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Which crossbow is best?

Crossbows evolved from the traditional bow to increase ancient-era armies’ military might while decreasing training time and cost. Like the bow, there have been no significant changes to its operation in centuries, only improvements in construction and technological additions. 

The best crossbow is the Barnett Whitetail Hunter STR Crossbow. It is deadly accurate, fires bolts at 375 feet per second and weighs just 6.6 pounds.

What to know before you buy a crossbow

Types of crossbow

There are three types of crossbows: recurve, compound and reverse draw limbs.

  • Recurve is the traditional style used for thousands of years. It’s typically lightweight and quiet enough not to spook an animal. However, most require a large amount of strength to cock.
  • Compound is a more technological type. It uses pulleys to greatly reduce the strength required to cock. They make much more noise, however, making them unpopular for hunting.
  • Reverse draw limb is the most modern crossbow, upending traditional design entirely. It places the center of gravity in the center rather than the front. It’s also quieter than a recurve. It’s also incredibly expensive with some costing as much as $2,000.

Draw weight

Draw weight measures how powerfully a crossbow fires and how much strength it takes to cock them. Most have draw weights between 75 and 200 pounds. Some have as many as 250-pound draw weights. Before purchasing any crossbow, be honest with yourself as to if you can deadlift nearly 200 pounds each time you want to fire a single shot.


For hunters, noise generation is paramount. A loud, cranky crossbow will easily scatter your prize-winning buck. Any crossbow type can be quiet, but you’ll have to make concessions in a few areas, including draw weight.

What to look for in a quality crossbow

Bolt speed

Bolt speed is closely related to draw weight and is given in feet per second. Crossbows have a wider range of feet per second than draw weight, though it’s usually between 200 and 400 feet per second with most having 300 and 350 feet per second.

Sights and scopes

Few crossbows lack sight built into the bow to let you aim accurately. However, using a scope is always preferred as you can sight a scope in at the range. Many crossbows include a scope for just this purpose, though most are average unless the package costs close to or more than $1,000.

How much you can expect to spend on a crossbow

Crossbows range in cost from $100-$1,000. If you’re looking for a fun time, you can safely spend less than $200 for something simple. If you’re hunting, you’ll want to spend $300-$600 at least. The best models start at $600.

Crossbow FAQ

Why should I use a crossbow over a standard bow?

A. Crossbows are easier to wield, requiring much less technical skill and effectively no training to fire accurate shots. You aim down your sights or scope, point and shoot. They’re better for hunting in various ways as well. To start, you can cock a crossbow long before you see your target. You don’t have to perform the exaggerated motions of drawing back and aiming a standard bow, decreasing your likelihood of spooking the animal. You can also use them with gloves and bulky winter clothing, both of which interfere with a standard bow’s operation.

Is crossbow hunting legal?

A. In most states, yes, following all of the usual hunting rules and regulations. Some have special bow-only seasons. Others allow you to use them during standard seasons. However, some states restrict using crossbows to those with a special disabled permit. Do your state and local research before investing.

How far can a crossbow fire effectively?

A. That depends on the crossbow, but most have an average effective hunting range of roughly 100 feet. In the right hands, some crossbows can be effective to almost 300 feet while hunting.

How far can a crossbow fire generally?

A. That’s a function of a crossbow’s feet per second firing strength and an incredibly complex series of physics equations. If you use a high-end crossbow’s feet per second, a crossbow can fire as far or further than 1,500 feet while still being able to pierce the target, which it can cover in about 5 seconds. 

What’s the best crossbow to buy?

Top crossbow

Barnett Whitetail Hunter STR Crossbow

Barnett Whitetail Hunter STR Crossbow

What you need to know: This crossbow is an excellent intersection of function and cost.

What you’ll love: It comes in two packages: one with two arrows and one with seven. It includes a scope, quiver, cocking device and string wax. It fires at 375 feet per second and only weighs 6.6 pounds. Some assembly is required, but it takes as little as 15 minutes.

What you should consider: It’s among the priciest and most noise-generating models. The included scope is only average. There are rare reports of the string snapping.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Top crossbow for the money

Killer Instinct Burner 415 Crossbow Package

Killer Instinct Burner 415 Crossbow Package

What you need to know: This crossbow is cost-effective but remains quality enough for hunting.

What you’ll love: It includes string wax, string suppressors, three arrows, a three-bolt quiver, a scope and a cocking device. It fires at 415 feet per second. It has a limited lifetime warranty. It comes in gray or camo. Some assembly is required, but there are no reports of difficulty.

What you should consider: It has an intense, 220-pound draw weight that requires significant muscle. There are rare reports of a limb breaking. Amazon returns have a restocking fee.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Worth checking out

BearX Intense Ready To Shoot Crossbow Package

BearX Intense Ready To Shoot Crossbow Package

What you need to know: This crossbow is compact but packs a powerful punch. 

What you’ll love: It includes rail and string waxes, three arrows, a four arrow quiver, an illuminated scope and a cocking device. It fires at 400 feet per second. Some basic assembly is required. It comes in two styles of camo.

What you should consider: It’s among the heaviest at a staggering 12.35 pounds. There are rare reports of broken limbs and snapped strings. It’s on the pricey side.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Jordan C. Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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