LIGHTED NOCK SHOOTOUT
By Gene Schang
Crossbow Magazine fields phone calls, Facebook messages, and emails every day from crossbow enthusiasts around the globe. Certain questions keep arising on a consistent basis. The most frequently asked question is which crossbow should I buy. After that, arrows, broadheads, and lighted nocks each vie for the runner-up position. As with many things in life, everyone has a personal bias regarding which features are the most important to him/her. What may be a perfect fit for one person may be much less than perfect for another. The best we can do is provide recommendations using our personal experience with various products to better educate consumers.
Lighted nocks are, without doubt, one of the most useful accessories an archery hunter can take into the field. For that reason, their use has increased steadily with each passing year. Not only are lighted nocks more fun to shoot, they aid in determining shot placement, assist in arrow recovery, and can decrease the number of lost arrows. For all of these reasons, hunters are more often than not choosing to replace standard nocks with lighted versions.
There are many options and loads of information out there for the consumer to wade through while trying to decide which lighted nock to purchase. It seems that a new manufacturer or two pops up every year, promising to have the best lighted nock in the industry. We decided it was time to take a close look at all of the major manufacturers’ offerings from a crossbow shooter’s perspective.
In the interest of keeping the information and findings as fair as possible, we secured lighted nocks from eight different manufacturers with the same specifications. Those specifications are a moon nock style, red or green LED, and sized for .300ID shafts. Testing was done from several crossbows shooting Gold Tip Laser IIs, and Black Eagle Executioners from 310fps to 390fps. Keep in mind that all lighted nocks weigh more than standard nocks. All will require the shooter to make some vertical adjustments as ranges increase. This usually does not occur until the shot distance is greater than thirty yards. The heavier the nock, the greater the adjustments that will need to be made. Adding more weight to the rear of the arrow will also affect the arrow’s front of center balance. Even though this value can change slightly with heavier nocks, I did not find any degradation to accuracy. Here is what we found.
Clean-Shot entered the lighted crossbow nock game with a bang when they introduced the Nock-Out lighted crossbow nock with the slogan - “Finally! A frustration free lighted nock for crossbows.” Their desire was to create a simple, user friendly nock with enough innovative features to separate them from the competition. I believe they succeeded in that quest. The Nock-Out is available in green, red, or yellow LEDs in both the flat back and moon nock designs. There is not a fit chart required because the package of three lighted nocks comes with three different sized bushings to fit inside the various arrow shafts on the market. If your arrows have an inside diameter of .285 to .300, you are covered by the supplied bushings. At a retail price of $34.99 for three, they are right in the middle of the lighted nock price point. Clean-Shot advertises 34 grains per nock with the .300 bushing. The ones we received weighed in at 33.9, 34.1, and 34.1.
Each Nock-Out comes fully assembled, but the user is required to press fit the correct diameter bushing into the rear of the arrow shaft first. No adhesives are required during this step. Once the bushing is firmly seated, the Nock-Out is also press fit into the bushing. One must always be sure to follow the supplied instructions to ensure proper indexing of the moon nock to the string. The Nock-Out will not yet function as the nock is factory set in practice mode. To switch to live mode, an activation collar must be rotated 45 degrees in order for the intermeshing cogs of the nock and activation color to be freed from each other. This allows the nock to travel forward during the shot which activates the LED. The process is reversed to switch back to practice mode. It is important to note that the practice mode of the Nock-Out is the only true practice mode in the lighted nock market. It not only saves battery reserves during long shooting sessions, but it allows you to shoot the same nock you plan to hunt with. To de-activate the LED after shooting, simply pull on the rear of the nock until a “click” is heard and the LED turns off. There are no indexing worries with the moon nock version of the Nock-Out.
