Crossbow hunting isn’t new but the technology and new laws making them more effective hunting methods is. If you’d like to try your hand with sideways archery, be sure to get yourself the best crossbow on the market and one that will fit your needs/budget.
Crossbows can be bought with tons of different options and narrowing down the model you need or want is difficult because there isn’t a long history of their use. On the surface, they seem like the marriage of compound bows and rifles, but don’t be fooled. They’re closer to belonging to archery season than to gun season.
The 7 Best Crossbows
|Tenpoint Titan M1|
|180lbs||370fps||Hands down best crossbow||View on Amazon|
|Excalibur Micro||280lbs||355fps||Our 2nd choice overall||View on Amazon|
|TenPoint Wicked Ridge||155lbs||320fps||Best crossbow for the money||View on Amazon|
|Excalibur Matrix Grizzly||200lbs||305fps||Great value for money||View on Amazon|
|Barnett Whitetail Hunter||160lbs||340fps||Best deer hunting crossbow||View on Amazon|
|Excalibur Micro Supressor||280lbs||343fps||Best lightweight crossbow||View on Amazon|
|Barnett Jackal||215lbs||315fps||Best youth crossbow||View on Amazon|
We dive into more detail and specs for each of these crossbows. Also covered in this guide will be everything you need to know when purchasing a crossbow. You can use this Quick Navigation to jump to the areas of interest:
Crossbow Lethality & Effectiveness
The debate over how lethal crossbows are is a hotly contested competition fought by many a campfire. The truth is, you essentially have a more accurate bow in your hands when you’re hunting with a crossbow.
Ranges, energy, penetration and lethality are almost the same as on a vertical bow. The real advantages you have are accuracy, and the ability to stay motionless before the shot. When you step into the woods your crossbow should already be cocked, when you get to your stand, you’re ready to go!
When your trophy steps into range you’re good to go. Just shoulder your crossbows and aim with your optics. There’s no drawing and dealing with pins, just pull the trigger. That is why crossbows are more effective; they’re just easier to use but ballistically they’re like a vertical bow.
When you go into the woods with a crossbow, don’t be fooled you have the exact same range and shot limitation as all other archers. Don’t take any shot you wouldn’t take with a compound bow in your hands!
Here’s a guide on what you can expect when purchasing a crossbow at different price points.
Don’t be discouraged if this is all you have to spend on a new hunting weapon. For this price, you can get a very usable weapon for crossbow hunting. Many companies including the industry leadingExcaliburandWicked Ridgehave bows that are within reach.
You can easily get an introductory grade bow that will do the job out to 40 yards easily. Look for sales and packages that include an optic and a cocking device, you’ll be glad you got them. The best thing you can do to stretch your dollar here is read up on crossbow reviews (like this guide) to ensure you know exactly what you want. You don’t want to be buying twice if you get it wrong.
For the best crossbows under $500 look for specs along the range of:
- 130lbs draw weight
- 100FP KE energy
- 7lbs weight
At around $700 you can have a really awesome hunting machine with features that mean the most. You’ll get more power (meaning more range), a smaller package (meaning you can carry it for longer), and you can have more quality and durability (meaning it’ll last longer).
This is the area where it makes sense to have specific bows for a certain purpose. A lightweight bow for stalking won’t be as easy to shoot as a long power stroke bow that has a rifle stile stock. You can have both for this price range and get a level of quality that’ll last and do the job perfectly.
Packages will still save you a lot of money in this price range so shop around and evaluate everything your choice crossbow comes with.
The specs to look for in this price range:
- ~160lbs draw weight
- >115FP KE energy
- ~6lbs weight
This is where you begin to have some serious options. You can get whatever you want in a crossbow if you have this kind of money. The best way to stretch your money here is to nail down everything you might use the bow for and buy an all-around crossbow for your needs.
The lightest and most powerful bows can be had here as well as top of the line accessories. Be careful of having “scope creep” meaning when you buy your accessories, don’t add so much stuff you defeat the purpose of your bow in the first place. Many “features” in this category aren’t needed so don’t pay for them if you’ll never use it.
In this category look for specifications like:
- ~200lbs draw weight
- >130FP KE energy
- <7lbs weight
Before you go out and drop money on a brand spakin’ new weapon, make sure you’re allowed to use it. Be a responsible hunter and ambassador of the sport, and follow all laws regardless of how much sense they make.
