The Ultimate Crossbow Guide!

Category Crossbows

You stroll into the store, or you’re looking online for the best crossbow. You could be looking for a certain type, some odd years old, or there could be a new and improved brand that was just released. Or, possibly, you could just be starting out and you are looking for the best crossbow for a beginner. You could be searching for a crossbow solely for the purpose of target practice and recreation, or perhaps you wish to go crossbow hunting.

Because technology is constantly advancing, and because there are so many crossbow specifications for all types of users, searching for just the right make and model can be a difficult process. Where do you even start? What do you want out of the crossbow? Are you crossbow hunting? What curve, or arrowheads do you want? Are you looking for a challenge? These are all questions to consider, whether you are just starting out, or whether you are looking for a new crossbow.

Introduction to Crossbows

Ancient Crossbow

Crossbows are weapons similar to a bow that shoots projectiles, commonly known as quarrels or bolts. The weapon consists of bow mechanism mounted on a frame which is typically made of wood or, for modern crossbows, out of composite materials or plastics.

The crossbow has a long history, being used since the ancient times in warfare and siege operations across Europe and East Asia. The Middle Ages crossbow was known by many names derived from another similar weapon, the ballista.

Modern Crossbow Usage

New Crossbow
New Crossbow

In modern times, crossbows can be used for recreation, sports, hunting or for science purposes. Also, crossbows are used as weapons in various military use is still in place in some areas.

Oceanology and marine scientists use crossbows frequently to obtain tissue samples from whales or dolphins. These are specialized crossbows that use a special projectile that can hook into flesh and take blood samples or skin samples. A string is used to recover the sample from the water.

Modern archery also involves the use of performance crossbows which are highly regulated and made of very light materials. These crossbows can produce speeds of over 400 feet per second and can be extremely precise.

What Is a Crossbow?

A crossbow consists of a bow which is mounted on a stick and a mechanism that holds the tensioned bow string. When shooting a crossbow, a vertical element is placed in the slot of the stick, to force the string mechanism into action. The rod is usually placed in a perpendicular position, creating a trigger. If the string is released, the projectile shoots. Other designs include a nut made of metal that holds the string at all times.

The main benefit of a crossbow when compared to a traditional bow is that the crossbowman can keep the weapon stringed for a longer time, thus enabling a better aim. The bow is made of composite wood, horn or sinews which are glued together in layers.

Modern materials include steel, plastics and other composite elements. The strings made of highly tensile elements, such as linen, sinew or hemp. In some areas, twisted mulberry root is used. Modern strings are made of special plastics or latex.

Some small crossbows can be drawn manually, but heavy crossbows need mechanical devices to be drawn properly. This is done with simple hooking mechanisms, together with a belt and a lever. Cord and pulley crank devices can also be employed for some crossbows.

Choosing a Crossbow and Common Types

It is important to understand and know the numerous types of modern crossbows when choosing one for leisure activities, hunting or sports. These weapons come in a variety of shapes, sizes, pulling mechanisms and most importantly, they have different calibers and shooting speeds.

What to look for in a Crossbow?

With any bow, you will be looking for something that performs well—it simply is no use paying for a crossbow that is not constructed properly, or might break easily. At the same time, a crossbow cannot be so complicated that it is impossible to use. Convenience and performance are two of the key criteria to consider when making a purchase. With a great performance come two factors that are impossible to forget: accuracy and reliability. Shooting a crossbow is an art. When many people talk about writing or playing an instrument, they say that the pencil or the instrument need to be an extension of your arm, to be part of you; the same is true for a crossbow, and without the right modifications or build, a crossbow will not live up to expectations. A little research goes a long way when it comes to choosing the best crossbow. And of course, any consumer wants to get the most bang for his buck. You are paying money for a crossbow, so it needs to be worth it. Make sure you go with a brand that will fit your needs, and is the right quality for you. And when it comes to payment, don’t try to stretch your limits—get what you can, and work from there.

Recreation & Crossbow Hunting

Crossbows can be used for a variety of activities, anywhere from recreation to crossbow hunting. In consideration of “target shooters,” or people who do not go hunting, one of the first things you want to ask yourself is how often you will be using the bow. The more frequently you use the crossbow, the more thought you will want to put into the specifications; this, of course, will require a bigger money investment, but it will be worth it after you have put in dozens of hours of practice. The same goes for anyone using a hunting crossbow; generally, hunting crossbows will be priced higher because of its more serious nature. The first thing many hunters do is think about the weight of the crossbow; if you’ll be stationary most of the time, it will be okay to choose a heavier bow, but hunters who may spend hours traversing land might go with something a little more lightweight.

