We are often asked by our readers what the best speed for a crossbow is. Our answer is pretty much standard: “It depends.” There are so many variables that go in to successful shooting as well as hunting that it is very difficult to give a straight answer without asking a host of questions. In this article we will discuss some of the pros and cons to using an ultra-fast crossbow. But first, we’ll start with a quick recommendation of the fastest crossbows on the market:
Top 4 Fastest Crossbow Picks
|Scorpyd VTEC Extreme|
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|Barnett Ghost 410 CRT|
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|Excalibur Matrix Mega 405|
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|Mission MXB-400 Crossbow
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|Velocity||440 FPS||410 FPS||405 FPS||400 FPS|
|Draw Weight||175 lbs.||185 lbs.||290 lbs.||200 lbs.|
|Suggested Arrow Length||20"||22"||18"||22"|
|Crossbow Weight||8 lbs. 7 ozs.||7.3 lbs.||6.2 lbs.||6.6 lbs.|
|Our Review||Our Review||Our Review||Our Review|
Ballistic Data Comparison For The Above 4 Fastest Crossbows:
Moving on, it is important to determine what we are calling an ‘ultra-fast’ crossbow. For the purposes of this article, we will be looking at crossbows with speeds over 380 fps. Even though crossbows with speeds of 350 – 375 fps are considered to be fast, we are only looking at the fastest of the fast when discussing pros and cons.
What are the advantages of speed?
Pro #1: Flatter trajectory.
As soon as any non-guided projectile is fired, gravity begins to act on it immediately. As a matter of fact, if you could stand directly behind a projectile being fired horizontally and could continue to see the projectile clearly, it would look as if it were simply dropped. As such, the faster a given projectile is fired, in this case an arrow, the further it travels before gravity ends its trip. When shooting an arrow faster, because it is traveling a longer distance in a given time-frame, the trajectory is flatter meaning there is less need to know an exact distance to the target. Take a look at our arrow drop test results graph for a better comparison and understanding of how speed affects trajecory.
Pro #2: Longer Range.
As gravity is a constant and will pull all arrows down at the same rate, the faster an arrow is going will mean it can travel further, thus giving greater range. Keep in mind, just because you have greater range does not mean that there is always greater accuracy. It takes a lot of practice to keep a tight grouping at extended ranges, so even if your crossbow is capable of it, you might not be.
Pro #3: More kinetic energy.
Kinetic energy is calculated by taking the mass X velocity2 of an arrow (or any type of projectile). As the speed of a given arrow increases, so then does its kinetic energy. The greater the kinetic energy, or force, that an arrow has when fired, the more energy can be transferred into the target. Many times you will hear this called ‘knock down power’. Keep in mind, that once an arrow has sufficient force to go completely through an animal, it no longer matters how much force the arrow possesses, only the amount needed to complete the pass through will be transferred to the animal. Any remaining force is simply imparted into the ground. Play around with our advanced crossbow ballistics calculator to get a feel for how speed impacts kinetic energy.
Pro #4: Cool factor.
This isn’t something that everybody is going to be concerned with, but many of the speed demons out there will. There are some folks who are always going to want to push the edge, to eke out every extra bit of speed they can from an arrow. Having the fastest crossbow at the range or at deer camp is going to matter to some, and frankly, why not? It is pretty cool having a wicked fast crossbow…just understand that there may be some downsides to the increased arrow speed.
What are some of the disadvantages of [too much] speed?
Con #1: Sound.
As a crossbow’s limbs are amped up to produce sizzling speeds, so also is the release of energy when the crossbow is fired. The more energy released, the greater the amount of shock and vibration. Anything on the crossbow that does not have some type of suppression system is going to create a ‘twang’ which will be amplified the stronger the release energy.
We have heard the theory of “Well, if the arrow is going faster, the deer will have less time to react to the sound.” While this is certainly true within about 25 yards or so, once you get out to 35+ yards, the deer is going to have plenty of time to react to that sound. The fastest crossbow on our list shoots at a sizzling 440 fps, but sound is reaching out there at around 1,126 fps. This means at 40 yards the arrow will take over a quarter second to reach the target, yet sound will be there in 1/10th of a second. That differential will be amplified the farther out you go…and a deer can react in an instant. We only illustrate this to ensure you understand how keeping a crossbow quiet is still critical even if it is shooting ultra-fast arrows.
Con #2: Margin for error.
As with almost any moving object, the faster it goes, the more any slight mistake is going to affect the trajectory. Take for instance a vehicle moving at 5 mph; a sudden turn of the steering wheel is only going to slightly move the vehicle and control can be quickly regained. Up that speed to 50 mph and that same movement of the wheel can cause a total loss of control leading to a catastrophic accident. This is an extreme example, but it serves to illustrate how as the speed of you arrow increases, any little mistake in your shooting, or in the crossbow’s performance, is going to be amplified in an exponential fashion.
