What Is a Crossbow Bolt: Parts, Types, and More

what is a crossbow bolt
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What is a crossbow bolt, and how is it different from a regular arrow?

Most people call them the same thing, but that’s not the case at all.

In simple words, a crossbow projectile is termed as a crossbow bolt. We will discuss these bolts in detail and compare crossbow bolts vs arrows.

What Are the Different Parts of a Crossbow Bolt?

Generally, a crossbow bolt comprises four different parts, namely:


It's the main body supporting the rest of the three components.


A top-performing bolt usually has three fletchings made of plastic.

The fletching is the feather-like structure at the end.

Its main function is to provide stability to the entire bolt, especially during the trajectory.

The fletching's length is proportional to the size of the shaft.


It's the pivot point responsible for the arrow's alignment with the bowstring.

Nocks come in different styles, so their unconventional shape may cause the string to jump off.

You have to be extra careful while choosing the nock styles.

For crossbow bolts, there are three types: flat, Omni, and half-moon.

Bolt Head

Located at the front, it acts as a piercer or a cutter for hunting purposes.

The Different Types of Bolt Head

The bolt heads are divided into two categories: field points and broadheads.

  • Field Points

Field points don't come with sharp edges, so they aren't suitable for hunting games.

They have a pointy-tip, only allowing it to dig deep in the target without causing some severe damage.

  • Broadheads

The weight of the broadheads usually varies between 125 and 150 grains.

They are further divided into subtypes: fixed-blade, removable-blade, and expandable-blade.

The fixed-blade, as the name suggests, comes with fixed razor-shaped blades.

On the other end, you can remove or replace the edges from the removable-blade broadheads.

An expandable-blade broadhead is a hybrid modern bolt head which only opens up once the bolt hits the target.

This type causes maximum damage.

However, expandable blades may divert from the trajectory, followed by any other broadhead because of the elusive wind drag.

With the absence of blades in the expandable broadhead, the velocity remains the same mid-flight.

If you want to achieve a neat hit, you can use an expandable blade broadhead.

What Is a Crossbow Bolt Made Of?

Usually, you'll find three types of materials crossbow bolts are crafted with: aluminum, carbon, or a combo of both.

All of these types have their respective advantages and uses.


An aluminum bolt comes in a wide variety in terms of weight and length.

It's a relatively cheaper bolt readily available everywhere.

The lightweight material makes it more accurate, but more prone to external damage or bending.


Carbon bolts may come with a higher price tag. Quality-wise, though, they aren’t just sturdy but also resilient towards bending.


These bolts are a one-for-all and all-for-one option based on your budget and quality requirements.

what is a crossbow bolt

FAQs About Crossbow Bolts

1. Does Crossbow Bolt Length Matter?

Yes! It’s the main distinguishing feature between an arrow and a bolt.

A bolt length varies between 16 and 22 inches, with an average length of 20 inches.

You may find shorter bolts in the market, but don't fall for the trap.

The broadhead of a shorter bolt may get stuck in the rail when shot, so be careful.

2. Does Crossbow Bolt Weight Matter?

Yes, because the speed depends on the bolt's weight.

A bolt's weight is measured in terms of grains per inch (GPI). 

A heavier bolt weighs around 400 to 460 grains, excluding the head.

Such weight is perfect for penetration in harder objects.

Conversely, a lighter bolt, weighing around 350 to 399 grains, can quickly leave the crossbow rail.

On the other hand, a heavier bolt loses power while traveling towards the target.

The manufacturers recommend opting for a lightweight bolt since it flies faster, giving an extended range to the shooter.

Just keep in mind that you won’t get the ideal penetration depth while using a lighter bolt.

3. What Is the Kinetic Energy of a Crossbow Bolt?

While playing archery or shooting games, the minimum kinetic energy required on the bolt is approximately 23 pounds.

This kinetic energy may reach up to 43 pounds in the case of larger prey like bears.

Do you know that for every single yard, a bolt consumes three to four percent kinetic energy?

If you know the initial FPS and the total weight, you can do the rest of the math to calculate the residual force available using the formula:

Kinetic Energy = (Mass of arrow in grains x velocity of arrow in FPS) / 450,240

The Arrow Front of the Center Ratio (FOC)

The lesser number of vanes or fletching reduces the bolt's rear weight, improving the overall FOC and projectile accuracy. 

4. Does a Crossbow Shoot Bolts?

Yes, depending on the draw length and strength of the projectile.

Draw Length

The length of the bolt should be compatible with the draw length.

Since the draw length of a crossbow is generally shorter, you need to use a shorter bolt.

Draw Strength

The draw strength determines the amount of energy transferred to the bolt during the release.

It is responsible for the sturdier projectile motion.

In case of lesser draw weight, the crossbow string may break the bolt while releasing.

Summing up, you should use a thick and heavy bolt with a heavy crossbow.

5. What Is the Difference Between Crossbow Bolts and Arrows?

The significant differences between a crossbow bolt vs arrows are:


While comparing crossbow bolts vs arrows on technical grounds, a crossbow bolt doesn't have any stabilization vanes at the back.

Length and Weight

Typically, a crossbow bolt is shorter in length, measuring between 16 and 22 inches.

Weight also plays an important distinguishing factor between a crossbow bolt vs arrows.

A traditional arrow is usually lighter than a bolt.

Speed and Penetration

As the name includes bolt, you may have guessed that they are comparatively faster than the regular arrows. 

They also penetrate more, causing significant damage to the target. 

So if you want to shoot a wild animal, using a crossbow bolt is a better idea. 

In terms of accuracy and strength, a bolt is better compared to an arrow.


Lastly, in comparing crossbow arrows vs bolts, the arrow has a somewhat flatter trajectory due to lesser weight.

What Is a Crossbow Bolt: The Conclusion

A crossbow bolt is different from an arrow in terms of structure and specific use.

As such, you must be wise about when it is best to use crossbow arrows vs bolts.

Do you know a good-quality bolt can attain a speed of more than 400 FPS? 

So, whether you are a beginner or a professional shooter, you can polish your hunting skills using a crossbow bolt's accurate projectile speed.

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