Crossbow Guide - TheArcheryGuide.com

Interested in learning about Crossbows? Read this beginner complete guide

Want to learn more about crossbows? This article will introduce you to crossbows, what they are and what the different parts are. You will also learn how to cock a crossbow, as well as aiming and shooting. There are also links to different crossbow buying guides.

If you have started thinking about using and getting a crossbow, it can be a minefield. If you are completely new to using crossbows then initial it can be a little daunting. I have written this guide to hopefully make it a little more clearer and also help answer some of the most common questions when it comes to owning one.

When I first looked into them, I was very confused with all of the different parts. This has all been answered, as well as how to cock a crossbow manually or with a tool. It can also be somewhat confusing on which one to get, you will find a number of buying guides that will help you find the best crossbows for you and for your needs.

Let’s get started!

Best Crossbow Reviews 2018

It is not always easy to know which crossbow you should buy, there are many options. It’s important to understand that the best crossbows can be expensive, the have a number of new features and tend to be much more durable.

You should do your research when you look to buy a crossbow best suited for your needs, you do tend to get what you pay for. Below you will find what I feel are the best crossbow 2018.

Before you go out and spend money on a crossbow, you should first research what it is you are buying. In the reviews below, I have broken down some of the best options, giving details on their features as well as pros and cons.

Crossbow Name
Bow Weight (lbs)
FPS
Draw Weight (lbs)
Barnett Predator
7.6
430
187
Barnett Whitetail Pro STR
6.9
400
165
Excalibur Micro Suppressor
5.4
355
280
Ravin R20
7.1
430
12
Barnett Jackal
7.7
315
150
CenterPoint Sniper
12.2
370
185
Bear X
5.4
335
125
Excalibur Matrix 380
5.9
380
260
Wicked Ridge Invader G3
6.9
320
155
PSE Fang LT
5.8
330
145-165
TenPoint Titan
8.2
340
175
SA Sport Empire Beowulf 360
6.5
360
175
In a hurry? Check out these three options

I have picked these as the best three, one is top of the range and fairly expensive. The second is the best crossbow for beginners and the final one is the perfect for those on a budget.

What is a Crossbow?

A crossbow is similar to a bow in that it is a ranged weapon, however instead of held like a bow it is mounted on a hand held frame very much like that of a gun. It shoots projectiles known as bolts, which are very similar to arrows, although much smaller.

what is a crossbow - A complete guide - thearcheryguide.com

They was developed in medieval times but was actually first invented in China. They came from the need to get more of their soldiers to be able to shoot projectiles, without having to learn archery. Using a bow and arrow did require a lot of skill and strength, therefore many archers were trained up from a very young age.

This ended to some degree when the crossbow was invented as it was very easy to use and didn’t require any specific training. They were also very cheap to make and didn’t require too much strength to fire.

The Use Of Crossbows Nowadays

With the invention of crossbows, they were widely used in warfare and distance shooting. They are now used mostly for crossbow hunting and target shooting, they are still used in some military groups but not in actual combat. They are now used more in terms of accessory, for example attaching string to the bolts and using them to shoot rope to form a zip line. This is very useful when it comes to travelling through difficult terrain.

Interestingly crossbows are also used a lot within the fishing industry, they allow research teams to “tag” sea creatures from a distance. Doing this helps them to monitor the sea life, and keep track of specific creatures.

Crossbow Hunting

One of the most common uses of crossbows in this day and age is hunting. Many hunters like using them due to the bolts being reusable, unlike bullets. Firearms tend to take the foundations of hunting away, not as traditional as a bow and arrow but a crossbow helps bring the thrill back to hunting.

The main benefit of using them is because you can take down bigger game such as elk and moose. If you was to use a bow such as a recurve bow or compound bow, you would need to have a high draw weight.

The Different Types Of Crossbows

Just like with bows, there are also different types of crossbows. Each has their own pros and cons, understanding the types is useful to know which is most suitable for you and your needs.

