Although the crossbow has been around for more than 2000 years, the modern crossbow market is packed with innovative designs and cutting edge technology. Honestly, there seems to be a major leap forward in crossbow performance and shootability every single year.
The constant advancement coupled with vast differences in features, design, and cost between brands can make choosing the best crossbow seem like an impossible task.
Whether you’re looking for a crossbow for fun target shooting or serious hunting, we’re here to help. We’re going to walk you through the world of crossbows so you know exactly what to look for in a new rig. We even share a few of our favorite models to get you started.
Table of Contents
- Why Choose a Crossbow ?
- Things to Consider
- Best Crossbow on the Market Reviews
- Final Thoughts
Why Choose a Crossbow ?
There are plenty of crossbow critics, especially among big game hunters. Skeptics claim crossbows aren’t much different from rifles and therefore shouldn’t be allowed during archery hunting seasons.
In some states (like Colorado), it is illegal to use a crossbow during the early bow season, so be sure to check all state and local regulations before you hit the woods.
Despite the cynicism, crossbows are definitely here to stay. Here are just a few reasons people may choose to hunt with a crossbow.
- Many rifle hunters turn to the crossbow as an introduction into archery. Crossbows are much easier to use than their vertical cousins and can make a nice first step before transitioning to a compound or traditional bow.
- A crossbow can be a great way to introduce shooting to younger hunters who may be put off by the harsh recoil and loud report of a firearm.
- For women, seniors, or others with limited upper body strength, a crossbow can be an effective way to hunt during archery season, especially in areas with laws regarding minimal draw-poundage.
- Crossbows help improve hunter retention. As some hunters age, they may be unable to shoot their vertical bows effectively. A crossbow helps them stay in the archery game.
Things to Consider
The crossbow industry is constantly pushing the design envelope. As a result, today’s models shoot faster, farther, and more accurately than ever before. However, not all crossbows are created equal. To ensure you end up with a model that is both practical and effective, be sure to consider these key characteristics.
Unless you’ll only be shooting your crossbow in the backyard or at the shooting range, portability is incredibly important. You will need to tote your rig to your hunting location, so it should be easy for you to get it there.
Weight is probably the most important factor in a crossbow’s portability. Obviously, a lightweight crossbow will be easier for you to hike to your stand. However, don’t be fooled by the manufacturer’s specs. The weight numbers on the packaging or marketing materials probably refer to the model’s bare bones weight. Keep in mind that you will be adding the weight of a scope, quiver, and arrows before all is said and done.
Some models, like the Excalibur Assassin 420 TD, have a take down feature that allows the rig to be easily assembled and disassembled. Take down models often collapse to a compact size that can conveniently fit into a backpack or duffle bag. This makes them extremely well-suited for backcountry hunting or survival situations.
In order to shoot effectively, you will need to maneuver your bow so you can line up crosshairs with your target. The dimensions of your crossbow can have a huge impact on how fast you can get on target and how effectively you can track one that is on the move.
If you plan to shoot your crossbow from a treestand or ground blind, it is particularly important to look for one with compact dimensions and a shorter axle-to-axle length.
Your crossbow should be well-balanced and easy to hold on target. You don’t want to be struggling to hold up your rig while waiting for that monster buck to present the perfect broadside shot.
Your crossbow should also comfortably fit your body. When you raise it to your shoulder, it should feel natural and present an easy cheek weld. In this position, your hand should be able to easily reach the trigger and safety mechanism.
Because no two shooters are built exactly the same, perfect ergonomics will mean different things to different people. If at all possible, give any rig you’re considering a thorough test drive before you commit to buying.
For you to shoot consistently, you need a crossbow with a consistent trigger pull. The break should be crisp, and it shouldn’t require tons of effort to get there. The best crossbow triggers usually only require around three pounds of pressure.
Many newer models are incorporating advanced two-stage triggers. A popular design on modern sporting rifles, a two stage trigger has two distinct phases of firing. Instead of breaking and firing as part of a single stroke, the trigger hits a break wall within the firing of the weapon.
There are several advantages to using a crossbow with a two stage trigger. These unique triggers can help you time your shots more precisely. More importantly, the design can help improve an unsteady grip or shooter balance issues for more consistent shooting.
Accuracy is obviously an important feature whether you’re hunting or shooting targets just for fun. Many modern crossbows are more than capable of hitting 100-yard bullseyes. However, while many crossbows are capable of those long-range shots, few shooters have the skill to do it consistently. Chances are good that your crossbow will be far more accurate than you are.
Shooting animals with a crossbow at 100 yards is both impractical and unethical. The effective crossbow range for hunting is generally within 60 yards, and most modern crossbows can do that accurately and consistently.
Measured in feet per second, velocity is how fast your arrow travels on its way to your target. Crossbow manufacturers are on a quest to produce ever-increasing arrow velocities. They do this by increasing draw weight, lengthening power strokes, and sometimes using lighter bolts and broadheads.