Clean-Shot supplies 24 hour constant illumination batteries with the Nock-Out. I found this to be right in the ball park as I got 23 hours of illumination before I noticed some significant fading of the light. As far as brightness, I would rate the Nock-Out green as about average compared to the others tested. I did notice some slight fatigue to the flange area after shooting at very high speeds. A small amount of adhesive when installing the bushing should eliminate that concern. Functionality from all of my crossbows was superb with no flickering or failures to light. It is worth noting that the nock itself had the smoothest surface and was the clearest of all of the nocks tested. There is a lot to like with the Clean-Shot Nock-Out lighted nock for crossbows. The practice mode and easy off features make these a nice buy. For more information on the Nock-Out lighted nock for crossbows, visit www.clean-shot.com to look over all of their options.
NuFletch Archery brought their Ignitor lighted nock to the market several years ago. Their mission is to provide the best products from the best materials available. They back them up with a 100% no questions guarantee. See their warranty claim on their website. They also have an excellent fit guide on their website that will quickly get the consumer hooked up with the correct nock for the arrow they are shooting. Currently, they catalog both flat back and moon nocks to fit .285, .295, and .300ID arrows. LED color options include red, green, or orange. A three pack of Ignitors retails at $26.99, and spare batteries are available at $3.75 each. NuFletch advertises each Ignitor will weigh 39 grains. My scale confirmed this to be an accurate claim. The three nocks I received weighed 38.7, 39, and 38.7 grains.
The Ignitor lighted nock is a three piece design. An aluminum nock insert must first be glued into the arrow shaft. Once the insert is firmly in place, the one piece battery and LED stick is placed inside the insert, and the clear nock is slid over the stick and into the nock insert until the nock makes contact with the LED. This will leave approximately a 1mm gap between the nock and the insert. It is important to properly index the nock to the string. At the shot, the force closes this gap and compresses the bulb down onto the battery, which illuminates the bright LED. To turn off the LED, the nock must be pulled from the insert to remove the light stick. Simply grasping the small bulb and pulling until a distinct “click” is heard, breaks the contact between the battery and the bulb. A nice feature of this Ignitor design is that the light stick can be removed during practice sessions to save battery life. Since the stick weighs only 6 grains, there is essentially no change to the point of impact with or without the light stick.
NuFletch promises up to 50 hours of illumination with the green LED and 10 hours for the red. I got 47 hours of constant illumination before I noticed a slight dimming of the green light, which is respectable compared to the other nocks in this review. The Ignitor performed flawlessly out of all of my crossbows with a 100% reliability rate and survived several hours in water with no issues. The aluminum insert, combined with the need to glue it into the shaft, goes a long way to ensure there are no concerns at high speeds. The brightness of the green LED was average. Because of the design of the Ignitor, those that are using moon nocks must be very careful to properly align the valley of the nock perpendicular to the string when re-installing the nock into the insert. This has to be performed every time the LED is de-activated. Obviously, with flat back nocks, this is not a concern. I did also notice some rough edges within the valley of the nocks that I lightly sanded to prevent chaffing of the center serving. The Ignitor mounts up rock solid because of the required adhesive, and at $26.99 a pack, is one of the least costly illuminated nocks on the market. The battery life is very good with the green LED, but the Ignitor is a little hefty, overall, with the aluminum insert. Visit them at www.nufletcharchery.com to learn more.
Burt Coyote Lumenok
The good folks at Lumenok are looked upon as the pioneers of lighted nock technology. Lumenoks are proudly made in the USA, and their catchy sales slogan of “Light em up” has been heard by many hunters over the years. They pride themselves on a design that requires no glue, no switches, and no moving parts to fail. A three pack of either red, green, or pink LED nocks retails at a price of $29.99, which makes them one of the most affordable options in this shootout. Both moon and flat back designs are available. It should be noted that the capture style is also available, but only in finished LumenArrows. Spare batteries are $5 for a pack of two. As with some of the other manufacturers, a very thorough fit chart is available online to assure a proper fit in all crossbow arrows. Consistent weights were very apparent when the Lumenoks hit the grain scale. Each one weighed in at precisely 28.3 grains which is one of the lightest nocks tested.
