You spend hours reading about the best crossbows to find the right one for you, but that's only one part of the equation. Your bolts are just as important and in some cases even more so. We've consistently found that using quality bolts with the appropriate weight and size for our crossbow makes a dramatic difference in the amount of success we have hunting. In fact, we've found that the bolts below in particular greatly improve our hunts.
Our Top Picks
TenPoint EVO-X centerpunch
Best for hunting
carbon express maxima hunter
black eagle executioner
List Of The Best Crossbow Bolts
The EVO-X CenterPunch bolt from TenPoint immediately caught our eye because of the unique design. Made of modulus carbon fiber with an incredible internal strength of 33 million pounds per square inch and wrapped in a Lazer-Tech carbon weave, it has the stiffness required for crossbow shooting without getting so heavy that you decrease your range. Specifically, they weigh about 455 grains, the sweet spot in our opinion to maximize penetration and range both, especially if you're using a modern compound crossbow with lots of power.
Even more unique to the EVO-X CenterPunch, TenPoint designed the "Alpha-Nock HP." Essentially, this bolt nock has a groove in it similar to a vertical bow nock, though it doesn't fully grip the bowstring. This design helps the bolt leave your crossbow straighter for better accuracy. Plus, it minimizes wear on the bowstring.
Just keep in mind that using a nock like the Alpha-Nock HP may void your crossbow warranty if it specifies "flat nocks." TenPoint explicitly allows for the Alpha-Nock HP on their crossbow models as well as other manufacturers under the same parent company such as Wicked Ridge and Horton. Check your paperwork to be sure.
- Strong and stiff
- Carbon weave
- 455 grains
- Alpha-Nock HP
- Quality craftsmanship
- May void warranty
The EVO-X CenterPunch bolt is a new and innovative model that has taken the archery world by storm. In addition to its advanced carbon design, the Alpha-Nock HP increases accuracy and bowstring life. This is all on top of quality craftsmanship from the vanes to the bushing that provides consistency in your shots and improves your chances of success whether you're a crossbow enthusiast or just taking advantage of the longer archery season.
When we looked at the Lighted Pro Elite 400 from TenPoint, we immediately realized it would be a great choice for hunting whitetail deer. This is primarily because of its weight which comes in at 400 grains. While this may limit your penetration for bigger game like elk or bear, it's ideal for mid-size game like whitetail deer and will give you a bit more range.
Like the EVO-X CenterPunch, the Pro Elite 400 also employs the innovative Alpha-Nock. This is better for your bowstring, and it gives you a bit more accuracy in the field. And even a little accuracy can be the difference between success and failure. Just check that this type of nock won't void your warranty.
Additionally, this bolt comes with an Alpha-Brite lighted nock. This is another reason it's ideal for hunting whitetail because these deer are most active at dawn and dusk. The lighted nock gives you more dexterity when quickly grabbing, aiming and firing your crossbow. Plus, it helps you more easily find missed bolts or your quarry if it runs a considerable distance.
Admittedly, the Pro Elite 400 does not have quite the same craftsmanship as the EVO-X CenterPunch. For instance, the straightness manufacturing tolerance for the Pro Elite 400 is .003 inches versus .001 inches for the EVO-X CenterPunch. That said, as you can see, it's still pretty high quality, and you're likely to have consistent shots especially when hunting medium-sized game like whitetail deer.
- Good deer weight
- Longer range
- Alpha-Brite lighted nock
- May void crossbow warranty
- Lightweight for big game
If you exclusively hunt whitetail deer and are looking for a lightweight bolt that will increase your range in open terrain, the Pro Elite 400 should be at the top of your list. Not only does it maximize range while still having enough power and accuracy to take down whitetail bucks, but the Alpha-Brite lighted nock is a convenient bonus feature that helps you take advantage of deer's most active periods.
Our favorite feature of the Victory Archery X-Bolt is its digitally aligned spine. This dramatically increases the consistency between multiple bolts so you can aim accurately each time. If you're like most crossbow archers, you like crossbows because they minimize the amount of shooting practice you have to put in, so this is a big plus.
