One of the aims of a broadhead is to kill as quickly as possible. A big time, hardcore hunt calls for a high-quality broadhead, and Iron Will Outfitters knows exactly what you need. They are known for making high-quality broadheads for bow hunters who love the chase. Their passion for becoming better hunters drove them to engineer the ideal broadhead – a premium broadhead as reliable as science allows. Bill Vanderheyden, Co-Founder and Lean Engineer of Iron Will Outfitters, shares the excellence of their premium product as well as its sharpeners for touch-up. On top of that, he gives insights on maximizing an arrow’s penetration and FOC.
Listen to the podcast here:
Discover Iron Will Broadheads with Bill Vanderheyden
I’m with Bill Vanderheyden. He’s the Owner of Iron Will Broadheads. Reliable as Science Allows, what does that mean Bill?
Bruce, thanks for having me on. What it means is there’s been a lot of engineering put into this. I’m a mechanical engineer. I’ve been working on product development for many years. When I set out to make a better broadhead, I went through all the steps that I would in my normal engineering job of analyzing, using all the engineering tools and computer simulations to get the best geometry for strength and flight, also the best materials I could find out there to meet the specific requirements of a broadhead. It’s a difficult task for something to do. That high speed impact something which might be a hard bone and not be damaged, not have a brittle failure either and stay sharp and go through. A lot of engineering went into picking the best materials and manufacturing processes to make it as reliable as science allows. I work with SKB to make a custom broadhead case for us. We sell six-pack of broadheads in a case.
I want to talk about what it’s made of, grade of steel or titanium or whatever it’s made of because people look at spending. What’s your suggested retail price, $30 apiece?
That’s being about $33 apiece or $99.95 for a three-pack. They are two to three times higher than most broadheads out there. A lot of that is the materials and manufacturing processes that went into it. We use premium blade steel. We do a heat treat process to get them hard. We have 60 Rockwell C hardness so we can get a sharp edge and have good edge retention with that. We’re using the A2 Tool Steel because it has not only the hardness property that we can get with it but also the excellent impact toughness of materials used in metal stamping dies to cut other metals. It can be made both hard and have high impact toughness. We go through this triple temper process to the heat treat to bring out that higher toughness. We also do this subzero quench where it’s trying to improve the microstructure and get the highest performance we can out of the steel.
A lot goes into the manufacturing process. We use a 35-titanium ferrule in our lighter weight heads because that has the best strength to weight ratio of anything. We can get a lot of material in that ferrule to have good support to the blade but yet still have high strength and have high impact strength there. Material costs more but also we machine it in that hardened state. You have to machine it slowly. Overall, a ferrule made out of titanium is going to cost five, six times as much as one that’s out of aluminum or softer steel. You get higher performance with that. We do charge a higher price, but it’s because you get higher performance. You get what you pay for.
Aaron Schneider liked your broadhead. Why is he bullish on Iron Will?
He hunts a lot and gets a lot of animals every year. He gets maybe 30 animals a year or something like that and he has for many years. He likes to test a lot of different gear and use the top performing gear around. He’s tested our broadheads and compared it to several other ones out there. He feels it’s one of the best ones as far as a fixed broadhead that he can shoot well at long range. He’s been using a trad bow lately, but when he was using his compound he told me they grouped well for him at 100 yards, even 120 yards. You could group with field points. That edge retention, you can shoot through an animal. He shot through his bear. It was standing up and had his arm in front of the body and he broke through the leg bone clean and half. It went through into the vitals and the head was still good after that. It’s that top performance to the broadhead.
