12 Best Crossbow Bolts to Buy in 2021 – Reviews & Beginner’s Guide

We may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through our links. At no additional cost to you by the way! Read our Affiliate Disclosure policy to learn more.

Are you looking for the best crossbow bolts for your new crossbow? There are so many of them out there these days and brands bring out new models to the market every year so finding good crossbow bolts or arrows can sometimes be a hassle.

We are passionate about crossbow bolts and arrows. We like to compare them, see which ones fly better and penetrate better. For this article, we’ve carefully selected the twelve best crossbow bolts to buy in 2021. Each crossbow bolt and arrow has been thoroughly tested and reviewed by the ForgottenHunter team.

We’ve also included a beginner’s guide in this buyer’s guide that you’ll find below the buyer’s guide section. There we explain everything you need to know to know about crossbow bolts and arrows, what the difference between a crossbow bolt and an arrow exactly is, and what are the most essential factors that go into the selection process of buying the best bolts for your crossbow.

Our Top Picks

Bloodsport Bloodhunter
REEGOX Crossbow Bolts
Carbon Express Piledriver
BloodSport 20-Inch Crossbow Bolts (Pack of 6), 0.003-Inch - 8110003,Multi , Black
REEGOX Crossbow Bolts 20 inch Bio Crossbow Arrows with 4-Inch Vanes(Pack of 12)
Carbon Express Piledriver Crossbolt 20in. Moon 6pk 52140
20″/22″
16"/18"/20"
20"/22"
325 grain
16″(368 grain), 18″(380 grain), 20″(425 grain)
20"(442 grain), 22"(479 grain)
Pre Installed Brass Inserts and Moon Nocks
Moon
Half moon and universal
Aluminum
Carbon
Carbon
6pk
12pk
6pk
$49.99
$30.99
$36.97
Bloodsport Bloodhunter
BloodSport 20-Inch Crossbow Bolts (Pack of 6), 0.003-Inch - 8110003,Multi , Black
20″/22″
325 grain
Pre Installed Brass Inserts and Moon Nocks
Aluminum
6pk
$49.99
REEGOX Crossbow Bolts
REEGOX Crossbow Bolts 20 inch Bio Crossbow Arrows with 4-Inch Vanes(Pack of 12)
16"/18"/20"
16″(368 grain), 18″(380 grain), 20″(425 grain)
Moon
Carbon
12pk
$30.99
Carbon Express Piledriver
Carbon Express Piledriver Crossbolt 20in. Moon 6pk 52140
20"/22"
20"(442 grain), 22"(479 grain)
Half moon and universal
Carbon
6pk
$36.97

The 12 Best Crossbow Bolts and Arrows for 2021

Best Lightweight Bolts

Barnett 16075 Headhunter Outdoors

Barnett 16075 Headhunter Outdoors
Available length(s)Weight in GrainsMaterialNock
20″396 grainCarbonHalf Moon

The 16075 headhunters Outdoors bolts are among the finest crossbow bolts Barnett ever designed. These lightweight carbon shafts have improved wall thickness for added durability and strength.

The black bolts are 20-inches long and sports 3-inch orange vanes for flight stability. They are very well balanced, better balanced than a lot of the arrows on this list. They fly true, are highly accurate, and penetrate well. They are specially made for the Barnett crossbows but also do very well on other brands.

The Barnett 16075 Headhunter Outdoors crossbow bolts are good for field practice and for hunting small to medium size animals, like deer and pronghorns. They weigh 400 grain(including a 100-grain field tip.) They come with 3″ vanes.

Barnett 16075 Headhunter Outdoors crossbow bolts have a straightness tolerance of ±.003. Each package includes 5 arrows matched with 100-grain points, also includes a 24F field point and moon nocks.

Sale
Barnett 16075 Outdoors Carbon Crossbow 20-Inch Arrows with Field Points (5 Pack), Black
  • Length: 20 inch Crossbow Arrows | 5 Pack of Arrows with Field Tips
  • Half-moon nocks | 13. 78 grains per inch, matched with 100-grain point; optimal accuracy and target penetration; also includes 24F field point and moon nocks
  • Five-pack of 20-inch crossbows arrows. 1-ounce arrows with strong, lightweight carbon shafts; improved wall thickness for added durability
  • Compatible with Ghost 350, Penetrator, Wildcat C-5, Jackal, Whitetail hunter II, Raptor FX3 crossbows and other models that take a 20 inch Arrow
  • 5 year manufacturers
Pros
  • Fly straight and true
  • Great for target practice and hunting small-medium size animals
  • Good beginner crossbow bolts
  • Durable
  • Budget-friendly
  • Includes limited five-year manufacturer’s warranty
Cons
  • Vanes can come loose after extensive use

REEGOX Bio

Reegox Bio Crossbow Bolts
Available length(s)Weight in GrainsMaterialNock
16″/18″/20″16″(368-grain)/18″(380-grain)/20″(425-grain)CarbonHalf Moon

These lightweight crossbow bolts from REEGOX are the best crossbow bolts for beginners and youth hunters. They are a great budget option for some fine field practice/target shooting crossbow arrows. You can also hunt smaller-medium game animals with them. They are very accurate, fly straight, and penetrate well.