A simple electrical circuit is the idea behind the design of the Lumenok. Two thin pieces of wire lie right where the back of the nock makes contact with the arrow shaft. As soon as both of these wires touch the conductive material of the arrow, the circuit is completed, and brilliant illumination occurs. Care must be taken to ensure that the back of the arrow is perfectly square so that each wire contacts the shaft at the same time with equal pressure. This can be accomplished by placing a piece of fine sandpaper on a flat surface and spinning the end of the arrow on top of it. Lumenok also makes a tool specifically for the job called the F.A.S.T. arrow squaring tool. After cleaning off the leftover residue from the squaring process, the Lumenok can be press fit into place. The fit is very tight, by design, to ensure that when the wires make contact with the arrow shaft, the nock does not move. To turn off the illumination, simply grasp the arrow shaft with your fingers and push the nock with your thumb right above one of the contact wires. It may take a few attempts from each side to break the contact. The Extinguisher, by Lumenok, is a tool that makes this job much easier and doubles as an arrow puller for your targets. Never twist the nock as this may compromise the integrity of the arrow shaft and affect your moon nock indexing. Once you get used to the process, it is quick and easy. Even though turning off the LED is not the fastest of the bunch, it is not the slowest either.
Battery life easily surpassed the 40 hours that is advertised. I achieved 46 hours of illumination with some of that occurring in water. The red LED Lumenoks I received are easily the brightest of all of the lighted nocks I tested. Illumination is so brilliant that looking directly into the nock at close range had me seeing spots. They are that bright. Function was perfect in my testing out of all of my crossbows. I did not note any signs of flange fatigue. There were also no detectable rough areas where the string contacts the nock. If you do a lot of shooting, you may begin to experience some flickering, in which case the arrow shaft may need to be re-squared to ensure proper contact. The contact wires will make small dimples in the shaft material over time. This can result in weak illumination or a flickering effect. Lumenok knows how to make lighted nocks that work. They are relatively light, extremely bright, and low cost. In my opinion, the Lumenok is a one of the best nocks, overall, on the market. Visit www.lumenok.net for their complete product line up and comprehensive fit chart so that you too, can light em up!
Full Moon Nock
Hunting Revolution is proud of their very diverse product lineup that caters to archery hunters. Their focus is to develop innovative products made by hunters for hunters. I have one word to describe the installation and function of the Full Moon Nock for crossbows. Simple! The Full Moon Nock is available in red, green, and blue LEDs, in either capture, flat, and moon nock designs. Two battery options are available as well, which promise from 66 to 120 hours of constant illumination. Extra batteries are available in packs of two for $4. Hunting Revolution catalogs the Full Moon Nock at 34 grains. The three nocks I received came in at 35, 35, and 34.9 grains. They were very consistent, but slightly heavier than advertised. Presently, they are available to fit only .300ID shafts, which limits arrow options. Hunting Revolution promises other inside diameter options will be made available as production ramps up.
The Full Moon Nock for crossbows comes pre-assembled and ready to be press fit into your arrow shafts, without the need for any adhesive. Many folks, including myself, like this feature. I found the fit to be absolutely snug in both the Gold Tip and Black Eagle arrows. The nock portion of the Full Moon Nock is driven forward, into the body of the nock when shot, which activates the illumination. To turn the illumination off, you simply pinch the collar of the nock, and pull the end of the nock to the rear until a “click” is heard. This process is as simple as it gets. As long as you indexed the moon nock correctly during installation, there is no need to be concerned about re-indexing the nock after turning the LED off with this design.
I left one of the Full Moon Nocks illuminated after a shooting session and got close to 70 hours of bright green light before noticing some fading. This is slightly higher than the advertised 66 hours with the small battery I was supplied. The battery life is near the top of the list of all of the tested lighted nocks. Careful inspection of the valley of the nock did not reveal any rough surfaces or edges that would harm the serving. Two of the nocks would tend to flicker when activated manually. A quick email confirmed my suspicions that more force is required to properly activate the LED. Illumination was instantaneous and constant when the nock was activated by shot forces. Even though I saw good performance at slower speeds, I experienced a catastrophic failure at 390fps. The plastic flange on the nock failed, resulting in the nock being driven down into the shaft several inches. This severed the string of the crossbow during the shot.