A majority of them are elk hunters going after this bigger game, heading out West where you might have longer shots as well. We did a lot of work to make them fly well at long range. A lot of guys are using it for that reason as well. If the whitetail hunter, when your shots are closer up 30 yards and in probably and the whitetail body aren’t nearly as big as an elk either. You might think it’s overkill for a whitetail and probably is. The advantage you get is you can use it on multiple whitetails. I’ve got a friend that’s taken six whitetails with the same broadhead. It’s a lifetime guarantee. If you do damage it, we replace it.Arrow flight needs to be number one. Click To Tweet
Typically, I find you blow through them, stick in the dirt and pull it back out. It still shaves hair, clean it off, put it back in your quiver and keep using it. Spin the arrow. Make sure it spins true. Check to see that you still can shave the hair on your arm. Typically, you can. That’s the difference with a premium blade steel at 60 Rockwell C hardness is that it retains the edge a long time. It’s not unusual at all for me to blow through an elk and still shave hair with it. I took two elk with the same broadhead a few years ago because it looked brand new. This is after a 54-yard pass through shot on the first elk. It still shaved hair and put it in my quiver and I ended up shooting a big bull with that same head about a week later.
What about crossbows? Any difference to put it on a crossbow?
I don’t have a lot of experience with crossbows myself. I did buy one a couple of years ago and I use it for testing. You’re tight groups with the crossbow and me with 100 grain. Mostly tested our v100 and our v125, they shoot well for me there. We do have those light crossbow hunters now that are using them. There’s a review on YouTube. If you look up Ravin R10 Broadhead Review, a guy named Ben Edde tested four or five different broadheads with his Ravin crossbow through a bunch deer shoulder blades and different materials. He looked at how well they group. Iron Will performed the top out of the broadheads he looked at there. We’ve had good feedback on crossbow from people as well.
I’m hearing a lot of FOC, Front of Center. Talk to me about that factor in speed, accuracy and penetration.
My opinion on it is you don’t need extreme FOC. What I see happening, it’s a bit concerning, is that I know a number of guys that do custom arrow build for people as a business. More and more guys are coming to them asking for extreme FOC. They want that 25%, 30% FOC. Often, it’s difficult to do that without becoming under spined. A couple of these guys I know, they’re going back to their clients saying, “I can get you this FOC but you’re a little under spine.” They’re like “That’s perfect. That’s what I want.” My concern is that the arrow flight needs to be number one. You don’t want to be under spine in a compound shooting fixed blade heads. I caution people that try to get too high. Personally, 12% to 16% is good. We’ve seen great results with that amount of FOC. We do sell broadheads from 100 grain, 125 grain, 150 grain, 175 grain, 200 grain, 225 grain and 250 grain. They’re all basically using the same blades. The weight is added in the ferrule. You can go as heavy as you want with our broadheads to get that higher FOC. I caution to make sure you’re not under spined. Look at the charts or use one of these online programs. Higher FOC is better in general, I do agree to that. It’ll give you a little more stability in flight.
Often, if you go higher FOC, you’re getting a higher arrow weight as well. Higher arrow mass is giving you more retained momentum, better penetration. I’m a fan of a little heavier arrow. A little bit more FOC is fine, don’t try to push it to an extreme where you’re under spine or that your arrow is dropping like a rock. It doesn’t matter so much if you’re at 20 to 30 yards, whitetail tree stand hunting. The high FOC, there isn’t much negative as long as you’re not under spine. At some point, it can get to where it’s less forgiving when it’s too heavy up front because when you got all that mass up front and you’re launching your arrow, you’re trying to push that heavyweight through. Typically, it’s a pretty thin arrow if there’s that much FOC. You’re pushing it through there. That whole bending and flexing become greater and more critical. Any little errors and flaw can become worse if you’re at the extreme level.
I’m having enough people in conversations say, “I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that.” I’m going, “Okay.” I’m not an expert, but you are. That’s why I want to share it with people to have some common sense and some reality set in some place because it’s like shooting bullets at over 4,000 feet per second. I used to shoot prairie dog and my bullets would come apart. They would melt. All the lead would come right off. There was nothing else downrange. They would smudge when the temperatures outside got hot and the bullet left the gun at over 4,000 feet per second. You’d see a smudge and the bullet was gone.
