The Best Crossbow Bolts

Carbon Express PileDriver Fletched Carbon Crossbolt

Our Top Pick for 2016: Carbon Express PileDriver Fletched Carbon Crossbolt
Read our full review.

See it on Amazon for $39.94*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Too expensive? See our budget pick.

Archery with a crossbow is an incredibly rewarding sport. Many people use crossbows for hunting as well as recreational target practice at indoor and outdoor ranges. Crossbows come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. However, the best crossbow in the world will do you no good if you don’t have bolts to match its quality. Keep reading to learn about some of the best crossbow bolts you can purchase.

Table of contents

Half-moon Nocks
Ultimate Penetration
Hand Sorted
8.1 Ounce Arrows
Maximum Kinetic Energy
Graded Individually
Improved Wall Thickness
Great Knock-down Power
Overall Weight Of 325 Grains
Optimal Accuracy And Target Penetration
Advanced Construction Ensures Spine Consistency
Great Terminal Performance And Retained Energy
Limited Five-year Manufacturer’s Warranty
Durable At Impact
Available In 20″ Or 22″ Lengths

*Price at time of publishing and may not reflect current pricing.

#1 Gold pick (Winner): Carbon Express PileDriver Fletched Carbon Crossbolt

Carbon Express PileDriver Fletched Carbon Crossbolt Gold Pick

View it on Amazon for $39.94*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-gold-winnerThese bolts are designed for the hunter seeking maximum penetration of the target. The PileDriver is the heaviest carbon bolt in the Carbon Express lineup with outstanding knockdown power and excellent kinetic energy. The advanced construction used in the design of this bolt helps ensure accuracy and durability on impact. Bolt vanes measure four inches. The bolts themselves include inserted moon nocks plus six universal flat nocks. Reviewers have commented on the excellent quality of these crossbolts over other brands and say that they are extremely accurate.

What’s the Difference Between Arrows and Bolts?

Archers refer to the projector fired from a crossbow as either a bolt or an arrow. Both terms are accurate, although the term “bolt” can only be used in reference to the projectile for a crossbow and not for a vertical bow.

Most crossbow bolts are between 16 and 22 inches in length. Your crossbow will have a manufacturer-recommended bolt length to ensure the best results. Be sure to reference this figure when purchasing new bolts. Bolts slightly greater in length are no big deal, but shorter bolts may be unable to fit properly in the crossbow rail.

The main part of the bolt is referred to as the shaft and is the point to which all other elements are attached. Modern crossbow bolts are made from aluminum or carbon. Both of these materials are light in weight, resistant to bending and unable to split. The stiffness of a bolt is referred to as “spine.” The more spine a bolt has, the more resistant it is to bending.

Bolt weights are measured in grains. If you take a look at the bolt box, you can find the total measurement listed as total grains or a GPI value. GPI stands for grains per inch and can be calculated by multiplying the length of the bolt by its listed GPI. If you wish to convert grains to grams simply multiply grain weight by 0.0648. Never purchase bolts lighter than the recommended weight. Doing so can be paramount to dry-firing your bow and will void your warranty as well as endanger yourself and those around you.

The nock on a crossbow bolt is made from plastic or aluminum in most instances. The nock is designed to keep the bolt in place while you line up your sights on the target. Nocks are available in half-moon (moon) or flat configurations. Half-moon nocks have a small dip that permits you to line the bolt up on the string before you fire it. The type of nock you use will depend on the manufacturer’s recommendation for your crossbow bolts. If you are not sure, contact the manufacturer of your crossbow before purchasing new bolts.

The “wings” you see on the side of your crossbow bolts are called fletchings. Fletchings help stabilize the bolt and prevent it from wobbling or veering off-course while in flight. The spinning action that fletchings impart to the bolt helps keep it more stable than it would be otherwise. There is no “perfect” length for bolt fletchings. In general, the longer the bolt, the longer the fletchings.


As with the bolt weight, always choose arrowheads according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Field points should be the same weight or slightly heavier than the original points that came with your crossbow.

While field points are only for use with a target, broadheads are designed for live game. There are three different types of broadheads used for hunting: fixed-blade, removable-blade and expandable-blade. Fixed-blade broadheads feature razor-sharp blades that cannot be removed. The entire broadhead is a single unit. If the blade becomes dull, you must replace the whole broadhead. Removable-blade broadheads feature blades that can be removed from the broadhead unit and replaced when needed. Expandable-blade broadheads (also known as mechanical broadheads) remain closed until impact, at which point they will open and inflict fatal damage. Expandable-blade broadheads fly the fastest of the three and can achieve the same speeds as an arrow with a field point.

While most crossbows include field points with the original purchase, you will most likely need to purchase the hunting broadheads separately. Using high-quality bolts such as the PileDriver by Carbon Express will help you get the most out of your crossbow experience.