They are made from high tensile strength carbon, which makes them remarkably durable for budget crossbow bolts, it’s the main factor why I decided to include them on this list. They are fine crossbow bolts for target shooting but you can also hunt with them on small animals as well as medium-sized with them.

The bolts are 16 inches in length, weigh 368 grain(including 125 gr field points) and they come with 4″ vanes. They have a straightness tolerance of ±.006.

You’ll find 12 bolts in the package with field points and inserted moon nocks.

REEGOX Crossbow Bolts 20 inch Bio Crossbow Arrows with 4-Inch Vanes(Pack of 12)
  • 〓►HIGH COST-EFFECTIVE,designed for beginners and youth hunters, these crossbow arrows brought you speed, kinetic energy and accuracy.
  • 〓►EXTRAORDINARY DURABILITY for extended use.
  • 〓►Length:20" .Suitable for: Crossbows/Xbows.
  • 〓►Standard point, insert and nock allow you to obtain accessories for repair with ease.Bolts come with 4" tpu vanes, inserted moon nocks.
  • 〓►After-sales Service Guarantee--Because we are professional,so excellence. We can provide best service when you own our arrows. Add to CART today and experience the joy of archery!
Pros
  • Accurate
  • Reusability
  • Standard point, insert and nock allow you to obtain accessories for repair with ease
  • Designed for beginners and youth hunters
  • Budget-friendly
Cons
  • Prone to bending at high speeds
  • Made in China

Excalibur Diablo

Excalibur Diablo
Available length(s)Weight in GrainsMaterialNock
18″ 352 GrainCarbonFlatback Insert (so no need for nocks)

Excalibur has teamed with arrow manufacturer, Easton, to develop the best crossbow bolts for the Excalibur Matrix series. The Diablo Carbon crossbow bolts are designed specifically for compact recurve crossbows. They feature a heavier front insert, which increases front-of-center weight for enhanced accuracy.

Designed with a flatback insert, which means no need for nocks which gives you much more reliable contact with the string. Thanks to the flat nock it doesn’t matter how you put them on you. The nock is threaded to use the special Excalibur arrow puller to pull the arrows out of the target.

They are equipped with a screw tip so you can easily replace them later on. These crossbow bolts are a fine pick for field practice and for hunting small to medium size animals like Deer and pronghorns.

The shafts of the Excalibur Diablo crossbow bolts are 18″ in length and feature 2″ vanes. They weigh 352-grains and they have a straightness tolerance of ±.001″. The bolts have a flatback insert which means no need for nocks.

Excalibur Diablo Carbon Arrows (Pack of 6)
  • 18 in. crossbow arrows with 2 in. vanes and reinforced spines
  • Comes in pack of 6 Excalibur crossbow arrows
  • Carbon arrows feature a flatback insert for more reliable string contact
  • Heavier front insert increases front-of-center weight for unparalleled accuracy
  • Can be fitted with both fixed and mechanical broadheads
Pros
  • Accurate
  • Durable
  • Fly straight
  • Good custumer service
Cons
  • Colors of the fletching can vary 

Carbon Express Maxima Hunter

Carbon Express Maxima Hunter
Available length(s)Weight in GrainsMaterialNock
20″390 GrainCarbonInserts and moon nocks installed, flat nocks included

The Maxima Hunter from Carbon Express is made of premium-grade lightweight carbon and some of their best crossbow bolts to date. They give hunters more speed and tighter groups at the range or in the stand. They are factory Fletched with 3″ Fusion vanes.

Carbon Express’s game-changing Dual-Spine and Tri-Spine technologies control the flex of an arrow’s dynamic spine to deliver up to 4X the accuracy of a traditional single spine shaft.

The Carbon Express Maxima Hunter Crossbolt arrows feature Dual Spine Weight Forward technology for rapid recovery and optimizing trajectory to ensure greater down-range shot placement for better flight and consistency.

Forward technology archers can expect half the oscillation and twice the accuracy from broadhead-tipped arrows. Offering faster and tighter tolerances than traditional carbon crossbow bolts, the weight forward design provides more retained speed downrange and improved accuracy.

The patented BuffTuff Plus carbon weave provides superior durability and accuracy. They are some of the finest lightweight crossbow bolts for field practice and for hunting small to medium-sized animals.

They have a straightness tolerance of +-.0025.

