The Best Crossbows (Updated: Nov. 2016)

The crossbow’s origins date back to ancient China, where it was invented and later used in many wars across the world including Asia and Europe. Nowadays, the best crossbow is an extremely powerful device, far exceeding even the finest traditional bows in accuracy and power, as shown in our crossbow reviews.

best-by-price-range best for hunting

Below is an interactive comparison chart to help you find the best crossbow for the money in 2016. For each model we provide information about velocity (feet per second), draw weight (in pounds), power stroke (the distance the prod string needs to be drawn before it is cocked), arrow length, and overall length and weight of the weapon.

Top Crossbows Overall in 2016

ModelVelocityDraw WeightDeer Hunting?Length / Weight
TenPoint Wicked Ridge Invader G3

Wicked Ridge Invader G3
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330 FPS165 lbs.yes237.75" / 6 lbs. 9 ozs.


Our Review
CenterPoint Sniper 370

Wicked Ridge Invader G3
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370 FPS185 lbs.yes236.5" / 7.9 lbs.


Our Review
TenPoint Turbo GT

TenPoint Turbo GT

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360 FPS175 lbs.yes235" / 6 lbs. 8 ozs.


Our Review
Barnett Ghost 410 CRT
Barnett Ghost 410 CRT crossbow
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410 FPS185 lbs.yes237.3" / 7.3 lbs.


Our Review
TenPoint Stealth FX4

TenPoint Stealth FX4
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370 FPS185 lbs.yes234.4" / 6 lbs. 8 ozs.


Our Review
Barnett Jackal Package

Barnett Jackal Crossbow Package
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315 FPS150 lbs.yes235.5" / 7.7 lbs.


Our Review
TenPoint Vapor

TenPoint Vapor
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360 FPS165 lbs.yes237.4" / 6.8 lbs.


Our Review
SA Sports Empire Terminator

SA Sports Empire Terminator
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260 FPS175lbs.yes226-29" / 4.5 lbs.


Our Review
Excalibur Matrix 355 Package

Excalibur Matrix 355
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355 FPS240 lbs.yes235" / 5.4 lbs.


Our Review
Barnett Wildcat C6

Barnett Wildcat C6
Check Today's Price
320 FPS125 lbs.yes235.75" / 7 lbs. 0 ozs.


Our Review


The list above contains our top 10 finest crossbows. If you would like to browse through other models though, here is a list of all crossbows made by the best manufacturers only, as well as a ranking of the fastest crossbows.

Best Crossbow For Your Price Range

Everyone out there is always looking for the best product that they can afford. Whether it is a vehicle, electronic device, or a crossbow, feeling like you have made the best purchase you can afford is always a satisfying thing. Because we recognize that there is so much information out there and such a wide range of crossbows, we have worked to take some of the intimidation out of purchasing a new crossbow. Understanding that many of you also have very different budgets to work with, we have evaluated crossbows and carefully prepared a list of the best in each of five price points. Most of these are geared towards adults, but that doesn’t mean that youths should be introduced to and enjoy the sport of crossbow shooting. With good adult supervision, you can not only safely teach the next generation to shoot well, but also have some quality family time as well! For more recommendations, check out ArcheryChoice’s best crossbow rankings page, which has a very detailed comparison grid, more so than ours. They cover Barnett, Tenpoint and Excalibur crossbows in detail.

Additionally, consider that the optics (sight / scope) on your x-bow might not be appropriate for your particular needs, even if the bow itself is of superb quality. If that turns out to be the case, read up on the various crossbow optics available and try to choose something to fit your needs – HuntingOptics.net has good reviews, as well as a listing of the best crossbow scopes and an excellent buyer’s guide to go along with it.

#1: Best Compounds For The Money

Below we offer our top picks for the best compound crossbows across multiple price points. These are selected by our editors and field staff based on the performance and overall value of each. Please keep in mind that particular weight was given to the price point value of each of these models over sheer power. Whether you are looking to spend $200, $400 or $1500, this list can help you know what the best values are.

Best Compound On a Tight Budget: CenterPoint Sniper 370

centerpoint_sniper_main_frameThe CenterPoint Sniper 370 is a crossbow that offers some serious speed as well as pinpoint accuracy at a price point that might just leave you smiling. With a fully adjustable tactical stock and forearm, the Sniper can be set up to fit a shooter of just about any stature. The 185 lb. draw couples with a 13.5” power stroke to deliver some blistering speeds up to 370 fps. Arriving as a full package with an illuminated scope, 3 carbon arrows, a sling, quiver and rope cocker, this combo will have you ready to shoot in no time. The Sniper can be a bit front heavy and might not feel as solid as other more expensive crossbows, but given the speed, accuracy and value, it is certainly worth a hard look.

