Crossbow Bolts | Information for the Beginning Crossbow Hunter

What You Need to Know About Crossbow Bolts

With the use of crossbows as a hunting weapon gaining popularity rapidly across much of the country, beginning crossbow hunters are seeking out what to look for when purchasing crossbow bolts. Sure, it is important to research the actual model and brand of crossbow like any other piece of hunting equipment before making a purchase, however, what many hunters and shooters are missing is what bolt is best for their crossbow setup and for the species of animal they intend to shoot. Deciding on which crossbow bolt to shoot, what the best crossbow bolt is for you, or building crossbow bolts specifically for a hunt is information that any crossbow hunter should know.

Looking for a Reliable Crossbow Bolt

A lot of variables make up a good crossbow bolt. Until you know which bolt performs the best from your crossbow it is not as simple as walking into your pro shop and purchasing a six-pack of bolts and hoping for the best. Crossbow bolt length, the weight of the entire bolt, type of nock, and shaft material should all be considered before making an initial purchase. Crossbow manufacturers have recommendations for which type of bolt shoots best and these recommendations should be followed. They will also provide the necessary information for the weight, length, and nock type for their crossbow. However, when it comes down to it, it’s obviously up to each individual hunter to choose the best crossbow bolt for their crossbow using the guidelines set by the crossbow manufacturer. If you do not shoot the correct bolt or nock, you run the risk of damaging the crossbow and/or yourself.



Killer Carbon Meets lighted performance – our KillerTech™PRO bolt now comes pre-installed with industry-leading NockOut™ lighted crossbow nocks. Killer Instinct® Lumix Lighted Nocks stand up to repeated use put of high-powered, high-performance crossbows – proven dependable after hundreds of shots! We are confident these bolts will exceed your expectations and improve your confidence in the field.


Crossbow Bolt Construction

Crossbow bolts are similar to construction to that of arrows shot from compound bows. But, with many crossbows shooting more than 400 fps, the bolts need to be tough enough to prevent them from exploding when shot.

Bolt Length

Bolts range in length from 16” to 22”. The most common length is 20-inches. It is possible to get away with a longer bolt than recommended, but anything shorter than what is recommended could cause the broadhead or field point to get caught on the crossbow rail when fired. However, it’s hard to think of one good reason why you would shoot a bolt longer than the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Bolt Weight

The total weight of the bolt includes the weight of the bolt, crossbow nock, insert, vanes, and broadhead or field point. Just about all bolt manufacturers will list how many grains each shaft weighs or how many grains are in each inch of the shaft. For example, your bolt might say 15 grains per inch (GPI). If your bolt is 20-inches, multiply 15 x 20 to figure your bolts weight. In this example it is 300 grains. Now all you have to do is add the weight of the nock, insert, vanes and tip for a total weight. A heavier bolt, at least 400 grains not including the head, will have better downrange energy and offer better penetration. Keep in mind that even though a bolt will leave the rail quickly, a heavier bolt will quickly lose power as it flies. A bolt on the lighter end of the manufacturer’s recommendations will fly faster and will give the shooter an extended range but might not get the desired penetration.

When purchasing a crossbow, the speed ratings are often rated using a 400-grain arrow. The heavier your arrow is, the slower it will fly. For example, if your crossbow is rated at 350 fps, it will only travel at about 315 fps if you are shooting a 500-grain bolt. This matters when thinking about kinetic energy. How fast your bow shoots, the total mass of the bolt, and distance traveled all plays into how much force is delivered upon impact. Keep in mind that the larger your broadhead is, the more kinetic energy is required to get good penetration.

A Bolt’s Kinetic Energy

For small animals like deer and antelope, 23 pounds of energy is the minimum amount of kinetic energy needed. For bigger animals like elk and black bear, the minimum is about 43-pounds and bigger animals like grizzly bears will require 63 pounds of energy. For every 10 yards your bolt travels, you can expect to lose 3 to 4-percent of energy. If you bolt is delivering 80-foot-pounds of force at the initial shot you can expect at 10-yards you will receive 78 to 77-foot-pounds of kinetic energy. At 20-yards those numbers drop to 75 -74-foot-pounds of kinetic energy.

