Written by, Jalluri
Updated March, 14, 2023
A Crossbow is still a hunting weapon, as well as a sports one
Alright, now that we’ve introduced you to our “best crossbow 2018” reviews, here’s the buying guide we promised. In this guide, we’ll include several points, and teach you about crossbow types, parts, the importance of bow and draw weight, size, power stroke, and we’ll tell you all about the average price of high-end and low-end crossbows and where to find them.
We’ll start with the crossbow type. There are, actually, two types of crossbows – recurve and compound. The difference between them is substantial, so it’s vital that you discern between them.
Recurve crossbows are standard types of crossbows, mostly used for target shooting, though it’s not uncommon to see them on a hunt. They derive their name from the shape of the bow, which has limbs turned away from the shooter. Recurve bows are large and wide, yet light and very durable. They have few delicate parts and are usually more affordable than their compound counterparts.
Compound bows are the tools of the professional. They’re more powerful, with a faster bolt, but are heavier and more expensive. If you don’t get one of eBay’s promo codes, for instance, buying them can significantly damage your budget. Compound bows are usually used for hunting, due to their relatively narrow profile, allowing for better maneuverability, especially if you’re planning to scale a tree stand. These bows operate on a system of pulleys that store the potential energy, turning into kinetic energy in a flash. Often, compound bows are more potent than a recurve crossbow for the same draw weight. However, compound bows then to be on the heavy side, especially toward the front of the weapon (due to the pulley system) making it a little bit awkward to hold it at the ready. In addition to being heavy, the pulley system has many components that can break, and, if they do, they will require the attention of a professional.
So, based on this, which crossbow should you choose? Well, it depends on what you want to use it for, and what’s your budget. As we said, compound bows are used more frequently for hunting, while recurves for target practice. The power of the compound, as well as the speed of the bolt, make it an even better candidate for a hunting bow. Speed means accuracy as well as killing potential, and the recurve bow may not deliver. However, if your budget is limited, then a compound may not be the best choice as it will cost you when you’re buying it, and it will cost you some more to maintain it.
As we said, compound bows are more complicated than the recurve bow, which means they’ve got fewer parts. Both types, of course, have limbs. The limbs form the traditional image of a bow mounted on the front and set horizontally. On a recurve bow, the limbs provide the most tensile strength and propel the bolt forward. Both types of crossbow have a flight groove (the groove where you put the bolt), the barrel, the string and the retention spring that keeps the bolt in place, and stocks (which can be made of wood or composite materials).
One thing that appears on the composite bow and not on the recurve bow is cams. Cams are, basically, wheels, and they sit on the tips of the limbs. There are two types – the outside-in and the inside-out cams. The outside-in cams rely more on the limb for power, while the inside-out rely more on the cables and pulleys for the same purpose. Therefore, if you’re adamant to buy a powerful bow, then you should consider one with inside-out spinning cams; however, this will cost you extra.
Both types of crossbows are usually outfitted with a cocking stirrup. As its name suggests, the stirrup is used as an aid when you’re cocking the crossbow. However, at higher draw weights, this might become a little difficult to do by hand, so cocking aids are also available for purchase.
The weight of your crossbow can be a significant factor, depending on what you intend to use it for. If you want to use the crossbow for target practice, then the weight doesn’t matter that much, as you can rest it on a stand and then shoot. However, when hunting, the weight becomes a significant factor. If you intend to shoot from a tree stand, a heavy crossbow might be a little troublesome. Hunters that like to track their prey over long distances usually settle for lighter bows. While on the hunt, you must consider that you might be crossing great distances and carrying your crossbow or shouldering it (holding it at the ready) for a long time, which can be tiring, and you might miss due to fatigue at the critical moment. What you’re looking for in a hunting crossbow is a balance between weight and power, as you want your weapon to be light enough to be comfortable, and powerful enough to neutralize your intended target.