 


PROS:

  • Very fast speed
  • Fully adjustable stock and forearm
CONS:

  • A bit front heavy
  • Can have a flimsy feel

 

Best Low-Priced Compound: Wicked Ridge Invader G3

wicked_ridge_invader_main_frameThe Wicked Ridge Invader G3 by TenPoint offers a lot of features one might expect to find on much more expensive crossbows. It arrives as a package which includes a 3 power Multi-Line scope, an instant release quiver, three Wicked Ridge 20” carbon arrows and a self-retracting rope cocking system. The Invader G3 is very lightweight, especially at this price point. Power is no issue with the G3 as it can launch arrows up to 330 feet per second thanks to its 13.5” power stroke and 165 lb. draw weight. We found the G3 to be exceptionally accurate and safe to use. One item to note is that if you plan to hunt low light conditions with the G3, you may consider investing in an illuminated scope. Overall, given the accuracy and power of the Invader G3, the scope isn’t too much to worry about!

 


PROS:

  • Excellent accuracy
  • Light weight yet plenty powerful
CONS:

  • Scope is not illuminated

 

Best Lower-Mid-Range Compound: Barnett Buck Commander Extreme

barnett_buck_commander_main_borderWith a velocity of 365 feet per second, the Barnett Buck Commander has plenty of power to hunt just about anything that is in season. The 185 lb. draw weight combines with a power stroke well over 13” to offer immense downrange punch. It comes with a very accurate red/green illuminated scope to make this a great hunting set up right out of the package. The Buck Commander has an anti-dry fire system that ensures the string cannot be released without an arrow in place. This is a crossbow package that is perfect for those who want a lot of power and accuracy from their crossbow without having to break the bank to buy it.

 

 


PROS:

  • Very powerful
  • Good quality illuminated optic
CONS:

  • Some of the plastic accessories can break easily

 

Best Upper-Mid-Range Compound: TenPoint Turbo GT

tenpoint_turbo_gt_main_frame The TenPoint Turbo GT brings a lot of power to the table. TenPoint claims 360 feet per second and our chrono tests showed 333 – 334 feet per second with a 425 grain projectile…certainly plenty of power, especially with a heavier arrow. Anytime you are pushing arrows down range with well over 100 ft. lbs. of energy, you know you are dealing with true power. To help control that power, TenPoint has created a very well balanced crossbow to allow for greater accuracy. We found the optics that come with the Turbo GT to be very clear and made for very easy grouping. The dry fire inhibitor keeps you and your equipment safe by ensuring the crossbow cannot be fired without an arrow in place. All in all, we found this to be an easy to shoot, accurate and powerful crossbow while remaining in the upper mid range price category.

 


PROS:

  • Narrow 13.5” axle to axle when cocked
  • Very accurate
CONS:

  • At this price point we would have like to have seen integrated suppressors

 

Best High-End Compound: TenPoint Vapor Crossbow

tenpoint_vapor_main_frameIf the cost of your next crossbow is no worry, the TenPoint Vapor would be a tough one to beat. TenPoint’s parallel limb solution really comes in to play, reducing the axle to axle distance to just 17.5” when uncocked and a mere 12.6” when cocked. This makes the Vapor very portable in the field. Speaking of in the field, you are going to be sending arrows downrange at around 360 feet per second which translates to over 120 ft. lbs. of energy. There is basically nothing in North America you can’t hunt with this crossbow. Keep in mind that speeds like this are going to require you to be sure of your shooting…the faster the crossbow the less margin for error it affords. The RangeMaster Pro scope offers a 5X, 30 mm reticle that is illuminated in red/green and has dots calibrated for 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 yards. The Vapor certainly sets the standard for high end crossbows and is one that anyone who can afford it would be proud to carry into the field.


PROS:

  • Very narrow axle to axle
  • Power to spare
  • Great scope
CONS:

  • No included sling

 

2#: Best Recurve Crossbows For The Money

If you’re after a recurve crossbow, here are our recommendations based on budget. Also see our detailed recurve bow comparison for more.

Best Recurve On a Very Tight Budget: Arrow Precision Inferno Fury Crossbow

arrow_precision_inferno_fury_main_frameThis crossbow provides an enormous bang-for-your-buck factor. Despite being so cheap, it has characteristics comparable to those of crossbows twice as expensive. The draw weight is a solid 175 lbs., which is enough to shatter the ribs of a deer from a distance of 20-30 yards; the draw might be difficult to pull by younger shooters (and some adults as well), so make sure you have your cocking rope with you. While the velocity of 235 feet per second might not seem impressive compared to more expensive crossbows, it’s quite powerful and very accurate, providing for a great beginner hunting and target shooting experience. The Arrow Precision crossbow is perfect for anyone on a budget, comes with 4x 16″ aluminum arrows and a 3 red dot sight. It’s also light-weight and very comfortable to hold.

Best Low-Priced Recurve: Arrow Precision Inferno Wildfire II

arrow_precision_inferno_wildfire2_main_frameA versatile crossbow that consistently tops the hot-sellers charts in all major online outdoors stores. Excellent for both beginners and advanced shooters, fast enough for pretty much all hunting purposes. This is likely the fastest shooting crossbow you can find in this price range on the market. The included scope (4×32, illuminated)  is also top of the line – the type you’d expect to get with a much more expensive crossbow. Additionally, the package offered by Arrow Precision contains a huge number of accessories, including protective goggles, front / rear sight, and a sling. Finally, it comes with an exceptionally detailed assembly manual that many other crossbows would envy. One of the best values on the market overall.

