[Updated 1 July 2022] Crossbow hunting is fun because it combines the speed and accuracy of a gun with the stealth of a bow. After years of crossbow hunting, most hunters will tell you that they have a favorite bolt weight. If you are just starting, you probably have many questions before heading into the field for the first time. One of the most critical questions is; What is the best bolt weight and FPS?
There is are no specific numbers to answer this question, but there is a right answer. Your best bolt weight and the FPS or Feet Per Second that the arrow travels all depend on the type of crossbow and what you are hunting. Most hunters will tell you that the sweet spot for crossbow bolts is between 400 and 435 grains. There is much more that you need to know before you can choose the right bolt for your next outing.
When would you want a lighter or heavier bolt?
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The deciding factor for the weight of your bolt comes down to personal preference, but they both have their advantages and disadvantages. Most people like to be in the early 400s range because it is a median weight that balances the pros and cons. Heavier bolts do more damage and penetrate deeper than lighter bolts, but they also don’t fly as far and lose accuracy over distance. A lighter arrow will give you more FPS and better accuracy but not do as much damage making these bolts perfect for small game hunting.
Another notable fact is that the FPS on a box of bolts is always based on 400-grain bolts. So, if you buy a box of 300-grain bolts, they will be much faster than the box reads, and if you get 500-grain bolts, they will be noticeably slower than what it says on the box. If you find yourself wondering how much damage your bolts will do, you can use a kinetic energy calculator to get a better idea.
The difference between a 300-grain bolt and a 500-grain bolt may sound like a lot, but you wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference between the two if you held them in your hand. One ounce equals 437.5 grains, so the most common weight of an arrow is one ounce. The give or take of 100 grains won’t be noticeable in your hand, but it will be observable in function.
Why is Bolt FPS Important?
Many veteran crossbow hunters will tell you that FPS is third or fourth on the list of most essential features of a bolt, but it is still important. The general idea is that your arrow must travel faster than the speed of the sound your crossbow makes as it will alert the prey of your presence. Many argue that the few milliseconds of difference don’t matter, while others believe it is the difference between a kill shot and a grazing wound.
The other part of the equation that makes FPS so important is accuracy. It is simple physics that an arrow that travels faster from point A to Point B will also travel straighter. Bolts are available up to 400 FPS, but generally, hunters prefer their speeds between 300 and 330 FPS.
What About Bolt Length?
Bolt length plays an integral part in this equation, from the total weight to the speed of the bolt. Bolt length is an essential factor in the FOC. The FOC stands for “Front of Center” and is the percentage of weight focused on the front half of the bolt. The Front of the Center is important because it determines the trajectory of the arrow, which in turn determines accuracy. Arrows with a heavier FOC will do more damage and penetrate deeper but will lose accuracy over distance. Arrows with a lighter FOC will have a straighter trajectory but do less damage.
How to find your bolt’s FOC:
- Choose a complete bolt from the knock to broadhead.
- Balance the bolt on your finger and mark the spot in which it is balanced.
- Measure from the end of the knock to the end of the bolt shaft and divide that number by two.
- Measure from the knock to the spot where you marked your shaft.
- Subtract the number in step three from the number in step four.
- Multiply the resulting number by 100.
- Divide that number by the total arrow length, and you will have your FOC.
What Are Bolts Made From?
The type of material your bolt is made from will also affect your speed and trajectory. It is good to have a little working knowledge of each type before deciding on the kind of bolt you want.
Wood bolts are the traditional style of bolt, and while some archers still use them, they have largely fallen out of grace in the community. A lot of times, when people used wood bolts, it is because they made them themselves. Wood bolts can warp, which throws off your aim, and they can splinter and break when shooting creating a potentially dangerous situation. They are also not as easy to clean as other materials leading most hunters to throw them away after striking an animal.