The game and fish laws vary wildly between state to state and crossbow laws are non-standard. Some states allow them to be used on private land only, some during gun season only, a few states will have them banned for anyone without a disability.
It’s best to do your homework before youtune up your bowand wind up heart broken.
The other thing to check is to see if the accessories you plan on using are legal. If you cannot use optics or electronics on your bow during archery season you may not be able to use it on a crossbow either. This means no scopes or noreddot sights.
The other thing to double check is energy and broadhead specifications. If you plan on using expandable broadheads, it’s a good idea to have a stronger than normal bow, regardless of legal requirements.
Here are the best crossbows on the market today. They have been categorized to make your choice easier based on what you may need.
Best Crossbows on the Market
- A complete makeover of our all-time best-selling model
- A remarkable 9. 5-inches narrower and 30 feet-per-second faster than...
- Powered by VX-5 inverted cams that elongate the power stroke and...
- Available with or without the legendary ACUdraw cocking device
- The cost effective Titan M1 is the best value on the crossbow market
A fixture of the Tenpoint Lineup the Vapor crossbow package is one of the finest crossbows money can buy. This is for the seasoned crossbow hunter that can appreciate exactly what they need in a hunting weapon, and they don’t mind paying for it.
This bow has a hefty price tag-more expensive than most rifles. But if you can shoulder the cost you get a truly awesome weapon from one of the best brands to offer crossbows.
The TenPoint Vapor has a decent 165lbs draw weight with a long power stroke that pushes an arrow at an astounding 360fps. This means you’re able to rely on a plethora of 121fp of energy. At 37.5” in length it fits well in aground blindor treestand and under seven pounds means you won’t be tempted to come home early from your stalk.
Sold in an ultra-complete package that includes, arrows, an optic, a quiver and some sound dampening components this is the bow package you would want if money was no option.
- 165lbs draw weight
- 121FP KE energy
- 8lbs weight
- 5″ length
- Excalibur crossbow
- Crossbow kit
- Micro 355 3355 Realtree camo w/tact-zone
For hunters who like a lot of power in a small package this is your bow. This is the answer for backpack hunters looking for lightweight and fast pace hunting for dangerous and big game.
The company that brings it to the world is Excalibur, a company known for hardcore, rough and tough equipment.
True to fashion, Excalibur crossbows makes some of the only “magnum” crossbows in existence.
This is a tiny crossbow that flings an arrow at 355fps from a recurve crossbow. It has a massive 280lbs draw weight that makes for a short draw stroke and tiny overall package. If short, light and powerful is your niche, this is your best option.
- 280lbs draw weight
- 5.2lbs weight
- 5″ length
Best Cheap Crossbows
- BEST OF THE BEST: Invader G3 is the safest, lightest, narrowest, and...
- COMPLETE PACKAGE from Ten Point's Wicked Ridge pairs their...
- PACKAGE INCLUDES: Wicked Ridge G3 Crossbow, TenPoint 3X Multi-Line...
- ALL THE SPECS: LENGTH (with stirrup)-37.75 inches; AXLE-TO-AXLE WIDTH...
- ACUdraw COCKING MECHANISM: Integrated self-retracting rope cocking...
Wicked ridge is the new brand from the company that puts out TenPoint and they’ve done an awesome job of making one of the best economy line of crossbows available. They haven’t lost any of the construction quality or design and even share many features with their more expensive counterparts.
Unlike the cheaper bows that this crossbow stacks up against they didn’t’ skimp on the accessories including all the quality components you’d need to head out and immediately start shooting.
The whole package is great value and is a hard to beat price for any hunter.
This crossbow feels like a rifle in hand, albeit a short one at 37” and a svelte 7lbs in weight. The long power stroke chugs out an arrow at 320fps. This makes it whitetail ready out to 50 yards-or slightly if you’re up to the task!
The balanced size and lightweight coupled with the low-price tag makes this a great option for youth hunters.
- 155lbs draw weight
- 96FP KE energy
- 320 fps
- 6lbs weight
- Excalibur crossbow
- Crossbow kit
- Matrix grizzly 6850 country w/dead zone
- Draw Weight (LB) 200, Mass Weight (LB) 5.5, Arrow Weight min 350gr
Excalibur crossbows are essentially tanks that shoot arrows. They make crossbows for people who want the toughest gear on the planet. The recurve crossbows they make offer the exact same performance as its competitors that make compound crossbows. The benefits of hunting with an Excalibur crossbow come from their quality and their size.
