They’ve sparked countless debates. They are, sadly, still illegal in some states. And most recently, the Pope and Young Club, after much internal discussion, voted to change its bylaws and approve their use. Yes, lighted nocks create plenty of buzz and give bowhunters something to talk about, but their purpose extends far beyond the noise they create in the bowhunting rumor mill. These sophisticated devices are coveted by throngs of bowhunters around the world. Why? Simple. If installed properly, these arrow glow plugs don’t negatively affect accuracy and ultimately help the shooter recover their animal.

Though today’s lighted nocks sport an array of activation technologies, most begin their glow upon separation from the bowstring. The illumination provides the shooter with a virtual laser beam to track as the arrow speeds toward the intended target. This “lighted arrow trail” lets the shooter know where the arrow impacted the animal. Plus, the glowing nock, if it passes completely through the animal, is easily located and can be inspected to better confirm shot placement. If the arrow doesn’t pass completely through the animal, the broken shaft is usually recovered during the tracking process, giving the shooter a chance to better predict arrow penetration. And in many cases, a glowing nock in the distance marks the location of a downed animal. I put some of the most commonly used lighted nocks in the business to the test for several weeks. Here’s what I found.

Clean-Shot Nock Out (www.clean-shot.com)

I have to research and read before I test and tinker – I’ve always been that way. So before installing my Clean-Shot Nock Outs in my Victory VAP V1 arrows and hitting the range, I sat down in front of my laptop and started soaking in some data.

Clean-Shot’s website proclaimed the Nock Out to be “The Frustration Free Lighted Nock!” I’m happy to report this statement, at least from my hours of testing, is very true. The .165-inch (micro “G”) Nock Outs slid into my VAP V1s like butter, and unlike the .204-inch and .244-inch Nock Outs designed to fit Carbon Express Maxima Red and Easton Axis arrows, the micro-nocks don’t call for a large or small orange bushing. The nock does add a little length to your arrow and tips the scales at 19.6 grains (tested weight using a Hornady GS-1500 electronic scale). I shot my VAP V1 arrows fitted with Nock Outs out to 60 yards and detected zero negative nock travel – horizontal or vertical – and out to 35 yards (out of a 29-inch draw, 70-pound test bow used for each nock test) no vertical sight adjustment was needed. The glow of the nock was more than bright and was easily detectable in low light. My personal light-preference color was the fluorescent green. Turning the light off is a breeze; simply grasp the black base of the nock to hold it in the arrow and pull back slightly on the actual clear nock. You will hear a “click,” and the light will turn off. In addition, you can rotate the raised ridge on the silver activation collar a 1/4-inch turn and totally deactivate the LED for lightless practice sessions. Clean-Shot’s website notes the nocks will stay lit for 24 hours (continuous on time), but I found that time frame to be between 30 and 35 hours. A simple, easy-to-use and dependable lighted nock – that’s the Nock Out from Clean-Shot.

Nocturnal X Lighted Nocks (www.nockturnal.com)

Simple. Simple. Simple. If I knew nothing else about Nocturnal’s X lighted nocks, those three words would be enough for me. With no assembly required, I had six Easton Axis N-Fused Carbon 400 arrows set up and ready in a matter of minutes. The X nocks fit perfectly into the shaft and required no more effort than a simple push-and-twist motion. With a mass weight of 20.6 grains (on the Hornady scale), the X nocks didn’t require any vertical sight adjustment until I toed the line at 35 yards. Bowstring activated by a linear switch, the X nocks’ red glowing LED was a little less bright than I would have liked, but still nothing to shake a stick at by any measure. These nocks don’t affect arrow flight out to the maximum distance tested of 60 yards and are totally foolproof. I dunked one in a glass of freezing water for four hours, pulled it out and put it back in my arrow, and it glowed true the instant it left the bowstring. Awesome. Shutoff is simple – find the open reset hole located near the bottom of the nock where it meets the arrow, insert a small nail or screwdriver and slide the interior switch away from the arrow. It’s a breeze and takes only a couple of seconds. I found the Nockturnal X nocks hard to beat in terms of simplicity and overall performance.

Burt Coyote Lumenok (www.lumenok.com)

A household name in the lighted nock arena, Burt Coyote’s Lumenok has a solid following. After spending a few days testing these nocks, it’s not hard to see why. Installation and accuracy aside, let me first tell you that the red Lumenok X nocks fitted into my Easton Axis arrows were bright. Really bright. In fact, of all the nocks tested, I would have to give the brightness award to Lumenok. As far as installation, it’s not as simple as one, two and three, but it doesn’t require a NASA-pedigree either. First, you must square your arrow shaft using a squaring tool or sandpaper. This takes only a few seconds. Next, check for proper fit. After installing the Lumenok, press it against the palm of your hand. If the nock illuminates, it’s too loose and you need to fine-tune the fit using the supplied paper strips. Lumenok also sells a kit to plug your shafts and hold the battery in place (detailed instructions come with the kit). After getting a proper fit, which for me didn’t require the paper strips, I found my Lumenoks to be accurate, reliable and, as previously mentioned, extremely bright. Battery life was excellent, lasting more than 64 hours (continuous run time) on a single replaceable battery. I’ve heard rumors that these nocks are bears to turn off, but my testing showed the exact opposite. Never twist a Lumenok, as you will certainly break the battery off inside the shaft. To extinguish the light, lay the arrow fletching in the palm of your hand, grasping the nock between you index finger and thumb. Then simply wiggle the nock side to side and the light will extinguish immediately. Tested weight was 23.7 grains, and vertical sight adjustment was needed past 30 yards when arrows were fired from the test bow.

