Guns & Weapons

Best Hunting Crossbow: The Complete Guide to Choosing and Operating A Crossbow

Crossbow hunting
Andrew McKay
Written by Andrew McKay

In the recent years, there have been numerous crossbows introduced on the market, so as a hunter, it may be hard to select the best hunting crossbow that offers the features and functions you are looking for that best hunting experience. Additionally, the popularity of hunting and the change in hunting laws have also introduced new crossbow models to select from. In this case, it is even harder to pick the right crossbow for your needs.

But after researching and finding the top-rated bows online, we’ve come up with a few several products that have been used by equally great hunters around the world.  And later in this guide, we’ll also list some tips on how to operate the weapon effectively and safely.

Before moving any further, let’s discuss a brief history of the first crossbows, which first appeared in China in as early as the 4th century BC and because of their great uses for hunting, the Chinese had adapted these for use in wars.

History of crossbows

In fact, the Chinese army had created 50,000 crossbowmen who found the weapon to be very simple to operate yet very effective to aim and fire as if a modern handgun. They also did not need years to practice using it, so they were able to master handling and operating it as well another type of bow, the English longbow.

And finally, the use of crossbows spread in Europe and Europeans began operating these during their crusades, and later on, the crossbow was also adapted as a weapon of war that made it significant for the army in the 11th and 12th century. These crossbows were great that they were able to penetrate steel armor at close range. So the medieval crossbow became a feared and one of the main weapons in the military until the time it was taken over by powder weapons in the 16th and 17th century.

For accuracy in your aim, see our article on how to choose the best and affordable night vision scopes for hunting.

Top-rated crossbows

Barnett Jackal crossbow package

This is an all-in-one hunting kit composed of a quick action quiver, superior red dot sight and bolts. It is sleek and has military-style stock, synthetic string, top-energy wheels and a cable system.

It can shoot at about 215 feet per second, coming with 150-pound draw weight. Users said that they love this product’s unique design and its power and weight that make it a great hunting weapon.

Barnett Jackal crossbow package

They also note that it is easy to operate, not difficult to master.  On the downside, it may take a bit of an assembly, which some beginners may find hard in the beginning.

If you like this product you can find and buy it on Amazon.

Barnett penetrator

The product comes with an innovative design that has a foot stirrup for shoot-through and a stroke capability of 12 inches in order to produce firing speeds reaching to 350 feet/second.

It is a 5:1 safety factor model with a crosswire string and a cable system. It also has whiplash cams of high-energy for quieter and faster shots. Its draw weight is 175 pounds, 12 inches of power stroke and energy rating of 116-foot pounds. It possesses a 350 feet per second firing velocity. One of the top rated products in hunting, the Penetrator comes with limited warranty of five years.

Barnett Penetrator Crossbow Package

Users note of its ease of operation and they love its innovative design and sturdy make that gives them a rewarding hunting experience all the time.  They also highlight that the product is safe and smooth to operate, but newbie users note that it is hard to use the first time.

If you like this product you can find and check its price on Amazon.

Wizard hunting crossbow

Compact and light, the Wizard Hunting Crossbow is also a dependable and safe product that is ideal for large game hunting. And with their Starter package, you will get additional arrows or bolts and a 4 by 20 sporting rifle scope to use when practicing.

Wizard hunting crossbow

It also features a 150-lb draw weight and an arrow that can go up to 210 FPS for an initial speed. Users love this crossbow for its heavy duty make and powerful draw weight of 150 pounds.It also has a high-tech fiberglass limb, an auto safety cocking mechanism design and aluminum barrel construction. For many users, they note it to possess a very good rate of accuracy up to 60 yards.

If you like this product you can find and buy it here.

Black metal hunting crossbow

Just like other professional hunting bows, this product has a 150-pound draw weight along with an arrow speed at 220+ FPS, so it can help you hit your target with high accuracy rate. Featuring a fiberglass limb and a black stock, the Black Metal Hunting Crossbow is a well-polished product that offers top performance to every hunter out there. It also comes with an automatic safety cocking mechanism and a 4 x 20 rifle scope and 12 arrows.

