Best Types of Crossbow Bolts For Your Needs
Bolts can make or break your whole hunt. Even the best crossbow in the world is almost useless with the wrong bolts. Personally, I’ve found using the bolts that are just right for my crossbow means I’m way more likely to land a precise shot. But what are the best types of crossbow bolts for you needs?
After much trial and error, I’ve put together a list of what I consider the best crossbow bolts on the market. One thing you should look out for is safety above all else and use bolts that are the right size and fit for your crossbow. If not, there’s a chance you can hurt yourself, or even damage your equipment.
When you’re trying out the bolts I’ve shortlisted here, make sure to check if they fit the specs your crossbow manufacturer recommends, and then pick the right one.
Best Crossbow Bolts by Category
The first part of choosing the right bolt comes down to knowing what you plan to use it for, because different crossbow bolts may perform very differently in the same situation. The bolt that might be good for a veteran hunter is not going to be the best choice for someone who is taking up shooting for the first time. So, instead of ranking the crossbow bolts, I’ve chosen the ones that are the best for each category.
Best Crossbow Bolts
TenPoint EVO-X CenterPunch
Best For Hunting
TenPoint Lighted Pro Elite 400
Carbon Express PileDriver
Easton FMJ Crossbow
Black Eagle Executioner
Best Crossbow Bolts Specifications
Below is a table of the crossbow bolt specs. Click the name of the bolt to jump to that review.
|Best Crossbow Bolts||Length (in)||Weight With Point (grains)||Straightness (in)||Nocks|
|TenPoint EVO-X CenterPunch||20||465||0.001||Alpha-Blaze Lighted Nock|
|TenPoint Lighted Pro Elite 400||20||400||0.003||Alpha-Nock|
|Carbon Express PileDriver||20||442||0.004||Lighted Moon Nocks|
|Easton FMJ Crossbow||22||274||0.003||Moon Nocks|
|REEGOX Bolts||16||368||0.001||Moon Nocks|
Best Crossbow Scopes
Here is our list for the best crossbow bolts:
- TenPoint EVO-X CenterPunch
- TenPoint Lighted Pro Elite 400
- Carbon Express PileDriver
- Easton FMJ Crossbow
- REEGOX Bolts
- Black Eagle Executioner
Best Crossbow Bolts – Reviews
Let’s take a detailed look at each of these crossbow bolts alongside their specs to see why I believe they are the best in their category.
TenPoint EVO-X CenterPunch Specs
- Length (in) 20
- Weight with Point (grains) 465
- Straightness (in) 0.001
- Nock Alpha-Blaze Lighted Nock
TenPoint EVO-X CenterPunch Review
TenPoint is a familiar name for any serious crossbow shooter and, I have to say, they’ve knocked it out of the park with their bolts as well as their bows. I think the EVO-X CenterPunch is one of their best and is definitely one of my favorites. They make these bolts out of carbon and, at a standard weight of 455 grains, they’re just heavy enough to maximize both penetration and flight. So if you’re looking for something that cuts deep and shoots fast, these are great.
I really do like the thought that TenPoint has put behind the design of this bolt. They have designed the high modulus carbon shaft with a hoop strength of a whopping 33 million lbs per square inch, and wrapped it in a high quality Lazer-Tech carbon weave. In short, this means they won’t crack under the pressure of a high-powered crossbow and can pretty much handle speeds of over 400 FPS. I found it pretty easy to hit a large game from a distance with the CenterPunch bolts.
TenPoint says each of their bolts are inspected for straightness within .001 inch, and each package of arrows is weight-grain matched to within one grain per arrow. So, I put this to the test. I bought a pack and was genuinely very impressed with how consistently the batch performed when I took them shooting with my CP400. I was easily able to group all the bolts on the target.
The only downside is that these bolts come with an Alpha nock. Alpha nocks are a TenPoint designed nock that are similar to a vertical nock, but doesn’t grip the string entirely. Usually, this design helps you shoot straighter bolts. This becomes a problem when some crossbow manufacturers specify which nocks to use and might void the warranty on your crossbow if you use a bolt with the Alpha nock.
It’s not an issue if you’re using the EVO-X CenterPunch bolts with a TenPoint or a Wicked Ridge crossbow (because TenPoint explicitly allows and even recommends Alpha nocks on their brands) but, if you use any other brands, you’ll have to double check the fine print before you load any bolt onto your crossbow.
Other than that, I’ve been using the EVO-X CenterPunch for over a year now and it’s been smooth sailing.
