Battle of the Fixed-Blade Broadheads

Navigating through the weeds when it comes to fixed-blade broadhead performance.

Battle of the Fixed-Blade Broadheads

From arrow weight vs. arrow speed, to FOC calculations, to three fletch vs. four fletch, bowhunters are without a doubt fans of the details. With archery hunting being as difficult as it is, it makes sense why. The details matter even if they do nothing more than instill more confidence in us.

A common debate topic among bowhunters is broadheads, with the most prevalent being mechanical vs fixed. It’s a constant discussion that isn’t going away anytime soon. While that’s a fun chat and all, I thought it might be even better to take it a step further and break down the different fixed-blade broadheads — the battle of the fixed blades if you will.


Why Fixed-Blades?

Before I start dissecting the different available options for fixed-blade broadheads, let me quickly review the overall advantages of shooting these heads. The first is simplicity. These heads are what they are, regardless of design. You can rest assured that when one touches an animal, it’s going to do what it’s supposed to do. And when that does happen, your penetration will be second to none, resulting in more pass-through shots. This is incredibly helpful for bigger game animals such as elk because two holes are better than one for blood trailing.

Plain and simple, fixed-blade broadheads have been taking care of business since the beginning of bowhunting. That is evident from modern-day hunters finding centuries-old arrowheads, right? Tools of the past. They worked back then and they work even better today with our advancements in technology. Modern bows are more efficient, equipment is more dependable, and we are more educated hunters overall. The fixed-blade broadhead is something that has been honed over time. And their lethality? It’s higher than ever.

This is in no way a dig at mechanical broadheads; they are fantastic tools as well with an immense amount of lethality.


All modern-day high-quality broadheads are capable of flying well.

In general, small-profile broadheads are more likely to have the same impact point as field points when compared to larger heads. The smaller blades catch less air, which will have less influence on impact point in relation to field tips. You can think of blades on the front of your arrow as vanes. They’re going to influence the steer of your arrow. This is where proper bow tuning comes into play.

Talking about broadhead flight wouldn’t be complete without talking a little bit about “broadhead tuning.” When we slap a broadhead on the front of an arrow, any minor inconsistencies in our bow’s tune will come to light. So, in all reality, if our broadheads are not hitting with our field points, our bow wasn’t really tuned to begin with, which is why I used quotations around broadhead tuning. It’s just tuning in general. The broadhead helps fine tune it and magnify inconsistencies.

There’s more than one way to skin a cat here, be it through paper tuning, group tuning, bare shaft tuning, etc., but there is one consistency: All modern high-quality fixed-blade broadheads are capable of flying well. It all comes down to the tune of your bow in relation to your arrow, as well as in relation to you. We all shoot a little differently in terms of hand torque and such. That aside, a well-tuned bow will shoot any fixed-blade broadhead with field points. So, I say try to take care of this tuning before testing a broadhead. You’ll spend a lot less time ruining targets.

Replaceable-Blade Broadheads

If I had to name an overall king in terms of the most common fixed-blade broadhead used, it would undoubtedly be the replaceable-blade head. The name says it all; these heads allow you to remove blades should they get damaged and replace them with new ones. All of this while keeping the same ferrule. You can get these heads in two-, three- and four-blade options, as well as vented or not vented. The options for replaceable blade broadheads are many.

These are without question the most easily accessible head both in price and availability for most bowhunters. Because of that, I’d wager they are responsible for more animals being brought home than any other fixed-blade option, and they do that quite well. The sharpness of many replaceable blade broadheads is usually on the razor sharp side of things. So, they go through animals like butter and leave a great blood trail. The variety in available designs really allows a bowhunter to pick the exact kind of head they want in their quiver and not worry if they break a blade here and there. Replaceable-blade broadheads are economically friendly and extremely deadly at the same time.

Of course, there are a few possible downsides to replaceable-blade heads. The first is durability. Now, there are some heads out there, particularly some two-bladed heads, that are made from a higher end steel such as S35V. These are much more durable and hold an edge longer. But for the most part, replaceable-blade heads will break easier than one-piece models simply because it’s a thinner piece of material. This is something that could potentially happen on its way through an animal, especially with bigger game such as elk. In other words, there is the chance that the three-blade you shot could turn into a two-blade before it leaves the chest cavity. And when they do break, it brings up another slight drag: If you don’t want to buy new heads, you’ll have to make sure to have spare parts on hand to replace the blades. It’s just another thing to have on your radar.


One-Piece Broadheads

One-piece fixed-blade broadheads have zero moving parts and are really the original broadhead design, especially the two-blade versions. Their simplicity, reliability and devastation are attracting more and more bowhunters these days.

The biggest advantage of one-piece heads is their durability. In general these will be a beefier head. Combine that with the lack of moving parts (blades can’t be replaced), and you’ve got a broadhead that is more likely going to hold its structural integrity when in action. That right there has really shone a light on these heads in the elk hunting world. Elk are big animals with big bones that love to alter the path of incoming arrows. And because of that durability, when the one-piece head is done doing its job, you’ll more than likely be able to just resharpen and reuse it. It’s a broadhead for the long haul that can do it all.