Our main complaint would be the low weight of 325 grains. This actually increases your range by quite a bit, but it has the downside of being vulnerable to wind drift.
The low weight also decreases penetration, though the X-Bolt luckily has an ice nano ceramic coating that decreases friction as it enters the animal. Even with its light weight, it will still generate plenty of kinetic energy to efficiently harvest deer and other similar sized big game.
As for the general construction, we're certainly fans of the carbon fiber design. This gives it rigidity and strength, increasing your chances of a lethal shot.
- Digitally aligned spine
- Long range
- Ice nano ceramic coating
- Carbon fiber
- Vulnerable to wind
Here's a great video showing all of the features of the Victory X Bolt Crossbow Arrows.
Due to the lightweight design and digitally aligned spine, we primarily recommend the X-Bolt for lower-power crossbows, less than 400 FPS. This will help maximize your crossbow speed and penetration while still giving you consistent accuracy that doesn't take hours at the range to practice. If your crossbow takes 20-inch bolts, it's a great choice.
The first thing to note about the Maxima Hunter is that it has a weight of 390 grains. This is a good weight for most crossbows and most types of hunting. It's likely to have the penetrative power to hunt big game while also giving you good speed and range, even if you don't have the most powerful crossbow on the market.
Additionally, we found that the dual spine on top of the carbon weave increases the strength of the bolt for hunting purposes. Not only does the Maxima Hunter get great spin that improves accuracy, but penetrates straighter meaning you have a better chance of a lethal shot.
Our main complaint about this model is the strange 0.343-inch diameter. An unusual diameter, this can make it difficult to change out the nocks if you want lighted nocks for better hunting. The fletching is not our favorite either, though it is effective and durable, even after multiple shots.
Lastly, we loved that Carbon Express thought to give the bolts a camo finish. This is a nice detail for bow hunting since even something as small as your crossbow bolt could give away your position if it stands out next to the rest of your gear.
- Good weight for hunting
- Dual spine
- Carbon weave
- Camo finish
- Unique diameter
The Maxima Hunter is a bolt designed with hunting in mind. For one thing, it has a weight and stiffness that works for a wide range of crossbows and a wide range of game. It's likely to penetrate your quarry while still traveling fast and accurately. Plus, it has important hunting-specific features like Mossy Oak treestand camo.
Aside from its value, we chose this bolt from Barnett due to its advanced design and suitability for most hunting applications. At 13.78 grains per inch it will put you over 400 grains with most broadheads, so you'll end up with serious penetration if using compatible Barnett crossbows.
We do want to mention one thing because it's one of the more frustrating things about this otherwise stellar bolt. It's really only designed for use with a few Barnett models: Quad 400, Quad AVI, Predator Revolution AVI and Buck Commander. That isn't to say it absolutely won't work with another crossbow, but check ahead of time to be sure.
Otherwise, we really like neon green fletchings. They're easy to see in the dim light of dawn and dusk. They're also durable and seem to provide good spin even after multiple shots.
In fact, the only place the lower price is really noticeable is the spine itself, which appears to be a bit less durable than other bolt models. That said, you should be able to get several hunt trips out of this bolt without issue.
- Penetrative weight
- Specific design
- Bright green fletchings
- Durable fletchings
- Accurate spin
- Made specifically for Barnett crossbows
- Less durable spine
This bolt from Barnett is straightforward without extra frills that add unnecessary costs. If you're a serious hunter but just want a standard bolt that will get the job done without going over budget, this is our recommendation. The tough yet lightweight carbon shafts can provide bone-breaking penetration while increasing your range so you can take longer, more successful shots in the field.
As the name suggests, penetration is where the Executioner stands out. The shaft itself weighs 323 grains meaning that with a nock and broadhead, you'll be getting into big game territory. Plus, it comes with an Executioner brass insert that helps it punch through cartilage and even bone to hit the kill zone. While it may be a bit heavy for starter crossbows, it will make the most of today's powerful top-shelf models.