 

Best Mid-Priced Recurve: Excalibur Matrix 355

excalibur_matrix_355_main_frameA reasonably priced, highly durable crossbow that delivers up to 355 feet per second arrow velocity (the crossbow has a huge 240 lbs. draw weight, so make sure you carry the included rope aid with you). Combined with a short 12.2 inch power stroke and an ergonomic low-recoil design, the Matrix 355 is a very powerful crossbow, created with the hunter in mind – it can take down literally any game found in the USA and Canada, including bear, moose and elk. If it’s close enough for you to hit it accurately, the Matrix 355 will kill it. Obviously it can be used for practice shooting as well, just like any of the best crossbows mentioned here. At less than 6 pounds, this Excalibur is easy to log around on long hunting trips. It comes with the excellent Tact-Zone Scope that provides excellent view of your target in low-lighting conditions (before sunrise / after sunset), and also comes with a rope cocking aid and 4 arrows + quiver.

Best High-End Recurve: Excalibur Matrix Mega 405

excalibur_matrix_mega_405_main_frameThis is what you get when money is no object. One beast of a crossbow. We’re looking at 290 lbs. of draw weight, so even with a rope cocking aid you’ll still be pulling ~145 lbs. each time you draw it; as such, we do not recommend the Micro 405 to younger kids or women, unless you’re willing to buy a crank cocking aid.

This is the fastest shooting recurve crossbow on the market, delivering over 400 FPS given the right circumstances. As with all recurves it’s very light (slightly over 6 pounds), and comes with the superb Twilight DLX Scope (which in itself costs more than all budget crossbows on the market). It also includes lots of excellent safety features, which is important given the high forces involved.

 

 

Best Crossbow for women: The Wicked Ridge Lady Ranger

wicked_ridge_lady_main_frameThe Wicked Ridge Lady Ranger by TenPoint is a tough act to follow for a crossbow designed specifically for women. Its modest 150 lb. draw weight combined with a shorter power stroke of just 10.8” means this crossbow is going to be cockable by the ladies it is intended for, especially when you use the integrated ACU52 self-retracting rope cocking system. Don’t kid yourself, though…there is still plenty of power in the Lady Ranger to take down a good deer…70 FPKE worth of power. The Lady Ranger comes in a really cool pink camo “Muddy Girl” pattern with matching strings and cables. The Lady Ranger weighs a mere 5.9 lbs. (without accessories) and is only 22.6” ATA and 33.9” long. The package includes the crossbow, an instant detach quiver, three 18” carbon arrows and a TenPoint 3x Multi Line Scope. The trigger has a crisp 3.5 lb. break and the Lady Ranger has the oversized flanges along the rail to ensure fingers and thumbs stay well below the string path. This is certainly a crossbow that should get a good look!


PROS:

  • Integrated cocking system
  • Very light weight
CONS:

  • Not going to be powerful enough for long shots or very large game

 

Best crossbow for youth archers: The Barnett Recruit

barnett_recruit_main_frameThe Barnett Recruit offers plenty of speed without a ton of draw weight. At only 130 lbs. of draw, the Recruit still slings arrows at 300 FPS. The Recruit is a perfect choice for a smaller framed hunter as that is who this crossbow was truly designed for. At a mere 6.5 lbs., this is a crossbow that will be easy for younger hunters to carry in the field, and the modest draw weight means those same young hunters can cock the crossbow themselves. The Recruit shows up in a package that includes the crossbow, a quiver, three 20” arrows, a premium red dot sight, and all necessary assembly tools. A standout feature of this crossbow is the adjustable stock, which allows for more customization for young shooters. Another strong safety feature is the pass through fore grip which ensure fingers and thumbs stay well below the string path. If you are looking for a good youth crossbow at a very reasonable price point, the Recruit might be just the answer.


PROS:

  • Easy to cock
  • Perfect for smaller framed shooters
CONS:

  • Only includes 3 arrows
  • Red dot sight is more difficult for a new shooter to estimate longer shots

 

Best compact crossbow: The Carbon Express Intercept Axon

carbon_axon_main_frameThe Carbon Express Intercept Axon Crossbow is a true powerhouse with a compact frame. With an adjustable stock from 35” all the way down to 30.25” and an ATA of just 13.5” when cocked, the Interceptor Axon is a crossbow that will let you hunt in truly tight spaces. Don’t let its small size fool you as this crossbow will send arrows down range at speeds up to 360 fps thanks to its 175 lb. draw weight and 13.5” power stroke. The Intercept Axon has a lot of precision engineering including a trigger with virtually no creep that breaks at a mere 3.5 lbs. The Axon includes the SilenTech Coating to reduce vibration and sound as well having a combined total of 29” of mil spec Picatinny rail to allow for complete and total customization. The Intercept Axon Kit comes with the crossbow, 3 arrows, a quiver, 3 field points, rail lube, a rope cocker, and a 4 x 32 glass etched illuminted reticle scope. This isn’t going to be the cheapest crossbow on the list, but it is one that will certainly turn more than one head!


