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How to choose a Crossbow

Posted by Patrick V on

Have you ever walked into archery pro-shops or huge outdoor sporting goods shops and felt completely lost in front of all the crossbow choices available?

If the answer is yes, this article will help you on how to choose a crossbow and choose accordingly to your needs. You can also consult our basics guideline on how to use a crossbow for any level shooter. You may encounter many vocabularies related to crossbows so you might want to refer yourself to our glossary.

 

Choosing a crossbow

There are many determinants to consider that will lead you to choose the right crossbow for your needs. Primarily, you will have to determine for what purpose you want a crossbow. Secondly, you will have to look into speed, accuracy, cocking mechanism, weight and many others. In other words, you will have to look into the features of the crossbow that will suit the best your interest of having one.

But first thing first, you must understand the different types of crossbow available on the market these days before choosing. Knowing what’s on the market might help you make a better choice toward why you want a crossbow.

There are one and two handed crossbows. Most common ones are two-handed which are more appropriate for hunting, target shooting, fishing or even military use. The fore-grip increases accuracy.  One hand is less common and mostly for target shooting and definitely lighter and easier to use. Also less expensive, one hand crossbows are usually specialized for smaller game hunts. Let’s have a look at them.

 

Different types of crossbow

Compound Crossbows

  • Basically, a compound crossbow uses cams or pulleys to help draw the string to the latch which is the mechanism for holding the bowstring in the cocked position. Compound crossbows offer Let-off technology to reduce the draw weight when you draw back in cocked position. The energy is then stored into the limbs more effortlessly. Moreover, compound crossbows are built with shorter limbs which can clearly give you a better maneuverability in different situations.
  • A disadvantage of the compound crossbows is, if the string gets damaged, your day is done. A bow press is necessary to make any repairs on compound technology.
  • A compound crossbow is relatively noisy compared to a recurve crossbow but there are many items that can help you reduce the sound made by the string.
  • Compound Parts: At any moment you can look at our glossary for part description.

Barnett Ghost 415 Revenant CRT Crossbow

 

Recurve Crossbows

  • Based on its ancestors, modern recurve crossbows have tips that are curving away from the shooter.  The recurve limbs have a longer draw length which is directly related to bolts speed.  Recurve style is lighter than compound style and therefore easier to carry. Manufacturers have included more modern features such as stabilization, scopes, cocks and sights to make them more efficient.
  • To draw the string in a cocked position, more strength is needed than with a compound crossbow. In other words, you pull all the weight up to the latch. The person length might be an issue, you may not be able to reach the cocking position if your personal length is too short. String cocker or mechanical aids are available in those cases.
  • However, recurves are quieter since they don’t have cams and cables in motion. As they have fewer parts they are easier to maintain and there are also fewer chances to go wrong when shooting.
  • Recurve parts: At any moment you can look at our glossary for part description.

Excalibur Matrix 380 Crossbow

 

Reverse Draw Limbs Crossbows

  • Reverse draw technology is relatively recent for crossbows. It creates a unique design which is undeniable and this without altering performances. By reversing the limbs, the center of gravity is more toward the shooter and then closer to the trigger. This disposition reduces front end weight which is a disadvantage of compound crossbows. The technology also helps to reduce noise and vibration when shooting. They may be even narrower than the conventional compound crossbows.
  • The main advantage of the reverse draw technology is increasing speed per pound of draw weight by increasing the time where the string stays in contact with the bolt on the length of the barrel. In other words, it increases the strike power of the crossbow.
  • Reverse limbs parts: At any moment you can look at our glossary for part description.

 

    Barnett Vengeance 2 CRT Crossbow

     

    Now that you have a better knowledge of the different types of crossbows on the market, you may want to know what you are actually looking for. It is basically based on what type of game you will hunt or what use of the crossbow you will do. But more importantly, after choosing what you will use the crossbow for, you will have to understand crossbow reviews.

     

    How to understand crossbow reviews

    How to choose the right crossbow is actually based on what you need of course but also on how to read and understand crossbow reviews. By doing so, you will be more than capable of selecting the proper crossbow which will suit your needs. All the information is available on the internet but it’s a matter of knowing how to find it. I want to eliminate brands as an element of selection because they all have their pros and cons and make it really hard to pick one over another when you just stick to brands. If it’s your main criteria though, it comes down to personal preferences.  Some will be more specific for what you need while others will be fine but not exactly what you needed. If you are into Barnett crossbows, Excalibur crossbows, Parker crossbowsTenPoint crossbows or any other brands you should go for it but like I said, brands are more or less personal preferences because overall it’s their features you are looking for. In other words, it’s what the crossbow has to offer you that you are looking for no matter if they are crossbows for hunting or target shooting.

     

    What am I looking for?

