9 Best Hunting Crossbows (Buyers Guide)
Let’s not beat around the bush—hunting crossbows are insanely cool, and alternatives to those who either don’t know how to use a gun, or don’t wish to ever use a gun. Moralities aside, every hunter out there can benefit from a crossbow. Crossbow bolts are larger and more impactful than a single bullet, even from a high-powered rifle. More than that, if you’re hunting noise-sensitive creatures, like deer, you’re going to alert them when the barrel pops. Using a hunting crossbow is going to conceal your movements, keep you stealthy, and help you garner less attention from game. Time to get your trigger finger ready for a whole new experience.
Best Hunting Crossbows of 2017
Barnett Recruit Compound
For the full package deal, you need to get every component you can get your hands on, and ideally, all from the same provider. That’s where Barnett comes into play, bringing their fantastic compound crossbow package to the table. For the crossbow itself, you’ll get up to 130lb of draw weight, and the ability to adjust the buttstock for optimal comfort and control while lining up your perfect shot. This crossbow is designed for smaller-framed men, women, and teenagers who are learning how to shoot.
There’s a rope cocking device included, which is invaluable for saving precious moments during the hunt. You get 20’ Barnett carbon arrows included with the crossbow, which give you enough of a chance to test the crossbow, and get a feel for how arrows should react when being projected. Despite certain manufacturer specifications, this is good for up to 50 yards without losing stopping power. This is one premier, cost-effective crossbow that’s great for beginners and adept shooters alike.
CenterPoint Sniper 370
Line up for the most silent shot of your crossbow-using career. Do you know what the biggest problem with hunting deer is? They’re not only quiet, nimble creatures who can evade you faster than you can hit them—even with bullets—but they’re super noise sensitive. They can hear a sound from over a mile away, pinpoint where it was, if it’s a threat, and start high-tailing it from there. You don’t want that; you want to bring home the biggest buck antlers your friends have ever seen. You need a silent shot that has the best chance of being a one-hit K.O.
With CenterPoint’s crossbow package, you get a non-illuminated sniper rifle scope, which is optimal for long-distance shots, particularly on larger prey. If you’re a crossbow enthusiast, then you’re well aware that the length and weight of your bolts matters. When you use CenterPoint’s model, there’s a much broader spectrum for which bolts are going to work, and which aren’t. Quad limbs give you that impressive power that’s going to knock your prey right out, and the lightweight design means it’s not going to weight a ton slung over your shoulder, either. Thee integrated string suppressors are going to make you an unseen threat to your prey—guaranteed.
SA Sports Fever
Who doesn’t love everything camouflage? The stock, body, and even the frontend of your limbs are going to be decked out in camo, aiding you in the stealthy appearance you’re most definitely going for. You’re going to love the cost on this crossbow package, and everything it comes with. You get 20” carbon bolts in a six-pack, alongside a triple red dot multi-range scope. But that isn’t everything.
When they say that this is a crossbow package, they’re serious as can be. You’ll be able to replace the limbs if they break with 175lb replacements, and tuck away your replacement fever string incase of emergencies. Don’t get stuck walking back to the truck in the middle of the hunt for another string, or worse—being forced to leave. With 240 feet per second, take down large game with ease, and without scraping the bullet fragments out of your prey.
Why does every crossbow unit seem to come in a package? It’s more intricate than just purchasing a gun, and requires greater dexterity, and patience. The payoff is beyond worth it. With Barnett’s Jackal, you’ll get to shoot this with a 150-pound draw weight, which means you could start teaching your children with this crossbow package. The users manual has a plethora of extremely important information about your Jackal—we recommend reading it closely to get the best life out of your crossbow possible.
As for the crossbow itself, you get an impressive 315 feet per second speed. You can be a football field away from your prey, and still take them down before they lift their head up from the stream. You get a great detail of deep woodland camo on the front of the quad limbs, and along the stock, climbing up the chassis. The red dot sight? It’s by far one of the best we’ve had the pleasure of testing ourselves.
Manticore With Scope
Straying away from full package deals, we look at the Manticore standalone crossbow. This has a rope cocking device built right into it, so you won’t have to fiddle around with this for ten minutes if you’re just learning. It will save a lot of time, frustration, and embarrassment if you’re in the presence of skilled hunters. Nothing shortens a hunting trip faster than finding out your fellow hunters don’t know what they’re doing.
