Regardless of the sport, having better equipment is proven to give you at least an incremental advantage over the competition. This is true in football, tennis, marksmanship, archery, and even crossbow archery. When competing in crossbow competitions, the weight and size of your crossbow can affect the accuracy and power the bow is capable of producing, which can put you at an advantage or disadvantage depending on the application. Another factor that can adversely affect your performance while participating in an archery competition is the bolts you use in your crossbow. This begs the question, what are the best crossbow bolts for you? Let’s have a look at some of the different types of crossbow bolts so you can choose the best crossbow bolts for your needs.
What Are the Different Types of Crossbow Bolts?
Before we get into the different types of crossbow bolts let’s establish what the definition of a bolt is. A bolt is a combination of the bolt head, nock, and shaft. This being said, when we mention different types of bolts, it essentially just describes different combinations of these parts, primarily different shaft lengths, nock configurations, and bolt head configurations. Different configurations of bolts are used for different applications or to achieve different outcomes.
Now, let’s have a look at a few of these bolt types and how they differentiate from one another.
Hunting bolts are the kind used to hunt small and big game. These bolts are designed to kill, not maim. Hunting bolts typically consist of broadhead and blade head tips, which are capable of carrying tons of momentum and transferring kinetic energy efficiently. They’re efficient in penetrating the hide of an animal in an ethical way with minimal suffering involved.
There is no particular nock and/or shaft size that needs to be used to ensure that the bolt is classified as a hunting bolt. Although, if you’re going to be shooting over long distances there are certain shafts, nocks, and fletchings that you should use to hunt effectively. Additionally, you should always use a bladed broadhead bolt whenever you’re hunting to ensure consistent penetration and to ensure that your game does not suffer unnecessarily.
Target bolts and target arrows are pretty much the same deal. When it comes down to it, target bolts will have a thinner shaft so they’re able to travel further with less power input. They might also be longer since target archery typically takes place over increasingly long distances to test your skills. Target arrows also typically do not use broadhead or bladed bolt heads.
Considering you’re not looking to actually kill anything and instead working on your accuracy; it makes sense that these wouldn’t be designed to cause much damage. Since you’re practicing, you can use pretty much any shaft, nock, and fletching that you’re like to become proficient with, but the bolt heads are more often than not un-bladed and not broad-headed.
What Should You Consider When Choosing a Bolt for Your Crossbow?
Just as you would have certain things to consider when choosing an arrow for your traditional bow and arrow, there are things you should consider when choosing bolts for your crossbow. Things like weight, length, bolt head configuration, grain count, and even fletching configuration can affect the effectiveness of your bolts and more importantly your hunting ability.
This being said, let’s have a look at some things you should consider when choosing bolts.
Weight of the Bolt
The weight of the bolt can really affect how it reacts once it’s been fired. Ensuring that the grain count of your bolt is suited to the size and draw strength of your crossbow is of utmost importance to your performance. The weight of the bolt affects its ability to transfer kinetic energy, and if this isn’t suited to the crossbow you’re using, your bolts will not fire effectively regardless of your skill level or distance.
When buying starter kits, you’ll often get two to three bolts with your crossbow kit. These arrows are more often than not, chosen for the crossbow they’re sold with. We wouldn’t recommend taking this for granted though, as less reputable manufacturers tend to choose whichever arrow set looks flashy and costs the least. This being said, always check the description of the arrows you have purchased with your kit and compare it to the type of arrow recommended by the manufacturer of the crossbow.
Do Your Research
When buying anything, knowing what some of the best choices are and what you should be looking for is half the battle. Purchasing a crossbow from a reputable manufacturer means that you’ll probably get loads of bow suggestions based on the bow type, your skill level, and the type of archery you’ll be involved in.
The chances are that most brand websites you visit will recommend arrows they manufacture, but to be fair, business is business, right? If you’d like the probability of your consumer advice to be less biased, you should try checking out product reviews from your fellow archers on forums or comparison videos online. The latter will ensure that you get a good idea about how arrows perform comparatively.
Consult Bolt Makers Directly
Maybe you don’t want to take advice from a third party. If that is the case, you should try consulting the makers of the bolt you’re interested in directly. Most bolt makers are super passionate about their products and are always looking for ways to improve them, so their customer support and information resources are usually super good.
There are a few ways you could go about this too. You could call them and ask about how compatible a bolt is with your crossbow of choice, you could shoot them an email, or you could consult their website about which bolts are compatible with a given type of crossbow.
Consulting a bolt maker directly cuts out the middleman and a whole ton of guesswork too.
Type of Nock
There are loads of variables to consider when choosing a bolt for your crossbow (as you can probably tell by now) and one of the most important is the nock style you choose. Why is the type of nock important? Well, the nock is the recessed end of the arrow that comes in contact with the prong string, which means it’s the part that receives the initial transfer of kinetic energy from the bow, which will fire the bolt.
This means that the nock affects the power of your shot and how quickly you’re able to reload your crossbow in between shots. Other things that are affected by the type of nock you have on your bolts are the rate at which your prong strings wear, and even the accuracy of your shots depending on the material and durability of your nock.
