I believe it was sometime around 2005 or 2006 when I first started to notice lighted arrow nocks popping up on my favorite hunting shows. Arrows that were once a quick flash in a dimly lit screen, leaving viewers to wonder if and where the arrow hit it’s mark, were now streaming bolts of light streaking towards their target. Without question, the “cool factor” of lighted nocks was pretty high those first few years.
Like many bowhunters out there, I quickly rushed out and picked up the first pack of nocks I could find, slapped them in my arrows and began shooting. Of course I did little to no research on available brands or technologies, and even less research on how to properly install and use them. Much to my dismay, I was never able to achieve consistent results and my somewhat expensive experiment was given up after a season full of mistrials.
Now, some 6 years later I’ve finally come full circle with these fiery little gadgets. With a plethora of new options available to modern bowhunters , each with its own unique design, I decided I wanted to find out just how these new lighted nocks worked and which ones would be on the back end of my Carbon Express Maxima come October. After all, there are few things cooler in the bowhunting world than seeing the bright flash of a lighted nock as it rushes towards a deer’s boiler room.
Lighted Nock Review – First Things First
To start things off I began to research the different brands and options available to me. Queue Google! A few savvy web searches turned up about ½ dozen major players in the lighted nock arena. I quickly set out to get my hands on them all and wound up with 5 different brands; Carbon Express, Lumenok, Nockturnal, Firenock and Tracer.
For my evaluation I decided to rate each nock on a scale of 1-5 in five different categories; Price, Ease of Use, Reliability, Brightness, and Weight. While this system does leave out a few features which may be important to some such as color options, replaceable battery, durability and advanced technology, I felt these were a good sampling of what’s important to most bowhunters. Here’s what I found out.
Carbon Express Laser Eye Lighted Nocks
The first lighted nock I tested was the CX Laser Eye. I purchased this 2 pack from an online retailer for a cost of $20 plus shipping. This is just slightly above some of the other brands, but not out of reach for most bowhunters.
When they are shipped, the nocks have a small plastic collar installed that prevents them from activating and discharging in the package. Upon removal from their plastic wrapper I took off the collar and slid the nocks into the back of my arrow shafts.
The fit was a little on the tight side, but I was able to get the nocks slide all the way down without too much trouble. Upon installation the nocks will activate and turn on as you push them down into the shaft. In order to deactivate the nock you pull it back about 1/16 of an inch until you feel a slight click. The nock will switch off and is then ready to shoot.
The only thing I don’t like about this design is that the nock is not securely seated to the back of the shaft upon release. If for some reason you bump the nock, or click it onto your string too firmly, you can accidentally light the nock. Of course if it gets bumped in your case or quiver, it could discharge before being used in the field.
However, one thing I do like about the Laser Eye nock is that you can easily rotate the nock after it’s installed. This makes fletching alignment much easier, if needed. With most lighted nocks, they manufacturer discourages rotating the nock in the shaft as to prevent damage to the wiring or circuitry that controls the light.
As for functionality, the Laser Eye worked perfectly. I took roughly a dozen shots out of my Mathews Helim and the nocks lit perfectly every time. They are extremely easy to turn off as well. Just pull them out a hair, and they turn right off. It’s quick and easy.
The Lazer Eye nock is reported to weigh 18.5 grains, however my scale showed both nocks weighing in at just over 20 grains, which was still the lightest of all nocks tested. Of course weight becomes a concern for many archers, especially when added to the back of your arrow. When it comes to lighted nocks, the lighter the better.
Nock brightness was slightly below the rest of the tested nocks. From a distance of 25 yards during twilight hours, the nocks could easily be seen both in flight and once they got to their target. However put next to some other brands the Laser Eye was clearly not as bright.
My overall impression of the Carbon Express Laser Eye is that it’s a solid nock that is extremely easy to use. If you’re looking for something you can take out of the package, put in your arrow and go shooting, this is it.
Now for the scores: Price: 4 – At $10/each they certainly aren’t cheap, but are about average for most lighted nocks. Ease of Use: 5 – pull them out of the package and start using them. It’s that easy. Reliability: 5 – worked every time, no problems turning them off Brightness: 2 – slightly below average brightness Weight: 5 – the lightest of any nock tested
Nockturnal Lighted Nocks
Admittedly, I spend a lot of time on the Bowhunting.com Forums. When it comes to lighted nocks, the most talked about unit the past few years has been the Nockturnal. So when it came time to test these out, I was pretty excited to see how they would perform.
I picked up a 3 pack of these nocks for around $24 plus shipping, making them roughly $8 per nock. Of all the nocks tested, they are certainly on the more affordable side.
The Nockturnal’s design is unique in that it features a string-activated switch embedded into the throat of the nock. When you release your arrow, the string forces the switch down and activates the nock. The Nockturnal comes completely assembled, and all you need to do is insert it into your arrow and start shooting. You can’t get much easier than that.