    I made a list of elements you should consider next time you are looking at a crossbow review. After reading all of them, you should be able to find the perfect match according to your needs.

    • Bolt speed and velocity
      • Probably the most important element for hunting crossbows, the speed is calculated foot per second (FPS) on a specific distance. Velocity is really important for small or big games. Velocity and momentum of the arrow are two really crucial elements for you to understand toward your next purchase. Here is a good article on IBO speed and momentum for arrows and bolts. By reading this article, you will understand kinetic energy and momentum but let’s keep it simple in this article. Those elements have an impact on downrange after shooting. It is important to have the right velocity for the right purpose.
    • Noise
      • In a hunting, situation noise can be day or night in your success. Recurve crossbows are quieter than compound or reverse draw crossbows. Quietness has a price. It usually has an impact on the speed of the crossbow.  Noise is definitely an element to consider for hunters.
      • The noise of the crossbow is mainly caused by its short heavy power stroke when discharged.
    • Flight groove:
      • Also known as the barrel or the arrow track, this part is designed to make possible your arrow to be launch. The more precise the structure is, the more accurate your shot should be. It is important than to look what kind of barrel is offered with the crossbow you are interested in.
    Tip: This part of the crossbow must be free from any debris, chips or burrs and should be kept lubed with string wax or flight rail lube.
    • Crossbow weight
      • Depends mostly on your physical limitations and if you are glassing, stalking or still hunting. The weight has an impact on the maneuverability of the crossbow, heavier crossbow might be longer to aim the target but more steady when shooting comes. Lighter crossbows are usually more compact and easier to move into the forest without being annoyed by the woods. See it that way, tree standing hunter should pick a heavier crossbow while a tracker hunter should take a lighter crossbow to move with more fluidity into the forest. Remember your own physical limitations must be considered. For example, a strong person won’t mind a heavier crossbow even when track hunting.
    • Cocking weight
      • The calculation is pretty simple, the more draw weight the crossbow has, the more speed the arrow will get. However, it also means that you will have to pull all the weight until you reach the latch. If that is an issue, compound crossbow or reverse draw crossbows might be a better choice. Their Let-off will alleviate the weight making easier to put in a cocked position. Nevertheless, there are cocking aids available which negate that huge con on recurve crossbows.

        So how to cock a crossbow isn't only a technique to load your crossbow before firing, it can also help you to determine which crossbow you are looking for. In other words, selecting how much weight you are willing to cock, should lead you to a specific purchase. For instance, if you want the minimum cocking weight because of a back injury, you have to eliminate all crossbows without cranking devices compatibility.

    • Right draw weight for the right purpose.
      • Nowadays crossbows are based more or less on the same designs. For target shooting, it doesn’t really matter but for hunting when your targeted game increases, the draw weight of your crossbow and the arrow weight should increase accordingly. Make sure that your crossbow will have the necessary draw weight for your purpose.
      • Due to their shorter power stroke, crossbows need sometimes more than twice the draw weight of a compound bow to reach the same arrow speed at the same distance. So keep in mind that it’s normal to see the high number when looking for crossbows toward their draw weight.
    • Size of archer
      • Unfortunately, most crossbows are made for the average population. The average height is 5.6 to 5.8 feet tall. Why the size matter? Simply because bringing the string into cocked position could be difficult for smaller persons even with a rope cocking device. Smaller crossbows are available on the market and are also good for youth.  Mechanical cocking devices are available to compensate this factor. But those cocking devices are noisy so must be considered when hunting.
    • Youth
      • Concerning crossbow for kids, every element above has to be considered in making a choice, especially draw weight. But more importantly when choosing a crossbow for youth, you must look for safety considerations; the quality of the trigger and safety mechanism will be your main preoccupation. Looking for a reasonable price is also important because you might end up hanging the crossbow after a week because it’s not his favorite hobby. To choose a crossbow for youth, it can be resumed as finding the safest, lightest and best value for your money.
    • Accuracy (Scope and Foregrip)
      • There is a single reticle for 20 yards but the best standard sight is a 4X scope with a series of vertical reticles that allow the shooter to sight in at 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 yards (depend on the quality and brands) if properly mounted, tightened and maintained on the crossbow. I underlying these three because it is often day and night on good or bad accuracy when those simple things are not properly respected and this, for every moving part of a crossbow. There is also single dot and multiple red dot scope which allows being precise at 20, 30 and 40 yards. 
      • Of course, practice is necessary because you have to know what the performances downrange when shooting. When your scope is properly set, you will be able to hit dead center every time and as far as your scope allows it.  
      • To minimize the aggravation of downrange don't go cheap on bolts and broadheads. Afford the best you can in both. Make them all the same toward the shaft material, the weight, the fletching and the broadhead size, shape and weight.
      • The foregrip helps the shooter to stay steadier when shooting, the weight of the crossbow is better distributed increasing the steadiness of the shots and then your accuracy.