Velocity is important for bowhunters because a faster arrow has a flatter trajectory. That means the faster your crossbow flings your arrows, the better your chances of making a good shot, even if you accidently misjudge the distance to your target.
Before you can fire a crossbow, it must be cocked. However, some models are easier to cock than others. Many high-end models have built-in cranks to help you cock the bow. These mechanisms take a lot less effort than standard rope cockers. They also allow you to cock the bow exactly the same way every single time, which leads to more accurate and consistent shooting.
Best Crossbow on the Market Reviews
In the world of crossbows, it’s usually true that “he who spends the most wins.” Quality and performance are not cheap, and those high-end crossbows have hefty price tags for a reason. However, we realize not everyone can afford to drop what could amount to a couple of car payments on a new crossbow. Thankfully, there are some models that offer good value and reliable performance without breaking the bank. We’ve tried to include models from both ends of the spectrum.
The Ravin R20 Sniper is not your typical crossbow. It has a sleek, modern design and a lightweight, skeletonized structure that will impress hunters and tactical fans alike. However, the R20 Sniper has more to offer than its stylish good looks.
This ultra-compact crossbow delivers insane accuracy, lightning-fast arrow speeds, and serious terminal energy. It shoots bolts off the rail at an astonishing 430 fps with 164 foot pounds of kinetic energy. Top your bolts with razor-sharp broadheads, and even the largest North American game animals are no match for this weapon.
This crossbow is super compact. Measuring a mere 5.75 inches from axle to axle when it is fully cocked, the R20 Sniper is perfect for deer hunting from a treestand or the tight confines of a ground blind.
The R20 Sniper comes as a complete package that includes 3 Ravin arrows with 100-grain field points, a mounted quiver, and an illuminated 100-yard scope.
One of the best rated crossbows on the market, the R20 Sniper was chosen as Outdoor Life’s #1 Editor’s Choice Best Crossbow for 2019. This is the cream of the crop in high end crossbows. It does come with a pretty hefty price tag, but we believe it is worth every penny.
Perfect for toting to remote hunting locations, the Excalibur Assassin 420 features a convenient, packable take-down design. It easily assembles and disassembles in seconds with the simple push of a button, and it manages to do it without sacrificing accuracy.
The Excalibur Assassin offers whisper-quiet cocking and an almost silent release thanks to Excalibur’s 10-point sound dampening system. This rig slings bolts down range at a blistering 420 fps with enough power and penetration to drop large game dead in their tracks.
With a simple recurve design, the Assassin 420 has no complex cables, pins, or cams that might malfunction when you need them most. This is one of the most dependable crossbows on the market today.
The Assassin 420 has a fully adjustable Tru-Fit stock and cheekpiece so you can customize the fit for almost any shooter. It also comes with a match-grade, two-stage trigger that has a light pull weight with a consistent crisp break. This is definitely one of the most accurate crossbows on our list.
The Storm RDX is the result of a merger between industry leaders Horton Crossbows and TenPoint Technologies. Obviously a successful union, the result earned this crossbow the Outdoor Life and Petersen’s Hunting Editor’s Choice Award.
The Storm RDX features Horton’s trademark reverse-draw technology and TenPoint’s easy cocking options. The combo produces serious arrow speeds of 380 fps and 119 foot pounds of kinetic energy off the rail.
This rig has a well-balanced design, a sleek modern look, and a compact construction that is easy for hunters to maneuver in the field. It weighs a pretty hefty 14 pounds, but it is surprisingly easy to shoot despite the massive weight.
The only potential drawback we can find is the price tag. This is definitely not a budget crossbow. However, it delivers plenty of features and a level of performance that makes it well worth the investment.
With arrow speeds of 425 fps right off the rail, the HyperGhost 425 is Barnett’s fastest crossbow. With plenty of power and penetration to take on tough game, the HyperGhost is perfect for bringing down that big hog or monster buck.
The HyperGhost weighs less than a gallon of milk (7.7 pounds to be exact) and has a retractable underarm counterbalance support that makes it easy to hold on target. This is a lightweight, well-balanced weapon perfect for women and seniors, although it works just as well for big, sturdy guys.
It features Barnett’s patented step-through riser, a machined aluminum flight track, and a high-quality, anti-dry fire trigger system.
The HyperGhost comes in a ready-to-shoot package that includes pre-installed string dampeners, three Hyperflite arrows, a 1.5-5×32 illuminated scope, a rope cocking sled, and lubricating string wax. A great value for the money, the whole package is available for under $1000.
When fully cocked, the CP400 crossbow from CenterPoint Archery measures only 6 inches wide. The axle-to-axle length when uncocked is still only 10.5 inches, making this perfect for deer hunting from a treestand or ground blind.
It also weighs only seven pounds, so you won’t mind hauling this one over long distances to get to your favorite hunting location. The size and weight also make this crossbow well-suited for home defense.
The CP400 has a unique hybrid design that produces impressive speeds up to 400 fps and up to 142 foot pounds of knock-down power. Centerpoint achieves this level of performance with its patented HeliCoil technology and perfectly balanced cams.