#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): Barnett Outdoors Carbon Crossbow 20-Inch Arrows

Barnett Outdoors Carbon Crossbow 20-Inch Arrows

View it on Amazon for $34.98*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-silver-winnerThis set includes five 20-inch, 8.1-ounce bolts made from lightweight carbon. The thickness of these Barnett Outdoors bolts has been improved for additional “spine” and durability. The bolts are 13.78 grains per inch in weight and include 100-grain field points and moon nocks. These bolts are compatible with Ghost 359, Wildcat C-5 and Jackal crossbows and include a five-year manufacturer’s warranty. They will also work with any other crossbow calling for 20-inch bolts. Reviewers have commented on how straight and true these bolts fly. The red and orange fletchings make it easy to find them in tall grass.

Crossbow Tips and Tricks

In order to prevent injury, it is important to follow the appropriate safety rules and to read your owner’s manual before using your crossbow for the first time.

There are several general practices that apply to all crossbow users regardless of which brand they are using. Failure to follow these practices can result in the loss of fingers and other serious injuries. Crossbow usage rules are simple. If you are careful to follow them, you will protect yourself and those around you from unnecessary pain and grief.

Keep Your Hands Off the Rail

The most common crossbow injury occurs when the shooter places his or her fingers between the cocked string and the rail. Even those who are highly experienced with compound bows and rifles can make this mistake. Many modern crossbows have finger guards on the fore-end that shows you the off-limits space when you are shooting from the off-hand position instead of from a rest. If you are using a rest, you might not be as aware of the location of your hand on the rail of the crossbow. The simple solution is to keep your non-shooting hand off the rail. If you are using a rest, place that hand on your lap.

Do Not Dry-fire Your Crossbow

A dry-fired crossbow can literally blow up in your face, sending fiberglass, screws, carbon and cams flying. Fortunately, most dry-fires don’t result in such catastrophic results. The severity of the damage sustained by a dry-fire will depend on the draw weight of the bow and the integrity of the bow’s components. While a high-quality recurve bow may be able to withstand multiple dry-fires, the sheer power of a crossbow can lead to detrimental results. Some crossbows have an anti-fire device that will not allow the bow to fire unless there is a bolt in place. Even so, partial dry-fires can occur when the bowstring fails to properly engage the bolt. Because the damage sustained by a partial dry-fire may only be observable with special equipment, it is important to have the crossbow inspected by a professional before further use.

Use Your Common Sense

Common sense comes in handy when using dangerous weapons such as a crossbow. For example, don’t carry a cocked crossbow by the rail for any reason whatsoever. Such an action can be equated to carrying a loaded handgun by the muzzle. Keep your hands and fingers out of the path of the bowstring of a cocked crossbow at all times.
Use the Right Type of Bolt for Your Bow

Inspect your bolts for cracks and splits before each use. Damaged carbon bolts when fired can explode, leaving shards of graphite embedded in your face. Be sure that the bolts are heavy enough for the crossbow you are using. If the bolt is too light, you will essentially be dry-firing your bow.

At the End of the Day

At the end of your shooting day, de-cock your bow by firing it. You can de-cock it with a rope-cocking device, but the result of doing it wrong is a dry-fired bow directly over your foot. It is safer to keep a target in the back of your vehicle and to shoot the bow when you are finished.

#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): Bloodsport Carbon Crossbow Bolt

Bloodsport Carbon Crossbow Bolt

View it on Amazon for $26.00*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-bronze-awardThe crossbow bolts by Bloodsport arrive in a pack of six and are a standard 20 inches in length. The bolts by this manufacturer are hand-sorted and -graded to ensure their quality. These bolts work well with high-speed crossbows, including 150-pound models. The carbon bolts feature an overall weight of 325 grains minus field points and broadheads. Bolt nock and fletching colors may vary from lot to lot. These bolts are extremely accurate. You might even “robin hood” a few of them while you are target practicing! The fletchings are very sturdy and can take quite a bit of abuse. One reviewer commented on the four-inch fletchings and said that they work much better than two- or three-inch fletchings.

To help preserve the life of your bolts, avoid shooting tight arrow groups on a regular basis. While it can be exhilarating to shoot one-inch groups from 20 yards, you may end up striking one bolt with another and damaging one or both of them. Consider using several different “bulls-eyes” located an appropriate difference from each other to help preserve the life of your Bloodsport carbon bolts.

Safe Shooting Practices

When shooting a crossbow at a live target, never shoot at a skylined animal. Just as with a rifle, a crossbow transmits a tremendous amount of power to the projectile. Without a sufficient backstop, the bolt will keep going and may strike something you most certainly did not intend to hit. As with vertical archery, only shoot when your target is standing still with a sufficient backstop behind it. You need a “safe area” at least 300 yards deep to allow plenty of space for an unimpeded flight.

Safe stalking of game requires special caution when using a crossbow. Even with the safety on, a cocked crossbow should never be carried through bushes and bracken. Only load the bow when you’ve spotted your game. Keep your broadheads in a bow or hip quiver where the blade is completed covered. Never carry a broadhead in your hand while stalking.

When cocking a crossbow, your foot should be firmly set inside the stirrup. Failure to assume this posture can allow the crossbow to slip from under your foot while cocking and striking you in the face. If your bow does not have an automatic anti-dry-fire mechanism, set the safety to “on” as soon as the bow is cocked before removing your foot from the stirrup.

