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.)

Note: all of the x-bows listed on our best crossbows rankings page have enough kinetic energy for deer and elk hunting up to 50 yards away.

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.

    1. I have had several different crossbows but the only crossbow that I shoot is a Barnett. I have a Barnett raptor pro. With the first dozen arrows I shot, I was hitting a 3inch circle at 80yrds. I can drive nails with thing at 50yrd. It’s a very reliable and has many safety features witch prevents a person from making stupid mistakes, like dry firing. Excellent bow at a afford price.

  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

    1. I have a jaguar cross bow, it’s light and pretty accurate at 35 yds the quiver is quick release as most honters don’t want to catch any branches. Also not that expensive

  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.

    1. Troy you make some great points. And I agree with all of them. I am a hunter that buys a hunting license in several states and rarely goes hunting. I do it now mostly to support hunter’s rights, the acquisition and maintenance of open hunting lands and wildlife preservation.

      Like yourself, I’ve always questioned my maximum long range capabilities and found shooting at extreme long ranges interesting, challenging and fun.It’s a hobby that the more proficient you become at, the less interesting hunting seems to become. To me… If there is no challenge, it’s no longer interesting. I do practice a lot at the range only to assure myself that if needed I can bring home a meal during potentially hard times… and no…I’m not a prepper.

      I do have to mention though, that more and more lately I noticed that the word ETHICAL finds it’s way in forums involving hunters and cobversations about hunting. I see it as a hard attempt at trying to be politically correct, so as not to offend the general public (non hunters) and or the animal activists who clearly have their own agenda.

      I strongly believe that people have the right to choose and enjoy a hobby without any outside interference, and each individual should be the one to make the decision of what an ethical shooting distance is. I feel it should be based on his or her own fair and objective assesment of their capabilities.

      Placing a black and white figure on what an ethical distance is, i.e. 35 to 40 yards, it might soon become a notm and you and I, will certainly be prohibited from hunting, for dare thinking that we should try to go outside that ethical distance.If we were to follow this (unwritten yet) ethical shooting rule, those who cannot consistently hit a 6″ target at various ranges have no business being in the woods with a bow or a gun. And so would be those that missed a shot at 15 yards, or crippled a deer and never found it. Should those “unethical” hunters be excluded from hunting forever?

      My concern is that without even knowing, and for whatever reasons, we tend to create more and more rules and restrictions on ourselves. I knew a gun dealer who tried to be so “by the law” that ran himself out of bussiness. He would not allowe anyone unlicensed to “touch” a gun in his store. When he couldnt point to the law prohibiting that, he then made it a “store policy”.

      I see that now in all Dick’s sporting goods stores.

      I’ve been id-ed when I asked to look at a BB gun once. Im well over sixty years old and licensed to carry most everything. But that’s is the “store policy.” There is a law (straw sales) which prohibits anyone licensed, from buying a gun for an unlicensed/unfit/felon person. I’m all for that. But I was present when a wife tried to pay for a shotgun which she intended to gift as Christmas present to her husband.

      She was not licensed but he was. She explained that she will only pay for the gun and bring her spouse to the store day before Christmas, to process the sale and required paperwork. So he can get his gifted gun.
      The store owner asked her to leave and not to return, even if her spouse was licensed. He explained that just his knowledge of her intention to gift the gun to another person.. prohibits him from selling the gun to her, or her spouse even if he eas licensed. Go figure. He was out of business not long after that.

      I know I’m super long winded, but the point I’m trying to make is:

      Let’s refrain from talking in ways that suggest, infer or imply any ideeas which may cause additional restrictions in a sport/hobby that we love. Like what is or should be an ethical range to shoot an animal at?

  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.

    1. Hey Steve!

      You have every reason to worry, Esp with all the newbies out there. BUT I hunt 10 acres of private property that adjacent to approx 200 acres with residential along with commercial properties along the boarders of it. There is a law on how many metric yards you are away from an establishment and/or resident to shoot a bow (Depending on your state; MI is 150 yards). Depending on which state you live in there is a “hunter safety” course people are required by state law to complete in order to purchase a hunting license. That course informs the shooter to not shoot towards establishments, homes etc. Although that law is not enforced the way it should be (I’ve purchased several deer tags with out taking the course).

