Among archery hunters there are two camps: loyalists who find a setup that works and stick with it forever and those always looking for the next big thing. If you count yourself among the latter, 2014 offers enough new gear to keep you busy, and broke, until a whole new crop of gear arrives next year.
To save you some of the headache and money, Petersen's Hunting decided I should put five broadheads to the test trying to find out which live up to their marketing hype. Those tested range from new takes on the classics to, dare I say, cutting-edge designs pushing the term broadhead into new territory.
All performed well enough to earn a place in quivers this fall, but a few stood out from the crowd. These heads were evaluated on the three Ps — penetration, price, and, that intangible but important factor, performance (which includes cutting diameter). Here's what I found.
I'll admit it: I have a hard time taking short broadheads seriously. They just look too cute to be deadly, but all the evidence, including personal experience on deer and antelope, is contrary to my prejudice. Cabela's STK-3
features nearly three inches of total cutting surface and a wound-channel diameter of 1 1„8 inches. The stainless steel blades measure .035 inch thick, so they should stand up to some abuse, though don't expect them to blow through a shoulder blade without bending or breaking.
What these compact heads do best is fly straight, particularly in windy conditions at long distances, making them the ideal choice for antelope and mule deer hunting out West or beanfield shots on eastern whitetails. In testing, penetration with the 100-grain heads was more than adequate, though not outstanding.
Priced at $25 for a pack of three, these are easily the best bargain of the bunch.
25 per three
Grim Reaper Hybrid
There's a lot to like about Grim Reaper's new-for-2014 point
, especially for commitment-phobes like me who have a hard time choosing between a fixed-blade broadhead and an expandable. These heads deliver with two stainless-steel blades fixed to the aircraft-grade aluminum ferrule and two additional expanding blades that fold back to increase the total damage diameter to 1½ inches.
And if that's not enough cutting surface for you, the back of the fixed blades are also honed to a razor edge, causing massive hemorrhaging should the blade not pass completely through. The chisel tip is machined from solid steel to bust through bone should your shot encounter a shoulder or rib. As such, I wouldn't hesitate to use them on elk, especially when matched with a heavier arrow to aid in penetration.
The Hybrid feels more robust than any other head in the test and was the top penetrator.
40 per three
Muzzy Phantom SC
Built like a butcher, stout with a knife block's worth of blades, Muzzy's
newest broadhead should slice cleanly through the biggest of big game, leaving a bloody trail in its wake. Though the company calls the two backing blades bleeders, at nearly ¾ of an inch, they're larger than some competitors' compact heads. The main blades measure a full inch in length and cut a wide 1 1„8-inch path through hair, hide, and muscle.
Considering they're crafted from .050-inch steel around a solid-steel ferrule, I wouldn't be surprised if bone didn't yield to these broadheads, either. But never count on such luck when you're making the shot. The four-blade design is finicky and may require some time-consuming tuning to get them to fly straight, particularly when fired at lightning speeds, but it's more than worth it.
The learning curve here for tuning is a small price to pay for excellent overall performance.
40 per three
NAP Spitfire Maxx
At 1 11„16 inches long, not counting the threads, the new Trophy-Tip version of New Archery's Spitfire Maxx
is a lean killing machine. That length in a 100-grain head creeps the front-of-center weight of your arrow forward, delivering greater impact and penetration. The hard, pointed tip also eliminates any chance of planing, ensuring field-tip-like flight.
This is all well and good, not to mention exactly what you'd expect from an expandable, but the Maxx's main selling point is a maximum cutting diameter of 1¾ inches from three offset fold-back blades. With internal spring clips holding the blades in place, there's a less than zero chance of premature deployment. In fact, the clips are so tight I was worried about just the opposite, but in shot after test shot, they never failed to open.
These heads performed best, penetrated admirably, and they're not overly priced...best in show.
40 per three
Rage's newest three-blade incarnation
looks more like an escape pod from the Death Star than a broadhead, leading some skeptics to decry it as a gimmick. I'd advise against passing judgment before you see how it performs. The main head, along with three rear-sliding blades, does some serious damage.
The company calls it Kore Technology, and we can attest the thing bored .45-caliber entry holes in our Block target. One can only imagine what it will do to a deer as the .035-inch stainless-steel blades expand to a bloodletting 1.6-inch cutting diameter upon entry. A replaceable plastic
collar solidly holds the expanding blades in place, and no matter what I did, I couldn't get them to inadvertently slip out of the locked position. Long story short, these bad boys will do some damage.
The Rages penetrated the least of all the heads, but not by as much as I expected.
45 per three