10 Best Crossbows: Recurve, Compound, Rifle, Pistol, Repeating

Best Crossbow

The crossbow has been around for many centuries. It is a modernized version of the traditional bow and arrow that was initially designed as a weapon for war but is now mostly used for hunting and fun or sports shooting.

Although modern crossbows still maintain the traditional bow mounted on a stock design, there are now many variations of the crossbow than at any other time. And this is what makes choosing the best crossbows important.

Crossbows will differ in much more than the variation in design as they will offer different draw lengths, speeds and also produce varying amounts of noise.

When it comes to choosing the best or top-rated crossbows, information is always the key. And in this piece, we highlight all the important things you need to know about these bows.

Types of Crossbow

When it comes to buying the best crossbow one of the first decision that you will need to make is the type to buy.

If you are a seasoned archer or are looking for something for a specific purpose, then you probably already know what you want. But, if you are just getting into crossbow shooting the following are the most common types in the market.

#1. Recurve Crossbow

Recurve Crossbow

The recurve crossbow is one of the oldest types and it gets its name from the delicate curves on the ends of the bow that point away from the archer.

The curved ends on the bow are functional as they help to keep the string in place to ensure it does not flick out. And they achieve this by straining and locking in the string.

Although you can find various variations of the modern crossbows, most are made from aluminum, carbon fiber or magnesium.

These bows are quite easy to aim and will often feature a longer draw length than most other crossbow types. This longer draw length ensures that the bow can offer greater acceleration for the projectile.

But, the greater pressure exerted on the bow due to its length also makes it noisier when fired. Also, these bows will put more strain on the string and so you will probably need to keep buying new strings when using it.

Recurve crossbows produce remarkable power and strength and they will be ideal for taking long range shots and hunting large game.

Pros:

  • Remarkable power and strength
  • Reduced hand shock
  • Better acceleration
  • Easy to aim

Cons:

  • Noisier
  • Greater strain on the string

#2. Compound Crossbow

Compound Crossbow

The compound crossbow comes in a more complex design than the recurve and it also has more parts. And this means that it is also harder to set up.

But, despite the harder and time consuming set up the compound crossbow is surprisingly easy to use which makes it a popular choice for seasoned hunters.

Compound bows have a stiff build that gives them high energy efficiency. They feature a string connected to a system of pulleys that is them linked to the other limb using a similar system.

When you draw back the string the pulleys on the end of the bow will turn to allow the cables to move and bend the limbs, and this saves a lot of energy for the shot.

The design and materials of the compound crossbow make it highly accurate, durable and also weather resistant. But its greatest demerit is that it has numerous parts which make maintenance quite complicated.

Pros:

  • High energy efficiency
  • Highly accurate
  • Easier to use
  • Weather resistant

Cons:

  • Relatively harder to setup
  • Complicated maintenance

#3. Rifle Crossbow

Riffle Crossbow

Like most other bow types, the crossbow has been evolving over the years and one of the more recent innovations is the rifle crossbow.

The rifle crossbow is a modern hybrid that combines the traits of the traditional crossbow with some features of a rifle. Just like a rifle, it is highly accurate and with superior aim capability.

With technological advancements like top-notch sights and heavy-duty construction incorporated in the design of this crossbow, you can always be confident of having a reliable hunting tool.

These crossbows are the best for long range shots where accuracy is vital. And they also come in a narrower profile than most others which makes them very convenient for penetrating narrow spaces.

Also, the rail design on the rifle crossbow is also top notch to make it possible to launch bolts with minimal friction for unmatched velocity.

The most significant shortcoming of this crossbow is that it takes a lot of power to operate and launch shots.

Pros:

  • Excellent rail design
  • Narrower
  • Highly accurate
  • Great for long-range shots

Cons:

  • Takes more power to operate

#4. Pistol Crossbow 

Pistol Crossbow

For beginners that are looking for something easy to use and lightweight enough for hunting small game, the pistol crossbow is a great choice.

This compact bow gets its name from their compact size and they will often come with a draw weight of between 80 and 150 pounds.

The pistol crossbows also have a high accuracy which also makes them ideal for beginners. But, they will not be very useful when hunting big game.

Pros:

  • Excellent for beginners
  • Relatively easy to use
  • Compact and lightweight

Cons:

  • Not very useful for big game

#5. Repeating Crossbow

Repeating Crossbow

If you are one of those new archers that do not want to put in the work and effort that it takes to become a skilled archer, the repeating crossbow is the best beginner crossbow option for you.

