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Pathfinder 300-grain broadheads - as tough as nails and as good as gold
By Rean Steenkamp
I was recently sent a test sample of a Pathfinder broadhead produced by Paul Zimmerman. I was not born a sceptic or cynical, but have become one so when he made certain claims about the product's potential I had my doubts.
< Figure 1: The "golden" Pathfinder 300-grain broadhead – very attractive and functional
The two-blade 300-grain Pathfinder broadhead is made of a high cobalt content stainless steel used in the meat industry. The 2- mm-thick blades have a "one and a half" offset bevel. The ferrule is manufactured from steel. The point of the broadhead, due to the blade shape comes close to being a Tanto point.
> Figure 2: The 300-grain Pathfinder broadhead showing its arc-like profile and robust titanium nitrite coated blades
The blades are coated with a rust inhibitor of titanium nitrite (TIN for short) which is said to make the blades very hard (close to 400 Rockwell), hold an edge well and make them very wear resistant. The blade is 50 mm long and 29 mm wide giving it a mechanical advantage of 1.72. The blades are not straight edged, but have a gentle curvature. The entire broadhead is finished off with a gold coating that makes it look almost too good to shoot. See Figures 1 and 2.
I was supplied with a single broadhead for testing (they are expensive to produce). First impressions are WOW what a beautiful broadhead. The gold colour is very attractive and will not reflect and shine like most other broadheads will.
The tests I use to evaluate blades may rightly be referred to as "torture tests". I believe for a broadhead to prove its worth (especially one intended for use on big animals), it has to do its job efficiently under the worst of circumstances – at least once. By worst of circumstances I assume that for circumstances beyond the shooters control the broadhead hits the large thigh bone (femur), upper leg bone (humerus), shoulder blade (scapula) or rib on its way to the vitals. This can and does happen and in the event of this the broadhead should not only be able to stand up to the impact, but be able to retain its structural integrity to the extent that it can still affect a quick and humane kill.
> Figure 3: Weight check. The Pathfinder broadhead made available for testing weighed in at 291 grains
The Pathfinder is marked as weighing 300 grains. On weighing it was found to weigh 291 grains (Figure 3). The weight could be bumped up by adding a spacer or two.
> Figure 4: The broadhead was not shaving sharp straight out of the box but functionally sharp enough
Straight out of the box the broadhead was not shaving sharp (Figure 4).
The broadhead was mounted on a 28-inch Easton N-FUSED carbon arrow. The weight of the shaft, three fletches, insert, nock and broadhead was 607 grains. The arrow was shot through a Chrony Master F1 chronograph from a Martin Cougar compound bow set at 60 pounds draw weight.
The impact velocity of the arrow/broadhead combination was 170 fps. The calculated kinetic energy was 38.9 foot-pounds and the momentum 0.23 slugs. This bow and arrow set-up is pretty slow compared to what can be achieved with some modern compounds and the kinetic energy on the low scale.
Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see what could be achieved.
The shooting tests consist of shooting a broadhead into the femur, humerus, and scapula bones of a buffalo and into a 16-mm laminated shutter board covered with tanned antelope hide. If a broadhead survives these tests it is worth taking notice of.
Test 1 (see Figure 5)
> Figure 5: After the first test the point was slightly dulled and the threaded part of the insert had broken off. Apart from this the blade had stood up remarkably well on this test, which will destroy most broadheads on the market.
I decided because I only had one broadhead to test, to give it the toughest test to start off with. If it survived this test it would survive the others. The broadhead was shot into the shaft of a buffalo femur (55 mm thick with a very narrow lumen) from a range of 10 metres. Because of the rounded curvature of the bone it is very difficult to hit the shaft at 900. As it was the broadhead hit slightly off centre and skidded off into the butt. There was a resounding "crack" – the carbon shaft had sheared off clean due to the violent change in direction. That is the end of the broadhead I thought as I went to investigate the results. There was a groove in the femur and the remaining part of the shaft was sticking out of the butt. Much to my surprise when I looked at the other end of the butt the broadhead was sticking out and appeared to be intact. I removed the shaft and inspected the broadhead expecting it to be bent out of shape or have its edges chipped or broken.
Apart from the sharp point being slightly rounded there was no visible external damage to the broadhead. I screwed it out of the shaft to find that the threaded portion of the ferrule had snapped off due to the violence of the arrow's deflection.