    Tip: It is suggested to sight your scope at home before leaving so you won’t have surprises while shooting. Simply because there are many moving parts on a crossbow so things might move over time. If you are already on site, bring a field point with you so you can test the accuracy of your scope.

    • Authorized dealer warranty
      • Amazon is indeed appealing but be careful with the warranties. Huge sellers like Amazon are not necessarily authorized dealers from a specific brand. You also have to make sure that The E-commerce or the pro-shop you are dealing with is an authorized dealer from the main manufacturer. Hunting-bow.com is an official authorized dealer of every brand sold on our website. Our quality is guaranteed. A big deal often overlooked is that, unlike discounter or auction websites, we are an authorized dealer which makes us eligible for manufacturer’s warranty which will follow you once the product is purchased. The sum of all those benefits makes us a serious choice for you to think about for an outstanding shopping experience.
      • Why is this becoming a point to consider, the internet is becoming bigger and bigger and prices are dropping but as the quality of the customer service too? If you buy from a non-authorized dealer, any claims from malfunction or damage might be a hustle for you to get repair or replacement.
      • There is nothing wrong about buying on bigger selling platforms but be aware of the possible lack of warranty if something bad happens to your equipment.
    • Bolts
      • Bolts are a short heavy projectile for crossbows looking like arrows concerning its parts and the materials it’s made of. Crossbows have high poundage nowadays and make bolts more difficult to stabilize so good fletching and a good shaft material like carbon are important. In other words, to reach a peak accuracy level with your crossbow you can’t go cheap on bolts. You should afford the best you can.
      • Same reasoning for broadheads, you must see this as a whole. Bad broadheads can ruin your setup. A good broadhead would be consistent in shape, taper, weight, and construction. 
      • Arrows are more customizable then bolts, I strongly recommend you to follow the manufacturer types of bolts for the specific crossbow that you will choose. Do not shoot a bolt with a spine lighter or shaft shorter than the manufacturer recommends. This may cause hazard shooting and can be really dangerous.
    • Quiver
      • Entry level quivers are usually good enough for beginners. It must be safe to carry sharp broadheads and keep the arrows tightly attached to the crossbow. Many brands offer many types of a quiver. I would suggest sticking with those proposed with the package if it’s what you buy. Otherwise, take one that answers the two previous criteria. Safe to carry with sharp broadheads and tighten enough to not move during transportation or moving into the forest.
    Tip: for hunting situations, it is better to have an easily removable quiver. The weight generated in front of the crossbow might affect the shooting if you have to aim longer before shooting. Take that under consideration when buying specifically for hunting.
      • Crossbow case
        • Easy to be overwhelmed by the quantity available on the market. Luckily, brands have usually the case that goes with your purchase in soft, semi-soft or hard shell material. Then, you will have to look for what kind of features do you want with your crossbow case. How many accessories can hold the case (whole dimension); is there enough space for the scope; is it airline approved; is it weatherproof. Those are many questions you should ask yourself toward any bow case actually.
        • Other than that it goes again to your own personal preferences and also your budget. Don’t underestimate the soft cases. They might be cheaper than the hard cases but they clearly do their jobs.
      • Packages
        • Make sure to take the time to see what is included in the package. By doing so, you are making sure that the items included also answered your needs.
        • Packages are most likely build the same way among all brands and are usually the best choice for beginners. They are clearly giving you the necessary tools to have a lot of fun and make your next purchases more efficient if you need more.
        • Don’t hesitate to ask questions about the included objects.
      • Tuning kit
        • Any new purchase will eventually need to be tuned. Recurve crossbow are more convenient because they don’t need a bow press for repairs. Like mentioned earlier with compound crossbows when something goes wrong the day is over. You may have to look into bow tuning kits to make some tuning.
      • Maintenance
        • Compound crossbows need more maintenance then recurve crossbows. However simple cleaning and waxing here and there should increase the longevity of your crossbow.
        • You must know that there are many moving parts on a crossbow, so a periodical crossbow tuning is necessary to make sure that everything is aligned and mounted properly.

      After going through all those elements, you will definitely be able to choose more carefully your own crossbow. Now that you improved your knowledge on how to read and understand reviews, it's time for you to get some practice and probably get one!  Here are our Top Ten Crossbows- Best Compound Crossbows,  Top 5 Crossbows - Best Recurve Crossbows and our Top Ten Crossbows - Best New Crossbows on the market.

      Or you may want to continue your learning because the next logical step after getting your crossbow it will be how to use a crossbow. The following article will introduce you step by step to the basic of shooting a crossbow.

       

      In summary

      This article on how to choose a crossbow should help you to understand reviews and make your life easier to select your next crossbow. 

      Hope that you found value in this post! Feel free to share and comment!

      Thank you for reading!

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