Con #3: Component wear/failure.
As the various components on high-speed crossbows are subjected to much greater stress than more standard-speed models, there is an increased incidence of failure. It is not unheard of for limbs to shatter like a grenade due to the high stresses imparted. Wheels and cams also bear the brunt of high speeds as do strings and cables. Owning and shooting an ultra-fast crossbow requires a lot of diligence in the maintenance and inspection of it, and extra care to never, ever, dry fire it.
Con #4: Specialized equipment.
Because most crossbows are not designed to launch arrows at ridiculous speeds, most arrows are not designed to handle these speeds. Many manufacturers of high-speed bows will actually have disclaimers that you are required to use only their arrows to ensure the crossbow can be safely fired. Many of these arrows have a stiffer spine and specialized nocks to better handle the excessive pressures generated by ultra-fast crossbows.
OK, so now I know the facts, what if I still want to go ultra-fast?
So now that we have discussed what some of the advantages, and more importantly the disadvantages, are of owning an ultra-fast crossbow, you still want one. Below is an alphabetical listing of some of the better crossbows in the ultra-fast category. As you look at the brief description of each, if one strikes your fancy, click on the link below it to read the full review.
Scorpyd VTEC Extreme
Scorpyd actually has three crossbows in the Extreme family, the VTEC, the Orion and the Ventilator. For purposes of speed, we will look at the VTEC as it is designed to be the fastest, most accurate crossbow in Scorpyd’s lineup. The VTEC is available in four limb weights, two of which will break the 400 fps mark. The 160 lb. limbs will achieve 420 fps and the 175 lb. limbs will reach a lightning fast 440 fps using a 400 grain arrow. This means you will be hitting with between 158 FPKE and 172 FPKE. The VTEC Extreme is also the only reverse-draw crossbow on the list. Read our full review of the Scorpyd VTEC Extreme here.
Excalibur Matrix Mega 405
The Excalibur Matrix Mega 405 uses a high-draw-weight set of limbs (290 lbs.) to launch 18” arrows at 405 fps. This translates to around 127 FPKE at the muzzle (see Cabelas.com price). As this is the only recurve on the list, the arrows are a bit shorter than what are found on the rest of the lineup and weigh a bit less. Recurve crossbows generally require more draw weight to achieve similar speeds to that of comparable compound crossbows but are simpler in design, and thus more reliable. Read our full review of the Excalibur Matrix Mega 405 here.
Mission MXB 400
Mission’s MXB 400 fires its 22” arrows at 400 fps, yet the draw weight, at 200 lbs., is much lower than the recurve just discussed (see Amazon.com price). Because the arrows are heavier, they leave the barrel with over 140 FPKE. One unique feature of the MXB 400 is the absence of a foot stirrup for cocking. Instead, there are machined foot holds in the pockets behind each limb to securely place your foot when cocking. The MXB 400 is available in three draw weights, but only the 200 lb. limbs get the ultra-fast nod. Read our full review of the Mission MXB 400 here.
PSE TAC Ordnance
The PSE TAC Ordnance is a crossbow that is designed to be mounted on an AR rifle lower that you must provide. This can offer an advantage as you have an endless level of customization, especially for the trigger. Due to the length of the power stroke, the TAC Ordnance only needs 150 lb. limbs to launch a 26.25” arrow at 405 fps. Due to the size of the arrow and its speed, this translates to 155 FPKE at the muzzle. This is an incredibly accurate crossbow, but due to its unwieldy length it is really best suited for target practice, unless you have a large hunting enclosure. Read our full review of the PSE TAC Ordnance here.
Stryker Solution LS
Stryker’s Solution LS comes in as the slowest in our list, but that is only in relative terms. Using 155 lb. limbs to push a 20” arrow at 390 fps, you are still going to be launching with a whopping 135 FPKE. Take a look at Cabela’s.com price on this crossbow.
Due to the lower draw weight and moderate power stroke length, this is also the easiest of our list to cock. Read our full review of the Stryker Solution LS here.
Making a decision on crossbow speed is one that actually has a surprising number of variables. The old school of thought that ‘faster is always better’ does not apply in all situations. Certainly anyone who is a novice shooter should really wait until they gain more experience with crossbows before stepping up to anything over 410 FPS. A beginner might want to take a look at our other top crossbow rankings.
There is certainly a time and place for pushing the speed envelope, it is just important to ask yourself if this is THE time and place for you. We hope this article has helped you learn a bit more about whether the fastest speeds are right for your needs. As always, should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to drop us an email or leave a comment below.