TenPoint EVO-X CenterPunch Pros and Cons
- Increased spine consistency
- Increased strength
- Consistent arrow flight
- Limited length options
TenPoint EVO-X CenterPunch Deals
TenPoint Lighted Pro Elite 400 Specs
- Length (in) 20
- Weight with Point (grains) 400
- Straightness (in) 0.003
- Nock Alpha-Nock
TenPoint Lighted Pro Elite 400 Review
Yes, it’s another TenPoint bolt but, hear me out, the Lighted Pro Elite 400 is a fan favorite and a lot of hunters swear by it. Pair it with the Grim Reaper Razorcut Whitetail Special broadhead and you’ve got an unbeatable combo for hunting deer. ****Best Mechanical Broadheads link****
It’s on the low end of standard weightage at 400 grains, and while that is not nearly enough penetrative power for large game like elk and moose, it’s perfect for Whitetail deer. In fact, I’d be surprised if you don’t manage to take down several deer next season.
People have asked me why I go with the standard Lighted Pro Elite 400 when a heavyweight bolt works for mid-size game as well. While this is true, the heavier your bolt, the more limited your range and speed so, I personally reserve my heavyweight bolts for bigger game.
The Pro Elite 400 also uses an Alpha nock. By itself, it’s not a problem and even great if you have a crossbow that allows the use of the nock. Just make sure your crossbow is compatible with it before using it.
The nock is also lighted (there’s an LED built into the nock) which is another significant benefit, if you’ll be out during lowlight hours.
Personally, I prioritize accuracy and shoot from a shorter distance, so I don’t really need a long range bolt for Whitetail hunting. Some of my other buddies vouch for the Victory Archer X, and that makes sense. It’s definitely better constructed, cheaper and hand-fletched. But, if you’re like me and prefer shooting medium-sized game from a closer range, the Lighted Pro Elite 400 is the one to beat.
TenPoint Lighted Pro Elite 400 Pros and Cons
- Advanced carbon fiber construction
- Easier visibility
- Greater string engagement
- Not enough penetrative power for large game
TenPoint Lighted Pro Elite 400 Deals
Best Heavyweight Carbon Express PileDriver
Carbon Express PileDriver
- Length (in) 20
- Weight with Point (grains) 442
- Straightness (in) 0.004
- Nock Lighted Moon Nocks
Carbon Express PileDriver Review
I’ve been mostly talking about standard weight bolts, but when you’re going after bigger game, you’d need something that can penetrate deep and crush bone. That’s where the Carbon Express PileDriver comes in.
From what I saw, these bolts are designed to maximize penetration. Their heavy carbon shaft packs incredible energy that can knock down even the largest game. So far, I have been impressed by their toughness and durability, and I haven’t broken any. Plus, you can use them multiple times.
That being said, one thing I did notice was that because of how heavy it is, it affects the speed. Every shot sacrifices roughly about 30 FPS (feet per second) but this isn’t a deal breaker for me because their penetration power more than makes up for it.
The Carbon Express PileDriver bolts are compatible with both half moon and flat nocks. They work the best with a Carbon Express crossbow, but they work just fine on the other crossbows too.
Carbon Express PileDriver Pros and Cons
- Powerful penetration
- Spine consistency for greater accuracy
- Reduced arrow speed due to weight
Carbon Express PileDriver Deals
Best Aluminum Easton FMJ Crossbow
Easton FMJ Legend Specs
- Length (in) 22
- Weight with Point (grains) 274
- Straightness (in) 0.002
- Nock Moon Nocks
Easton FMJ Review
I’m on the fence about carbon bolts, but if you’re an aluminum kind of guy, the best one out there is the Easton FMJ.
This bolt has a high strength carbon core wrapped with 7075 aerospace aluminum. And yes, I already know what you’re going to say, it’s not pure aluminum, but hear me out on this one. These bolts combine the best aspects of both materials. The carbon core gives incredible strength and penetration power and the aluminum makes sure it flies in straight at the target. The straightness of these bolts is +/- 0.002 inch for a batch which is pretty impressive.
The FMJ Legends are extremely reliable and very accurate. I use them mostly to target shoot and, the last time I was at the range, I easily grouped them. They were incredibly accurate for distances under 30 yards or so, and the accuracy only dips by a bit beyond that.