Recurve Crossbow

Pros and cons to using a recurve crossbow | thearcheryguide.com

The recurve crossbow is very similar to the bow, in that the limbs curve away from the archer. The design is often simple and incredibly easy to use. Compared to the compound crossbow, the recurve does tend to be larger and also heavier. Generally the noise levels are fairly low and the strings are easy to change.

Pros

  • ​Simple To Use
  • ​Quiet
  • ​Easy To Maintain

Cons

  • Larger & Heavier 
  • Less Accurate
  • Not As Powerful as a Compound Crossbow

 

Compound Crossbow

Pros and cons to Compound CrossbowsLike the compound bow, the crossbow is taking on more modern tech. They are designed to be able to cock the bolt easier, have additional safety features. They tend to be chosen by hunters because they are lighter, smaller and offer much more power.

Pros

  • ​Smaller
  • ​Lightweight
  • ​More Powerful
  • ​Easier To Cock

Cons

  • More Expensive 
  • Louder Than Recurve Crossbow

Parts Of A Crossbow

The parts of a crossbow might vary depending on if you have a recurve or a compound crossbow. It’s worth understanding the different parts though.

Riser

The riser is often made from aluminum as it needs to be strong but then at the same time needs to be lightweight. It is what the limbs of the crossbow are attached to. Different manufactures have their own design but they look very similar. They need to be able to allow the arrow/bolt to fully pass

Limbs

The limbs attach to the riser and are flexible, they will blend when the crossbow is cocked. They are usually made from fiberglass or in many cases carbon fibers as this material is strong but is also lighter.

Cams

Cams are used in compound crossbows, they are used to help increase the amount of energy used in shooting the arrow. Resulting in the arrow being shot further and faster.

Cables

The cable is what connects the two cams together. They are often made from synthetic fibers that are very high strength.

String

You will struggle to shoot a crossbow with the string. It is fastened from one limb to the other. They are made from high strength fibers.

Barrel

The barrel is also known as the flight rail and is what connects the riser to the trigger mechanism. It is used to help support the arrow, which is known as the flight groove or arrow groove. The foregrip is found on the underside of the barrel. Like the riser it is normally made from aluminum but might also have plastic which has been strengthened with fiberglass.

Fore grip

The foregrip is the area that you would use to hold the crossbow in order to keep it steady and prevent it from shaking.

Sight

The sight is what you will use to look through and aim. These can be upgraded so overtime you can get a better sight for your needs. They will usually have a pin to focus on or use a scope.

Trigger

The trigger like on a gun is what releases the arrow/bolt and fires the crossbow. If the safety is on then the trigger will not fire, if you have an arrow cocked but you are not shooting then you need to keep the safety on.

How To Shoot A Crossbow

Shooting a Crossbow in 4 steps | Thearcherygude.com

Looking to find out how to actually shoot a crossbow, below are 4 steps to show you. It is actually incredibly easy to shoot, the challenging thing that puts some people off is actually Cocking the crossbow.

1 - Cock the Crossbow

Cocking the crossbow does take a little learning, with practice you will soon find it easy enough. There are two ways to cock a crossbow, manually and using a cocking tool.

If you want to do it manually you need to place a foot in on the front of the bow on the stirrup. You then pull the string back until its cocked. You do need to make sure it is pulled back evenly. This can be tough as the draw weight is 150lbs, and if not done even will impact on the shot as the aim will be off.

A tool known as a rope cocker can make it much easier, it works as a pulley system. You simply place the tool into position, foot in the stirrup and pull on the cockers pull handles. This will then cock the crossbow and your ready to go.

The downside to these tools is that they take longer to cock the crossbow, if you are in a hurry then you will need to know how to manually do it. Some crossbows have a built in crank system, which engages and when turned cocks the crossbow.

2 - Loading the Bolt

Now that it is cocked you need to load it with your arrow/bolt. To nock the arrow to make sure its in place, you need to put it on the barrel of the crossbow.

