Thanks to both popular television programs and hit movies, there has been a major boom in the crossbow industry. But their rise in popularity also has to do with the fact that bow hunting tends to be much more challenging compared to hunting with a rifle. Using a crossbow takes plenty of skill and accuracy, which is why hunters in search of the next big challenge have made the switch to bow hunting.
Many modern crossbows are tough enough to take out large game, thanks to the added power, speed, and accuracy you’ll find in only the leading models. All models share a similar design in terms of how the bow and stock fit together, but major differences can be found in the style of the bow itself. Whether you’re interested in taking up the crossbow for target practice, competitions, or hunting, finding the best crossbow to match your skill set and shooting style will be imperative.
But before you decide to order a crossbow, it’s important to read crossbow reviews in order to learn more about what each model has to offer, how it shoots, and whether or not it’s designed for the beginner or the advanced hunter.
We’ve taken a look at many of the leading models on the market, but not every crossbow made the cut. We dug deep to learn more about each bow’s performance, accuracy, strength, and overall power. On our hunt for the top crossbows, we found five of the best models on the market, each of which rated well in many categories.
How We Chose the Leading Crossbows
When you’re shopping for a crossbow, if you’re a seasoned hunter then the process won’t be quite as complicated. Of course, you’ll still have to weed out the cheap, low-quality models, but if you know what to look for, then narrowing down your choices should be a breeze.
But the beginner is looking at a more challenging process, especially if they don’t know much about crossbows other than what they’ve seen on TV. If possible, before you order a model online, we recommend checking out the models you’re interested in at your local sporting goods store, just to get a better idea of the weight, feel, and ease of use.
For us, it was still a challenge to narrow down our choices to the top five, simply because there are so many great models out there.
But we did all the dirty work for you. We didn’t just pay attention to the spec sheet, we also looked at how each model rated with experienced hunters, how they performed in different types of settings, the materials used, FPS, style, draw weight, and much more.
Now, let’s begin with our top-rated model, the Ravin Crossbows R15 crossbow. This crossbow scored well in a variety of areas and it’s currently the top choice for seasoned hunters.
Best Crossbow-Ravin Crossbows R15 Predator Crossbow Package
The R15 by Ravin is clearly the best crossbow on the market. It arrives fully loaded and pre-tuned so this bow is ready to go, right out of the box. It also comes with all the accessories and gear you need, so you can start shooting right away. Even better, it features impressive velocity and accuracy, with a design that’s guaranteed to improve your shooting and change the way you hunt forever.
Top Recurve Crossbow-Excalibur Crossbow Matrix Bulldog 400 Crossbow
This recurve crossbow by Excalibur comes loaded with some great features including an anti-dry-firing safety feature that will save your crossbow from serious damage. The bow’s innovative, lightweight design works to reduce user fatigue, while its impressive balance focuses on improving shot accuracy.
Best Crossbow for Beginners-Carbon Express Intercept Axon Crossbow
The Intercept Axon by Carbon Express includes a quick detach quiver, lighted scope, rope cocker, Maxima streak bolts and three practice points. Easy to assemble, this model also features a draw weight of 175lbs. The user can choose to mount the quiver in a few different ways, including horizontal, right, or left.
Best Choice for Advanced Hunters-Barnett Ghost 350 CRT Crossbow
The 350 CRT Barnett Ghost crossbow is loaded with features that the seasoned hunter will appreciate. Because this bow is so powerful and difficult to use and assemble, it’s not a model we would recommend for beginners. However, the seasoned hunter will quickly find that this crossbow can easily take their shooting, aim, and accuracy to the next level.
Most Versatile Crossbow-Barnett Vengeance Crossbow
The Vengeance crossbow is another popular model by Barnett and one that has a lot to offer in terms of versatility and power. Considered fast and deadly accurate, the bow features a decent draw weight of one hundred and forty pounds and comes equipped with some great features that the seasoned bow hunter will love. The bow’s innovative lightweight design works to minimize user fatigue, while the lower draw weight makes the bow suitable for users of all skill levels.
Crossbow Buying Guide
As we mentioned, most models of crossbows share a similar design, but it’s how the bow is attached to the stock that you’ll want to pay close attention to. These bows are available in a few basic designs including the reverse draw crossbow, compound crossbow, and recurve crossbow.
Recurves are also referred to as traditional bows because they basically feature the same bow design that’s been used for hundreds of years. The recurves are made out of wood, fiberglass or carbon and feature a single string.