Repeating crossbows take almost no effort to use and will not require any special technique to master its use.

This bow takes a single motion to execute a shot hence making it the most convenient option in the market. It can shoot up to three times faster than the ordinary crossbows and this makes it the best choice when speed is your main concern.

However, these types of crossbows are too mechanical and this can take some or most of the fun out of hunting and there is also no way to improve the performance.

Pros:

  • Simplest to use
  • Relatively faster
  • Best for repeat shots

Cons:

  • Too mechanical
  • No way of enhancing performance

Crossbow Types Comparison Table

Our table below compares the different crossbow types and highlights the good and bad attributes of each to make it easier for you to pick one that suits your needs.

Crossbow Type

Features

The Good

The Bad

Recurve Crossbow

  • check
    Delicate curves on the ends
  • check
    Made from aluminum, magnesium or carbon fiber
  • check
    Longer draw length
  • check
    Remarkable power and strength
  • check
    Minimal hand shock
  • check
    Easy to aim
  • check
    Noisier
  • check
    Greater strain on the string

Compound Crossbow

  • check
    More complex design with a system of pulleys on the limbs
  • check
    Stiff build for high energy efficiency
  • check
    High energy efficiency
  • check
    Highly accurate
  • check
    Easier to use
  • check
    Weather resistant
  • check
    Relatively harder to setup
  • check
    Complicated maintenance

Riffle Crossbow

  • check
    Modern-day crossbow and rifle hybrid
  • check
    Designed for long range hunts
  • check
    Excellent rail design
  • check
    Narrower
  • check
    Highly accurate
  • check
    Great for long-range shots
  • check
    Takes more power to operate

Pistol Crossbow

  • check
    Compact and lightweight crossbow for hunting small game
  • check
    Often come with a draw weight of 80 lbs and 150 lbs
  • check
    Excellent for beginners
  • check
    Relatively easy to use
  • check
    Compact and lightweight
  • check
    Not very useful for big game

Repeating Crossbow

  • check
    Mechanical crossbows that take a single motion to shot
  • check
    Up to three times faster than regular crossbows
  • check
    Simplest to use
  • check
    Relatively faster
  • check
    Best for repeat shots
  • check
    Too mechanical
  • check
    No way of enhancing performance

10 Best Crossbows - Reviews

Like with any other type of bow there are some top-rated crossbows that stand out from the ground. Below we compare 10 of these high performing and top-rated crossbows using factors like speed, draw weight and power stroke.

Product Name

Speed

Draw Weight

Power Stroke

Rating

Current Price

Cobra System Self Cocking Pistol Tactical Crossbow

165 FPS

80 lbs

6.0 in

4.1

Barnett Ghost 410 CRT Crossbow

410 FPS

185 lbs

15.375 in

4.2

Barnett 78128 Whitetail Hunter Crossbow

350 FPS

150 lbs

12.5 in

4.2

Arrow Precision Inferno Fury Crossbow Kit

235 FPS

175 lbs

10.5 in

4.1

Barnett Jackal Crossbow Package

315 FPS

150 lbs

12.0 in

4.2

Excalibur Matrix 380 Crossbow Package

380 FPS

260 lbs

13.1 in

4.4

Barnett Whitetail Pro STR Crossbow

400 FPS

165 lbs

16.375 in

5.0

SA Sports 543 Fever Crossbow

240 FPS

175 lbs

11.5 in

3.9

Carbon Express Blade X-Force Crossbow Ready To Hunt

320 FPS

165 lbs

12.5 in

4.0

CenterPoint Sniper 370 Crossbow Package

370 FPS

185 lbs

13.5 in

4.6

#1. Cobra System Self Cocking Pistol Tactical Crossbow

Editor's Rating: (4.1 / 5)

Cobra System Self Cocking Pistol Tactical Crossbow
  • Speed: 165 FPS
  • Draw Weight: 80 lbs
  • Power Stroke: 6.0 inches

If you are just starting out in crossbow archery this highly affordable crossbow will be very useful for you.

It is a durable plastic and compressed molded fiberglass crossbow that generates a speed of 165 FPS and a draw weight of just 80 pounds which make it ideal for hunting small game or target shooting.

Also, this is a lightweight crossbow with a relatively narrower profile hence making it one of the best compact crossbows in the market.

