By Tracy Breen
-- Twenty years ago, beefy broadheads were the standard that other broadheads were compared to. Compound bows of the day were considered fast when they approached the 200 fps range. Broadheads like the original Steel Force Premium and the popular Bear models were what most bowhunters chose to use when hunting big game. They were large with huge amounts of cutting surface and could be resharpened and used multiple times.
When shot out of a relatively slow bow, large broadheads with four or more inches of cutting surface help increase arrow penetration. It is not uncommon for large heads on slow bows to pass through a whitetail, thanks to the amount of blade slicing its way through muscle, lungs, and bones.
The disadvantage to large broadheads is that when they are shot out of fast bows, they tend to catch wind and plane, causing problems with accuracy, especially at shots over 40 yards. With extreme helical vanes, some bowhunters are able to get large broadheads to fly better out of fast bows. Now there is a better solution.
Recently, a number of companies began manufacturing broadheads that offer not much more than an inch of cutting diameter. The length of the blades on many of these new broadheads is much shorter than most of us are used to shooting. The first time I looked at some of the ultra-small broadheads, I chuckled and wondered who in their right mind would shoot such a small broadhead.
However, some of the small broadheads began to win me over. While they don't have the cutting surface that many of the larger broadheads offer, they do provide extreme downrange accuracy. Given the choice between being able to group half a dozen arrows in the center of a pie plate at 40 yards or a group the size of a dinner plate at 40 yards, most of us would choose the pie plate hands down. Using a small broadhead can make a big difference, especially when taking a lengthy shot. I would rather have pinpoint accuracy over cutting diameter or blade surface any day.
Small broadheads can be as lethal as large broadheads because under normal shooting conditions, they pass through large animals due to the fact that high-tech bows deliver arrows at 300 fps or more. This much speed usually results in double-lung shots even in animals as big as elk and moose. With both lungs deflated and blood coming out both sides of an animal, it usually won't go far.
Critics of small broadheads point out that the steep-angled blades on some of the smaller broadheads can impede penetration. While this may be true, I believe accuracy is most important. When placed in the lungs, steep-angled broadheads will bring down most animals.
When marginal shots are made on whitetails and other game animals, larger broadheads may be superior simply because they may do more internal damage. But, if you can't hit the broadside of a barn with them, they won't do you any good. I prefer using small broadheads and a moderately heavy arrow. Together, they seem to be the perfect pair.
If you are thinking about trying a smaller broadhead this fall, read on. I have listed some of the best mini-broadheads on the market and will provide you with their specs so you can make an educated decision. Remember that in the last few years, everything including elephants, elk, moose, and whitetails has been harvested with mini-broadheads. Many of them are as sharp as a scalpel, very accurate, and easy to tune.
New from American Broadhead Company (603-332-2730; Americanbroadhead.com) is the Buckmasters Series. These heads are designed for whitetail hunters seeking a larger cutting diameter. The Buckmasters Dense-Max blades are made from durable 420 stainless steel. They get a special heat-treating process to ensure extra strength. Like all ABC Sonic heads, the Buckmasters have three replaceable blades. These heads come fully assembled, thanks to a new bushing system that holds the blades in place. The blades are .036-inch thick and cut a 1 1/8-inch swath. Buckmasters is available in 85, 100 and 125 grains.
G5 (866-456-8836; G5outdoors.com) is reintroducing the Striker - the company's first replaceable blade model. The Striker was so popular last year that G5 couldn't keep up with orders. Production is now in high gear to meet demand, so bowhunters everywhere should be able to get their hands on this hot new broadhead. For those who missed out on the details, the Striker is made from a solid piece of stainless steel - no aluminum. It boasts a unique blade-locking system - ANIX, which provides a full 45 degrees of locking power to each individual blade. They fit snuggly under the tip of the head, creating a rugged connection at the cut-on-contact tip. The Striker has surgical-sharp, .030-inch blades that cut a 1 1/8-inch wound. The Striker is available in 100 and 125 grains.
Steel Force (570-448-2845; steelforce.com) expands its line with the Phat Head. The name pretty much says it all. At 1 1/4 inches long, the main blade is a whopping .080-inch deep - likely the thickest head on the market. The head also has .015-inch bleeder blades and an overall one-inch cutting diameter. It's available as a 100-grain head.
"With the Phat Head, we wanted to design a smaller head that's extremely strong and flies extremely well," explained company President, Nick Giannetti. Another "mini" design from Steel Force is the Bullet. It's made from titanium and has a bone-splitting serrated edge. Dimensions are 1 1/4-inch by 1 inch (cutting diameter). It also has .015-inch bleeder blades and is available in 100 grains.
Wac'em Archery (801-465-5647; Wacemarchery.com) debuts the Exit - a new four-blade head designed for bowhunters who want maximum hemorrhaging in a compact head. The Exit retains key features of the original Wac'em - resharpenable, cut-on-contact tip, short, stout design and dart-like arrow flight. Wac'em employs a unique blade locking system that snaps its replaceable blades into the razor-sharp tip. The Exit has .027-inch blades, a 1 1/16-inch cutting diameter, and comes in 100 and 125 grains. For devotees of the original Wac'em Triton, consider the new Triton XL -- a bigger, beefier option. Blades are .030-inch, cutting diameter is 1 1/4-inch, and both 100- and 125-grain models are available.