Despite this innovative design, we were also impressed by the value. You can even get the Executioner in a pack of 12 that helps minimize cost. This is a good option if you hunt a lot in deep woods where you're likely to lose a bolt or two.
Our only real problem with the Execution is the fletching. We wish the vanes were better oriented on the spine to provide for better spin. However, it is still a very accurate bolt, especially when using a high-power crossbow and a high quality scope.
- Heavy enough for big game
- Serious penetration
- Executioner brass insert
- Value pack option
- Accurate spin
- Not crazy about the fletching
There is no reason to get an expensive high-power crossbow if you aren't going to maximize its power with a heavy, bone-breaking bolt. We've found that one of the best ways to do that is the Black Eagle Executioner bolt. A penetrative bolt with a brass insert, it transfers the power of your crossbow into a lethal shot. If you have a crossbow that shoots over 400 FPS, check it out.
The Carbon Express PileDriver is consistently one of the highest-rated bolts on the market in large part due to its quality for the price. In other words, it's a great value. Specifically, you're getting composite construction that, while not as tough as carbon fiber, travels through your target straight and consistently.
People also like the PileDriver due to its deep penetration—hence the name. In fact, the 22-inch version weighs an impressive 479 grains, so if you have a powerful crossbow, it's a good way to take advantage. Just be aware that if you have a lower-power crossbow, it may decrease your range and bolt speed.
Unfortunately, one of the reasons this bolt has such a low price point is the cheap fletching. It has a tendency to wear down and require replacement after multiple shots. That said, we were surprised to find that the PileDriver comes with moon nocks, universal nocks and C nocks for added value and versatility with a range of crossbows.
- High rated
- Great value
- 479 grains
- Deep penetration
- 3 nock types included
- Too heavy for weak crossbows
- Flimsy fletching
We decided to look at the Carbon Express PileDriver because people seem to love it. It wasn't hard to figure out why. This bolt has features that give it versatility and accessibility to most crossbow hunters like various nock types and a value price. At the same time, it has some of the best penetrative power on the market.
For us the main draw of the Lumenok Lumen is the included lighted nock. While you can always get your own lighted nocks, having them included is an extra convenience and ensures they'll be compatible and accurate.
The lighted nocks themselves are easy to see and help you see where your bolt landed, not to mention retrieve it if you miss or the deer runs. Plus, they're some of the better lighted nocks out there thanks to the battery that's easy to replace. In fact, this even allows you to reuse the nocks in other bolts.
Of course, the Lumen is a quality bolt otherwise, too. It's a carbon design that is strong and stiff without being too heavy. At 345 grains, it's a good choice for all crossbows and can give you better range and speed, though it might not have the penetration of heavier bolts when used on elk or moose sized game.
- Lighted nocks included
- Easy-to-replace batteries
- Carbon construction
- High speed
- Good for starter crossbows
- Lower penetration
We suggest the Lumenok Lumen for new crossbow hunters who want to hit the tree stand and start hunting whitetail deer successfully. We absolutely love the included lighted nocks that activate with your shot and help you hunt more easily in dim light when deer are most active. The tough carbon fiber construction is just an added bonus.
Yes, the Witness is a budget bolt that cuts costs and has few extra features. However, it does have one unique design detail: the blood ring. This white section on the bolt shaft helps you better see the color of the blood if the shot passes through which gives you information on the location of the shot and therefore how long you should wait before following the blood trail as well as the radius the animal could be in.
Aside from that, we found the Witness to be a good choice for beginners. This isn't just because it has a low price that allows you to upgrade later when you have more experience. It's also lightweight. At just 325 grains, you can still get good speed and accuracy with most crossbows.
Finally, we also liked that Bloodsport included both moon nocks and flat nocks. This gives you better versatility and again allows you to gain experience and work your way up.
- Budget price
- Blood ring
- 2 nock types included
- Less durable design
If you've just decided to get into crossbows to take advantage of the archery season, we recommend the Bloodsport Witness as an excellent starter bolt. For one thing, the price point is affordable for nearly any budget. More importantly, it's lightweight and can fly fast enough for hunting even if you have a starter crossbow.