Black metal hunting crossbow

If you like this product you can find and check its price here.

Arrow Precision Inferno fury crossbow kit

This Arrow Precision kit is one of the top rated products and in fact it garners 4.2 out of five stars from 383 customer reviews. Customers love that this kit has a quick detach quiver and three red dot sight, rope cocker, padded sling and free extra string. It also comes with an anti-dry trigger system and a thumb guard for user safety.

Arrow Precision Inferno fury crossbow kit

The product is also compact and lightweight, making it portable and convenient to bring even for long hunting trips. It measures 26.5 inches wide and 34.5 inches without the foot stirrup.

If you like this product you can find and purchase it on Amazon.

Barnett 78610 Recruit compound crossbow

Who says hunting is only for men? Not with this Recruit Compound that is ideal for women as well as for small-framed hunters. It is so compact and lightweight that it is adaptable to bring even in long hunting trips.

This model comes with an adjustable butt stock, 3-20 inch arrows, rope cocking device, red dot sight and quiver. It is perfect for women because it has an easy handle, while still having that power for game hunting.

Barnett 78610 Recruit compound crossbow

Users note that this product gives them the option of keeping the bow as they grow and that they can make easy adjustments when they need to with its adjustable butt stock.

If you like this product you can find and buy it on Amazon.

Barnett Quad 400

This is the popular Quad 400 that has been redesigned in order to keep its reputation and credibility as the hunters’ and shooters’ favorite only with better features. When you buy it, you will get three 22-inch arrows, three arrow quivers and 4 x 32 multi-reticle scopes.

When it comes to firing velocity, you can rely on its speed reaching up to 345 feet per second. It has a 150-pound draw weight and energy of 112-feet pounds.

Barnett Quad 400

The product, as of this time of writing, garners an average of 4.2 out of five stars (124 reviews), slightly higher than its counterparts.  A user from Amazon said that this product came nicely boxed with all of its components. He said that the scope mounting rail is nice and it looks as if it is stable for staying sighted in.

If you like this product you can find and check its price on Amazon.

Selecting a hunting crossbow

There are needs that your weapon should fulfill and so it is very important that you look for certain efficiency features it possesses before buying one.

Because there are many models, and all the same they do not possess the same functions and features, you should be looking for certain factors based on your needs, including what type of animals you are hunting as well as what type of hunter you are (beginner, woman…).

FPS

First of all, it should have sufficient FPS that it will be able to be deadly when shooting up to 40 yards away. When practicing though, you are going to shoot at a closer distance between 20 and 30 yards, but you might also not to get too close. In this case, you should know if you can rely on the weapon for getting this job done efficiently.

For the bare minimum velocity, check for at least 250 FPS when finding a hunting crossbow, although you will find many of those listed possessing 350 FPS.

Compact and lightweight

A weapon should not be too heavy because it may be annoying to bring it with you, especially when going for long hunting expeditions. You can just imagine carrying a 10-pound crossbow everywhere as well as manipulating it on a very limited space, usually provided by a tree stand.

Woman and lightweight crossbow

According to experts, the best weapons out there should be as light as 5.5 pounds, although you may find models that can be as heavy as 8 pounds. If you are having a problem carrying weight, you can also consider getting a padded shoulder sling that can be attached to most crossbow models.

Scope

When shopping, look for one that comes with a decent scope, although you may always get a better scope later, but you may want to get a weapon with everything you want to get from the start without you having to waste time. As a tip, the scope should be able to hold zero for a long time and to have three reticles or dots.

Crossbow Scope

Cocking

Before buying, you should see to it that the product has a dependable and quiet cocking system because nothing can be worse than scaring away a prey. You should have it checked for a smooth latching action.