And the fact that it comes ready to shoot and with an impressive 39 arrows also helps to cement its position as the best overall crossbow on our list.

Pros:

  • Self-cocking design
  • Durable fiberglass construction
  • Highly affordable
  • Comes with plenty of arrows
  • Super easy to draw

Cons:

  • Not very useful for large game

#2. Barnett Ghost 410 CRT Crossbow

Editor's Rating: (4.2 / 5)

Barnett Ghost 410 CRT Crossbow
  • Speed: 410 FPS
  • Draw Weight: 185 lbs
  • Power Stroke: 15.375 inches

With speeds of up to 410 FPS, the Ghost 410 CRT is the fastest and also the best powerful crossbow on our list.

It also features an ultra-light and super-strong machined aluminum riser that is up to 43% lighter. And it is also a safer-to-shoot bow with finger guard and pass-through foregrip.

Ghost 410 comes with some custom composite limbs and the Crosswire string and cable system that help to enhance the overall performance.

When you buy this powerful crosssbow you will get everything you need to shoot in the package including the arrows, and it is easy and quick to set up.

Pros:

  • Ultra-light riser design
  • High arrow speeds
  • Excellent weight and speed balance
  • Cocking device included
  • Easy and quick setup

Cons:

  • Relatively expensive

#3. Barnett 78128 Whitetail Hunter Crossbow

Editor's Rating: (4.2 / 5)

Barnett 78128 Whitetail Hunter Crossbow
  • Speed: 350 FPS
  • Draw Weight: 150 lbs
  • Power Stroke: 12.5 inches

At a total weight of just 6.5 pounds, this Barnett crossbow is one of the lightest on our list and it will be very convenient for carrying on your hunting expeditions.

Like with most of their other crossbows, the company does most of the assembly and so archers will only need to do minimal setup which only takes a few minutes before shooting.

This bow will generate speeds of up to 350 FPS and with a 150-pound draw weight. And despite this being a highly powerful bow, it is still super quiet thanks to the custom laminated composite limbs and string dampeners.

There is also an anti-dry fire system on the bow for safety. And although you cannot decock this crossbow before shooting, it does not have any other significant shortcoming and hence making it one of the best crossbows under 500 dollars.

Pros:

  • Requires minimal setup
  • Relatively lightweight
  • Powerful but super quiet
  • Anti-dry fire system for safety
  • Scope included in the package

Cons:

  • Not possible to decock without shooting

#4. Arrow Precision Inferno Fury Crossbow Kit

Editor's Rating: (4.1 / 5)

Arrow Precision Inferno Fury Crossbow Kit
  • Speed: 235 FPS
  • Draw Weight: 175 lbs
  • Power Stroke: 10.5 inches

If you do not intend to shoot targets that are far away, this relatively affordable crossbow will work well for you. And it comes as a complete package with everything you need for immediate shooting when you get it.

It produces arrow speeds of 235 FPS and with a draw weight of 175 pounds and relatively shorter 10.5 inches power stroke.

At 4.84 pounds it is one of the lightest on our crossbow reviews and it also uses some high-quality materials that include compression fiberglass limbs, aluminum barrel, and lightweight composite stock.

Other things that make this an outstanding bow include the premium 3-dot multi-range red dot scope, padded shoulder sling, and anti-dry fire mechanism.

Pros:

  • Complete crossbow package
  • Relatively affordable and lightweight
  • Premium multi-range scope
  • Padded shoulder sling
  • Anti-dry fire safety system

Cons:

  • Limited shooting range

#5. Barnett Jackal Crossbow Package

Editor's Rating: (4.2 / 5)

Barnett Jackal Crossbow Package
  • Speed: 315 FPS
  • Draw Weight: 150 lbs
  • Power Stroke: 12 inches

The high definition camouflage is the first element that will draw you to the Jackal crossbow from Barnett but there is still more to it than the appealing look.

This compound crossbow comes with lightweight stock and compact quad limbs with some high energy wheels and synthetic string cable system. And they all combine to make it an easy to use and effective bow even for beginners.

Also, the 315 FPS crossbow uses the anti-dry fire MIM mechanism to make it safer for the user and Barnett will back it up with a 5-year limited warranty.

