How to Choose a Crossbow Bolt

How to Choose a Crossbow Bolt

When going out for hunting, you want to be sure that your bolt penetrates the target and leaves enough damage, or rather causes sufficient bleeding so it can be easy for you to trace the target. This can only happen if you have the right bolt.

How to Choose a Crossbow Bolt

Just as the use of crossbows is increasingly gaining popularity, so is the need to understand every aspect of the crossbow that contributes to successful hunting. The bolt stands out as one of the most important parts of a crossbow that determines whether you return home heavily stuffed or barehanded.

Speaking of crossbow bolts, anyone might confuse them for arrows. While they serve the same purpose, it’s important to note that they are particularly suited to different hunting tools. The bolt is specifically used in crossbows while the arrow is used in regular bows.

From the look, many crossbow bolts appear similar. However, there are some differences beyond what you may consider normal. Crossbow bolts may vary in weight, length, and nock styles, among other properties. From the features, you can choose a crossbow bolt depending on your needs, and of course your preference.

What Do You Want to Achieve with Your Crossbow Bolt

Your intentions for the crossbow bolt impacts the qualities you look for. If you are a bowhunter, you want a bolt that is accurate and helps you achieve high penetration.

Regardless of your hunting experience and skills, the wrong bolt choice adversely impacts your efficiency.

Understanding Your Bolt Better

What Materials Are The Bolts Made of?

Aluminum and carbon fiber are the standard and recommended materials for the manufacture of a crossbow bolt shaft. Some crossbows do have a combination of the two materials.

If you are working on a budget, go for aluminum, they are cheap and fairly durable upon impact. However, aluminum bends easily.

Carbon fiber is the perfect material for your crossbow bolt but expensive. Crossbow bolts from this material are durable, flies well, and provides better penetration.

A combination of aluminum and carbon provides crossbow bolts with better speed, durability, and accuracy.

Why Weight is so Important When Selecting Bolts

The classification of crossbow bolt weights ranges from light, standard to heavy. Lightweight crossbow bolt weighs between 350-399 grains, standard weighs between 400-459 grains, heavy on the other hand weighs from 460 grains and above. These overall bolt weights include the 100-grain weight of a standard field point.

Moving a lighter crossbow bolt from a position of rest is easier than a heavier one. It means that your crossbow shoots a lighter bolt faster.

Consider the situation in which you are shooting for you to find a suitable weight. With competitive shooting that requires a 3D archery, you need a bolt that travels fast, and this means a lighter bolt. If you however misjudge your target distance, there is a likelihood you will miss your mark. Light bolts thus travel fast but not accurately.

Standard weigh or heavy crossbow bolts are perfect for hunting purposes. They shoot more slowly but are quite accurate as they carry a greater amount of kinetic energy than lightweight bolts. The kinetic energy also is significant in the sense that it makes the crossbow quitter.


Many people often confuse bolt fletching or vanes for arrows. They have similar qualities but are not the same. Fletching/vanes can be wings or feathers at the back of the bolt that provides stability to the bolt’s trajectory when you fire.

The length of the fletching depends on the length of your shaft. The longer the shaft, the longer the fletching. Bigger fletching however provides more drag. You must find a balance for your arrow at the front.

FOC: Weight Forward Center

FOC is important as it allows fletching to guide the arrow. The FOC means that the arrow’s weight shifts towards the center instead of receiving balance at the middle. A greater FOC means an increase in penetration power.

Arrow Mass

Arrow mass affects the accuracy of the bolts. Many hunters consider decreasing the arrow mass to improve their speed without taking into account its power.

Reducing the arrow mass means the arrow is susceptible to wind interruptions. The result is reduced penetration and accuracy.

Increasing the arrow mass improves the bolt’s accuracy over long distances. You will however need bigger fletching to effectively direct it.


The bolt length is subject to shooting distance. A shorter bolt is perfect for shorter distances. They are stiffer and less flexible and hence provide better penetration. They are however not meant for long distances for they tend to lose velocity fast.

Field Tips and Broadheads

The type of broadhead you need depends on the use of your crossbow. If you are practicing, for instance, field-tips are perfect for you. It is simple, effective, and counters wind interruptions.

For hunting purposes, choose bolts with expandable blade broadhead. Such blades are reliable and it’s easier to find your target after a shot. They also cause a maximum amount of damage on the target for they have a sharp point and embellishment.

Nock Styles

The nock refers to the string’s and bolt’s point of contact. The nock acts as a safety mechanism for the crossbow. What it means is that the crossbow doesn’t fire until the nock is appropriately placed.

Crossbow nocks can either be flat or half-moon. The half-moon nock requires an alignment with the string and sits perpendicular to the index vane. A flat nock on the other hand has a broad surface area.

Half-moon nocks are perfect for the string catches them well. They are however susceptible to cause accidents when positioned inappropriately before firing.

TenPoint has come up with a third type of nock for their crossbows, the Omni knock. It comes with multiple grooves to perfectly catch the string. It thus minimizes accidents.


Crossbow bolts have a significant impact on your hunting experience. With the right bolt choice, you achieve efficiency and desirable results. Be sure to find a balance of the features discussed above.