Compound & Re-Curve Crossbows

Two main types of bows exist, and both target shooters and hunters can use these. There is a re-curve and compound crossbow.

Recurve Crossbows

crossbow-parts-recurveThe re-curve crossbow was invented first, hundreds of years ago. It has a very simple design of two limbs and one string, this is why many new shooters tend to go with this type of model—they are bigger in size, has a longer draw length, and when it comes down to string changes its uncomplicated. However, the cons with re-curve crossbows are the lack in accuracy and power compared to a number of compound models.

Recurve crossbows are crossbows that have the ends curving away from the user and they give more speed to the projectile. Recurved crossbows are more strenuous on the materials and usually make more noise when shooting.

Compound Crossbows

crossbow-parts-compoundThe second type of bow, the compound bows, tends to deliver a sharper punch than the re-curve, and it is for this reason that more advanced users lean towards this make. Compound crossbows were invented more recently, and you will see that they are used with more frequently than their companion re-curve crossbows. Because it uses a more advanced technology, it is much easier to cock, and it is generally considered to be more user-friendly, easier, and safer to use. More experienced users make this purchase because of its lightweight structure and its efficiency. Compound bows are more expensive, so users with a deep investment in crossbow shooting will make this choice.

Compound crossbows have limbs far stiffer than the recurve crossbows and have a different cocking mechanism. Because of the stiffness of the limbs, the crossbow has pulleys that are attached to both limbs with one or more strings. If the string is pulled, the pulleys act as a pulling mechanism, moving the limbs back to ensure more energy and higher velocity for the projectile. These pulleys work by using the maximum amount of energy coming from the short draw length.

For more information, read our in-depth article on Compound vs. Recurve Crossbows.

Crossbow Draw Weights

As mentioned above, crossbow hunting require more consideration than your typical target crossbow. For example, a model that can provide enough draw weight is crucial. Now, draw weights are regulated according to each state; the minimum requirements generally run anywhere from 75 to 125. However, experienced users recommend that only the best bows will rest their draw weight 150 to 175 range; the bigger bows will pack a bigger punch (faster). One of the reasons this is true is because a higher draw weight means a higher speed, and when it comes to hunting, an arrow’s speed can mean everything.

And if all these considerations weren’t enough for the best crossbow, you might want to plan exactly what you’re hunting; the speed requirement of your arrow could differ, depending on the size of the game you’re after.

To narrow things down further, in my opinion it’s best to choose a crossbow with a minimum velocity of 300 FPS (feet per second), this will give you a smaller margin of error when taking down your victim. With faster arrow speeds, shooting will be much more precise and easier.

Choosing The Speed of the Crossbow

Crossbow Arrows

Just as you want to invest in a good crossbow, it’s a good idea to invest in good arrows. Crossbow arrows also known as “bolts” all come in different sizes, lengths, weights and materials such as carbon or aluminum.  Each crossbow has their own specifications on arrow fitment, so ensure to check your crossbow manual for the correct arrow size requirements. You will damage your crossbow by using a shorter length arrow or a lighter bolt that’s been specified by your manufacturer.

Cocking Devices

As draw weights have increased recently, it’s crucial to use a cocking device when on the move. The two most common devices are the hand crank and the rope cocking device. By using a rope cocking device it will reduce half the amount of energy towards cocking a crossbow. The device consists of a rope, wrist straps and a cocking sled that is attached to the crossbow string. The advantage of this device is the attractive price (approx. $40) and the accuracy of centering the string while at full draw.

The hand crank is a device that allows hunters to cock their crossbows by winding a crank handle that is mounted on the stock of a crossbow. The major advantage of using a hand crank device is 1, their accurate and 2, cocking the device is effortless! The disadvantage of using the hand crank is the price (over $200) and the fact that it can take a few minutes to crank up before shooting your target.

