Most archers invest a ton of time, research, and careful consideration into buying a crossbow. While bow hunters and target shooters alike take choosing a weapon very seriously, they often just grab the first set of bolts they lay eyes on. However, whether you want to punch targets or tags, you definitely don’t want to shoot just any ole arrows from your sled. The bolts you choose can have a major effect on how your rig performs.
Finding the best crossbow arrows isn’t easy. The archery world is jam-packed with its own jargon, which can make discerning the difference between one set of bolts and another seem almost impossible.
We’re here to help. In this article, we outline a few key things to consider when choosing your new bolts. We even share a few of our favorite options to make things even easier.
Table of Contents
- Choosing the Best Arrows for Your Crossbow
- Best Crossbow Bolts on the Market Reviews
- 1. Bloodsport Hunter Crossbow Arrows
- 2. Easton FMJ Crossbow
- 3. Carbon Express PileDriver
- 4. Barnett Crossbows Headhunter Arrows
- 5. Carbon Express Maxima Hunter
- 6. Tenpoint Wicked Ridge Ranger
- 7. Easton XX75 Magnum Crossbow
- 8. Bear X TrueX Crossbow Bolts
- 9. Centerpoint Archery Premium Crossbow Arrow
- 10. Burt Coyote Lumenok Lumen-Arrow Crossbow Bolts
- Final Thoughts
Choosing the Best Arrows for Your Crossbow
Not all crossbow bolts are created equal. Here are a few key things to consider before you make your final selection.
The total weight of your bolts is extremely important to your overall performance. Measured in grains, the weight of your bolts affects their speed, trajectory, penetration, and susceptibility to windrift.
Lightweight bolts (350-400 grains) produce faster velocities and a flatter flight path, both of which work to increase downrange accuracy.
While lightweight crossbow arrows are a great option for target shooting, they have some drawbacks for hunting. The lighter the bolt, the more noise and vibration they produce upon release. Shooting lightweight bolts can also stress critical components of your crossbow.
Lightweight arrows are also more susceptible to deflection by wind, rain, and other obstacles. Because they weigh less, they also deliver less kinetic energy. Often, a lighter bolt doesn’t have enough power or weight to drive your broadhead deep enough to damage vital organs, especially when you’re shooting at longer ranges.
Midweight bolts (400-435 grains) are a great all-around option. These all-purpose arrows are suitable for most hunting situations, as the increased weight reduces noise and vibration while increasing energy and penetration.
Heavyweight bolts (more than 435 grains) offer excellent target penetration, making them well suited for hunting hogs or other thick-skinned game. However, the weight results in slower arrow speeds and a greater drop over distance. The trajectory of a heavyweight arrow arcs significantly more than a lightweight bolt. Accurately judging the distance to your target becomes absolutely critical when you’re shooting heavyweight arrows.
The diameter of your bolts also influences speed and penetration. Thinner arrows have less surface area, which reduces friction and allows the bolt to retain more of its velocity over distance. There is also less friction upon target impact, so the bolt can drive deeper and cause more internal damage.
Thicker bolts offer extra durability, which can be a major asset if your arrow strikes bone. Bolts with a wider diameter are also well-suited for target shooting.
Although the original crossbow bolts were made of wood, modern archers have the benefit of modern materials. Today, most crossbow bolts are crafted from carbon, aluminum, or some combination of the two. Both materials are lightweight, durable, and bend resistant.
Aluminum shafts are typically cheaper and quieter. Carbon is more durable and expensive, but less affected by windrift.
Fletchings are the stabilizing fins near the back of the arrow. Most modern fletchings are made of plastic, although other materials are available (even the traditional feather fletchings).
The length and height of the fletchings play an important role in flight stability. Fletchings with more surface area will offer better stabilization as the arrow flies through the air. However, large fletchings also create drag, which will slow the arrow down.
Low-profile vanes with limited surface area work best with aerodynamic mechanical broadheads or field points. If you use fixed blade broadheads, larger vanes with more surface area will help you shoot more accurately.
A Note About Nocks
The nock is the notch at the end of the crossbow bolt where the arrow seats on the bowstring. Although one of the smallest components in archery, this little plastic piece is one of the most important.
This is the primary point of contact between the arrow and the bowstring. It is the point where the energy transfers from your bow to the bolt. If your nock can’t hold up to the challenge, you’re going to have major issues with accuracy and performance.
Nocks come in a variety of designs. Most arrows come pre-fitted with nocks. However, not all nocks work well with all crossbows. Before purchasing new bolts, check the manufacturer recommendations for your crossbow.
Here are the most common nock designs:
- Flat – The oldest nock design, flat nocks are just a simple flat disc. This design provides plenty of versatility in arrow position. However, its flat shape often leads to the string slipping off the nock, which can result in a catastrophic dry fire situation.
- Half Moon – The half moon nock is shaped like a crescent. Resembling the letter “U”, half moon nocks lock onto the string and prevent it from slipping out of place. This nock type also ensures the arrow fletchings are correctly positioned every time the arrow is nocked.
- Half Moon Hybrid – This hybrid design seeks to combine the best features of the flat and half moon nocks. These nocks feature multiple grooves rather than one single concave “moon”. This provides more positioning freedom than the half moon without sacrificing string security.
- Lighted Nocks – A relatively new design, lighted nocks emit a lighted glow that helps you track the trajectory of your arrow. The shot-activated light allows hunters to better pinpoint where an arrow hits the animal. It also makes it easier to retrieve your bolts in the woods.