Industry ratings

There are crossbows marketed with impressive test speed, but its arrow velocity is actually dependent on the total weight of the arrow and methodology of testing. Remember, light bolts or arrows can go faster and so heavier ones can go slower. This is how it is for all types of bows, whether traditional, compound or crossbow.

Crossbow for hunting

The problem is that many makers do not follow certain standards when testing their products for speed. While some of them indicate how they obtained the speed data of the product, some of them simply do not.

To tell you, there is no specific industry standard when it comes to comparing different makers, as you can see in the differences in speeds of IBO and compound bows. And therefore, it is up to the maker on how they are rating their bows using their very own methodologies.  But because they can sell speed, these makers are sometimes gaining the advantage by marketing their products with impressively optimistic speeds that might be impossible at all to reproduce using a 420-grain bolt.

Bolt

Lighter bolts can fly faster, but before going for the lightest bolt to find, you should consider some things. There are many makers to recommend a minimum weight of grain for use depending on the model you are buying. Using underweight arrows won’t help but will just put the components of the bow under stress.

More so, using below the minimum arrow weight required can void factory warranty. It can also put you in danger for acquiring injury in case a string, limb and other components of the crossbow fail. Therefore, it is important to remember that selecting a faster bolt may not always be a good idea. You should pick arrows required depending on the model or type of bow you are buying.

Crossbow with arrows

According to experts, you may be able to achieve better overall control and broad head flight if you are shooting at moderate speeds. In addition, heavier bolts seem to work better for their quieter operation than lighter bolts do. They may also be able to prolong the life of your bow’s cables and string.

While there are other factors to consider when buying a new crossbow, these are the most important of all because they can define comfort on how you are going to hold it. By checking on these factors, you will also be able to find out how consistent is its accuracy based on the rail, string and limb quality and its trigger action. Overall, these are the elements present in hunting crossbows made by reputable makers.

For the best hunting bow in the market, see our popular piece on the topic, a must-read for all sporting enthusiasts.

Crossbow operating tips

  • Check the crossbow and arrow before shooting because damaged or bent nocks or arrows are dangerous to fire; in fact, they have to be repaired or discarded.
  • Do not shoot without an arrow or dry-fire the crossbow, as this will void your warranty and might result to damaging its components, including its cables, limbs and string, not mentioning it might also cause injury.
  • Use appropriate arrows because improper mass weight or stiffness can damage the crossbow’s parts, including its cables, string and limbs that may also void the warranty of the product. It may also cause you personal injury.
  • Before cocking, you should apply lubricating wax to your flight track, cables and string.
  • Do not forget wearing safety glasses when cocking, assembling, shooting and loading your bow.
  • Do not transport, carry a loaded crossbow or stalk with it.
  • Never allow the fingers of your foregrip hand or fingers to be above the flight deck as well as not put them inside the bowstring’s release path of cables when you’re shooting.
  • Make sure of your target and do not just shoot because you can see a movement. You should also remember practicing only in an open area where you can be sure of the arrow’s trajectory, which is clear and protected.
  • When you’re target shooting, you should not point any your loaded crossbow in any direction but the target’s direction, and when you’re conversing, you should not turn to that person with your loaded crossbow.
  • Check to see that there are no obstacles, such as tree limbs or branches in the way of the limbs of the bow when shooting.
  • Remember not to move your safety in the firing position until you are certain of pulling the trigger and do not place your finger on the trigger when you are not yet ready to fire.
  • Never put any of your fingers or any parts of your hands inside the releasing path of the bowstring of a loaded or cocked crossbow.
  • Never should you shoot with a person or persons beside you, but make sure that they are behind you. Remember, any debris will fly sideways if a string were to break.
  • Before climbing a treestand, you should cock the weapon. If treestand hunting, always wear a safety rope or a full-body harness.
  • Lower and hoist your unloaded but cocked crossbow using a bow string or rope and using the front end of your bow that is facing the ground.
  • When not in use, you should keep the broadheads and arrows protected and safe in the quiver.

