If you’ve ever seen lighted nocks used on TV, you know they look like lasers in flight. In fact, they might be the closest you’ll ever get to acting out your favorite scifi movie. Futuristic technology or not, they’re an invention worth incorporating into the hunt. Introduced around 2002, lighted nocks have become increasingly popular recently because of their strategic, financial and ethical benefits.
The current generation of lighted nocks have been engineered for better arrow flight, resist the elements and shine bright. Don’t just buy any old nock, though. There are three vertical bow arrow nocks and three crossbow bolt nocks specifically that lead the charge. Learn more about this new invention that’s getting more and more integrated into the hunting world and find the best product to put you on the cutting edge of bowhunting technique.
The Best Lighted Nock – Our Picks
- Nockturnal– “A winner for its simple, durable design”
- Nockturnal Universal FIT– “The improved LEDs are impressively bright”
- Lumenok– “The 40+ hours of battery life make it a top choice”
- JY Sports– “Its shock resistance gives it reliability second to none”
- Nockturnal Predator– “We picked it because it’s both water and weatherproof”
- TenPoint Universal Fit– “It comes with everything you need to use it on any crossbow bolt”
Compound and Recurve Arrow Nocks
Crossbow Bolt Nocks
Why use a lighted nock?
Lighted nocks look cool on video, but they have a lot of practical uses, too.
The biggest advantage lighted nocks give you is with tracking. If you hunt in thick brush, a lighted nock can help you find a wounded animal that’s bedded down or fallen. It can also give you a better idea of the animal’s direction when it begins to run. This is especially important because deer primarily move at dusk and dawn when visibility is lowest.
Plus, even if you miss your quarry, the lighted nock helps you get the arrow back. Shafts aren’t too expensive, but broadheads aren’t exactly cheap. It’s nice to find them so you don’t have to spring for new ones. If you’ve ever hunted without lighted nocks, you know it’s next to impossible to find a missed arrow. They’re camo covered, small and look just like sticks in the brush.
If you have an arrow pass through game, then you definitely want to find it. You can inspect it for bodily fluids to determine where you hit the animal. This is important in deciding your tracking strategy.
Lighted nocks also help you out on the range. Shooting with lighted nocks let’s you see the trajectory of the arrow when you shoot it. This lets you notice fishtailing or porpoising, so you can adjust your bow before hunting.
Why are they illegal?
For many years lighted nocks contradicted Pope & Young’s Rules of Fair Chase. They were similarly outlawed in many states. This is because the use of electrical equipment for making shots has traditionally been frowned upon in the hunting world. It gives the hunter an unsportsmanlike and unethical advantage.
However, in 2014 Pope & Young amended their fair chase rules to allow for lighted nocks. This is because they don’t give the hunter any unfair advantage in killing an animal. Rather, they assist the hunter in tracking. In the end, this actually makes your hunt more ethical because it’s certainly better to find a wounded animal than not.
Currently, only one state still prohibits the use of lighted nocks: Idaho. If you hunt outside of the United States, laws may vary. Even within the US, it’s still a good idea to check your local laws to make sure there are no restrictions.
Can you make your own?
For the DIY enthusiast, making your own lighted nocks can be a lot of fun. It doesn’t require a lot of materials. You need a couple transparent nocks, epoxy and bobber lights that you can find at most sporting goods stores.
First, take the bobber light and roll it in the epoxy till the top of the casing is covered all around. Put it inside your transparent nock and let it rest for about five minutes. Cut another nock in half, and then epoxy the bottom half to the light. Simple as that. It should illuminate when nocked.
With the prices current prices of professionally made products on the market today, though, you might not even save any money making lighted nocks yourself. Unless you enjoy DIY by its own right, it might be wise to stick to buying them.
What to look for
Not all lighted nocks are created equal. They differ significantly when it comes to how long the lights last. Some only stay on a few hours while others can last well over a day.
If you hunt open areas and rarely have trouble with tracking, a few hours may be plenty. But if you hunt thick wilderness, long-lasting lights can be the difference in finding your harvest. Sometimes you even have to return the next day to find a wounded quarry, so a light with over 24 hours of life is great.
Most lighted nocks use lithium batteries to keep their lights running for hours. Not all of those lithium batteries are replaceable, though. Replaceable batteries are a big advantage for any lighted nock because it means you can reuse them. That saves you money and time.
