The crossbow, used since ancient times this weapon has been around for many years. Luckily for us the advancements in technology and production paved the way for the creation of the powerful crossbows we use today.
Introduction to the Best Crossbows on the Market
Updated for 2017!
Nowadays crossbows are used for target shooting and hunting, there are competitions held for crossbow target shooting across America.The majority of crossbow owners use them for hunting because they are a powerful weapon able to take down big game ethically.
Deciding on which crossbow is right for you is a huge task, there are so many different types of crossbows and even more variations. You have to consider how powerful you want it to be, how far it should shoot, the accuracy, draw weight and overall weight of the crossbow, phew!
This article will run through everything you need to know about crossbows and help you decide on the best cross bow for you. Your needs will be different to others so we try to lay out different options so you can narrow down your search to your perfect crossbow.
Top 10 Crossbows Comparison Table
Different Types of Crossbows
Crossbows come in many different shapes, sizes, weights, colours and types, here I will go over the different types of crossbows available as well as the benefits and drawbacks to each.
The limbs of these crossbows curve then recurve away from the shooter at the tips, the idea here is that the draw length is increased, compared to a straight edge limb, which creates more power shooting the arrow farther. Recurve crossbows are easier to put together and maintain, they are more simple in design when you compare a recurve crossbow vs compound crossbow, if you were in the field shooting and had a problem with your recurve 90% of the time it would be the string which can be changed in a matter of minutes with ease. Although they are simpler and easier to maintain they shoot louder than compounds, their overall size and weight is more than a compound so they can be harder to hunt with over long periods.
The compound crossbow is the most modern take on traditional crossbows. It has introduced technology, design and lighter materials into the mix to create a more powerful and efficient crossbow.
The limbs of compounds are stiffer than that of recurves, this allows the bow to give a higher energy output, and you would not be able to cock a bow like this without the added pulley system.
Compounds are much narrower than recurve crossbows which give them an edge when hunting in woodland areas, there’s nothing worse than getting your wide crossbow caught in branches as you stalk your prey! Compounds have a lighter draw weight but that doesn’t compromise on speed or power. It is a compound bow that holds the records for both speed and power.
If you are buying a crossbow to hunt with it is really important you choose the right one. Lots of crossbows claim to be made for hunting but in my experience they don’t all live up to the claim. The best crossbows for hunting are powerful weapons
One of the most important factors of a hunting crossbow is the velocity and the power it generates, a velocity of 250 feet per second should be seen as an absolute minimum, a higher velocity will ensure you kill your prey and not just wound it.
Weight is another top factor, you could be walking a long time before you get your shot. If you’ve hunted before you know what it’s like to find your target but have to wait what feel like an eternity for it to turn into the right angle for you to make the kill shot. The lighter design allows you to wait longer while keeping your aim steady.
Reverse Draw Crossbow
Reverse draw crossbows are an even newer take on compound crossbows. The limbs are literally reversed and face the opposite way towards the shooter, the power stroke is shorter but the bows are able to generate a great amount of energy. They are also really narrow measuring from end to end of the limbs. I love the look of these crossbows, they are mean looking and back up the look with power and efficiency.
Pistol crossbows are fun to shoot but in my opinion they are just that ‘fun’. Some sellers claim their pistol crossbows are suitable for hunting but I beg to differ. They are just too small to generate enough power to take down big game, you may get away with hunting birds but if you’re going to do that you might as well buy a proper crossbow that’s more accurate and able to move up to bigger game.
That said pistol crossbows do have their place, I own 2 that I use for target shooting in my yard. They are good fun but they are less reliable than full sized crossbows
You need more than just the crossbow to make it the best it can be
The Best Accessories are Important Too
If you owned a great crossbow but had the worst scope and bolts how good do you think your crossbow would be? Not very is my answer!
Just like crossbows there are many different types of accessories that improve the efficiency of your crossbow and they come in lots of different qualities brands.
Here I go through some must have accessories to accompany your crossbow.
