The Best Crossbow Reviews for 2017

You’re an amateur who’s just watched ‘The Walking Dead’ and are now looking for the best beginner bows so you can get into the thrilling hobby of crossbow hunting – read on to find out about this classical weapon of hunting.

Crossbows have seen more advancements in the past two decades than in the last two millennia. New materials for their limbs, strings, arrows, sights and stock designs have created the modern crossbow – more accurate, more user-friendly and more effective on the hunt.

Nevertheless, the crossbow is still a short range hunting weapon with an upper range cap of 40 yards for deer sized quarries.

But within this range, the modern crossbow guarantees a very accurate shot. You should know, though, that hunters utilizing compound bows will have the advantage of a faster second shot compared to a crossbowman, and experienced bow hunters will normally be more successful.

Crossbows also make more noise than bows, and they are harder to carry due to their extra weight. However, in spite of these pitfalls, crossbows enjoy considerable popularity, here’s why:

  • They are historic weapons of the hunt, and have been used effectively against game all over the world – including Africa.
  • They are highly precise, which appeals to hunters who don’t want to leave anything to luck. Often times, bench rest rifle shooters become fans of the crossbow’s ability to consistently shoot at the same target in its 40 yard range.
  • Those who aren’t able to use a bow due to injury, age or insufficient arm strength are able to get a taste of archery hunting thanks to crossbows. Combined with optical sights, and coupled with the fact that users don’t have to strain as in the case of a bow, archers are able to hunt game ten or even twenty years after their effectiveness with the bow has diminished.

What are the Features of Modern Crossbows?

Just like there’s an argument about compound and recurve bows, there’s a compound vs recurve crossbow debate going on. The recurve is simpler since it doesn’t have the complex stringing needed for the asymmetric-wheel or round-wheel compound crossbows.

The compound crossbow normally has shorter limbs, making it a bit easier to use in tight spots as compared to its recurve counterpart.

Certain compound crossbows are able to shoot the same weight arrows swifter than certain recurves, even though a compound crossbow is the present record holder for speed among production bows.

Some decades back, nearly all crossbows had limbs made from steel. Today, nearly all bows have either composite or fiberglass limbs, with designs going from a single long and thin bow to thick barrel stave shapes.

To reduce the weight and equalize stress, several manufacturers have started producing crossbows limbs with a composite split-limb combination.

Take a look at our 2017 Crossbow reviews here

Stocks of composite plastic and laminated wood strengthened with metallic elements can now be purchased. These molded stocks allow for greater variation in design and may also have wind-up or string cockers.

Not only does the stock support the arrow rail, firing elements and bow, it also lowers the crossbow’s heaviest component. Certain crossbows come with skeletal stocks to keep the weight low. Normally, the greater the weight of the crossbow, the easier it is to shoot with accurately, since the weight lends its stability in the instant when the arrow is in the crossbow’s guide rail.

Power Requirements

Normally, crossbows are ranked according to their pull weights, which can be anywhere from 80 to 200 pounds. This kind of string stress can get you a top arrow speed of 340 fps. If you’re hunting deer sized game, a 150 pound pull weight is recommended.

At this weight, bows will shoot clean through the deer if you use a broadside shot. Additionally, the majority of robust shoots can cock a 150 lb. crossbow with their hands by utilizing a foot stirrup. Using a rope cocking aid, available from most manufacturers, can reduce the pull weight to half. Crank cocking aids, though cumbersome and slower to use) need just 10 to 15lbs of pressure to cock a crossbow with a high pull weight.

Arrows and Points

Carbon ExpressChoosing correctly splinned arrows of proper length in combination with an effective game-killer point is just as essential with a crossbow as it is with a bow. The best bow brands will always provide a list of the series of recommended arrows and point weights. Carbon, aluminum and composite arrows are available today with several different mechanical and fixed points.

Remember that faster arrows will shoot better with mechanical broadheads than with fixed blade broadheads. Arrows made from aluminum usually perform nicely with 125 grain fixed points whereas carbon shafts are more effective 100 grain or lower.

