Top 10 Best Crossbow Bolts (Jan.2020): Review & Buyer’s Guide
- Erik Himmel
Hunting is exciting and adventurous only when you use the right gear. Even when shooting with the best crossbow, you’ll need the correct bolts to achieve the perfect accuracy, speed, and penetration. So, to prevent the prey from escaping, and also maximize the performance of your bow, you need the best crossbow bolts for the task.
The hunting accessories industry all over the world is massive, and this poses a lot of challenges when searching for the right product to buy. Since this is a common problem among new and professional hunters, we’ve come up with a guide and review of the best bolts for crossbows on the market today.
What You Will Get Here
- How Do Crossbow Bolts Different from Arrows?
- Things to Consider When Buying Crossbow Bolts
- Our Top 10 Product List
- Editor’s Choice: Carbon Express PileDriver
- Great for Field Practice: BARNETT 16075
- Best Built: Carbon Express Maxima RED Carbon Arrows
- Great for Smaller Game: Carbon Express Maxima Hunter Bufftuff Plus
- Best for Deer Hunting: Blood Sport 8110003 20-inch Crossbow Bolts
- A List of 5 Other Products We Reviewed
- Other Tested Products
- Final Words
How Do Crossbow Bolts Different from Arrows?
You won’t find much difference between bolts and arrows with a quick look. But you need to get familiar with their characteristics to make an informed buying decision.
Fact is, crossbows use bolts while compound bows shoot arrows. Also, bolts are generally shorter in length, around 16 to 22 inches while arrows range from 31 to 35 inches.
Finally, arrows have stabilizing vanes at the back, which affects their overall performance per speed, weight, and trajectory when compared to bolts.
Things to Consider When Buying Crossbow Bolts
The primary makeup of crossbow bolts is aluminum, fiberglass, and carbon.
- Aluminum bolts – They are the cheapest but easily bends upon hitting animals with tough skins. So, they’re less durable and can only create deep cuts on soft targets. However, aluminum bolts are perfect for practicing because of their affordability.
- Carbon bolts – These are expensive, durable, and offer deeper penetration. Since they don’t easily break or bend, most archers use them for shooting at dense objects.
- Fiberglass bolts – They have the advantage of flexibility and durability over other materials. However, when the bent is much, they shatter into pieces such that could injure the user.
- Combinations – Most companies create faster and durable bolts by combining aluminum and carbon.
2. Length and Diameter
Since a bolt length varies between 15 to 22 inches, there’s always the perfect fit for your crossbow. Ensure that you check with the manufacturer to avoid buying one that is longer or shorter than your bow. Of course, any deviation from the right specification will hamper your success.
The diameter of the bolt affects the depth of penetration. Bolts with smaller diameter are more durable and experience less wind drag, boosting its power and speed.
3. Kinetic Energy
Most archers place more focus on speed when choosing their arrows; however, you’ll need a heavy bolt with adequate kinetic energy to shoot down large prey.
Crossbow weight is in grains per inch (GPI). Since the bow delivers the same power at the point of release, it, therefore, means that lighter bolts travel faster, but heavier ones possess more power resulting in deep penetration.
Bolts are available in standard-weight, lightweight, and heavyweight categories; so it’s ideal to understand which works for you.
- Standard-weights – Weighing around 350 to 400 grains, they provide the perfect balance between speed and kinetic energy. Most crossbow companies prefer standard-weights since they work on almost all bows. Besides, the little increase in weight causes more energy transfer from the string to the bolt resulting in better shot accuracy and object penetration. Lightweights – Bolts that weigh less than 350 grains are classified as lightweight. They have the highest speed, making it an excellent choice for competition shootings. However, lightweight bolts are more susceptible to wind and weather, so they’re less accurate. Also, they generate extra noise and vibration, which could scare the prey away.
- Heavyweights – These types weigh over 400 grains and have the highest kinetic energy, so they’ll cause considerable damage to the skin. Heavyweight bolts are stable during flight and are less affected by wind. However, they have the least speed and would drop when shooting from a long distance. They’re the ideal option for engaging bigger games like elk and bear.
These are the tiny hairs at the back of the shaft that helps to maintain its stability in flight.