Length of the Shaft
If you have any experience shooting a bow and arrow, then you know that length definitely matters. This principle translates to practicing archery with a crossbow too, as the length of the bolt can affect the power of your shots, your accuracy, and your efficiency in hunting scenarios. This being said, how do you know what bolt length is right for you?
The length of your bolt is usually determined by the size of your crossbow, as certain bow sizes are graded for certain bolt lengths. Typically, manufacturers will include the maximum length and weight of a bolt graded for use in your bow of choice. Do your best to stick to this length as failing to do so could cause excessive wear and tear to your unit.
Diameter of the Bolt
If you don’t deal with numbers on a daily basis, then the chances are that the last time you heard the term “diameter” was in grade school. Basically, diameter is half the circumference or “width” of a cylindrical object, which, in this case, is your bolt. The diameter of your bolt is really important as it can affect your overall performance.
How does the diameter of your bolt affect your performance? Bolts that have a smaller diameter tend to be less affected by adverse weather conditions like strong gusts of wind and heavy downpours because they create less wind resistance. Larger bolts create more resistance but do better over short distances in terms of accuracy and consistency.
Consider the Type of Game You’re Hunting
While there are bolt tips that have to be used for ethical hunting, the remaining configuration is largely subjective. Considering the type of game you’re hunting, the terrain you’ll have to traverse, your personal preference, and the probable weather conditions you’ll encounter will ensure that you have the optimal hunting experience.
Remember that a bigger game requires bolts that are capable of carrying more energy to pack a bigger punch on impact. The type of bolt you’re using can also vary in effectiveness based on the distance you’re taking your shot from, so be sure to check out the most effective distance your bolt is capable of firing at for the game you have in mind.
The Best Crossbow Bolts
Now that you know what you should look out for when you’re choosing a crossbow bolt, we thought it would be a good idea to narrow down your choices a bit. These are some of the best crossbow bolts available that aren’t only good in quality, but they won’t break the bank either! This being said, let’s have a look at these bolts and what sets them apart from the competition.
Best Long-Range Bolt: VICTORY ARCHERY X- Crossbow Moon Nock Bolts
If you’re looking for a great quality long-range bolt for your hunting crossbow, then you should consider the Victory Archery X range. Victory has made quite the name for themselves on the archery scene, creating some of the best archery bolts money can buy, and they’re pretty reasonably priced too!
These bolts are also equipped with a nano-ceramic coating and each one is hand fletched to ensure the best possible flight upon release. These bolts are all spine aligned and ensure that you have the most accurate shooting experience possible, plus they’re a cool 20 inches and sold in sets of six which means you get tons of bang for your buck!
These bolts are designed to be used with a variety of different crossbows and are suitable for both beginners and experienced archers. If you’re looking to improve your long-range shots these are a great way to swing the odds in your favor and should make the learning curve noticeably less steep than using conventionally sized bolts.
Best Budget Bolt: TY ARCHERY Carbon Crossbow Bolts
It can be challenging to find new bolts if you’re working on a budget. Thankfully, the team over at TY archery has you covered with a pack of 12 bolts that range from 16 to 20 inches and are sure to serve you and your crossbow well. These bolts are built for hunting and are sold with nocks included in the pack so they’re ready to use immediately.
These bolts are super good value for money and are designed to give those who are new to crossbow archery a good opportunity to develop their skills. They have a total weight of around 402 grains, which includes the tips. These bolts are also easy to repair and take apart, which gives newcomers the opportunity to learn their way around the anatomy of a bolt.
These bolts are made of carbon too, which means they go pretty well when released. This being said, even if you aren’t a beginner, these are a good option if you’re looking for a couple of decent bolts to practice with as they are extremely durable and carry energy quite well. They look pretty cool too, featuring a black, white, and red color scheme that really stands out regardless of the setting.
Best Bolt for Young Archers: TENPOINT Non-Lighted Pro Elite 400 Carbon
If you’re looking for a good bolt for a young archer you should consider these from the Tenpoint team. They offer great 400-grain crossbow bolts that are an awesome choice for first-time crossbow users. They’re highly visible and have a length of 20 inches, which is just perfect for those looking to hone their archery skills for the first time.
These 400-grain crossbow bolts are equipped with a special Alpha-Nock technology, which allows the bowstring to lodge deeper into the nock, ensuring that each bolt gets the most amount of leverage over the nock’s surface area. This feature also makes bolts easier to draw, which can be a tricky thing to get your head around as a beginner.
They’re also pretty good value for money for standard 20-inch crossbow bolts, and they’re from a pretty reputable brand too so you’ll know that any budding archers using these will get all the after-sales service they need.
Tenpoint offers a wide range of 20-inch crossbow bolts, so when young ones are ready to upgrade, they’ll have a brand they know they can trust to provide great quality bolts that won’t let them down. One of the only downsides of this particular arrow pack is that they’re only sold in packs of three, which isn’t great value for money.