I look at a lot of the physics behind things and trying to study engineering and try to believe people that you hear out there saying certain things, but rather to see does the science support it? There’s this push out there that high FOC we’ll give you 30% or 60% greater penetration and that’s bunk. That is not right in terms of science. It doesn’t support it. This is like if you’re taking two arrows that have the same momentum. The higher FOC isn’t going to give you probably any more penetration or little. If you look at penetration, it’s the momentum of the arrow as it impacts that will determine the penetration. Change in momentum. Momentum is mass times velocity. A heavier arrow will have more momentum when you get down range typically because a heavier arrow out of your bow is more efficient. You get a little bit more momentum as it leaves the bow.
At the lower velocity, you have less drag as well. You get more retained momentum, which is that product of mass times velocity down range. I agree that a heavier arrow will give you more penetration down range, but now FOC is where’s the center of mass of that arrow relative to the center of the arrow? From going to a couple of inches forward to three inches forward, you shift your FOC by a lot. I don’t think it has much effect at all on how much actual penetration you get. If you think about where the center of mass is, it’s mass times the velocity is going to be equal to force times time. It varies as you go through the animal. It’s basically the area under that curve of force over time. You change momentum, mass times velocity. You’ll end up being zero.High FOC will give you 30% or 60% greater penetration. Click To Tweet
You take that product. It’s going to be equal to the force times time. FOC doesn’t enter into that equation. Maybe the slight second order effect of your mass is a little further back, maybe you’re getting more flexing of the arrow and you’re going to lose some efficiency there. That’s a small effect. This high FOC push out there that you’re going to get way higher penetration is mistaken. The science doesn’t support it. Guys are focusing more on that then good arrow flight. Number one is that your arrow is going straight when it hits the animal and good arrow flight. Hitting where you want to, hitting in the vitals. I definitely push those over the extreme high FOC that all people are going to out there.
Let’s get back to the broadhead itself. You have beveled edges. What’s the advantage there?
In terms of whitetails, the advantage you’d have with our broadhead is it opens up some shot opportunities. The best place to shoot a whitetail is right in that golden triangle in front of the crease as close as you can. Close to the shoulder blades, shoulder bones, the top of the heart, lung area. It gets close to shoulder bone, leg bones there. I like to shoot there. You get the quickest kill and typically whitetails are dropping in sight for me if you can hit there. An extremely sharp broadhead that stays sharp. What I found with other broadheads, a lot of them out there aren’t sharp out of the box. Do this test on your broadheads. Take them out of the box. If you can’t shave a hair with them, take them back. Get some different ones. Demand that broadhead manufacturers make them sharp. There’s a push to make them lower cost and make money by these companies that they might skip some steps like those final grinding and honing steps. Make sure they shave hair out of the package. You’d be surprised how many don’t.
The other thing I find is that with these steels that have a lower hardness and especially mechanicals on where they don’t want the blades to break. They want them to bend and not be brittle at all. Their Rockwell C hardness is down around 45, 48. That’s poor for edge retention. Typically, I push that through a deer hide and that hair and hide will take that edge away. You’re not slicing tissue well after that, you’re tearing it. You’re not getting the bleeding that you could. With our broadhead, it’ll stay razor sharp and slice all the way through to get you that extra hole, get you a quick kill. That’s an advantage of our steel and our edges. Their thing is if you hit the shoulder blade, you’re going to go right through. I’ve had probably 30 people in this past year tell me they’ve gotten a complete pass through shots on elk, including going through one or both shoulder blades on elk.
That’s impressive if you’ve ever taken apart. It’s not a deer or it’s not an antelope, it’s sizable. I’ve seen one broadhead go halfway through the elk. We got the elk, they had to shoot it. We had to shoot it again. It wasn’t my shot, it was a different guy. We did the post-mortem because we wanted to see. We had the arrow manufacturer with us and he wanted to take pictures and see what happened. It went halfway through. At 350 feet a second, pick a number and you shoot 125 or whatever blade, Iron Wills is going to penetrate and go through the shoulder blade. You’re going to harvest that elk.
That’s what got me started is I hit an elk in the shoulder blade many years ago with a broadhead and it failed. It didn’t penetrate but a couple of inches. The vitals are close to that shoulder bone area that you need a broadhead that’s going to get through there. That was my initial goal is get that penetration through bone without damaging the head, stay sharp, slice through those vitals, and get that kill rather than heartbreaking loss of an elk after you put in so much work to get that shot.