INSERT PICTURE 6
They are $35.00 for a pack of three, and I would rate the brightness of the green LED as above average. The Full Moon Nock from Hunting Revolution is worth a look for those shooting crossbows rated at 360fps or less. I cannot recommend the Full Moon Nock at speeds above that. An aluminum flanged version is in development at the time of this writing to improve its performance at high speeds. Visit them at www.huntingrevolution.com to learn more.
Nockturnal lighted nocks have been a mainstay in the industry for quite some time. They have certainly developed a loyal following over the years. Just recently, Nockturnal introduced their new Predator lighted nock for crossbows. The Predator is Nockturnal’s answer to the demands that today’s high speed crossbows place on the nock during the shot. Its construction is a radical departure from the typical crossbow nock. Nockturnal encases a soft urethane material inside an aluminum housing to absorb the shock of the shot and to reduce nock failure. Currently red and green LEDs are offered in two different sizes to fit most arrows on the market. Only the moon nock design is available in the Predator. A quick visit to www.nockturnal.com will turn up a sizing chart to ensure you have selected that right size for your arrow. Three nocks are included at a price point of $37.99. Mine weighed in at 34, 34.2, and 34.3 grains.
Each nock comes fully assembled and is ready to be press fit into the rear of your arrow shaft. The fit was very snug, which is a good thing with press fit nocks. As with all moon type nocks, take special care to ensure that the nock is indexed correctly to the cock vane of the arrow. Illumination occurs when a piston that is located in the center of the nock valley is driven down into the body of the nock. Located on the sides of the Predator nock are two “reset holes” where the user must insert a pointed object to slide the interior switch to the rear to turn off the illumination. I found a well used, rather dull awl was perfect for this task. Although this process is not as easy as some of the other lighted nocks on the market, it was straightforward enough not to be much of a concern. Re-indexing is not necessary after each shot since the body of the nock is not moved during the process.
Nockturnal states to expect 20+ hours of constant illumination with the Predator. Mine lasted about 21 hours, which is higher than advertised, but mid pack overall. These nocks passed my water dunk test with flying colors as well. The urethane material contained within the aluminum housing absorbed the impact from my Mission MXB400 at 390fps well, but I did notice some fatigue where the soft urethane meets the aluminum housing in the valley of the nock. Re-setting the nock, after being shot at high speed, was somewhat more difficult, as well. I would rate the brightness of the red samples I received as excellent. The aluminum housing does reduce the light output from the sides, which comes into play when looking for arrows on the forest floor after the shot. I did not experience any failures to illuminate during my shooting sessions. Battery life is somewhat lower than the competition, and they are not replaceable. With that said, for those looking for a reliable lighted nock that is very bright for moderately fast crossbows , the Nockturnal Predator is a viable option to consider.
TenPoint Crossbow Technologies entered the lighted nock market several years ago with their Omni-Brite Universal Lighted Nock System. TenPoint’s patented Omni-Nock is a departure from the standard moon and flat back nocks that have ruled the market place for decades. The Omni-Nock contains six micro grooves that form three channels for the bowstring to settle in during the shot. Not only does TenPoint’s Omni-Brite universal system include the Omni-Nock, it also contains moon and capture style nocks for those who choose to use them. To top that off, the kit includes three sizes of nock receivers to cover arrow diameters from .297 to .306ID. $35 gets you the 3 pack and only red LEDs are available. Extra batteries can also be purchased at $15 for three. A universal kit of this nature decreases the time needed to research which lighted nock will work in your particular arrow or crossbow. The three Omni-Brites with the moon nock option weighed in at 28.7, 28.7, and 28.8 grains.