Without a good crossbow scope you won’t be hunting game from a distance, basically you need a good scope to hunt at all!
Scopes come in 2 main different types they are:
these scopes are battery powered and show a red dot over your aiming point. You can get scopes with 3 dots in a vertical line, the top dot is for your close range targets, middle for middle range and bottom for farther range. Depending on your bows velocity and arrow grain an example of target distance would be:
· Top = 20 yards
· Middle = 35 yards
· Bottom = 50 yards
These scopes take the guess work out of scooting at various distances so are advantageous if you shoot at different ranges.
Optic scopes are similar to what you would find on a rifle. More often than not the scopes are magnified to aid in long distance shooting. The most popular is 3X but you can get 4X and 5X, more powerful crossbows require a higher magnification.
You can get scopes with single cross hairs or multiple reticles, the multi like on a 3 red dot scope allows you to stay accurate at various ranges.
The bolts, or arrows, are of course very important to the performance of your crossbow shooting, just like any purchase you have the option to buy cheap generic bolts made of cheap unreliable materials, or you can spend a little more (or a lot more) and buy the best bolts that are strong, well made and reliable.
Bolts can be found in different materials but the 2 most common are carbon or aluminum, they are found in lengths between 16” and 22”, it’s important to never buy a bolt too short for your crossbow as the tip can stop the bolt sitting snugly on the rail. Always follow manufacturer’s recommendations for the correct size bolt.
The other differences found in crossbow bolts are:
· Spine, this refers to the strength of the bolt and how impervious to bending it is.
· Grain, this tells the weight of the bolt sometimes expressed in GPI- Grains per Inch
· Nock, this is found at the end of the bolt and sits against the string ready for firing, the 2 main types are flat and half-moon that has a groove for the string to sit in
· Fletching, at the end of the arrow before the nock you will find the fletching, it is responsible for making the arrow fly straight
· Bolt head, the type of head you use depends on the reason for shooting, for hunting you use broadheads while field points are used for target practice.
If you plan to hunt with your crossbow then crossbow broadheads for your bolts are an absolute must. They come in different designs and shapes and the top crossbow broadheads fit into 3 main categories
· Fixed – as the name suggests the blades are locked in place and cannot be removed, these are the traditional type of broadhead.
· Expandable – Also known as mechanical, these broadheads start with the blades inside the tip, as the bolt makes contact with the animal they expand out causing maximum damage.
· Removable – These blades are similar to fixed except the blades can be removed for easy sharpening or to replace altogether when damaged.
Powerful crossbows usually have a high draw weight, measured in pounds (lb) it gives you an idea of how difficult it will be to pull the string back into its cocked, ready to fire position. Cocking aids come in 2 different types.
Rope Cocking Device
The first type is a simple design of a rope with 2 hooks and 2 handles, you start by looping the rope across the back of the crossbow under the scope, then you drop the hooks and handles down towards the string and attach the hooks to it, with your foot in the stirrup you grasp both handles and stand straight up using your back muscles, in a deadlift type movement, to pull the string up to its cocked position.
These devices generally take away half the force needed to pull the string back, they also keep the string even and help your arrows shoot straight.
A cranking device is an expensive option. Priced around $120 you would only really buy one if you really needed it. Disabled people or people with injuries will find it very useful as it allows them to still shoot their crossbows without having to manually cock the string.
The cranks work by attaching to the butt and extending to hooks out and over the string, you then turn the crank continuously until the string is in place.
These devices take the force needed all the way down to 5-10lbs making the crossbow very easy to prime but they are a lot slower than rope devices taking around a minute to complete the action.
What are the Top Ten Crossbow Brands
There are so many crossbow brands available to choose from but who makes the best?
When I bought my first crossbow I remember being overwhelmed by the choice of different manufacturers, I bet you remember being in this situation when making a purchase for the first time?
It’s natural to go for the top brands because you feel more comfortable giving your money to a reputable brand, but who makes the best quality crossbows?