PROS:

  • Super cool design
  • Excellent power and accuracy
CONS:

  • Can be a bit pricey for some budgets

 

Best crossbow around $100: The Wizard by ASC


wizards_hunting_main_frame
So you think you might want to try out crossbow archery, but want to make sure you really like it without having to risk a lot of money to do so? The Wizard Crossbow by ASC is a very inexpensive recurve crossbow to try out the sport of crossbow archery. With its 150 lb. draw, the Wizard is capable of slinging arrows up to 210 fps. The package includes the crossbow, 6 aluminum arrows, a string, foot stirrup and a 4 x 20 crossbow scope. It is a nice touch that they throw in a free rope cocker, but you will also need to order a stringing tool as the bow section does not come prestrung. When you order this crossbow, remember the price point and you won’t be disappointed…it shoots well, but the scope is something you will likely be replacing pretty quickly as the quality is very hit or miss on it. Overall, it is hard to argue with the price if you are just looking to try out crossbow shooting.


PROS:

  • Excellent price point
  • Very simple to use
CONS:

  • Scopes do not seem to hold zero well

 

Best lightweight crossbow: SA Sports Empire Terminator Recon

sa_sports_terminator_recon_frameWeighing in at just 4.5 lbs., the SA Sports Empire Terminator Recon Crossbow is a great hunting companion for someone who has a long haul to get to their hunting grounds. With a draw weight of 175 lbs. and a power stroke of 11”, the Empire Recon launches arrows down range at speeds up to 260 fps. The Empire Recon is a bit of a no frills crossbow, but at its price point, it is hard to complain. The Empire Recon comes as a package which contains the crossbow, a 4 x 32 multi reticle scope, an instant release quiver, two 16” aluminum arrows, a rope cocking device and a vertical fore grip. The overall feel of the Empire Recon is solid and it is quite accurate, but don’t plan on pursuing any big game as the low speed and smaller arrows just aren’t going to carry the downrange punch that you will need. If, however, you are looking for a crossbow that is very light and easy to carry and that is the most important feature to you, then the SA Sports Empire Recon may be just the crossbow for you.


PROS:

  • Super light weight
  • Excellent value
CONS:

  • No safety guards on front grip
  • Not really enough punch for large game

 

Best compact reverse-draw crossbow: The Barnett BC Raptor Reverse

barnett_bc_reverse_frameReverse-draw crossbows have gained a lot of popularity in recent years thanks largely to their design. Because the bow section is reversed, the power stroke can be significantly lengthened allowing for greater speed without an enormous increase in draw weight. The Barnett BC Raptor Reverse is a perfect example of this. It has a modest draw weight of 155 lbs., but a long power stroke of 15.125”, yielding a velocity of 330 fps. The most stunning aspect of the BC Raptor Reverse is the very short ATA. This crossbow has an ATA of just 16” when uncocked and a mere 10” when cocked. To get this kind of power with this kind of portability and shootability is an amazing combination. The kit comes with the crossbow, a premium illuminated multi reticle scope, a rope cocker, 3 arrows and a detachable quiver. This is a crossbow with plenty of power that is going to allow you to hunt from many locations you previously were only able to use a rifle.


PROS:

  • Super narrow ATA
  • Excellent trigger
CONS:

  • Some issues with limbs/pockets

 

Best high speed crossbow with a low draw weight: The Bear Archery Bruzer Crossbow

bruzer_ffl_main_frameThe Bear Archery Bruzer Crossbow is a reverse draw crossbow that offers a lot of power with a very modest amount of draw weight. The Bruzer combines a long 14” power stroke with 125 lb. limbs to send arrows down range at up to 335 FPS. Because this is a reverse draw design, that long power stroke won’t feel that long due to the string being at the front of the crossbow. The Bruzer arrives as a package from Bear Archery that includes the crossbow, a Trophy Ridge XF425 Scope, three 20” Trophy Ridge Insidious Arrows, a Picatinny mount quiver, cocking sled and rail lube. The Bruzer is very accurate, due in part to the forward facing limbs and the balance that design offers. The Bruzer certainly lives up to its name in terms of weight…this is NOT a light crossbow, but once you get to your hunting location, the compact size, power and accuracy might just make that extra weight bearable.


PROS:

  • High power for low draw weight
  • Compact
CONS:

  • A bit on the heavy side
  • Long trigger pull

 

Best crossbow for adult beginners: The CenterPoint Sniper 370

centerpoint_sniper_main_frameThe CenterPoint Sniper 370 is a crossbow that is a great option for an adult wanting to get into the sport, without breaking the bank. Enjoying a fully adjustable stock and forearm, the Sniper 370 is considered to be good enough that it has even been nominated as the best compound crossbow in the budget category. The Sniper arrives as a complete package with just about everything you will need to get started shooting. It can be a bit front heavy and may not have as solid a feel as higher end crossbows, but for the value, it is hard to beat for someone just getting in to the sport of archery.

 

 


PROS:

  • Very fast
  • Fully adjustable stock and fore grip
CONS:

  • A bit heavy in the front
  • Some report a bit flimsy feel

 

Best crossbow for handicapped hunters: The TenPoint Stealth XLT

tenpoint_stealth_main_frameThe TenPoint Stealth XLT is a crossbow that is perfect for someone who has a physical disability but still wants the enjoyment of archery hunting. The speed and user friendly design make this a crossbow that is going to let individuals that might not otherwise be able to enjoy a crossbow do so with relative ease. The Stealth XLT arrives as a complete package that includes the crossbow, an illuminated Rangemaster Scope, a 4-arrow quiver, six XX75 20” aluminum arrows, and all assembly hardware along with an instructional DVD. The ACUdraw system is very user friendly and will allow virtually anyone to be able to cock the crossbow by simply turning a crank. TenPoint is known for their safety features, which when combined with the power and ease of use of the Stealth, makes it a great choice for the person who might not have the function they used to have, but is unwilling to let that slow them down.


