Rick is a former news reporter who decided that the corporate world wasn't for him and took off to travel the world. He's been to every continent (yes, even Antarctica!) and has tried out a multitude of outdoor gear along the way. From tents to hiking boots, he's probably tested it all. Now, he's one of our full-time product testers and experts.
Bryan is one of our leading experts since he's got a vast expertise in practically everything connected to the outdoors. He's been hiking since he was a young boy, was an organizer of kayaking tours which later led to another passion of his - kayak fishing. Now, he's a part-time expert consultant involved in our multiple product tests and topic research.
Last updated: March 11, 2022
Outdoorspedia is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here
A crossbow bolt is an indispensable accessory when it comes to hunting with a crossbow. That is down to the fact that hunting is a sport that calls for speed, accuracy and silence all at the same time. Obviously, you cannot achieve that without proper equipment, which a crossbow bolt. The quality, size, and weight of the bolt goes a long way to determine whether your hunting exercise will be a success or not. That means you need to be extra keen when shopping for your hunting equipment. Let’s not forget there is a plethora of bolts on the market, which makes choosing the best crossbow bolts quite a challenge.
But don’t fret as we have already done the homework for you. After pulling together a list of 20 crossbow bolts, we narrowed down to the top 5 that met the specifications which many pro hunters are keen on. We compared the different products in terms of length and weight, bolt diameter, construction material, tolerance and warranty information. And if you are still confused between a crossbow bolt and a crossbow arrow, then our buying guide is a must-read.
This post has been prepared with your needs in mind and we only hope you can greatly benefit from our 60 hours of research. Start with the comparison table below and see how our finalists rate against each other before going through the in-depth product reviews and finally our buying guide.
More features: Omni-Brite™ 2.0 nock, 68-grain brass insert
The TenPoint Pro Elite is our best crossbow bolt overall and the best for speed and accuracy. Each single bolt made by the company is tested by laser technology to ensure quality and consistency, so you can be sure of this bolt. The shaft is made from high-grade carbon composite thus they are very strong and long-lasting.
An outstanding feature of these crossbow bolts is their patented Omni-Brite™ 2.0 nock. The nock’s unique design allows you to have three string alignment settings that minimize string slippage and eliminates reloading hassles. The front-end is fitted with 68-grain brass insert (with included 100-grain insert for practice tip), which makes the bolt perfectly balanced and gives it an effective FOC (Front of Center). As a result, the bolt travel faster and further than any other while finding the target accurately and hitting it hard.
The shafts have been inspected for straightness to within 0.003-inch and hand sorted for weight tolerance to within two grains per dozen. These are additionally fletched with Fusion Shield Cut Q21 3-inch vanes, which are a bit offset to ensure a maximum level of consistent precision.
If you need to take your game to the next level, you can attach various broadheads for optimum damage to the target. These specifications make the TenPoint Pro Elite the perfect arrows for hunting big game. The carbon material also renders them average weight and speed, which is what you need to take down your prey.
More features: Dual Spine Weight Forward™ and Buff Tuff® finish, 2’’ blazer vanes
The Carbon Express Maxima is one of Carbon Express’ deluxe arrows and staple for pro hunters. This shaft has long been known for its tight tolerance and overall great performance. Specially crafted using unique technology, this crossbow bolt is of the highest quality we tend to believe it’s worth the money.
First of all, it is made from 100% carbon that gives incredible speed and tighter groups. It then features Dual Spine Weight Forward™ technology, which delivers unmatched accuracy and performance. This technology involves the fusion of various carbon materials to create 2 spines in 1 arrow, resulting in swift recovery and guidance control. It also makes the arrow spin 20% sooner and retain more speed.
This crossbow also benefits from a Buff Tuff® finish. This exclusive patented process integrates an incredibly strong outer layer to arrows to ensure utmost durability and quietness. On top of that, the back shaft section is made with Carbon Express’s proprietary Diamond Weave to provide the ultimate stiffness and unrivaled spine consistency.
Carbon Express laser checks each of their arrows’ straightness to an exceptional 1/10,000-inch to make sure they go above and beyond industry standards. They also claim that their measurements are not just averages like many other manufacturers but maximum measurements. This Maxima precisely boasts a straightness of +/- 0.0025 inch. It comes with both flat and moon nocks for versatility plus it arrives uncut and fletched 2-inch blazer vanes.
All things considered, the tolerance standards used by Carbon Express together with Dual Spine Weight Forward technology means this crossbow is arguably the most consistent in the industry.
