Shooting at a deer is not a good time to find out that your arrow is not flying true.
On one of our bowhunting retreats to South Georgia, my business partner, Josh Wells, was able to take a whitetail buck, but it was not without a little bit of drama.
When we reviewed the footage of the shot on this bedded buck, the lighted nock allowed us to see the corkscrew flight path of the arrow… not what you want to see.
When we reviewed the footage of the shot, the lighted nock allowed us to notice some pretty severe corkscrew movement on his arrow. Thankfully, the fletchings did their job and the arrow found its mark.
But, this really got us thinking hard about bare shaft tuning our arrows.
We had not nock tuned our arrows in the past, but we knew folks who did and who recommended it highly.
Just give me one dozen arrows and let’s go hunting…
To be honest, like many of you, in the past we had just gone to our respective local bow shops, ordered a dozen arrows and went hunting.
We had taken for granted that that arrow was going to fly true. After all, when it comes to bowhunting we just need to be a “good shot,” right?
Josh was able to recover his whitetail, but the corkscrew flight of his arrow left him wondering if he had in fact delivered a fatal shot.
Well, we were reminded of an important lesson on this hunt… when it matters most, no one wants that arrow to fly better than the person that’s actually releasing it.
So, as good as your bow shop is (and we have some great bow shops in our area), the truth is that they don’t grip your bow like you do. They don’t necessarily have the same anchor point as you, and they may not have the same release of the arrow that you do.
So, while your bow shop can get your bow in center shot and “in tune,” there is much about yourpersonal shooting method that can affect arrow flight.
So, it’s your responsibility to be sure that each arrow has the best chance of finding its mark when shot from your bow, by you!
The goal of nock tuning is to gradually turn the nock of your arrow to different positions on the shaft to find the one where the arrow flies the straightest. One of the best ways to do this is to shoot a bare shaft (unfletched) arrow through paper until your find the position on the shaft where it shoots a “bullet hole.”
This will give us a very good indicator that when this arrow is fletched and shot, the fletchings will have very little to correct. After all, you may have gripped the bow too tightly during the shot, or even released the arrow abnormally.
Those fletchings will have all that to worry about without adding an arrow that is not properly tuned.
We could certainly go in-depth about arrow spine, but we’ll keep it simple here.
When arrows are shot and released from a bow, a tremendous amount of stored energy is transferred from the limbs of the bow to that arrow.
If you look closely, you can see in this picture that the arrow flexes when shot from the bow. Having the a properly spined arrow for your bow setup is critical to the nock tuning process being fully effective.
The arrow will flex during the shot and the stiffness of the spine is what determines how much that arrow will flex. To fly properly, your arrow needs to flex, but it needs to flex the right amount. That is why having properly spined arrows for your bow setup is critical.
So, as I walk you through the process of bare shaft nock tuning your arrows through paper, I’m going to assume a few things right off the bat. I’m going to assume that your bow is already in center shot and that you have properly spined arrows for your bow setup.
The N-Tune™ arrow wrap and how it makes the nock tuning process easier
Please hear me.
I am not trying to argue for or against arrow wraps.
Many of you may have also gotten interested in the nock tuning and paper tuning bare shaft process by watching the Ranch Fairy.
But, Troy Fowler will tell you, he is not an arrow wrap guy. In fact, he is not for anything that adds extra tail weight. And as it pertains to high FOC, we totally understand why.
What we are saying is, we have found that in the process of bare shaft and paper tuning is tedious. It can take several, if not dozens of shots, and can knowing where you are and where you have been on that arrow shaft is critical to figuring out where the stiffest part of the spine is.
The N-Tune™ arrow wrap allows you to put a small indicator of which arrow you are shooting, so you don’t have to write on your fletchings.
So, we wanted to come up with a way to make the nock tuning process a little bit better, so that you can easily reference which parts of the shaft are tuning better through paper, as well as a way to indicate which arrow you’re working on, so that you can reference that without having to mark up your arrows too much.
How to nock tune your bowhunting arrows | Step-By-Step
Time needed: 15 minutes.