PROS:

  • User friendly and powerful
  • ACUdraw makes it easy to cock
CONS:

  • A bit on the pricey side

 

What is the crossbow manufacturer with the best safety features?

We are often asked what manufacturers are the best to look to in terms of safety features. In our experience, there are many great safety features by many manufacturers, but TenPoint Crossbows seems to always be in one of the top positions for their commitment to safety. TenPoint offers an auto engaging ambidextrous safety on all models. They also have a dry fire inhibitor to ensure the crossbow cannot be fired without an arrow in place to prevent injury to the shooter as well as damage to the crossbow. On many of their newest models, there is also a secondary safety on the fore grip that must be depressed to fire. In order to depress this, the forward hand must be in the proper shooting position to keep fingers out of the string path. To further protect the fingers and thumbs of the forward shooting hand, most models are equipped with large safety wings to ensure fingers and thumbs stay safe. Even with all of these safety features, a crossbow is still a serious weapon and should be treated as such, but TenPoint goes out of their way to keep the user as safe as possible.

Making Sense Of Our Crossbow Reviews

Clicking the “Our Review” link next to a crossbow in the comparison chart will take you to our expert review of that specific model. We make sure that each of our crossbow reviews is written by an experienced person, who personally owns and has used, on multiple occasions, the model in question. We feel that this is the only way we can deliver useful information, rather than simply repeating the same things that you’ve already read somewhere else over and over.

Each of our crossbow reviews is divided into the following sections:

Crossbow Pro’s:

This is a quick rundown of what we believe are the strongest attributes of the weapon in question. Keep in mind, however, that this list is not all-inclusive, and we recommend going through the entire review if you want to get the full picture.

Crossbow Con’s:

These are the things our reviewer did not particularly like about the crossbow. Contrary to the “Pro’s” section, the Cons are actually all-inclusive, as we feel it’s important to quickly let everyone know what’s wrong with a certain crossbow without them having to read the entire review to find out.

Assembly & Package Contents Of The Crossbow

As the name suggests, this section includes a list of all the items that you’ll be getting from the manufacturer with your crossbow, and the list is based on what the reviewer actually found in the package when he bought it. This section also quickly goes over the steps required to assemble the crossbow and points out any possible difficulties that you might run into in the process.

Preparing To Shoot Your X-Bow

In this section we go over the steps that you need to take before actually firing your crossbow. Usually this will include waxing the string and of course cocking / latching the weapon, however in many cases there are certain caveats that you need to keep in mind, mostly related to safety and maintenance issues – we strongly suggest you read this section in each of our crossbow reviews.

Performance, Accuracy And Power

This section is usually broken down into two sub-sections: “Target shooting” and “Hunting.” Each sub-section goes over the performance of the crossbow in each respective category, with examples from the reviewers actual use of the model in question. This is where things like accuracy, power, comfort, and similar matters are discussed, with reference to real-life examples.

Arrows/Bolt For The Weapon

Here we give a quick review of the arrows that come with the crossbow by default. We provide their specifications so that you know to look for when purchasing extra arrows on your own. We also mention the type of heads that come with the arrows (typically field points), and also recommend some broad-heads that go well with these particular arrows.

The Best Scope / Sight To Use

We mention the specifications of the scope, how close to “zero” it comes right out of the box and how much work is required to sight it. Anything else we think is worthy of reviewing about the scope is also mentioned here.

How To Choose a Great Crossbow

Below are a few qualities that all of the best crossbows for the money have in common. Use this guide when making a selection and please read it before you make your purchase.

Recurve Crossbow Construction

Click to enlarge

The crossbow draw weight:

This refers to the how much force is required to cock your crossbow, and it’s determined by how rigid the limbs of the prod are. The higher the draw weight, the more difficult it is to draw the string, and the more deadly the arrow will be. A minimum to go for when buying a crossbow is 150 pounds; while “lighter” draw weights are just fine for target practice purposes, you will need the 150 lbs. or more if you plan to go hunting and if you want to make sure that your arrow actually kills your prey, and not just wounds it.

Keep in mind that if you are cocking the crossbow by hand (by putting your foot inside the stirrup at the top of the weapon, fixing it with your leg to the ground and pulling the string upwards until it is latched in position), you are basically dead-lifting a weight equal to the draw weight of the crossbow. To make this process much easier and to significantly reduce the amount of force required to draw your cross-bow, consider getting a rope or crank cocking device (more on these below).

Velocity of your weapon:

This is measured in feet-per-second, and determines the speed with which your arrow is going to travel over the first 20-30 yards (beyond this distance the velocity will start to diminish). You should go for a minimum of 200 FPS. Keep in mind that the actual velocity will be determined by the draw weight of the cross bow as well as the weight of the arrows you are using – so a heavier arrow will travel slower than a lighter arrow shot from the same crossbow. When velocity is listed for a certain model, the number will typically have been calculated using arrows of similar weight to the ones that are sold with the crossbow itself.

