Crossbows are a very old weapon type, but modern materials and craftsmanship have unquestionably made them stronger, more accurate, and easier to use. They are a formidable weapon that can be used to hunt game without relying on expensive ammunition.
There are many crossbows to choose from, and they vary greatly in quality and price. If you’re new to crossbows, don’t buy the most expensive one you can find. Instead, find a moderately priced crossbow that suits your needs. You can always sell it if you want to upgrade later and not keep your beginner bow.
Before you even consider buying a crossbow, you should know a little about what you’re getting into. In this article, I’ll help you decide whether a crossbow is really what you want.
All weapons have advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to consider these before deciding a weapon is the right choice for your needs.
A crossbow has a higher draw strength than a traditional bow, so they can shoot bolts or arrows with greater force. This makes it easier to take down even large game.
Although some crossbows are quieter than others, all of them are a lot quieter than a gun.
Many crossbows have a scope that makes it a lot easier to get an accurate shot. Modern crossbows are engineered to shoot straight and true. Crossbows are made of lightweight yet strong materials that will not warp or bend if exposed to rain or humidity.
The rules for owning and using a crossbow vary from state to state. There are also rules for what you can hunt with a crossbow and what type of crossbow you can use for hunting.
While crossbows are not extremely heavy, they do weigh more than a traditional recurve bow. A lightweight full-size compound crossbow with a few arrows in the quiver can easily weigh as much as 8 lbs. Lighter bows weigh around 6.5 lbs., and they can be expensive.
There are seven types of crossbow, but three types make up the majority of crossbows used today.
The compound crossbow is the most popular for hunting because it uses a cam system to draw back the bow. A cam system is a network of levers and pulleys that arch the limbs and doesn’t require a lot of physical strength. Compound bows are great for hunting, but you have to be careful not to dry fire them. Dry firing can cause damage such as snapping the strings. This can require repairs with a bow press, something that most people don’t have lying around the house.
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A recurve requires physical strength to cock the bow. Since it relies on physical ability and not a cam system, it is much quieter. Modern recurve crossbows are typically aluminum, carbon, or magnesium, making them very lightweight, especially as they don’t have any extra levers and pulleys to weigh them down. Recurves are not recommended for people that lack physical strength.
If you want something fun to practice with and don’t want to spend a lot, then a pistol-style crossbow may be just what you’re looking for. Pistol crossbows are lightweight and therefore suitable for hunting small animals but not larger game. If you just want to target practice or hunt small game, consider a pistol crossbow. Quite a few pistol crossbows don’t include a scope. If you buy one that doesn’t come with a scope, you should get one because it will greatly improve your accuracy. A pistol crossbow is only capable of speeds of around 165 feet per second, less than half that of a full-size compound crossbow.
What velocity is the crossbow capable of?
A modern crossbow can shoot a bolt/arrow at up to 400 feet per second. That’s a lot of speed, and it hits a target with a lot of force. The downside is that when you send anything through the air that fast, the slightest shake or movement throws off your aim and results in missing your target or hitting somewhere (or something) you don’t want to hit.
What is the draw weight?
Any crossbow will have a listed draw weight. It is important to know this number and compare it to the laws and regulations where you live. Some states require that a bow has a minimum draw weight for hunting a particular type of game.
Powerful full-size compound crossbows have draw weights of 150–200 lbs., while a crossbow pistol typically has a draw weight of just 80 lbs. The higher the draw weight, the farther you can shoot an arrow or bolt.
What type of scope does the crossbow come with, if any?
A scope drastically increases the chances of an accurate shot. Crossbow scopes come in two different reticle patterns, multi-crosshair or multi-dot. A 4x scope allows for accurate shooting at up to 100 yards. If you decide to do without a scope, 60 yards is about the limit of accuracy, once you have some experience. It’s well worth getting a scope if you plan to hunt with your crossbow.
Do you have a place to practice?
Learning how to accurately shoot a crossbow requires practice. A crossbow is a deadly weapon, so you definitely need a safe spot to learn how to shoot. Arrows can fly 500 yards before they fall, so it’s important to have a barrier to prevent stray shots from getting close to people or animals.
What’s your budget?
You may be surprised to learn that crossbows cost as much or more than hunting rifles. You can expect to pay $400 and up for anything to use for hunting. Some crossbows can run $1,500 or more. Crossbows are not an inexpensive weapon for hunting or defense.
The Explorer XP 400 weighs just 6.2 lbs. and shoots arrows at up to 400 feet per second. This is a good beginner crossbow at under $450 for the complete package, including a 4×32 mm multi-reticle scope. It includes a rope cocking device, but it is crank cocking device compatible. The Soft Lok floating bristle arrow retainer prevents dry firing. The XP 400 comes with just two arrows, so you’ll want to get more to have on hand.
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This crossbow holds two arrows that you can shoot simultaneously or one at a time thanks to its dual trigger. I don’t recommend this crossbow for beginners. It’s heavier than some, and at around $1,700, it costs a lot more than many of the crossbows out there. The TwinStrike has a silent crank system that makes it quieter than many of its competitors. An Overwatch illuminated scope is included.
This crossbow is based on the accurate Sub-1 platform. At just 6.9 lbs., it’s a lightweight bow that’s easy to cock. The kit comes with a three-arrow quiver that easily converts to left or right hand mount to accommodate all shooters. The frame is durable and lightweight aluminum.