These parts enable you to connect the bolt to the string of the crossbow before firing and also helps in maximizing energy transfer. They’re made of plastic or aluminum and falls under flat, half-moon, half-moon hybrid, and lighted types.
- Flat nocks – They’re straight and easy to use, allowing you to align the arrows to you most ideal point. However, you should be smart to prevent the bolt from slipping from the string when you’re about to shoot.
- Half-moon nocks – This design allows you to attach the bolt to the string securely to prevent it from slipping before shooting.
- Half-moon hybrid nocks – They have many grooves such that you can choose your best position.
- Lighted – This is the latest bolt design and has become popular among pro and amateur hunters. It lights up the flight path, allowing you to monitor the movement and quickly locate the point of the hit.
Ideally, the two crossbow heads include target points and broadheads.
- Target points – They don’t create deep cuts because of their seemingly blunt edges. So, you’ll only use them for smaller games or practice shooting. Crossbow bolt target points weigh around 125 to 150 grain. So before replacing, ensure that the new has the same weight as the original to prevent injuries or possible damages to the bow.
- Broadheads – They have sharp edges, resulting in a quicker and easier kill. You can opt for expandable, fixed, or removable blade broadheads.
Another name for the main body of the bolt is the shaft since it accommodates the other components. They’re mostly of carbon or aluminum.
The shafts’ degree of stiffness is referred to as spine. Depending on the material of construction, more robust bolts are more durable and resistant to bends. There are chances that you’ll miss the target if the spine is below the acceptable standard.
Its straightness determines the arrow's ability to keep up with the flight path.
11. Quantity of Bolts
Most of the best crossbow bolts come in packs of 6 to 12. Avoid shooting many arrows at a single target to prevent their damages.
12. Manufacturer’s Warranty
Since most arrows are designed for one-time use, they hardly come with a warranty. Instead, opt for reputable brands and read customer reviews to have a clue about the product’s quality.
Our Top 10 Product List
The Carbon Express PileDriver is our choicest crossbow bolt for superior construction, stability, and kinetic energy. It’s made from high-quality carbon composite, which is known for its durability and reliability. Unlike most bolts on sale, this one is created for repeated use, so they don’t break or damage upon impact.
The PileDriver weighs at 442 grains which is quite heavy, making it the ideal option for use with a high-power crossbow and when shooting down a big game. Its straightness measures around +/- 0.004 inches which combines with the 4-inch vane fletchings for consistency in flight and better accuracy.
It comes with both moon and flat nocks, so you can swap them if you’re concerned about issues with slipping and alignment.
This product costs a little under $40, which is a reasonable bargain considering its many premium features. On Amazon, it received an average rating of 4.3 stars, which was incredibly impressive, especially when looking at 460 reviews when we last checked.
However, most users complained that it was difficult finding the bolt in the woods because of the green colors that blended with the vegetation. Besides, the lack of field points as advertised was a turn off to many buyers.
These bolts are the heaviest in the Carbon Express series making them our favorite for targeting larger prey. They’re affordable, dependable, and reusable, so you’ll always get the best results from your shots. They trounce other types and models of crossbow bolts by a huge margin.
Designed for outstanding performance, the BARNETT 16075 will deliver the right speed and accuracy for your target shootings. They have a standard length of 20 inches so that you can use them on many bows and crossbows.
Each pack weighs about 400 grains including the 100-grain inserts, so they’re a little lighter than our first choice. The inserts provide the perfect balance against wind action, allowing the bolts to travel at consistently high-speeds.
The product comes with moon nocks which are glued to the shaft such that you can easily remove them by breaking the glue.
However, due to its lighter weight, there’s the possibility that you might miss the target when shooting from a long distance. Also, it’s only suitable for target practice and hunting small animals.
This item was the trendiest on Amazon, having scored 4.5 stars at the time of the writing, from a total of 886 ratings. Currently, you can get it between $25 to $85 depending on the pack you’re picking.
This crossbow bolt is perfect for simple practice shootings. It can run at high-speed without experiencing a wind drag, thanks to the 100 grains inserts. It’s available in packs of 1, 2, and 4, which makes it extremely affordable for all category of users.