Power Stroke:

This is the distance a string will have to travel from its loose position until it reaches the latch and is cocked. Most crossbows will have a stroke between 10″ and 14″. While it is true that the higher the power stroke, the more powerful the arrow shot will be, there is no reason to obsess about this value and try to get the crossbow with the longest power stroke; what matters more is whether the stroke was adjusted properly based on the crossbow’s draw weight (which it always is in the best models).

Energy output:

This determines how much energy is transferred from the crossbow string to the arrow upon release, and it is directly related to two of the previously mentioned characteristics: the higher the draw weight and the longer the power stroke, the more energy will be transferred to the arrow and the more deadly it will become (and the faster it will fly, with less drop-down in trajectory). You could conduct mathematical calculations to determine what the energy of your crossbow is, however that would be a waste of time as there are other important factors to consider, such as how ergonomic the design of the weapon is, how well the arrow track is designed, how reliable the release mechanism is, etc. – all of these things will impact accuracy, which is very important – a powerful crossbow is useless if you cannot shoot it accurately and comfortably.

With that in mind, if you stick to the best crossbows only as listed on our website, and if you make sure that the draw weight is a minimum of 150 lbs., the velocity is a minimum of 200 FPS, and the power stroke is a minimum of 10″, you will get a powerful and accurate crossbow, suitable for both hunting and target practice.

What Type of Limbs Are Best on a Crossbow?

The limbs are the two parts attached to the riser, and it is at the tips of the limbs that the string is attached. Almost all quality crossbows have limbs made of either carbon, fiberglass, or a combination of these materials; they are light-weight and very durable, which is very important considering the physical stresses generated by today’s crossbows. If you see a crossbow with limbs made of aluminum or wood, better stay clear of it as they will likely break on you soon enough.

How Much Money Should You Pay For a Crossbow?

Price isn’t always an indicator of quality, however in the archery industry it is, unfortunately. You will be very hard-pressed to get a quality crossbow for less than $120; if it costs less, stay clear of it as the materials used will likely be low quality and using such a crossbow could be outright dangerous and hazardous. The Arrow Precision Inferno Fury mentioned previously is one of just a handful of crossbows that cost less than $200 and which are worth buying. All in all though, and if you aren’t really strapped for cash, we would recommend spending closer to $300 on your first crossbow; this will ensure you’ll get a weapon that will last you for many years, regardless of how your preferences might change and how your skills may evolve.

Cocking Your Crossbow

There are three primary ways to cock the modern crossbow.

The manual cocking way:

manual crossbow cocking

Most crossbows come with what is called a stirrup, and it is that semi-triangular hole located at the front of the crossbow. You place your foot inside the stirrup, press down with your leg and entire body weight to fix the weapon firmly to the ground, and then use your body weight to lift the string upwards into a cocked position. When cocking a crossbow using this method, make sure that you hold the string at equal distances on both the left and right side of the stock (basically your thumbs should be as close to the stock as possible). Otherwise, you might end up pulling the string unevenly (the left or right side might end up being drawn further than the other), resulting in both reduced shooting accuracy and over-time damage to your string, arrows, latch and/or arrow track.

As mentioned above, the manual way of cocking requires you to dead-lift a weight equal to the draw weight of your crossbow. This might be a problem for some: since you want to get a model with a minimum of 150 lbs. draw weight, ask yourself this: can you imagine yourself dead-lifting 150+ pounds each time you want to seat a new arrow for shooting? If not, then one of the following two cocking solutions will be more appropriate for you.

The rope cocking approach:

rope-crossbow-cockingA cocking rope is the ideal solution for most as there is no need to install additional accessories on your crossbow, and the rope itself is very simple in construction and can be purchased for $15-$30. (Some crossbows, especially those with a draw weight of 175+ lbs., come with a cocking rope in the package.) When using a rope, you effectively cut the force required to draw the bowstring in half. In other words, to cock a 150 lbs. draw weight crossbow using a rope, you will only need to apply a force (dead-lift) equal to 75 lbs. As an added bonus, rope-cocking makes it much easier to draw the string evenly on both sides of the stock, which – as mentioned previously – improves shooting accuracy and extends the lifetime of your crossbow.

The crank cocking approach:
crane crossbow cocking

Source: HuntersFriend

This is what you’d get if you had $100-150 to spare, and if you want to make the cocking procedure effortless. The crank mechanism is attached to the back of your crossbow and you simply turn the crank in order to draw the string. Using this approach will allow even a small kid to accurately draw a crossbow with even a 250 lbs. draw weight (though obviously kids should not be playing with this weapon in the first place). There are two distinct disadvantages to this method, however:

  1. The crank mechanism can be heavy, adding to the bulk of the crossbow.
  2. It is quite slow and it can take up to a minute to fully draw and latch a string.

With that said, if you want to pull a 200+ lbs. string with what feels like less than 10 lbs. of force, the crank method is an excellent choice.