Additional operation and safety tips

You can shoot in different positions, including prone position, standing position or kneeling position.  When zeroing a new bow, you should use a chair or a table as a rest to ensure accuracy, although you can also use a prone position.

Now when getting ready to fire, you should breathe properly and then hold to aim before firing through pulling the trigger slowly and firmly and pressing all the way.

Crossbow tips

You can carry this weapon as you would when carrying a rifle or a shotgun, as in the ready position and over your shoulder or against your body. It may also be easier to carry it around downward because these crossbows are usually top heavy.

And when hunting for long hours, you can use a special backpack with a quick release feature, allowing you to grab the weapon without removing the backpack. If you are hunting, you can also cock the crossbow prior to the trip to avoid scaring away your target.

Even if you are sturdy and strong, experts suggest using a rope cocking aid if the package you bought does not include one. While you can dead lift 200 pounds of weight, you should know that when the string of the crossbow is digging into your palms when cocking. Remember, you might also need to cock repeatedly, so it is quite tiring, although it does not have to be that way all the time. In all cases, it is better prepared than not.

Things to bring when hunting with crossbows

You should bring a coin or a screwdriver, especially if your bow will need some elevation or adjustment. Additionally, don’t forget a flashlight because you can never really tell of the lighting conditions, especially it might get worse suddenly.  Without a flashlight, you might not also be able to track the blood trail.

Aside from a coin and a flashlight, you may also need some spare batteries. Remember, many of the reticle scopes included in crossbow packages contain and are powered using small batteries. In this case, do not also forget turning the scope off when not using it. Nevertheless, it will always help you take a few spare batteries when hunting.

You may also want to bring a spare string, especially if your crossbow is a bit older. Remember, modern hunting gears like bows only have an estimated between 200 and 300 bolts fired lifespan, so it may be wise not to wait for the string to break. You should bring a replacement and replace a broken string or maybe when you started noticing some sights of wearing or serving separation.

Crossbow hunting

If you’re a beginner, don’t forget your instruction manual before hunting, especially if you don’t feel 100% comfortable with your weapon, as you never know what might happen along the way as well as which situation would need you to reassemble or disassemble some components of your bow. Other things to bring also include spare lube to apply when needed and a charged cellular phone to make an emergency call in case an accident happened. Here’s our beginner’s guide on crossbow hunting to jump start your adventure.

There you have our guide on a few of the most dependable hunting crossbows on the market right now as well as a few of the most effective and safest ways on how to operate this very effective and powerful weapon in game hunting.  Before setting out hunting, practice and master these safety tips when using a crossbow to avoid personal injury and accidents when you’re out there. If you think we missed an important operation and safety tip as well as your favorite hunting weapon, tell us in the comments.

For more survival tips and best gear on predator hunting, see our article on this topic for added information.

Finally, feel free sharing this guide to friends who also love game hunting as well as to those you think would find it useful.

About the Author
Andrew McKay
Andrew McKay

Andrew McKay is a seasoned hunter and fisherman from Anchorage, Alaska. Andrew thinks that he is the luckiest person in the world, as he lives in the most gorgeous place in United States and does what he loves to do. As a member of Alaska Professional Hunters Association and International Hunter Education Association, he is always looking for the ways to improve his skills and to teach people around him.

  • Steven Emerson

    I am a long time longbow hunter, and I always wondered what the advantages of a crossbow are? Is it easier/more efficient to use it than a longbow?

  • Yes, it’s easier to use a crossbow than a longbow.

  • Jackie Maa

    I would recommend trying the barnett brotherhood. I know it is a “youth crossbow” but as a 6’5
    200 lbs, it will work just fine. I picked it up on black Friday and it is very good. The most important thing is that it is affordable to buy.

  • Thank you for sharing your opinion with us.

  • Mike Miller

    In my experience, crossbows are a bit slower than bows but have high accuracy and cause more damage. I wish there could be a crossbow like the one in the movie “Van Helsing”, that can shoot bolts like a machine gun :)

  • Thank you for sharing your opinion with us.

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