If you’re looking to get started in the exciting world of bow hunting, you’ve come to the right place. With so many products on the market, it’s hard to know what’s best. Thankfully, we’ve done some of the work for you and looked around to find the best crossbows on the market right now. But simply knowing what’s available isn’t enough – you also need to know what your own specific needs are, to ensure you’re getting the best value.
Best Crossbow for the Money
Barnett BCX Buck Commander Extreme CRT Crossbow Package
This particular crossbow is intended as an entry-level competitor’s piece. That is to say, for those who are just getting started with crossbows, this one is going to blow you away – but it’s not so simple as to put off more experienced shooters. The Barnett BCX-CRT is an alarmingly fast bow that will probably rip through your targets like butter – so if you will be using this for target practice, be sure to invest in targets that can handle crossbow firing.
Even before taking this out in the field, the first arrow we fired completely tore through a bale of hay that was placed behind a cardboard target – from 20 yards. It’s easy to lose sight of your arrows, but with practice you will get better at tracking them.
It’s not all about speed, though, and this crossbow offers an incredibly low noise output. It’s not silent, but the balance between power and quiet has been restored in this wonderful entry-level crossbow. The only thing we didn’t like was that the accessories are quite cheap, but at this price point it’s expected that there will be some sacrifices. We deem this a great choice for anyone who’s just not sure if bow hunting is for them – you can always invest in a better bow later.
Wicked Ridge by TenPoint Invader G3 Crossbow Package
TenPoint is one of the leaders in customer service as far as crossbows go, and when you’re selecting a piece of equipment as specialized as this, it’s nice to know the salespeople aren’t just out to make a buck. In this case, the Wicked Ridge Invader G3 is actually less expensive than the Barnett BCX, and with a just-slightly-higher customer satisfaction rating. Truly, if you’re looking for an inexpensive crossbow, it’s hard to find one better than this.
However, you should keep in mind that this is a budget piece of equipment, and as such it has limitations. Thankfully, the company is willing to make it right if there’s an actual defect in the product – this is essential for a good experience. If the problem is that you’re underwhelmed by its performance, well… This is an inexpensive bow and you get what you pay for.
For the price, the Invader G3 offers an easy-to-cock bow that actually has a decent amount of power. Assembly is simple for those who have a beginner’s understanding of how to do it. (It’s always a good choice to have someone more experienced show you until you’re comfortable with it.) It’s not the quietest out there, or the most powerful, but for those who will be target shooting exclusively, there’s no reason you need to pay for high-priced performance upgrades – this bow is perfect for you.
Excalibur Matrix 380 Crossbow Package
Now that we’ve covered the entry-level bows, what about those who have been shooting for a while and need something powerful? The Excalibur Matrix 380 is a hard-hitting beast. This is powerful, reliable, and stunningly accurate – everything the experienced bow hunter is looking for.
The Excalibur Matrix is not for the faint of heart. The higher price point is definitely earned with this one, as it has a compact size and impressive speed. There is even a safety feature that lets you transport your bow completely strung – just take out two bolts and you’re good to go. While this is not a standard feature, we really wish more companies would implement this, as re-stringing your bow is definitely a hassle we’d like to avoid whenever possible.
While this crossbow is impressive, there are a few concerns to remember here. The draw weight is very heavy, which gives you the power needed for large takedowns, but this does mean that it will be harder to pull. Also, if you won’t be using the upgrades, it might be better to get a less expensive model – this one has almost every bell and whistle you could reasonably hope for.
TenPoint C13004-7411 Vapor Crossbow
Still need more power? The TenPoint Vapor offers incredible accuracy, even at 60 yards – roughly as accurate as a rifle at that distance. (And that’s pretty impressive, from this type of machinery.) Knowing that you can shoot with precision and not worry about disrupting the nearby animals with the noise is the main reason most people turn to crossbows in the first place, so wouldn’t it make sense that you’d want a bow built for this?
Of course, this bow isn’t completely silent, so those who are looking for a totally noise-free hunting experience will still need to invest in a silencer. Most of all, though, TenPoint is known for their dedication to quality, and the Vapor is no exception.
Our only real complaint with this bow was that it’s still not the top-of-the-line accessories that we would expect with such an accurate shot. The case that comes with it is going to be a disappointment, in particular, and we still felt the need to purchase a silencer for deer hunting. Overall, if you have the money to invest, TenPoint is among the best in the industry.
Excalibur Crossbow Matrix 405 Mega Crossbow with Twilight DLX
Everyone we asked agreed pretty unanimously: The Excalibur Matrix 405 Mega is the best of the best. Boasting a lifetime warranty, no moving parts, and an automatic no-dry-fire feature, this bow is perfect – right out of the box.
Whether you’re just getting started (and don’t mind splurging for the best) or you’ve been at it thirty year, the Matrix 405 is an incredible choice that is sure to blow you away. The trigger has a very clean break, with a very slight creep (only about ¼ inch, and we adjusted to that very quickly). This bow even comes with a top-of-the-line scope, eliminating any guesswork with your accessories.
We think that you are unlikely to need to upgrade your Excalibur Matrix 405 Mega, at any point. This unit offers everything a bow hunter will need out on the range, at a price that’s actually quite reasonable.
