Broadhead Testing – The Ground Rules

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I started putting this broadhead review and comparison with the idea of picking “the best replaceable-/fixed-blade broadhead,” but I soon realized that was an impossible task (for reasons that I will explain below). The best thing that I can do for you with these reviews is to show you each broadhead in detail, to tell you how they performed for me on a variety of tests, and to clearly outline what I feel are their particular strengths and weaknesses. It is up to you to analyze that data and decide what works for you.

There is an inherent difficulty in performing broadhead tests and reviews, and yet there are many broadhead tests that ignore these difficulties and claim that their test is the final and absolute authority. I am not going to do that!  When we talk about broadhead testing, what we are really trying to achieve with the tests is judging the effectiveness of broadheads in a hunting situation. I will be the first to admit that the best broadhead “tests” are performed in the field, but even then, no two hunts are alike. When we talk about harvesting game with a bow, arrow, and broadhead, there is a high number of variables to take into consideration. What bow is being used? (Draw length, weight, tuning, cam-type, speed, etc.) What arrows are being used? (Fat, slim, light, heavy, spine, straightness and weight tolerances, etc.) What game is being pursued? What angle is the shot being taken at? Where was the shot placed? What kind of bone structure did the broadhead encounter?  As you can see by this incomplete list of questions, there a LOT of variables that come into play when we talk about the effectiveness of a broadhead in a hunting situation.

The reason that we see so many conflicting reports about broadheads is typically not because of the broadhead itself, but because these other factors aren’t considered. It is commone to hear that Broadhead A is “the best head on the market”, or another person tout that “it is complete junk”. Any two hunters will likely have different experiences with the same broadhead, based upon their hunt. For example, Hunter A may have a much better blood trail than Hunter B, but angles and shot placement have more to do with that than the broadhead does.

The fact is, most broadheads on the market today are good. Really good. In my tests, I have found that often the difference between broadheads is a matter of splitting hairs. In my mind, there is no perfect broadhead; finding that broadhead that you like best is a matter of choosing what you want from a broadhead.

Testing Methods & Criteria

Accuracy is all about arrow flight.  I will not being using a Hooter Shooter, or any other mechanical device to assure the exact same arrow release.  A friend and I will be testing and observing accuracy and arrow flight out of a variety of bow setups, and over a variety of distances (from 20-60 yards).  Both bows have been tuned for broadheads before the tests ( the tuning was done using a broadhead that is not a part of this review).  When shooting at the longer distances, we will be shooting several 5-shot groups, and removing the 2 worst shots to account for shooter error.  In addition, we will be observing flight characteristics such as fishtailing and planing.  It should be noted here that we are using HT-2 “Harvester” arrows provided by my friends at Harvest Time Archery; with a straightness tolerance of .001, and a verified weight, square, and spin; this should be a very accurate arrow to utilize.

Construction involves taking a look at how a broadhead is designed and put together.  What materials are used?  How are the blades interlocked with the ferrule?  What kind of tolerances is the broadhead built with?  Are there any “extra parts” that could cause any points of failure? Etc.

Ease of Use isn’t a criteria that I see mentioned in many broadhead reviews, but it is a BIG deal to me!  A broadhead should be easy to use, not only for convenience, but also for safety.  The more that I have to fumble around with what are hopefully very sharp blades of steel, the more frustrated I get, and the higher my chances of injuring myself are.  If a broadhead is tough to assemble, if the blades are difficult to replace, or if the retention of the blades while not installed on the arrow is not good, then the Ease of Use rating will reflect that.

Penetration is another criteria that is hard to judge.  Even if we were shooting at game, penetration would vary depending on shot placement, bone-structure encountered, etc.  That said, I will be judging penetration on a variety of target types, and through a variety of target faces.

Price is also a consideration.  There are many bowhunters, who although they shouldn’t, just buy one pack of broadheads for that season and only hunt with them.  In an ideal world you will have a set of practice broadheads, and at least a couple of sets for hunting season.  If you figure that is three packs, you are typically over a $100 right there!  Price is important because practicing is important.  We owe it to our intended game to be proficient with broadheads, and more specifically with super-sharp broadheads.  If you can only afford one pack, then you are likely cheating yourself and the game that you are pursuing.  The Price rating will not look at just the MSRP, but also factor what value you are getting for that price.  (Are there extra blades included?  Do the materials justify the price? Etc.)

Sharpness is evaluated out of the box, as well as edge retention after the broadhead testing has been completed.  I like my broadheads to be scary sharp, and this criteria will be judged very critically.

Strength is related to construction, but will additionally be determined by how the broadhead holds up to shooting through 1/2″ plywood.  I know that plywood isn’t a great way to re-create a hunting scenario, but as noted in my opening above, that isn’t the idea.  The idea behind shooting through plywood is simply to put the broadhead through the stress of a harder target surface and see how it holds up.  I also plan to take the top heads from this test and do further strength tests on bone and other similar materials.

Bonus points will be subjectively awarded for any extra feature(s) that I feel are worthy of noting, and set a particular broadhead above the rest in a certain way.  Any bonus points that I award will be fully explained/justified in the review.

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The Author

Mark Huelsing is a regular guy with an irregular passion for bowhunting and the outdoors. Learn more about Sole Adventure or get in touch with Mark...

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  • Will Jenkins

    Wow Mark! This is going to be an awesome review can’t wait for some of the results!

  • The SoCal Bowhunter

    I am very curious about your review. Are you going to be shooting everything on level ground or will you do some treestand and then uphill shots, too?

    • Mark

      Al, yes and no. I didn’t make any elevated shots part of the standard round of test for the review. That said, I am taking my favorite group of heads from my tests and performing an additional round of testing, which will include some angled shots.