The Omni-Brite consists of a nock insert, the battery stick with LED, and the nock itself. The nock insert must be glued into the shaft and TenPoint recommends using epoxy for this process. Before the epoxy cures, a nock and receiver alignment tool that is supplied with the kit is then placed into the insert. This alignment tool has three points that are meant to represent the vanes on your arrows. You simply spin the alignment tool until the three points line up with your vanes. After the epoxy has cured, the LED stick is pushed up into the nock and the nock is then slid down into the nock insert, leaving a small gap. There are two well thought out details to this system. First, the LED stick has a very small o-ring on it that prevents the stick from rattling around inside of the nock. And second, the nocks can fit into the insert only one way. If you properly installed the insert using the alignment tool, there is zero chance of any indexing issues with your nock of choice. The LED is activated by the shot when the nock is driven down into the insert, which compresses the LED into the battery stick. To de-activate the LED, you pull the nock out of the receiver, remove the light stick, and pull outward on the bulb. An audible “click” will be heard as the light extinguishes itself. The battery stick can be left out for practice to save battery life, which is another nice feature.
As with all of the other nocks, I left one of the Omni-Brites illuminated to check the advertised battery life. TenPoint says to expect 8 hours of illumination and that is what I got. This is low compared to the other manufacturers. Because the light stick can be removed for practice, you should get the full eights hours in the field. I would rate the brightness as average for a red LED. The nock surfaces were smooth. I did experience an issue with one of the light sticks. Out of the box, it would intermittently illuminate upon the shot. After shooting this particular nock more often, this problem seemed to go away. The other Omni-Brites performed without any issues. I did notice that the nocks were not very snug within the inserts. One popped out during one of my shooting sessions. This tolerance could be tightened up a hair, in my opinion. TenPoint has a well thought lighted nock system with the Omni-Brite Universal Lighted Nock System and having a no light practice option is a plus. Visit www.tenpointcrossbows.com to learn more about the Omni-brites and other quality TenPoint crossbow accessories.
Firenock does not hesitate to make the claim that they are the most advanced lighted nock on the market. That is because they are. No one else comes close to Firenock when it comes to utilizing technology to bring the consumer, reliable, modern electronics. You won’t see “missile arming technology” in competitor’s catalogs or “G” switches to activate their nocks. No one else comes close to Firenock when it comes to the ability to completely customize the lighted nock you want for your arrow. Once you have selected the nock type for your arrow from their comprehensive fit chart, the fun begins. Nine nock colors are available into which six different LED colors can be placed. All of the technology is contained on three choices of circuit boards. The hunting circuit stays constantly lit until turned off. The blinking circuit blinks until turned off. And the target circuit automatically shuts off after 17 seconds. Finally, three battery choices are offered with varying shelf lives and intensities to meet any consumer’s needs. The genius of this design is all of the parts are field changeable. The option is there to take the red, blinking Firenock you are currently shooting and turning it into a blue, constant illumination Firenock, with a fresh battery, in less than a few minutes. All of these features and technologies do not come cheap, though. $66.90 will get you the Firenock kit of your choice, complete with batteries to build three complete lighted nocks. The three nocks I assembled weighed in at 32.8, 32.8, and 32.9 grains.
One could be overwhelmed by the instructions and parts that come with the Firenock. If you break it all down, and follow along as instructed, the assembly is straightforward and should occur without a hitch. The circuit board is pre-installed into the body of the nock. Two of the proper sized o-rings, included in the kit, must be placed onto the body of the nock. Another very small o-ring is placed onto the pin of the battery, and the battery is installed into the circuit board with a counter-clockwise twisting motion to seat it. Now your attention must be turned to the arrow where Firenock’s Extreme Shock End Cap must be glued inside the shaft with super glue. A special tool is included to do this job in a precise manner. Once the glue cures, the Firenock can be press fit into the arrow shaft. The end cap provides a cup for the base of the battery to sit in. This assures that both the nock itself, and the internal components, are firmly locked to the arrow shaft. Of all of the nocks tested, the Firenock requires the most time to install. Illumination occurs when a certain amount of g-forces are sensed by the “G” switch on the circuit board. A Firenock cannot be accidentally turned on, which can often happen with other nock designs. To turn off the Firenock, you simply hold the arrow about six inches from a hard surface and drop it onto the nock. Again, the circuit board senses the force, and de-activates the LED. Nothing has to be pulled, clicked, twisted, wiggled, or switched to turn it off. One of the great features of the de-activation process is that it cannot occur until 4-8 seconds after the shot. This nock will not turn off until you want it to.