Carbon Express 52113 Maxima Hunter 20-Inch Fletched BuffTuff Plus Carbon Crossbolt with R2 Vanes, 6-Pack, Mossy Oak Treestand Pattern
  • DUAL SPINE WEIGHT FORWARD - 2 spines in 1 arrow to manage energy better and make crossbow bolts recover faster, spin 20% sooner, retain more speed, and deliver unparalleled accuracy
  • BUFFTUFF - Precision design with carbon weave for superior strength and accuracy
  • REAL STRAIGHTNESS - Laser checked for straightness to a remarkable 1/10,000 of an inch; Straightness of +/- 0.0025-inches is a maximum measurement, not an average
  • MOSSY OAK TREESTAND CAMO - Helps make the Maxima Hunter the most proven camouflage bolt in the Carbon Express lineup.
  • SPECIFICATIONS: Fletched with 3" Fusion Vanes, 20" size, 390 grains, 0.343" Diameter, 6 per pack
Pros
  • Accurate
  • Durable
  • Consistant
Cons
  • Vanes can come loose after extensive use

Best Standard weight bolts

BloodSport Bloodhunter

Bloodsport Bloodhunter crossbow bolts
Available length(s)Weight in GrainsMaterialNock
20″/22″325 grainAluminumPre-installed brass inserts and moon nocks

The Bloodsport original Hunter crossbow arrow doesn’t sacrifice quality or precision at the expense of value. This crossbow arrow is the perfect companion on any crossbow hunt. They fly true, are highly accurate, and penetrate well. The aluminum crossbow bolts work exceptionally well with today’s high-speed crossbows but also with 150 lb crossbows. They offer a great weight for retained energy and terminal performance.

They have a straightness tolerance of +-. 003. Each arrow includes a 12-grain aluminum insert.

BloodSport 20-Inch Crossbow Bolts (Pack of 6), 0.003-Inch - 8110003,Multi , Black
  • .003 straightness
  • 20" in length
  • Wild game innovations designed its new line of crossbows to make crossbow hunting an affordable pursuit for all hunters.
Pros
  • Accurate
  • Fly straight and true
  • Durable
  • Reusability
  • Good for high-speed crossbows as well as the 150lb crossbows
Cons
  • Often not labeled correctly, causing confusion for costumers

SHARROW bolts

Sharrow Crossbow bolts
Available length(s)Weight in GrainsMaterialNock
20″425 GrainCarbonHalf Moon

These budget carbon crossbow bolts from SHARROW are specially designed for crossbows but they are also suited for conventional bows. The lightweight carbon shafts have improved wall thickness for added durability.

They feature 4″ vanes, two blue ones white and they come with removable tips, so you can attach different broadheads easily.

The SHARROW bolts are the best budget standard-weight budget crossbow bolts for field practice and for hunting small to medium-sized animals.

My only point of critique is that the crossbow bolts from SHARROW are poorly packaged.

They come with half-moon nocks and field points. You can buy them in a pack of 6, 12 or 24.

SHARROW Crossbow Bolts Carbon Crossbow 20-Inch Arrows with Field Points (6)
  • Hi-tech carbon material construction,Extraordinary durability for extended use
  • Specially designed for crossbow hunting or archery shooting
  • 20 inches arrows with strong, lightweight carbon shafts, improved wall thickness for added durability
  • With Removable Tips you can attach different broadheads easily
  • Bolts come with standard 4" vanes, two blue one white, inserted moon nocks
Pros
  • Good quality 
  • Very reasonable cost
  • Fly with accuracy and give compatible groupings
Cons
  • Poor packaging

Ravin R138

Ravin R138
Available length(s)Weight in GrainsMaterialNock
20″400 GrainCarbonRavin Clip-on Nocks

These crossbow bolts from Ravin are remarkably quiet and very hard-hitting. They are designed for superior accuracy, speed, kinetic energy, and durability. The R138 crossbow arrows from Ravin have a premium carbon construction. They have 2” high-profile offset vanes and they weigh 400-grain total(including field tip or broadhead).

The Ravin R138 crossbow bolts are a fine pick for field practice and for hunting small to medium size animals like White-tailed Deer, and pronghorn.

The package includes six 20″ long arrows(without field points) with brass inserts and aluminum nock bushings. Each Ravin R138 arrow is 100% laser checked to be within ± .003″ straightness factor.

Note: Raven only recommends using their arrows and knocks due to the cocking and safety mechanism. I recommend you use these arrows for Ravin crossbows only!

Note: Use only Ravin-branded arrows with Ravin clip-on nocks!

