Talk to any archery hunter who is REALLY taking the time to nail down and properly tune their setup and odds are they shoot a fixed blade broadhead. It's no coincidence the folks who sweat the details and strive for perfection shoot fixed blades. However, that doesn't mean fixed blade broadheads are perfect nor a one sized fits all solution.
Back when I started bowhunting, there were not too many choices for broadheads. In fact, in the early 1980’s you could pick from fixed, fixed, or fixed blade broadheads. It is how us “older folks” cut our teeth. The biggest issue back then was deciding between 2, 3, or 4 blades. The 2 blade guys were debating between permanent vs removable bleeder blades, and most hunters were on the fence between cut on contact and chisel tips. Fun times! In todays broadhead market, you can find everything under the sun. Actually, it can be down right confusing at best trying to make a decision on what broadhead to purchase. There are a lot of great choices available for sure, and in this article we are going to give a brief overview of fixed blades and what is considered the best and worst about them.
Fixed blade popularity seems to ebb and flow much like the rest of the archery industry. Simply put, what was popular several years ago and replaced by the “next best thing” is now back to being the “new best thing”. The reason for that, at least when we look at fixed blade broadheads is largely in part to one of its greatest attributes and that is durability.
Fixed blade broadheads are nothing if not durable. Because of this durability, you have a broadhead with an increased chance of staying intact under high stress, along with the ability to keep cutting when you have encountered heavy bone. Not only that, but in cases of a pass through or even a miss, you can most often clean them off, sharpen them, and be back in business. This also lends itself to some financial savings for those on a budget and unable to continuously replace a “one and done” broadhead.
Along with durability, another great attribute to a fixed blade broadhead is dependability. With no moving parts, no bands, no springs, and no clips, the only thing that can go wrong is us. Left with no excuse, the hunter is now the focal point for poor shot placement rather than a failed broadhead. The dependability factor is why some states, countries, and outfitters have a “no mechanical” regulation or policy.
Another factor that lends to the popularity of a fixed blade is penetration. There is no doubt that a good single bevel broadhead can shine when it comes to encounters with bones and still getting good penetration. The typical smaller cutting diameter of many fixed blade broadheads is also a factor in greater penetration when compared to that of many larger mechanicals. Cut on contact, chisel, and trocar style tips followed by thick blades whether replaceable or machined create a durable, dependable, and great penetrating combination.
When we talk about some of the factors that cause shooters so shy away from fixed blades, it is often related to flight. Many archers think that it is difficult to get a fixed blade to fly straight especially at long distances. While this may be true for some of the very large diameter fixed blades, it is not necessarily the truth across the board. Most testing will confirm that a properly tuned bow, with a properly matched and tuned arrow will send virtually any fixed blade down range like a dart. The issue here is that your average archer does not take the time to work and fine tune their setup. The ease of screwing on a low profile mechanical is just simpler for them, hence the reason for the inaccurate fixed blade flight information.
Noise during flight is another reason some people to choose a mechanical over a fixed blade. Many feel the design of a fixed blade along with cut out sections in the blades results in more noise and therefore an increased risk of spooking game. Once again, when we look at the testing we find that it is most often the fletching that creates more decibels that the broadhead itself.
The last reason we are going to mention that people often lean towards a mechanical is the larger wound channel. No matter what, a 1 inch fixed blade cannot cut a 2 inch hole all the way through a whitetail. So, a shot in the exact same location, that has the same penetration, could potentially produce less bleeding simply due to the size of the wound. Both heads will have the same end result as far as lethality, but the larger cut certainly could reach more blood vessels producing a more exciting blood trail.
It's important to state here that not all fixed blade broadheads are created equal. That makes it difficult to write “blanket statements” regarding all fixed blade broadheads as a whole. While most are built typically with thicker blades, there are some brands that have thin, fragile blades and therefore are not a consideration in this blog. Also, ferrule material can vary, as well as total construction making some fixed heads weak. There are multiple factors as well including types of steel and overall sharpness that can sway the opinion between two fixed blade brands that look similar, but function totally different from each other in the field. These “ugly” considerations should be on your mind when choosing a good fixed blade broadhead.
No matter how you look at it, fixed blades are a great choice for traditional, compound, and crossbow shooters. Just like mechanicals, there is a lot to love about a good fixed blade broadhead! No matter what style you choose to fit your set up and targeted game, take the time to practice and be confident in your choice! Good luck in the field!
Author: Chris Creed, Afflictor Broadheads