With a great speed of 210 feet per second, your prey can be around the sixty-five yard line, and you’ll be able to take them down like a true professional huntsman. A 150lb draw weight means you can use this as a teaching tool, especially if it’s your son or daughter’s first hunting trip with dear old dad. While the camouflage is meant for springy, summery woodland areas, it still blends in perfectly to just about any environment.
PSE Fang 350
This is definitely one with an intimidation factor. The firing speed on this excellent crossbow is going to blow away any close prey, sending them hurling into the trees. If they’re bigger game, like a fully-matured buck, you can expect them to fall hard from a single, well-placed shot. This is a powerful, fast crossbow with a removeable scope.
The lightweight design is going to be great for travelling through the woods. With a three-foot long body, from tip of the limbs to the stock, and a 155lb draw weight, this is perfect for learners, or those just looking to get their feet wet with a premier crossbow model. If you don’t want to commit to a package deal, the PSE Fang is going to be the perfect fit for you. Perfect power—one of the strongest crossbows on our list—will allow you to purchase just the crossbow, and a few extra bolts.
SA Sports Empire Beowulf
SA Sports doesn’t mess around when it comes to affordable, quality crossbows. This package comes with everything you’ll need to get started with your crossbow hunting excursion. This can cover an insane amount of space—360 feet per second—meaning you’ll get to absolutely pummel any close-range prey. With that much power, the velocity of your bolts are going to get the job done on the first try, all without making a sound louder than a whisper in the air.
With a draw weight of 175lbs, you get to exert immense power without being a behemoth. This comes with intricate camouflage, and a scope that rivals all the best competitors out there. The stock is extremely comfortable up against your upper arm, making it truly feel like an extension of yourself. Forget bulky, poorly-designed crossbows that are going to leave your arm feeling strained and sore after each use. Refer to the users manual to see everything you need to know about keeping this immensely powerful crossbow at its optimal performance level.
Cobra System Self Cocking Pistol
If you’re used to firing a pistol, then you’re going to feel right at home with the Cobra System K-8025 model hunting crossbow. There’s a lower-grade of power here, and you’re paying the lowest price of any crossbow on our list. This is the best crossbow to just bring along with you if you want to give it a shot, but without completely abandoning your firearms for your hunting trip.
Those looking to convert to crossbow hunting will find the lightweight design and 165 feet per second power to be a great first look into how hunting crossbows can perform. When you think about the fact that there are some models, (including ones on our list here), that outdo this performance more than two-fold, you’ll be coming back for a more powerful crossbow in no time.
Barnett Outdoors BCR Recurve
Who else but the kings of the crossbow world? Barnett makes it a habit to make a crossbow for every requirement and price point, and they’ve done it again with the super cost-effective BCR model. This comes in a package with other bits, such as some starter bolts—you even get to utilize the customizable stock at the back for optimal comfort. Barnett really does think of everything when it comes to crossbows.
You get their patented anti-vibration string action, so you can stay low and stealthy against unsuspecting prey. It also means you’re not going to alert other nearby game when you pull the trigger. Even adding a silencer to any sniper rifle is going to attract the sensitive ears of most large creatures—you don’t have to worry about a thing with Barnett by your side.
Hunting Crossbow Buying Guide
If you’re new to the world of hunting crossbows, (or even if you’re not), there’s a bunch of information that you’re probably unaware of. You can’t use any hunting crossbows manufactured before 1980 (for deer hunting, their most common practice), and they must have a draw weight of at least 125lbs. Keep in mind that any territory in the United States prohibits the travel of a cocked crossbow; if you’re going to travel, play it safe and keep it as disassembled as you possibly can, and in a protective case.
What Is a Hunting Crossbow?
Unlike regular drawstring bows, hunting crossbows are legal weapons you can use for hunting. They’re primarily used in hunting American whitetail deer, and possess an extreme amount of power depending on which caliber you purchase. Hunting crossbows are able to take down prey silently, with more aggression than civilian-legal bullets, and often times, save you from having to clean fragments out of your kill.
