So, you want to try out a mini crossbow, otherwise called a pistol crossbow. There are a number of them out there, but some are definitely much safer than others are. There has been a large influx of cheap, Chinese-made miniature crossbows showing up on Amazon and other sites, so it’s important to look carefully at reviews and at the crossbow itself before buying it.
Note: pistol crossbows are not suitable for elk or deer hunting. If that’s your goal, check out our best crossbow rankings page for some serious recommendations.
|BladeUSA Eagle 2|
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|Cobra Pistol Crossbow
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|Draw Weight||150 lbs.||80 lbs.|
|Velocity||250 FPS||150 FPS|
|Crossbow Weight||2.2 lbs.||1 lbs.|
|Our Review||Our Review|
Use for the Pistol Crossbow
The first thing you want to consider before buying a pistol crossbow is what you want to use it for. Most pistol crossbows are too low-power to even consider using them hunting, but there are a couple that could probably fit the bill nicely for hunting small game like rabbits and squirrels. You should check the specifications for the crossbow, such as the draw weight and speed if you want something you can use for hunting. After all, you will want to make sure hunting is an ethical proposition, from the standpoint of humanely killing the animal as well as meeting your jurisdiction’s hunting regulations.
Assembling a Mini Crossbow
There shouldn’t be any assembly required for a pistol crossbow, except for possibly stringing the bow. Look for a model that includes a bow stringer, or be prepared to have a second set of hands help you with stringing the bow. I’ve assembled about a dozen different models of pistol crossbows, and only a few came with a stringer. Most of the time, you’ll find that you need to have a second set of hands to bend the limb while you slip the string over the limb tips. It’s doable, but definitely easier if you have a model that includes a bow stringer designed for that purpose.
This consideration is probably the most serious one when you are looking for a pistol crossbow, because this is the consideration that is usually the difference between a cheap Chinese model and a well-constructed pistol x-bow. You’ll want something that is made of durable plastic or aluminum, preferably with an aluminum flight rail. You will also want to look carefully at the string, to make sure it will hold up to continued use.
Avoid any x-bow with reports or sign of the string fraying. Early fraying of the x-bow’s string is a good indication that the string will snap at some point. Like the quote in “A Christmas Story” about the BB gun, you’ll put your eye out with that thing! All humor aside, a string that snaps, even on a low-power pistol crossbow, can cause some pretty serious injury to you or those around you.
Cocking Mechanism in a Miniature Crossbow
Your usual rope cocking device typically won’t work with a pistol crossbow, simply because the rope cocking device is too large. Most quality pistol crossbows, though, have an integrated cocking device. Examine that cocking device and try it out once or twice, to make sure it will continue to operate and not jam up.
Avoid any pistol crossbows that show horizontal play in the lever for the cocking device, because this is a sign the cocking device is poorly designed and will end up jamming after a few shots.
Darts for the Pistol X-bow
Pistol crossbows usually come with a few darts, but you’ll want to check availability of replacement darts. You should also look carefully at the design of the darts, making sure they are solid aluminum shafts with vanes and points that will stay on and not fall off easily. I’ve found, though, that these aluminum darts typically fall more often into the “cheap Chinese manufacture” category than not, and will suffer from the shafts snapping easily or the tips falling off. Fortunately, the darts are pretty inexpensive, and the tips almost always come off in your target and not on the fly.
Wrapping It Up
A pistol crossbow can be a fun, but dangerous, toy. Make sure you look carefully at how the crossbow is made and all available reviews of that model. Bear in mind that the same model might have a number of different manufacturer names, because they are usually made by a single manufacturing plant in China and then sold by a variety of different manufacturers. You can usually tell from the product pictures that they are the same, so check reviews of various brand names with the same model to get an idea of what the quality is like.