Always use hunting arrows and points to target your bow – field points and broadheads can have considerable disparity in their flight characteristics, even if they are of identical weights. You can use a small rubber gasket for lining up the blades of mechanical points with the arrow’s fletching for optimum results.

SightsNikon Bolt XR

Crossbows normally come with iron, optical or red-dot sights. Optical sights might seem to be unnecessary for a weapon limited to a 40 yard range, but they’re useful for accurate compensation of the crossbow arrow’s rapid drop in flight between 20 to 40 yards. Knowing the exact target range to your prey is crucial, which is why a laser range finder is required for achieving a clean kill using a crossbow.

While you’re buying any crossbow (even a beginner crossbow), it is a good idea to purchase necessary accessories with it, since the accessories produced five years later may not fit the crossbow you’re purchasing today.

This is enough of an introduction on crossbows – even for those who have never used one before. The rest of the article will cover various aspects to be considered when buying a crossbow. It will have a bow comparison encompassing cheap cross bows, best bow for beginners, powerful crossbows and so on.

What to Consider Before Purchasing a Crossbow

If you’ve never shopped for a crossbow before, and you’re out in the market looking for the best bows for beginners, you should bear in mind that purchasing a bow is a tough decision.

The optimal way to determine the best starter crossbow for yourself will be to try it out. If you’re browsing through an online store, it’s better to find some time to visit a specialized shop where you’ll be able to test fire a version similar to yourself.

There are plenty of things to look out for before you decide on a particular crossbow. Since it’s a lethal weapon, the most crucial among these, regardless of whether you’re looking for great bows for beginners, the best compound bows or the best recurve bows, is safety.

In this respect, critical features include the anti-dry-fire device and the auto safety engage mechanism. Always remember that dry firing your crossbow (i.e. shooting it without having an arrow loaded) carries the risk of its limbs and stings cracking, which can cause injury to your face and arms.

 Compound vs. Recurve Crossbows

There are many different crossbow models being sold in the market today, but the final comparison culminates into which of the two major categories they belong to – compound vs. recurve crossbow.

Click here for Our Recurve Crossbow Guide

Compound bows are considered the modern variation of crossbows, and can be easily distinguished by their sturdier, shorter limbs. These two vital features are the reason professional hunters regard compound crossbows as more energy efficient. Here are the advantages offered by the best compound bows:Compound-vs-Recurve

  • Significantly faster draw with smaller weight
  • Less force is required on the trigger sears
  • Greater power than the best recurve bows because of faster bolt speed
  • Incorporate simple cocking device
  • More narrow overall due to which it has greater efficiency in densely vegetated areas

Despite these advantages, you should not say that the compound version of the crossbow has a greater number of moving parts which can wear out relatively quickly, which is why, if you plan to use it regularly, you will have to make time for maintenance. Furthermore, compound bows are a lot heavier and noisier, particularly if you consider the associated weight and density of their front section.

At the other end, recurves are the oldest and simplest model of the crossbow. Recurve crossbows are identifiable by their distinct appearance since they have a tip that curves away from the shooter. They have bent limbs to enable a longer draw weight to accelerate the bolts / arrows.

Besides reducing the shock felt in the hand, the recurve design is also less noisy when shooting – but this doesn’t mean that it its totally silent, you will detect a clatter when shooting with a recurve crossbow. In addition to generating less noise compared to compound crossbows, the recurve model has the following advantages, in the recurve vs compound bow comparison:

  • Doesn’t need to be extensively maintained, thereby making it an ideal weapon for longer hunting trips.
  • Doesn’t way as much as the compound model so that it can be carried about with relative ease
  • Its lighter weight makes it easier to take aim
  • Easier to restring as opposed to compound bows that need a bow press for fixing a broken string

The primary disadvantage of recurve crossbows is that they don’t have a cocking device and thus require a degree of physical strength from the user. Additionally, the recurve model doesn’t have the same accuracy or power as its compound counterpart. Also, because of its wider design, a recurve bow will require a greater draw weight for comparable arrow speed.