Every single state has different laws and regulations on what they will allow for hunting crossbows. You can usually find similar laws on travelling over state lines, so long as your crossbow is disassembled, or at the very least, not cocked. Look up your home state, and if you plan on travelling our-of-state to hit a hunting trip, be certain to map out your path, and be aware of all the laws in the drive-through states. It may sound like you’re over-planning, but getting stopped for speeding in an unknown state can lead to a whole lot of trouble if you don’t know their laws for your equipment.
Uses & Benefits
Hunting crossbows, despite their power and intimidation factor, should never even be thought of as a viable means to self-defense. When you use any potentially-lethal form of self defense, even in the sanctity of your own home, it gets tricky. Your uses should stick solely to hunting, and primarily, hunting deer. Using this on smaller animals can be considered overkill. When you fire off the first shot of a crossbow, if you haven’t already, you’ll see exactly what we mean.
You can also use crossbows in controlled areas for target practice. One of the most fun target practice sessions you will ever have is with a hunting-grade crossbow. Witness the power firsthand, and get an appreciation, and respect, for the abilities of a crossbow. These can also be used for sporting events and competitions.
The benefits of using a crossbow primarily include hunting. However, it’s been proven that using a crossbow for sport actually increases a great deal of your personal dexterity, patience, and lung capacity. When you’re going to line up for the perfect shot, you’re going to hold your breath. When you aim for the target, you’re going to account for everything: windspeed, trajectory, and every little detail in between, right on down to your personal skill. It’s a beneficial sport.
As we stated, the most common reason to get a crossbow revolves around hunting. When you hunt deer, the last thing you want is them evading you, but it’s one of the most common occurrences. If you happen to find a small group of deer, you know as well as we do that one gunshot is going to send the rest of them running. Hunting crossbows are silent, and can usually get the kill on the first bolt, if you’re precise with your aiming. It can also allow you to quickly load another bolt, and target another deer before they make off into the distance.
Different Types of Hunting Crossbows
Crossbows come in a multitude of different types. For the most part, you’re going to come across compound and recurve bows. Since they aren’t used for warfare anymore, (circa 6th century, China,) and are used solely for sport, whether hunting or competitive, it’s very uncommon to come across another type. Here’s a quick list of the types of crossbows you can buy today:
We’re going to get into the two most common crossbows: recurve and compound, which are your best bets when hunting. Since we’ve narrowed own crossbow use to a few select areas, you’re best to go with one of these two types. While the others still have their advantages, they are mostly used to introduce you to how crossbows function in the physical world, and prepare you for high-grade, powerful recurves or compounds.
Compound vs. Recurve
The two types of crossbows that reign supreme: compound and recurve. It may be difficult to determine which one is right for you. At the end of the day, it may come down to preference, provided you are adept enough with each type of bow right off the bat.
Compound Crossbow – Benefits
With a compound crossbow, the string or strings are attached to a system of pulleys, which can connect to cables on the limbs. When you go to pull back on the trigger, you can feel the string naturally draw back, which enacts the system to assist you in firing. If you’re planning a two to three day trip, compound bows are going to offer less energy input on your part, and allow you to hunt for longer durations without feeling the effects on your body.
Recurve Crossbow – Benefits
Compared to just about any other type of crossbow (including compound models), you’re going to get a much longer draw length with a recurve, which in turn can lead to longer effective firing distances. You want to hit that deer that’s over a hundred yards away? Recurve it. These allow hunters to fire from further distances, but beware one flaw: you’ll need a bowstring silencer to make this stealthy. After the shot is fired, there’s a loud, persistent ring. Recurve bows are generally used by experienced, skilled hunters with vast prior experience.
We see draw weights on a lot of these models on our list, but what do they really mean? You need to have a minimum of 75lbs of draw weight, accompanied by a minimum of 25 inches of stock length. The longer the stock length, the more powerful the bow (in most cases). Most of the time, you’ll see three-foot long stocks (36 inches) when you ante up to draw weights of 150lbs-175lbs. These signify your pounds of kinetic energy, and do not come as a minimum threshold of personal bodyweight for use. Crossbow draw weights cannot be lower than 75lbs for one reason: cruelty. If you’re going to kill an animal for sport, do it right. While it’s been stated that you can effectively kill a whitetail deer with as little as 40lbs of draw weight, you could also severely injure the animal and end up torturing it instead. This is just one of the reasons as so why there are minimum draw weight requirements on legal hunting crossbows in the United States.