What is truly amazing is the number of hours of constant illumination the Firenock can achieve with the standard battery. The BL battery I received is advertised at 504 hours of illumination. I left mine on for two weeks and it was as bright as the moment I turned it on. I would rate the brightness of the LED as excellent, a close second behind the Lumenok. Firenock claims the reliability of its “G” switch at 99.99999%. I could not get the Firenock to even hint at anything but perfect performance at all speeds. The surfaces that contact the string had no rough edges or imperfections that I could detect. If one developed, extra nocks can be purchased and easily placed onto your existing circuit. Even though the Firenock does not have a practice mode, practice nocks are available that are precisely the same weight and length to snugly fit into the Extreme Shock End Cap that was previously glued within the shaft. It is difficult to find areas to take points away from the Firenock. Though some may hesitate at the initial price and the assembly required, I would not hesitate to label the Firenock a great value. They are essentially bulletproof, with an almost endless array of options to suit every need. If you want a lesson in the reliable technologies that are available to the archery hunter these days, visit www.firenock.com Crossbow shooters won’t go wrong with Firenock. I was impressed.
Carbon Express is well known within the archery world. They have all of the archery bases covered as manufacturers of crossbows, archery accessories, arrows, broadheads, and lighted nocks. Their goal with the LaunchPad Crossbolt Lighted Nock is to maximize your archery experience. A visit to www.carbonexpressarrows.com will link you to their thorough LaunchPad fit chart. Two sizes are available to fit carbon arrows with internal diameters from .284 to .300, and aluminum fans will also find a LaunchPad to fit 2219 arrow shafts. LED color options are red, green, blue, and hot pink. Only a moon nock design is available in the LaunchPad for crossbows. Carbon Express does not sell directly to the consumer, but a quick search of various retail outlets turned up an average price of $29.99 for a 3 pack. I weighed each nock for consistency and got 31.8, 32, and 32.1 grains.
Each LaunchPad comes fully assembled and ready to be press fit into your arrow shaft. An aluminum housing contains all of the internal workings of the lighted nock, which is a extra measure of insurance when shooting at high speeds. This housing extends up into the flange area to meet the rear of the arrow shaft for a solid footing. A unique feature of the LaunchPad is its compression type fitting at the base of the nock. This feature allows you to micro adjust the diameter of the nock to ensure an absolutely tight fit in the absence of adhesives. Another nice touch is the presence of two index marks which make it easy to align the moon nock to the cock vane of your arrow for proper indexing. The LED is activated by pressure on the back of the nock which compresses the nock into the aluminum housing. De-activation occurs by firmly pulling on the back of the nock until a “click” is heard and the LED turns off. Carbon Express supplies small o-rings that can be placed in the small gap that appears when the nock is in the ready mode. These are meant to prevent an accidental illumination of the LED, but I did not find them necessary as it does take some force to activate the LED.
Battery life of the LaunchPad is about average for the group with 22 hours of illumination noted before the brightness began to fade. The red LED was certainly bright enough to get the job done, but I would prefer to see some more brilliance for daytime applications, especially. There were no failures to illuminate during my shooting sessions and the easy off de-activation function made the LaunchPad a pleasure to shoot. I did not notice any fatigue in the flange area of the nock. Carbon Express’s decision to go with a one piece aluminum housing for the LaunchPad was a smart choice as speeds continue to creep up in the crossbow world. I would rate the LaunchPad as a solid value with dependable performance at a reasonable cost.