But like I said before, I’m not the biggest fan of aluminum bolts and mainly use the Pro Elite 400s to hunt deer, but I honestly wouldn’t mind using the FMJ Legends to hunt as well. Most folks who use them tell me they get clean pass-throughs almost every time. You just need to make sure you care for the aluminum wrap. They can and will break more easily than carbon bolts.
Now when it comes to precision, some folks consider the Wicked Ridge Magnum XX75 as the best aluminum bolt for the job and I get why, given how hard-hitting and accurate they are. But personally, I want some strength and durability in my bolts, and the Easton FMJ Legends are sturdier than all other aluminum bolts out there.
Easton FMJ Pros and Cons
- Boosted kinetic energy
- Deeper penetration
- Easy target pull
- Intermittent care required for aluminum wrap
Easton FMJ Deals
Best for Beginners REEGOX Bolts
REEGOX Bolts Specs
- Length (in) 16
- Weight with Point (grains) 368
- Straightness (in) 0.001
- Nock Moon Nocks
REEGOX Bolts Review
Let’s talk about beginner bolts. As a beginner, you shouldn’t really look for the best performing or deepest penetrating bolts, but instead something that’s cheap and durable for practice. The REEGOX is perfect for when you’re just getting started. You can move on to advanced bolts once you figure out the basics.
The REEGOX is a decent enough lightweight bolt weighing 368 grains. It can take a beating and you can practice with it repeatedly at the range, but most importantly, a pack of bolts is very affordable and won’t cost much to replace if you do end up damaging them.
It’s important to remember that lightweight bolts aren’t the best choice for hunting, not if you want to make a humane kill. So if you are like me, and that is something you are concerned about, I recommend sticking to target practice with the REEGOX bolts. Don’t get me wrong, they are good bolts, just not the most consistent or accurate. But for beginners who need to practice, I highly recommend them.
REEGOX Bolts Pros and Cons
- Not very accurate
REEGOX Bolts Deals
Black Eagle Executioner Specs
- Length (in) 20/22
- Weight with Point (grains) 323
- Straightness (in) 0.001/0.003
- Nock Flat
Black Eagle Executioner Review
If you are on a budget and want the best value for your money, I highly recommend the Black Eagle Executioner. They are dead straight, come in a twelve-pack, and with the right broadhead and nock, can give you some serious penetration. Each 12-pack is also spine matched, so you can expect consistent performance from every bolt.
It also comes with a brass Executioner tip insert and, when coupled with the bolt, can crush bone and cartilage to hit the kill zone. I honestly didn’t expect these bolts to do much since they’re fairly light when compared to the others on the list, but I was very impressed when I used it on a Whitetail hunt.
The only problem I have with it is the fletching at the back. I just wish they were better positioned on the spine to improve the bolt’s spin, but that’s just me nitpicking.
Now technically you can get cheaper bolts like the Barnett Outdoors Carbon Crossbow Bolts. For me at least, a good budget crossbow bolt is not the cheapest bolt on the market but the one that offers the best value for money. We can only really use the Barnett Outdoors Carbon with a few Barnett models and is not as sturdy as the Executioner. Because the Executioner is more versatile and has a stronger build, that’s my pick for this category.
Black Eagle Executioner Pros and Cons
- Designed for low-light hunts
- The vanes are not well positioned
Black Eagle Executioner Deals
Buyers Guide to Crossbow Bolts
If you are new to crossbows and their accessories, buying a good bolt can be a confusing process. It’s normal to feel lost and have a lot of questions. Let’s narrow this down and get you the right answers.
What to look for when buying crossbow bolts?
There’s just so much to keep track of when you want to buy a good crossbow bolt, so buckle up, because this is going to be a crash course on what you need to look for when bolt shopping.
When buying bolts, you need to first decide what you are going to use them for. If you are target shooting, I recommend going with a lightweight bolt. But if you are hunting, you can choose between the standard and the heavyweight, depending on your game. Depending on what you’re hunting, you might need bolts with a lower or higher range. The range you’d need for target practice, on the other hand, depends on your personal preference.
Bolts can range from anywhere between 16 to 22 inches; shorter ones hit harder and accelerate faster, while longer bolts travel further with less power. Having said that, I suggest always sticking to the bolt length recommended by your crossbow manufacturer. There’s a reason they recommend that length and experimenting with different lengths can seriously damage your crossbow or give you disappointing shots.
Also, remember that your crossbow bolt should be shorter than your crossbow’s groove. You know you’ve got the perfect bolt length when it matches up with the groove exactly.