3 - Aim

Generally you would use either a pin sight or a mount scope that is used to aim. Look through the sight at your target, depending on the method you use would determine how to aim. The pin target you would need to position the pin at your target, scopes will normally have a crosshair to look through.

4 - Shoot

Now you have found your target and your aim is on, hit the trigger and making sure your target is still in sight and watch the arrow shoot. You will soon hear the release and feel the bolt fly through the air.

Be warned you may feel some recoil, keep the crossbow in line with your target to avoid impacting the aim of your shot.

Detailed Look At The Best Crossbows

1. Barnett Predator- Fastest and Most Powerful Crossbow

  • Bow Weight: 7.6 lbs
  • Draw Weight: 187 lbs
  • FPS: 430
  • Power Stroke: 16.25”
  • Kinetic Energy: 156 Ft. lbs.
  • Price Tier: Mid-High
Image showing the Predator Crossbow from Barnett

The Barnett Predator is probably one of the most popular crossbows on Amazon, many hunters do consider it one of the best. Looking at the speeds it is the fastest out of the top 12 in our list, it is also incredibly powerful. This is important, as it means you can use it to for all types of game.

One of the things I really, is just how easy it is to assemble. All you need to do is add a couple of screws, tighten the bolts and install the scope...easy! The scope itself is okay quality, it will do for awhile but in the future you may want to upgrade.

Cocking the bolts is not too hard, however I would recommend getting a cocking device as it doesn’t come with one.

Pros

  • Fast and Powerful
  • Very Accurate Shooting
  • Easily Assembled
  • Includes A Decent Quality Scope

Cons

  • ​No Cocking Device
  • ​Reports Of String Breaking

>> Get The Price on Amazon <<

2. Barnett Whitetail- Best For Hunting

  • Bow Weight: 6.9 lbs
  • Draw Weight: 165 lbs
  • FPS: 400
  • Power Stroke: 16.375”
  • Kinetic Energy: 140 Ft. lbs.
  • Price Tier: Mid
Product image of the Barnett Whitetail

If you are looking for a decent crossbow that is mid range in price but can help you take your hunting to the next level, this one would be ideal. You might think based on the name it’s only suitable for hunting Whitetail, this is however not true. As you can see from the stats above, it has enough power to go for others.

Typically it will only take 10 minutes or less to get this crossbow set up and ready to use. The manual is great and really explains how to set it up properly. The Barnett Whitetail also comes with a decent amount of accessories, which will save you some money.

Personally I like the camo look of the bow and the accuracy is excellent. Overall great performance and for the price, really good value.

Pros

  • Good Value For Money
  • Very Accurate
  • Great Performance
  • Easy To Assemble
  • Great Accessories

Cons

  • ​Arrow Speeds Are Average

>> Get The Price on Amazon <<

3. Excalibur Micro Suppressor - Top Mid-Range Crossbow

  • Bow Weight: 5.4 lbs
  • Draw Weight: 280 lbs
  • FPS: 355
  • Power Stroke: 10.2”
  • Kinetic Energy: 92 Ft. lbs.
  • Price Tier: High
Image for the crossbow Micro Supressor - Made by Excalibur

If you are looking for a hunting crossbow, this might be a great option for you. It is both very powerful and has excellent accuracy. Speed wise it shoots at an impressive 355 FPS and features a compact design.

One of the reasons why this is perfect for hunting, it’s so quiet. Excalibur use a state of the art suppression to help reduce the amount of noise, believe me it works great.

The assembly is fairly easier and shouldn’t take too long, although comments from others is that it does take a little longer than other crossbows. Another reason why we feel this is one of the best crossbows on the market, you also get a the Tact-Zone scope which is one of the best in the industry.

