Easy to assemble and smooth to shoot. Reasonably lightweight. Comes at a decent price point. Includes a quiver, two arrows, wax, cocking rope, and scope.
Some quality-control issues noted. Scope isn't as well-made as the other components and is difficult to site.
Affordable. Featherweight design. Includes 15 arrows. Surprisingly easy to load. Sturdier and more powerful than it looks. Accurate.
Not the best option for small game hunting.
Fires arrows 375 feet per second. Only 6.6 pounds. Premium scope. Many integrated safety features. Incredible accuracy. Easy to assemble. Durable. Includes 2 arrows.
This is a fairly pricey crossbow.
Exceptional build quality and class-leading performance. Has narrow profile and light weight for easy carry in all conditions. ACUdraw mechanism reduces draw effort by half. Quality pre-calibrated scope and carbon arrows included.
None, but it is a major investment. Perhaps only for real enthusiasts.
Entry-level model offers excellent value for money. Strung and ready to shoot right out of the box and comes with everything you need: 4x32 scope, quiver, and arrows. Adjustable stock for better user comfort.
Quality can be hit and miss. Doesn’t have the speed for serious hunting.
Anyone who enjoys hunting knows how important it is to choose the right equipment. But a crossbow can be a pricey investment, even for an avid hunter, so you want to be sure to choose the right model. That means knowing what type, speed, flight groove, and other features to look for, so you’re sure that the crossbow meets your needs and preferences.
At BestReviews, we can help you find the ideal crossbow for hunting or target shooting. We buy all our own products, so our recommendations are completely unbiased. We also conduct field and expert research to get even more insight into the top crossbows on the market, which allows us to pass along all the info you need to make an educated shopping decision.
Ready to buy a crossbow? Check out the product list above for our top recommendations. For general tips on choosing a crossbow, continue reading our shopping guide.
A recurve crossbow is a traditional style, with tips that curve away from the shooter. Its lightweight design makes it easier to carry, and its longer draw length helps increase the bolt speed.
A recurve crossbow is quieter than a compound style because there are no moving mechanisms.
However, using a recurve crossbow typically requires more strength than a compound crossbow, so it’s not ideal for all hunters.
A compound crossbow features cams (or pulleys) connected to a locking mechanism. The cams draw the string back, and reduce the power needed to cock it.
Compound crossbows can be fairly noisy.
A reverse draw limb crossbow reverses the crossbow’s arms for a unique design. That change moves the center of gravity toward the shooter, and lowers the front end weight.
Reverse draw limb crossbows don’t make as much noise or vibrate as much as other options. This style of crossbow is newer, though, so it can be more expensive.
Once a crossbow string is cocked, the string is locked in place, operating more like a gun than a traditional bow. The shooter doesn’t exert any muscle power at all to keep it “ready,” so he can carry it for a long time without tiring.
A crossbow is a much better option for cold weather hunting than traditional bows, because you can operate it even with gloves and bulky clothing.
Crossbows don’t require a drawing motion, which means you can stay still as you’re hunting. The lack of movement helps ensure that game doesn’t notice you.
A crossbow allows for extreme accuracy when shooting, with even new users usually able to become proficient shortly after starting with one.
Bolt speed, which is related closely to draw weight, is key to crossbow performance. Bolt speed is measured in feet per second (fps) over a specific distance.
Although crossbows are available with up to 400 fps, popular opinion among hunters seems to indicate that a bolt speed of 300 to 330 fps is more than sufficient, and possibly easier to dial in for accuracy than much faster crossbows.
Crossbow power is usually referred to as “draw weight.” This is the force with which the bow propels the bolt. A heavier draw weight fires a faster bolt, which will stay stable for a longer flight.
Crossbows range from about 75 to 200 pounds of draw weight, with deer hunters preferring draw weights between 100 and 150 pounds.
The flight groove is the track or barrel at the top of the crossbow where the bolt rests for launching.
For the most accurate shooting, look for a model with a good reputation for well-cut flight grooves.
Most crossbows are equipped with a sight or an area where you can attach one, which helps you aim more accurately. However, you’ll usually get a more accurate shot if you choose a model that features a scope.
A scope is a telescopic sight with magnification capabilities, as opposed to sights, which simply allow you to align the weapon accurately to the target.
If you plan to use your crossbow for hunting, its noise level can play a major role in how successful you are. Recurve crossbows are usually the quietest model, which make them ideal for hunting.
However, keep in mind that crossbows that are quieter usually aren’t as powerful or fast as noiser models.
When you’re new to using a crossbow, it’s especially important to select a model with appropriate safety features. Firing a crossbow when there isn’t a bolt in place can do serious damage to its limbs.
Look for a model with a mechanism known as an anti-dry fire feature, which prevents the crossbow’s string from releasing if there’s no bolt present.
You should also choose a crossbow with an auto-engaging safety, which prevents the trigger from releasing the string once the bow string is drawn. While a manual safety can also help keep you safe, the auto feature saves new crossbow uses from having to remember to engage it.
Crossbows vary in price based on the type, weight, and extra features, but you can typically expect to pay between $100 and $1,000.
For a simple crossbow with few extra features, you’ll usually pay between $100 and $225.
For a mid-range crossbow with some extra features, you’ll usually pay between $250 and $575.
For a high-end crossbow with a plenty of extra features, you’ll usually pay between $600 and $1,000.
For safety reasons, treat a crossbow like any other firearm. Don’t point it at any object that you don’t intend to shoot.
Don’t leave your crossbow cocked in the firing position for extended periods of time. The constant stress on the weapon’s strings, cables, limbs, and trigger mechanism can cause the components to break down.
Avoid leaving a crossbow out in direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time. The heat may degrade its strings.
Because crossbows can be somewhat heavy, it’s a good idea to take a break from the shooting position every so often while you’re hunting. That way, you’ll be ready to shoot when your prey makes an appearance.
To get more comfortable with using a crossbow, it helps to practice out in the field. Shoot from various positions, and from the distances that you’ll use when you’re hunting or shooting targets.
Q. Is it legal to hunt with a crossbow in every state?
A. Many states have expanded crossbow hunting, so it’s legal at least during gun seasons. However, in some states, it’s only permitted by special disabled permit. Be sure to check with your state and local gaming authorities to see what the regulations are in your area before investing in a crossbow.
Q. Do you need to purchase a crossbow based on whether you’re right- or left-handed?
A. Crossbows are not designed to shoot in a particular direction because they don’t eject a spent casing the way a rifle does. That means you can use any model, whether you’re right- or left-handed.
Q. What’s the farthest distance you can shoot with a crossbow?
A. Some extremely accomplished shooters may be able to work at a distance of up to 80 yards. However, most hunters prefer a range of 30 to 40 yards for best results.
BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
and give us feedback about your visit today.