The Excalibur Matrix Grizzly makes for a great bow because it features the bomber construction that Excalibur is known for but cuts down on some of the non-essential features. This makes the bow come in at a market price that just about any hunter can afford.
Don’t be turned down by the low-price point compared to the other’s in the Grizzly line up. This is a great bow that follows the same light and fast design that the others follow. Including the light 5.5lbs weight, the short but very powerful draw stroke and a balanced design that makes for a hunting machine good for just about anyone.
- 200lbs draw weight
- 5lbs weight
- 30″ length
Best Crossbow for Deer Hunting
- CNC machined 7/8" picatinny rail
- Bristle retainer - patent pending
- Custom composite laminated limbs
- Finger reminders and pass-through fore grip
- Lightweight composite stock
It’s in the name, from Barnett crossbows the Whitetail hunter is a purpose driven design made for the whitetail woods at the height of peak rut, and peak pressure. Made on Barnett’s ubiquitous plastic over molded stock design the bow is comfortable and easy to accurately drill targets with arrows right out the edge of lethal range.
The bow is 34” inches long and is a compound design that has a meager 160lbs draw weight. Don’t underestimate the design though, this bow can fling an arrow at 340fps for a tad over 100ft lbs. of energy. The package weighs in at 6.3lbs and is easy to carry all day, or just out tothe treestand.
- 160lbs draw weight
- 103FP KE energy
- 6.2lbs weight
- 34″ length
Best Ultralight Crossbow
- Micro 355 Crossbow with Crypt Case and 3 Excalibur Bolt Cutter...
- Twilight DLX Illuminated Scope with 30mm rings
- Four-arrow quiver & four Excalibur Quill Arrows with 150 grain field...
- Ambidextrous cheekpiece & rope cocking aid
- REDS Suppressors & Guardian Anti-Dry Fire
The Excalibur Micro Suppressor is an answer to the market who needs an ultralight, ultra-compact but still extremely powerful crossbow. Perfect for smaller statured hunters or the lucky guys who chase elk through the high country this is the take-for-a-walk kinda crossbow.
It is a recurve crossbow that has an ultra-short power stroke but a whopping 280lbs of draw weight. That makes it push an arrow at 343fps from a bow at 5lbs 4oz and a touch over 30” in length.
This crossbow is made to the exact same construction and durability requirements Excalibur crossbows are known for.
The final icing on the cake is the suppressor part of the bow. Not a suppressor like on a firearm, rather a ground up approach to making this one of the quietist crossbows out of the box, on the market.
If you need a fast, light and ultra-quiet bow this is your best bet!
- 280lbs draw weight
- 5.2lbs weight
- 31″ length
Best Youth Crossbow
- Velocity: 315 FPS
- Includes 3 arrows
- Smooth 3. 5 lb. trigger pull
- Complete crossbow package, includes quick-detach quiver, bolts, and...
- Sleek, military-style stock; high energy wheels; synthetic string and...
Choosing a crossbow for a youth is a tough position because they need good gear but you don’t know if they’re going to get a lot of use out of what you get them. For this reason getting a top of the line weapon can be overkill. The solution is to find a good quality, starter bow with enough power and range to get the job done.
The Barnett Jackal is a price point bow. It doesn’t offer loads of performance or quality but it does make for a usable bow that you can practice and get good with, and then use throughout deer season.
The accessories included in the box are a bit disappointing if you’re used to higher quality gear and you may want to replace the optic, or just wait until it breaks and then replace it. The arrows are fine for practice but will need to be swapped out before deer season. The quiver is good to go.
The redeeming factor of this bow is it has a 150lbs draw weight but still flings an arrow at 315fps. This is incredible for the price. This is one of the best reasons to buy this bow. Performance for the price is there especially if you just need a starter bow and quality or durability isn’t the key concern.