Pros
  • Highly accurate
  • Quiet
  • Premium carbon construction makes them durable
Cons
  • Only for Ravin crossbows

Black Eagle Zombie Slayer

Black Eagle Zombie Slayer
Available length(s)Weight in GrainsMaterialNock
20″425 GrainsCarbonHalf Moon Nocks & Flat Nocks Included

Black Eagle’s Zombie Slayer carbon crossbow arrows are designed to optimize long-range accuracy. They are very accurate and penetrate well. What makes our Zombie Slayers a critical part of your arsenal is their unmatched durability.

The Zombie Slayer bolts from Black Eagle are suitable for all speeds and all types of crossbows and a fine pick for practice shooting and for hunting small to medium-sized animals like deer and pronghorns. The Arrows are manufactured with the tightest ± 0.001″ straightness tolerances to ensure you never miss that critical shot. They are 25% stiffer than Black Eagle’s executioner arrows.

Black Eagle tests their shafts by shooting through 3/4″ pressure treated plywood and several other materials. The arrows have 2″ vanes(Flo-Yellow or Flo-Orange). They come equipped with Zombie Slayer Brass Inserts.

The nocks are pressed fit and are not glued.

Pros
  • Very tough
  • Reusability
  • Fly straight and true
  • Good for field practice, hunting small to medium-sized animals
Cons
  • As soon as carbon is damaged and starts splintering, the arrow can no longer be used

Tenpoint XX75 Magnum

Tenpoint XX75 Magnum
Available length(s)Weight in GrainsMaterialNock
20″435 GrainsAluminumTenPoint Omni Nocks

Tenpoint’s XX75 Magnum aluminum arrows by Easton are incredibly accurate and consistent. A 2.5-Inch group at 50-yards, 7.6% loss of speed over 50-yards, 15.9% loss of KE over 50-yards. Fletched with slightly offset AAE EP-40 Elite Plastifletch 3 7/8″ vanes (vane colors can vary) which are engineered for consistent accuracy.

The arrows come with a neon-orange Omni-nock, which features six micro-grooves that form three bowstring channels that eliminate the indexing problem associated with half-moon nocks and capture nocks.

The Tenpoint XX75 Magnum crossbow bolts are some of the best crossbow bolts with aluminum shafts, keep in mind that they are prone to bending and less durable on impact compared to carbon shaft crossbow bolts.

Suitable for all speeds and all types of crossbows, they are good for practice shooting and for hunting small to medium-sized animals.

The bolts are inspected for straightness to within .003-inch and hand-sorted for weight tolerance to within two grains per dozen.

TenPoint XX75 Aluminum Crossbow Arrows with Omni Nocks 20", 3-Pack (HEA-002.3)
  • SPECIFICATIONS: 20-inch long, 435-grain (with included 100-grain practice tip) 3-pack of 2219 aluminum arrows; 2.5-Inch group at 50-yards, 7.6% loss of speed over 50-yards, 15.9% loss of KE over 50-yards
  • Shot-after-shot ACCURACY and premium CONSISTENCY from bolt to bolt
  • Fitted with a SUPERBRITE NEON-ORANGE OMNI-NOCK which features six micro-grooves that form three bowstring channels which eliminate the indexing problem associated with moon and capture nocks
  • PRECISION ENGINEERED BY EASTON, magnum shafts are inspected for straightness to within .003-inch and hand-sorted for weight tolerance to within two grains per dozen; BALANCED at 7% FOC (Front of Center)
  • Fletched with slightly offset vanes (VANE COLORS VARY) which are engineered for CONSISTENT LETHAL ACCURACY
Pros
  • High build quality
  • Very accurate
  • Good for practice and hunting
  • Lighted nocks
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Less durable on impact
  • Prone to bending

TenPoint Pro Elite 400

TenPoint Pro Elite 400 Carbon Arrows
Available length(s)Weight in GrainsMaterialNock
20″400 GrainsAluminumTenpoint Alpha-Brite Nocks

The Pro Elite 400 is a 20-inch carbon crossbow arrow that is durable, heavy-hitting arrows that can handle high FPS crossbows. They are fitted with a 61-grain aluminum insert, fletched with slightly offset 3.5″ Bohning X Vanes, and they feature TenPoint’s white Alpha-Nock and receiver for quick lighted nock installation.

Pro Elite 400 bolts are the best crossbow bolts for 400 fps crossbows and a fine pick for some practice shooting and for hunting medium to large animals. The only criticism I have is the ease by which the alpha-nocks come off. 

Pro Elite shafts are inspected for straightness to within .003 and hand-sorted for weight tolerance to within 2-grains per dozen.

The Alpha-Nock can be used in any TenPoint, Wicked Ridge, or Horton Crossbow Innovations crossbow.

Pros
  • Greater penetration
  • Very accurate
  • Reusability
  • LED light helps to track the shot
Cons
  • Be careful with the nocks, they fall off easier.