I know I don’t ever want to spend my money on a product where I’m not sure of its capabilities and quality, after doing lots of research I put together this guide to the top ten crossbow brands so you can be sure you only choose a good crossbow manufacturer and end up with a really great crossbow
Since their beginning over 50 years ago Barnett have always been at the forefront of crossbow technology, they are known for creating crossbows of a high standard and quality that are suitable for hunting and sport alike, selling over a million crossbows in their time shows they are a well-respected brand of crossbows. They also produce crossbow accessories such as broadheads, arrows, scopes, cases and more.
Personally I love these crossbows, they are my favorite to shoot when hunting, and you will see lots of mentions of Barnett crossbows throughout this site for that reason!
If you want a crossbow that is built to last and is unrivalled in power and performance then Barnett crossbows are for you.
Favourite Barnett Crossbow: Jackal
Excalibur pride themselves on producing some of the world’s most efficient and accurate crossbows for the main purpose of hunting. The people behind the crossbows are real crossbow hunters who know firsthand what is needed in a crossbow to be considered great, they proclaim “Our ideas don't come from engineers, they come from experience, and nothing leaves our drawing board without being subject to extensive testing by the toughest, most uncompromising product evaluators in the deer woods… US!”
I have to agree that their crossbows are among the most accurate and deadly in the world! They feel sturdy to handle and built of good quality materials, like the composite and aluminum stock. They’ve been in the crossbow building game since 1983 so they know a thing or two! All in all Excalibur crossbows are made with passion and are among the best in the world.
Favourite Excalibur Crossbow: Bulldog 400
Rick Bednar grew up living next to his father’s crossbow shop and became immersed in the world of archery, coached by his father he became an expert bowman and won the NCAA Championship three times!
Rick gained an appreciation for crossbow design and performance and was set to get involved in their manufacture. Tenpoint are proudly designed, made and tested here in the USA to a high standard allowing them to control every aspect of production.
It's true what they say at Tenpoint “Harvesting a premium buck requires a premium crossbow, and that premium crossbow is Tenpoint.”
I enjoy shooting Tenpoint crossbows they feel really durable and shoot well, I took down my first buck with my dad’s Tenpoint Crossbow
Favourite Tenpoint Crossbow: Stealth FX4
Carbon Express Crossbows
Carbon Express are an Eastman Outdoors INC Brand who are a world class arrow production company. Their arrows are at the height of precision and innovation. Their arrow technology have helped bow shooter achieve success in competitions such as a gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics. Carbon Express is dedicated to providing crossbow shooters with equipment that will rival the success of its bow users, they manufacture crossbows, bolts, broadheads and even optics
Carbon express crossbows are ideal for hunting due to their awesome power and blistering speed, but they are also lightweight enough to be carried for long periods without becoming a hindrance. I have personally enjoyed shooting the COVERT™ 3.4 CROSSBOW
Favourite Carbon Express Crossbow: Intercept Axon
Wicked Ridge is a value brand made by tenpoint technologies. They use the same knowledge and precision manufacturing to produce some amazing crossbows that are more affordable than tenpoints main crossbows.
Their mantra at wicked ridge is to provide the outdoorsman with crossbows that are high quality, simple, reliable, affordable and give precision performance for hunting and they achieve this with their range.
They aim to produce high quality crossbows around this price point, using tenpoint technologies knowledge and experience allows them to do just that.
Any crossbow shooter would be proud to own a wicked ridge crossbow.