Draw weight, and, by proxy, power stroke, is what determines the speed of the bolt and the overall power of the bow. It is measured in lbs. Draw weight is the weight required to pull the string and cock it. Power stroke, on the other hand, is the distance between the cocked position of the string and the resting, un-cocked, position. The greater the power stroke, the faster the arrow will fly. However, when looking at crossbows, these two are often traded for one another – draw weight means a larger crossbow with bigger limbs, while larger power stroke means a longer crossbow with more compact limbs.
Now, how much draw weight do you need on a hunting crossbow? Well, it depends on the game. If you’re planning on hunting rabbits, 150 lbs should be enough. For deer or elk, you’ll need 175 lbs, though you could go with a 150 lb crossbow against a deer if you’re a good shot. However, 175 lbs is a bit hard to pull so that you might need a cocking aid. Finally, for the massive game, like moose, bears or warthogs, you’ll need something in the area of 200 lbs, at which points, you’ll most probably need a cocking device.
The size of the crossbow is critical. Here, we’re discerning between the length and the width of the crossbow. A smaller crossbow ought to be lighter and more maneuverable, but also weaker, or, more reliant on draw power to accelerate the arrow, leading to you having to use a cocking aid. Longer and wider crossbows are certain to have a longer power stroke, but, in the forest and amongst the branches, it won’t be as maneuverable, as well as heavier. The best crossbow is both light and powerful, but something like that is extremely hard to find (or costs a lot of money. The important thing here is to pick a crossbow that’s fit for your stature, as a crossbow that’s too large or too small will be awkward to shoulder and will prove disastrous for your aim.
The velocity of the bolt is the speed at which the crossbow fires the said bolt. Velocity depends both on draw power as well as power stroke, but it also depends on the weight of the bolt and the fletching. It’s measured in feet per second. The world’s fastest crossbow fires at 496 fps, but there are also rumors of crossbows hitting speeds of up to 600 fps, though these are prototypes and, most likely, for military use. However, all this is, more or less, overkill – to bring down a big game like the grizzly, your crossbow needn’t fire at speeds more than 400 fps, which is about the average speed for high-end crossbows.
However, speed doesn’t always equal power. We mentioned that the weight of the bolt influences the speed of the crossbow, but it also influences power. This is important to know if you’re hunting very big game because a crossbow firing light crossbow bolts at extreme speeds might not bring the game down. Basically, this balance can be explained using a slightly scary metaphor. If you were to get hit by a tennis ball at 100 fps, it’s going to hurt. However, if you were to get hit by a much heavier bowling ball at half the speed, you’re very likely to get killed, because of the size and weight of the bowling ball.
That being said, you need to pick bolts that are sufficiently heavy and sufficiently fast to deliver enough force and stopping power to bring down your prey. Not only that but if you plan on going hunting, you need to pick the best crossbow broadheads (“broadheads” are bolt tips explicitly made for hunting) for the job regarding shape and weight, because that too will impact the speed of the bolts.
Noise is an essential factor for hunting crossbows. The noise we’re referring to is the twang sound produced by the string when it fires the bolt. As we said, this is important to hunters, as the sound is sure to alert the game when you’re firing the crossbow, and it might flinch just enough to get out of the way of the bolt. This is especially important if you’re going to hunt rabbits, as they’re very fast and present a tiny target. If you’re going to use your crossbow for target shooting, noise isn’t as important, but a very loud crossbow might prove unpleasant to use.
The price of crossbows can vary to some degree. Depending on the specifications of the crossbow, as well as the manufacturer and the brand, for the very best crossbow amongst an abundance of crossbows currently on the market, you might be looking at a price tag of above $1.000 or even $2.000. However, a good-enough specimen can also be found in the $400-$500 range.
The point here is to find a weapon that fits your needs. If you don’t plan on hunting great beasts of the forest, a 150-160-pound crossbow is more than enough, and these can be found as low as $300. Just look at some of our Barnett crossbows – Jackal and Lady Whitetail. They’re in a price range below $400, but they have excellent specifications. However, if you’re planning on hunting big game, and you like to hunt often, then you should consider Deathstalker, Ravin R15 or Barnett Ghost 410 crossbows.
