- Lightweight: 350 – 400 grains
- Standard: 400-435 grains
- Heavy: 435+ grains
Lightweight bolts create a flatter downrange trajectory and boost overall speed. On the flip side, they produce vibration, noise, and stress. This increases the risk of damaging the crossbow itself. Lightweight bolts are also susceptible to getting deflected away from the target by wind, rain or dust. Therefore, they are suitable for shooting in open areas where the estimating distance from crossbow to target is more difficult.
Standard bolts are typically all-purpose arrows that most almost every hunting situation including any weather condition. They provide a decent balance between speed and kinetic energy. Their higher grains means that more energy is transferred from the bow to the bolt. They benefit from low vibration and noise as well as improved accuracy and penetration power.
Then there are the heavyweight bolts, which produce and retain a greater amount of kinetic energy than the other counterparts. The end result is deeper penetration. These bolts also have better in-flight stability in bad weather but they are prone to losing trajectory quicker than other versions, so judging distance accurately prior to shooting is critical. A heavy bolt is the best choice when hunting game in thick habitats. The Tenpoint Pro-V22 with its 436-grain weight is a great recommendation for hunting deer and other big game.
Crossbow bolts are made of aluminum, carbon, or fiberglass.
Aluminum arrows are the cheapest of them all. They are extremely robust on impact and not prone to shearing apart or arrow spine penetration. On the flip side, they bend easily and once that happens, they are useless. They are also heavy, thus getting weight forward of center can be a pain.
Fiberglass arrows bend naturally and have got better shock absorption. They fall in the mid-range of the price scale. They do have a few issues though including the risk of explosion if bent too much and prone to losing hairs that irritate the skin.
Carbon bolts are the straightest of all arrows and extremely durable when maintained properly. However, these solid benefits come at a hefty price. Carbon bolts are also dangers to use if damaged plus they are sensitive to correct arrow spine.
Nock and fletching
The nock is the part that comes into contact with the string of your crossbow. A good knock ensures maximum transfer of energy when the bolt is fired.
Knocks come in different types:
Flat knocks have a simple flat disk at the back of the bolt. This allows you to place the bolt anywhere on the string but it also increases the chances of a dry shot.
Half-moon nocks feature a single groove designed to grip the string of your crossbow. Though it offers minimal positioning freedom compared with a flat nock, the danger of the arrow misfiring or slipping is significantly reduced with the half-moon nock, so long as the bolt is loaded correctly.
Omni nocks are perhaps the most versatile of nocks as they have multiple grooves that can grip and press against the string, making it nearly impossible to load the arrow incorrectly. You can see them in our best pick – TenPoint Pro Elite.
Lighted nocks are the ones that glow when the bolt is fired such as the nock on the Summit Archery Products Victory Crossbow Bolts. These are very handy at night because they enable you to see them after they are fired.
Fletching refers to the fins around the back of the bolt and which encompasses the nock. Crossbow bolts feature three plastic fletchings and they can vary in length. Longer ones are better suited with longer shafts. The purpose of fletchings is to stabilize the trajectory of the bolt and keep it from swinging while in flight.
There are two types of heads; target points and broadheads.
Target points are suitable for practice. They have no sharp tips and only meant to strike soft targets.
Broadheads are perfect of hunting game. They are razor-sharp and can penetrate enough through animal flesh. If you can find removable heads the better because you can replace them if they get damaged. Expandable broadheads can shoot with stronger impact and penetration as their arrowheads only open when they are almost hitting the target. However, this kind of heads is a lot more expensive.
Shafts are usually composed of aluminum or carbon. They are both lightweight materials yet durable, bend-resistant and do not splinter. Aluminum shafts are cheap, quiet and available in a range of spines. On the downside, they do not shoot as flat as other bolts and tend to decrease in strength as weight adds up.
Carbon shafts shoot flatter and minimize wind drift better. However, they shed velocity much faster once fired and they are quite expensive.
Spine and straightness
Spine refers to the measure of toughness that the bolt has when the crossbow’s string is pushing against the nock. Getting the right spine is crucial because when the string fires, it produces vibrations that shake the bolt back and forth. These vibrations attuned to the stress that the arrow will receive. If the spine is incorrect, the bow will be inaccurate and reduce your chances of hitting the target.
Straightness determines the consistency of the arrow in flight. Make sure that to have more than one straight arrow in your pack. Each box has listed the tolerances of the arrows inside and you want the number to be +/-0.001. Keep in mind that no matter how straight the arrow is, if the spine is incorrect you will have poor accuracy.
Ideally, you want to have enough bolts for practice and making a kill. Go for a pack of 6 to 12 crossbow bolts.
Many crossbow bolts have no warranty but that’s understandable because these tools become damaged upon penetrating the animal flesh. That means you will be out shopping for another pack sooner or later, but that depends on how often you use them.
Choose wisely – how to understand which crossbow bolt type is the best for you
- Pay attention to both the field points and broadheads – they have to be of similar weight.
- NEVER use arrowheads and arrow shafts that are lighter than what is stated by the manufacturer. It will be as simple as dry-firing your bow, which can lead to malfunction, and even pose a danger your health. Heavier ones are okay, though.
- The most crossbow comes with practice field points, but you will have to buy their broadheads separately.