Crossbows: Most of What You Need to Know

To start with: unless I am too old or injured to draw a vertical bow back I will not be hunting with a crossbow.

Crossbows are going to be 300-400 feet per second. Versus 280-350 for vertical compound bows. The loudest compound bows are quieter than the quietest crossbows. Compound bows weigh about half as much 4 pounds vs 7. And crossbows are slower, more unwieldy, and more dangerous.

Unless you’re not fond of a particular finger, do not put any fingers where the string will move past when fired. And, like a gun, don’t point it at something you don’t want a hole in.

I have shot something like a dozen models. And have the vital stats of quite a few memorized. (part-time job)


“Quantity, quality, price, pick two.”

This is an engineering expression that you should remember when buying a crossbow. But we’ll change it to:

“Quality, price, speed, pick two.”

A crossbow that shoots 350 fps and costs $700 is not a “great deal” it is likely junk. That is not to say a bow that is slow and expensive is good, only that you can’t have quality, price, AND all the great stats.

Also, the cheapest crossbow that you want to get is $450. Any new crossbow cheaper than $450 is, almost certainly, an accident waiting to happen.


On the other hand…do those of you who did still have all your hands, fingers and eyes?

Bolts are more standardized than arrows. But you need to match the bolt length (18″,20″, or 22″) and the nock style (flat, halfmoon, omni, capture).

If you use a nock of the wrong shape you may void your warranty and/or wreck your bow. Although to what extent that is a ploy to get you to buy Brand X’s accessories I am not sure. It is still best to use what the manufacturer says to use.

A crossbow is cocked and then held in place until a trigger is pulled. There are three ways to cock a crossbow: by grabbing the string and pulling it back, buy using a “rope cocker”, or by use of a crank.

Just grabbing the string will be difficult as the weakest crossbows have draw weights of 150 pounds. (And my back hurts just thinking about it.)

A rope cocker takes about half the effort off of the cocking. An Excalibur brand cocker costs around $30 if one is not included with your bow. Have someone who knows what he is doing cut it to the right length. Tenpoint crossbows may offer you the option to buy a built-in-retractable rope cocker, that works great.

A crank can make cocking the bow very easy (5 pounds of effort vs 80 or so). Tenpoint and Barnett *shudder* offer bows with cranks built into the bows. You can get a crank added to an Excalibur for $170.

The rope cockers are faster, simpler, and easier to remember how to do, but require more strength. If you are young and healthy you want to use a rope cocker not a crank. But if you have a bad back, or plan on getting old, then you want a Tenpoint with a crank built in (AccuDraw).

Once a crossbow is cocked you need to shoot it. If you leave it cocked you will wear the limbs out.

The arrangement may well be to cock the bow at your truck, walk in, slide a bolt with a broad head on it, hunt, remove the bolt, walk back to your truck and shoot it.

When you discharge your crossbow you have four options: haul your usual target to where you hunt and shoot it, carry a small “discharge target” to shoot, shoot a “decocking bolt” which is a bolt with a rubber knob that will bounce off the ground, or for Tenpoint bows you can get biodegradable bolts which are shot into the ground.

The biodegradable bolts will be costly to replace, and the decocking bolt needs to be found each time it is used. So spend the $20-30 for a small discharge target and shoot a bolt with a field point into it at the end of the day. ANd don’t stand right next to the target when you shoot it. Bad things can happen at close range.

Tenpoint crossbows and Excalibur crossbows are of the highest quality, and every other brand is lesser in quality. Because people often favor cheapness over other factors, Tenpoint has a lesser brand: “Wicked Ridge,” which has bows that are cheaper, wider, slower, and has fewer features, but good quality.

As of this writing the cheapest crossbow that you want to buy costs $450, the Wicked Ridge Warrior. Alternately, you can buy the cheapest bow in the shop and then later bitch to a random bow shop employee about how your cheap bow is junk as if its his fault. (Don’t get a job dealing with customers.)

If you don’t want the cheapest thing money can buy, then I would get either a Tenpoint Stealth SS ($1100-1200) or consider the Excalibur Matrix 380 or Matrix 405. $1000+

The recurve Excalibur crossbows are: wider, lighter, much louder, and often faster than the compound TenPoint bows.

If you have a bad back or are not terribly strong, then you need to get a TenPoint bow with the AccuDraw (not the AccuDraw 50). The crank (AccuDraw) is very easy to use, but too slow and noisy for those of use who do not need it.

The cheapest Tenpoint with the crank is the Titan Extreme at around $800. Around 318 fps. (Guess what the best selling bow is? Hint: cheapest crank)

As you go up in price you get faster, narrower, and more features.

The Stealth SS is nice becasue it is shorter and narrower than all the other bows $1100 with the built in rope cocker (AccuDraw50) and $1200 with the crank (AccuDraw). Around 333 fps.

I am not convinced that the extra money spent to get more expensive Tenpoint bows is worth the few extra fps and additional features, although the improved ‘scope is nice.

If you don’t mind the additional width, and don’t need the crank, then getting a $1000 Excalibur Matrix 380 might be the best bet becasue it is faster and simpler than the Tenpoint bows.


Have whoever sells you the bow show you how it works.

Keep your fingers clear of the string.


3 comments on “Crossbows: Most of What You Need to Know

  1. Neu Hombre says:

    I and a hunting buddy hunted with Barnett crossbows this year and were very happy with them. Really like the reverse limb crossbows. Quieter and better center of gravity vs regular crossbow setup.

    • Tim says:

      While I can appreciate that the reverse limb bows have better balance, just by feeling the bows you can tell that Barnett crossbows are junk compared to other brands. I work part time in a bow shop, if five bows are in for repairs four will be Barnetts. I also broke the boot off a Barnett crossbow the first time I tried to cock it.

  2. […] If you use a nock of the wrong shape you may void your warranty and/or wreck your bow. Although to w… […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s