What are our favorite features?
Made from 100% carbon for speed and accuracy
Supplied with both flat and moon nocks
Buff Tuff technology offers excellent strength
Diamond Weave ensures stiffness and great spine consistency
More features: 100-grain practice tip included, 8.9% loss of speed after 50 yards, 24-grain aluminum insert
The Tenpoint Pro-V22 is a carbon fiber arrow that has been fletched slightly offset with Easton BTV vanes. Fitted with a 24-grain aluminium insert, it provides 10.5% FOC. Elsewhere, TenPoint’s flueorescent fire orange Superbrite Omni-Nock with six micro-grooves that form three bowstring channels eliminates the indexing issue that’s common with moon and capture nocks.
This crossbow bolt is made with precision in mind and that’s evident with its capability to hold 2.25 inch groups at 50 yards. The shaft is inspected for straightness to within 0.003 and hard sorted for weight tolerance to within 2 grains per dozen. Standard weight is 420 grains. Its BTV vane colours are green and orange.
These are supplied in a pack of 6 and each measures 22 inches long. You can expect shot after shot accuracy and a great level of consistency from bolt to bolt. They fly true and hold a very good pattern at 50 yards. We also like how they securely fit with an easy on and off string actuated lighted knock with micro battery within a switch. Included in the package are 100-grain field tips for training and we like the fact that they very repeatable during practice shooting.
In this Pro-V22, TenPoint have a bolt that stays consistent in finding and hurting the target with every shot, which is why we pronounce it as the best bolt for deer hunting.
The Excalibur Crossbow Quill Micro Bolt is specifically designed for use with Excalibur Micro series of crossbows (sold separately) and it arrives ready for high speed travel. It has been developed in cooperation with the leading arrow manufacturer Easton® to ensure it meets industry standards. This Micro Bolt features a reinforced spine for lightning speeds along with a flatback insert for more dependable contact with the crossbow string.
Its 16.5-inch long arrows together with 2-inch vanes with 3A offset provide great performance when combined with 150 grain broadheads. The arrows are purely made from carbon, which retains straightness much better with repeated shooting and continuous abuse than any other material. Many bow hunters also prefer carbon arrows as they do not bend permanently on impact.
The metal back is flat and has a threaded insert to ensure bolts can be easily pulled with a T-handle bolt puller. Note that the nock and fletching colors are selected at the factory, however, all bolts in a pack of 6 will be the same nock and fletching color combination. The straightness has been inspected to 0.003-inch and the bolt diameter is 0.347 inches. Weighing a mere 163-grain, these will fly at incredible speed to kill a deer that’s 50 yards away. If you are looking for something to use with Excalibur Micro crossbow, these beauties are an excellent choice.
Why is it special?
Engineered by Excalibur and Easton experts
Reinforced spine for blistering speed
Flatback insert provides a reliable contact with the crossbow string
This Summit Archery Products Victory Crossbow Bolts is unlike any other bolt on our list as it is not just available in a 20-inch length but also in a 22-inch length. That’s wonderful news for crossbow owners who have bigger crossbows. The bolt’s body is crafted from premium grade carbon but the front-end inserts features brass. This combination gives the bolt an Extreme Front of Center (EFOC) which is precisely what it needed for spot-on accuracy. In addition to that, the heavier front enables the bolt to penetrate the prey deeply ensuring a kill.
This bolt comes with a standard half-moon nock but perhaps the most outstanding feature is the red light at the end of it. This acts as a beacon that will allow you to locate the arrow even at night. Likewise, it will help you identify your kill if the arrow is still stuck in its flesh. The lighted knocks can be turned off should you wish to. Simply put a small Allen wrench in the hole and push contact towards the back end of the knock – the nock will turn off. The vanes are also colored for extra effect. The total weight including brass inserts is 20 in. 320gr. / 22 in. 327gr.
On a price versus features scale, these crossbow bolts seem an absolute bargain and they are also the best for night hunting. You’ll be sure to spot your bolt whether you hit your target or not.
Why is it special?
LED red-lights nocks
Available in 20-inch and 22-inch lengths
Very fast and accurate
What are the flaws?
LED knock has to be replaced once battery runs out.
Things to Consider
Before you set out to buy a crossbow bolt, you must be informed about the various factors that make one bolt superior to the other.