Pros

  • Lightweight & Compact
  • Incredibly Quiet
  • Very Powerful
  • Accurate Shot
  • Smooth Cocking
  • Comfortable to Hold

Cons

  • ​High Draw Weight
  • ​Uses Non-Traditional Arrows

>> Get The Price on Amazon <<

4. Ravin R20 - Most Revolutionary

  • Bow Weight: 7.1 lbs
  • Draw Weight: 12 lbs
  • FPS: 430
  • Power Stroke: 13”
  • Kinetic Energy: 164 Ft. lbs.
  • Price Tier: High
Product Image of the Ravin R20

The Ravin R20 is an improvement on the previous R15 model. It continues to feature a compact and fairly light weight crossbow. This bow is very popular due to the long range accuracy, the power, and the speed.

It is probably one of the most expensive packages in our list but many would say that its worth it. The package does also include a number of accessories such as arrows, quiver, draw cocking handle, sling mount, and scope.

Pros

  • Incredible Accuracy
  • Reduced Vibration
  • Very Powerful
  • Compact Design
  • Fast Shooting

Cons

  • ​High Price Tag

>> Get The Price on Amazon <<

5. Barnett Jackal - Best Beginner Crossbow

  • Bow Weight: 7 lbs
  • Draw Weight: 150 lbs
  • FPS: 315
  • Power Stroke: 12”
  • Kinetic Energy: 105 Ft. lbs.
  • Price Tier: Low
Imagine showing the Barnett Jackal Crossbow

If you are looking for an entry level crossbow, the Barnett Jackal is ideal. We have rated it the best for beginners and is suitable for all ages, whether you are wanting to use it for hunting or target shooting.

Most crossbows are easy to assemble, this is not different. You should have it ready to shoot in under 10 minutes. Unlike some more advanced models, it also requires very little maintenance.

One of the reasons why it is ideal for beginners is the price, it is very low and therefore doesn’t require much of an investment. Not only do your get the crossbow, you also get 3 arrows, red-dot sight, quiver and a 5 year warranty.

Pros

  • Very Low Price
  • Decent Power
  • Designed For Safety
  • Ideal For Beginners
  • Suitable For All Ages
  • Very Comfortable To Hold

Cons

  • ​Doesn’t Include Cocking Aid
  • Fairly Loud

>> Get The Price on Amazon <<

6. CenterPoint Sniper - Runner Up Entry Level

  • Bow Weight: 7.7 lbs
  • Draw Weight: 185 lbs
  • FPS: 370
  • Power Stroke: 13.5”
  • Kinetic Energy: 110 Ft. lbs.
  • Price Tier: Low
Product image of the CenterPoint Sniper

If you have been doing some research on your first crossbow, you will no doubt have seen many reviews of the CenterPoint Sniper 370. I doubt you will see very few negative reviews, as it’s such a popular bow.

Ideal if your are looking for a beginner crossbow, but is also one of the best for those on a budget. Even though it is very low in price, it still offers a decent amount of performance. With an impressive 370 FPS and kinetic energy of 110 ft lbs, its a great entry level choice.

This crossbow has won many awards and you really can see why!

Pros

  • Very Low Price
  • Perfect For Beginners
  • Ideal For Those On A Budget
  • Includes 4×32 Scope
  • Fast Speeds
  • Decent Warranty

Cons

  • ​Scope Might Want Upgrading

>> Get The Price on Amazon <<

7. Bear X - Best Hunting Crossbow For Under $500

  • Bow Weight: 9.9 lbs
  • Draw Weight: 125 lbs
  • FPS: 335
  • Power Stroke: 17.5”
  • Kinetic Energy: 99.3 Ft. lbs.
  • Price Tier: Mid
Image of the Bear X

Bear Archery is probably one of the most well-known manufacturers of archery equipment. This model is known as the Bear X Bruzer FFL and is one of the best hunting crossbows for under $500, if you are on a budget then it is ideal.

Even though it is used by hunters, it does also make an excellent target crossbow. The package includes all that is needed to get you started, including bolts, quiver, cocking sled and rail tube. It does include a scope, however this may want upgrading.

