Great broadhead flight is often attributed to the broadhead itself, but there’s a lot more to it than that. To learn what makes a broadhead fly incredibly accurate or frustratingly erratic, let’s examine the four main factors in broadhead flight.
If you have these four things – a good broadhead, the right arrows, a bow that’s been setup correctly, and good shooting practices – then your broadheads will be deadly accurate.
There are dozens and dozens of broadheads on the market – some are bad, the majority are good, and there’s a few that are great. I’m not going to single out any particular model/style here; that’s not the point of this article. I’m also not going to dive into the basics, such as the fact that most mechanical broadheads tend to be more forgiving (not necessarily more accurate) than most fixed-blade broadheads.
I do, however, want to debunk the statement that a particular broadhead “flies like a field point”. This statement is sometimes inaccurate, and always incomplete. There are more factors to broadhead flight than the broadhead itself.
For example, consider three scenarios that will often yield different results. One, we could shoot the same broadhead out of the same bow, but use different arrows. Two, we could shoot the same broadhead and arrow combination out of different bows. And, three, we could take same broadhead, same arrow, and same bow, but have different people shoot it.
The downrange results most likely changed in these three scenarios, but did the broadhead itself change? Not one bit. In some cases the broadhead might have flown “like a field point”, but in other cases it wouldn’t have. In all cases, nothing about the broadhead changed.
On the flip side, I don’t want to completely rule out the idea that a broadhead does/doesn’t fly like a field point, because there are certain cases where broadheads won’t fly like a field point regardless of what arrow/bow/shooter is used. There are also broadheads which are inherently more accurate (it would be be better to say, more “consistent” and more “forgiving”) than others. This became very apparent in the numerous fixed-blade broadheads that I tested and reviewed.
So, yes, broadhead choice matters. If you’re checking or “tuning” your setup for broadheads, then your best bet is to shoot with several different models to see what results you get. Pick up some cheap (used even) broadheads that you keep just to test and compare with.
I can’t overstate how important arrow selection and arrow quality is for broadhead flight. Your arrows have to be spined correctly if you want great broadhead flight. Simple arrow selection charts are fine for field points, but when it comes to broadheads you need to consider all of the variables that affect arrow spine: the bow’s draw weight, the bow’s draw length, the arrow shaft length, the arrow component weights, the weight of the broadhead, and sometimes even the bow’s cam design/style. To learn more about all of that, check out this post…
Once you know what arrow shaft you’ll be shooting, you need to make sure that it is built and assembled properly. Because broadheads are less forgiving than field points, little things like “squaring” the ends of the shaft becomes really important. You’ll also want to “spin test” your arrow assembled arrows to make sure there’s no sign of imbalance or wobble. To learn more about arrow shaft prep and assembly, check out this post…
Finally, in terms of arrows, let’s talk about fletching choice. In general, the greater the surface area of a broadhead, the more surface area you’ll need for fletching. So if you’re shooting mechanical broadheads with a really small profile, then you can get away with a smaller vane, too. But if you’re shooting a larger fixed-blade, then you might need a bigger vane in the rear to help with steering/correction.
Then there are the factors of installing the vane straight, with an offset, with a helical, or some sort of combination. (The greater the offset or helical, the greater the drag of the arrow, and the quicker the arrow will stabilize.)
Increased drag is a good thing for most “hunting distances”, but can have negative effects for shooting broadheads at longer ranges. Drag slows an arrow which causes it to lose down-range momentum and makes it less resistance to outside forces, like wind. That’s why, for example, if you’re interested in long-range accuracy, then you want to get away with as small of a vane as you possibly can.
You have to balance all of these variables, and I can’t address every combination of broadhead, vanes/fletching/feathers, and straight/offset/helical, (not to mention things like 3-fletch vs. 4-fletch), but I will say this: I have found Norway’s 3″ Fusion vanes with a slight offset and helical to be one of the most consistent and versatile setups that I’ve tested. It’s fun to play with other choices/configurations, but force me to choose one setup for anything and everything, and it’s going to be 3″ Fusions.
We are finally to the section that most guys jump to first, and that’s bow setup. Before you ever attempt to broadhead tune, or check the accuracy of your broadhead flight, it’s important that you know the bow has been setup and tuned properly.
Make sure that your cams are “timed” or in sync with one another. To learn how you can check this at home, have a look at this…
Another critical aspect of bow setup for broadhead flight is your arrow rest. Your centershot and rest/nock height must be correct to begin with. Here’s how you can make sure that’s the case…
To confirm your arrow selection and arrow rest settings, its a good idea to do some “diagnostic shooting”. The two primary methods are paper tuning and walkback tuning. Here’s how you do each one…
- Bow Setup & Tuning – Everything You Need to Know About Paper Tuning
- The What, Why, and How of “Walkback Tuning” Your Bow
We might need to make some adjustments from there, but we’ll cover that in our next post, which will be a step-by-step tutorial on the process broadhead testing and tuning.
Finally, let’s talk about you.
Because broadheads are inherently less-forgiving, flaws in your shooting form and technique are magnified. The most common shooter errors that cause problems with broadhead accuracy are grip, anchor point, and form/draw-length.
Yes, it’s true – maybe the problem with shooting broadheads is you.
There are some universal principles for “proper” grip (such as keeping loose pressure, letting the bow “cradle” in between your thumb/forefinger, etc.), and there are variables that vary from person-to-person, or bow-to-bow (such as using low/med/high grip, amounts of side pressure, etc). Make sure your grip isn’t inducing any sort of torque into the bow at full-draw, and make sure you are not “grabbing” your bow’s grip upon release.
In terms of anchor points, you need to make sure that you have multiple anchor points that are identifiable, repeatable, and comfortable. Here’s how to make that happen…
Last in this article, but certainly not the last thing to be considered, is your shooting form. Things like feet placement and head position matter for all shooting, and weaknesses in form become even more apparent when shooting less-forgiving broadheads. The most common form flaws are derrived from incorrect draw lengths. Here are some resources to help you identify and correct form issues, and ensure that your draw length is set correctly…
- A Bowhunter’s Selfie: Photographing Yourself to Analyze Shooting Form
- 4 Ways That Archers Can Measure Their Draw Length
- Understanding Your Bow’s Draw Length Measurement
- How To Build a DIY “Draw Arrow” and Measure the Draw Length of Your Bow
Time to Broadhead Tune (Maybe)
Whew, that’s a lot of info – and we didn’t even talk about the actual process of tuning for broadheads yet! But here’s the thing, if you follow this advice, then you probably won’t need to “broadhead tune”. That’s what I was getting at when I said that Broadhead Tuning Is A Waste Of Time. This information may not be a “quick cure” if you’re struggling to get good broadhead flight right before season, but if you consider these factors going forward you will dramatically lessen the time that you spend fiddling with things to get good broadhead flight.
If your broadheads are close to where they need to be, but not flying with your field points exactly, then we can make some adjustments and do some “tuning”. That’ll be what we cover next…