There are several kinetic energy calculators on the internet that will help you figure out how much kinetic energy your bow is delivering. However, you can figure it for yourself. All you need to know is the feet per second (fps) a bolt is flying and the total mass weight of your bolt.


M= total mass of arrow (grains)

V= velocity of arrow (fps)

Bolt Fletching and FOC

As far as vanes go, some people prefer the smaller 2-inch vanes over the larger 4 or 5-inch vanes. The reason some like to shoot the smaller vanes has a lot to do with the arrow front of the center ratio (FOC). The smaller vanes will take away some of the weight off the rear of the bolt. This will add to the FOC. Depending on your overall setup, smaller vanes can help improve accuracy. Once you have decided on length and the total weight of the arrow, practice shooting some bolts with different sizes of vanes to see which one flies better for you.

Crossbow Nocks

Nocks come in several styles and shooting the wrong one from your crossbow could result in the string jumping the nock and causing a dry fire. Look to see if your crossbow shoots half moon, flat back, capture, or hybrid moon nocks. From there you will want to find a lighted crossbow nock that is the same type of nock. Because crossbows are delivering bolts as such a high rate of speed, they are often difficult to see upon impact. This often leaves the hunter guessing where the bolt struck the animal. To combat this problem it is a good idea to use a lighted nock. The two styles of lighted crossbow nocks by Nock Out® are half moon and flat back. Always use the nock type your crossbow is designed to shoot. Most crossbows will not shoot both styles of nocks.

Broadhead Considerations

Companies are now offering expandable blades designed specifically for crossbows. They are very similar to the same head you would shoot out of your compound. Whether you plan on shooting a fixed blade or an expandable specific for crossbows be sure to sight your crossbow in for the broadhead you intend to shoot. Even if you are shooting the bullseye at 30 yards with your field point that does not mean a bigger broadhead will fly the same. With expendables, you stand a better chance of getting the same grouping you did with your field points.

Building Your Own Bolts

If you plan on building your own bolts, it not very complicated. Just be sure each bolt is constructed using the same components. You do not want different grains of inserts, nocks, etc. If you were to do this, no two bolts would fly the same. Even when everything should be equal you might find that one bolt is a little off.

Every component of the bolt will affect how it flies and even penetrates. It might seem overwhelming to try and figure all this out at first. But, it is really a lot easier than you think. The crossbow manufacturer’s recommendations will give you a jump start. It is then up to you make the necessary little adjustments to get the bolt that flies best for you.

Crossbow Nocks 101 | Types and Considerations for Lighted Crossbow Nocks

Which Lighted Crossbow Nocks to Use


Are you a new crossbow hunter just starting out and looking to learn more about it? Maybe you’ve shot crossbows for years but never stopped to think about the various types of crossbow nocks available to you. Regardless of where you stand, you could probably learn more about the best use of each kind, especially as it relates to lighted crossbow nocks. Below, we’ll discuss why you should use them, how to actually install the nocks, and most importantly, how to operate them.




First, Why Lighted Crossbow Nocks?


Just like bow hunting with a regular compound bow, there are several benefits of using Nock Out® lighted nocks instead of regular crossbow nocks. First, it allows you to see your bolt’s flight path with great visibility, which can help you pinpoint where you hit the animal. This is obviously very useful when hunting in low light situations (which are typically some of the best hunting times). It can be a vital feature when hunting predators (like black bears in the video below) so you are aware of when to safely take up the chase. Seeing your arrow’s flight path in low light when shooting a black bear is really hard, as you can imagine, and following a wounded bear (in the case of a poor shot) in the dark is a bad idea. However, when you can follow the laser-like light trail of your nock, you know exactly where you hit it and can decide how to proceed accordingly.