Best Heavyweigth bolts

Carbon Express PileDriver

Carbon Express PileDriver crossbow bolt
Available length(s)Weight in GrainsMaterialNock
20″/22″20″(442 grain)/22″(479-grain)CarbonHalf Moon and Universal

The PileDriver is the heaviest carbon crossbow bolt in the Carbon Express lineup. This heavyweight bolt creates maximum kinetic energy(KE) resulting in devastating knock-down power and bone-crushing penetration meant for hunting big game animals.

These crossbow bolts are highly accurate due to their spine consistency. The design delivers greater consistency and flatter trajectory shot after shot. The composite material is extremely durable at impact for exceptional reliability.

The shafts have a 0.348″ Diameter and they are fletched with 4″ vanes. Each bolt is precision sorted for straightness to ensure shot after shot consistency (straightness: +/- 0.004″)

Sale
Carbon Express Piledriver Crossbolt 20in. Moon 6pk 52140
  • BONE-CRUSHING PENETRATION - Heavy grain weight creates maximum kinetic energy and greater knock-down power
  • ADVANCED CONSTRUCTION - Ensures spine consistency for greater accuracy. The composite material is extremely durable at impact for exceptional reliability and repeat performance.
  • REAL STRAIGHTNESS - Precision sorted for straightness to +/- 0.004", for repeat maximum consistency
  • SPECIFICATIONS: Fletched with 4" vanes, 20" size, 442 grains, 0.348" Diameter, 6 per pack, plus 6 universal flat nocks
  • CONFIDENCE IS KEY - Designed for the hunter who wants ultimate penetration, the PileDriver Crossbolt instills supreme confidence when tracking even the largest of prey.
Pros
  • Weight forward technology
  • Highly Accuracy
  • Consistent
  • Devastating knock-down power
  • Bone-crushing penetration
  • Durable
  • Does not bend
Cons
  • As soon as carbon is damaged and starts splintering, the arrow can no longer be used
  • Does not include field points with the product.
  • Expensive
  • Not for beginners

TenPoint EVO-X CenterPunch Alpha-Brite

Tenpoint Evo-X CenterPunch crossbow arrows
Available length(s)Weight in GrainsMaterialNock
20″445 GrainCarbonTenpoint SuperBrite Omni-Nock

The EVO-X CenterPunch arrow is a highly accurate and reliable crossbow arrow. The arrow is 20-inch and weighs 445-grain. The arrow is fletched slightly offset with a 3.5″ Bohning x vane. The Evo-X CenterPunch is constructed from modulus carbon fiber which makes it very durable and long lasting.

The arrow is fitted with an 84-grain insert and TenPoint’s white SuperBrite Omni-Nock and receiver for quick lighted nock installation.

CenterPunch arrows are inspected for straightness to within .001″ and each package is weight-grain matched to within 1-grain per arrow. The arrow is available in 6-packs without lighted nocks or 3-packs with lighted nocks.

TenPoint EVO-X CenterPunch Alpha-Brite Carbon Arrows, 20", 001"
  • The Center Punch 20-inch arrow is fletched slightly offset and is fitted with an 84-grain insert and Ten Point's NEW Alpha-Nock or white Superb rite Omni-Nock and receiver for quick lighted nock installation
  • Constructed from modulus carbon fiber at 33 MSI (million-pounds-per-square-inch) and wrapped in an exclusive LAZER-TECH carbon weave, it is fletched with 3. 5" Bohning X Vanes
  • Center Punch arrows are inspected for straightness to within . 001 and each package is weight-grain matched to within 1-grain per arrow
  • Micro-grooves form bowstring channels which eliminate the indexing problem associated with moon and capture nocks
  • Carbon finish increases spine consistency by 80% and strength by 40%
Pros
  • Highly accurate
  • Does not bend
  • Extremely durable
  • Greater penetration
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Not for beginners

Crossbow Bolts and Arrows Beginner’s Guide

In this beginner guide to crossbow bolts and arrow you’ll learn everything you need to know about crossbow bolts and arrows and what you need to know before you buy them for your crossbow. Although this is a guide for beginners, even the most seasoned hunters may be able to pick up something useful from the guide.

When is it a Crossbow Bolt and When is it an Arrow?

Probably the first question many of you will ask is, what is the difference between an arrow and a bolt? To answer that question, we must go back to the history of the crossbow itself, which in fact goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks, who had already invented crossbow-like hunting and fighting tools.

But for the origin of the term bolt, we need to focus on the Middle Ages in Europe, where the term bolt comes from. In Europe (12th century), crossbows were the most common distance weapons used by soldiers of various European armies.

The projectiles they used or “bolts” as they called them, were only exclusively used for their crossbows. These crossbow bolts were shorter than the arrows the soldiers used for their longbows and they were much, much heavier.