Crossbow bolts and arrows – what’s the difference
Most folks confuse crossbow bolts with arrows but that is because of the close physical similarity between these hunting tools. As such, it is important to understand the distinguishing characteristics of each tool so as to avoid the possible blunder of purchasing arrows instead of bolts or the other way round.
A crossbow bolt is simply an arrow with a bullet or square head to shoot from a crossbow. As far as functionality is concerned, it is quite similar to a traditional arrow but different when it comes to weight, trajectory, speed, and result.
A bolt is quite shorter than an arrow as the average length of a crossbow bolt is 20 inches, while crossbow arrows range anywhere from 30 to 34 inches long.
Crossbow loading tips
A properly loaded arrow will depart your crossbow with the right amount of force and trajectory.
Make sure that your bolt’s shaft fits perfectly into the flight groove. The nock should be in contact with already-cocked strings and the head should sit comfortably between the riser. One of the fletchings should get into the flight groove as well. Most crossbow bolts have colored fletchings to help you know which fletching goes into the groove.
Obviously, you can’t have premium arrows if you can’t afford them. Look for medium-quality crossbow bolts that won’t break the bank and have at least 6 bolts.
Features to consider while buying the best crossbow bolts
Below are the crucial features that can help you narrow down to your best crossbow bolts.
This combines the fletched shaft, nock, insert and broadhead or field point. Bolt weight is important because too heavy and your range will be limited, but too light and penetration will be compromised. It is important to establish the balance of the load. Bolt weight is measured in grains and you will have to consult the manufacturer’s recommendations to determine the proper weight and length that’s needed for your crossbow.
Bolt length and diameter
The shortest length of a crossbow bolt is 16 inches and the longest bolts measure 22 inches. 20 inches is average and it is the ideal length for most crossbows. Aim at getting the right bolts with the appropriate length compatibility with your crossbow. If you are not careful enough, you may end up buying crossbow bolts that are shorter or longer than your bow. A bolt which falls below the required length will ruin everything.
The bolt diameter is critical as far as penetration goes. Small diameter bolts (about 0.347’’) will cut down on wind drag when the bolt is triggered and provide increased durability, plus a boost in penetration power, unlike traditional conventional bolts.
Know the kinetic energy
This is just as important as speed, but speed is only a primary draw when picking a particular bolt over another. Moreover, speed can only do so much once a bolt is let go, however, drag forces start to slow a bolt from the moment it’s released. It is essential to pick a bolt that has optimum penetration power over one that is only the fastest.
A bow will deliver a similar amount of force to a bolt every time it launches the bolt, meaning a heavier bolt shoots with more power and a lighter bolt shoots faster. With that in mind, crossbow bolts come in three weights:
Lightweight: 350 – 400 grains
Standard: 400-435 grains
Heavy: 435+ grains
Lightweight bolts create a flatter downrange trajectory and boost overall speed. On the flip side, they produce vibration, noise, and stress. This increases the risk of damaging the crossbow itself. Lightweight bolts are also susceptible to getting deflected away from the target by wind, rain or dust. Therefore, they are suitable for shooting in open areas where the estimating distance from crossbow to target is more difficult.
Standard bolts are typically all-purpose arrows that most almost every hunting situation including any weather condition. They provide a decent balance between speed and kinetic energy. Their higher grains means that more energy is transferred from the bow to the bolt. They benefit from low vibration and noise as well as improved accuracy and penetration power.
Then there are the heavyweight bolts, which produce and retain a greater amount of kinetic energy than the other counterparts. The end result is deeper penetration. These bolts also have better in-flight stability in bad weather but they are prone to losing trajectory quicker than other versions, so judging distance accurately prior to shooting is critical. A heavy bolt is the best choice when hunting game in thick habitats. The Tenpoint Pro-V22 with its 436-grain weight is a great recommendation for hunting deer and other big game.
Crossbow bolts are made of aluminum, carbon, or fiberglass.
Aluminum arrows are the cheapest of them all. They are extremely robust on impact and not prone to shearing apart or arrow spine penetration. On the flip side, they bend easily and once that happens, they are useless. They are also heavy, thus getting weight forward of center can be a pain.
Fiberglass arrows bend naturally and have got better shock absorption. They fall in the mid-range of the price scale. They do have a few issues though including the risk of explosion if bent too much and prone to losing hairs that irritate the skin.
Carbon bolts are the straightest of all arrows and extremely durable when maintained properly. However, these solid benefits come at a hefty price. Carbon bolts are also dangers to use if damaged plus they are sensitive to correct arrow spine.