Also, you can easily find your bolt (made even easier in the dark) when the illuminated nocks are glowing. The red, green, or yellow lighted crossbow nocks from Clean-Shot® Archery really stand out, though you should think about which color is best for when and where you plan to hunt. While it’s nice on your wallet to recover your bolts, broadheads, and nocks from the field, finding your bolt can also tell you more about the shot you made. You can look at the color of the blood and smell the bolt to identify if you hit lungs, liver, or paunch. If you never find your bolt, you leave that all to chance. Check out the amazing bear hunting footage below using the best lighted crossbow nock around.



Types of Crossbow Nocks and Best Uses of Each


There are a few different kinds of crossbow nocks that you can use on crossbow bolts. Be sure to check with your crossbow manufacturer first to see which crossbow nocks are recommended for your model. Most normal crossbow nocks are made from plastic or aluminum. The Nock Out® lighted crossbow nocks from Clean Shot® Archery are made of high impact, polycarbonate material so that the super-bright LED lights are very visible, while still being able to handle high-speed modern crossbows that shoot faster than 350 feet per second (fps). If you were to use normal plastic nocks, these high-speed crossbows can sometimes exert too much pressure and distort or crack the material. While there are also capture nocks and hybrid nocks for crossbows, there are two crossbow nock types offered below by Nock Out®.


Flat Nocks

Flat nocks for crossbows are pretty much exactly like you would imagine. They consist of a flat disc that covers the back end of your arrow/bolt shaft. It is a very basic design that allows the bolt to sit in slightly different alignments without compromising the accuracy of the shot or the structural integrity of the crossbow. The only theoretical risk in using flat nocks is that the string could potentially slip off the end of the nock and you could dry-fire it. But since this risk is extremely minimal (non-existent if you’re careful), flat nocks are one of the most popular designs that have stood the test of time. The flat nock green 3-pack is a great deal for bargain shoppers too.



Half-Moon Nocks

Half-moon crossbow nocks are different from flat nocks in that they have a horizontal groove in them. This groove allows the string to nestle into the lighted crossbow nocks and keep it from moving up or down. For this style of nock to work correctly, you need to mount the half-moon nock so that one of the vanes is directly up or down and the nock groove is horizontal in this position. The orange contender 3-pack (or any of the other colors) will stay indexed to the arrow vanes to shoot consistently.



How to Install and Use Lighted Crossbow Nocks


It’s very easy to install these lighted nocks for crossbow bolts, just like it is for the regular compound bow arrows. Each pack comes with three different sized nock adapter bushings to fit the three most common carbon bolts: small (.285), medium (.297), or large (.300). This practical universal fit makes your life much easier since you don’t have to guess at it or buy multiple types to find the right fit. Simply insert the correct-sized bushing into the shaft, and then press the nock receiver into the bushing. Follow the installation instructions that come with your pack to ensure it is correctly indexed with the vanes. Then you’re ready to roll!


It really couldn’t be easier to use your lighted crossbow nocks. Simply rotate the on/off tab on the activation collar 45 degrees into the Ready to Fire mode. When the bolt is fired in this mode, the sudden pressure from the string will turn the LED lights on. Nock Out® lighted nocks for crossbows come in red and green colors for both types, and yellow only for the half-moon nock. To turn it back off after you retrieve your bolt, simply pull the nock straight back until the light turns off again.



When you’re just practicing, you usually don’t want the LED lights turning on every time as it will waste the battery life. To solve this problem, you can turn the collar 45 degrees and switch the nock into practice mode so the LED lights won’t be activated anymore. If you want to just test it out before a hunt to make sure it works, switch it back to the ready to fire mode and keep it there for your hunt.


If you’re interested in trying some light up nocks for crossbows this season, pick up a pack of whatever color you like and give them a try. Their ease of installation and use make it a no-brainer!