Crossbows may have existed for over 2000 years, but it wasn’t until the 21st century that they really started to be considered effective, multipurpose weapons and garner a considerable following.What once was an innovative albeit cumbersome weapon used on medieval battlefields has evolved to become the best weapon for silently dispatching the living dead on popular television shows, among other more practical uses.
But crossbows have also earned a desirable reputation and an extensive following for their effective use in target shooting and game hunting communities. Traditional bow hunters and riflemen alike often transition into the sport of crossbow shooting given the relative similarities in weapon design, stopping power, and prospective targets.
Choose The Best Crossbow with Comparison Guide
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Like any investment, the purchase of a new crossbow should entail extensive research and consideration before pulling the trigger; literally given that this is a deadly weapon. For most hunters and target shooters one quality bow can afford a lifetime of shooting given proper maintenance and repairs are performed. For this reason you are going to want to buy the best product you can afford in order to avoid the disappointment from a malfunction of a poor-quality crossbow midway through the next hunting season. You’re taking the right steps by reading this guide and learning more about what components to look for in a crossbow which will help you make the proper decision in adding the proper crossbow to your arsenal.
How to Find the Best Crossbow
If you’re purchasing a crossbow solely for recreational purposes, you aren’t necessarily going to need the top of the line models made for putting down big game. However, if you are a serious hunter looking to take on the challenge of close-range crossbow hunting, you’re going to want something durable, reliable, and accurate to ensure good effect on target in the field. Experienced hunters and target shooters always want equip themselves with the best gear available on the market. But just like when it comes to choosing a rifle, compound bow, or any other weapon, there really is no best crossbow option. Every shooter is different and has individual preferences when it comes to the design, style, and performance of new piece of hunting equipment.
There are lots of things to consider before purchasing a crossbow, among them are: (Tweet)
- What type of target/game will you be shooting at?
- How often will you be using your crossbow?
- What is your familiarity with bow mechanics?
- Will you be carrying your bow for extended distances in the field?
- Do you have access to a local dealer or service center if repairs are needed?
- Are crossbows legal to own and/or use for hunting in your area?
- How tall are you? What is your level of fitness? Some bows may require the assistance of a cocking aid for some shooters.
While this guide intends to educate you on the different things to look for when choosing a crossbow, it is still advised that you carry out your own research and seek out as many crossbow reviews as possible from reputable online dealers and user forums. There you will be introduced to the best, dedicated community of crossbow shooters that take to the Internet to share their opinions on all things crossbows. But like any highly personalized product, crossbows should be tested in person in stores when possible so you can actually get a feel for the product that you will be carrying around in the woods and that may ultimately provide for you and your family. You may not get a chance to actually shoot the bow, but you can at least hold various models and test their balance and weight distribution in different shooting postures.
0. If you already have a loved crossbow brand in mind, you can continue reading:
- Barnett Crossbows
- Carbon Express Crossbows
- Excalibur Crossbows
- Horton Crossbows
- Parker Crossbows
- PSE Crossbow
- Ten Point Crossbows
These are best brands on the current crossbow market that you can’t miss out.
1. What to Look For When Buying A New Crossbow
The basic mechanics of firing a crossbow will be familiar to most shooters, but crossbows are very complex weapons and a variety of factors contribute to the performance of a quality bow. Below you will be further introduced to the different features and specifications that will factor in to your decision when purchasing a new crossbow.
It is necessary to distinguish that there are two main types of crossbows: the recurve crossbow and the compound crossbow.
A. Recurve crossbows
Recurve crossbows are more simplistic in design and closely resemble a recurve bow. They are simpler because they only require the use of one string and lack the complicated stringing mechanisms used in the wheels, or cam systems, of their compound counterparts. Recurve crossbows also tend to be less nose heavy making it easier for the shooter to aim offhand and remain sighted on target. Because they are designed simply, recurve crossbows are much simpler to use and maintain and often the best type for beginner shooters.
B. Compound crossbows
Compound crossbows are the more modern evolution in crossbow design. Compound crossbows can be heavier than recurves, but they are much more compact and smaller in design. They can have split or single limbs and utilize a wheeled cam system to apply tension and harness energy in the string. Hunters used to shooting from tree stands or blinds often prefer the compact design of compound crossbows when shooting from confined areas. Despite the small size, compound crossbows typically shoot at higher velocities, are easier to cock due to technological aids, and are generally safer to shoot. So, these are best ones loved by pros.
The speed, or velocity, measurement of a crossbow refers to the rate at which an arrow is fired from the bow in feet per second (fps). Speed is the byproduct of a few factors including the crossbow’s draw weight, power stroke, and the weight of the arrow. A crossbow with a higher draw weight, longer power stroke, and lighter arrows will typically shoot faster. A lighter arrow shot from a crossbow with high draw weight and power stroke will also carry more kinetic energy(discussed below) and less drop when fired at long distances. The disadvantage of a speedier arrow is increased noise and vibration and an overall increase in minor maintenance issues since more draw weight and power stroke is involved. For most hunting and shooting purposes, 300-350 fps is a practical arrow speed.