Pros

  • Light Draw Weight
  • Fast Speeds
  • Compact Design
  • Ready To Shoot Package
  • Lifetime Warranty

Cons

  • ​Limited Scope
  • Very Heavy

>> Get The Price on Amazon <<

8. Excalibur Matrix 380 - High Quality Crossbow

  • Bow Weight: 5.9 lbs
  • Draw Weight: 260 lbs
  • FPS: 380
  • Power Stroke: 13.1”
  • Kinetic Energy: 109 Ft. lbs.
  • Price Tier: High
Product Image of Matrix Crossbow from Excalibur

The first thing that stands out with this crossbow is the camouflage design. This crossbow is aimed more at hunters, providing you with a powerful yet sturdy piece of equipment. It is very lightweight at only 5.9 lbs and is very comfortable to hold.

Excalibur have brought out a high quality crossbow with the Matrix 380. It offers excellent accuracy, whilst delivering power and high speeds. In terms of assembly, it is not the easiest bow to set up. It does however come with a manual to help make it as simple as possible.

As well as the manual, you will also receive Tact-Zone scope, Cheekpiece, Suppressor, 4 Arrows, and cocking device.

Pros

  • Compact Design
  • High-Quality Scope
  • Lightweight
  • Prevents Dry Firing
  • Powerful
  • Accurate
  • Fast Shots

Cons

  • ​Fairly High Priced
  • Draw Weight Is High At 260 lbs

>> Get The Price on Amazon <<

9. Wicked Ridge Invader G3 - The Best Value

  • Bow Weight: 6.6 lbs
  • Draw Weight: 155 lbs
  • FPS: 320
  • Power Stroke: 13.5”
  • Kinetic Energy: 96 Ft. lbs.
  • Price Tier: Low-Mid
Featured Image Of Wicked Ridge Invader

The Wicked Ridge Invader G3 from TenPoint is an upgraded version of their Invader HP. They have focused on ways to make this crossbow much lighter, initial by using a semi skeletal design and then adding some cutouts in the aluminum riser.

I really like the grip of the Invader G3, it has a solid grip which is also very comfortable. TenPoint have also thought about safety, making the wings a little longer to prevent fingers going on the string path.

It has a lower Kinetic Energy than many of the crossbows in the list and the FPS is also not the highest, for the price thought it’s a decent crossbow. If you are looking for something that has a solid build but on a budget, this would be a good choice.

Pros

  • High Durability
  • Lightweight
  • Safety Features To Prevent Misfiring and Dry Firing
  • Convenient Cocking Mechanism
  • Smooth Draw
  • Good Value For Money

Cons

  • ​Little Louder Than Some Alternatives
  • Scope isn’t Illuminated

>> Get The Price on Amazon <<

10. PSE Fang LT - Top Crossbow For Under $300

  • Bow Weight: 5.8 lbs
  • Draw Weight: 145-165 lbs
  • FPS: 330
  • Power Stroke: 12.75”
  • Kinetic Energy: 99-105 Ft. lbs.
  • Price Tier: Low
Fang LT from PSE

The PSE Fang LT is very low in price but this does not mean it doesn't perform well. In fact there are some users that chose this over a crossbow that was well into the thousands of dollars, simply because it is a very good choice!

I would say it’s one of the 3 best crossbows for beginners, ideal for all ages and both men and women. Even though it is low in price, you still get everything you need to get started. This includes a multi-reticle scope, 3 bolts, quiver and a rope cocker.

Since it is aimed at those of all experience levels, it is very easy to assemble and you should be up and running in no time.