The Maxima is another product from the Carbon Express series which has become the favorite of most Pro hunters. The shaft makeup is unique, always resulting in an outstanding performance, so it’s worth the investment.
It’s production technology involves the combination of various carbon materials for maximum strength, durability, and accuracy. The spine’s quality is exceptional, such that you’ll enjoy better consistency of broadheads flight.
Carbon Express ensures that the straightness is within the acceptable standard of 1/10,000 of an inch. So, therefore, this Maxima model boast of accuracy of +/- 0.0025 inch, which is more consistent that our top pick. It arrives at a length of 32 inches with loose inserts so that you can cut it to your desired length.
This one is available in sizes of 250 and 350 grains for you to select depending on your shooting style. Also, other sections of the shaft are painted in red to prevent its loss in the woods.
Apart from the complaint that it didn’t come with field tips, we didn’t have any negative experience with this arrow.
It costs around $57 to $130 depending on the size, so it’s not as cheap as you think, but the results will make you want to buy again. It scored 4.4 stars from an average of 128 users at the time of the research.
This product is a well-made arrow that is inarguably consistent with the industry’s standards. It groups well, and being available in many sizes makes it an ideal choice for both target shooting and hunting.
By now, you must have realized that the Carbon Express means business when it comes to the production of top-notch arrows. It features dual spine technology for effective energy management, speed consistency, and accuracy.
Like our No 3 choice, this BuffTuff version has a straightness of +/- 0.0025 which is a guarantee of the company’s commitment to quality. Also, with the unique Mossy Oak Treestand covering on the shaft and high-speed travel, the prey will hardly notice it coming.
The BuffTuff comes in the 20-inch and 22-inch sizes, so you’ll not need many adjustments before taking it to the field.
However, we noticed that most users were uncomfortable with the 4-inch vanes instead of the advertised 3-inch vanes, but it wasn’t an issue for us since you’ll master it over time.
It comes in at a little under $70. It’s still affordable as it comes with variety of great features making it a worthy investment even for the beginner archer. Though not as trendy as our previous models, it received an Amazon rating of 3.8 stars out of 118 buyers at the time of the report.
This product offers unbeatable straightness, speed, and consistency. This 20-inch bolt is just what you need for small game hunting.
If you’re looking for the best crossbow bolts to take down a deer, this might be the perfect option for you. This Blood Sport bolt has earned the trust of many hunters since it works pretty well on both high-speed and the traditional 150 lbs crossbows. Besides, if you opt for broadheads or field tips, you can customize the weight to suit your bow.
The Blood Sport 20-inch bolt doesn’t have field points but comes with both brass inserts and half-moon nocks like most models on this list.
It’s sturdy, having straightness of +/- 0.003, so it works well with 350 fps. Each of the bolts features the 4-inch vanes, which are quite durable and capable of maintaining strict flight consistency.
About the price, it retails around $25, and it’s one of the cheapest crossbow bolts on the market, though this one didn’t come with the blood sports ring like other models from the company. It scored 4.3 stars from a total of 115 customers.
This item is excellent for the price. The bolts easily balance on both high-speed and standard crossbows. Besides, the ability to maximize speed and penetration make them our perfect option for crossbow deer hunting.
A List of 5 Other Products We Reviewed
If your focus is on both hunting and target practice, the MAK 20” will meet all your needs. Each of the bolts come with a durable carbon fiber shaft, 125-grain inserts, and half-moon nocks. You can replace the field points with broadheads by screwing them to the inserts, so they’re suitable for large and small games.
The bolts are lightweight and fly straight, hitting the target at the intended spot. They come with 4” waterproof TPU rubber vanes which keep the flight balanced and consistent irrespective of the weather condition.
Unlike most of the models on this list, this MAK crossbow bolt contains 12 pieces per pack, so you’ll always have enough arrows to work with per session.
However, the bolts weren’t as durable as most of our top picks, but this wasn’t a deal-breaker for us, considering the amount you’re paying.
It currently retails around $30, so it’s pretty cheap when compared to most top products on this list. It scored 4 stars on Amazon, out of 111 ratings, indicating that it met the needs of many users.