Favourite Wicked Ridge Crossbow: Invader G3
Built here in the USA Horton crossbows are comprised of the finest materials, they are known for producing crossbows that are technologically advanced when compared to other good crossbow brands on the market. Horton acknowledge that to be a first class company you need to employ first class people and provide them an enjoinment to thrive in, this they have done and it shows in their crossbows. Horton crossbows are extensively tested ensuring everyone is built to smash expectations and last a very long time
Favourite Horton Crossbow: STORM RDX Reverse Draw Crossbow
Parker are one of the largest bow manufacturers around, they contribute their rapid growth to their top quality, high performance products and unrivalled customer service. In 1996 they began producing compound bows then in 2002 they used their knowledge and experience to design and build their first crossbows. They feature a lightweight design with better balancing and incorporate the technology of high performance compound bows. They have moved up the supply chain becoming one of the highest selling crossbow brands. They currently have 14 models on offer such as the Hurricane and Tornado F4
Favourite Parker Crossbow: Blackhawk
Southern Crossbows slogan “where technology meets tradition” is evident in their different crossbow models, they are simplistic in their design but their technological features make them suitable for the modern day hunt.
Their top crossbow features include: A fully customisable AR platform that allows owners to mount a wide array of additional equipment like flashlights, scopes, lasers and other AR compatible accessories, Also they have ergonomic pistol like grips for comfort and stability, southern crossbows are modular by design allowing owners to customise them to their individual needs.
All their crossbows come with arrows, a scope and detachable quiver, everything needed to begin shooting right away.
The crossbows offer quiet cams a low draw weight and high power making them efficient and effective hunting weapons.
Favourite Southern Crossbow: Risen XT 350
Arrow Precision make a wide range of crossbows and accessories, including crossbows, scopes, arrows, crossbow cases, cocking devices, wax, quivers and replacement parts: limbs and strings
There well know crossbow range known as Inferno Crossbows have included well-made crossbows models by the names of Scorch, Flame, Firestorm, Wildfire, Blaze, Hellfire, Blitz, Heat and Fury (very fire related!) They have 11 crossbow models in all suitable for beginners up to experienced shooters and a range of crossbows for youths as well.
Their crossbows have good safety features, like the thumb guard and an anti-dry fire trigger mechanism.
Overall the crossbows are well made and affordable, sitting at the cheaper end of the market
Favourite Arrow Precision Crossbow: Inferno Fury
Overview of the Top 5 Best Crossbows for the Money
Power, Speed, Performance, Reliability and price are some of the top factors people look at when buying a crossbow for the first time.
Looking at crossbow reviews can definitely narrow down your search because it will give you an insight into which brands and their models are preferred and trusted among users. The following crossbows are rated as the best by buyers and by us.
The Barnett Jackal didn’t make the top of this list without a fight. There are lots of reasons why it is regarded as a high quality crossbow. Barnett have a lot of experience making crossbows and are able to do it in a cost effective way that keeps their crossbows affordable. The Jackal made the top list because it is really cheap for the performance you get out of it.
With a draw weight of 150 pounds it shoots bolts at 315 feet per second! That is a powerful crossbow capable of taking down large game so this crossbow is suitable for hunting.
It comes rigged with an anti-dry fire mechanism that stops your string breaking if you were to accidentally fire it with no arrow in place. The high definition camo print looks really good and will blend in well with woodland surroundings combined with the mikitary style stock gives this crossbow a stylish look.
The package comes with a quick detach quiver, 3 bolts and Barnetts premium red dot scope.
This entry from Tenpoint is a compact crossbow using XLT assembly and FSB stock it combines to be one of Tenpoint shortest crossbows and at 6.8 pounds it’s one of the lightest. Don’t let the size fool you though it is still capable of producing speeds of up to 370 Feet per Second. Its size and power make it a formidable crossbow for hunting, sitting in a tree stand with a shorter lighter bow means you can stay there longer and still have a good aim when the time to take your shot comes.
The package gives some good accessories to the crossbow, you get a Pro view scope, the Accudraw 50 rope cocking aid, 3 Pro-elite carbon arrows and the projax damper system that quietens your shots.
This super lightweight crossbow weighs in at just 6.6lbs, the specially machined aluminum riser has strategic cut out that reduce the overall weight but also makes the frame sturdy.