Crossbow Scopes

Crossbow-ScopesFor a higher rate of accuracy and precision, it is recommended that the best crossbow use a scope—a magnification device that will make aiming for your target a lot easier! While most crossbows’ scope can reach an average 20 yards, more advanced models may be able to reach up to 50. Within the actual scope, the target may be designated by a number of indicators; for example, horizontal and vertical lines, a dot in the center, a crosshair, etc. No matter what you use, a scope will lead to the user more likely reaching the target. However, even if you have a scope, you will need to take into consideration that all arrows follow what is called a parabolic arc. In math, a parabola is a curved line; an arrow, as it rises into the air, will reach its peak and then descend, and this will consistently affect the trajectory of the arrow. But why not just shoot straight? Well, if you ignore the parabolic arc, your arrow may fall short of its target; or, if your target is far away, you might have to raise the elevation of your crossbow in order to reach it. The sooner you get used to planning the course and destination of arrow, the more frequently you will hit your target.


RangefindersWith the changing technology of our world, you can find accessories called rangefinders that have changed the field of crossbow hunting. Rangefinders use direct laser beams that estimate the distance between the target and you, and this will help with the entire process. Firstly, you will be able to judge the elevation of the crossbow and adjust accordingly. Secondly, you will know exactly where to aim. Overall rangefinders provide the user with a much more accurate scope and target aim, and this can be integral in landing a good shot.


Comparison Chart of Top Crossbows

The chart and crossbow reviews below will help you make an informative decision about what crossbow is best for you. Whether you look for a crossbow for leisure activities, hunting or sports, this guide will help you find the crossbow you are looking for.

These weapons come in a variety of shapes, sizes, pulling mechanisms and most importantly, they have different calibers and shooting speeds. We also give you crossbow reviews of the top 5 crossbows on the market today.

Length /
0 – 5
Excalibur Ibex SMF
5.9 36.3 305 20″/350 175 $$$$ 4.9
Barnett Ghost 350
7.6 36 350 20″/400 175 $$$$ 4.6
Barnett Wildcat C5
8 37.75 320 20″/400 150 $$$ 4.5
Barnett Quad 400
8.4 37.75 345 22″/400 150 $$$ 4.3
Barnett Penetrator
8.6 36 350 20″/400 175 $$$ 4.7
Barnett Jackal
7.7 36 315 20″/400 150 $$ 4.3
Arrow Precision Blitz II
7.37 33 285 20″/100 150 $$ 4.0
Arrow Precision Inferno
5.7 25.5 260 18″/376 150 $$ 3.8
SA Sports Fever
4.85 31 240 16”/125 175 $$ 4.9
Last Punch 150
200 16″/- 150 $ 4.0

Included in the chart are:

  • Crossbow picture
  • Crossbow brand and model (click to learn more, read crossbow reviews or to purchase)
  • Overall weight – Pounds
  • Overall length – Inches
  • FPS – Feet Per Second
  • Arrow length/Grain – The type of arrow recommended by the manufacturer to achieve the FPS speed mentioned in the chart.
  • Draw weight – Pounds
  • Price – These are approximate prices on  These change frequently based on availability, special promotions, and more.  But generally speaking: $ = under $150, $$ = $150 to $300, $$$ = $300 to $500, $$$$ = $500+
  • Rating – The average user rating on  This shows if people are satisfied with their purchase.

The Best Crossbows On The Market

My Top 5 Overall

Excalibur Axiom SMF Crossbow Kit (4.9/5)

Excalibur-Ibex-SMF-150x150The Excalibur Axiom SMF is a beautifully crafted crossbow that couples increased functionality with an appealing design. This crossbow weighs no more than 5.8 lbs, has a power stroke of 14.5 in, a draw weight of 175 pounds and it works with arrows 20-inches in length. Moreover, the overall length of Excalibur Axiom SMF is 37.5 inches, which makes it very compact and easy to transport.

What customers appreciate the most in their crossbow reviews is its increased accuracy, its light weight and the convenient price-quality ratio – the kit can be purchased for no more than $525.88, an affordable price tag given all the features and functions of this crossbow.

In addition to this, the crossbow is also very easy to assemble, especially since the kit comes with a comprehensive instructional DVD that teaches you how to do it, step by step. Last, but not least, this exquisite crossbow can produce arrow speeds that reach no less than 305 feet per second.

==> Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings and Reviews on <==

Barnett Wildcat C5 Crossbow Package (4.7/5)

Barnett-Wildcat-C5-150x150The Barnett Wildcat C5 Crossbow is by far the bestselling product by Barnett, and for a good reason: it is lightweight because it is made from composite material, it has a crosswire cable and string system, it is easy to install and use and it comes with three 20-inch arrows. Made in the US, the Barnett Wildcat C5 Crossbow has a 4X32 mm scope, a draw weight of no less than 150 pounds and a power stroke of 13 inches.