These are excellent hunting and target practice bolts for pro and amateur shooters. The option to replace the tips allows you to take down both large and small prey per your desire. Though they weren’t very durable, you won’t expect everything to be perfect considering the price.
The HEA-620.3 crossbow bolts are designed with your success in mind, and that’s seen is its ability to hold 2 inch groups, 8.9% speed loss, and 18.7% loss of Kinetic Energy over 50 yards.
Fitted with a 68grain aluminum insert, it delivers a balance at 10.5% front of center. The straightness of the shaft stands at +/- 0.003 with a weight tolerance of two grains per dozen. It means you can expect a greater level of accuracy, which is consistent with each bolt.
We also like the patented Neon colored nocks with six grooves with three bowstring channels that eliminate most of the challenges you’ll likely face when using other nock types.
This model has a standard weight of 425 grains, and that includes 100-grain practice tip. So, you can expect better flight stability and deeper penetration like with the PileDriver bolts.
We were happy with its Amazon score of 4.3 stars out of 118 ratings. However, we noticed that changing the nocks was difficult, especially when you’re not with the right tools.
This product is designed to eliminate most of the issues you’ll face when using bolts with flat nocks. It’s heavy, fast, and accurate, so it’ll meet your expectations of the best crossbow bolts.
ANTSIR Carbon crossbow bolts feature high-grade carbon shafts that retain its characteristics even under repeated use. Each arrow has a length of 20 inches and weighs around 28 g, which combines with the 125-grain inserts to provide maximum shot accuracy and penetration.
The outer diameter is 8.8mm, while the inner diameter measures at 7.6mm. Like the HEA-620.3 model, this ANTSIR package has 12 arrows. The four-inch vanes have two blue and a single white color to help you distinguish them from other objects in the woods.
The ANTSIR boasts of a superior level of accuracy which allows you to shoot at the target from relatively long distance. It also means that you’ll hunt in areas with plenty of wild prey with confidence.
However, you should avoid hitting concrete walls or hard objects to prevent damages to the bolts.
Its only negative was that we lost most of the inserts when taking the shots, but this wasn’t a turn-off for us since you can glue it back to fix.
This model costs around $28, so it’s also a cheap option when compared with most high-end bolts on the market. It received 3.7 stars from 166 customers at the time we last checked.
Great value bolts with a surprisingly high level of correctness. The vanes are easy to straighten with a little application of heat. The price is attractive, so you won’t have to break the bank to enjoy these excellent features.
Black Eagle designed this Executioner model for archers who crave for high accuracy and higher speed. These sturdy yet slim fletched arrows flaunt some of the advanced features that you’d need for greater performance.
The carefully inserted brass inside the arrow adds to the total weight which is perfect for attaining higher accuracy without losing an iota of kinetic energy at the time of shooting. Trust me, when you put this bad boy in a crossbow it will turn deadly in no time.
Our field testing confirmed one vital point about these Executioners crossbow arrow models, that is-- you must have this model for your crossbow to get the best result. We found that the arrow units came with an astounding ±.010 spine deviation rate of straightness. That’s a pretty good number you could say.
All Fletched Arrows including 22" and 20" featured X Vanesand 3" Bohning. On the other hand, 18" featured Blazer Vanes with a length of 2".
Another crucial feature is that the nocks of these arrows have been pressed fit, whereas, most other manufacturers glue them. Remember, glued nocks are not as hard as the pressed ones.
For 18" arrow you’ll get 92 grains of executioner brass inserted while for 20" the amount is 110 grains. This means the quality has not been compromised in any of the unit.
We must say that the Black Eagle did a good job in designing these arrows offering at an affordable price range. Although some users complained about build quality, we found them well-built and accurate enough to get the job done. We believe you’ll get the confidence you need when shooting with these. Our only recommendation would be - re-align the fletch when needed for a better result.
With 100% carbon shaft, the Victory crossbow bolt is perfect for both pro and enthusiasts alike. Like the Omni Brite series, this one features a lighted nock which allows you to monitor the path of flight and easily spot the kill.
The lights work well and switch off pretty quickly. However, the batteries aren’t replaceable; instead, you’ll change the lighted nocks. Besides, the design of the light button will prevent you from using it with your Barnett crossbow, so, you may need a second thought before buying.
