7 Best Crossbow Bolts in 2024: Consistency is King

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Video best bolts for crossbow

The best crossbow bolt available in 2024 is the Carbon Express Maxima Blue Streak thanks to its accuracy and consistency from bolt to bolt.

All interesting questions and feedback has then been aggregated into these reviews to provide a comprehensive list.

After filtering the best crossbow bolts, I was left with the following:

  • Carbon Express Maxima Blue Streak
  • Excalibur Firebolt Carbon Arrows
  • Barnett Outdoors Carbon Crossbow Arrows
  • Victory Archery X- Crossbow
  • TenPoint Pro Lite
  • Carbon Express PileDriver
  • Easton XX75 Magnum Bolt

Before skipping to the best crossbow bolts reviews, let’s first dig into what makes a great crossbow bolt.

Best crossbow bolts: understanding your bolt

A good bolt is a consistently accurate bolt. For a bolt to be as accurate as possible it needs three things: weight at the front, perfect rotation of the shaft, and drag from the rear.

Bolt manufacturers are well aware of this, and constantly tweak their arrows to find the best balance and consistency.

Let’s take a look at what they tweak:

Vanes/Fletching

Different Fletching Types

The vanes or fletching are the traditional ‘feathers’ at the back of the bolt. A single vane might weigh in anywhere from 5-10 grains, so that’d be 15 grains between three vanes.

There are three vane shapes: straight, offset and helical. The argument is that straight vanes will fly faster with less drag, while offset and helical designs will improve bolt centricity and stability in flight.

In reality, I wouldn’t base my choice of best bolt on this. In practice I don’t believe it makes much or even any difference, and that’s after having read related reports and tests.

What will make a difference is the size of the fletching. A big fletching is better for guiding the arrow over longer distances to its target.

The bigger the fletching however, the more drag occurs which might alter the course of the bolt. To counteract the drag on the fletching, we rely on the concept of ‘FOC’.

FOC: Weight Forward of Center

Crossbow Bolt Foc

Weight forward of center simply refers to the arrows balance point, and how far past the very middle of the shaft it is. FOC weight is described as a percentage.

Why is this important? The further forward the FOC, the more of the arrow you allow to be ‘guided’ and stabilized by the fletching at the back.

For long distance competition shooting a higher FOC of between 11-16% is recommended. For hunting they also recommend a significant FOC of between 10-15%.

Why so far forward for hunting?

A broadhead is far bigger than a field-tip and makes the arrow liable to wind-plane. A higher FOC gives more control to the fletching at the back in order to override the broadhead.

And how does FOC affect penetration?

Testing has also proven that higher FOC provides greater penetration as it encounters less resistance.

Less resistance is found as the FOC reduces the shaft flexibility.

Shaft diameter

The important thing to remember about shaft diameter is it must be thinner than the broadhead ferrule. According to testing, if it’s wider it can lose up to 30% of penetration.

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That’s a lot! When you purchase your broadheads, remember to take this into account.

Arrow mass

A light arrow has greater acceleration but will quickly lose energy and velocity at distance.

An extremely interesting study by Dr Ed Ashby concluded that the frequency of heavy bone penetration significantly increases somewhere around a mass of 650 grains.

This is bigger than most crossbows are used to, but it does show that a heavier mass is critical for penetration, and accuracy over distance.

Remember that for high arrow mass you will need significantly more control from a bigger fletching, and a longer arrow.

Inserts

When talking about FOC and bolt mass you have to consider inserts. An insert is the small brass, aluminium or sometimes plastic sleeve where you screw in your field-tip or broadhead. You glue your insert into the top of the bolt.

A heavy brass insert of 100-120 grains will add to FOC weight. Aluminium may be lighter, around 30 grains.

Effect on your scope

Finally, it’s also worth remembering that changing significantly your FOC and mass with different inserts or broadheads will ultimately affect how well your scope works, particularly with a ballistic reticle.

Length

The best crossbow bolts are roughly 20-inches long (anywhere from 16″-22″).

A shorter shaft will also be stiffer and less flexible, and therefore achieve more penetration. Shorter arrows will have better acceleration too as they leave the crossbow faster.

The downside to shorter arrows is if you shoot at long distances, because shorter arrows will lose their velocity faster.

Field-tips and broadheads

Some crossbow bolts that you buy will come with an insert but without the head. This is so you can add your own choice of field-tip or broadhead, depending on whether you want to shoot targets or hunt.

In relation to buying the best bolt, just remember to take into account the weight of your field-tip or broadhead. Add this to the weight of your insert to understand your FOC percentage.

I’ve already written about the best broadheads elsewhere, but mechanical broadheads will tend to fly a little better and improve accuracy over a fixed-blade broadhead.

Four basic nock styles

Crossbow Bolt Nock Types

Half-moon nock

It has a half-moon shape to welcome the string. It sits perpendicular to the index vane. They are sometimes made of plastic however plastic versions may cheapen the design and quality.

Capture Nock

A deeper less common variant of the half-moon nock which snaps onto the bow string. You find this more commonly on archery bows.

Flat nock

A flat nock gives the string a nice wide surface area to get squarely behind as it sends the bolt down the rail effectively.

Omni-nock

TenPoint has brought out the omni nock which is more like a half-moon but with more bow string channels. Debatably it’s not a bad choice because you don’t have the same risk of dry firing as the half-moon nock but you do have the improvement over the flat nock as the omni nock engages the string.

