Bow hunting is such a naturally dramatic and action packed adventure full of successes and sorrows. From the actual hunting aspect to the camaraderie with fellow hunters and the campfire stories shared at the close of each epic day, the experience is truly unmatched. Every hunt opportunity seems to offer impactful life changing experiences and lifetime memories for all that get the chance to be part of it. It’s quite fitting that Annihilator began with a campfire story.
We (Micah and Brandon, founders of Annihilator) met in elk camp back in 2017 through a mutual friend. There were four to five guys in camp on any given night depending on who was coming and going that day. Each of us split off into different areas to chase elk, sometimes paired up but usually alone to cover more territory and increase shot opportunities. Someone had gotten a shot off on a bull one day and unfortunately was not able to recover the animal. Several of us helped with tracking over multiple days. One night kicking around the campfire having had a few Busch Lattes and a little whiskey passed around, the conversation centered on topics like shot placement and tracking which then morphed into a discussion on broadheads. We all pitched in opinions and experiences with different heads. There was no broadhead named amongst us anyone thought was much different from the rest. The consensus was they all did the same thing if you put the arrow where it’s supposed to go. There were tradeoffs discussed about all the different shapes and configurations like two blade vs 3 blade and fixed vs mechanical. For any head discussed though there was always something someone didn’t like. They either didn’t penetrate or fly well or the wound channels were nothing special because they just cut a pencil size hole with razor blade slits. Someone had said at one point, ‘wouldn’t it be great if there was a broadhead that left a gaping hole all the way through so the wound can’t seal up?!’
Micah, quiet and ninja-like, slipped into his camper and came out with a shit-eating grin on his face and a piece of paper in his hand. Roughly sketched on the paper was an initial concept of what now is known as the Annihilator. He shared his idea and we all discussed how if you could get it to fly right and penetrate enough it should definitely blow open a wound channel, cause good hemorrhaging, and in theory expire animals faster. Micah had been mulling this idea around for years and this was the first time he shared it with any hunting buddies. Not being a CAD guy and busy with his day job being a cop, he had no plan or path at the time to do anything with the idea.
A few weeks after cultivating a friendship in the backcountry and Micah understanding Brandon’s background in management and entrepreneurship, Micah decided to send Brandon an updated sketch of the broadhead to scale (see attached photo). It was clear at that point to Brandon that the design had potential to be a game changer and would be a shame if they didn’t somehow test it out to see. So Brandon offered to help Micah turn the sketch into a functioning prototype.
Treating this as a project and not a business, we were both motivated by curiosity in the process of R&D. We were also excited about the possibility of creating something unique that had potential to make a difference in animal recovery. The project objective was to prove concept in flight, penetration, lethality, and durability. In order for this to be a win, the broadhead had to 1.) fly accurately - grouping with field points out to long range, 2.) penetrate within close proximity as the most commonly known well penetrating heads, 3.) increase lethality or at least have evidence of being able to keep the wound channel open, 4.) ideally withstand the strain of being used multiple times in the field. Working on digital renderings to getting 3D printed models and then finally investing into steel prototypes for actual testing out of bows, we knew this was more than just a cool and interesting idea.
We began to show the Annihilator to other archers. There were some who saw the new shape and thought it was a step backwards in broadhead evolution, assuming it wouldn’t fly or penetrate well because it looked like it should have an increased amount of drag. Among the archers who were willing to test the Annihilator in the field, the clear consensus was that it flew great to the distance at which hunters typically shoot animals. It was also on par or better than the top known broadheads for penetration. These archers were also all experiencing faster more consistent kills albeit at the time it was still not a large enough sample size.
The feedback was very positive; however, we still wanted to better understand what the broadhead was doing on impact from a more scientific standpoint. With the animals taken, we were consistently seeing what was best described as looking like a blender had gone off in them. So we sought out and hired a third party engineer consultant who recommended modeling an entire arrow with the Annihilator into a software program. This program could conduct CFD simulations and analysis at the point of impact into a material density that matched a deer.
We ended up modeling six 100 grain competitor broadheads to run against a 100 grain Annihilator to see if there was any noticeable differences in the data. The competitor heads chosen were some of the best options per category / shape in our opinion which included two standard three-blades, one single-bevel two blade, two hybrid three-blades, and one mechanical 2-inch cut. The simulations used the same assumptions for each test, only changing out the broadhead. The assumed total arrow weight was 450 grains shot out of a 70lb compound bow at 270 ft/s. The simulation was specifically intended to help us understand what we were seeing when animals were shot with our heads and not in an attempt to call out weaknesses in other broadheads.
To our surprise, the data showed a significant difference with the Annihilator on impact compared to the competitor heads. It turned out we discovered the Annihilator uniquely induced both high and low pressure upon impact. Specifically, a 5.56-inch compression air pressure wave followed by a 7.79-inch low-pressure tension air pocket which, as described to us at the time, would cause blood and visceral material to be pushed and pulled through the wound channel. It also forces rapid pressure changes internally in an animal's cavity that contribute to animals expiring faster. We saw what was happening in the real-world and the CFD was a great start to getting some level of explanation for it.
The R&D process never officially ends for us but it was a total of 1.5 years of testing before going to market that included all different types of shooters and a variety of arrow weights, arrow speeds, FOC with both traditional and compound bows. The broadheads were tested being shot into all sorts of sub straight and animals like hogs, deer, turkey, elk, bear, and even quite a few African game. Suffice it to say, when the Annihilator was released in May of 2019, we had full assurance of its capabilities and knew it would be a force to be reckoned with.
Brandon recalls the first animal he took with an Annihilator prototype in September of 2018. “It hit right where I was aiming. 43 yard shot, but unfortunately the bull took a huge elk step right as I was pulling through my shot. The arrow released and entered and existed in the guts. When it hit, there was a super loud pop like a soda can being smashed. It was different than any sound I had heard before when a broadhead hit. At the time I attributed that to the gut shot but later realized that sound happens no matter where you hit an animal with the Annihilator because of the air pressure induced. When I saw the damage it had done to the elk and realized I was standing over him less than 100 yards from the point of impact on a bad shot, I knew we had something extremely special.”
With all the evidence behind us, we believe we have truly created a broadhead, whether shot out of a bow or crossbow, that is extremely effective at causing animals to expire quickly. The Annihilator Broadhead is unlike anything else out there. Its single piece design flies quieter with increased accuracy delivering more damage all while penetrating deeper. The Annihilator was born out of a passion for the hunt. We believe you will have a hard time finding a broadhead you will be more satisfied with. Today, there are now tens of thousands of archery hunters taking game all over the globe with Annihilators.