Pros:

  • Sleek, military-style stock
  • High energy wheels
  • Premium red dot sight
  • Comes ready to shoot
  • 5-year limited warranty

Cons:

  • Relatively weaker quiver mounting bracket

#6. Excalibur Matrix 380 Crossbow Package

Editor's Rating: (4.4 / 5)

Excalibur Matrix 380 Crossbow Package
  • Speed: 380 FPS
  • Draw Weight: 260 lbs
  • Power Stroke: 13.1 inches

Although Excalibur Matrix 380 has the heaviest draw weight on our list, it is still a compact, quiet and powerful bow that will deliver speeds of up to 380 FPS.

It comes with the functionality and reliability of Excalibur crossbows but also with their unique Tact-Zone scope that helps to enhance its performance.

This crossbow comes as a complete kit with everything you need to shoot including the arrows, and it also has other outstanding features like the ergo-grip stock.

Pros:

  • Top notch quality scope
  • More powerful but quieter
  • Compact overall profile
  • Easily detachable quiver
  • Simple to assemble

Cons:

  • Relatively expensive
  • Heavier draw weight

#7. Barnett Whitetail Pro STR Crossbow

Editor's Rating: (5 / 5)

Barnett Whitetail Pro STR Crossbow
  • Speed: 400 FPS
  • Draw Weight: 165 lbs
  • Power Stroke: 16.375 inches

Whitetail Pro STR has all it takes to make it one of the best crossbows for hunting deer and other medium size game in the market.

It delivers one of the highest speeds on our list (400 FPS) and with a draw weight of 165 pounds. But the STR (stand-through riser) is its main highlight and one of the factors that make it a high performing bow.

Other impressive features on this crossbow include string dampeners that help to reduce vibrations and noise, 4 x 32 multi-reticle scope and crank-cocking capability.

Also, this is a ready-to-use crossbow when you get it as it comes with the arrows, side-mounting quiver, rope cocking device and even some lubrication wax

Pros:

  • Relatively higher arrow speeds
  • Premium illuminated scope
  • Smooth and quiet operations
  • Easy to cock
  • Allows for crank integration

Cons:

  • Some parts like the finger minders are a little flimsy

#8. SA Sports 543 Fever Crossbow

Editor's Rating: (3.9 / 5)

SA Sports 543 Fever Crossbow
  • Speed: 240 FPS
  • Draw Weight: 175 lbs
  • Power Stroke: 11.5 inches

For the archers that prefer to use the recurve bow, this will be a great choice. And it combines several features to make it one of the best recurve crossbows out there.

This relatively affordable crossbow uses an ambidextrous auto safety system and a large boot style foot stirrup. Also, there is a quick detaching quiver that is very convenient when shooting.

The lightweight composite barrel is also a great addition to this crossbow while the 4 x 32 illuminated reticle scope is very handy when it comes to aiming.

When you buy this bow you will also get a padded shoulder sling, rope cocking device and a free replacement string.

Pros:

  • Relatively affordable
  • Quick detaching quiver
  • Lightweight barrel design
  • Multi-range scope
  • Free replacement string

Cons:

  • Relatively slower arrow speeds

#9. Carbon Express Blade X-Force Crossbow Ready To Hunt

Editor's Rating: (4 / 5)

Carbon Express Blade X-Force Crossbow Ready To Hunt
  • Speed: 320 FPS
  • Draw Weight: 165 lbs
  • Power Stroke: 12.5 inches

The lightweight overall construction and repeatable accuracy combine to make the Blade X-force one of the best beginner crossbows on our list.

With this bow, you get arrow speeds of up to 320 FPS and a draw weight of 165 pounds. Its lightweight aluminum rail is what helps to ensure the repeated accuracy and the bow also comes with an adjustable butt-stock and foregrip to provide a custom fit.

And to ensure fast loading, Carbon Express fits this crossbow with a slip-resistant single piece stirrup.

Pros:

  • Repeatable accuracy
  • Custom fitting butt-stock
  • Slip-resistant stirrup
  • Lightweight overall construction

Cons:

  • Scope needs an upgrade

#10. CenterPoint Sniper 370 Crossbow Package

Editor's Rating: (4.6 / 5)

CenterPoint Sniper 370 Crossbow Package
  • Speed: 370 FPS
  • Draw Weight: 185 lbs
  • Power Stroke: 13.5 inches

The CenterPoint Sniper 370 is a great compound bow that will be an excellent pick for both hunting and target shooting.

It is one of the best crossbows under 400 dollars and it will come with an adjustable stock and forearm to make it easier to use and more convenient even for beginners.