The Ravin brand is well-known in the archery world for quality and effectiveness. If you're going to put that investment into your crossbow, you should do the same with your bolts.
The R138 in particular is a tough carbon bolt that's flexible but still flies straight and penetrates deeply. In fact, at 400 grains it allows you to take advantage of high-power crossbows to penetrate into the kill zone even at long range.
Lastly, we want to mention the fletching on the bolt. Though the three offset vanes make the bolt a bit harder to nock, they complement the carbon design to deliver great spin that improves your accuracy even when you're shooting at high speeds.
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- High quality
- Carbon design
- 400 grains
- Deep penetration
- Advanced fletching
- Harder to nock
We recommend the Ravin R138 bolt for crossbow hunters who know what they're doing and want quality, especially if they've already invested in a Ravin crossbow. With 400 grains, it gets great penetration, and its quality design gives you the accuracy you need to go after your trophy buck.
Things To Consider When Buying Crossbow Bolts
Crossbow bolts usually range from 16 to 24 inches in length. Usually, your crossbow model will specify a length to use, and this will often be the length that gets you the best results.
That said, some hunters like to use bolts that are longer than the specified length because this increases weight and therefore penetration. Plus, longer bolts tend to fly straighter as long as the stiffness is increased to account for greater flexing.
You cannot, however, use bolts that are shorter than the recommendation as these simply won't nock correctly into your crossbow. At best, you just won't be able to shoot the bolt, but you may create a dry-fire situation that damages the crossbow or even injures you.
Similar to arrows, crossbow bolt weight is measured in grains with the lightest bolts weighing around 300 grains and the heaviest around 500 grains. Usually, weight has a simple trade off: lighter bolts fly faster but heavier bolts penetrate deeper. In other words, lighter bolts give you more accuracy especially over longer distances while heavier bolts give you a better chance of a lethal shot.
The result is that if you have a really powerful crossbow, you should probably just go for the heaviest bolts you can find. However, if you have a weaker crossbow, it may not be able to shoot a heavy bolt fast enough.
Bolt shaft diameters vary widely to the point that some manufacturers may use their own diameter on their bolts. The main reason to pay attention to this diameter is that certain crossbows may only be compatible with certain shafts. Therefore, check your crossbow model's specifications to be sure.
Additionally, shaft diameter will determine what third-party parts you can install like broadheads and nocks. A unique diameter could severely limit you in that regard.
The vast majority of crossbow bolts out there are designed for hunting. That said, you may want to consider the size of game you're hunting. For large game like elk, bear and moose, you want heavy bolts that are going to be able to penetrate their large bodies. Meanwhile, for medium-sized game like whitetail and coyote, you can increase your range a little with lighter bolts.
Speed Of Your Crossbow
Regardless of the type of crossbow you own, the rated speed basically reflects its power. This means that an especially powerful crossbow, say one shooting over 400 FPS, can take advantage of the penetrating power of heavier bolts while still shooting fast and getting good range and accuracy. Therefore, it's definitely something you should be aware of and consider when deciding on what weight of bolt to get.
Carbon or Aluminum
Although the modern market has become dominated by carbon bolts, it's still possible to find the old aluminum ones out there. But is one really better than the other?
Yes. Carbon is better. This is because it's stiffer, more resilient and lighter weight if you want a lightweight bolt. In fact, aluminum bolts can sometimes bend if they hit a hard target.
That said, aluminum does have one primary advantage. It's much cheaper. For the same energy, you usually pay a lot less.
Carbon - Pros/Cons
- Stiffer spine
- Less flex
- Difficult to repair
Aluminum - Pros/Cons
- Easy to repair
- Can bend
- Excessively heavy
- More flex
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Our staff of experts have put all of these crossbow bolts to the test. If you're looking for a bolt that combines penetration, speed and accuracy, we recommend the TenPoint EVO-X CenterPunch Carbon Crossbow Bolt.
However, there are many situations that may warrant a different bolt, so make sure to consider exactly what you need and find the relevant review above.
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