Firenock (www.firenock.com)

I was excited to set up some “S” style Firenock hunting nocks – which are loaded with plenty of innovative technology – and put them to the test. Installation wasn’t easy as pie but wasn’t overly complicated either. First, get the circuit aligned and fitted into the nock. Align the PCB (printed circuit board) with the easily identifiable click-and-lock hole located in the shaft of the nock. Squeeze the nock cylinder and push the PCB into the nock until an easy-to-hear “click” is detected. Next, thread the battery-pin O-ring on the pin of the battery. Finally, insert the battery into the EZcoil using a counter-clockwise motion until the battery O-ring touches the battery and pin connector on each end. After all this was completed, I pushed the nock into the end of my Carbon Express Maxima Red arrow until the nock was seated flush against the shaft. I did detect a slight hang-up with each arrow-nock combination, but according to Firenock, this is a result of the battery end hanging on the edge of the extreme shock battery end cap. Though installation was a bit tedious, I found the Firenock “S” style nock to be totally waterproof, long lasting (it was still illuminated after 60 hours of continuous run time), bright and tough as nails. The nock’s 24K gold-plated hermetically sealed “G” switch (activated by G-force/Missile Aiming Technology) never failed. I shot and shot arrows fitted with these nocks for days trying to get one to foul – that never happened. Test weight of the “S” style nock was 26.9 grains, meaning vertical sight adjustment was a must using the test bow beyond 20 yards. As with all the nocks tested, accuracy wasn’t an issue. To extinguish the nock, lift the arrow no less than 6 inches above a hard surface and let the arrow hit the surface nock first.

NuFletch Ignitor (www.nufletch.com)

Powered by NuFletch and inserted into my Easton Axis 400 arrows, the Ignitor X nocks impressed me from the get-go. I liked the idea of having to bond the CNC-machined aluminum insert (done with Bohning Insert Iron) to the shaft. To do this, simply remove your standard nock, replace the nock with the aluminum insert, bond it to the shaft and insert the battery light stick into the nock using a twist-and-turn motion – be sure to leave a small gap between the nock and insert. Pressing the nock all the way into the insert will activate the light. The gap is necessary to ensure the nock activates properly when fired from the bow. The downside of this system is that switching from your lighted NuFletch Ignitor to a standard X nock requires removal of the aluminum insert. I was able to do this with a lighter and a pair of tweezers, but the process is somewhat complicated. The upside is that the system makes for absolutely perfect nock fit. To extinguish the nock, remove the nock from the insert, pull the illuminated battery from the clear nock and pull up on the colored ring, which surrounds the actual light, until you hear a “click” and the light turns off. It’s quick and simple. NuFletch claims the Ignitor nock will remain lit for up to 50 hours. My test results agree. According to my Canon HD video camera, the neon green LED lost power after a continuous run time of 50 hours, 12 minutes. The nocks, dunked in icy water for a period of four hours, never lost their glow, and after removing the internal LED light stick, I found it to be totally dry. Tested X nock weight was 18.7 grains, a tad heavier than NuFletch’s advertised 18.5 grains, but nothing to raise a red flag over. My arrows fitted with Ignitor X nocks consistently found their mark at distances between 10 and 60 yards – no negative nock travel was detected.

Carbon Express LaunchPad (www.carbonexpressarrows.com)

It seemed tedious at first, but after going through the process a couple of times, I found it very elementary. The Carbon Express LaunchPad Illuminated Precision Nocks come packaged individually, and each package comes with a clear cylinder-like vial and circular black ring-like base. Simply slide the vial into the black base (place the raised ridge designed to grab the nock pointing up), remove the tab from the nock and press firmly down on the gray end of the nock until you hear a “click” and the light activates. I slid my nock, keeping it straight, into the end of my Maxima Red arrow. The fit was snug, but by placing the cylinder on a hard surface and inserting the arrow into the top of the cylinder, letting the nock fall between the raised ridge and pushing down, the nock seated nicely. Turning the red LED off was as simple as twisting and pulling back on the nock. No issues there. I didn’t find the nock to be overly bright, but after shooting several arrows from a treestand into the forest floor, I had no trouble detecting the red glow. Tipping the scales at 18.4 grains on my scale, these nocks center in the arrow shaft and boast precise contact points. As far as accuracy, these things fly like darts and I detected no errant flight issues out to 60 yards (maximum range distance tested). The LaunchPad nocks fit arrow sizes from .244 to .256 inches. If you’re looking for an accurate, well-built nock, the Carbon Express LaunchPad is a solid choice.