Friday, April 23, 2010

Archery at the ger camp


Archery at the ger camp, originally uploaded by gabbylawson.

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Expandable-blade broadheads make life with a compound much simpler. . . but they're far from perfect. Here are the pluses and minuses.

Remember riding around in the car with your parents, driving them crazy by putting your flattened hand out the window and making it go up, down, and all around by simply changing the position of your fingers? Little did you know that this torment was really a demonstration in aerodynamics, showing that as the position of your fingers changed, so did the aerodynamic loading, which in turn pushed or pulled your hand in a specific direction from its original straight course.

The same test is performed every time you shoot a broad-head-tipped arrow. The broadhead blades act as airfoils that, unless everything is perfectly aligned and symmetrical, will steer the shaft wildly out of the bull's-eye.

This tendency is the main reason expandable-blade broadheads have become increasingly popular in recent years. Their development goes hand-in-hand with the proliferation of today's super-high-speed bows and small-fletched, lightweight arrow shafts, a combination that's more difficult to precisely tune with than the large-diameter, fixed-blade broadheads that have been a mainstay of bowhunting since its earliest days.


An expandable-blade broadhead features blades--usually two or three--that are connected to the ferrule by a hinge system, which allows them to be folded into the ferrule before the shot. Upon contact with an animal, the blades are driven outward until they lock into the ferrule. The blades are now in the same cutting position as those found on fixed-blade broadheads, and thus perform the same cutting function.

The advantages are many. First, by removing the airfoil of the fixed blades and creating a low-profile arrow tip, expandable-blade broadhead arrows fly almost identically to arrows with target tips of the same weight. Their superior aerodynamics complement high-speed compound bows pushing small-diameter, lightweight arrow shafts--specifically carbon and aluminum/ carbon composite arrows--with small fletching at 250 feet-per-second velocities. Their low profile also makes a bow/arrow/broadhead combination easier to precisely tune than when using fixed-blade broadheads. Expandable broadheads also achieve a wider cutting path through an animal than do most popular fixed-blade heads of the same weight. While the most popular fixed-blade broadheads have a cutting diameter of between 1 and 1 1/4 inches, most expandables start at 1 1/2 inches, with most in the 1 7/8- to 2 1/2-inch range.


Everything in life is a tradeoff, and expandable-blade broadheads are no exception. First, because the blades create friction and drag as they strike an animal, it takes more kinetic energy--to ensure that they will open--than is necessary with traditional fixed-blade broadheads. So in some cases, bows sending their arrows out at less than 240 to 250 fps will not allow expandables to perform properly. Second, with the product still in its infancy, basic design and construction continues to evolve. Some expandables arc poorly designed and made--products that may work on thin-skinned deer-sized game, but not on larger animals.

Also, many lazy bowhunters are switching to expandable broadheads, using their relatively easy tunability as a crutch for a less-than-meticulous bow setup and sloppy shooting form. Jim Dougherty, one of the pioneers of bowhunting, has this to say: "Any broadhead, if the component parts are straight and concentrically mounted on the correct arrow shaft with proper fletching, will shoot well. This includes the old-style, fixed-blade heads. Today there's an infusion of `gimmick' models arriving on the scene, and I think it's an irresponsible approach, motivated purely by profit and attended by hype."

My personal experience with expandables is limited, extending more to the testing grounds than the field. To date I've taken two animals with them, a whitetail buck and an Alaskan black bear, both of which went less than 40 yards after being hit. My feelings remain mixed. While I've found that most expandables tune well and fly like darts, I've never had a problem tuning my bows to shoot just as well, and with just as much velocity, with well-made fixed-blade heads. On the other hand, the large exit hole created by the expandable is awesome, a definite advantage.

While expandable heads may be the wave of the future and are worth checking out, do so carefully before making the switch. Go to your local a archery pro shop and ask their experts for help. And remember the words of Jim Dougherty: "When it comes to broadheads, I want no toys, no gimmicks, just clean-cutting points, hard steel, and sharp edges."


Barrie Archery Dept. FS 37069 Knoll Rd. Waseca, MN 56093 (507) 835-3859

Game Tracker, Inc. Dept. FS 3476 Eastman Dr. Flushing, MI 48433 (810) 733-6360

Golden Key-Futura Dept. FS P.O. Box 1446 Montrose, CO 81402 (970) 249-6700

Kolpin Dept. FS 205 Depot St. Fox Lake, WI 53933 (414) 928-3118

Mar-Den, Inc. Dept. FS P.O. Box 1037 Willcox, AZ 85644 (520) 384-3176

New Archery Products Dept. FS 7500 Industrial Dr. Forest Park, IL 60130 (708) 488-2500

Puckett's Bloodtrailer Dept. FS 45 W. Main St. Grafton, WV 26354 (304) 265-1500

Rocket Broadheads Dept. FS Box 6783 Minneapolis, MN 55406 (612) 722-9335

Satellite Dept. FS 1733 Gunn Hwy. Odessa, FL 33556 (813) 920-5407

Sonoran Bowhunting Products Dept. FS P.O. Box 17977 Tucson, AZ 85731 (520) 885-9314

Wasp Archery Products, Inc. Dept. FS 9 W. Main St. Plymouth, CT 06782 (203) 283-0246

Source Citation
Ross, Bob. "Broadheads: expanding your horizons. Expandable-blade broadheads make life with a compound much simpler, but they're far from perfect." Field & Stream [West ed.] Mar. 1998: 40+. Academic OneFile. Web. 23 Apr. 2010.
Document URL

Gale Document Number:A20314394

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