How Far Can You Shoot a Crossbow?

Important Note: please remember that your arrow travel distance will depend largely on the weight of the shaft/broadhead, as well as the configuration of your crossbow. To get a better understanding of how this will impact how far a crossbow can shoot, see our article: arrow drop – charted test results.

So… how far?

The answer will depend on four factors:

  1. How good is your technique?
  2. Are you hunting or target practicing?
  3. What’s the velocity (FPS) of the crossbow?
  4. How good is your scope?

If hitting a target is not a concern, a solid 300+ FPS crossbow, such as the Barnett Jackal or the Buck Commander can send an arrow well over 500 yards if you shoot up into the air; obviously at such a distance the arrow won’t have any juice left in it to achieve a clean pass through, not to mention it’s impossible to aim accurately from 500 yards with a crossbow. (Use our comparison chart to compare the FPS of the top crossbows on the market.)

Effective Hunting Range

If using a 300+ FPS crossbow, the average effective hunting range is 50, maybe 60 yards. You can obviously go beyond that – even an 80 yard shot would still be powerful enough to kill medium and even big game. The real question here is whether you can land the shot with perfect precision and penetrate the vital organ(s); most people can’t do so with consistency. Which is why most crossbow hunters will prefer to take a shot from a maximum of 35 yards away; not because their arrow won’t kill from a further distance, but because they want to be certain the arrow will land where it should, otherwise they’d end up wounding the animal only without killing it, and that’s not something any ethical hunter wants.

Effective Target Practice Range

Here there’s more room for error. If using a 300+ FPS crossbow, an arrow with a field point can easily penetrate a compressed foam target (or any other material used in modern archery targets) from well over 180 yards away. Hitting the bulls-eye consistently from such a distance would of course be quite a miracle, there are however people who are skilled enough to shoot 2″ arrow groups with a crossbow from 80+ yards away.

What’s important to keep in mind is that arrow velocity will deteriorate severely at such distances. In fact, the trajectory of an arrow fired from even the most powerful crossbow will begin to slightly drop after as little as 30 yards.

To give you a better idea: a 400 grain arrow fired from a 350 FPS crossbow will drop as follows:

  • 0 inches at 20 yards
  • 3.81 inches at 30 yards
  • 10.81 inches at 40 yards
  • 21.13 inches at 50 yards

At longer distances, the drop in trajectory will be way more pronounced. If you want to see more accurate details regarding arrow ballistics and a comparison chart listing arrow drop for crossbows with various FPS, read this article on arrow ballistics.

How Does The Scope Factor Into The Equation?

There are some obvious implications of the above numbers. The further away your target is, the higher you will need to aim your crossbow to compensate for arrow drop. That’s why you will need a sight with at least 3 reticles or red dots if you want to shoot targets from far away (see our guide on sighting a crossbow for more details).

In a typical 3-dot / 3-reticle scope, the top dot or reticle will be sighted for 20 yards, the second for 30 yards, and the third for 40 yards. There are of course scopes with more reticles, where the lowest reticle will be sighted for even 60 yards.  On most crossbows though, the bottom-most dot/reticle will be for 40 yard targets, which means that if you want to shoot targets located further than 40 yards away, you’ll need to rely on your instinct and experience to know how high up to point your crossbow for the arrow to hit the target; you’ll need to raise the bottom-most dot/reticle above your intended arrow impact point.


  1. If you don’t care about hitting a target, a powerful modern crossbow can shoot as far as 500 yards.
  2. If you want to hunt, up to 80 yards is possible for a very skilled shooter, however you should stick to a maximum of 60 yards, and preferably much less than that (30-35) if you are a beginner.
  3. For target practice, everything will depend on your skill; 180+ yard shots are definitely possible, albeit accuracy will require godlike skills.


Add a Comment
  1. I was watching a movie and I saw a guy with a very nice crossbow with a laser site auto reload. I always wanted to go hunting with my uncle. Can anyone point me in the right direction.