1-3. Draw weight
Draw weight is the highest amount of weight in pounds (lbs.) pulled when the crossbow is drawn. Draw weight corresponds directly with draw length, or how far back you will need to draw the string to fire the arrow. Most quality crossbows have a draw weight somewhere between 125 and 250 lbs., though lighter and heavier models are available. A draw weight between 150-175 lbs. is practical for most shooting purposes and recommended for deer-sized game. Most average adult shooters are able to pull upwards of 2 times their body weight, though cocking aids are available that reduce the amount of energy needed to draw the string. Take note that crossbows with a higher draw weight can be dangerous since more energy is stored in the bow before the arrow is fired.
1-4. Kinetic Energy
Kinetic energy measures the amount of energy, or force, the arrow carries in the air upon being fired in foot pounds (ft.-lbs.). An arrow carrying high kinetic energy will strike an animal with more force and with deeper penetration, so it is especially important for hunters to consider this specification when purchasing a bow. Hunters used to firing rifles should think about the different rifles used to hunt different types of game. The larger the game you hunt, the more kinetic energy you will need in your crossbow. Smaller game like birds and rabbits will not require much kinetic energy to put down. Medium game like whitetail deer and turkeys will require a larger amount of kinetic energy, but the speed of the arrow may vary depending on the agility of the animal. Large game like elk and bears will require both maximum kinetic energy and the proper broadhead arrow to effectively penetrate and take down the animal.
1-5. Power Stroke
Power stroke is also referred to as draw length and measures the distance of the string from rest position to fully drawn posture. Like mentioned above, power stoke corresponds with draw weight and a crossbow with a longer power stroke typically requires a higher draw weight to bring the string to firing position. With that said, a crossbow with a longer power stroke can normally store more powerwhen drawn than one with a shorter stroke. The disadvantage of a longer power stroke is that more draw weight is needed to draw the arrow, which can be difficult for shorter people and those with back and shoulder problems. Power stroke also corresponds with the amount of kinetic energy an arrow carries upon being fired, though the transference of energy from the drawn position to when the arrow is fired depends largely on the design of the crossbow and the type of arrow used.
1-6. Mass weight
The overall mass weight measured in pounds gauges the heaviness of the crossbow. Just like a rifle or regular bow, a heavier crossbow will be more difficult to carry long distances and harder to keep aimed on target when an arrow is drawn. Lighter crossbows are easier to carry out into the field, hoist up tree stands, and keep fixed on target from different shooting postures for a longer time. That being said, heavier crossbows also tend to generate less vibration and omit less noise than lighter models. This makes them preferable for hunters after game with keen senses like whitetail deer that may react and flee from the disturbance created from noisier, lighter bows. Recurve bows typically have a lower overall mass weight than compound bows, which are designed with more components and attachments, but this depends on the manufacturer and materials made to construct to bow. Keep in mind that some manufacturers may not include scopes, quivers, or arrows as part of the factory listed weight, though these items may be included as part of the purchase of a crossbow package.
A crossbow’s length is the distance (in inches) from the end of the stock to the furthest end of the crossbow, which could be the stirrup or the dissipater pads on the limbs; this is not an industry standard. A longer crossbow also normally makes for a heavier crossbow. For this reason, taller and more robust shooters may be comfortable with a longer crossbow, while shorter, younger, and female users may prefer shorter models. Certain crossbow manufacturers make female and youth models designed at a length (and weight) appropriate for the average shooter in those demographics. There is not much overall difference in length between compound and recurve crossbows, these factors depend on the individual manufacturer and model. The stock and foot stirrup can contribute to the crossbow’s lengthiness, but longer crossbows can mean longer power strokes and require more draw weight to bring the arrow and string into firing position.
The width (in inches) measures the distance from end to end of the crossbow’s limbs when at rest. Just like with length, consider the width of different crossbows in proportion to your body. A wider crossbow may offset the balance of a shorter shooter, while a more compact model could constrain and be less comfortable for a more robust shooter. Compound bows are typically much more compact than the wider recurve bows, though both types vary from model to model. The width of a bow makes a difference for hunters who may find themselves in tree stands surrounded by branches or blinds covered in brush. A wider crossbow will be more difficult to carry around in rugged terrains and can make shooting from obscured locations more dangerous. When shooting, always make sure the limbs of your crossbow have plenty of room to flex and that no branches or other obstructions will get in the way, potentially causing harm to the bow or yourself.