Nock and fletching
The nock is the part that comes into contact with the string of your crossbow. A good knock ensures maximum transfer of energy when the bolt is fired.
Knocks come in different types:
Flat knocks have a simple flat disk at the back of the bolt. This allows you to place the bolt anywhere on the string but it also increases the chances of a dry shot.
Half-moon nocks feature a single groove designed to grip the string of your crossbow. Though it offers minimal positioning freedom compared with a flat nock, the danger of the arrow misfiring or slipping is significantly reduced with the half-moon nock, so long as the bolt is loaded correctly.
Omni nocks are perhaps the most versatile of nocks as they have multiple grooves that can grip and press against the string, making it nearly impossible to load the arrow incorrectly. You can see them in our best pick – TenPoint Pro Elite.
Fletching refers to the fins around the back of the bolt and which encompasses the nock. Crossbow bolts feature three plastic fletchings and they can vary in length. Longer ones are better suited with longer shafts. The purpose of fletchings is to stabilize the trajectory of the bolt and keep it from swinging while in flight.
There are two types of heads; target points and broadheads.
Target points are suitable for practice. They have no sharp tips and only meant to strike soft targets.
Broadheads are perfect of hunting game. They are razor-sharp and can penetrate enough through animal flesh. If you can find removable heads the better because you can replace them if they get damaged. Expandable broadheads can shoot with stronger impact and penetration as their arrowheads only open when they are almost hitting the target. However, this kind of heads is a lot more expensive.
Shafts are usually composed of aluminum or carbon. They are both lightweight materials yet durable, bend-resistant and do not splinter. Aluminum shafts are cheap, quiet and available in a range of spines. On the downside, they do not shoot as flat as other bolts and tend to decrease in strength as weight adds up.
Carbon shafts shoot flatter and minimize wind drift better. However, they shed velocity much faster once fired and they are quite expensive.
Spine and straightness
Spine refers to the measure of toughness that the bolt has when the crossbow’s string is pushing against the nock. Getting the right spine is crucial because when the string fires, it produces vibrations that shake the bolt back and forth. These vibrations attuned to the stress that the arrow will receive. If the spine is incorrect, the bow will be inaccurate and reduce your chances of hitting the target.
Straightness determines the consistency of the arrow in flight. Make sure that to have more than one straight arrow in your pack. Each box has listed the tolerances of the arrows inside and you want the number to be +/-0.001. Keep in mind that no matter how straight the arrow is, if the spine is incorrect you will have poor accuracy.
Ideally, you want to have enough bolts for practice and making a kill. Go for a pack of 6 to 12 crossbow bolts.
Many crossbow bolts have no warranty but that’s understandable because these tools become damaged upon penetrating the animal flesh. That means you will be out shopping for another pack sooner or later, but that depends on how often you use them.
Choose wisely – how to understand which crossbow bolt type is the best for you
Pay attention to both the field points and broadheads – they have to be of similar weight.
NEVER use arrowheads and arrow shafts that are lighter than what is stated by the manufacturer. It will be as simple as dry-firing your bow, which can lead to malfunction, and even pose a danger your health. Heavier ones are okay, though.
The most crossbow comes with practice field points, but you will have to buy their broadheads separately.
Well, aluminium bolts are likely to become damaged after penetrating an animal. Carbon bolts, which are commonly used these days, are less likely to become bent but they can crack or shatter. So if your bolt doesn’t suffer damage, then you can always use it again.
There is no denying that crossbow bolts make a whole lot of difference when hunting. However, remember that the best crossbow bolts are ones that are perfectly compatible with your bow. You will waste your money if you can’t match the two.
From our list, the TenPoint Pro Elite is the absolute best. These 20-inch bolts weigh 442 grains and that’s what you want for causing maximum impact and deeper penetration. We like their patented omni-nocks and the fact that you can go wrong with them. Whether you will be hunting in clear or bad weather, in open or dense vegetation, these bolts are the go-to product.
The Carbon Express Maxima is the runner-up product. They are well built with Dual Spine Weight Forward™ and Buff Tuff® technologies at the core of their construction. They have superb tolerance, excellent speed and consistency.
Then we have the Summit Archery Products Victory Crossbow Bolts, which we think are a bargain for what you get. The selling point is their lighted nocks and they are also available in multiple lengths. Their lightweight construction means they are very swift in flight too.
Up to this point, all that’s left is you to decide and buy your favorite crossbow bolts.