Whether you go for a recurve or compound crossbow is ultimately based on what feature you prefer, since both models have certain exclusive features. However, if you’re just starting out with a crossbow, it will be more sensible to go for the recurve version since it is lighter and more easily manageable – recurves are the best bows for women for the same reason.

Looking for a compound Bow? Check out our extensive guide here

Furthermore, because of the recurve’s simplistic design, it is easier to use in that you won’t have to figure out its working when in a tight spot. However, if you’re an adept hunter looking for a strong and impactful weapon, the compound crossbow will be far more suited to your needs.

Arrows and Bolts

Even though lighter projectiles have greater fly speed, you should note that reputable manufacturers all have a suggested minimum grain weight for getting the best output from their crossbow models. Shooting lightweight projectiles place extra stress on your crossbow’s various components, resulting in them failing or breaking and putting you at risk of injury. It is thus advisable to be aware of and use only the best crossbow arrows / bolts meant for your crossbow. Additionally, shooting with bolts / arrows that aren’t supported by your manufacturer may void the crossbow’s warranty.

The crossbow bolt / arrow is made from carbon or aluminum, and has a length of about 20’’. It consists of the following parts:

  • The head – this is the part normally fastened into the insert present at the front of the shaft. You can buy Barnett Outdoors Carbonarrows with either broad heads or field point heads, with the former including sharp edges that are used primarily for hunting. Field points don’t have any sharp parts and can be used to hunt either small game or for practice.
  • The shaft – this is the elongated, thin body of the bolt/arrow
  • The insert is the round, pullout attached to the shaft’s front. It can be made out of brass, aluminum or an alloy of the two metals.
  • The nock – this is the small part fixed to the shaft’s rear. It can be made from aluminum or plastic, and touched the string when you cock the crossbow. Nocks come in either flat style or half-moon style. Half-moon nocks incorporate a small groove that makes horizontal alignment between the arrow and the string easier.

Besides buying the proper crossbow bolts, if you’re serious about hunting with a crossbow, you should also consider purchasing one of the best crossbow scopes since they make all the difference in getting a clean kill with your first shot. 

What are the Top 3 Best Cheap Crossbows?

Finding a topnotch, affordable and durable crossbow under $500 can be quite challenging. With such a large variety of models to pick from, it can be hard to figure out which ones are the best and which ones aren’t that great.

We’ve made that effort on your part, and rooted out the models that are waste of your time and money – here are the best bows under 500 we have selected after our research:

Jaguar CR-013 Series Crossbow 175 lbs. Spring

Jaguar CR-013 Series Crossbow 175 Lbs

At a price of $300, the Jaguar CR-013 Series Crossbow 175 lbs. Spring is our umber three choice in this category. It offers great value at its cost and has a 30-millimeter red dot sight included, besides a shoulder strap to provide a comfortable and stable shooting experience.

This is a powerful crossbow that shoots at the speed of 245 feet per second and has a 34.5’’ length. The Jaguar CR-013 crossbow comes with four 16’’ inch bolts, seven brightness adjustment levels, and has a composite stock made from fiberglass. It comes in two finishes – camo or black.

This is an excellent crossbow for those who are beginning their journey as crossbow huntsmen, or for those who have a tight budget. It is extremely accurate and definitely reliable on a hunt.

Barnett Penetrator Crossbow

Barnett Penetrator Crossbow

The Barnett Penetrator Crossbow has a near perfect user rating and comes highly recommended from its owners. It is available as a package that also has a Quiver, 3-20’’ arrows and a 4x32mm scope. At a price lower than $500 this is exceptionally good value.

The crossbow is both powerful and easy to use, providing an accurate shot. It has an innovative design that gives a shoot-through foot stirrup, besides a 12’’ power stroke that can fire at speeds of up to 350 FPS.

It yields a 175-pound draw weight and utilizes 20’’ arrows, providing 116-foot pounds of energy and measuring 37’’ long x 24’’ wide. It also comes with a limited manufacturer’s warranty of five years. It is easy to operate and highly accurate.