Here’s how to nock tune your arrows through paper using the N-Tune™ arrow wrap (estimate: 15 min per arrow):
Align hole/mark on nock with line on the arrow wrap
Line up the center of the hole in the lighted nock (if you have one) with the number 1 line on the wrap. If your nock does not have a hole, you can mark any place on the nock with a dot as a reference point.
Shoot bare shaft arrow through paper
Shoot the arrow from about 10 feet away through paper (be sure you have a heavy target, such as a speed bag or crossbow target behind the paper that will stop the arrow. Also, be sure that your target is behind your paper more than a full length of your arrow, so that the arrow will not impact the target until it has fully passed through the paper).
Mark corresponding wrap number next to hole in paper
Next to the hole in the paper, write which position on the N-Tune™ arrow wrap you were on when you shot that hole.
Mark your arrow shaft
Once you have shot using all 8 positions on the wrap, examine the holes and see which one is closest to a “bullet hole.” Once you determine this, make a mark on the shaft with a sharpie or other marker and be sure to shoot the arrow with this mark facing up. (Note: If you are fletching your own arrows, you may need your fletchings pointing a certain direction in order to clear your rest of cables. Just be sure that t this mark can always be facing up when shooting.)
Repeat steps 1 through 4 on all shafts
Continue the above process for all 8 positions on the N-Tune™ arrow wrap. (You may have to do this process more than once on each number if you know you had a bad irregularity on one of the shots that was not necessarily the “arrow’s fault.”
If you are going to fletch your own arrows, be sure that you fletch them so that the mark you have made on your shaft is pointing UP when you nock the arrow.
So maybe you’re still asking, “why are you so worried about all this bare shaft nock tuning through paper stuff? That’s what’s the fletchings are for, to correct arrow flight!”
Well, that’s true. But if you’ve bow hunted long enough, you know that a lot of things can happen when you release that arrow.
Maybe your stance wasn’t exactly right. Maybe you were wearing baggy clothing and the string slapped your sleeve when you released the arrow. Maybe you had hand torque when you released the arrow. Maybe you had facial pressure on the bow string.
All these things can negatively affect arrow flight.
Yes, when these things happen, the fletchings will help correct the flight of that arrow. But, you want them to have to correct as little as possible.
Minimal correction is best
Would you rather your fletchings be correcting lots of imperfection because the arrow was not properly tuned? Or, would you rather the fletchings be correction small imperfections because you had taken every precaution to ensure that the bare shaft was flying as true as possible before any of that other bad stuff happened?
I’m choosing option 2, because not only do I want to be the best hunter I can be, I want my arrow to have the best chance possible of making an ethical impact on my target deer or other animal. This will result in me having the best chance possible of recovering that animal.
I hope you’ve learned some helpful information regarding nock tuning through paper.
The Crimson Talon lineup features the G2, the G2 Hyperspeed and the Outlaw.
The G2 Broadhead Specs
First we have the G2. It has a camouflage ferrule that they refer to as “ferruleflage.”
What initially stands out about the G2 is that it has six total blades – three main blades and three bleeders.
The main blade’s diameter is 1.25 inches, which is a big cutting diameter for a 3-blade head.
The G2 broadhead has curved blades as well as a camo ferrule they call “ferruleflage.”
The cutting diameter of the smaller bleeder blades is 1/2 an inch. So, although they are shorter, they help with the cut.
The total cut of this head is 2.6 inches!
The bleeders are also offset at a 60-degree angle, so that allows them to create an even better wound channel and do damage that is difficult to close up.
But the biggest differentiating factor on the G2 broadhead is that the main blades are curved. This apparently creates two advantages…
The other advantage of the curved blades is that once they hit the animal, they continue to rotate, causing a spiral wound channel. Combine that with the 1.25 inches of cutting diameter and 2.6 inches of blade cutting, and that creates a wound channel that is very difficult to close up.
Crimson Talon calls this curved blade feature their “spintite” airfoil technology. As the arrow flies, the curved blades function as vanes or fletchings would, creating quick rotation of the shaft, which results in more accurate flight. This is supposed to prevent arrow planing.