They had no fletchings or vanes. Some of the bolts were even completely made of metal, these bolts could penetrate through chainmail, causing devastating deadly blows. Historians are still speculating about the exact origin of the word “bolt”.

The mainstream idea shared by many historians is that the word is derived from “a bolt of lightning.” The crossbow projectiles were so fast and their impact so devastating that the soldiers called them “A bolt out of the blue”.

Crossbow bolts from medieval times

Today, crossbow bolts have a length between 16-22 inches and arrows between 27-32 inches. However, most crossbow brands say that crossbows today shoot with arrows, but also admit that the terms bolt and arrow are interchangeable for crossbows. So today, both terms are technically correct for crossbows.

“If it’s under 16 inches, it’s a bolt,” says Phillip Bednar, director of marketing for TenPoint Crossbows. “Sixteen inches or more is considered an arrow. We shoot 20- and 22-inch arrows.”

The Anatomy of Crossbow Bolts and Arrows

Every crossbow bolt and arrow, regardless of its nature, brand, manufacturer, or length consists of a shaft, which is the main body of the bolt, with a point or broadhead attached to the front end for penetration.

An example of a modern crossbow bolt

Most modern bolts and arrows come with vanes/fletchings to stabilize the bolt’s trajectory during flight. They are found at the back of the bolt. These bolts typically feature three vanes that are shorter than the fletchings of your traditional longbow arrow.

The last important part of a crossbow bolt is the nock, this is a small piece of plastic or aluminum that is attached to the bottom end of the bolt’s shaft. It helps to keep the arrow in place when you draw your crossbow.

Check your crossbow’s requirements and warranty

The first and also most important thing you should do if you are planning to buy new bolts or arrows for your crossbow is to check the requirements of your crossbow listed in the crossbow’s manual (if there is no manual in the package, you can often find the instructions on the crossbow brand’s website).

Crossbow bolts and arrows that are not compatible with a particular crossbow can damage the crossbow, or even worse be hazardous for the user’s health. Also, when you use a bolt or arrow that does not meet the manufacturer’s recommended specifications could void your warranty.

Shaft Material

The best crossbow bolts and arrows used for hunting today are made of carbon fiber, aluminum, or a combination of both. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks that I will lay out below.

Carbonfiber Shafts

Carbon shafts are most commonly used by crossbow hunters today. They are tougher, more durable, have a stiffer spine, and weigh less compared to aluminum shafts. Because carbon arrows are lighter than aluminum crossbow bolts, they are faster and have a flatter shooting trajectory. They are the best choice for faster crossbows. Shafts that are made of carbon also have the advantage that they can flex and bend without breaking.

Pros

  • Penetrates the best
  • More Accurate
  • Ability to flex and bend without breaking
  • Less wind drift
  • “Flatter” shooting

Cons

  • More expensive than aluminum shafts
  • Repairing carbon crossbow bolts is more difficult

Aluminum Shafts

Bolts and arrows that are made from high-grade aircraft aluminum are cheaper than carbon arrows and they are less durable on impact. Aluminum arrows bend easier, so you should keep a close eye on whether they are still straight. Once an aluminum shaft is bent, it is very difficult to straighten it again, However, they are relatively easy to repair if you have the proper tools.

Aluminum bolts and arrows have a stiffer spine and they usually weigh more because the aluminum is denser than a shaft made of carbon fiber. They do offer a high level of accuracy and energy, an aluminum bolt reaches its target faster.

Pros

  • High level of accuracy and energy
  • Precise weight and spine specs
  • More weight to them
  • Easy to repair with the proper tools
  • Cheaper

Cons

  • Less durable on impact
  • Bends easier

Aluminum-Carbon Combination Shafts

You also have bolt shafts that are made from a combination of aluminum and carbon-fiber. These shafts consist of a layer of aluminum and a layer of carbon, like for example the Easton Full Metal Jacket(which is included in the buyer’s guide section of this article) they combine the best of both worlds. They are strong, light, and can fly far. They are slightly more expensive than carbon shafts.

Pros

  • Combines the best of both worlds
  • Improved precision and penetration
  • Extra weight to stabilize arrow flight

Cons

  • Most expensive

Fiberglass and Wooden Shafts

There are also bolts and arrows with fiberglass and wooden shafts but these are not safe to use with most modern crossbows. I wouldn’t recommend buying them for crossbow usage(unless the user manual of your crossbow says otherwise).

Weight in Grains

Now that you know which material you prefer for the shaft, the next thing that you need to do is to determine the correct weight of the shaft. The weight of a crossbow bolt or arrow is the most important factor for penetration and it plays a major role in how much range you will have with it. So you definitely want to pick bolts with the right weight to them for your crossbow.