- 215lbs draw weight
- 6lbs weight
- 31″ length
Recurve Vs. Compound
The main difference between models on the current market start off with if the crossbow is a recurve or a compound bow. The easiest way to tell is if the bow has wheels, called cams, or not. If the bow has cams it’s a compound bow, if not it’s a recurve. Which one is better? It depends…
This is the original design and still a perfectly viable option. These designs have fewer moving parts and can be much more durable than their compound cousins. The bow works by bending the limbs backwards and holding them back.
These bows are cheaper than compounds as well as lighter and more balanced. The fewer moving parts are simpler and lighter and the weight of the bow is in the trigger mechanism that rests between your hands, giving these bows a feeling in hand almost like a rifle.
The downside to the design is that they typically need longer power strokes, or more pull weight to keep up with their compound bow cousins. They aren’t as efficient in transferring the power stored in the limbs to the string so they need more to begin with.
Compound bows have cams that are shaped like lopped sided wheels. They are used to take stress of the limbs and to accelerate the string movement in the begging of the power stroke. This makes the bow much more efficient at transferring energy to the string.
The down side is this system requires an extra string, more moving parts and more cost. These bows are also heavier and bulkier because of the cams in the front. They do however, have less pull weight on average and can be made with shorter power strokes. That makes for an easy to cock bow.
For more info on the differences between the 2 you can click on this link:Recurve vs Compound Bows for Hunting Deer
Which One Should I Buy?
Both have their advantages; most crossbows are made these days to a good quality standard and you can expect good performance from either design. What’s more important is the speed, and quality of the bow rather than the design of it.
However, the recurve bows are cheaper up front and over time because they require less maintenance while being lighter and simpler. They’ll just never meet the performance that a well-designed compound bow can put out.
Draw length vs Power Stroke
Compound bows and vertical bows are similar in energy and speed because while crossbows have much heavier draw weights, they’re just compensating for a short power stroke.
Vertical bows have around a 65lbs draw weight but have over two feet of distance where the string will push the arrow. In contrast a crossbow can’t be 30 inches long plus a stock and trigger mechanism. Instead they have much heavier draw weights, harder more efficient cams, and short 12 inches or so power stroke.
This balances the energy figures out to give you a bow that can push out an arrow at a decent speed. One of the benefits of having a crossbow is because the cams that store the energy in a compound crossbow aren’t manually operated during a draw, they don’t have to feel comfortable.
They can have a dramatic let off and very stiff backwall that allows the bow to have better performance than a compound bow where the “feel” of the cam is a big deal.
Most bows, crossbows and otherwise, come in packages, that means they come with accessories that are needed for hunting or shooting. These can be useful while others are fillers. Every manufacturer and package is different.
When you are evaluating a package, you need to look at what is inside and determine if you even need it and secondly the quality of it. Manufacturers change the contents of the packages all the time. They can change supplies and quality of the components can swing wildly.
If you’re on a tight budget it’s almost always cheaper to buy the package than trying to piece together your own set up. If budget isn’t a problem then a customized set up will always be better and higher quality, even if you only change out a few components.
One of the most important aspects is determining if the contents are legal for you to hunt with. If you’re using your crossbow during gun season you can probably use an electronic sight, but it may not fly during archery season. Know before you buy if you’ll be able to use it.
One of the most useful features of a crossbow is the ability to use an optic. Optics work wonders for simplifying the aiming process by allowing you to only worry about lining up the target with the crosshair or red dot, instead of the iron sights with the target.
When you look for a crossbow scope first make sure it’s legal to use during archery season. After you’ve checked your regulations, look for a scope that will perform out to the ranges you expect to hunt. Magnification is helpful but anything past 4x power is overkill as your longest shot will likely be around 60 yards or so.
Optics also do a great deal to gather light during dark hunting situations at dawn and dusk. Look for a scope with a large enough objective bell to take care of this but still small and light enough that you don’t have to worry about the bow becoming off balance or unwieldy to carry.
Red dot sights work well for dense cover hunting areas where a fast snap shot may be required for the arrow to make its mark. The sky is the limit with scopes and optics, just get a usable piece you can live with and use it.
You’ll need a way to cock your crossbow. Hand cocking is dicey at best and dangerous in many cases. You’ll never get an even cock withhand cockingand you’ll have a skewed shot when you break the trigger. This could potentially shear off the arrow and break it up when it gets shot. Don’t hand cock unless you’re in a pinch.
Rope cockers are simply strong pieces of cord used to pull back the string. Holding each of the ends in your hands lets you effectively half the pull weight and evenly pull the string and line it up so you get a good even pull.
