Whether you refer to the shaft of your crossbow projectile as an arrow or a bolt, both references are correct. Remember, however, the word bolt applies to projectiles for use with a crossbow and the term cannot describe projectiles that work with a recurve bow. Before examining what features you should seek in the crossbow bolts you buy, it is necessary to examine the different parts of the bolt: Doing so will help you assess the features of existing bolts on the market with a clear understanding of arrow structure.
The shaft of the bolt is the primary structure of your crossbow’s projectile. All other parts of the bolt connect to the shaft. The bolt’s shaft is often made of carbon or aluminum material or a mix of both. You’ll find the latter materials ideal because they prove safer than other materials: Aluminum and carbon resist undesirable bending, do not splinter, and the material is light enough to help make the bolt aerodynamic.
Spine, Weight & Length
The spine of a crossbow’s bolt is also known as the bolt’s stiffness. Every bolt spine varies in terms of the degree of the shaft’s stiffness. The weight of the bolt(s) you use with your crossbow plays a major role in how you will have to sight in the bow when you are tuning it and the accuracy of your shot. The term grain is used to reference the bolt’s weight. When you buy bolts, the weight of the bolts might be referred to as grains per inch/GPI/total grains. If you do not have the total weight and you know grains per inch, you can multiply the number by the length of the bolt’s shaft. For instance, if you have a shaft length of 22 and the GPI is 15, the total weight is 330 grains. If you prefer working with grams, multiply the total grains by 0.0648.
The bolt will have three plastic fletchings at the end of the shaft where the nock is attached. These same fletchings are vanes and are a necessary part of the bolt because it aids in the flight of the arrow once the projectile is released. Fletchings cause the bolt to spin on its axis and increase the strength and stability of the arrow during flight. The length of the fletching on a bolt differs, and, the longer the bolt is, the longer the length of each fletching is as well. Please note, the fletchings made of feathers are not used for bolts.
The nock is at the end of the bolt’s shaft. It is manufactured out of aluminum or plastic materials. There are two chief nock styles: Flat and half-moon styles. Some nocks are lighted for ease of seeing in the dark. You should base the style nock you choose on your preference. Newer nocks are available, such as the Omni nock, which features a half-moon design, but still allows you to align the arrow from any position you desire. Another type of nock is the capture nock: It has a deeper half-moon embedded region so it encompasses more of the bowstring. Finally, there is even a full containment style nock. Much like the nocks one would find on a traditional bow, the full containment nocks encase the string as it snaps onto it.
There are different bolt heads, each of which is ideal in specific situations or for specific uses. The types of points include target points and broadheads, with the latter breaking down into three types of broadheads. Let’s examine the features of each:
Target points, sometimes called field points, are used for when you are practicing with a target. The points are not meant for piercing through the flesh of an animal, so there is nothing sharp on the target points. The tips on target points is rounded just enough to penetrate a target with ease. If you want the best bolts for your crossbow, you’ll want to get the bolts that allow you to screw in the target points rather than buying the bolts that have cheap points glued to the top end of the arrow.
When you purchase bolt heads for your bolts, make sure you buy the same heads recommended by the product manufacturer. Target points weigh anywhere from 125 to 150 grains. The weight should match the weights of the points sold with the crossbow initially or slightly heavier. Using target points that are too light can damage to your equipment or result in potential injury.
Broadheads are razor-sharp, pointed heads available as fix blade, removable blade, and expandable/mechanical blade styles. The heads weigh between 125 and 150 grains, and are sold in a pack of three to six heads. These arrow tips are needed for when you are hunting prey. Tips screw into the bolt shaft’s tip. The arrow tips are often crafted with vents to ensure a minimal surface on the broadhead leading to greater aerodynamic properties. The broadheads you decide to use are your choice (provided they are legal in your state). Fixed blade arrowheads have razor-sharp, permanent blades that are non-removable. The fixed blades are strong, feature a simple design, and are crafted out of steel.
The arrowhead is a single screw in piece. In contrast, removable-blade arrows have razor-sharp blades that you can take off the broadhead if you need to replace the blades. A small piece screws onto the top of the blade: removing it allows you to slide in a razor piece for replacement. Once you replace the piece, you can screw the tiny cap back on to the blade. Finally, the broadhead with expandable blades keeps the blades tucked into the arrowhead structure, only to force open when the arrowhead strikes the animal. Some archers prefer the expandable arrowheads because they deliver maximum damage on impact. Others like the expandable variants because it eliminates issues mid-flight velocity reduction. Remember, you’ll pay more money for arrowheads with expandable features.
Additional Bolt Buying Advice
- Remember that your broadheads and target points should weigh the same amount. The weight needs to match the weight of the bolt heads sold with your crossbow initially.
- Follow crossbow manufacturer’s recommendations when buying arrows. Never go lighter with arrow weight than is recommended for the crossbow. Bolts that are too light can result in dry firing action, which can lead to personal injury and equipment damage.
- Buying arrowheads that are heavier than recommended is okay to do, but you will lose out on speed if you compromise.
- Buy your arrow bolt based on manufacturer recommendation for weight.
- Remember that speed is not everything. You may have better shots with greater accuracy if you opt for shooting at moderate speeds.
- Heavier bolts quiet the crossbow action and extend cable and string life on your equipment.
- Remember when you are choosing arrows, you get greater consistency from one arrow to another in terms of spine, weight, and straightness when investing in aluminum shafts.
- For durability, choose carbon shafts, which are also lighter than their aluminum counterparts. Remember, sometimes the carbon bolts are sold with inconsistencies from one arrow to another in terms of the spine stiffness.
- Arrow inserts are crafted out of plastic, carbon, aluminum, or brass. The brass inserts weigh the most and are therefore coupled with the lightest arrow shafts made of carbon.
- Mechanical broadheads may not be legal in every state in the nation. Make sure you check the laws in your state before you attempt to buy and use them for hunting.
- When buying nocks for your arrow, you can use flat nocks or moon nocks. Flat nocks screw into the insert without further steps necessary. Always remember to make sure the half-moon nocks line up with the bowstring correctly to avoid injury.
- Use the nock the manufacturer recommends for your crossbow.
Barnett Carbon Arrows are sold with five target points. The pricing is affordable, with a listing price below $45.00. Each arrow weighs 8.1 ounces and the shafts are made of carbon materials, with the thickness of the shaft wall improved for extra durability. Matched with 100 grain points ideal for accurate penetration of the field target. The arrows have half-moon nocks and 24F field points. Barnett Carbon Arrows are compatible with crossbow models like the Jackal, Wildcat C-5, Penetrator, and Ghost 350. The product is sold with a five-year warranty ensuring customer satisfaction.
TenPoint’s carbon bolts are priced around $50.00 for a package of 6 arrows and come with 6 100 grain target tips. TenPoint’s arrows are made in the USA. The vanes vary in color. The manufacturing company backs its products with 18 years of superior manufacturing in the sporting goods industry. The arrows are sold with Omni nocks and measure 20 to 22 inches in length as well as 22/64ths diameter. Each arrow is fitted with a brass insert weighing 68 grains. The nocks are neon yellow for ease of visibility in all lighting conditions. You can also opt for the lighted Omni-Brite nocks. Each shaft is inspected to ensure the straightness of the arrow is within .003, and all arrows are hand sorted to within two grains per dozen for weight tolerance.