The firing velocity of the Wildcat C5 Crossbow is of 320 feet per second, and the overall crossbow weighs 8.5 pounds. Last, but not least, the package also comes with strings that measure 37 inches in length. As customers claim in their crossbow reviews that the broadheads are very accurate and the crossbow is perfect for professional hunting sessions.

==> Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings and Reviews on <==

Barnett Jackal Crossbow Package (4.3/5)

Barnett-Jackal-150x150The Barnett Jackal is a military-style crossbow that has a draw weight of 150 pounds, a 3.5 pound trigger pull and can shoot arrows at no less than 315 feet per second. This crossbow has an innovative and sleek design and it is designed exclusively for hunters. It has a power stroke of 12 inches and the arrows measure 20 inches in length.

The crossbow weighs 7.7 pounds and it has a series of useful other features, such as the HD camouflage, the AVI foot stirrup and bolt retainer or the synthetic cable system for easy manipulation. This package also comes with a 5-year limited warranty from the manufacturer, and it is certainly a great addition to the kit of every passionate hunter. Also, users state in their crossbow reviews that they are particularly pleased with the fact that this crossbow is lightweight, strong and adjustable at the same time.

==> Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings and Reviews on <==

Barnett Ghost 350 CRT Crossbow Package (4.4/5)

Barnett-Ghost-350-150x150With a weight of no more than 7.6 pounds, the Barnett Ghost 350 CRT is one of the lightest bows manufactured by Barnett. The kit is made in the United States, and it comes with four arrows and rope cocking device along with whiplash cams and crosswire strings. Moreover, the kit also has a 5-year limited warranty from the manufacturer and it can fire bows at 350 feet per second.

With a draw weight of 175 pounds, and arrow length of 20 inches and a power stroke of 12 inches, the Ghost 350 CRT is a very popular choice amongst professional hunters who are looking for a state-of-the-art crossbow set.

==> Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings and Reviews on <==

Arrow Precision Inferno Fury Crossbow Kit (175-Pounds) (4.3/5)

Arrow-Precision-Inferno-Fury-150x150With a power stroke of 10.5 inch, a total length of 34.5 inches and a string length of 26.5 inches, the Arrow Precision Inferno Fury Crossbow Kit is considered one of the most cost-effective kits of its kind available on the market.

The kit involves four bolts, 3 Red Dot Sight, extra string, a rope cocker and a padded sling. This crossbow kit is very compact and lightweight, mainly because of its compression fiberglass limps.

The key features of the popular Inferno Fury Crossbow Kit manufactured by Arrow Precision include the quick detach quiver, the 175-pound recurve crossbow or the adjustable scope mount.

The crossbow can launch arrows at a speed of 235 feet per second, it weighs 4.84 pounds and the body of the crossbow is made from aluminum coupled with lightweight composite material. As many customers claim in their crossbow reviews, this crossbow is powerful and accurate and it is the most suitable kit for deer hunting.

==> Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings and Reviews on <==

Best in the $100 – $400 Range

#1 Barnett Jackal Crossbow  (4.5/5)


  • WEIGHT (LBS) – 7.7
  • LENGTH (INCHES) – 36
  • FPS – 315
  • ARROW LGHT./GRAIN – 20″/400
  • DRAW WEIGHT (LBS) – 150
  • Best For: Beginners, Hunting, Practice
  • >> Read Our Review <<
Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings and Reviews on

#2 Arrow Precision Inferno Wildfire II  (4.7/5)


  • WEIGHT (LBS) – 7.3
  • LENGTH (INCHES) – 39.5
  • FPS – 345
  • ARROW LGHT./GRAIN – 20″/100
  • DRAW WEIGHT (LBS) – 225
  • Best For: Beginners, Hunting, Practice
  • >> Read Our Review <<
Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings and Reviews on

#3 Arrow Precision Inferno Fury  (4.2/5)


  • WEIGHT (LBS) – 5.7
  • LENGTH (INCHES) – 25.5
  • FPS – 260
  • ARROW LGHT./GRAIN – 18″/376
  • DRAW WEIGHT (LBS) – 150
  • Best For: Beginners, Hunting, Practice
  • >> Read Our Review <<

Best in the $400 – $700 Range

#1 Barnett Buck Commander  (4.3/5)