Though it had only 46 reviews at the time of the research, it scored 4.3 stars, which was quite impressive for us.
You can easily opt for 20 or 22-inch sizes since they both costs around $70. They’re lightweight with a total weight of 320 grain for 20 inches and 327 grain for 22-inch versions. We observed that the accuracy was pretty fantastic, thanks to brass inserts which provided the balance against wind action.
Right bolts, with helix-shaped vanes that propels it beautifully in the air when you fire. The bright red light nocks allow you to spot where your arrow falls even under dim light. So, if you’re looking for a high-quality bolt with illumination at an affordable rate, this is the right choice for you.
Other Tested Products
- 1Viare Carbon Crossbow Bolt 20 Inch Crossbolt Arrows Fletched 4 Inch Vane with Field Point
- 2Tenpoint XX75 Magnum 20-Inch 2219 Easton Aluminum Crossbow Arrows
- 3Carbon Express Maxima Blue Streak Fletched Carbon Crossbolt with R2 Vanes, 5-Pack
- 4EXCALIBUR CROSSBOW Quill Micro Bolt (Pack of 6), 16.5", Black
- 5Tenpoint Evo-X Center Punch Carbon Crossbow Arrows with Omni Nocks, 20", 6-Pack (HEA-730.6)
- 6Bloodsport Witness Crossbow Bolt/Arrow, 6 Pack
- 7Black Eagle Zombie Slayer Crossbow Fletched Carbon Arrows/Bolts - 6 Pack
- 8Horton 20-Inch Carbon Crossbow Arrows
- 9Tenpoint Pro-V22 22-Inch Carbon Crossbow Arrows
- 10Easton Fmj 20" Bolt 3" Vn Mn 6P
Crossbow bolt’s quality play a significant role in guaranteeing successful hunting. It’s worth noting that you’ll enjoy the archery session if you’re using the best arrows for your crossbow. Otherwise, you’ll waste your money and will return to the market sooner than expected for a replacement. So, this guide gives you the right information to accessing the ideal bolts.
Looking at our list of the best crossbow bolts, the Carbon Express PileDriver is our most preferred model. It’s pretty heavy, with 442 grain, so you can always expect a bone-crushing penetration. Featuring a high-grade carbon shaft, with specialized spine technology to ensure straightness and accuracy, you can ever feel confident when targeting the prey.
For the lighted models, you can choose either the TenPoint Omni-Brite or Victory crossbow bolts. These allow you to see the location of the hit, and if you miss, you can find them easily. They’re lightweight and fast in the air, meaning it’ll be difficult for the prey to escape.
All the bolts we’ve listed come with distinctive qualities which will deliver attractive return for the money you’re spending. So, if you’re satisfied with your needs, go ahead and choose any of our products.
Does crossbow length matter?
Ans. Bolts length range from 16 to 22 inches, but the most popular are the 20-inch types. Most archers can use longer bolts, but using one that’s shorter than necessary could prevent the smooth exit of the tips putting you at risk.
Do crossbow bolts have fletchings?
Ans. Yes. Fletchings make bolts stable to maintain speed during flight.
Can you reuse crossbow bolts?
Ans. As long as the bolt is not damaged upon impact, you can reuse it.
How do you weigh a crossbow bolt?
Ans. To know the overall weight; first, multiply the bolt’s length by the grains. For example, 20-inch x 15 grains/inch = 300 grains. The next step is to add weights of the fletchings, nock, and inserts.
How much does a crossbow drop?
Ans. Bolts trajectory stands at 350 ft/s, 36 yards. However, the arrow type, crossbow speed, and sight selection could affect the range of drop.
Do crossbow bolts have nocks?
Ans. Yes. Plastic nocks are cheap but may shatter when used with powerful bows while Aluminum is expensive and can withstand high-speed crossbows.
How many should I buy?
Ans. You can buy as many as you can afford or you can make your own bolts. However, choose at most a dozen, six for hunting and the other half for target practice.
How to determine which bolt will fit my crossbow?
Ans. All bows and bolts have specifications, check the information on the pack to know the right one to use.