One-piece broadheads seem to be more on the expensive side of the price spectrum, which is really a result of them being more expensive to make. They are a CNC machined piece of art and that comes with a cost. Some might argue that they’ll save you money in the long run, though, because they can be reused. That is really up to the user because some like to save a used broadhead as a memento. Call me sentimental, but that’s how I am. And on the off chance that a one-piece head does break, you’re out of the game and that head has met its maker. You’ll also need to learn how to and spend time sharpening the heads, which while it does take even more time out of our day, can honestly be looked at as a good thing. It’s good to know how to sharpen broadheads.

One-piece broadheads are tough as nails and will provide outstanding penetration on big game provided they’re scary sharp.
One-piece broadheads are tough as nails and will provide outstanding penetration on big game provided they’re scary sharp.

Single Bevel vs. Double Bevel

Yet another variable among the fixed-blade broadhead world is single bevel vs. double bevel. I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time here, but there has been more chatter about this as of late, so let’s take a look at both options.

In a nutshell, double bevel means that a blade has been sharpened on both sides giving it a bevel on each side of the blade. When these fly through an animal there is no rotation and a clean cut from start to finish. It’s a great head for maximum penetration.

Single bevel means that a blade has been sharpened only on one side, on alternate sides of the blade. This applies only to two-blade one-piece heads. So, laid out flat, the side facing you would have a bevel on one side while the side not facing you would have a bevel on the opposite side. This design actually does cause a rotation once the broadhead impacts an animal, which increases the devastation of the wound channel. Because of the rotation, however, and possible added friction there, it might have slightly less penetration depending on who you talk to. There are passionate debates for both options, but both are fantastic options nonetheless. Personally, I wouldn’t get too hung up here.


Does Blade Count Matter?

With fixed-blade broadheads you have the options of two blade, two blade with bleeders, three blade, or four blade. The biggest difference between the options is wound channel. Two-bladed heads, even with bleeders, will have less of a wound channel than four-bladed heads. It’s pretty simple: a three- or four-bladed head will cut more because it has an equally sized extra blade or two. Their circumference of devastation is wider. With a pass through, this means a heavier and easier to follow blood trail.

A potential issue with three- or four-blade heads when compared to two-blade heads is the possibility of less penetration. Overall friction increases because of the additional blade. Another blade or two also poses more of a chance that the head could catch a bone and possibly even pivot from doing so.

Important note about cutting diameter: On the surface, wider often sounds better to folks. Bigger hole, right? That’s absolutely true and these do a great job of “turning on the faucet.” And in my opinion, backing it up with a heavier arrow is going to offer the best results. However, a bigger cutting diameter also means more surface to catch air in flight, as well as more surface to catch a bone and reduce penetration. I don’t want you to look at these as deal breakers, because they’re not. They’re merely other variables to take into account. Personally, I think a good middle-of-the-road cutting diameter is best.

The two blade with bleeders or the three blade are for sure the most popular out of the options listed. They seem to give a “best of all worlds” feel. With that being said, all of the blade counts will work just fine. You put one in the right spot and the animal will die quickly. So, while these different blade counts excel at different things, ultimately you need to shoot the one that gives you the most confidence.


Vented vs. Non-Vented

Vented broadheads have a cut out (typically a triangle) in the middle of the blades. Non-vented heads have solid blades; no air can pass through these blades. Just like all of the topics I’ve covered up until this point, both of these will work fine. There are some differences between each, though.

Because air cannot pass through non-vented heads, they are quieter in flight. Believe it or not, the noise difference between shooting a vented and non-vented head can be quite dramatic. It could potentially alert more skittish game, especially when taking long shots. While a vented head is noisier, it doesn’t catch as much wind as a non-vented head. This is something that can influence arrow flight. I’ve personally witnessed this, but again, it’s minor and more has to do with your bow tune.

A larger difference between the two versions is strength, and more particularly torsional strength, which is the ability to withstand twisting. This is a factor when puncturing through bone or thick hide. Non-vented heads resist twisting and are just more durable in general.

Likely shot distance is a key component when selecting the right broadhead. For long range, most hunters prefer the flatter trajectory provided by 100- or 125-grain heads.
Likely shot distance is a key component when selecting the right broadhead. For long range, most hunters prefer the flatter trajectory provided by 100- or 125-grain heads.

The Verdict — and My Top Picks

We are all a little bit different in how we shoot and how much torque we apply on a bow. Because of that, it means you must consider the variables I’ve discussed in this article. But it also means you must do your own “battle of the fixed blades.” Find out what works for you.

I’ve always preferred a fixed-blade head over a mechanical. Within the fixed-blade family, I like either a one-piece, two-blade, double-bevel, non-vented head with bleeders or a one-piece, three-blade, double-bevel, vented head. The rock-solid designs have always worked best for me. So, do the homework and don’t settle. Many folks buy broadheads just because their buddy said they are great. Find what is great for you, though, and you’ll have the greatest results. 


Photos by Josh Kirchner


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