Other awesome features include an innovative folding stirrup, adjustable stock, anti-dry fire and auto safety, and a quality 3x32mm illuminated scope.
A great beginner crossbow, the Invader X4 is lightweight, easy to cock, easy to shoot, and packed with safety features.
Tipping the scales at a meager 6.3 pounds, this is one of the lightest crossbows on the market. But don’t be fooled by its modest size, this thing slings arrows downrange at a velocity of 360 fps with pinpoint accuracy.
The Invader X4 features a pass-thru foregrip that provides plenty of finger protection while maintaining a comfortable grip. It also has an ergonomic pistol grip with a fully enclosed trigger guard for added safety.
Cocking this crossbow couldn’t be easier thanks to the integrated ACUdraw Cocking Device, which reduces the draw weight to a paltry 5 pounds. Built right into the stock, there are no dangerous dangling components on this cocking aid to contend with.
One of the best value crossbows on our list, the Wicked Ridge Invader X4 comes in a ready-to-hunt package that includes an instant detach quiver, 3 aluminum arrows with field points, and a 3x optic with crosshairs calibrated for ranges out to 50 yards.
If you couldn’t tell by the name, the Whitetail Pro STR from Barnett is optimized for deer hunting. It weighs just under 7 pounds and has a 16.375-inch power stroke that produces arrow speeds of 400 fps with 140 foot pounds of kinetic energy. That is plenty of power to bring down tough game.
The riser is fully wrapped in TruBark camo to keep you completely hidden in the woods. It also offers relatively quiet shooting thanks to the integrated string dampeners. The CNC machined aluminum flight track also provides a smooth, whisper-quiet arrow path and extremely accurate shooting.
Barnett included a plethora of safety features, including a nock sensor, an anti dry fire trigger system, finger guards, and safety reminders.
The Whitetail Pro STR comes ready for the woods right out of the box. The complete package includes a high-quality 4x32mm illuminated scope, rope cocking device, side mount quiver, 2 Headhunter arrows, and string wax.
Although this practical crossbow from industry leader Bear Archery doesn’t have a bunch of bells and whistles, it still packs a pretty impressive punch. The Constrictor delivers fatal results at a sizzling 410 feet per second.
It has relatively compact dimensions and measures only 10 inches from axle to axle when the bow is fully cocked. However, the Constrictor is a pretty weighty beast, tipping the scales at almost 9 pounds. This isn’t a weapon you want to haul around on a remote backcountry hunt.
The Constrictor features a top mount quiver that holds up to 5 arrows. The quiver easily pivots 360 degrees, allowing the shooter to position it on the right or left side or even parallel to the bow. It also has an adjustable cheek pad on the stock for a truly personalized shooting experience.
The Bear X Constrictor comes with everything you need to hunt, including 3 TrueX arrows, an illuminated scope, sling, cocking rope, and rail lube/string wax.
The Vapor RS470 is by far the most expensive rig on our list. Although the price tag could send budget-conscious hunters into total sticker shock, this crossbow also delivers some seriously shocking performance. The Vapor RS470’s 225-pound draw weight produces the fastest arrow speeds out of all the models on our list, a jaw-dropping 470 fps.
The bow’s Micro-Trac barrel is designed to reduce rail contact with the string, which improves accuracy and preserves string integrity.
With a reverse draw configuration and an advanced roller sear trigger, the Vapor RS470 delivers unmatched precision for amazing downrange accuracy. In competent hands, this crossbow is so accurate, you could drive tacks with it at 60 yards.
The TenPoint Vapor RS470 is a complete hunting system. The package includes everything you need, including an EVO-X Marksman Scope, bubble level, ACUslide cocking system, detachable quiver, 6 lighted Evo-X CenterPunch carbon arrows, 3 Evo-X CenterPunch broadheads, a crossbow case, and a Neoprene sling. WIth unparalleled performance and top-of-the-line accessories, we think this package is well worth the substantial monetary investment.
The Parker Bushwacker crossbow is easy to maneuver and evenly balanced for a rock steady aim, which is everything the youth archer needs. And it is priced well under $500, making it one of the best value options on our list.
Its compact, ergonomic design contributes to the Bushwacker’s easy handling. It also weighs just 7 pounds, making it a nice option for young shooters. However, this model produces only modest arrow speeds (approximately 300 fps) and meager energy, making it better suited for target shooting than hunting.
The Bushwacker package comes with a quick detach quiver that holds four arrows (also included) and a 4x multi-reticle scope.
While the quality of your crossbow is extremely important, don’t underestimate the value of quality arrows and accessories. In order to get the best crossbow performance possible, you will want to invest in quality bolts and broadheads. This isn’t the place you want to pinch too many pennies. A high-quality crossbow scope will also go a long way in improving accuracy, especially at longer ranges.
No matter which model you choose, be sure to spend plenty of time practicing with your new rig before the opening day of the hunting season. Ultimately, proficiency with your crossbow is your best weapon, no matter which model you take with you into the field.