Of course, the price can also depend on the vendor. If you’re shopping for a crossbow, Amazon promo codes will get you the best deal possible. You can also try going to the brand directly and buying the weapon from them, and you might get a discount of some kind, either through a coupon or a sale of sorts.
Usually, we’d recommend you got to a gun store and bought a crossbow there. Your local gun store is sure to have quite a few models so that you can pick and choose. There are also specialized stores that sell archery equipment, as well as crossbows and bows. Finally, you can buy a crossbow at Target or Walmart, though we doubt you’ll find one of the high-end Ravine models there.
Naturally, crossbows can be bought online. Buying online means that you can’t try your crossbow out, and that, if you don’t like the product and would like to return it, you’ll have to go through the trouble of replacing it, which may cause additional costs. Still, many people decide to buy their crossbows on eBay. If you’re going to buy crossbows online, it’s, perhaps, the best option to buy them at verified vendors and off-brand sites.
And, with that, we’re going to wrap up our list. As you’ve seen, the selection is quite vast, and there are lots of weapons to choose from. Some are more expensive, some are more affordable, but we believe you won’t have to do additional research to find a weapon that suits you! We’ll risk sounding poshy but our crossbow reviews should be the only source you’ll need to pick the right crossbow for your needs.
Our first product comes from one of the best brands on the market – Ravin. Though they’ve upgraded their arsenal with the R20, the R15 Predator crossbow remains very much relevant. The Ravin R15 crossbow is one of the most powerful out there, with a draw weight of 220 lbs, but with a draw force of only 12 lbs. This force translates to a speed of 425 fps and kinetic energy output of 160 ft. per Ibs, meaning it can kill any game in the US at 50 yards. It also comes with a 100-yard scope and a quiver attached, plus 6 Ravin bolts with 100-grain practice points – ideal for zeroing in.
One of the best parts of this crossbow is its very narrow profile. Thanks to advanced engineering, the bow’s axle-to-axle width is but 6 inches cocked, meaning it’s smaller than most crossbows. As a result, R15 one of the best, if not the best crossbow for hunting – well, maybe it would have been, if not for the R20 model.
Second, up is a very fine crossbow from Barnett. The 410 Ghost is among the fastest crossbows on our list and, for what it offers, it’s quite affordable. Its draw weight is quite considerable, standing at 185 lbs, making it a perfect fit for hunting. This is further supported by the fact that 410 is clocked at 410 fps and is very quiet, so you can bet that deer will fall to the ground before it even realizes it’s been struck.
These couple of facts rank this item quite high in all Barnett crossbow reviews. However, its size seems to be one of the most important factors for hunters. Namely, the bow is 20” from axle to axle, which is about the average span for a hunting crossbow. The crossbow also comes with additional accessories. It comes with a 3×32 scope, three bolts, a quiver and a drawing aid device, which is something you might need using this bow.
Our next crossbow is more of a budget option that a grade-A weapon. SA Sports Empire Beowulf crossbow is a fine-tuned piece of hunting and target practice weaponry with a very affordable price tag. The bow has a formidable draw weight of 175 lbs, and has a very decent 14″ stroke, allowing it to move a bolt at a very impressive 360 fps. It’s also a full inch narrower than Ghost, making it ever so maneuverable.
The only problem with this weapon is that it’s not the quietest crossbow of 2018. This somewhat limits its usefulness as a hunting weapon, as there are more silent weapons, and this might mean a world of difference when you’re on the hunt. Even though it’s quite affordable, you can reduce the price further with one of the Sears promo code offers.