That’s like bullets in rifle hunt, which I don’t do so much anymore. I put the best bullet in the cartridge. I used Nosler Partition Bullets. There are fantastic bullets out there. If you get down to it, the people who harvest numerous heads of game every year, they use the best possible bullet. All their components are the best possible. That’s the way hunting is because you owe the animal the most ethical, humane, fast kill that you can do and you need a bullet that’s going to stay together. It comes to the same thing with a broadhead. You have to bounce off ribs, penetrate ribs, snap ribs, and go through leg bones. These are good archers. They’re after the big game so they know what they’re up against so they load up. Thinking about $100 for three blades, if that one blade lasts you three years, that’s $10 a year. Three blades, let’s say you kill one or two bucks and three dogs. You killed five deer. Based on what I know about Iron Will Broadheads is that a slight tune-up, as long as I didn’t go through a shoulder blade or something like that, I could kill five deer with one broadhead. Your thoughts on that?
Even through the shoulder blade. My last couple of mule deer I took were cornering on shots. I know where the bone structure is and I aim to not hit the shoulder. It depends on how much their angled to me, whether or not I shoot left to that bone and try and go through there or right to the bone in that triangle. In one of those, I hit the bone but it went right through. I couldn’t tell the broadhead spun true and it still looked good. I touched the edge up a little bit and it was good to go. You could definitely use it for multiple animals. If you hit a rock, a boulder, that’s when you’re going to do a little damage. Typically, it still spins true. You can even touch them a bit. It takes more work. We have a lifetime guarantee. If you break or bend one, we replace it.
All the weight forward to 250 grams, all that’s in the titanium ferrule?
The heavier weights we use, the hardened steel ferrule to get that added weight. That’s why we can use the same blades and the broadheads don’t look much different in the heavier weights. Going to that steel ferrule, we’ve added a lot of the mass in that ferrule.
The cutting diameter isn’t any different?
It’s not. The same blade sets are used.
If you do go after a grizzly bear or go to Africa and start shooting, playing games or even dangerous games which people have taken Cape buffalo with Iron Will Broadheads. One thing I’ve noticed, there seem to be some other people picking up the competition of world-class expensive two-blade broadheads. Is that because of your success or is that because of market demand?
I don’t know if we’ve had that much influence. It’s only a few years where people have known about us. We’re definitely growing a lot. We’re getting a strong customer following. Once people get our broadheads in their hands and see them and they realize this does look like a high-quality head. It’s cut above what I’m used to. When they put it through an animal and afterward they see that it still looks new and can shave hair and still spin true, they’re seeing, “It’s a step change improvement from what I thought broadheads could do.” We’re definitely getting a strong following for those reasons. I was always a three-blade guy before. I grew up whitetail hunting in Wisconsin. I always felt like three-blade might fly better and plane less and things like that and they don’t.
A two-blade, you have to be careful with the size and ours are fairly compact, our overall length. It’s 1.2 inches. It has that second angle or the Tanto tip that brings the length back in and adds strength to the tip. A lot of work went into having good aerodynamic flight. I can’t say that all two blades are going to fly well, they’re old Biggs Wikis. I’ve heard a lot of nightmares though on people trying to get those to fly well at long range. The reason for the two-blade is it way out penetrates a three-blade. I’ve done force testing where I’ve measured the force to push it down through say a deer hide or moose hide. See the hair through the hides, through some foam. I’ve done it with a bunch of different broadhead designs. We take about half as much force to penetrate as the other typical two blades out there. I believe that’s because of our extremely sharp edges and good edge retention.Make sure your broadhead shaves hair out of the package. You'd be surprised how many don't. Click To Tweet
Change of momentum is going to equal force times time. If you can reduce that force, they cut that force in half. It’s going to be pushing through for twice as long. You can double your penetration by reducing your force to half to penetrate. That was the two blades. I tested on moose hide against mechanicals and also some three-blade like chisel point-type heads. For those to penetrate, this is through thick moose hide and hair. It was taking over ten times the force for the three-blade heads with the chisel point to penetrate that moose hide. There’s a big difference there in the force to penetrate when you have an extremely sharp cut on contact two-blade. You can get the much lower force, which means more than double type penetration on the animal.