Pros love carbon arrows for several reasons. They are generally the lightest of the arrow materials, so they fly faster and straighter and don’t cause fatigue when you carry more of them. The thing that hunters like the most about carbon arrows are how durable they are. They will not dent, and thanks to the carbon material, they will bend without breaking and immediately return to their original form so they can be used over and over again. Carbon arrows are also easy to clean, which makes them easier and safer to reuse. There is some trade-off to all the benefits of carbon, though, most noticeably the increased price. They also don’t perform as well if they are kept at cold temperatures for too long, which is a turn off for many hunters in the northern part of the country.
Aluminum arrows have their pros and cons starting with their weight. Also, Aluminum bolts are heavier than both other options, which gives them more stopping power over short distances but also forces them to lose accuracy over longer distances. Aluminum arrows are more durable than wood and easier to clean but more affordable than carbon arrows. While aluminum arrows will last a while, they can get dented, which affects the integrity and trajectory of the arrow. A dented arrow is annoying, but it is a whole lot safer than a cracked or splintered one, which makes aluminum arrows the safest choice among the three.
Why is my bolt not accurate?
Speed means nothing if your bolt isn’t accurate, and there are many reasons that a bolt may not be hitting its target. If you are sighted in but still not landing the arrow where you want it, check out these common problems.
Is the Bolt Structurally Solid?
The first thing you want to check is if your bolt is in good condition. This means that the bolt doesn’t have any cracks or dents. Wood and carbon bolts can get cracks that will affect the trajectory of the arrow and can even break during shooting sending debris in every direction. Aluminum shafts won’t splinter, but they will dent, which will affect the trajectory of the arrow. If your shaft is compromised in any way, it is best to throw it away.
Is the Bolt Straight?
There are several reasons that a bolt can warp, but no matter what the reason, a warped bolt won’t fly straight. There are machines that will test the straightness of your bolt, but honestly, all you need is a flat surface. Remove your broadhead and roll the bolt on a flat surface; if it is warped anywhere, there will be a space between the bolt and the surface. A bent shaft isn’t dangerous like a cracked one but it will significantly affect your aim.
Check Your Fletching
Fletching is the feathers or feather substitute that you find on the knock-end of your bolt. It isn’t there to make the bolt look pretty; it helps keep it straight during flight. Fletching is pretty fragile and can tear or even fall off easily. The good news is that it is inexpensive and easy to replace.
The best way to make sure your bolts always shoot straight is to make sure they are properly maintained.
- Always check them for damage before shooting.
- Don’t place your shots too close together during target practice; bouncing them off of one another can cause damage.
- Practice often; more practice means better shot placement, which means not bouncing bolts off of the bone and other hard surfaces that may damage them.
- Clean your bolts after every use. Debris stuck to your bolt, even the smallest piece, can change the trajectory of your bolt.
How Do I Fix a Noisy Crossbow?
A noisy crossbow is a hunter’s worst enemy. If your crossbow is loud, don’t toss it in the trash; try these steps to shut it up.
The Foot Stirrup
Fixing noise-causing vibration from the foot stirrup is cheap and easy. Wrap the entire stirrup with plumber’s tape. You can find it at any hardware store, and it usually costs a few dollars at most.
The Arrow Retention Spring
There are plenty of retention spring dampeners you can find online. You should put at least two on the spring.
You can get a string dampening system that is made from two rods with rubber stoppers on the end. The stoppers stop the string, reducing the initial sound and sound made by the vibration after the shot.
What are some fast crossbows?
This is one of the fastest crossbows on the market today, but it packs a punch too. This bow can fire arrows at an astonishing 430 fps with 156 lbs. of energy behind the bolt. At under eight pounds, it is an excellent weight for carrying and aiming too.
Check out this video for complete review.
If speed is the most critical factor to you, then this is the crossbow you want. With an fps of 460, you will be startled at how fast your bolt moves. It doesn’t sacrifice power either with 180 pounds of energy behind the bolt. Scorpyd manages to offer all this in a compact crossbow that still weighs under eight pounds.
If you are looking for a recurve crossbow that keeps its speed, this has to be the one. This bow for experienced hunters is fast, with an average of 350 fps. It doesn’t play around with power either with a draw weight of 240 pounds. The best part about this bow is that it weighs just over five pounds, making it easy to carry and maneuver in the field.
Check out this video for complete review.