If you’re planning to only shoot from a distance of 30 yards or less, then any old crossbow bolt should work just fine. But while cheap bolts can do the job from a shorter distance, higher quality, straighter bolts will make all the difference when it comes to distances of 40 yards or more. I tend to stick to the 40 yard limit when I’m out in the field, so I can vouch for how these bolts perform.
The nock is the point where your bolt meets the crossbow string and there are quite a few types out there. Now I know what you’re thinking: how are you meant to figure out which nock is right for you? I’ve whipped up this quick breakdown that should make it easier for you to decide:
- Flat nock – As the name suggests, the flat nock has a flat surface for you to nock the string. If you are a beginner looking for a safer option, the flat nock is the best bet because it has a wider surface area for the string to rest on and is more manageable.
- Half moon nock – The half moon nock is good for more experienced shooters who would like a nice groove for the string to fit into. However, always keep in mind that bad positioning with the half moon nock can cause nasty accidents.
- Omni nock – The omni nock is basically the half moon nock but with more grooves. The grooves let you nock it more angularly and can give you a better grip than the flat nock.
- Capture nock – The capture nock is the half moon nock but with deeper grooves.
- Lighted nock – This nock is great for hunting in low light: it illuminates your shot and the flight path of your bolt, letting you track it down and retrieve it easily after shooting.
I also need to mention the Alpha nock, which is a patented TenPoint nock. It has a deeper groove than any of the other nocks and features elongated points known as ‘ears.’
There are three main types of crossbow bolts you’ll come across:
- Aluminum bolts – They are definitely cheaper and heavier than carbon bolts, but the problem is that when you use them for a while, they start to bend. And a bent bolt is not going to fly straight, is it? If you get them, you are looking at a lot of repair shop runs or frequent replacements, but at least they’re easy to repair. Fresh out of the packet though, they can deliver a devastating blow because they are really powerful and accurate.
- Carbon bolts – Now, these are my favorites mainly because they don’t bend with use and will stay precise for a long time. Since they’re very light and pretty flexible, they have a flatter flight path, and don’t tend to drift in the wind like heavier bolts do. Carbon bolts bring a faster shooting speed, but you would be sacrificing some power in that. Again, they don’t break easily, but if you somehow manage to do that, it’s going to be an expensive repair job.
- Combination bolts – As the name suggests, they make these bolts from a combination of both aluminum and carbon-fiber. They are a bit pricier than carbon bolts, which is their only real drawback, but on the plus side, they are strong, lightweight, and can travel pretty far. Combination bolts bring the best of both worlds.
There are several types of tips you can use on your bolt, depending on what you’re shooting:
- Field point tip – For target shooting, go with a field point tip. They flare outwards at the base and hit the target with superior accuracy without causing unnecessary damage. Another plus point about this tip is that it can be used for hunting small game as well, which is great if you don’t really want to buy separate bolts for practice and hunting. It’s really versatile, and you can save money by hunting with a field point tip now and then.
- Broadhead tip – A broadhead has blades attached at the tips and is designed to cause damage. The idea is that a broadhead tip would penetrate your quarry and expand to cause additional damage.
- Bullet point tip – Shaped like a bullet, these bolt tips don’t cause any additional damage to your target like the other tip types intended for hunting. They aren’t as precise, nor do they penetrate as deep as field point tips, but they work just fine for hunting small game and some types of target practice.
- Blunt point tip – If you can aim well and get a really good shot, blunt point tips work great for hunting small game. These tips aren’t designed to penetrate your target but instead are meant to kill with blunt force on impact.
The most important thing to remember about your shaft is that it should be thinner than your ferrule, which is where you insert the shaft into your broadhead. Otherwise, you can lose quite a bit of penetration, and changing broadheads is going to be a pain too. Keep that in mind when buying your broadheads.
The rated speed (FPS) of your crossbow is a good measure of how powerful it is, and powerful bows are more capable of shooting heavier bolts with higher speed, accuracy, and penetrating power. They rate most crossbows between 260 FPS and 400 FPS, but choose wisely, especially when hunting, because faster bows might make more noise and alert your quarry. For this reason, I recommend hunters opt for crossbows of approximately 300 FPS that don’t give out as much vibrational noise.
Weight in Grains
Another way to classify the bolts is by weight class. I categorized the bolts by weight class and added a table below to show the category for each weight.