1-9. Trigger Pull
Trigger pull refers to the amount of weight needed to pull the trigger in order to fire the crossbow. This is not an issue most shooters with dexterous fingers, but the average crossbow will have a trigger pull somewhere between 3 and 4 lbs.(3.5 lbs is the best), which is considered a safe and effective level. When testing crossbows, you want the trigger to travel a small distance when pulled, called creep. A crossbow with no creep is considered dangerous as you are given very little control when squeezing the trigger. On the other hand, crossbows with too much creep can be harder to squeeze steadily and may throw off your ability to keep aimed on target. Trigger pull directly affects the accuracy and speed of an arrow, so be sure choose a crossbow with a solid trigger pull within the recommended range.
1-10. Cocking System
The best way that you cock your crossbow depends on the type and individual model. Safely cocking a crossbow entails securing your foot in the stirrup with downward force to prevent the crossbow from slipping up and causing personal injury. Crossbows can be cocked manually using brute strength by pulling on the string with both hands on either end of the deck until locked in the cocked position. Be sure to utilize proper posture and application of strength when manually cocking a crossbow. Cocking manually can be difficult and dangerous, which is why most models come with some form of cocking aid system. However, most adult shooters can safely hand-cock a crossbow with a 150 lb. draw weight.
- Rope aid
A rope cocking aid can reduce the draw weight of your crossbow by 50%. Rope cockers are straightforward to use and ensure an evenly cocked crossbow when drawn into the locked position. Rope cockers typically involve clipping two hooks onto the string on either side of the deck with the middle of the rope strung along a groove located behind the deck on the stock, normally below the safety. With your foot in the stirrup, you grip the handles of the rope cocker and use the leverage of the rope to draw the string into the cocked position. Then the safety is engaged, the rope aid is removed, and the arrow is ready to be fired.
- Crank aid
Crank aids are another system to reduce the draw weight and evenly cock your crossbow. Some cranking aids are permanently mounted on the crossbow, while others detach after each use. Both types work effectively, it just depends on the make and model of your crossbow. The mechanism is secured to the butt of the stock and releases a string with two hooks to connect to the crossbow string on either side of the deck. With downward force applied to the foot stirrup, the crank is then turned until the string is drawn and cocked.
A crossbow’s warranty depends on the manufacturer. Most crossbow manufacturers warrant their products for at least 5 years, many offer a lifetime warranty(which is the best), and some may come with 1 year. Coverage may also be different among manufacturers and only certain components of maintenance and service may be included as part of the crossbow’s warranty. Make sure you are aware of a crossbow’s warranty and coverage before purchasing and that the warranty is valid if purchased through a third-party.
Some manufacturers and dealers establish their own rating system for the crossbows they sell. Ratings are based on a variety of factors including design, construction materials, efficiency, accuracy, durability, and other considerations. Other rankings found online are compiled from the ratings and best reviews given by those that have actually purchased and used the product. Never purchase a crossbow just because it has attained a 5-star rating. Make sure you read the reviews, analyze the specs of different crossbows, and carefully examine what factors and decisions went into the ratings.
3. Crossbow Reviews form Other Customers
The Internet is the best resource for finding crossbow reviews that can help you make your decision when buying the right crossbow for you. The advantage of user reviews is that they will provide you with personal accounts of hunters and target shooters who have used a variety of crossbow types, models, and accessories. Be mindful that some reviews are authentic and genuine and some are paid or biased reviews written to promote a product. Do your research, read as many crossbow reviews as you can, and consider differing viewpoints from different shooters.
Price is an important factor in any new purchase. A quality crossbow can be purchased for as little as $500 and as much as $2000, with many factors determining price. There are less expensive models available, but like with most things you will be getting what you pay for, which typically entails cheaper materials, less-quality design, and lacking customer service. Many manufacturers sell packages that may include a crossbow, scope, quiver, cocking device, and set of arrows. However, some dealers may only include the bow (and possibly a sight) as part of the purchase price and you will have to factor in the cost of the needed extras in order to make sure your crossbow work in its best condition. Speed (which relates to draw weight and power stroke) is typically a determining factor in the price of a crossbow and a faster bow will bring a higher price tag. The more you spend, the more likely you will be purchasing a reliable and durable crossbow that will be effective time and time again.
Hopefully you now have a better sense of what to look for when purchasing your new crossbow. Again, there is no perfect, universal crossbow for every need and every shooter looks for different things in a hunting or target shooting weapon. The sections and comparison chart above are meant to help you understand the most important and commonly talked about factors when it comes to crossbows and you should consider each before going through with a purchase. When starting your search for a new crossbow it’s always good to ask questions to dealers and test as many products as possible in person. But when it comes to buying time, you can find just about everything you need to get started shooting online. Authorized dealers, crossbow accessories, service centers, and discussion forums are all just a click away and offer up a wealth of knowledge. The chart above will introduce you to some of the crossbow industry’s best available products and links to finding them at affordable prices online.