Hunting has long been accustomed to using a fixed blade broadhead to pursue whitetail deer. However, as mechanical broadheads have improved, they are taking over the broadhead industry. I know everyone has their own opinion and preference when they head to the store to pick up their broadheads for the upcoming season. But as we all know, each year new manufacturers pop up and old ones come out with the next best thing. Whether it is a brand new style of fixed blade or the newest designed mechanical broadhead, everyone at least looks right?
But in the end, most of us know whether we want a fixed blade or a mechanical broadhead before we even leave the house. Well, after talking to hundreds of bow hunters and having a few experiences with some different fixed blade and mechanical broadheads, I am going to give you my opinion plus some helpful information about which might be better for you. However, remember the saying; if it is not broken… do not fix it. If you have something that you like and it works for you, stick with it, unless you want to try something new.
First, we will start with discussing fixed blade broadheads. They are the first type of broadhead and will likely be around forever. I personally used fixed blade broadheads when I was younger and was shooting a lower poundage bow. This is where a lot of people start when learning to bow hunt as a youngster. Lower poundage bows do not produce the same amount of kinetic energy that higher poundage bows contain. Most mechanical broadhead manufacturers recommend a higher amount of kinetic energy for mechanical broadheads (more on this is discussed in the mechanical section). Therefore, you use a fixed blade broadhead when your bow produces lower amounts of kinetic energy and they work perfect for that. The other reason for using them is because you like them. I have never joined either side of the debate completely. I believe it is really a personal preference, but here is why a fixed blade broadhead is better. Fixed blade broadheads are generally more durable. You have a far higher probability of cutting through solid bone and a less of a chance of the broadhead changing directions upon impact on angled shots. For these reasons, they are a great choice, very reliable, easy to fix, and easier to re-sharpen the blades for multiple uses. All around, they are a good choice, not much negative to say about them from this standpoint. The best part is that they tend to be a lot cheaper.
Now we have the negative side to those fixed blade broadheads, and these reasons are the reasons that I switched to a mechanical broadhead as soon as I could. The first reason is it is far more important to align the blades with the vanes on your arrows. If they are misaligned, it could cause very poor arrow flight and horrible accuracy/consistency. Next, is the fact that after sighting in your bow and getting everything perfect with field points… you are going to have to start from scratch and take at least one of those brand new broadheads and target practice to re-sight your bow in using the broadhead. Fixed blade broadheads tend to fly very differently and many factors including speed, poundage of your bow, and weight of the arrow can change where they fly. Because of the way an arrow spins in flight, the general rule is a fixed blade will shoot high and to the right. As long as you are prepared for this, other than having to use a new broadhead to sight it in, I guess it is not so bad. The last problem, explains why I have heard more stories than I care to share about hunters saying, “I missed the deer” or “I do not understand why I missed”. I found that the answer to most of these stories and questions came back to the fact that they were taking longer than 20 yard shots on a windy day. Some people say I am wrong about this, and a lot of people agree with me on the subject, but when shooting a fixed blade broadhead in the wind, over distance, it can change the flight. Thus changing where the arrow lands. I did an experiment in my younger days, shooting a lower poundage bow that was very slow, my arrow could change from one gust of wind to the next, anywhere from 1 inch, to almost a foot. The way I proved that I was not crazy and it was not user error was to shoot half dozen arrows on a windy day. Some I shot some during a gust, and some in the calm. I shot all these arrows within 5 minutes and during the wind, the location changed each time. During the calm periods, the arrows landed right where I aimed. I found this to be very discouraging and this is why I changed to mechanical broadheads (not that mechanical broadheads could not be affected by wind as well).
Please understand that these are my opinions and findings, and each person, bow, arrow, and broadhead could and would change the results that I had. I just chose to switch to a mechanical broadhead.
Next, we will discuss those “oh so popular” mechanical broadheads. Now a days you can walk in to a pro shop and find anywhere from 5 to about 40 different models. They each have a different focus point that makes them a little better than all the rest. I have personally only tried 2 different brands and found one I liked and stuck with it since. I am not saying I will never try a new one, nor am I saying some of the new ones are not better. It was just my personal choice to stick with a product that works well for me. I will say upon switching from fixed to mechanical broadheads that I noticed a huge difference. At the point that I switched, I was still shooting marginal poundage and had concerns about performance due to the lack of kinetic energy. I quickly found those concerns were not valid after finding the right broadhead. The first one I tried shot nicely, but the after shooting a fox, I found out it just was not opening properly and I was told it was due to the lack of kinetic energy. The second broadhead that I tried which is the one I have been using since, not only opened with my marginal poundage, but took a deer down in a hurry. As I talked about in the fixed blade section, mechanical broadhead manufacturers normally have a suggested amount of kinetic energy your bow should produce before using a mechanical broadhead. I found that some do not list it and some say it does not matter because their broadhead will work at any amount. The most common answer you will get is most mechanical broadheads require around 50 – 55 pounds of kinetic energy to perform correctly.
So, the good parts about a mechanical broadhead is that you do not need to worry as much about aligning the blades with your vanes and in fact a lot of people say it does not matter at all. You also have far less worry about re-sighting your bow in, as they fly almost exactly like a field point does. This reduces the need to re-sight your bow in, saving you money and time. I still always recommend shooting a broadhead that is new to you at least once at 20 plus yards to make sure it flies true like your field point. One of the other good parts is that wind does not really affect them and if it does then very little. I did the same experiment that I did with fixed blades with mechanical broadheads a couple years back and hit every shot dead on. They also tend to fly faster, and the best for last, normally do some major damage upon impact resulting in a fast clean kill.
The two most common drawbacks to a mechanical broadhead are that they require more kinetic energy and are normally more expensive to buy and maintain. However, the largest drawback to a mechanical broadhead which is why some people I know refuse to switch to them is that they can sometimes change direction upon impact and/or contact with bone (making a perfect shot nonlethal). I know many people say that this cannot happen, but on angled shots or straight down shots, I have not only seen it happen, but had it happen. I watched a shot taken at a deer that was perfectly broadside at around 20 yards. The shot landed slightly high in the lungs but also on a downward angel meaning a perfect double lung shot or so the shooter thought. Upon impact with the deer, it hit a rib completely changed direction and ended up turning upward and slicing the spine. Now this shot worked out alright since the deer dropped right there and the shooter was able to place one more shot on the deer. However, I was watching from my tree and it was the craziest thing that I had ever seen in my hunting career. Later after this happened I had an arrow go in through one side of a ribcage and end up coming out the front of the deer, on a perfectly broadside shot. The only way I knew it had changed direction is that the lung on the side closest to me had to be sliced in half horizontally as the arrow pasted by it. These are the reasons that I feel it is the biggest drawback. I have heard stories of guys hitting deer and it slicing along the skin but never fully penetrating the animal, meaning they were unable to harvest it. I cannot say it is the same thing I experienced but from the stories that I heard that is what they seem to think it was.
I will probably never switch back to fixed blade broadheads, even though I have seen some flaws in mechanical broadheads. I think the positive factors that they bring the table far outweigh the negative factors. I just wish they were not so darn pricey!