  2. Some good information here. If we are talking about just the capabilities of the crossbow then the comments made above are correct. However, there are other ethical considerations to be made before taking shots at game animals over 40-50 yards. 1. Crossbows are noisy and the sound of the crossbow going off (sound travels at approximately 1130 fps in air) reaches the animal long before the arrow (travelling 350 fps in your example). An alert animal can move before the arrow gets to them – resulting in a wounded animal. 2. Also, at longer distances there is more likelihood that the shooter may not see small obstructions in the path of the arrow (such as small branches of bushes or trees) which can deflect the arrow – also potentially wounding the game animal. 3. Any wind can seriously send an arrow off course; even a small crosswind has to be compensated for if accuracy is to be achieved at longer distances. We recommend a maximum of 40 yards for most shooters – and a maximum of 50 yards for those who are better or expert shots. There is just too much room for error when longer shots are taken.

    1. Just a comment on range: I shot 5 deer last year. 15 yards, 51 yards, and 3 at 53 yards. I used a mid-range crossbow considerably less accurate than my present kit.

      Which shot was the bad shot? The 15 yard shot. The deer busted me and jumped the string. Horrible. The other 4 gracefully looked up with a “huh?” Reaction because the distance muffled the sound and allowed a proper shot.

      I feel there are danger zones in distance for jumping the shot. I think the longer distances create a less nervous reaction from the deer.

      Incidentally, in 16 days of solid hunting those were the 5 closest shooting opportunities that presented themselves. The next closest was 67 yards and I did not wish to make such an attempt given the circumstances at hand.

  3. I am being drawn to a recurve crossbow and I will be a beginner. I was concerned about range and you were a great help. I still have to find the correct crossbow on a budget. I am a vet hoping to fill a short bucket list. if you can help by recommending a good recurve crossbow, I would be grateful…. have a great day

  4. I’ve read volumes of articles about ethics in hunting with crossbows and I do concur that a good starting point is 35-40 yard max shots. (Always range finder verified) I also agree with proficiency that a 60 yard shot by an expert could be ethical under proper conditions.

    What doesn’t exist on the web is a fair and non-judgemental forum to discuss what it takes to make 80-100 yard crossbow shots on game. To discuss it is heresy it appears but I believe there are some points to be made.

    Assumption of absolute proficiency and a super quality crossbow shot from a solid rest. What would be ethical? I believe that a high wind day (yes, high wind) is the place for the longer shot in unobstructed bean field, etc. moderate wind perhaps to 100 yards. Why? Bolts exist that can buck the wind at extreme distance. Reverse draw crossbows going 440fps have ample kinetic energy for pass through at those ranges as well. So what should be the ethical hurdle?

    1.) will the deer move with the arrow in flight?

    2.) will the deer jump the string?

    3.) can you hit your mark?

    Three is easy to price with practice. Number two is an absolute yes, making a nervous deer at 60-80 yards an absolute unacceptable risk. However, an alert deer staring broadside at 80-100 yards that has visibly sighted the hunter will stand its ground if it’s in an area where it is accustomed to seeing humans. Further, to point 1, a deer in wind will be less likely to jump the string than dead calm.

    I’m not advocating taking a shot out of comfort zones but I am advocating an exploration as to what positions and technologies coupled with practice permit longer shots. I think the world would be a better place if we allowed discussion of these matters without dismissing anyone exploring longer range shooting being labelled unethical.

  5. Hi all,
    I would like your opinion. I am NOT opposed to ethical deer hunting, but I am a little concerned where bow hunting has recently been legalized. In our area there are MANY hunting areas which are far away from any home. Recently parkland (3000acres which was for decades a no hunting parkland) was legalized for bow hunting. My concern is the entire parks perimeter are private homes, and the roads are always being ridden by young kids on bicycles, and joggers, mothers with baby carriages, school busses etc. Before it was legalized 2 years ago I had an arrow go through my rubber made water trough and one hit my basement window. So now that it is legalized I am concerned about the large amount of bow hunters in that park and the likelihood of a tragedy happening. Again, there are MANY preserves in my area that are not at all in a residential location and feel the town was more concerned about getting revenue mores than the possible dangers of legalizing this park surrounded by homes around the perimeter. I would appreciate your opinion on this and your feelings o having a legalized hunting ground so close to where your own kids play.

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