  • WEIGHT (LBS) – 8.1
  • LENGTH (INCHES) – 36
  • FPS – 365
  • ARROW LGHT./GRAIN – 22″/400
  • DRAW WEIGHT (LBS) – 175
  • Best For: Beginners, Advanced, Hunting
  • >> Read Our Review <<
Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings and Reviews on

#2 Excalibur Axiom SMF  (4.8/5)

  • Excalibur Axiom SMF Crossbow KitWEIGHT (LBS) – 5.8
  • LENGTH (INCHES) – 37.5
  • FPS – 305
  • ARROW LGHT./GRAIN – 20″/350
  • DRAW WEIGHT (LBS) – 175
  • Best For: Beginners, Advanced, Hunting, Practice
  • >> Read Our Review <<
Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings and Reviews on

#3 Barnett Ghost 350 CRT  (4.6/5)

  • WEIGHT (LBS) – 7.6
  • LENGTH (INCHES) – 36
  • FPS – 350
  • ARROW LGHT./GRAIN – 20″/400
  • DRAW WEIGHT (LBS) – 175
  • Best For: Beginners, Advanced, Hunting
  • >> Read Our Review <<
Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings and Reviews on

Best in the $700 – $1000 Range

 #1 Barnett Ghost 410  (4.4/5)

  • Barnett Ghost 410 CRTWEIGHT (LBS) – 7.3
  • LENGTH (INCHES) – 37.3
  • FPS – 410
  • ARROW LGHT./GRAIN – 22″/400
  • DRAW WEIGHT (LBS) – 185
  • Best For: Beginners, Advanced, Hunting
  • >> Read Our Review <<
Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings and Reviews on

#2 Excalibur Matrix 355  (4.9/5)


  • WEIGHT (LBS) – 5.4
  • LENGTH (INCHES) – 35
  • FPS – 355
  • ARROW LGHT./GRAIN – 18″/350
  • DRAW WEIGHT (LBS) – 240
  • Best For: Beginners, Advanced, Hunting
  • >> Read Our Review <<
Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings and Reviews on

#3 Barnett Vengeance  (3.9/5)


  • WEIGHT (LBS) – 7.3
  • LENGTH (INCHES) – 38
  • FPS – 333
  • ARROW LGHT./GRAIN – 20″/436
  • DRAW WEIGHT (LBS) – 180
  • Best For: Beginners, Advanced, Hunting
  • Review: Coming Soon…
Click Here to See Pricing, Ratings and Reviews on

Legal Aspects Of Owning and Using a Crossbow

Because crossbows are lethal and similar to bows and firearms, they have a complex legal status. In the United Kingdom there is no license or registration required when owning a crossbow. However, they cannot be used by persons under 13 years of age without adult supervision.

Laws for owning and using crossbows in the US vary greatly by state. Buying and ownership is legal in all states but there are specific laws for hunting with crossbows. For instance, in Georgia it is illegal to use crossbows to hunt waterfowl, but it is legal to hunt any other animals. Also, Oregon has a full ban on hunting with crossbows.

In Australia, all pistol crossbows are strictly controlled by severe laws because of their small size and concealable nature. Normal crossbows can be bought and owned by any adult, but some states require sport or hunting club memberships.


All the experienced professionals will have two of the oldest pieces of advice in the book, once you find the best crossbow—and the thing is, they work! The first one is that you must take care of and respect your crossbow. It cost money, it is yours, and it must be treated delicately. When it starts to wear away or break, or when it needs any sort of repair, this should be promptly followed up—not only does this keep your crossbow in a healthy condition, but it could save you from purchasing a new one.

For some of the top crossbow manufacturers refer to Barnett Crossbows, Horton Archery & TenPoint Crossbows. These leading manufacturers also include warranty and repair departments after purchase.

And lastly, and this phrase has probably been drilled into your head since you were a kid: Practice makes perfect. Practice, practice, practice. And when you’re done practicing, practice some more. Babe Ruth did not become one of the most famous baseball players of all time by abstaining from the baseball bat. Mozart did not rise to be one of the greatest musicians of all time by ignoring the piano. A half hour of crossbow hunting practice per day is better than an hour of practice every three days—consistency, energy, and dedication will birth talent, and this is something understood by all of the skilled crossbow users out there. Make yourself well rounded in all areas, and you will see that your efforts were not fruitless.

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