The mechanical- versus fixed-blade broadhead debate is one that every bowhunter has an opinion on and one that will never be settled. The truth is that each type of broadhead, no matter what you read online, has its time and place. Rather than trusting your buddy’s opinion or buying whatever is popular on internet forums, here are several factors to consider.
Everybody has a different bow setup, accuracy capabilities, and environmental factors in shooting scenarios. Choose whichever broadhead best suits your individual circumstances. Whether you’re talking fixed versus mechanical, three-blade versus two-blade, or even single bevel versus double bevel, there are several factors to think about when picking your perfect whitetail head.
It seems every broadhead on the shelf boasts field point accuracy. Whether these claims are true or not is a conversation for another day; it all starts with a well-tuned bow. Nobody knows this better than pro shop owner and professional tournament archer Kyle Douglas.
“Having a bow that is tuned well is very important for hunting. You can’t shoot broadheads well if your bow isn’t tuned good, that’s all there is to it,” Douglas said.
It’s one thing to have your local big box store set your bow up and maybe even put a few arrows through paper, but a well-tuned bow is a whole new can of worms. Be honest with yourself, if your bow isn’t perfectly tuned, the lower profile the broadhead the better. Larger broadheads, like a large fixed-blade, has a larger surface area than most mechanicals. A larger surface area has greater potential to plane and miss the mark when fired from a bow that hasn’t been fine tuned. For that reason, mechanical broadheads are more user friendly and tend to be the best choice for bowhunters without bow tuning know how.
As a professional tournament archer, it’s no surprise that Douglas prefers the most accurate broadhead he can find. This “accuracy first” mindset leads him to choose mechanical broadheads. “I hate shooting fixed blades. Trying to get them to shoot can be a nightmare. I hate giving up accuracy and can never get fixed blades to shoot as good as mechanicals,” Douglas said.
The penetration versus cutting diameter debate tends to be linked to the mechanical versus fixed blade broadhead discussion because mechanicals tend to feature a larger cut than fixed blades.
“The only time a fixed blade would benefit my setup is if I hit one in the shoulder. Even then, it’s not a guarantee. My job (with mechanical broadheads) is to not hit the shoulder," Douglas said. "If I hit one anywhere else on the entire body, I want a giant expandable to put a massive hole and get as much blood pumping out as I possibly can.”
If you’ve experimented with or watched any type of broadhead penetration test, you know that fixed blades out-penetrate mechanicals. This is attributed to cut-on-contact points, steep blade angles, smaller cutting diameters, and no energy wasted on blade deployment.
“For somebody not pulling as much poundage, or a short draw length, a fixed blade is a good option because they don’t have enough oomph to run a 2-inch expandable through an animal,” Douglas said. “But for the average guy shooting a 28- to 30-inch draw length and a 70-pound bow, I say shoot a mechanical all day because you’re getting a massive hole. If you make a bad shot, you’ve got a better chance finding that animal if you’ve got a big hole through it, rather than a few small slices with a fixed blade.”
If most of your whitetail hunting is done around rut funnels in thick timber, you aren’t likely to encounter many shot opportunities past 20 yards. In this scenario, a fixed blade broadhead from a well-tuned bow should fly neck and neck with your field points, whereas mechanical broadheads start to gain an advantage on further shots. With a cut-on-contact, fixed-blade broadhead in close quarters, an accurate archer can take almost any shot angle that deer present.
Picture a mature buck chasing a doe past your stand at 10 yards. You grunt him to a stop and have only one shot opportunity before he chases the doe into the next county. But he’s quartering toward you harder than you’d like. With a razor sharp fixed blade and a relatively heavy arrow, you can take that shot with confidence as this arrow setup, at close range, has enough authority to push its way through any shoulder muscle or scapula that you might encounter.
A mechanical, on the other hand, you’d be better off keeping the arrow behind the shoulder, which would give you less margin for error. On the other hand, if you’re hunting a field edge setup where you’re able to stretch out shot opportunities as far as you’re capable, mechanicals might get the nod for their accuracy characteristics.
Whether you like the advantages of a fixed blade or a mechanical broadhead, think about your specific bow setup and what type of shot opportunities you are likely to see. You may only get one shot all year. Do yourself a favor and buy a few varieties of heads to test their accuracy and dependability out of your exact setup and take afield whichever head gives you the best practice results.