
These broadheads ran about 3.5 grains light and were a little inconsistent on the target, with groups averaging 1 to 2 inches from my field tips’ point of impact. But they were sharp, and they punched through the cattle ribs like they were paper, with no notable damage to the blades beyond a few nicks on the edges, and nothing on the ferules. On the range, one minor problem is that the spiraled blade design makes the broadheads tough to pull from a foam target—but it’s hard to fault the head for that, since it is part of the design (and probably does help with penetration on critters).
The Psycho is inexpensive but had trouble in our durability test. $35/3 Rocket Broadheads
This is a compact, fairly sharp broadhead that weighed out consistently. It was also the least-expensive fixed-blade broadhead in the test. Unfortunately, I recommend spending the extra $5 on something else. The Psycho was the only fixed-blade broadhead I tested to be destroyed by the cattle ribs (all three heads punched through, but two of three had broken blades). And they hit about 2 inches off from my field points on average.
This big, cut-on-contact model with bleeder blades brought back fond memories of the old-school Bear Razorheads in my dad’s archery tackle box. That’s fitting, given that Sik is the new broadhead company owned by Escalade Sports, the parent group of Bear Archery. Weight-wise, these were a little inconsistent across the board (4 grains separated the heaviest from the lightest in one package), but I can’t complain about anything else. I didn’t expect great flight out of them, but they hit exactly where my field points did. Plus, they were sharp out of the package and blew right through the cattle ribs—leaving one hell of a hole behind.
Wasp Havalon HV 125
The Havalon HV 125 was out fixed-blade test winner. $45 for 3. Wasp Broadheads
This was my favorite fixed-blade broadhead of the test. All three heads weighed within a grain of the advertised 125 weight. They were super sharp (as the blades are made by Havalon, the popular knife brand), and they hit exactly where my 125-grain field tips hit. They punched right through the cattle ribs and to look at them afterward, they seemed untouched and as sharp as ever. Plus, each package of three comes with six replacement blades, making these a great value to boot. These are on the shortlist of broadheads I want to hunt with this fall.
|Broadhead||Accuracy||Consistency||Durability||Penetration||Sharpness||Reliability (mechanical only)|
|Muzzy One X-Bow||**||***||*****||***||**||NA|
|Rage Xtreme NC||*****||****||**||**||****||**|
|Rocket Siphon XB||*****||****||***||****||****||*****|
|SIK F3 CB||**||*****||*****||*****||*****||NA|
|SIK SK2 CB||*****||****||*****||*****||*****||*****|
|SlickTrick Raptor Trick X||*****||****||**||**||*****||*|
G5 Montec M3 Crossbow
The M3 Crossbow is virtually identical to the excellent M3, but actually shot better through an x-bow. $45 for 3. G5 Outdoors
If there’s a difference in these and the standard Montec M3s I reviewed for the fixed-blade test above, I couldn’t find it—but there were some differences in performance when launched from a crossbow. To recap, the M3s are sharp, non-vented, and they punched through the beef ribs unscathed. Interestingly, at higher speeds—and at 45 yards—the point of impact for these was exactly the same as with field points, which is the one area where these broadheads lost minor ground in the fixed-blade test. The lesson? Shoot any broadhead you get through your particular bow (or crossbow) to make sure it hits where you’re aiming.
Muzzy One Crossbow
As with the Montec M3, I couldn’t tell any difference between this head and the one I tested for the fixed-blade test, aside from the “crossbow” packaging. These too were a little dull out of the package (though they can be sharpened). They also had some inconsistencies, with 2 grains separating the lightest from the heaviest in the same pack of three. They punched through cattle ribs no problem, and I expected them to be accurate since they shot very well out of my vertical bow. Unfortunately, they seemed to drift at crossbow speeds, with the point of impact at 45 yards consistently 3 inches off from my field points.
Rage X-Treme NC Crossbow
The giant blades on this mechanical are enough to grab any crossbow hunter’s attention. Just make sure they’ll work with your crossbow. They were just fine on the Excalibur that I used for most of this test, but just for giggles, I tried them in a Ravin R29X. The rear-swept blades kept the bolt from being seated properly unless the threads were aligned just right to keep the blades perpendicular with the bow. These broadheads did fly perfectly with my field points, and they were sharp. But they were no match for the beef ribs; they punched through, but blades sheared off all of them. The best performance I saw was a 2-inch entry hole, but a 0.8-inch exit.
Rocket Siphon XB
The Siphon XB was one of the top-performing mechanical crossbow heads. $45 for 3. Rocket Broadheads
This one is a standard, swing-open, 3-blade mechanical design, with a chisel point and a flat washer to secure it to the bolt. The blades seemed to click securely into place. The Siphon XB ran 2 grains heavy on average, flew just like a field point, was sharp, and generally seemed to do what it was supposed to, leaving 1-inch entry holes and 1.5-inch exits in the beef ribs. One blade broke and others bent, but overall, this was among the more durable mechanical crossbow heads tested.
The F3CB showed excellent penetration and durability. $45 for 3. Sik Broadheads
This is a compact, rugged 3-blade broadhead with flat cutting surfaces up front that helped punch a hell of a hole through the ribs. If the broadheads were at all damaged by the heavy bone, I couldn’t tell it. They weighed out consistently (running less than a grain heavy on average), but they, unfortunately, hit farther off the point of impact from my field tips (3 inches plus) at 45 yards than any other head I tested from a crossbow.
Sik SK2 CB
The SK2 CB was the best mechanical crossbow head of the test. $50 for 3. Credit: Sik Broadheads
As with the standard version, this big two-blade mechanical uses a small plastic FliteLoc blade-retaining clip that is a hassle to deal with—but my complaints stop there. I could not tell any difference between the crossbow and standard version of this broadhead aside from that the clips for the crossbow heads are black, and I’m assuming a bit stronger. It flew perfectly, was razor sharp, and punched 2-inch holes on both sides of the beef ribs. It was the only mechanical to survive that portion of the crossbow test, and gets my nod as the favorite.
Slick Trick RaptorTrick X
The RaptorTrick X had a tough time with our beef-rib test. $48 for 3. Slick Trick Broadheads
These mechanicals were sharp, with a compact profile, and they hit exactly like my field points. Unfortunately, their terminal performance left much to be desired. When I could get a blade to open on the beef ribs, it broke almost immediately. On one of the heads that I shot through the ribs, the blades bent inside the ferrule without deploying, and I couldn’t pry them open. Though they did penetrate fine, they left ½-inch entry and exit holes—basically the size of the in-flight profile—and that’s certainly not what you hope to see when choosing a mechanical for your crossbow.