The tip is made out of A2 tool steel, so a really tough, beefy chisel tip of a very high quality steel. The ferrule is 7075 aluminum, which is a very stout, durable aluminum, stronger than some steels.
The blades of the G2 broadhead are 420 G2 stainless steel. The main blades were 0.028 inches thick, which is relatively thick compared to some other blades. But, with so much blade cutting action going on, that probably isn’t going to be an issue.
We’ll see how it does in the durability test below.
One of the cool things about all of the Crimson Talon broadheads is that they have 100% lifetime warranty for any breakage, for any reason, with no expiration and no limitations. So, if any of these heads break, you just send them in and you get a replacement. That’s pretty nice especially at the price point that they are sold at.
The next broadhead I tested was the G2 Hyperspeed. It’s the same head as the G2, but without the airfoil design. So, the blades are all straight.
The Hyperspeed broadhead is like the G2, but without the curved blades.
Now, the bleeders are still offset at a 60-degree angle, but everything is just a straight blade. Some people that don’t want the airfoil designs will like this head.
I remember when I lived in Colorado, the Crimson Talons were illegal (at least at that time) because the blades had to exist in a continual single plane. They couldn’t be curved.
The Outlaw Specs
The last Crimson Talon head I tested was The Outlaw.
The Outlaw is it’s really basic in some ways and unique in others. It’s basic in the sense that it’s a 3-blade head with a 1-1/8 inch cut. It’s a little bit different in that all three blades are offset. The 0.040 inch thick, stainless steel blades are an offset design, to create a better wound channel.
The Outlaw broadhead has offset blades and a 1-1/8″ cut.
The tip is hard stainless steel and the ferrule is solid titanium. It also has a 3-blade locking system, keeping the blades in three different places, which is supposed to make these heads very durable and have really good blade retention.
Crimson Talon Broadhead Testing
I was eager to put all of these heads to the test.
I tested them for flight, edge retention, sharpness, penetration and durability.
Let’s see how this Crimson Talon lineup performed.
All three of the Crimson Talon heads were able to pop a balloon at 70 yards.
Edge retention results (out-of-the-box sharpness)
For the Crimson Talon G2, I just tested the sharpness and edge retention of the straight blades (Hyperspeed), because it’s too difficult to get it all lined up with the curved blades and they are the same blades anyway.
The Crimson Talon G2 Hyperspeed cut paper after 5 strokes of the arrow.
The Outlaw cut paper after five strokes of the arrow.
Penetration results (ballistic gel)
The penetration of these heads was pretty much as expected. The Outlaw penetrated the most at 8 and a half inches, followed by the Hyperspeed at 7 and a quarter inches. And then the G2 with the curved blades penetrated 6 and 3 quarter inches.
Down at the bottom there in the middle, you can see the wound channel of the G2 and you can see that rotation. The blades actually rotated from initial impact with the rubber foam mat to their final resting place. They rotated 90 degrees. So that’s pretty cool. That’s like a single bevel, 2-blade head in terms of rotation. And, that’s a wicked-looking wound channel as well.
Here are all three heads after going through the 22-inch steel plate five times each. I was definitely impressed with the durability. I really didn’t expect any of them to make it through all five times. I expected them to lose blades on maybe the second or third shot. But, none of them did. All of them held their blades together really well and stayed intact.
Penetration (steel plate)
If you look at the holes that the heads made in the steel plate, it’s really interesting. You can see that the Hyperspeed (top right) made the most impressive holes. It made really big, triangular holes with extra wide cuts in the tips.
Notice the G2 with the curved blades. I’m really surprised that it held together like it did. The blades did not straighten out when going through the steel plate five times. They really stayed curved together, which is really impressive. Also, the holes are still really big. You can see the curls in the ends. It didn’t make as big of a triangular hole as the Hyperspeed for some reason, but it still made a really impressive wound channel with those “S-cuts.”
The Outlaw held together as well. And you can see the holes are a bit smaller there, that at a 1 1/8 inch cut.
Edge Retention (steel plate)
Now, in terms of the edge retention and the durability of the blades themselves after going through the steel plate; again, all of them stayed intact. None of them bent out of shape. But, all of them did get really nicked up.