Just like the Laser Eye, the Nockturnal activated each time it was fired from my bow without problem. The one issue I have with the Nockturnal is the method by which you turn the nock off. There is a small hole in the side of the nock where you must insert a small pointy object (I used a field point from another arrow)to slide the switch back into the place. Not only did I find this tedious, but one time I had to force the switch so hard that the entire nock came back out of the arrow. Of all the nocks tested, I felt this made the Nockturnal one of the least friendly to use. At the very least, Nockturnal should include some sort of small tool to use for this duty. Using field tips, or even broadheads, to deactivate the nock after your shot could very well result in some injured fingers if you’re not careful.
My other concern with this design is the potential for water or moisture to get inside the nock and effect it’s long term reliability. Of course I was unable to test for this, but it is something I felt was worth noting.
When it comes to brightness, the Nockturnal was on par with the rest of the nocks tested. The nock body itself is clear which they claim gives additional light output, but to the naked eye I couldn’t tell a difference. These nocks are solidly in the middle of the pack when it comes to brightness.
My overall impression of the Nockturnal is that it is very well built product and easy to install, but the difficulty in deactivating the nock off after each shot was a real turn off (pun intended).
Price: 4 – At $8/each they’re right in the middle of average cost Ease of Use: 3 – Installation is a breeze, but turning them off is a chore Reliability: 5 – worked every time, no problems turning them off. Long term reliability remains to be seen. Brightness: 3 – average brightness Weight: 5 – the 2nd lightest of any nock tested
Lumenok Lighted Nocks
When it comes to lighted nocks, I believe Lumenok is the most widely known brand name out there. I’m not sure if they were the original lighted nock, but they certainly helped put them on the map. My 3 pack of Lumenoks cost $28, making them just over $9 per nock. Although I did find places online selling them for as cheap as $6 to $7 per nock. With these prices, they are among the more affordable options.
When it comes to using the Lumenok, it appears to be very easy at first glance. They come fully assembled and ready to go out of the package. However, even though the nock may be ready to go, your arrow shaft may not. You see, the Lumenok works when it is pressed securely into the back of your arrow shaft upon release, thus completing the electrical circuit needed to make it light up. If the back of your arrow is not completely square, or there is a material blocking the electrical charge, your nocks may not work.
In the case of my Carbon Express Maximas, I had a two step process to prep my arrows to ensure reliability. First, I had to glue my nock collars in place on the back of my arrow shaft. Second, I had to sand off the anodized finish on the back of the collar to reveal the metal underneath. While it did take a few extra minutes to prep my arrow shafts, it certainly wasn’t difficult. Anyone should be able to do this at home on their own.
Once installed, I put my Lumenoks to the test. Just like the previous two contestants, they worked flawlessly every time. In order to deactivate the Lumenok you simply “wiggle” the back end just enough to break the electrical contacts. One problem with this method is that if you don’t break the contact completely, the nock may remain dimly lit and run the battery down while not in use.
Similar to the Laser Eye, the Lumenok doesn’t sit completely flush with the back of your arrow upon launch. Upon release of your arrow, the nock is pushed forward and seated into the shaft. While I don’t think this effects accuracy much, if at all, it’s something to be noted.
Where the Lumenok stands head and shoulders above the competition is in the brightness category. Of all the nocks tested the Lumenok was easily the brightest. When it comes to lighted nocks I feel this is the most important feature next to simple reliability. Lumenok truly puts the “light” into lighted nocks.
Price: 5 – At $6-$7 each (online) they are one of the most affordable lighted nocks Ease of Use: 3 – Installation is a breeze, but prepping your arrows can be a bit of a chore Reliability: 5 – worked every time, no problems turning them off Brightness: 5 – brightest nock tested by far Weight: 2 – tied for heaviest of nocks tested at just shy of 28 grains
Firenock Lighted Nocks
For anyone who has met or spoken with Dorge Huang from Firenock, you know what a fire and passion he has for archery and technology. With that said, it’s no wonder that the Firenock is far and away the most advanced, and complicated, of the systems tested. However, that technology does come at a price.
A 3 pack of Firenocks will set you back $56, while a single nock costs $22. However, it is worth noting that all Firenocks include practice nocks with match weights so you don’t have to wear out the battery in your hunting units. The same cannot be said for most of their competitors. Additionally, if your battery does run dead you can replace it relatively easily, which again you can’t do with some of the competing models.
So what are you paying for when you buy a $22 nock? Instead of a manual switch or simple electric circuit, the Firenock actually uses a very small 24K gold plated hermetically sealed circuit board to control and power the light. We’re talking about the same type of circuit board that’s found in military ballistics. Yeah, that means missiles. Because the Firenock requires a significant “G” force to activate it, there’s no chance of accidental activation. The nock can only be turned on when launched from your bow, which means there’s no chance of accidental activation while not in use.
Due to the nature of its design, and the hundreds of possible configurations available, the Firenock requires a little bit of work before it can be used. There are nearly a limitless combination of nock colors, circuit types, and even battery types to choose from. If you wish to change nock colors, circuit types or battery types there may be some assembly required. For some models, you must also glue a small stopper into your arrow shaft to prevent the battery from flying forward upon impact. While this isn’t difficult work, it is certainly much more than a simple “plug and play” type design.