On a whitetail, maybe it doesn’t matter so much, but on a big animal like an elk if it’s quartering away. I put one through an elk where it entered near the hip and it passed through the heart and came up by the brisket. That was four, four-and-a-half feet of elk. Often, you’re going through the stomach that might be full of grass and stuff like that. Penetration matters when you want those shot options like steep quartering away for instance, or shots where you might be hitting some bone and you need that further penetration through bone as well.
There’s so much marketing out there and great marketing programs but I’ve never been a mechanical person. I shoot three blades that are fixed. I want to urge everybody to take a look at what they’re shooting. If you’re getting good results, great on whitetails. If you’re ever thinking about coming out West, you need to take a hard look at penetration and the power of three-blade at a minimum and step up to the two-blade as Bill has created. Elk is tough. I’ve seen people hit them with .300 Win Mags and they walk away. They take a lot of killing.
They’re a tough animal. If you only get through one lung and not two, that’s why penetration is important. If you’re penetrating enough to get through that first lung but not the second, they can go a long way. You’re probably not going to recover them.
In my experience, he’s going to get five miles away or more and get someplace that you’re not going to find them. Plus, they’re not going to bleed. If it doesn’t punch all the way through, if you don’t get a pass through, then everything’s less.
A lot of people have it in their head. I don’t care about the exit hole. A big entrance hole is all I need. That’s bad on any animal, even whitetails personally especially on a big animal like an elk. You want to get that penetration to make sure you get both lungs. Get through as many vital organs as you can and get that exit hole too.
What’s your recommendation for people that are interested in your broadhead? Where can they go and see some YouTube videos and get a hold of you if they want to? How can they reach out to you?
You can follow us on Instagram. That’s @IronWillOutfitters. YouTube is also Iron Will Outfitters. Facebook, we have Iron Will Outfitters. Our website is IronWillOutfitters.com. You can check out our products there. I’ve made a solid blade 100 grain. We’d be pretty popular with the whitetail guys as well as we’re coming out with some ultra-light knives. I’ve been working on a knife. I do a lot of backpack hunting where I’m packing in five to ten miles back. Extra weight is something I don’t want to carry. I also don’t like those replacement blade knives. They break too easy. I don’t want to replace them in the middle of an elk. I haven’t been happy with the premium knife steel ultra-light heads. There’s a limited selection there. I’m starting to make an ultra-light knife. It weighs one ounce. I was able to get through a complete elk, skin, debone, quartered the elk and my mule deer with one knife without touching it up. Only an ounce, that’s a lot better what I was doing. Before, I had two knives. I had a knife plus a backup and it was nearly a pound of weight.
What about the handle? It’s great you get an ounce blade, but what type of handle? Elk is big and messy and sloppy and snow and rain. I wear cotton gloves when I’m cutting an elk up. I wear gloves so I want something to hold onto. Talk to me about that.
It has a skeleton blade. You can unwrap it. We’ll include a paracord so you can do a paracord-type wrap on it. I’ve done that to keep it ultra-light. We’ll probably send the instructions on different ways you can wrap them or you can check that on YouTube. There’s a lot of different ways to wrap a skeletal-type knife out there. What I’ve got on the bottom you have this dip. On top, we’ve got these ridges that go out. You got a pretty good hold on it with that. We’ve got cutting edges on top. This is something that’s different. It’s patent pending but its two sharp edges on top. What I do is I use these top edges to do all the rips through the hide. It’s like cutting through hide and hair that dull a knife quickly. If you can use those top edges to do all the hide cuts, then the belly of the knife to skin and debone, that stays sharp a long time that way. It’s having two knives in one with having sharp top edges as well. It weighs one ounce.
