Whether you are just looking to take up bow hunting or you’ve been in the game a long time, the debate over which kind of broadhead is best is always a hot topic and a hard decision. You want what every bowhunter wants whether hunting with a compound bow or a crossbow: accuracy, reliability and penetration, a through and through shot, and of course, good blood trails. So which broadhead type gives you all of this? Let’s break it down and compare the two so your decision can be made that much easier!
Fixed vs Mechanical Broadheads
A fixed broadhead is one that has no moving pieces, simply a fixed blade. What you see is what you get. There are variants and hybrids that offer expandable blade features but that’s a separate issue altogether! Fixed broadheads range in blade number from 2 – 6 and generally have a smaller cutting diameter that makes a smaller hole.
The lack of moving parts mitigates the risk of malfunctions or opening failures. They have also been around for a very long time and are still popular today because of their reliability.
The smaller diameter makes a through and through shot easier to attain so in essence, penetration is better. The smaller diameter also means you require less energy to perform the same cutting task and thus can shoot with a lower poundage of bow without worrying that the lack of power will affect the shot negatively.
Another true advantage to these arrows is their pocket impact. These heads are invariably cheaper to buy than the mechanical options and because they’re sturdy, they don’t need to be replaced frequently, making them a money saver of an option.
They are also much easier to maintain and sharpen due to the lack of moving pieces.
Another big pro for the fixed broadhead is their structural strength. Because they are fixed, and in most cases welded, they are very durable and can take the beating of hitting a deer’s’ shoulder blade better than a mechanical head would.
The biggest drawback of the fixed broadhead is its deviation issues. Fixed heads are great at catching a breeze which is obviously an undesirable characteristic to have attached to an arrow. The higher your poundage, the faster the arrow flies. The faster the arrow flies, the more it deviates and becomes inaccurate if a fixed broadhead is attached. There are measures and counters for this but they are in general, less accurate than mechanical broadheads.
Another downside to these arrow heads is a lack of choice concerning diameter. The broadest fixed broadheads don’t even come close to the mechanical alternatives. So if you’re preferable to punching a big fat hole in your target, the choice isn’t really there with fixed heads.
Mechanical broadheads are those that have expandable blades that open up nice and wide on impact. Their purpose is supreme cutting, to produce more bleeding, and to fly more accurately. They range in blade number from 2 – 6 and come in many different designs, shapes and setups. They deliver the best result if associated with top-class archrey arrows.
Mechanical heads are indeed the most accurate of all the options. They suffer far less deviation due to the fact that most of the blade span area that would catch wind is tucked away until impact. This allows for faster shooting at higher speeds with less concern over whether your arrow will hit its mark.
Another big pro for this type is the options that come along with them. You have a wide variety of blade diameters, shapes, grains, and directions. So there’s an option in all of that for everyone.
Probably the second biggest reason people buy mechanical broadheads is their supreme cutting capabilities. They cut more and in more directions and cause more bleeding with better blood trails as a result. This however, is if you penetrate properly. Reliably achieving this often calls for a heavy poundage of bow to be used.
The biggest downside to the mechanical broadhead is its possible failure to deploy on impact. There have been many accounts of these broadheads not opening up the deployable blades when the arrow hits the target. When this happens it will act like a field tipped arrow and produce minimal cutting with little bleeding and a poor trail to track with.
The other significant downside is their structural integrity. They simply cannot match the strength of a fixed head and often break or bend due to the presence of moving pieces.
Yet another downer is the cost. They are more expensive and require blade replacements that add up after a while.
A potential downside to some folks is also the fact that for them to be truly effective on a consistent basis it’s better to fire them from a heavy weighted bow. So for those who prefer light pounders, you may have trouble getting that much arrowhead area through your target.
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Fixed Broadheads vs Mechanical – According to Data
Statistical data gathered from various sources on compound bow hunters using mechanical and fixed broadheads separately show that the recovery rate of game shot is only a few percent higher with mechanical broadheads. These same hunters only hit their target a few percent more of the time on average than fixed blade users. The data clearly shows that at close to medium ranges there is no truly significant difference between the two.
Do We have a Winner?
In my opinion? No. The fact that each arrowhead type has convincing pros and cons, and the fact that even statistical data shows there is little overall performance difference, means for me that there is no real winner. I think which you pick should be determined by what you are hunting, what distance you plan to fire from, what bow you are using, and what kind of cut you want to make.
It honestly all comes down to preference that gets developed through experience and exposure. I strongly suggest you try out both broadhead types on practice targets, as well as, in the field. Vary your shot distance too. Soon you will figure out what produces the most desirable outcome for you personally. I hope this has been helpful. Stay safe, and happy hunting!