Moving on to no.4, we’ve got the Carbon Express Axon Crossbow. If you’re looking for the best tactical crossbow, Axon about fits that profile. It’s affordable, but quite powerful, and offers numerous customization options. The crossbow comes outfitted with a Picatinny rail so that you can mount any scope on it. Plus it comes with an AR rifle family stock, so people experienced in shooting with an AR will feel very comfortable shooting with this bow. The length-of-pull is also adjustable, so you can highly personalize your bow.
As for the bow’s performances, you’re looking at a 13.5” power stroke with a 175 lbs draw weight, creating a speed over 360 fps. Its kinetic energy output is not the best though, standing at 122 ft. Ibs. The bow’s width is 13.5”, which makes it one of the narrowest crossbows on the market. Overall, it’s an excellent, highly customizable, bow that will never fail you on the hunt.
At spot no.5 we’ve got the Wicked Ridge invader G3 Crossbow. This is one of the best budget crossbows, offering an excellent price with very decent specifications. The bow boasts 165 lbs of draw weight, fires a bolt at 330 fps and has a more than decent 13.5″ power stroke. The bow is not overly wide as well, being 19″ from axle to axle making it reasonably maneuverable. The bow is also very quiet, which, combined with its specifications, makes it, hands down, the best deer hunting crossbow of 2018. The bow comes with a cocking device, a 3x scope and three carbon fiber bolts plus a quiver. Since this crossbow is one of the most popular ones, you can get it at a reduced price by using Walmart’s deals and promo codes.
If you’re looking for a real beast of a crossbow, then you need Excalibur Null Matrix Grizzly Crossbow. As the word “grizzly” in the name suggests, this crossbow is intended for hunting big game, and, boy, does it deliver. 200 lbs draw weight at only 100 lbs draw effort, fires a 350-grain arrow at 305 fps. With these stats, Excalibur Null Matrix is more than enough to bring down the eponymous grizzly, and at a great price, especially if you’re buying it off Academy and grab one of Academy promo codes.
One of the interesting things is this is a recurve crossbow, whereas all others so far were compound bows. Another interesting fact is that Null Matrix is almost the same as Excalibur Crossbow Matrix 405 Mega Crossbow with Twilight Dlx, optimized for a treestand, and boasting a 290-pound draw weight. Sadly, this Hulk was discontinued, due to the new Null Matrix, but we figure you’ll be plenty satisfied with Null, even without the extra 90 lbs of draw weight.
The CenterPoint Sniper 370 crossbow is just before the halfway mark on our list of crossbow reviews. This item is the definition of value for the money – it doesn’t cost much but boasts of 185 lbs of draw weight and firing at 370 fps. It has a nice, adjustable, AR-like stock, and an integrated suppression system for low noise and low vibration, which is something we haven’t seen on other crossbows so far, making it excellent for hunting elusive targets like deer or rabbits.
However, be mindful – this is a bargain-priced crossbow. That being said, you’ll have to settle for some quality issues. Customers reported the limbs cracking and the strings snapping, and there were frequent complaints about the scope which was not illuminated as promised by the manufacturer, and of relatively poor quality. Finally, even though you won’t break your bank by paying the full price, why not save more with Dick’s Sporting Goods promo codes.
Right when you thought we’d give it a rest with high-end bows and start reviewing budget ones, here comes TenPoint Venom. Venom is one of the best and the most expensive crossbows on our list, and for a reason. This stellar weapon comes bearing 185 lbs of draw weight and propels an arrow at 372 fps. Not only that, but the crossbow has a very narrow profile, being only 17.6 inches wide from axle to axle. It also comes with a scope and an ACU50 cocking aid.
At spot number nine we’ve got the Arrow Precision’s Inferno Fury Crossbow. A mean name for not so mean a crossbow. This is, arguably, the cheapest crossbow on our list. However, it’s not like it doesn’t deliver – this recurve bow boasts 175 lbs of draw weight, and shoots the arrow at 235 fps. Now, this isn’t that impressive, considering the bows we reviewed before it, but, considering what it costs, we’d say it offers plenty of value for the money. Looking at its speed and power, it won’t kill a buffalo, but it will suffice if you plan to hunt rabbits and deer.
