Products go through popularity cycles. In the hunting realm, the best example of something that was hot, then not, and is now hot again, would be the tree saddle. The runner-up might be beefy, sharp-as-a-razor, single- and double-bevel broadheads.
Single-bevel heads, with their one angled edge, are designed to produce more rotation. This, provided it’s working in concert with the helical of your fletching (and not against it), should create devastating wound channels. Devout single-bevel shooters often talk about the L-shaped cuts they see through internal organs, which may be evidence of the broadhead turning inside of the animal. An added benefit of single-bevel heads is that they supposedly spin around bone. This might happen but is far from guaranteed.
Double-bevel heads, on the other hand, feature two ground angles in the metal that meet to create a sharp edge. These won’t produce extra rotation, but also won’t shed energy through that rotation when they enter a deer’s body. This should give them a penetration advantage, even if the wound channels aren’t as nasty.
I have to imagine there are a fair number of longbow and recurve shooters who are laughing at the sudden trendiness of these trad-bow mainstays. They have been shooting both styles for decades, often while proving that handmade, 50-pound-draw bows can kill moose-sized critters, provided they put the right broadhead in the right spot.
This resurgence in popularity of single- and double-bevel heads is due in no small part to YouTube shows like The Hunting Public. One of the founders of THP, Aaron Warbritton, made the switch to 150-grain, single-bevel heads two years ago after experiencing less-than-desirable results from mechanicals.
“It always bothered me to see our arrows redirect when they hit something inside of the deer,” Warbritton said. “Penetration was also an issue occasionally, and since single-bevels are designed to twist upon impact and split bone, I made the switch.”
While Warbritton is a recent convert to these broadheads, MeatEater’s Ryan Callaghan has been shooting them his entire life. Whether he’s toting a recurve, longbow, or compound, Callaghan chooses single- or double-bevel heads that feature a bleeder blade due to his past experiences. He also admits that he loves the idea of single-bevel heads, but hasn’t really seen much of difference in real-world results from them versus double-bevel options.
“I love the idea that a single-bevel head is going to twist on its path, so my mental preference is for them,” he said. “But, if I’m being honest, I’ve never noticed a difference in performance, and I find myself shooting whatever is going to give me two holes in the animal.”
Of particular note to any broadhead debate, Callaghan said that his archery ammo usually tip the scales right at 535 grains. This is important, because the single- and double-bevel argument tends to include talking points about bone-breaking or bone-crushing performance, along with enough penetration to produce two holes in elk-sized critters—no matter what parts of the skeletal structure get in the way.
It’s pretty common for people going with heavy, fixed broadheads to be shooting heavy-ish arrow/broadhead combinations. This helps with penetration and likely contributes at least somewhat to the perception that these broadheads are the answer to many of our deer-killing problems.
With all that said, is there really a best choice?
Provided head weights are the same, both are sharpened to a wicked edge, and a bow is properly tuned, which one wins out? According to Bill Vanderheyden, mechanical engineer and co-founder of Iron Will Outfitters, the answer is neither. Or both, depending on how you want to look at it.
“We have proven through high-speed testing that if you want maximum penetration, double-bevel heads provide a slight advantage,” Vanderheyden said. “If you want the potential for opening up holes better and more tissue damage due to rotation, choose a single bevel. Either way, choose a broadhead with a bleeder blade.”
Vanderheyden, with his design, metallurgy, and tooling experience, is as credible a source on the topic as you’re likely to find, which is why I asked him point-blank if whitetail hunters should choose single- or double-bevel heads. His response was that he personally goes for a double bevel with bleeders, but that it’s really a personal preference thing.
Now, if you listened to Ep. 284: The Archer's Paradox on the MeatEater Podcast, you heard Dr. Ed Ashby sing the praises of single-bevel heads. After years of research, his studies have shown that heavy single-bevel broadheads win penetration tests everytime. But, unlike Dr. Ashby, we're not always looking to blow through the scapula of a white rhino.
Having shot both compounds and traditional archery in my whitetail career while also testing out dozens of broadheads, I don’t think you can go wrong with either. But there are a few caveats to that.
First off, if your bow isn’t well-tuned, your arrow flight will really show it if you switch to these types of broadheads. There’s just no masking even a slight tail whip or corkscrewing with a typical single- or double-bevel style head.
You’ll also want to get familiar with sharpening your own heads. Even though most come out of the package wicked sharp, they can quickly become dull. This will come even from going in and out of your quiver and, hopefully, your broadhead target during practice sessions. The ability to target shoot with these heads and then touch them up to shaving sharp is as big of an advantage as any they’ll provide when you actually shoot a deer.
Lastly, you’ll hear success stories from devout single- and double-bevel shooters about buck shoulders that didn’t stand a chance against these heads. What you won’t hear about are the bucks that were lost from poor shooting or shot choice. I truly believe either style of these heads offer whitetail hunters a lot of leeway should a shot go wrong. But they aren’t magic.
Pair these broadheads with heavy arrows, a tuned bow, and choose your shots wisely. Do this and you should fill plenty of tags while likely becoming a convert to a broadhead style that has been winning over trad-bow hunters for decades—for good reason.
Feature image via Captured Creative.