Crossbow Ballistics Calculator

Please see here for our Crossbow Ballistic Calculator – you can calculate arrow drop, speed, kinetic energy and momentum for up to 70 yards out. Just input your total projectile grain weight and the point-blank speed of your crossbow and click ‘calculate’. If you want, you can also provide details on fletching length, fletching height and shaft length to get some fine-grained results (though we do populate those three fields with the most common values to make things easier for you).

Crossbow Sights / Scopes

There are two primary types of scopes you’ll be working with, and the best crossbow sets will always include one of the two. You should always sight your crossbow after you buy it.

Red-Dot Crossbow Scope:

The most basic and cheapest crossbow scopes, which can often be bought for less than $50. These come in two different varieties: the single dot red-dot scope, and the triple-dot red dot scope. As the names suggest, these differ in the number of dots you will see when looking through the scope. In a single-dot scope, you will be attempting to align that dot with your target, and you’ll need to adjust for distance based on your own experience and “feel.” In a triple dot scope, however, there will be three dots positioned vertically. You will align the top dot with targets at a 20 yard range, the middle dot for targets at a ~30 yard range, and the bottom dot for targets at a ~40 yard range. You will obviously need to get good at judging your distance from the target.

single-dot red dot scope triple-dot red dot scope crossbow dot site

 

Optical Crossbow Scopes:

This type of crossbow scope is typically more expensive than the red dot scope, and can be bought for an average of $90 for a quality one, and go as high as $250 for the more advanced models. They are usually a little heavier, but come with a wide range of accessories. The optics included are very high quality, comparable to what is used in rifle scopes. The stronger models have a single-tube design, meaning there is a smaller chance of anything breaking. They allow for magnification, typically in the 1x to 5x range, and the vast majority are both water- and fog-proof as well. The best crossbow scopes often also include additional illuminated dots, making it far easier to hit a target in poorly-lit conditions, or even when it’s downright the middle of the night.

As is the case with red dot scopes, optical scopes come in two main varieties: single and multi-reticle; these reticles serve the exact same purpose as the dots in red dot scopes, as described above.

Optical Scope Single ReticleOptical Scope Multi Reticle crossbow optical scope

Compound vs. Recurve Crossbows

The main difference between recurve and compound crossbows lies in the limbs and the mechanism used to draw the string. Compounds use a system of so-called “cams,” which make drawing the crossbow easier than a recurve and they also store more energy, delivering somewhat more powerful shots (though not always).

While the average compound crossbow is likely to be a little more deadly than the average recurve, this advantage is somewhat off-set by a few factors:

  • Compound crossbows are far more expensive than recurve models;
  • Compound crossbows are heavier overall, and the front of a compound tends to be heavier than the back (due to the bulky cam system installed on the limbs), creating a tendency for the tip to droop a little while aiming – a fact for which you need to compensate.
  • Compound crossbows are more complicated in design; there are many parts that can potentially malfunction, and the string-changing process is more complex than on a recurve crossbow.
compound crossbow design

Click to enlarge

Due to the above, we recommend that beginner crossbow-shooters should stick exclusively to recurve crossbows, at least until they acquire a thorough understanding of how the weapon works, and develop confidence in their skills to both use and service the crossbow.

Crossbow Arrows/Bolts

Each crossbow comes with the manufacturer’s recommendation for the length of the arrows that should be used with it, and in most cases this will be 20 inches. Crossbow arrows are usually made of either aluminum or carbon. An arrow is comprised of a few basic parts:

  • The shaft: this is the main, long part of the arrow.
  • The nock: a small piece of either plastic or aluminum that is attached to the rear of the arrow shaft, and which comes in direct contact with the string when your crossbow is cocked. The nock can be either flat, meaning there is no groove for the string to go into, or it can be a half-moon nock, containing a groove which needs to be aligned horizontally with the string before each shot.
  • The insert: this is a little round insert made from aluminum and/or brass, which is attached to the front of the arrow shaft.
  • The head: this can be either a “broad head,” which has sharp edges and is designed for hunting. Or it can be a “field point,” which has no sharp edges and is designed mostly for target practice (though they can be used for hunting very small game as well). The broad head / field point is screwed into the insert at the front of the arrow shaft.

You will notice that crossbow arrows have different characteristics, for example the grain (weight) of the broad head. As a general rule, a beginner should not worry about these values at all – the most important thing for you is to learn how to properly handle and aim your weapon. Only once you have somewhat mastered that should you begin to concern yourself with in-depth specifications of the arrows you use. With that in mind, we recommend that you simply start by using the arrows included with the crossbow package that you will buy (and if you need more, just buy an extra set of exactly the same or very similar arrows). Once you’re more experienced, you can read our detailed guide on choosing crossbow arrows and broad-heads for advanced users.

Broadhead_Arrow_Tip Arrow-Field-Point crossbow arrow nocks

From left to right: broad-head, field point, nocks (top: half-moon, bottom: flat)

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34 Comments

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    1. Hi John

      You should not be attempting to shoot or even cock a crossbow with broken limbs, this could result in serious injury. Contact the manufacturer about this issue, they’ll sort it out for you.

  1. I think John meant that he broke the limbs got new ones, and now he can hand cock it with little problem, My guess would be he hasnt got the string properly installed.