The paracord, three ounces maybe it adds to it?
With the paracord added, it’s still going to be less than two ounces with the sheath. With the sheath, it’s going to be around 1.3 ounces. It may be 1.5 ounces or it’s still under two ounces with the sheath added.
I’ve seen skeleton knives. They look like throwing knives for ninjas rather than in the field with my gloves on and taking animals apart.
I’ve done it both with. I thought I want the paracord as well because it bulks it up. It’s good grip, good feel with a paracord wrapped on there. I was surprised at how well it seems to work. I placed them with about a dozen serious backcountry hunters and got feedback. There’s a mix. Some guys that are saying, “I’ve got to have a paracord wrap.” There’s a bunch of guys that said, “I don’t want anything on there.” One guy’s used it on a bunch of animals that don’t like it. It works well without it too. The grip is good. It works better than people might think without anything on it too, but you can go either way.
Bill, this has been just great to sit and to visit again. I’m always looking forward to hearing innovation and you’re an innovator. You put a product out there and you price it at what it’s worth. You could run the numbers as I did and buy three blades and you take up to five deer with them. You can get three seasons, let’s say. Probably more if you can touch them up. Let’s talk about touching them up. Are you using stone, ceramic sticks? What are you using to touch them up?
You can touch them up about any way you would touch up a knife, a premium blade steel knife. We sell two different sharpeners. Now we have a double-sided ceramic stone. It’s a medium, high alumina ceramic stone on one side and then extra fine on the other side. The medium is used if you hit a rock and you got a little ding in the edge. You can use the medium side to basically regrind that edge back on there. I have videos on our YouTube channel showing how to do that. I’ve done a lot so I can free hand and show how to set the angle on there and freehand it. The medium size would takeout nicks. If I have done shoot through an animal or shoot into foam, use the fine side and within a minute you should be shaving hair again with that side. Aaron Schneider was the one guy that pushed me on making a little carbide sharpener where the angles are preset to match our broadhead. I came out with that as well.
It’s a little handheld sharpener with these two carbide blades. It’ll work for both our knives and our broadheads where you put it in that carbide and draw it back towards you. With those carbide sharpeners, carbide’s extremely hard. If you put too much pressure, you can damage an edge or bend over or create a burr. The only thing there to do is light pressure and a bunch of strokes. Twenty light strokes are way better than two or three hard strokes. I found that works well also to maintain the edges. It doesn’t take much at all to get shaving hair again with that sharpener too. You can also use a lot of different knife sharpeners like a GEPCO, Lansky or KME knife sharpeners where you clamp the blade, they held it at set angles to these flat stones. Those work well too if you got one of those and are comfortable using it. Go ahead and use that.
This ends another Gear Wednesday with Bill Vanderheyden of Iron Will Outfitters, makers of Iron Will Broadheads. Bill, it’s been a pleasure.
Great talking to you, Bruce. Thanks for having me on.
- Iron Will Broadheads
- Aaron Schneider
- Ben Edde
- @IronWillOutfitters – Instagram page
- Iron Will Outfitters – YouTube page
- Iron Will Outfitters – Facebook page
About Bill Vanderheyden
It all started with family for Bill Vanderheyden, our Co-Founder and Lead Engineer. His grandfather and father had long been telling of the adventure to be found from within the Wisconsin woodland. Many deer and intriguing stories had come home from those adventures. Then, at age 15, he stepped into the chronicles by taking his first buck, and was forever hooked. Bill’s love of the outdoors paralleled his affinity for math and science, especially physics, which led him to become a mechanical engineer. He strove to be the best and graduated number one of 1232 at the University of Wisconsin’s College of Engineering with a perfect 4.0 GPA. Soon after graduating, he began working in the high tech industry on product development and became experienced in state-of-the-art engineering methods and tools, including 3D modeling, structural analysis, materials engineering, hydrodynamics, and shock and vibration testing. He has earned a total of 50 patents throughout his career. All the while, his passion for the outdoors continued to grow, with ever more time spent hunting and exploring remote locales.