Fixed Blade or Mechanical Broadheads: which is better?

Mechanical broadheads have long been a point of contention between bow hunters, land owners, and government agencies because some hunters feel that they are an answer to a prayer while others feel that they are detrimental to a clean kill and thus, some people would like to see their use banned altogether. However, there is also a significant amount of misinformation concerning mechanical broadheads flying around out there that has led to a misconception that all mechanical broadheads are bad and this propaganda has skewed people’s opinions of them. The truth is that in most cases, mechanical broadheads work just as well as fixed-blade broadheads but, they do each have advantages and disadvantages.

Unfortunately, mechanical broadheads have such a bad reputation that some landowners and government agencies have banned their use because they claim that they contribute significantly to wounding loss and the reason that they make this claim is that mechanical broadheads depend on the inertia of the arrow/broadhead combination to cause the blades to open upon impact and this action subtracts a minute amount of kinetic energy from the total inertia of the projectile and thus, this very small loss of kinetic energy allegedly causes the arrow to penetrate less deeply than it would with a fixed-blade broadhead. And yet, the real point of contention seems to hinge on the fact that mechanical broadheads have blades that pivot open upon impact as opposed to blades that are fixed in the open position while the arrow is in flight. Also, they are available in two different types which consist of “front-opening” designs on which the blades pivot at the front and “rear-opening” designs on which the blades pivot at the rear and then open upon impact with the target. When using mechanical broadheads to make sharply angled quartering shots, (a highly marginal shot to begin with; even with fixed blade broadheads!), the pivoting blades of the mechanical broadhead can cause it to deflect from the intended point of impact and thus, cause a wound instead of a clean kill. In addition, when the archer makes a poor shot and hits the shoulder blade instead the soft tissue behind it, mechanical broadheads are deemed not to penetrate as well.

A mere 15 years ago, there were no mechanical broadheads and even the compound bows of the day were more like recurve bows compared to today’s highly advanced compound bows. Therefore, not only were mechanical broadheads unavailable back then, the significantly slower arrow speeds made tuning fixed-blade broadheads a relatively simple process and thus, there was no need for mechanical broadheads. But bow technology has made considerable advancements since those early days and thus, arrow velocities have drastically increased as well. Modern, super fast, reflexed, compound bows are far less forgiving of minor misalignments between the broadhead, the nock, the feathers, and/or the shaft. Plus, any minor mistakes the shooter makes are greatly magnified by the bows themselves. Consequently, it has become increasingly difficult for modern archers to tune their fixed-blade broadheads so that their arrows fly true which, in itself, contributes to wounding loss. With the introduction of mechanical broadheads, hunters with fast, modern, bows now find it much easier to tune both their bows and their arrows to make their shots more accurate because, by folding the blades in against, or even into, the ferrule, mechanical broadheads eliminate the “wings” that fixed-blade broadheads exhibit which can cause them to plane off of their intended flight path; especially at arrow speeds above 300 fps.

Mechanical broadheads are inherently more accurate than fixed-blade broadheads, but fixed-blade broadheads are often less expensive and more durable than mechanical broadheads. Also, because fixed blade broadheads have blades that are supported by trusses resting against the ferrule, they are inherently stronger than mechanical broadhead blades which have to be able to bear the pressure of impact and penetration unsupported. The blades of fixed-blade broadheads are easier to sharpen than those on mechanical broadheads simply because they are fixed and there are many different high quality broadhead sharpeners on the market made specifically for that purpose. In addition, the blades of fixed-blade broadheads are much easier and significantly cheaper to replace than those on mechanical broadheads. Thus, if your arrow strikes a bone upon impact with the target or inadvertently strikes a rock after exiting an animal’s body cavity, it is a relatively simple process to either repair the edge or replace the damaged blade or blades on a fixed-blade broadhead. So, if you stop and think about it, there are actually quite a few pros and very few cons to using fixed blade broadheads instead of mechanical broadheads.

In conclusion, as long as you are not having trouble tuning your bow and arrows with fixed-blade broadheads attached, there is really no need to go to the extra expense of purchasing fancy mechanical broadheads. But if you are one of those shooters who simply cannot get your arrows to fly straight despite your best efforts, then switching to either rear-opening or front-opening mechanical broadheads may be the very answer you have been looking for. Either way, provided that your blades are sharp, you will be adequately armed. So, the choice is ultimately up to you!