The best thing about rope cockers is that they’re cheap, light and usually free with your new bow. The downside is that you still must put your foot through the foot stirrup to cock the bow. You can always throw an extra one of these in yourhunting packor improvise one from 550 cord.
Cocking devices are a godsend for older or younger hunters of smaller stature that want to be able to crossbow hunt. They use a crank to pull the bow string backwards and cock the bow. The benefits of these devices make it easy to cock the crossbow in a ground blind, or a treestand where standing in the foot stirrup would be impossible.
They do add weight and bulk to the butt end of the crossbow but they’re well worth the cost. Many high-end bows include one in their package. If not, this is a great place to start upgrading. You’ll appreciate it more during target practice than hunting, but they’re certainly worth every, single penny.
If you’re going to use a crossbow mounted quiver, like many of the packages out there, then you need to make sure to practice with it on the bow. Don’t make the mistake of developing the muscle memory of shooting without it and suddenly be caught of guard when it doesn’t feel right when it’s on.
Also, make sure you get to feel the bow in the showroom with the quiver on it. That way you get to feel the balance of the weapon and make sure you know what you’re getting. The weight of a quiver and arrows can throw off a shot if you’re not used to it, and some of the under mounted quivers make using a rest a tricky situation.
The foam on a quiver can ruin the sharpness of your broadheads if they rub up against it while walking to your stand or during travel in the truck. Make sure your broadheads are razor sharp before you put them inside and then make sure to back the broadheads off slightly from the foam.
Take care not to put them inthe quiverin a way that’ll cause them to hit each other and dull out before it’s game time, or worse break those expensive expendables.
Arrows are arrows, right? NO! Using a compound, or worse recurve arrow in a crossbow can be a deadly mistake.Crossbow boltsare much shorter to begin with and have a different arrow spine. Spine is the measurement to how stiff the arrow is.
When the bow fires, the arrow will vibrate violently and the spine of the arrow needs to be up to par to handle these vibrations. If it isn’t you could have poor accuracy, the arrow can come apart or worse, in carbon fiber arrows, it could explode. Make sure you buy correctly sized (and correct spine) arrows and shoot them the correct way in your crossbow.
How many Should I buy?
It’s a good idea to buy at least a dozen arrows. That way you can rotate the ones you practice with while saving yourbest arrows for hunting. Shooting too many arrows at atargetcan damage them if they hit each other so be weary and vigilant during practice.
You might be able to get away with usingbroadheadsmade for compound or recurve bows but you need specially made crossbow broadheads for hunting in some cases. Broadheads designed specifically for crossbow bolts have inserts that allow them to be attached to the large inserts found on larger diameter crossbow bolts.
Most fixed broadheads don’t have problems with crossbows except the larger diameter or extreme thick bladed designs that get caught or bind on the rail the arrow rests on. It is sometimes a good idea to use a dry lubricant to this track where the broadheads rests, but always follow manufacturer guidelines.
If you plan on using a large diameter turkey style broadhead or an expandable, make sure it works with the rail on your crossbow. Not every manufacturer has the same system for supporting the arrow so at least one test at a target needs to be done with the real broadhead you plan on using to make sure there aren’t any problems down the road.
Just because your crossbow shoots faster than a compound bow or a traditional bow, you still need to be weary of your quarry jumping the string. With even the fastest bowthe sound of the shotwill arrive at the animal’s ear roughly 3x times faster than the arrow.
Make sure all the accessories are securely mounted to your bow and nothing is going to rattle around when the shot breaks. This includes metal sling swivels; get plastic or non-swivel sling mounts.
Vibration is what makes the noise so look for ways to add rubber dampening material to the limbs and the string stops. Products are also made to quiet the bow string. When in doubt email your manufacturer and see what they recommend.
Final Word on Choosing a Crossbow
If you plan on heading out for a crossbow hunt this season, make sure you arm yourself with the best crossbow for your needs and get out there. Crossbow hunting is one of the fastest growing communities within the hunting culture and for good reason.
Crossbow hunting is a great way to get in the woods with more challenge than gun hunting but an easier skill curve than archery hunting. Equipment plays a huge part in the hunting world and the best thing you can do is arm yourself with one of these great crossbows and get ready to head out for a great season.