I readily admit that I had been a stubborn (not yet old) coot when it came to expandable broadheads. After dabbling with them in the late 1990s, I basically swore them off. "Not reliable enough," was my mantra.
I wasn’t the only one. Look at any of the popular press articles over the past 15 years or so, and a lot of other veteran bowhunters were on the same jag. That was until a few seasons ago when I shot broadheads like those from Rage Broadheads, New Archery Products and the TruFire Switchblade. I guess you would call these "third generation" (or is it fourth?) broadheads. These expandables feature blades that slide back — not cam backward — to open. Although I have had some of these types of broadheads basically blow up on me (bust apart on impact), I have yet to see one not leave a huge entry hole. If there is anything to be said about truth in advertising, these heads almost always live up to it in that regard on hits to a deer’s body cavity. In short, they create unbelievable entry and exit wounds and, best of all, almost immediate, idiot-proof bloodtrails.
I will always stop short of saying any single product is the be-all-end all of its class. However, as a whole, I will admit that today’s expandables have convinced me beyond a reasonable doubt that they are good choices for whitetail hunting. Here’s my take on the pros and cons:
1. Not as durable as fixed-position heads.
2. As a whole, not as sharp as cut-on-contact heads.
3. Do not perform as others well when they encounter scapula bones and spinal columns.
4. They’re expensive (upward of $80 retail for three) and usually can’t be re-used.
1. Very large entry and exit holes.
2. Almost immediate bloodtrails.
3. Improved cutting performance over first-generation broadheads (less energy transfer on impact).
4. Fly very close to field points no matter how well tuned your bow is.
The pros and cons are even, so what’s my final verdict? I will continue to use large, 2-blade expandables. Will I use them exclusively? No. There are many other bowhunting instances where I feel more comfortable using a strong fixed-position head. What’s more, if my age continues to limit how much draw weight I can pull (I’m pulling 64 pounds right now), I will most likely shoot cut-on-contact heads more often than not.
In case you’re wondering about the above photo, it is of the entry wound to a whitetail doe I shot last night. I almost couldn’t believe the performance. The deer was slightly quartering when I shot, and the two-blade Rage Titanium sliced a 3-plus inch hole behind the deer’s armpit. The broadhead made an equally large wound on the exit. The arrow was stuck firmly in the ground when I retrieved it. The deer ran about 40 yards before collapsing from massive lung and heart injuries. The bloodtrail was insane — not that I needed one to find the deer.
The end result: Instant venison. That’s how I like it.