Best Aluminum Bolt: EASTON FMJ 20″ Bolt 3″
If you’ve been practicing archery with a crossbow for a while then you know that eventually, everyone settles on aluminum bolts, even if it isn’t for good. Why? Aluminum bolts possess the one characteristic that every projectile strives for, and that is constant rigidity. This means that they offer greater penetration and accuracy compared to composite bolts and arrows.
These bolts feature half-moon nocks that sit pretty nicely on any bowstring, and thanks to their rigidity and strength they tend to essentially melt through anything you shoot them at, especially large game. These are pretty light, to begin with, but there are a variety of nocks and bolt tips you can swap out to make them even lighter!
These make great crossbow bolts for deer too. Why do we say they make good crossbow bolts for dear? Well, they’re designed with a carbon core and aluminum jacket, which allows them to carry momentum in a way that can appear to be unnatural. What’s more, is that they are whisper quiet too, so they tend to give you a sense of confidence you just don’t get from composite bolts.
Best Overall Bolt: WICKED RIDGE Match 400 Alpha-Nock Carbon Arrow
Regardless of which sport you take part in, you know that the best gear isn’t always the most expensive, but rather whichever allows you to perform unrestricted and without too much artificial input. Balance is key, and we think that the Match 400 from the wicked ridge team offers you just that. These nearly 400 grain options are the best 22-inch crossbow bolts we’ve come across and offer great quality and performance at a reasonable price, and you can order them online!
What really makes these the best 22-inch crossbow bolts compared to others in its class is the fact that 14% of its weight sits front and center, which Wicked Ridge claims allows for groupings that are more than 20% tighter than average. They also feature the stainless steel insert Wicked Ridge is known for as well as their easy-to-use Alpha-Nock technology, which ensures that your bolt slips in and secures easily.
Its widely believed that stainless steel-carbon hybrid bolts are some of the most accurate around and considering that each bolt is straight to within 0.004 of an inch this comes as no surprise. This really is one of the most accurate crossbow bolts out there, and for their price, you could do a lot worse considering all of the bells and whistles included.
Best Heavyweight Bolts: GOLD TIP Nitro Pro
This is a bit of a niche section when discussing crossbow bolts. Why? Well, heavy bolts are used for long-range shots, and since rifles exist crossbows tend to be used for medium to close-range hunting. However, there are archers out there who enjoy hunting their game from 50 yards away, and even further. For this, you’ll need a heavy bolt, and we can’t think of a better one than the Nitro Pro from the Gold Tip team.
Why do you need a heavy bolt to hunt over long distances you ask? Well, the heavier the bolt, the more momentum it tends to carry over a distance, this means that lighter arrows lose their stopping power over large distances, whereas heavier ones hold their kinetic charge and use it to travel further and penetrate deeper into their targets.
What makes the Nitro Pro so special then? Well, with an internal diameter of .272 inches and an exterior diameter of .347 inches it is a thick projectile. Couple this with the fact that it has a brass insert that carries around 60 grain and you have an arrow that feels like you’re shooting a 45-caliber round. This is also one of the most accurate crossbow bolts we’ve seen in a while, so for all you long-range crossbow enthusiasts out there, we think you’ll really enjoy this one.
How Do You Know Which Bolt Type Suits Your Style?
Well, style is a pretty subjective thing, so just as you would do when buying clothing you need to see what works for you the good old-fashioned way. If you’re fortunate enough to live near a range of a pro shop they might let you test out a few arrows of varying weights and compositions. This should give you a good feel for what works for you and why.
Then again, your style and skill level will change over time, which means that the type of bolt you’ll want to use will likely change too. This being said, you should try and keep an open mind when it comes to the bolts you use as new technologies tend to provide lighter, faster, and more effective crossbow bolts every so often.
Now that you know what a crossbow bolt is, the two primary types of crossbow bolts, what you should consider when choosing a bolt for the first time, and what some of the best bolts are for certain applications, it’s time for you to get out there and put your newfound knowledge to the test. Remember to always be realistic about your skill level and application when selecting a bolt, and never to buy one just because it looks cool or because you think it will impress your buddies down at the range.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are They Called Crossbow Bolts or Crossbow Arrows?
This is a question that gets asked a lot by veteran archers and newcomers alike, and honestly, it’s up to you. Considering that they’re functionally the same and pretty easy to distinguish visually you can call them crossbow arrows if you’d like, but we recommend calling them bolts in the interest of comprehension when purchasing them in-store for the sake of the employees.
Can Crossbow Bolts Be Used as Arrows?
They sure can. Bolts were originally called bolts because they were much shorter than conventional arrows. These days, bolts are pretty much the same size as most arrows, if not longer in some instances. This being said, you could use a bolt as an arrow if you really wanted to, and it would probably shoot reasonably well too.
Is a Crossbow More Powerful Than a Bow?
This is up for debate, and if you were to ask an enthusiast of each weapon, they’d probably be a bit biased. The truth is that typically, crossbows put out incrementally more power than a bow and arrow, but not by much, which is impressive considering how both of these tools started out.