Crossbow archery is a fun and exciting side branch of archery. But like anything that deals with archery, understanding the basics of the gear is needed to make the shooting activity a great experience. As such, if you're new in the scene or an experience shooter who'd just want to try something different, here's our easy to understand guide on crossbows. Hope you guys learn a thing or two here!
What to Look for in a Crossbow: Important Points to Consider
These are the basics you should look for in your bow:
- Long warranty.
- Compound crossbows pack a punch but are overly complex.
- Recurve crossbows are more sturdy.
- Draw weight should be manageable for you.
- Take care of the bow's weight too - it's the best if you can test it in a pro shop.
- While arrow speed is important, do not overoptimize for it.
- Extras to consider: sight, rangefinder, quiver, sling.
But let's break these down even further - read on for the details!
Recurve Crossbow vs Compound Crossbow: Know the Difference
Just like how conventional bows are set up, there are two crossbow types - recurve crossbows and compound crossbows:
Just like its conventional bow counterpart, compound crossbows use a cam system for shooting bolts. As such, this type is more powerful and faster than recurve crossbows. However, compound crossbows tend to be heavier - and if any damage sets in, you'd have no choice than to have it checked by a pro shop.
Compound bows are also known for their longer limbs.
Recurve crossbows on the other hand, is easier to maintain and shoot. Otherwise known as the traditional crossbow, the simplicity behind the design works wonders. It is lightweight as well, which will help you when you need to go for difficult shots over at the wild. However, power and speed are compromised.
The term recurve also connects to this crossbow's limbs. Essentially mini recurve bow limbs, this crossbow type is easy to spot due to it’s shorter limbs!
Of course, it all boils down to personal preference on which type you should use. But knowing which is which will help you find the best crossbow that will fit your unique shooting style!
All About Crossbow Draw Weights
Let us now get into more technical crossbow details. Finding out a crossbow’s draw weight will let you know if you have enough strength to control it!
Most crossbows would have a poundage set at within the range of 175 lbs. But do take note that draw weights do vary - at a minimum, it may go as low as 90 lbs and reach up to 260 lbs.
Unlike conventional bows, some crossbows come with a crank system that will help you pull the bolt. These cocking devices come in different variants. The most common design would be one that makes use of a cocking rope, which can reduce the draw weight of a crossbow by at most 50%.
- Draw weight does not in itself determine arrow (or bolt) speed. You also need to consider other factors such as a crossbow's limb configuration – we'll learn more about speed below.
- The higher the crossbow poundage, the harder it is to manage (which may lead to lower accuracy).
- The higher the crossbow poundage, the potential of damaging the crossbow also increases.
- The higher the crossbow poundage, the risk of injury or stamina depletion also increases.
As such, crossbow poundage really matters! Select a crossbow that will fit you (and not the other way around!).
All About Crossbow Arrow Speeds
How do you determine how fast your crossbow bolts will fly? Given the design, crossbows shoot faster than conventional bows. There are even some that shoot at more than 400fps!
A crossbow's speed is a result of factors such as the crossbow's poundage, spine construction, the weight of the bolt, cam configuration (particularly for compound crossbows), and the power stroke (essentially the distance travelled by your crossbow's string - between the resting position towards the locked position). Setting this up just right will result in higher bolt speed.
Now, one noticeable feature of a faster crossbow is the noise it produces. Dubbed as the "string jump", this noise can be a hassle for hunters who'd hoped to get to their prey silently.
Another important consideration to note about crossbow arrow speed is the bolt itself. Again, just like conventional archery, there are different bolts available for use. A lightweight bolt would fly faster than a heavier one.
Now back to the question we mentioned earlier - is speed really that important? Yes, it's subjective, but going for the maximum speed setting for your crossbow may just be an overkill. As what most hunters would attest, improving on one’s skill set over crossbow speed settings would not only be a better way to hunt. In fact, it's also ethical - respecting your prey is also part of the game.
Getting into Groove: All About a Crossbow’s Flight Groove
Lastly, we’d like to briefly mention this important crossbow part. The flight groove is basically the part where the arrow is placed. As the barrel of your crossbow, you'd need to make sure that this part is kept safe from harm or damage. The better the design of this part is, the more accurate your shots will be!
Great to Know: Various Reminders to Check Before Getting a Crossbow
Now that you’ve got a good overview on the important aspects to look for in a crossbow, we’d now like to share some more reminders before actually arming you with one. Have these checklist handy before getting a crossbow!
What Crossbow Size Will Best Suit You?
Always have this in mind: your archery equipment should adjust to your needs, preferences, skills, and style. You should never be the one to adjust to your gear! As such, get a crossbow that will fit to your build. Depending on your build, a large crossbow may be too hard to draw, so just get a smaller one that suits you better.