It surprised me when I fired it for the first time, being so light you don’t expect much power but it shoots bolts at 330 Feet per Second. The draw weight is 165 pounds but axel to axel when cocked is only 19”. The grip is a pass through style adding comfort and security with the added wings to stop your fingers protruding over the stock and getting your fingers sliced by the string.
Wicked Ridge is a spin off brand of Tenpoint, they produce crossbows that are cheaper due to materials but well-made due to Tenpoints experience.
This is a great package from Arrow Precision, it contains everything you need to get out shooting straight away, in the box you get your xbow, 4 16” bolts, Red dot sight, sling, rope cocker, quiver, rail lube and an extra string, very handy.
The bow is well made and feels sturdy, the shots are powerful at 235 fps so more than adequate for hunting. The red dot sight supplied is easy to dial in, it has multiple dots allowing you to shoot at different ranges without readjustment, it has no magnification though so if you plan on hunting at distance you may want to upgrade this to a 3x32 magnified scope.
The safety features are top notch too with an auto safety feature that’s always good to have, and finger guards, the safety and stock are ambidextrous so it’s good for lefties.
With its 185lb Draw weight and blistering speed of 410 Feet per Second this crossbow from Barnett is the fastest most powerful crossbow on the top 10 crossbows list. I love this compound crossbow it is a beast to shoot, the Ghost 410 still has Barnetts unique Carbon Riser Technology which shifts the weight of the crossbow from the riser to the shoulder of the shooter, it adds stability to your aim and allows you to hold it longer without affecting your accuracy.
This crossbow is a game changer being the perfect balance of weight to power with all the added safety features making this bow a fun but serious hunting tool.
The Next Best 5 Crossbows
Barnett Recruit Compound
Barnett Brotherhood Crossbow
Excalibur Matrix 380
Southern Crossbow Risen XT 350
Carbon Express Intercept Axon
The Buying Guide
While all crossbows perform the same basic task they come in different styles, types, weights, materials and specifications.
When choosing your crossbow there are some considerations you must choose from, here we have listed the features to look out for when buying your crossbow
· Velocity – Measured in Feet per Second (fps) this shows how fast the crossbow is capable of firing bolts, for hunting you want a minimum speed of 200 fps but going with a faster model is a good idea, it will make your shots more accurate and deadly over longer distances. The fps will vary depending on the arrow weight and weather conditions so see it as a guide for the crossbows maximum velocity
· Draw Weight – The draw weight is the number given in pounds for the amount of forces that is required to pull the string back into a cocked position. A higher draw weight means it will be harder to pull back but the arrows velocity will be higher. I recommend sticking with crossbows with a draw weight above 150lbs but if you just want to shoot for target practice then lower is fine. One thing to bear in mind, when you cock your crossbow with your foot in the stirrup you are essentially performing a deadlift equal to the draw weight, so if it’s at the top end at 185lbs that is a lot of weight to lift, if you have joint problems in your knee, back or elbows you might struggle to do it by hand. Using a rope cocking device will make it a lot easier or a cranking device.
· Style – I think this is quite an important factor, you will be drawn to different styles than other people so it is personal preference here, you may have 2 crossbows narrowed down that are equal in stats and price so the deciding factor will usually be the design.
· Recurve or Compound – There are 2 camps when it comes to crossbows, some are die hard recurve fans while others prefer the more high tech approach or compounds. They both have their advantages and disadvantages, recurves are heavier with a higher draw weight, compounds have more moving parts that are susceptible to breaking. Recurves are easier to maintain, compounds have a higher velocity for a lower draw weight. I don’t really have a preference I like both and own both, you will have to make your own final decision on what you prefer.
If you look at the whole range of available crossbows there is so much choice when it comes to brand, type and all the factors mentioned above it can get overwhelming. Read other consumers reviews as it gives you an idea of how it performs. Remember to pick a crossbow that suits your needs and also your budget, consider if you want to buy a high priced or a cheap crossbow, but ultimately the final decision will be a crossbow that meets your preference
Product images sourced from Amazon.com