With Bowhunting Broadheads, Hybrids Deserve a Critical Look


Hybrid broadheads truly give you the best of both worlds, but should be used with these caveats in mind to avoid disappointments.

We might have stopped broadhead development with New Archery Products’ Thunderhead and continued cleanly tagging white- tailed deer for all eternity. But man is forever seeking the better mousetrap — from Rocket’s first mechanicals to present-day Rage Hypodermics, and more recently, a proliferation of hybrid broadhead designs. By hybrid we’re looking at a broadhead with fixed cutting edges, offset by deployable mechanical blades.

The concept isn’t new, as I recall a Carbon Express design as early as the 1990s (FirstCut), but has really taken off the past couple of years. Let’s see, there’s Bloodsport’s GraveDigger and GraveDigger Extreme (cut-on-contact and chisel point versions), Muzzy’s Trocar HB, DirtNap Gear’s B.M.F (both mechanical and fixed), Grim Reaper’s Hybrid, Steelforce’s S.O.B. and Bowhunter1’s FIXpandible. Just off the top of my head.

Hybrid broadheads truly give you the best of both worlds, but should be used with these caveats in mind to avoid disappointments.

Hybrid broadheads, opposed to mechanicals with predominant cut-on-contact tip inserts, are designed to cleanly kill deer with mechanical blades completely removed (pretending for a moment they’d fly to the same mark with that weight removed). Which, I think, is entirely the point.

Hybrids were likely conceived for those hunters who don’t completely trust mechanical heads (I still hear indictments), but want the wider cuts associated with them. So if swing blades fail to open, the fixed blades will get the job done, but when mechanicals operate as designed a blood-spilling wound channel is certainly welcomed. In practice, a cut started off with a fixed design should result in deeper penetration (especially true of cut-on-contact models), despite aggressive second-stage mechanical cutting diameters.

The logic is sound: peace of mind, 100 percent reliability, deeper penetration with less energy, bigger holes through deer and presumably faster kills. Case closed, right? Well, not exactly. As with anything archery related, for everything gained something must be sacrificed.

Archers took to true mechanical designs as compound bow performance outpaced their ability to fine tune archery equipment correctly — and as range capabilities began to stretch. Reduced blade surface area, often mirroring field-point profiles, meant straight flight from the fastest bows, even from bows less than perfectly tuned (not a real solution, but reality in many cases).

Hybrid broadheads, recall, hold fixed and exposed blades, which are more prone to grabbing passing air and causing “wind-planing” deviations in flight. This isn’t a Greek tragedy. As a bowhunter who lives in a state where mechanicals are NOT legal (including hybrids), I know properly matched and tuned bows and arrows CAN be tuned to steer fixed-blade broadheads true, even at the fastest speeds. This requires more time and knowledge, or paying a professional to assure tuning is done correctly. So there’s that.

Perhaps an easier solution to this dilemma is simply adopting larger fletchings, sometimes choosing a slightly stiffer shaft if on the cusp between two deflection ratings. Bohning’s high-profile, 2-inch Blazer Vane — and those that followed — were decided trendsetters, especially in the age of streamlined mechanicals, but might not make ideal choices when steering fixed, or hybrid, broad- head designs in real-world bowhunting conditions. No big deal. Switch to an old-standard 4-inch or cutting-edge air-foil fletching (such as NAP’s QuikSpin). Problem solved, though equipment should still be tuned as fine as possible.

Though hybrid designs should theoretically drive deeper than true mechanicals with identical cutting diameters (all other factors remaining equal), due to less resistance while starting the cut with fixed blades verses the extra energy required to unbind and fully deploy retracted blade sets, it must be remembered that any time blades are added, or cutting diameter increased, penetration is slowed. There is no way around basic physics.

Two blades penetrate better than three blades, which penetrate better than four blades. A 1 1⁄4-inch mechanical penetrates better than a 1 1⁄2-inch mechanical, which penetrates better than a 2-inch model. Again, all other factors remaining equal. Hybrid broadheads are four-blade designs by necessity, their mechanical blades typically cut in excess of 11⁄2 inches wide.

This is all well and good for those wielding average (which bow manufacturers tell me is 65 pounds at 29 inches) to high KE — pushing a larger hole deeper into game than identical-sized true mechanicals. This also serves as a word of caution to those at the low end of the energy scale — women and youth shooters,or anyone shooting less than 55 pounds and/or drawing to less than 27 inches.

Hybrid broadheads truly give you the best of both worlds, but should be used with these caveats in mind to avoid disappointments.