This style of bow features simple recurve limbs, but they’re much shorter than what you’ll find on a vertical recurve bow. This type of bow features the most basic design and a lighter weight that makes it easy to haul around on longer hunting trips. The bow’s simple design is also what makes it such a great choice for beginners.
Probably the biggest disadvantage to the recurve is the width, which can make it tricky to handle when you’re dealing with dense cover. But modern recurve bows that are equipped with shorter power strokes and limbs and an increased draw weight make it easy to draw and shoot regardless of your surroundings. These bows are also very low maintenance and easy to work on. Every now and then you can expect to break a string, but because the string is so easy to swap out, even a beginner can handle this task.
This type of crossbow is usually made out of carbon or aluminum and is considered more powerful than the recurve, thanks to the more complex setup and design, which consists of a variety of pulleys and cables. Most seasoned hunters choose this type of bow because of the faster arrow speed and narrower design. The longer narrower design means a longer power stroke, which translates to an increase in kinetic energy and speed. This bow is much louder and heavier than a recurve bow, which is due to the extra hardware including the extensive pulley system. This type of bow can also be difficult to work on. Unless you have a lot of experience with crossbows, in the event you break a cable or string you’ll need to take it to a professional for repair work.
It’s also not the type of bow we would recommend for a beginner. If used incorrectly or dry-fired, this crossbow is more likely to blow up. By far, the compound crossbow is considered the most difficult type to use.
This style of crossbow uses cables, cams, and pulleys that are similar to those that are used to power a compound crossbow, however, it also features a design that turns the open side of the bow toward the front. This design works to produce faster speeds with a lower draw weight. The reverse draw is also considered as quiet as a recurve, but it’s just as difficult to work on and just as heavy as a compound crossbow.
Aside from the style of the stock, the next important spec to pay attention to is the draw weight. The draw weight refers to the number of pounds that it will take to pull the string back to the cocked position. Draw weight can range anywhere from sixty pounds up to two hundred and sixty pounds. On average, most models will offer a one-hundred-and-fifty-pound draw weight. You should choose a bow that has a draw weight that you feel comfortable and capable of using. In terms of cocking devices, there are several options to choose from. These devices can assist the user by lightening the load when it comes to cocking the bow. Some crossbows will feature a crank cocking device that’s attached to the stock or built right in. These devices provide a type of pulley system that will draw the bow back mechanically, reducing user strain. The cocking rope is the most popular system. This device can reduce the draw weight by as much as fifty percent.
A bow’s draw weight isn’t the only factor that will determine how fast an arrow will fly when launched. Other factors include limb configuration and length of the power stroke.
In general, the greater the draw weight, the harder the crossbow is to use, which can end up increasing the bow’s wear and tear and intensifying user error. Higher draw weights are just not a good choice for beginners.
Feet Per Second
When purchasing a crossbow, the bow’s FPS can be another complicating factor that can help to determine whether or not a particular model is right for you. FPS, or feet per second usually ranges from two hundred feet up to four hundred feet per second. Most beginners will end up buying into the hype and choose a higher performance model than what’s necessary for their particular shooting needs. While speed does have its advantages, for the beginner, it also allows for a larger margin of error, especially when it comes to range estimates. Another disadvantage to choosing a bow with a higher FPS is the level of vibration and noise it will make when you take a shot. A higher speed will also cause an increase in general wear and tear and can even make broadhead and arrow tuning more complicated.
Compound Vs. Recurve
Choosing the style of your crossbow isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially if you’re a beginner.
While the reverse draw crossbow is quickly gaining in popularity, often, for the serious hunter, the choice is usually between the compound and the recurve. Beginners will usually stick with recurve crossbows because they’re easier to work on and maintain.
So, what are the pros and cons of the two leading styles- recurve and compound?
When it comes to power and accuracy, the compound definitely takes the lead. The compound’s longer strings allow the user to pull back farther, which works to add more power. This type of bow is also a lot easier to hold because it doesn’t require as much strength to keep the arrow stable. This allows the user to hold the arrow drawn until they’ve sighted a clear shot.
Recurves are not as powerful, requiring the same force to hold the draw. This usually leads to reduced accuracy, especially if the user’s hands begin to shake or they have to wait a long time for a clear shot.
When it comes to price, recurves are by far the more affordable option. The recurve’s design is elegant and simplistic. This type of crossbow doesn’t offer any options for features and because of this, they are very inexpensive. Compound bows have all the bells and whistles you could ever want, and this is definitely reflected in the price.
Whichever type of crossbow you choose, make sure it matches both your skill level and hunting style.