It is really important that the weight of a series of crossbow bolts is identical. A heavier arrow has more mass and maintains its speed longer, while a lighter arrow slows down sooner but also reaches its target faster. Side winds make it more difficult for a heavier arrow to leave its course.

Bolt manufacturers express the weight of a bolt shaft and arrow shaft in either the total weight in “grains” (for example 400-grain) or with a GPI (Grains-Per-Inch) value. A GPI value can easily be converted into the total weight in grains.

To calculate this by taking the length of a bolt’s shaft in inches (for example 20″) and multiply it with the GPI(for example(GPI20″), then you get the total weight of the bolt in grains, which is in the example’s case 20 x 20 = 400 grains total.

Important is that you add the 100-grains from the field point to get the total weight of the bolt, so the bolt of our example weighs 500 grains total.

The best way to find crossbow bolts with the correct weight for your crossbow is to check the manufacturer’s recommendations or requirements, which should be included in the user manual.

Lightweight bolts(350 to 399 grains)

Lightweight bolts are the best crossbow bolts for field practice and competition shooting, they are the ideal bolts for beginners to get some experience before using the heavier bolts and arrows. Because they are so light in weight they reach high speeds with a flatter trajectory than heavier bolts and they drop less fast.

The lightweight of these bolts also makes them more susceptible to rain and wind. Important to consider is that the lighter a bolt is the less energy it transfers to the limbs of your crossbow. This results in excess vibration, which is not good for your crossbow’s durability, especially if you have a high-velocity crossbow.

Standard weight bolts(400 to 440 grains)

Standard weight bolts are the most commonly used bolts for modern crossbows today. They of course suffer less from wind and rain than the lightweight bolts, and they are much more accurate over long distances. Standard weight bolts are the best crossbow bolts for hunting smaller to medium-sized animals, like a beautiful large whitetail buck.

Heavyweight bolts(440 grain and above)

Heavyweight bolts are only meant to be fired from for high-velocity crossbows, they are the best crossbow bolts for hunting the bigger animals, like elk, moose, and bears.

Heavyweight bolts deliver the maximum kinetic energy and offer the greatest knock-down power. They are the best in-flight stability and are the least likely to deflect in windy conditions. They do lose trajectory downrange, dropping rapidly at longer distances, so proper judgment of target distance is crucial.

As I mentioned before, crossbow bolts measure a length in the range of 16-22 inches with the average being 20 inches, and arrows in the range of 27-32 inches, as I mentioned before, the terms are interchangeable for crossbows.

Length

The best thing you can do to determine the correct bolt length for your crossbow is to check the requirements of your crossbow in the owner’s manual and see what length the manufacturers recommend.

What is most important is that you never have a bolt shorter than the crossbow groove, or you risk damaging the crossbow. The proper bolt length for your crossbow should be the same as the groove of the crossbow.

Spine

You can categorize spines into two types; static spine and dynamic spine. You also have bolt and arrows with a dual spine. A bolt or an arrow with a double spine contains both spine types.

Carbon arrows are labeled to indicate their spine deflection. These spine sizes range from 260 to 500. A value of 260 indicates the stiffest spine and a value of 500 indicates the lightest and most flexible spine.

Note: Any spine over 400 is recommended for crossbows.

Carbon-aluminum arrows are also measured by spine deflection. An example of a spine stiffness rating for carbon-aluminum combination shafts: 3-60/340 means three wraps of carbon-fiber with an aluminum core tube diameter of 60 and a spine stiffness rating of 340.

Aluminum arrows are labeled by their outside diameter and the wall thickness of the shaft.

Shaft Diameter

The shafts of crossbow bolts and arrows have a fixed inner diameter (ID), and an outside diameter of either 9/32″ or 5/16″. There are also smaller diameter bolts. They’re referred to as Slim, Micro-Diameter, or Ultra-Micro Diameter, they typically have a diameter of 1/4″ up to 17/64″ O.D. A big downside of these small diameter shafts is that they don’t accept standard nocks and inserts.

Note: crossbow bolts should have a minimum inside diameter of .297″.

Straightness

Most carbon crossbow bolts and arrows are advertised to have a straightness tolerance between .001″ and .006″. The best crossbow bolts have a straightness of 0.01″. The straighter a bolt is, the less chance it has of bending in flight, and the more expensive the bolt will usually be.

Picking the Right Nock

The nock is a small piece made from either plastic or aluminum in most cases, and it is attached to the back of the shaft of the bolt behind the fletching/vanes.

The purpose of a nock is to ensure proper arrow & string alignment when the bolt is in place as you line up for the shot. Due to the variations in string thickness and arrow diameter, there are various sizes and types available. There are also various colors available. Always check your nock points for defects, a defective nock can give your arrow a very strange swing.

There are basically four knock design types out there, flat moon nocks, half-moon nocks, half-moon hybrid nocks, and capture nocks. I will explain all of them below.