Check the Manufacturer’s Warranty
Before you start shopping for new crossbow bolts, the first thing you should do is check your crossbow’s user manual and warranty. Most manufacturers have specific recommendations for arrow length, weight, diameter, and nock design.
If you use a bolt that doesn’t meet these specs, it could void your crossbow warranty. It also increases the risk of personal injury and could damage your crossbow.
Best Crossbow Bolts on the Market Reviews
Bloodsport’s Hunter crossbow bolts easily fall into the “budget” crossbow bolt category. However, the company doesn’t sacrifice quality or performance in order to keep these arrows affordable.
Featuring a slim diameter (.344-inch outer diameter) and high-performance Blazer vanes, these bolts cut through the air at blistering velocities. Once they reach the target, they drive deep to penetrate vital organs.
Bloodsport Hunter arrows have a straightness tolerance of .003” and an overall weight of 300 grains.
Easton FMJs feature a hybrid construction that combines a high-strength carbon core and a tough, metal-alloy jacket. The outer metal jacket works to reduce friction and make target pull easier. The FMJ design also increases accuracy and provides deep, pass-through penetration for quick humane kills and easy-to-follow blood trails.
With a straightness tolerance of .003” and an inside diameter of .287”, these versatile bolts work just as well for target shooting as they do deer hunting.
Although Carbon Express PileDriver bolts are super affordable, they definitely aren’t “cheap”. These heavy-weight arrows drive deep to deliver serious knock-down power. Incredibly durable, impressively straight (sorted for straightness to .004”), and consistently accurate, PileDrivers offer plenty of performance for the money.
You can get PileDrivers with either a 20-inch or 22-inch shaft. Both have an internal diameter of .284 inches and come with universal flat nocks.
Barnett is best known for making affordable, high-quality crossbows, and they designed these affordable, high-quality arrows to compliment them. They come in a pack of five, which includes 100-grain practice points and half moon nocks. Since most Barnett crossbows recommend 125-grain points, you may need to upgrade your field points for better performance.
These bolts are far from premium, but they are sturdy and accurate enough to get the job done.
Carbon Express Maxima Hunter crossbow arrows have a two-in-one, dual spine construction that fuses two different types of carbon. The design promotes faster in-flight recovery and improved energy management for better accuracy shot after shot.
Maxima Hunter arrows also feature a patented BuffTuff carbon weave that enhances shaft strength. These bolts can easily reach 400 fps without breaking a sweat.
Each Maxima Hunter crossbow bolt is laser checked for straightness to .001 inches. They come with three-inch Fusion vanes, and the shaft measures .343” in diameter.
Although Ranger crossbow bolts are designed specifically for Wicked Ridge crossbows, they can be compatible with other rigs.
The arrows are fletched slightly off center with 3-inch Fusion Shield cut Q21 vanes, which provides excellent accuracy. They come fitted with 87-grain aluminum inserts and Tenpoint’s exclusive Superbrite Neon Green Omni-Nock. These high-visibility nocks are made with six small grooves that form three channels for your bowstring. This design erases the indexing issues associated with standard flat nocks.
Tenpoint hand-inspects all Ranger shafts to ensure tight weight tolerances of no more than + or – 2 grains. With a straightness tolerance of .003”, these are some of the most consistent bolts you can buy.
These mid-priced crossbow bolts work well for both target shooting and hunting applications. XX75 Magnum bolts are made from a 7075-T9 aerospace aluminum alloy with a hard anodized finish. This construction provides excellent strength and durability.
A relatively affordable option, Easton XX75 Magnum bolts are rugged, reliable, fast, and accurate. They also come fitted with your choice of flat or half moon nocks.
Designed for Bear X crossbows, TrueX bolts also work with some other crossbows that measure 12 inches wide when cocked. TrueX bolts are constructed of 100 percent carbon, feature stabilizing four-inch vanes, and are fine-tuned to produce consistent speed and accuracy.
TrueX crossbow bolts have a .005” straightness tolerance and come fitted with field points, inserts, and half moon nocks.
These Premium crossbow arrows from industry leader Centerpoint Archery feature lighted half moon nocks. These shot-activated nocks illuminate to help shooters track the flight path of their arrow, a particularly handy feature when you’re hunting in low light conditions.
Made from 100 percent carbon fiber, these arrows are built to tolerate the high-energy demands of premium crossbows. They also feature a unique ICE coating that resists friction for faster speed, deeper penetration, and easier target pulls.
Centerpoint hand fletches each bolt with three-inch, shield-cut Bohning X vanes and finishes them off with lead-free brass inserts.
There’s a reason most archers refer to their lighted nocks as “Lumenoks”. Lumenok is the original lighted nock and remains one of the best on the market. These are the brightest, most durable, and longest-lasting lighted nocks around.
Lumenok crossbow bolts are made with a 100 percent carbon fiber shaft, four-inch Blazer vanes, and your choice of flat or half moon Lumenok lighted nocks. Each bolt is hand squared to improve accuracy and is fitted with a Deep Six steel G HIT insert.
The quality of your crossbow arrows can have a huge impact on your shooting success. The best crossbow bolts will balance speed, durability, and accuracy. However, your arrows are just one component of your overall archery experience. No crossbow bolt, no matter how fancy or expensive, will work magic. Ultimately, you’ll want to spend plenty of time on the practice range to increase your shooting proficiency.