The one that probably got the most nicked up was the G2. Because of those curved blades, the head hits the steel in a new place each time as it curves around. And so, those edges would have had to be replaced after probably the third or fourth shot. But they still held intact. You can imagine there might be some damage when coming in contact with a rib, shoulder or other bones of a deer.
The Outlaw has the thickest blade, so they took a big brunt of the impact on the steel and they got next most nicked up (although the tip held together perfectly and the A2 tip on the G2 and on the Hyperspeed look brand new).
The Hyperspeed got the least amount of damage on the blades. It made it through four times before it would have had to be replaced. So, it stayed in relatively good shape. Some of the blades were still perfectly intact and some were nicked up.
So overall, really impressed and surprised with the durability of these heads.
After reviewing these heads, if I had to pick a winner between them, it would definitely be between the G2 and the G2 Hyperspeed. And which one would be the winner would be based on my setup and on what animal I’m pursuing.
In this review, I’m going to be covering a broadhead that has been around for a while. It’s one I’ve actually used in the field quite a bit and been fairly successful with. It’s called the Gravedigger.
The Gravedigger Hybrid broadhead overview
Let’s take a look at the design and some of the features of the Gravedigger Hybrid head (it’s called a “hybrid” because it has both fixed and mechanical blades). Then, I’ll show you how it performed when I put it through my standard array of tests.
Here is the Gravedigger hybrid in the closed position.
This Gravedigger hybrid model has the chisel tip. (They also make a cut on contact tip where the fixed blades extend all the way up to the top).
The cutting diameter of the Gravedigger Hybrid’s fixed blades is 1 inch. In the closed position, the mechanical blades are ½-inch. So, just in the closed position, if the blades were not to open at all, it would be an inch and 1/2 of a cut, which is no slouch of a cut.
But the mechanical blades do open. They open really well, in fact. They’re not held in place by an O-ring or a retention clip, but rather just by friction, and that’s adjustable with a small Allen bolt.
The cutting diameter in the open position here is a full 1 and 3/4 inches. So, 1 and 3/4″ by 1″ – that’s a lot of cut!
You can adjust the tension that holds the blades in place. But, when they encounter a medium, they open over the top and they fall back into their fully opened position.
The blades of the Gravedigger are made out of a 416 stainless steel. The ferrule is a 7075 aluminum. It’s a pretty vented blade, but it’s still is a good stout aluminum, and the tip is a hardened steel, really stout, chisel tip.
I couldn’t find any information listing the blade thickness, so I used my micrometer to measure. The fixed blade measured 0.039 inches thick and the mechanical blades were 0.032 inches thick.
Gravedigger broadheads testing
I was eager to see how this head performed in my tests. I did not test it for long range flight, because I know it flies really well.
I consider it like a mechanical in terms of flight in the closed position, and I don’t test mechanicals for long range flight, because they all fly really well, even though this head has the little one inch fixed blade. I know it flies fantastic.
I tested for edge sharpness and retention, for penetration, and for durability.
Here’s the entrance of the Gravedigger. And you can see that the mechanical blades opened almost 1-3/4″ on impact. That bottom blade for whatever reason deployed a bit more effectively than the top blade. But, both of them opened up quite well for an over the top mechanical.
I shot the Gravedigger through MDF five times. Below are the pictures.
I shot the first one in the closed position and the baldes didn’t open very much. But, then on the following shots, I kept the head in the open position when I was shooting, just to test durability.
Here, you can see the Gravedigger after going through a half inch MDF five times. As you can see, it held up relatively well. The tip is in still in great shape. The ferrule is also in great shape. The fixed blades are in perfect shape. And the mechanical blades also did really well. They didn’t break off.
Now, in terms of a bend, they did bend backwards a bit. The original on the left gives you a frame of reference. After the shots, there is quite a bit of arch to the expandable blades. But you know what? If you’re going to have a problem with the head kind of “failing,” that’s the way to do it. It’s not really a fail, because it’s continuing to cut even after going through this MDF five times. So, if there’s going to be any kind of a problem, to bend in that direction is the way to go. So overall, very impressive.