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Unlike the half-moon nock, you can position flat nocks anyway you like. I prefer flat nocks as it’s easier for half-moon nocks to provoke dry fire if improperly seated or out of position.

Best Crossbow Bolts Reviews

Carbon Express Maxima Blue Streak Review

Carbon Express claim that all the arrows are laser checked for straightness with a maximum of 0.0025 inches. When I checked they fell well within this range (between 0.001 and 0.0025).

Its excellent accuracy likely comes down to its double spine design. The double spine and proprietary ‘diamond weave’ design increase consistency by reducing flexibility.

Aside from increasing penetration, it also helps to get the bolt spinning faster and earlier and to maintain speed over a prolonged distance.

This really is an excellent bolt which holds true to its specifications. The only downside perhaps is the heavier price tag, but hey, you get what you pay for.

Pros

  • My best crossbow bolts
  • Great consistency between bolts
  • Come with laser eye-lighted nocks

Cons

  • More expensive but you get what you pay for
  • No practice field-tip included

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

Excalibur Firebolt Carbon Arrows Review

Without the broadhead, this arrow weighs in at 265 grains, so I’d recommend using a 125 or 150-grain broadhead to bring the weight up and improve the FOC.

You may find that you have to reglue the inserts from time to time if they come loose, which can get a bit frustrating.

Pros

  • Line up any fletch to shoot

Cons

  • loose inserts

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

Barnett Outdoors Carbon Crossbow Arrows Review

This should increase your FOC weight to meet the recommended 10-15% range for hunting while offering you a significant increase in penetration if you’re hunting big game.

The carbon shaft has increased wall thickness on the previous model which also serves to increase durability and penetration.

Finally, this bow uses half-moon nocks which I’m personally not a fan off, although it’s no big issue.

Pros

  • Best crossbow bolts for the money

Cons

  • Built for light crossbows

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

Victory Archery X Review

The bolt is built of carbon fiber, and has a slightly heavier brass insert which contributes to the 325-grain weight, and with a heavy broadhead you get a high-energy bolt built for long-distance and penetration shooting.

The Bohning X vanes measure at 3 inches, and an extra half inch would have been nice, particularly on the longer shafts.

The bolt is topped off by a plastic half-moon nock. If I could ask for more, it would be a sturdier material.

Pros

  • Best crossbow bolts for value for money
  • Good mass and FOC weight for penetration

Cons

  • Plastic nock

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

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TenPoint Pro Lite Review

The bolt is balanced at 10.5% FOC – just on the edge of the hunting threshold – and the arrow is a little lighter at 370 grains when coupled with a 100-grain field-tip or broadhead. The aluminium insert comes in light at around 25 grains.

The plastifletch fletching at the back of the arrow measures out at 3.5 inches and are slightly offset. The bolt also features TenPoint’s neon green superbrite omni-nock which helps to avoid dry firing associated with half-moon nocks.

Pros

  • Avoid dry firing with omni-nock technology
  • Extremely consistent bolts

Cons

  • Best at shorter distances due to lower FOC and bolt mass

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

Carbon Express PileDriver Review

The bolt is extremely durable on impact thanks to its 0.348-inch diameter and strong build from composite materials. Although you may want to adjust the scope due to the long shaft and different materials, once you’ve done so you’ll get excellent consistency over long distances.

They have kitted this bolt out with a 4-inch vane to keep control of the heavy mass. If you go with this bolt you’ll feel confident approaching all types and sizes of game.

The biggest negative is probably that they advertise it as coming with a field-tip, when actually it doesn’t.

Pros

  • Best crossbow bolts for hunting big game
  • Best selling crossbow bolt on Amazon
  • Great value for money

Cons

  • Buy practice field-tip separately

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

Easton XX75 Magnum Bolt Review

The FOC however is a little on the light side. For the above setup it comes in at around 10%, and I’d like to see a little more.

the bolt comes with 4-inch Kinsey vanes, and despite what’s advertise it does actually come with an insert and nocks. Take care to ensure your nocks are correctly aligned straight out of the box for maximum accuracy.

Pros

  • Good value for money crossbow bolt

Cons

  • Slightly low FOC weight

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

Conclusion

The best crossbow bolts overall were the Carbon Express Maxima Blue Streaks. It has a good out-of-the-box FOC which you could customise with heavier inserts or broadheads. The mass is also on the weightier side which I like, and these bolts are very uniform – there isn’t any difference from one to another. This allows for consistency, and most of all accuracy and penetration.

If you want a high-quality value crossbow bolt then I’d recommend the Barnett Outdoors Carbon Arrows. However, I would suggest using a slightly heavier broadhead (125 or 150 grain) to keep the mass and FOC up. Also, be careful to purchase the newer model, not the 10-year-old model still knocking around on Amazon.

Finally, for big game hunting you obviously want as much penetration as you can get. If this is your case, then I’d recommend the durable Carbon Express PileDrivers. They’re mean!

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Sean Campbell’s love for hunting and outdoor life is credited to his dad who constantly thrilled him with exciting cowboy stories. His current chief commitment involves guiding aspiring gun handlers on firearm safety and shooting tactics at the NRA education and training department. When not with students, expect to find him either at his gunsmithing workshop, in the woods hunting, on the lake fishing, on nature photoshoots, or with his wife and kid in Maverick, Texas. Read more >>