  2. Most of the info was very good, however the full list of knocks was not there. Parker uses its own capture knocks, which to me appears as a modified half moon I personally have used the standard half moon knocks on my Thunderhawk for a year now with absolutely no problem. I have shot this xbow a great deal. I am very carefully & play close attention making sure my bolts are on the string correctly. I also like the heavier bolts if possible. They are quiter, seem to be more consistent @ 30 yds. plus, also according to physics it should have less ware & tare on the bow. I also use 22″ bolts instead of 20″. If I mess up a tip ,I cut the bolt, replace an insert & am good to go. I weigh all my complete bolts& they average out about 450 grins. This is equal to the broadheads. At 71, I can shoot 4 inch groups all day long @ 50 yds. off a rest. That should be good enough to get me a oinker @ 25 yds. which I consider max for my hunting range & experience.

  3. first time i’ve seen this site absolutely brilliant very informative to a newcommer to crossbows
    at 65 years old i need all the info and help i can get in order to enjoy my retirement better than watching tv or shopping.first week of my new hobby.

    1. Thank you Mr. Keith, extremely appreciated and happy to hear that you’re getting started! Please feel free to drop me a line if you’d like to talk about crossbows or hunting in general.

  4. I have a jackal xbow and I was wondering how much does the bolts weight in grns and which broadheads would be better mechanical or fixed blade and do you know of a video that shows how to lube a xbow. thanks

  5. My jackal came with headhunter 20″ bolts & 100grn f/t what is the best combo to get 425 foc because there is no weight on the bolts. thanks in advance

  6. Where can I get iron sights for my crossbow? Peep with yardage pins I assume.And will these
    sights work on most of the scope mounts?

  7. I bought a Horton Fury crossbow and dropped it on the foot stirrup, which broke it now I haven’t been able to find anything out there to replace it . I would very much appreciate any help finding a replacement

  8. I been reading on your site (very helpful), and was about set on a “Carbon Express Intercept Supercoil” (CEIS) after reading your review. I believe it is the same as the CEIS LT.
    Then I read your “Compound vs. Recurve Crossbows”; I am in my sixties, had a cheap x-bow 30 years ago and
    never had a problem with it. So how much weight should I give to the malfunction factor?
    I do want/need a good scope and like your review of the “Tenpoint Vapor”, but have a bit of trouble talking myself up to $2,000.00. What do you think of the “Tenpoint Stealth FX4”?

    1. Every single crossbow you mentioned in your post is a fantastic hunting tool. The malfunction factor is becoming less of an issue as compounds become better every year, with more reliable cam systems. If the Vapor is out of your price range, the FX4 is an absolutely fantastic bow to have.

  9. Question, have an opportunity to trade for a crossbow actually two. the First is a Barnett Recruit and the second is a Parker Enforcer, out of your experience which one would you trade for? Barnet is a year old shot less the 20 times. Parker is brand new.

  10. I’m shooting a Barnett 400 Quad. I have sighted it in at 20 yds. Nice tight groups. But if I back up to 25 yds. I have zero consistency. It has a Barnett 4x32mm crossbow scope. Any idea what I’m doing wrong?

  11. Thank you for all your reviews – it’s a big help. My question is does the Excalibur Ibex smf crossbow have a anti-fire mechanism? If not, can I get an aftermarket put on it? Thank you for your help.

  12. what are your thoughts on the pse tac-15? I hear that thing is insanely powerful and has a kill range upto 100yards

  13. I have been thinking of becoming a hunter and a crossbow seems to be the most logical weapon for me because a rifle would be too expensive in my country(Brazil) and a bow would be too difficult to use and it is not very lethal. I am loving this website, it is giving me a huge amount of concise information and it is really teaching me exactly what I need to learn. Thank you guys so much for creating this website, it is being of great help to me, this website is just perfect.

    1. You shouldn’t have any problem using recently made compound bows taking game as large as whitetail deer. I don’t know what you are planning to hunt so I could be wrong. Actually, at longer distances most arrow shots (from bows) keep more kinetic energy downrange than bolt (from crossbows). I have taken a whitetail buck with my Mathews Q2 at 25 yds and the broad head arrow went clean through. The Q2 is maybe over 10 years old now.

  14. I have rifle hunted since I was about 10. Now that I am disabled an in my 40s,I would like to return to hunting but using a crossbow instead. I am on a fixed income from disability and prefer to keep my initial investment to around the $300 mark. Which compound would you recommend I be on the lookout for, keeping in mind my startup price range?

  15. This website is Awesome!!! I’m fixing to buy my first xbow a Excalibur matrix 355 Thank you so much for the wonderful info!!! Very settling to me to know someone else’s idea and experience with a particular bow. Thanks again

  16. So im looking at a Barnett Recruit. I want something that can still take down deer possibly bear (kentucky). What would be the recommendations on this? (Yes or No) and should i zero in at 20 or thirty yards? (Used to rifles and shotguns at 100.) What heads should i get and what stems/arrows…fairly new to xbowing.

  17. Wow wish I would have found this site 4 hr ago. Just got back from Dick’s Sporting goods where I bought a BArnett Game Crusher 2. Hmm you have any info on this xbow?

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