An example of a flat nock
Flat nock
Half Moon Nocks Example
Half moon nocks
An example of a capture nock
Capture nock
An-example-of-a-Half-moon-hybrid-nock
Half moon hybrid nock

Flat nock

The flat nock is as its name suggests, a nock with a flat surface allows the string to apply mechanical force to the arrow and launch it from the crossbow. It is the oldest design for a nock. With flat nocks, there is no concern about how they are oriented, the arrow can be installed in any vane orientation,

Half-moon nock

The half-moon nock features a concave groove that aligns with the crossbow’s string. A half moon nock ensures that the crossbow string remains in the ridge when the trigger is released and stays with the arrow axis throughout the launch cycle.

String-to-nock alignment of the groove is important with half moon nocks. Correctly index the moon nock bolt when placed on the flight deck. If an arrow with a half moon nock is not correctly indexed it can lead to the drying of the crossbow.

Half moon hybrid nock

A half-moon hybrid nock is a moon nock with multiple concave cutouts. They fit on the string of your crossbow like a half-moon nock but you can mount the arrow to the string in multiple vane configurations like the flat nock.

Capture nock

Capture nocks are essentially half-moon nocks but with deeper grooves. They still have flat surfaces and corners. The capture nock eliminates vertical travel of the string relative to the arrow axis.

Lighted nocks

Lighted nocks are nocks that are illuminated, they have a LED light build into them. Crossbow bolts with lighted nocks are ideal for when you find yourself hunting in dark situations.

The lighted nocks allow you to see the arrow impact the animal you’re shooting at and the light makes it of course easier to track the animal and retrieve the bolt.

Note: They are not legal in all states so check your state’s regulations if you want to use lighted nocks for hunting.

Lighted nocks

Brand specific nocks

Some crossbow brands come with custom nocks(which are mostly half-moon hybrid nocks) for their crossbow bolts.

For example: the Omni-Nock from Tenpoint design features six micro-grooves that form three bowstring channels that eliminate the indexing problem associated with half-moon and capture nocks.

Tenpoint’s Omni-Nock also prevents flat-nock “shoot-over” or “shoot-under”, a growing problem with today’s narrow crossbows with acute string angles. These nocks are to be used on specific crossbows that require them.

Note: Crossbow manufacturers have different recommendations for the type of nocks that should be used on bolts fired from their crossbows. You should always stick with their recommendations.

Note: If your crossbow manufacturers recommend you to shoot flat nocks, you can also shoot a bolt or arrow with a moon nock, hybrid nock, or flat nock. BUT when they recommend using moon nocks you CANNOT shoot flat nocks, or you risk damaging the crossbow, and more importantly, it could be hazardous to your health.

Tip

Field points

Target arrow tips called field points or target points are designed to be aerodynamic for the best arrow flight. They are used for target practice or competition shooting.

Crossbow Bolt and arrow tips typically weigh 100 or 125 grains(which is most often included in the total weight in grains an arrow is labeled/marketed with.)

Broadheads

A broadhead is an arrow point with two or more blades that can be attached to the shaft of an arrow or bolt, replacing its field tip.

The purpose of a broadhead is to create the necessary blood loss needed to hunt bigger game animals like for example; an Elk, Buffalo, or bears.

Installing some broadheads on the best crossbow bolts and arrows

Broadheads weigh from 75-grain to 250-grain. If you want to pair the best crossbow bolts and broadheads of 2021, you can check out this article, where I tackle all broadhead-related questions and explain to you step-by-step how to pick the best broadheads for your crossbow bolts or arrows.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Crossbow Bolts and Arrows

What Crossbow Bolts Should I Buy for Pistol Crossbows?

The pistol crossbow is a slightly smaller version of the well-known products in the category crossbow. This type of crossbow makes it possible to shoot accurately with small bolts at short distances. Bolts for pistol crossbows are typically 6 inches or 9 inches. Aluminum bolts are recommended for pistol crossbows.

What are the Best Crossbow Targets for Practice Shooting?

In this article, we list our picks of the best crossbow targets in 2021 and why we recommend each target. In the article we’ll also explain the different types of crossbow targets available and what features you want to look for before you buy a crossbow target. The article also includes a target that is designed for broadhead target practice.

Doing some target shooting with crossbow bolts and arrows

Final Thoughts

As you may know by now, which crossbow bolts or arrows are the right choices for you depends on many factors, besides all the factors already mentioned in this article it also depends on your budget and your personal hunting style. We hope we have been able to help you find the perfect bolt or arrow for your crossbow. If you are not quite sure which crossbow bolt or arrow is best for your situation, feel free to leave a comment and if you have any other questions about crossbow bolts and arrows, we will be happy to help.

Leave a Comment

16 − 9 =