What do you need to know before you start shopping?
Even the best crossbow is useless to you if you can’t afford it. Knowing what you can spend helps to prevent over-spending and unrealistic expectations.
If you’re just going to be target shooting, you won’t need as advanced equipment as someone who will be gator hunting. Knowing what your expectations are will make a big difference when selecting your gear.
The crossbow’s bonuses
Many sellers on Amazon or Ebay will offer crossbow kits. These kits may contain a number of extras and accessories, such as arrows, practice targets, or even a scope. Many of these accessories are optional, but their inclusion can help you decide between otherwise similar products.
It seems like a silly consideration, but if you’re getting one of the bigger brand names for a price that seems too good to be true, you might be right. If budget is a big concern, opt instead for a generic crossbow with good customer reviews.
Reviews from other customers
Perhaps one of the most important things to consider is the actual user experience. This can often be found in the product’s posted reviews. Try to make sure the reviews have a verified purchase status and list the pros and cons.
What should you pay attention to?
When reading the reviews of products gets overwhelming, it’s helpful to know what you need to know, going in. More experienced crossbow users will likely know the basics of what they need already, but for the beginner crossbow enthusiasts, we have compiled a helpful list of the key specs:
The speed of a bow influences the power of the shot – so those with a higher speed of firing will often give you more killing power. If you’re just shooting targets, this isn’t a big problem, but for those who will be hunting large game (such as deer, elk, etc.) you want a fast bow.
The arrow track is the path that the arrow will follow when leaving the bow. This may be called a “flight track” or a “barrel” – the three terms refer to the same part of the bow. The more precisely the track is designed, the more accurate the arrow will fly after it leaves the bow.
When hunting with your crossbow, you will want a quiet crossbow. Often, this will be a recurve model with parallel limbs. Quieter crossbows might not have the speed or accuracy of other, louder bows, but if you don’t want to scare off the animal you’re aiming for, noise is to be avoided when possible.
Light crossbows are easier to carry, but heavier crossbows are easier to steady. It’s best if you choose a weight that balances your own physical limitations. If you’ve got trouble aiming, but not carrying, go for a heavier bow. If you have a hard time carrying a heavier bow and don’t mind a little extra work to get the accuracy you need, a lighter crossbow may be a better choice for you.
Beginning crossbow enthusiasts, be aware: The draw weight has very little to do with the actual weight of the bow. This measurement refers instead to how much pressure is required to flex the limbs. A higher draw weight will give a faster launch, but a lower draw weight will be easier for women and children to pull back.
The individual components.
When you receive your bow – whether you purchased online or through a reputable dealer – be sure to check all the parts. It’s essential that you become comfortable with the bow before taking it out in the field – this is not somewhere you want to learn as you go!
Extras and additional features.
Most crossbows share a few primary features, which are industry standard. However, many manufacturers will include extra features that might improve dependability, safety, and even accuracy. These may be implemented on the bow itself, or they may be included as accessories.
Most people who buy a cross bow are bound to have a favorite brand – and if at all possible, you should visit a local dealer and test out a few. The right brand for you will probably stick out, and while you aren’t required to have “brand loyalty”, many hunters will develop this over time. Some of the most trusted brands include:
- Wicked Ridge
- Arrow Precision
- Carbon Express
- SA sports
- Diamond Archery
What are the different types of crossbows?
Just because you know you need a crossbow doesn’t automatically tell you what kind of crossbow you’ll need. There are many styles to choose from, and your needs will help dictate which style is best for you.
One-handed or two-handed?
Crossbows come in both two-handed and one-handed varieties. These one-handed models are popular for small game hunting and self-defense, as they can be operated with a single hand. However, they lack power and it will be more difficult to aim them accurately. You will get a smaller, lighter bow that is often less expensive than its two-handed counterpart.
Two-handed models, on the other hand, are more common and are more useful in a wide variety of situations. They are usually more powerful and more accurate, with better timing, and a very short learning curve. If you’re not sure which is best for your needs, a two-handed crossbow is usually the best choice.
Compound or recurve?
A compound bow uses cams or pulleys to maximize the energy stored in the string. It will have shorter limbs than a recurve bow, as well, which can make it easier to maneuver in tight areas. However, a compound bow will be much heavier than a recurve bow with the same specifications, as there are a number of mechanisms required to get it to perform the way it’s supposed to. It is also louder on release than a recurve, which can startle the game you might be hunting, and maintenance will be significantly more involved.
A recurve bow, on the other hand, is lighter, although it will have a larger footprint. They are often priced lower than compound bows and easier to maintain, as they don’t have as many moving parts or as many things that may malfunction. Recurve bows will be harder to cock, as this system is not automated, and the limbs will be significantly longer, making it more difficult to get around tight spaces.
Reverse limb crossbows – what does that mean?
Reverse draw technology (or RDT) refers to a newer innovation in the design of crossbows. RDT bows are designed with the limbs of a compound bow, reversed – giving them a unique look and new performance features. These bows are more balanced, more powerful, and often narrower than their compound or recurve counterparts, although not all manufacturers have fully embraced this new technology.