Never, ever hang your rope cocking aid around your neck. If one end accidentally becomes attached to the cocked bowstring, you could be seriously injured when you fire your crossbow. When you are finished using the cocking aid, place it somewhere well away from your crossbow to avoid accidental injury.

To help ensure your safety and the integrity of your bow, be sure to hold the bowstring at equal distances on each side. Failing to balance the force applied to the string may result in uneven cocking and reduced shooting accuracy. Always double-check to make sure that the string has been drawn back evenly before loading the crossbow with a bolt.

Maintain the quality of your bowstring with string wax. If the string should break, you could injure yourself or those around you. Use rail lube as well according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you notice that your string is beginning to fray, change it immediately.

As with a firearm, never point your crossbow at a person or anything else that you do not intend to shoot, even if no arrow is seated. To prevent accidental release of the bolt, never hold the crossbow by the trigger. If you ever need to lay a cocked crossbow down, remove the bolt from the receiver and de-cock the weapon first.

#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): Extra Survival Aluminum Crossbow Arrow Bolt

Extra Survival Aluminum Crossbow Arrow Bolt

View it on Amazon for $17.58*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-cheap-budget-pickThe Extra Survival aluminum crossbow bolts by Wizard Archery are an excellent choice for 150-pound crossbows. These 20-inch bolts feature half-moon nocks and a 350-grain weight without field points. Reviewers commented on how well these bolts perform for the low price. These make great target-practice bolts for those who wish to save more expensive arrows for hunting.

Cocking Systems

Modern crossbows can have a draw weight of up to 200 pounds. Unless you have the arms of Mr. Incredible or the Hulk, you won’t want to lift this much weight every time you wish to cock your crossbow. Mechanical cocking devices can make cocking a crossbow as easy as pulling the trigger on a firearm. Some bows include mechanical cocking devices in the design while others will require you to make a separate purchase.

Using a rope cocking aid can reduce the effort needed to cock the crossbow by up to 50 percent. If your crossbow’s draw weight is 150 pounds, the rope cocking aid will reduce it to 75 pounds. You will still be required to dead-lift that weight, so if you don’t feel up to the challenge, consider a crank cocking device instead.

Crank cocking devices make the process feel like nothing at all. However, you will need to purchase a high-quality device that is compatible with your bow.

One of the major drawbacks to manually cocking your string is keeping it centered. The bowstring must be drawn perfectly straight to ensure accuracy. If you are deadlifting 150 pounds or more from the ground each time you cock your crossbow, this can be extremely difficult. Cocking devices allow you to achieve a more perfect center for a better aim. Even with the best scope in the world, you will still miss the target if the bowstring is not straight.

Time for a Tune-Up

Over the course of using your crossbow, you will find that it eventually begins to lose its accuracy. If your crossbow has seen two or more years of regular shooting, send it in for string replacement and cam/cable adjustments during the off season. Bowstrings stretch over time and will eventually require replacement for this reason alone. Most manufacturers will make this repair free of charge or for a small fee, but since the process can be lengthy, get it done during the summer months to prevent delays during the hunting season.

Crossbows are not “set ’em and forget ’em” implements. The accuracy of the weapon all depends on the proper configuration of all moving parts. Maintenance is a key part of ensuring proper operation of your crossbow. If you fail to maintain your bow, you might miss your target, or worse, injure your game.

In order to achieve the highest possible level of accuracy, purchase only high-quality bolts and broadheads. If you are really serious, weigh each broadhead on a grain scale to gauge their exact weight. You can remove a grain or two by sharpening the broadhead or by grinding down the threads one at a time. Five or 10 broadheads of the exact same weight on well-designed bolts such as the Extra Survival will serve you well in the field.

Pre-purchase considerations


Crossbows can use bolts slightly longer than specified, but you should never use a bolt shorter than what is recommended by the manufacturer. Be sure that the length you purchase is compatible with your crossbow.


Using a bolt weighing less than what is recommended can have the same effect as dry-firing your bow. Keep in mind that the arrowheads you use on your bolt add additional weight.


Low-quality bolts will not fly straight and may splinter on impact. Visually inspect the bolts as soon as they arrive for cracks and other flaws.

Carbon vs. Aluminum

Both carbon and aluminum as manufacturing materials have their pros and cons. Aluminum bolts tend to be quieter in flight and are extremely precise. Carbon arrows have a flatter trajectory and may be able to be straightened if they become bent.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

Archery is one of the oldest sports in the world and can be enjoyed by anyone. Whether you use a reverse crossbow, a recurve crossbow or a compound crossbow, high-quality bolts will make your experience worthy to repeat.

Discussion and comments

We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?

Do you know of an even better product?

Comment below and help your fellow consumers make the right choice. Over to you!


  1. The Dangers of Dry Firing a Bow,
  2. Crossbow Safety and Security,
  3. Daniel James Hendricks, 11 Crossbow Safety Tips You Should Know,, September 7, 2011
  4. Josh Stockton, 5 Reasons Why You Should Use a Cocking Device,, March 29, 2016
  5. Easton, The Difference in Aluminum and Carbon Hunting Arrows,, August 14, 2014

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