A good lighted nock turns on automatically. Obviously you can’t have the nock on before your shot. It could spook game. If you have to turn it on yourself, though, you waste precious time and make too many risky movements.
Lighted nocks solve this problem with a few different designs. Some employ pistons that turn the light on when the nock is pressed against the bowstring. Another common design is the pull system that illuminates the nock using the pulling force the bowstring exerts on the nock at the end of a shot when the arrow leaves the bow. When you’re shopping for lighted nocks, check out the reliability of these systems. You want a nock that you can depend on to illuminate.
You want tough nocks, especially if you’re using lighted ones. Imagine it takes you a day to track down your harvest. During that time, the running animal might slam the nock into trees or the ground. The nock might encounter moisture and changing temperatures. If you want that light to still be shining by the time you get to it, find a nock with a strong, weather-resistant design.
The most common colors for lighted nocks are red and green, usually bright shades that are easy to see. Some have even more color choices like pink, purple and orange. A wide variety of color choices lets you use trial and error to see which works best for your eyes and your area.
That said, although a lot of picking out colors comes down to your personal preference, there is some evidence that suggests a best option.
So which color is best?
Actually, there’s no one answer for every situation. Different colors are best for different times.
In daylight, bright green is the color most visible to the human eye. For this reason it’s normally suggested as the go-to color for your lighted nocks.
In dim light, however, such as dawn or dusk, your vision changes. Your eyes begin to shift toward night vision, and this makes low-wavelength colors like red more readily visible.
Red also might be the superior choice if you’re hunting with a lot of green plant life around. If you hunt in the deep south or in the early season when vegetation hasn’t thinned out yet for winter, a green light might get lost among the green leaves. Red, on the other hand, stands out against plant life.
It pays to have access to both green and red nocks. You can use green during the day and then shift to red as the sun begins to set. This way you maximize your chances of finding your arrow.
Installation and Use
Nocks for crossbow bolts vs arrows
Beware! Archery arrows and crossbow bolts are not the same. Although their designs have become more and more similar over the years, they still have differences. The biggest is in how they fly. Crossbow bolts usually fall more consistently, while arrows fall based on speed.
Because of this, you have to get nocks specific for either bolts or arrows. We’ve divided our list by vertical bows and crossbows to make it easy.
What size do I need?
Nock sizes correspond with the diameter of the arrow. Unfortunately, there’s no uniform way of measuring it. You might find letters, millimeters or inches. Lucky for you, we’ve put together a little conversion chart.
The nocks you like might be sized in inches while your arrow shafts are listed by letter. Before you buy, make sure you select the appropriate size. Many nocks even list what arrows go with which size, so you can be sure you get the right ones.
How do you install them?
Most lighted nocks are really easy to install. Basically, you remove the factory-installed nock with pliers, then use the same pliers to push in the new lighted nock.
Some kinds of nocks, especially universal fits, have more complicated installation processes. They may require sizing pieces or using tools to expand the nock to fit a specific arrow shaft. In this case you have to follow the instructions specific to the nock. Often they use an easy-to-follow color scheme or something similar, so you can do it without hassle.
How do you turn off a lighted nock?
Once you find your arrow, you probably want to turn off the light. You might have enough battery life left to use it again, and you need it to be dark the next time you go out. Different nocks have different methods for switching them off.
For example, some have a small switch you can press with a pin or the point of an arrow. Other nocks are turned on by being pulled, so to turn them off you simply push them back in. It’s wise to see how reliable the off switch is on the nocks you pick. A bad switch could leave you wasting battery.
Compound and Recurve Arrow Lighted Nock Reviews
The appeal of the Nockturnal is its simplicity. You don’t have to do any assembly. They’re ready right out of the package.The light turns on with reliable piston-driven contact switch. You can also turn off the light with the tip of an arrow.
The LED light is highly visible. You have four color options: pink, red, green and blue. We recommend the red because it seems to be the easiest to find. They’re all easy to see, though, and make it easy to recover game or find a lone arrow.
It’s also great for finding game because the lithium batteries last over 20 hours. This means that even if you shoot a quarry at dusk, you can find it with the arrow the next day. This increases the range of time you can spend hunting.
These nocks are specifically sized. The S fits shaft diameters of .244 inches, the GT .246, the X .204, the H .233 and the G .265 inches.