The kit includes a Hawke XB-1 Crossbow scope with layered multicolored optics for clear and precise shots. The 1-inch mono tube chassis is strong and durable. The scope features an adjustable speed selector ring for speeds between 250–425 feet per second. You can choose between five brightness levels and two reticle colors. A soft case for your bow and accessories is included.
The Titan M1 is an affordable, precise crossbow with a string latch design for reduced friction. The auto-engaging safety and dry fire inhibitor prevent accidental firing and ensure that you do not damage your bow. The VX-5 inverted cams lengthen strokes and increase rotation for more accurate shots.
The Titan M1 includes TenPoint’s 3x Pro-View 3 Scope mounted on a machined aluminum 0.875-inch fixed dovetail mount.
At 27.75” long and measuring 10” from axle to axle fully cocked, the AX405 is a compact crossbow that’s easy to maneuver with. The weight of the crossbow is designed to be centered on the shooter’s hand, thanks to the innovative shoot-through stock and riser design. The 210-lb. draw-strength split limbs shoot bolts at speeds in excess of 400 feet per second. The cam system is designed to eliminate cam lean and limb torquing. The AX405 does not have a traditional aluminum rail. It uses dual guide rods along the stock. This unique design increases bolt life, efficiency, and speed.
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The R29X is a serious crossbow for the hunter who wants to take long shots with deadly accuracy. This crossbow is capable of landing 3” groups at 100 yards at an outstanding speed of 450 feet per second. Ravin describes the Sniper as having a totally silent cocking system, making it a great crossbow for those who value stealth. The included scope is mounted to a jack plate adjustable elevation mount. Choose from 20–200 yards with the turn of a dial. The anti–dry fire safety keeps you safe while making sure that your bow doesn’t accidentally get damaged.
This affordable recurve pistol crossbow shoots bolts at a maximum speed of 225 feet per second, but some users report just 164 feet per second. The stock measures 24” when fully extended and 22” when fully closed. The pistol comes with three 7/8” Brodhed bolts. This is a great pistol for those who want to try a smaller crossbow to see if they like them. Of course, this pistol is only suitable for very small game and pests.
This 80-lb. draw-weight pistol crossbow is capable of shooting at 185 feet per second. The stock adjusts from 22.05” to 24.40.” The Rogue features a Picatinny rail rather than a dovetail, so you have more options when it comes to accessorizing. This crossbow comes with a red dot scope for accurate shots.
The scope features four reticle styles and five brightness settings. A predrilled hole allows you to mount an additional rail if you want to add a second accessory such as a light. The short power stroke allows for more bolts to be fired quickly.
This bundle also comes with a nice carry case and ten bolts, so you’re ready to start shooting right out of the box.
This is a unique pistol crossbow. If you want a crossbow pistol that’s already fully accessorized, this is one to consider. Not only does it shoot bolts, it also shoots steel BBs. This hybrid crossbow shoots bolts at up to 165 feet per second. Want to try spear fishing? This bundle includes a fishing fork. You also get a scope and a flashlight. While this bundle costs a little more than many pistol crossbows, it offers many accessories that you may end up buying anyway.
Even if crossbows are legal in your state, you have to be 18 to purchase or possess one. Be sure to check your state’s laws on crossbows before attempting to purchase one.
In open space, a well-made modern crossbow can shoot up to 500 yards but not with much accuracy. If you’re an inexperienced hunter, don’t plan on being able to hit anything beyond 60 yards. Skilled and experienced hunters can accurately hit targets at greater distances. It’s critical to practice with targets at various distances to hone your skills. Remember that the farther away the target, the less accurate your shot will be. Even the most skilled bow hunters have trouble hitting targets very far out.
Like any weapon, the more you practice, the better you’ll become. Crossbows with self cocking devices, especially cranks, are easier to use. Learning to shoot a crossbow isn’t particularly hard but getting good at it and being able to shoot accurately takes some practice. Using a scope makes it a lot easier to shoot with accuracy. It is strongly advised that you have a good scope on any crossbow you want to use for hunting, especially if you’re a beginner. The great thing about practicing with a crossbow is that it doesn’t cost a lot of money. In comparison, target practice with a firearm can cost a lot per session, especially with ammo being as costly as it is currently.
Crossbows are impressive hunting weapons that can also be used for self-defense. Most modern crossbows use a lever or crank to draw back, making them easier for people with disabilities or who lack strength to use a crossbow for hunting.
Like any weapon, you should practice a lot before you use it for hunting or consider it an option for self-defense during a long emergency.
Pistol crossbows are an option for hunting smaller game. They can be used for self-defense in an emergency, even though they shoot bolts at a slower rate than a full-size crossbow.
Shooting a crossbow is less expensive than shooting a firearm, so it’s a good option if you want to conserve expensive ammunition.
Roman is a notable figure in the sphere of emergency preparedness and has been featured in various news broadcasts, publications, and documentaries to weigh in on the subject. He has made multiple appearances on HBO, BBC, CBS, and other media outlets to provide insight on the critical importance of readiness under all circumstances. When he is not hard at work being the CEO of Ready To Go Survival and MIRA Safety, he enjoys riding his motorcycle, shooting, handball, and scaring his neighbors by taking out the trash in full MOPP gear.