I decided to epoxy the broadhead into another shaft to continue the tests.
Test 2 (see Figure 6)
> Figure 6: The broadhead now epoxied into the shaft insert showed good penetration through a buffalo humerus and remained intact with no additional damage visible to the point or cutting edges.
Once the epoxy had set I shot the arrow into a buffalo humerus from a range of 10 metres. The broadhead was not re-sharpened. This time the broadhead penetrated the bone almost completely. It split the bone effectively and created a hole big enough so that when the humerus was tipped sideways the arrow fell through to the fletches. On inspection the broadhead showed no additional damage to the point or cutting edges whatsoever. Impressive! And so on to the next test.
Test 3 (see Figure 7)
> Figure 7: The broadhead penetrated the scapula with ease and emerged on the opposite end of the butt. Again there was no visible distortion of the blade or visible damage to the cutting edges.
Without re-sharpening the broadhead was now shot into a buffalo scapula from 10 metres. Penetration was complete and the broadhead penetrated a good 28 cm to emerge on the opposite side of the butt. The broadhead punched effortlessly through the scapula, retaining enough energy to also penetrate the thickness of the butt. Again on inspection the broadhead showed no further damage to the point or cutting edges. My admiration began to grow. Now for the hide and board test.
Test 4 (see Figure 8)
> Figure 8: Shot into and extracted from 16-mm shutter board the broadhead showed exceptional toughness.
Again without touching up the blades in any way the same broadhead was shot into 16-mm laminated shutter-board covered with antelope hide. This test not only looks at how far the blade will penetrate, but also places huge stressed on the broadheads structural integrity when in must be forcefully removed from the wood for inspection. The blade stuck out about 15 mm on the opposite side of the board after the shot. With the use of a screwdriver and a lot of force the imbedded broadhead was eventually extracted from out of the wood. Remarkably its structural integrity was intact and the cutting surfaces appeared unscathed. This was some tough broadhead. Intent on destroying it I now decided to shoot it into the relatively solid head of a buffalo humerus – again from close range.
Test 5 (see Figure 9)
> Figure 9: Shot into the head of a buffalo femur the broadhead emerged (once again) structurally intact and with a little sharpening could be used again with confidence.
From a range of 10 metres the broadhead was now shot into the head of a buffalo humerus. I was expecting the blade to now bend or fail completely. It didn't. It imbedded into the virtually solid bone almost up to the shaft and caused a long crack down the shaft. I had all my days extracting the broadhead from the bone to be able to inspect it, but eventually with the help of a hammer and screwdriver succeeded in doing so. As the photos clearly illustrate the symmetry of the broadhead was intact as well as the cutting edges.
Figure 10 shows the same broadhead (without any re-sharpening) at the end of the torture testing. The only visible damage was to the point when it became slightly rounded (on the first shot) – the structural integrity (apart from the threaded part of the ferrule) and cutting surfaces remained intact throughout. This is a truly impressive broadhead and with a little filing in between would be good to take on the biggest animal again and again. The test set-up was from a low-poundage bow that delivered very mediocre kinetic energy and momentum. Consider the possibilities if these were doubled! I have no doubt that this broadhead would be able to take on the biggest game and perform successfully under the most trying conditions. It will punch through a buffalo or elephant rib with consummate ease. What makes me really excited is that this broadhead is produced locally in South Africa by Paul Zimmerman of Zimmerman Grinding situated in Durban. Well done Paul for an excellent job.
^ Figure 10: The same broadhead new (far left) and after each test without in any way touching ^
up or re-sharpening the blade. This is one of the toughest broadheads I have ever tested.
The only recommendation I could make is that the broadhead should be out of the box shaving sharp.
About the Author
Rean Steenkamp, editor and owner of Africa’s Bowhunter magazine, is an enthusiastic traditional archer and bowhunter. He started hunting with a longbow in 1997 and has since bagged many African plains game with traditional bows, compound and black powder rifles. He also dabbled in bow building and published a bowhunting book titled “Let loose the arrow!”
Rean started his career in journalism in 1984 at a newspaper in Pretoria, South Africa. He interrupted his career at the end of 1991 when he joined the 37th weather team expedition to Gough Island, where he worked for 14 months as the communicator. The team consisted of only seven people living in isolation on the seven by 16 km island. Rean started the Africa’s Bowhunter magazine in 2000 while working as editor for the Game and Hunt magazine.