- Simple, durable design
- Piston-driven contact switch
- Highly visible LED light
- Four color options
- Lithium batteries last 20+ hours
- Limited sizing
Nockturnal Universal FIT
The Universal FIT is Nockturnal’s most recent improvement on the Nockturnal lighted nocks. Like the name suggests, the biggest improvement is that these fit pretty much any shaft on the market. You can use the seven bright color options on a much wider variety of arrows.
Nockturnal improved on the LEDs, too. They’re even brighter and easier to track in low light or high. They’re powered by the same long-lasting lithium batteries.
Of course, these nocks retain the same tough polycarbonate body of their predecessors. They also employ the traditional piston design. This makes the lighting of the lock reliable, but you can still turn it off.
You will have to pay a little more than the originals, but the Universal FIT’s are great if you want to stay on the very cutting edge of bowhunting technology.
- Higher price rangeUniversal fit
- Seven color options
- Improved LEDs
- Lithium batteries
- Polycarbonate body
- Piston design
- Higher price range
If you hunt somewhere with thick brush and extremely low light in the hunting season, take a look at these nocks. Their most impressive feature is the incredibly bright red light that leads you to the arrow from hundreds of yards away. Plus, it lasts over 40 hours.
The light is activated by the conductivity of the shaft from the shot. It doesn’t require any switches or magnets, which makes it really reliable. The difficulty comes in turning them off. You have to pull it until a tap no longer lights it up.
The base is a Signature nock from Bohning, so you know it’s made with quality and tough. The batteries are easily replaceable, so you can reuse them again and again. Reuse your nocks then find and reuse your arrows.
We specifically looked at the GT-sized nocks, but the Lumenok comes in a lot of sizes, all with the same durability and long battery life.
- Bright red light
- 40+ hours of battery life
- Reliable lighting
- Switch-free activation
- Quality Signature nock
- Easily replaceable batteries
- Difficult to turn off
Crossbow Bolt Lighted Nock Reviews
These bolt nocks have a great battery life. They last over 24 hours. That’s more than a day you’ll have to go find your bolt and whatever game it might be stuck in.
The light itself is a powerful LED that you can get in one of five different colors: yellow, purple, red, blue or green. All of them are easily visible and great for tracking as well as target shooting to tune your bow.
They’re also easy to use. There’s no assembly required. You can use them right out of the pack, which includes six nocks at an affordable price. They automatically light when shooting and are shock resistant so you can rely on the light working time after time.
- 24+ hours of battery life
- Bright LED light
- Five different color options
- Easy to use
- Low price range
- Shock resistant
These are tough nocks. If you’re concerned about tracking this year, Predators are a reliable choice that help you find your quarry in nearly any brush or light.
You can count on these nocks because of their durable one-piece construction. The material is water and weather proof, so the light shouldn’t die just because of some rain. The light itself should last well over 20 hours thanks to a lithium battery with a long life.
You can also depend on these because of the Nockturnal piston design. This design ensures that the light illuminates when it contacts the bowstring. It works time after time, season after season.
These nocks have a universal sizing design, but it’s a little strange. There are two sizes. Size one is for smaller ID bolts and size two is for larger. Since that’s somewhat arbitrary, the package lists the bolts that go with each size, so make sure you get the right one.
The light is a bright LED you can see from a good distance. You can get them in red or green, both colors highly visible. Bowhunters who regularly hunt extreme conditions and need something tough should take a look at these nocks.
- Durable one-piece construction
- Water and weatherproof
- 20+ hours of battery life
- Piston-driven contact switch
- Bright LED light
- Two highly visible color options
- Strange sizing
TenPoint Universal Fit
You might be able to guess. We like this nock system because it’s designed to fit almost any crossbow bolt. The kit comes with translucent nocks, LED units and nock receivers that fit shaft sizes .297, .300 and .305. There’s also a nock receiver and alignment tool that helps you align the nock perfectly with the vanes and a reflecting tool.
With this system you basically build your own lighted nocks. That gives you a lot of control over the design, but it does mean there’s some assembly required. They’re super easy to install, though. It’s all done by an easy-to-follow color scheme.
As it comes the TenPoint has a built-in impact-activated LED lite stick that’s easy to see. You can depend on them to illuminate and stay illuminated as you search for the bolt. The battery lasts for 8-10 hours, which is long enough to follow a blood trail but not as long as some other models of lighted nock. It has a shelf life of 2-3 years.
- Universal fit
- Build your own
- Easy to install
- Impact-activated LED lite stick
- Battery shelf life of 2-3 years
- Low battery life
- Some assembly required