Know Your Strength
Similar to size, you should also consider your physical strength. We're all built differently, anyway! The point of the matter is, get a crossbow with a poundage that you can comfortably draw - consider as well the overall weight of the crossbow.
Noise Considerations (and How to Fix it)
Remember the noise bit we mentioned above? If you really need to keep a high speed, but want to lessen the noise, then get dampeners. These crossbow add-ons will give you the peace of mind and stealth you'd want to have during hunts.
Some Crossbow Accessories to Know About
Next up, we’d also like to share some accessories that you may want to have on your new crossbow:
Crossbow Scopes (And Basic Sighting)
Whether you plan to get a crossbow scope or not, knowing how to sight in is important. Especially for hunters, you'd want to make sure that each of your shots will hit your target.
Similarly to how conventional archery scopes work, a crossbow sight also come in numerous styles. Some have the single dot to pinpoint towards a target. Others have multiple reticles to gauge the distance. There are even some that also come with illumination, for clearer shots during the night.
Regardless of the scope used, experience is still the best teacher. Get the right feel first of your crossbow - including aiming - before actually shooting game!
Choosing a bolt (and/or a broadhead) all depends on your crossbow. Certain crossbows will only work with select bolts - so make sure the bolts you're getting are compatible with your gear. Additionally (and similar to conventional arrows), bolts come in different makes such as composite, carbon, and aluminum. Please do take note:
- Heavier bolts result in better penetration and impact (which, of course, is more fatal for prey)
- Lighter bolts excel in range or long-distance shots.
Again, the bolts to use depend on your preference (and the crossbow you plan to use)!
Carry a Quiver!
With selecting bolts for a hunt comes also the need to carry your ammunition around. And this is where a quiver shines. Regardless of the manufacturer or design, make sure to choose one that will safely carry your bolts around while making sure that you'll easily gain access to your ammo when needed.
Sling it Up!
Given that crossbows are heavy archery gear, getting a sling may also help you lessen the load of carrying this gear out in the wild (and even in indoor shooting ranges!). To make sure you're getting the most out of this accessory, consider getting one with comfy padding and non-slip materials.
Expert Hunters: Rangefinder Usage
An optional (yet perhaps, exciting) add-on for your crossbow is the use of a rangefinder. Using laser technology, you would be able to gauge the distance between you and your target with this gear.
Bonus: Making its Mark - Crossbow’s Colorful History
Now that you know more about how a crossbow can fit into your archery routine, let us now take a leap into the past. Knowing more about the history of this awesome archery gear may give you some newfound appreciation on why it enjoys a good and strong following even today! Let us give you an even-better perspective on this, by highlighting important crossbow moments off different cultures and civilizations.
4th Century B.C.
- The Gastraphetes was the first recorded composite crossbow created by the Greeks. Composed out of a laminated combination of wood, animal sinew, and horn, this crossbow changed the face of Greek warfare. Additionally, this crossbow's name is roughly translated as a "belly bow". This is because in order for you cock an arrow in it, you'd need to position the crossbow on your belly to properly cock it!
- Because of the Gastraphetes, certain innovations were done to create even bigger crossbows. And the result was the oxybeles, which was essentially a larger version of the Gastraphetes. In order to shoot the oxybeles, you'd need to position it on a stand.
- The oxybeles then paved the way towards the creation of the popular ballista. An improvement that the ballista offered was the use of torsion power (by means of twisting the balista's string) to create and release tension.
- Rome essentially took Greece's military technology when they conquered it, which then led to more archery advancement. Here are some:
- The Scorpion – a small yet tough bolt shooter used by Roman soldiers.
- Ballista (Vitruvius' version) – an improvement over the Greek weapon, the ballista designed and created by Vitruvius (a military engineer) involved the use of small stones as ammo.
5th Century B.C.
- It was during this period that the first crossbow in Asia was invented. The bow string was made up of twisted and looped sinew from animals.
- An innovation over the traditional crossbow, the repeating crossbow was invented by a Chinese military tactician. Named the Zhuge crossbow after its inventor, Zhuge Liang, this improved weapon was the cause of multiple victories. Essentially a crossbow with a unique container that holds bolts, this crossbow can quickly shoot arrows without having to miss a beat in reloading.
Crossbows still continue to evolve today - as you can see with these snippets in history, innovation and the urgency to create better designs show that many see the potential in this archery gear.
Get a Crossbow Today
We hope that the above lists will help you choose the right crossbow for you. Keep it safe and hope you get exciting and rewarding archery experiences with this gear!
For more information on crossbows, please check out these links:
This awesome reddit thread highlights best practices when choosing a new crossbow.
Demolition Ranch presents a demo on how powerful crossbows can be.
This awesome infographic shows some of the best traditional crossbows ever made.