Additionally, Firenock does recommend that for those of us using CX arrows with nock collars that we glue the collars down in order to prevent damage to the nock. Since I already had mine glued down from the Lumenok test, I didn’t have to do any additional work this time.
Once you have your Firenock assembled and installed, shooting it is a breeze. My Firenocks performed flawlessly each and every time I shot them. When it comes to turning them off, the Firenock has a unique shock system that requires you to drop it on a hard surface from about a foot or so. While this works great shooting in my backyard and bouncing it off my deck boards, I sometimes struggled to find a flat, hard surface to bounce it on while in the field.
Brightness of the Firenock was on average with the rest of the nocks tested. Slightly above that of the Tracer and Laser Eye, but not quite as bright as the Lumenok or Nockturnal. This was tested using the standard “S” nock with the “BL” battery.
My overall impression of the Firenock is that this unit isn’t for everyone. As Dorge himself would say “The Firenock is the Mercedes S Class of lighted nocks.” For the guys who love the absolute best performance, reliability and the ability to mix & match just about any color combination possible, and experiment with different circuit types, this is certainly your nock. Without question it is the most technologically advanced of all the lighted nocks on the market today. Although some archers may find the variety of nocks, circuitry and battery choices a bit overwhelming.
Price: 2 – At over $20 for a single nock, you don’t want to lose these! Ease of Use:4 – While it does require some assembly, once they’re installed they turn off very easily Reliability: 5 – worked every time, no problems turning them off or on Brightness: 3 – average brightness Weight: 3 – the 2nd heaviest nock at 26.2 grains
The final nock tested was the Easton Tracer Nock. With an average cost of $8-9 per nock, these were right in line with most of the other nocks tested.
The Tracer nock works a bit different than others in that it actually uses a magnet to activate the nock as your arrow is shot. The magnet itself is mounted on the shelf of your bow, close enough to activate the nock but far enough away to not affect arrow flight. While the magnet installation isn’t a major undertaking, my biggest concern is what happens if the magnet is dislodged and falls off while I’m in the field? If that happens, my $9 lighted nock just becomes all but worthless.
Magnet aside, the Tracer nocks are extremely easy to use. They come pre-assembled and ready to shoot. All you need to do is slide them into your arrow and start shooting. When shot out of my bow, my Tracer nocks turned on every time.
Now when it comes to turning your nocks off, you must pass them back by a magnet. Again, not a huge difficulty but it can be a little annoying. I kept finding myself wanting to turn my nocks off and put my arrows back into my quiver before picking up my bow again, but couldn’t do that with the Tracer. Instead I had to pick up my bow, run each arrow by the magnet, then put them away.
Additionally, the Tracer’s built-in functionality keeps the light on constantly during the shot and for several seconds after, and then the nock begins flashing. There is no way to change that or turn the flashing off if you want a solid light. I personally prefer a solid light rather than a blinking one, and it would be nice to have that option.
The other item I didn’t care for was the sheer size, and specifically the length, of the Tracer nock. It appears to use a full size nock like you’d find on your dad’s old 2317 arrows. I mean this thing is BIG. I’m sure that helps account for the fact that the Tracer was tied for heaviest nock shot at 27.8 grains.
My overall impression of the Tracer is that it’s a good product, but just not up to today’s standards. The size of the nock and requirement of adding a magnet to your bow just make it seem a bit antiquated.
Price: 4 – At $8-9 each, they are in line with other lighted nocks Ease of Use: 3 – Installation of the magnet on your bow’s riser brought this score down Reliability: 5 – worked every time, no problems turning them off or on Brightness: 3 – average brightness Weight: 2 – the heaviest nock at 27.8 grains
Final Thoughts on Lighted Nocks
Each and every lighted nock I tested is more than capable of getting the job done in the field. Seeing where your arrow impacts the animal you’re shooting at is crucial to knowing how and when to take up the recovery. Nothing can help you with that decision quite like a lighted arrow nock.
I will say that the final scores of each nock can certainly be a bit misleading. Although the Firenock and Tracer scored the same, I will say the Firenock is far and away a superior product in just about every aspect. And although the Carbon Express Laser Eye scored the highest overall, it was one fo the dimmest lights. Below you can see a side by side comparison of all 5 of the lighted nocks that were tested.
When it comes to deciding which nock will work best for your application, you should evaluate your personal needs before making a decision. Your overall budget, amount of time to setup/tweak your nocks and importance of brightness should all be factored into your buying decision.
I still haven’t quite made up my mind which I’ll be shooting this fall, but you can bet the next time you see me loose an arrow on Bowhunt or Die you’ll be able to track the flight of my arrow thanks to one of these lighted nocks.
Do you have an opinion on which lighted nock is best? Have an experience or tip you want to share with the community? Be sure to post your comments below!