Barnett Quad 400 Crossbow

Barnett Quad 400 Crossbow

This is our top pick for the best cheap crossbows. The Barnett Quad 400 Crossbow is an exceptionally good cheap crossbow, and is, in fact, the best crossbow under $400! It comes in a package that also packs a Quiver, 3-2’’ arrows and either a 4x32mm scope or a quality 3 do red dot sight.

This crossbow has been revamped to incorporate new features to keep its reputation as a favorite intact. The Barnett Quad 400 has a shooting speed of 345 feet per second, a draw weight of 150 pounds, and an energy output of 112-foot pounds with a 15.5-inch power stroke. It weighs 9 pounds, has a length of 37’’ and a width of 26.75’’. All in all, it is a highly enjoyable experience to shoot with this bow.

The Excalibur Ibex SMF crossbow kit is another excellent choice if you’re willing to spend a little over $500 for the added quality. It comes with an SMF scope and Realtree AP and has a draw weight of 175 lbs.

Chris Cole

What is the Best Beginner Crossbow?

After going through lots of models claiming to be the ideal crossbow for beginners, we reach a decision as to the best choice for a novice crossbow archer.

It wasn’t easy since there is many a good beginner bow out there, but our absolute favorite from among these was the Excalibur Axiom SMF – a fine bow from one of the top bow brands. It is a powerful crossbow, but at the same time, it doesn’t exceed the $500 price point.

Excalibur Axiom SMF

This is a recurve bow, which means easy to use and maintain, and, therefore, an excellent choice for beginners – it is also one of the best bow for women because of its ease of management.

It has an accurate shot, doesn’t weigh much and can be carried around with ease on the hunt. The Excalibur Axiom SMF has a draw weight of 175 pounds and works with 20’’ arrows.

As far as user opinion is concerned, it is one of the top rated bows in the market, since it frequently gets five-star ratings. To conclude, if you’re looking for a deadly accurate, affordable and light weight crossbow, this one bears our mark recommendation.

What is the Most Powerful Crossbow?

Just as a matter of interest, we resolved to find out the crossbow worthy of the title of ‘The world’s most powerful crossbow.’ After our research, we discovered that the model that answered the question of ‘What is the fastest crossbow?’ was the Scorpyd Velocity 165 lb. crossbow.

Scorpyd Velocity Crossbow

This exceptionally swift powerhouse incorporates a draw weight of 165 pounds, an arrow speed of as much as 425 feet per second, and a kinetic energy output of 163 pounds per foot.

It is priced at $1400 and upwards, so it isn’t cost efficient by any means, but if you’re in the market for the most powerful and fastest crossbow made, this is the one for you!

What is the Best Overall Crossbow?

After conducting a crossbow comparison of some high-end crossbow models offered by various good bow brands, we concluded that the Excalibur Matrix 355 is the best overall crossbow to own.

Currently priced at $736, this crossbow packs Excalibur’s Ergo-Grip and Compact Recurve Technologies, making it comfortable to hold and carry around on a long hunt. It has undergone a recent redesign to improve its performance and is a compact, lightweight (5.4 pounds), the most silent incarnation of its former self.

Excalibur Matrix 355 Crossbow

The crossbow draws easily, and is deadly accurate at distances exceeding 70 feet! It possesses a shooting speed of 355 feet per second and has a large draw weight of 240 pounds. However, it comes with a rope cocking aid to make for an easy and smooth cocking action. The crossbow comes with a ‘Kolorfusion’ applied Realtree Xtra Camo, Quad-Lock riser, four arrows and the rope above cocking aid.

This bow has received excellent reviews from users who have praised it for its good balance, great scope and ease of use. Female users of small stature have also commended it for its ease in carrying and compactness.

Once you’ve tried out and enjoyed hunting with crossbows, you’ll want to give regular bows a try, for a better challenge – the PSE Brute X Compound Bow and the Martin Takedown recurve bow are two best options that you might want to look into.