Pros

  • Comes As Ready To Shoot Package
  • Compact Size
  • Very Lightweight
  • Easy To Cock
  • Great Value For Money
  • Decent Power

Cons

  • ​Scope Not The Best Quality
  • Bolts Aimed At Target Archery

>> Get The Price on Amazon <<

11. TenPoint Titan - Lightweight & Compact

  • Bow Weight: 8.2 lbs
  • Draw Weight: 175 lbs
  • FPS: 340
  • Power Stroke: 12.5”
  • Price Tier: Mid
Tenpoint Titan Featured Image

TenPoint have been making crossbows for over 15 years, so you can have the assurance that they know what they are doing. The TenPoint Titan SS is an upgraded version of their previous best selling crossbow and this has been very well received.

For a mid priced crossbow, you are actually getting a lot for your money. Depending on what your aims are for this bow, it can shoot up to an impressive 340 FPS (when used with their recommended bolts).

It is on the heavy side, and the draw weight might be a bit much for some. The TenPoint Titan SS has been designed to be very easy to assemble, so you shouldn’t have any problems.

Pros

  • Reasonable Price
  • Decent Accuracy
  • Fast & Powerful
  • Decent Pre-Installed Scope
  • Compact Design

Cons

  • ​Doesn’t Come With Any Bolts
  • No Nocking Device Included

>> Get The Price on Amazon <<

12. SA Sport Empire Beowulf 360 - Good Overall Option

  • Bow Weight: 6.5 lbs
  • Draw Weight: 175 lbs
  • FPS: 360
  • Power Stroke: 14”
  • Price Tier: Low-Mid
Product Image of SA Sports Empire Beowulf

If you are on a budget, it can sometimes be hard to find the best crossbow for your price range. The great thing about Empire Beowulf 360 is that it has lots of features of a high end crossbow but is very reasonable in price.

It is actually a very popular crossbow for hunting but can also be used for target archery. One of the reasons why it is recommended is due to how quiet it is, in fact it’s one of the quietest on the market. The Empire Beowulf from SA Sport also boasts an impressive 360 FPS.

To really help you get started, you even get all of the accessories needed to get out into the outdoors. Which based on the price, this makes it even more of a bargain.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Incredibly Quiet
  • Smooth Draw
  • Decent Power
  • Easy To Assemble

Cons

  • ​Scope Is Limited
  • Only 1 Year Warranty
  • Only Includes 3 Arrows

>> Get The Price on Amazon <<

Common Questions

Interested in crossbows, below are the most common questions I have received. Hopefully these will answer your questions, if you have any additional please do email me

Are crossbows safe, can they fire by mistake?

All crossbows will come with a safety catch, this does prevent firing when you don’t mean to. This safety will keep the trigger from being able to be pressed. As soon as you remove the safety then it can be fired, so pay extra attention as to where you aim the crossbow.

How much does crossbows cost?

The price does vary depending on the crossbow and the brand. For a decent one you will be looking to spend between $500 and $2500. You can get them for less than $500, however the quality also decreases and you may not get as much value for your money.

Bows are designed for different sizes, are their crossbows suitable for children or people of small frames?

Unlike bows, crossbows are normally suitable for all sizes. The difference is the actual draw weight, as long as a child can crank the crossbow then they would be able to use it. Some may need to use a tool BUT more often than not a child will be able to draw and cock a crossbow just fine.

How does the arrow compare between a bow and a crossbow?

The arrow is actually called a bolt and not an arrow. They are often thicker than normal arrows as well as being shorter. They are normally around 4-6 inches shorter than compound bow arrows.

Can I get a scope?

Some crossbows do automatically come with a scope, if yours don’t then you could purchase one to add it. These do normally cost around $80-$100.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossbow

Adam Profile Image

Adam has been enjoying the sport of archery since 2010, intially getting the bug for it whilst on holiday and trying it out in an activity center. Since his very first eperiance of holding a bow and arrow, he fell in love with it and can now be found at the range or in the great outdoors as often as possible.

His main go to bow type is a recurve but he loves shooting from compounds as well. Adam created The Archery Guide as a way to help others get into this great activity and to share his knowledge/experiences.