      I would personally post signs on trees 50-100 yards out into the state park informing hunters that there are homes in the direction you live in. You can always visit your state site to read up on your states laws.

      Hope this helps! Happy Holidays 🙂

    2. Yes, I know this thread is 3 years old.
      People prone to break the law will break the law. People not prone to break the law will continue to not break the law. A licensed hunter tends to follow the law. Do you have any reason to suspect people who went to the trouble and expense of licensing in order to be in lawful compliance would suddenly decide to start breaking the law?

      The kids, mothers, grand parents, and all the other lovable folks you fear for have clearly always been, and still are, in danger from the lawless but for some reason you seem fearful of the law-abiding.I normally only read what people have to say and seldom respond to stuff on the net but to be honest I’m getting a strong vibe of disingenuity from your post and strongly suspect that your definition of ethical hunting is none at all.

  6. I’m becoming interested in the recurve crossbow as well as I’ll be the newbie. We had been worried about variety and also you had been an excellent assist. We nevertheless possess to obtain the proper crossbow on the spending budget. I’m the veterinarian wishing in order to fill up a brief pail checklist. if you’re able to assist through suggesting a great recurve crossbow, I’d end up being grateful…

  7. Any bow is fun. My children started early and often. At the time we couldn’t discharge any type of firearm in that small Midwest City but any bow was legal. I know this is going to sound like bragging but most of my whitetail taken w whatever type of bow was less than fifteen feet and in a ground type blind. I could go on for hours but my point to add is proper scouting, stands, knowledge of terrain, trails. This to me are the high dollar mark. If your shooting at 15 feet and aren’t made, which has never happened. A fair to go shooter is going home with tenderloin. Final thought. Consider going on a carp shoot. Start loosing arrows at 15 bucks a piece. You will become very good.

  8. Hi there I want to say before I give my comment that I am a bow hunter is South Africa and I prefer it to anything els, but I got my dad a new Pse thrive 400, it landed this week and I got a chance to shoot with it today, on my 6 arrow I planted a perfect scot on a but by just shooting in the bow for him at 20 to 50 m . I got better penetration than what I get on my Pse DNA compound bow at 65 pounds. I had so mutch fun today, and seeing what the bow does I would confedently take a shot on 100 m if the bow is set right. Will let you know when I have planted my first long range anemal. Big thumbs up to Pse. Once agen I was not disappointed. Thanx for the good work.

  9. I think the distance hunting thing is really important and that shooting over 60 or so yards risks unethical hunting.
    I came across a 102-yard crossbow shot on youtube earlier today: In this case he kills the Baboon, but as Alex mentions above, the baboon hears it early enough and starts to move. If he’d hadn’t run away from it, it’d likely have just caught him and done some serious non-lethal damage.

    Anyway, great article, thanks!

  10. Now we have 470 FPS crossbows, 400 fps is a norm, and 100 yard MOA is expected from most crossbows…killing a deer at 100 yards with today’s crossbows is a given.

    Archery season is now crossbow season, with a few archers hanging on.

  11. Hi I am from Texas and I just got a Barnett crossbow and I would like to know if I can hunt and kill a hog or deer with it me being a felon and do I need a hunting license to kill the hog with it cause they are considered a nuisance animal

  12. I dropped a doe at 92yards with my Kronicle. 185lb draw and 370fps. Normally I wouldn’t attempt it but on that evening there was 0 wind and I was in an elevated tower. I noticed she had a bad limp and had came up out of the valley from public land. She was definitely suffering and she more than likely wasn’t being tracked. My bolt pierced both lungs and she went down instantly. I practice year round and my scope is set for 50yrds on first reticule. My advice is weigh your skill and common sense before sending a bolt. My 2 cents.

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