We’ve had one Barnett, yes, but what about another Barnett on our list of crossbow reviews? Well, here you go – the Barnett Jackal. Jackal is the younger brother of Ghost, and, as such, it’s not as powerful nor as fast. Still, it shoots the bolts at 315 fps, and has a draw weight of 150 lbs, making it an excellent weapon to hunt rabbits and deer. The bow also comes with a 3.5-pound trigger and a three-dot sight. The bow is about 26.5 inches wide. Since the regular price most likely doesn’t qualify for free shipping, try one of the Cabelas promo codes and get this item at your doorstep for free!
Deathstalker Crossbow is one of the most exciting entries on our list. This is one of the higher-end crossbows on our list, made by Scorpyd Crossbows. The thing that makes this crossbow peculiar is because it has inverted limbs (they look like they were mounted backward, arching toward the shooter). These limbs increase the power stroke, allowing the bow to shoot faster at relatively low draw weights, making it easy for the shooter to cock the bow without losing power. Indeed, Deathstalker can fire a bolt at 380 fps while being rated to only 130 lbs. The inverted limbs also decrease the bow’s width, making it very narrow, and, by proxy, maneuverable.
Another interesting thing about Deathstalker is that the entire order is customizable. If you go to Scorpyd’s page, you’ll be able to pick your bow’s draw weight (115 and 130), scope, finish, quiver, arrows and even a cocker. Basically, you’re building your crossbow with Deathstalker
This Juxing crossbow is the perfect choice for those starting out. It’s very cheap but well made. Despite the name, this is not a hunting crossbow – its measly 65 lbs draw weight will barely take down a squirrel. However, for target practice, it’s more than enough. Comes with a convenient foregrip.
Only four more crossbows left, and we’ve got another Ravin crossbow. This time, it’s an earlier version as compared to the previous item – the Ravin R10. R10 is, despite being outclassed by the R20, still a very powerful and potent weapon. Just like the R15 and R20, it has a very narrow design that is sure to appeal to hunters. The bow boasts an impressive 185 lbs of draw weight, shooting at 400 fps while having only 11” power stroke. When cocked, the bow is only 6.5” wide. If you want to get it with a significant discount, purchase it with one of Groupon’s promo codes.
Spot number belongs to SAS Troy 370 Compound Crossbow. This the one of the best, if not the best crossbow for the money. It’s quite affordable and it delivers 185 lbs of draw weight, firing the arrow at 370 fps, making it very practical for hunting bigger game. The bow also comes with an adjustable tactical stock so that anyone can shoot it. It’s also very narrow, being only 14” wide when cocked. All in all, excellent and affordable hunting weapon.
Our penultimate product comes from Horton Crossbow Innovations, and their Horton Innovations is indeed a fantastic piece of technology and engineering. Storm RDX is similar to Deathstalker, mostly because it, too, features reversed limbs. This gives the crossbow an incredibly small profile, making it an exceptionally mobile and maneuverable weapon. The crossbow is but 10 inches wide, and, owing to its reversed limbs, it has an intense power stroke. The bow’s stroke and its 165 lbs of draw weight allow it to propel the arrow at an impressive speed of 370 fps. Thanks to all this, the bow is an exceptional weapon for seasoned hunters out to get the big game, despite the bow’s seemingly low.
We’ll finish off our list with another Barnett product. It seems it’s a common practice for Barnett to make powerful but very affordable weapons. Lady Whitetail is no different – the bow is almost dirt-cheap but delivers excellent performances for its price. Whitetail can fire an arrow at 350 fps thanks to 150 lbs of draw weight. The bow is but 16 inches wide axle-to-axle, which makes it great for treestands and blinds. It’s also outfitted with individual nock sensors to eliminate dry fire and thus save your bow from damage. Also comes with a 4×32 scope, rope cocking device and lube wax for your string.