The weight of your bolts will affect many aspects of your shot. I’ve personally found that lighter bolts pick up speed quickly but can’t go the distance, which is why I’d rather use them for target shooting than hunting. Meanwhile, heavier bolts can give you more accurate shots that penetrate your target deeper and ensure a quicker, more humane kill when hunting. But if you decide to use heavier bolts, you’d need to find a way to develop more control over your shot. My recommendation is to use one with a longer shaft and bigger fletching to improve flight accuracy.
The “spine” of a bolt is really referring to its stiffness and how flexible or bendy it is. The lower the spine rating, the stiffer the bolt is, while higher spine specs make for more flexible bolts that need a bow with a higher draw weight. Especially when it comes to high FPS bows, it’s very important that you pair them with the right bolts to avoid injuries and damage to your equipment.
FOC: Weight Forward Of Center
Every bolt has a balancing point, and the FOC is how far past the exact middle of your bolt the balance point is located. We usually express it as a percentage.
It can be confusing to understand, so take a look at the image below. Here, 12% means your balance point is 12% past the exact center of your bolt.
Now why is this important? Your FOC really determines how much the fletching/vanes at the back can balance your arrow. The further your FOC, the better your arrow can be guided.
The recommended FOC for hunting is 10-15%. This is mainly because the broadhead has a larger surface area and that can destabilize the arrow in flight. So a higher FOC improves stabilization.
There are three main types of fletching we see in bolts (straight, offset, and helical) and the type of fletching a bolt has will affect the way it flies. I’ve found that the straighter your bolt is, the more accurate it will be, since there’s less of a chance of it bending in flight. Most manufacturers say their bolts’ straightness range between .001″ and .006″ with .001” being the highest. Straighter bolts are usually more expensive as well. Offset and helical fletchings might cause more drag, but that’s because they’re meant to correct the path of your bolt as it’s flying.
Crossbow warranty and manufacturer recommendations
When you buy your crossbow, your manufacturer often sends a manual where they recommend a bolt of a particular length, weight and nock type. My recommendation is to follow this to the letter whenever possible, because if you don’t know what you are doing, you can severely damage your crossbow and also void your warranty. Before you make your purchase, look out for bolt packages and vendors that sell recommended bolts along with the bow. Some ready-to-shoot bolts may not be super high-tech, but at least they’ll fit right and shoot safely.
What is the difference between arrows and bolts?
Most people, myself included, use “crossbow bolts” and “crossbow arrows” to mean the same thing because, nowadays, there’s not much difference between them. But for the most part, “bolts” refer exclusively to crossbow projectiles.
Historically though, there’s been a bit of difference between them since bolts were usually made by blacksmiths while fletchers made longbow arrows.
Arrows and bolts are made up of the same parts; the shaft, fletching, broadhead, and nock. The main difference is that bolts are definitely shorter and heavier than arrows (bolts range from 16” to 22” while longbow arrows are between 27”- 32”).
But on the topic of crossbows, if you ever hear someone talking about using bolts and arrows with their bow, they’re referring to the same thing, so don’t scratch your head about it too much.
The only thing I’d say you need to keep in mind is that not all crossbow arrows or bolts will be suitable for your crossbow. Always check the length and weight your crossbow manufacturer has recommended. As long as you stick to that, it doesn’t matter what you call them.
Picking the bolts for your crossbow is definitely a big decision. Whether you are hunting or target shooting, having the right bolts that you find comfortable to work with can be the deciding factor between success and failure.
Finding the right bolts for you depends on many factors, a lot of them personal. So while the reviews will be of help, it really comes down to what you need from the bolts. I also recommend staying curious and trying out different ones. They might just surprise you.
Crossbow Bolts FAQs
Lighter crossbow bolts shoot faster, but the heavier ones will produce more kinetic energy at impact. If you are an archer or you do competitive shooting, go for a lighter crossbow bolt, as lighter ones will travel fast. For hunting, I prefer a standard weight or heavyweight crossbow bolt because the penetration power helps me catch my game better.
400 to 450 grains is the standard weight for a crossbow bolt. If you opt for a heavier one, it will have a lower speed than what they advertised.
Yes, if both bolts have the same fletching, but the effect is very small. Accuracy mainly depends on your FOC and whether the fletching can stabilize and guide the bolt instead of the length.
6.5 mm in diameter. We are looking for a diameter that will stun the target with a ‘punch’ effect, and this is the most versatile diameter. It is lighter than 7 mm bolts and more resistant to twisting than 6 mm bolts.
May 30, 2023
May 30, 2023