This bow also comes with a lightweight and highly durable CNC machined aluminum rail that combines with the see-through riser to ensure that archers always gets accurate and consistent shots.

There is also an integrated string dampener that provides quiet and vibration-free shots. And the package comes with everything you need to shoot which also makes this one of the best beginner crossbows as you will not need to buy anything else before using it.

Pros:

  • Fully adjustable stock
  • Lightweight and highly durable rail
  • Quiet and vibration-free operation
  • Easily maneuverable

Cons:

  • Safety feels a little cheap

Crossbow Brands

The popularity of crossbow for both hunting and recreational or sports shooting has been one a steady rise in the last few decades.

And it is because of this that there are now almost countless companies that make them and new ones are always coming up.

However, there are a few that still manage to stand out from the crowd for making accurate and highly durable crossbows. Some of these best crossbow brands include the following five.

1. Barnett

Barnett

Barnett is famous for having many models of crossbows in the market and they seem to specialize in making the compound crossbow types.

The company prides in being one of the few to have sold more than a million crossbows since they began operation.

Also, they are an industry leader when it comes to innovations with some of their most impressive technologies being the self-cocking devices and fully-integrated crank cocking device.

Most of their crossbows will come with draw weights that are typically in the mid range and they are quite heavy as most compound crossbows tend to be.

In addition to their top-notch crossbows, Barnett also provides various accessories to help you enhance the performance of the bow such as scopes that are compatible with all their crossbows.

2. Excalibur

Excalibur

If you are a crossbow hunter, the chances are that you already know about Excalibur as it is one of the most preferred brands by seasoned hunters.

Excalibur has been making top-rated crossbows since 1983 and few other brands are able to match the speed and reliability of their bows.

The lightweight nature of Excalibur crossbows is another factor that seems to set them apart from others as most will weigh under 6 pounds.

Also, their crossbows tend to be incredibly accurate and fast with most of their models providing speeds that are between 305 and 350 FPS.

Excalibur makes recurve crossbows and if you are just starting out they tend to be very beginner-friendly.

3. Carbon Express

Carbon Express

Carbon Express is one of the relatively new crossbows manufactures. Their CX2 and Covert CX3 are some of their popular models.

Although their crossbows are well-made, the brand seems to be more famous for their fantastic bolts and arrows.

All their crossbows come in the more complicated compound design and with speeds that range between 330 and 385 FPS. And this makes them great for hunting medium size and large animals.

Carbon Express crossbows will weight around 7.5 pounds and are covered with a 5-year limited warranty.

4. Horton

Horton

Horton is a famous brand when it comes to making crossbows with unusual designs or ones that try to break away from the norm.

For example, the Horton Havoc comes with reversed limbs which are quite a rare feature in the industry while the company designs the Horton Zombie RIP for killing zombies.

Most of their top-rated crossbows will provide speeds of upwards of 300 FPS which makes them a great tool for hunting.

When it comes to the weight, Horton crossbows seem to be heavier than what you get from most other crossbow brands as many of their models will be at least 8 pounds or more.

5. SA Sports

SA Sports

Like Carbon Express, SA Sports is a relatively new entrant to the crossbow industry but the company is already winning many people over by making high-quality bows that are still very affordable.

Another thing that many archers seem to love is that they have a wide variety of products. Their products range from simple beginner recurve crossbow to tough compound crossbows for the seasoned archers or for taking down large game.

Depending on the model that you pick, you can expect to get arrow speeds of between 240 and 375 FPS if you chose to buy your crossbow from SA Sports.

Also, their crossbows tend to be lightweight with most models weighing around 6.5 pounds or less.

How to Buy Crossbows

How to Buy Crossbows

If you are planning to get into crossbow hunting or sports, it is imperative to make sure that you have the best crossbow. And for this to be so you need to consider the following factors when shopping.

#1. Purpose

The first thing when shopping for a crossbow should always be to figure out how or what you intend to use the bow for.

You have to decide whether you are going to need a crossbow for hunting or just for target shooting as this determines the right type for you and also the accessories you need.

If you want something for target shooting or just for having fun during your free time, something cheap is just okay as you will not be concerned a lot about speed or reliability.

But, if you want something for hunting, everything from the accuracy and speeds to weight and design of the crossbow matters a lot.

Also, the best youth crossbow might not be powerful enough for adults and experienced archers and so you also need to consider the age and skills of the archer.

#2. Draw Weight

Draw weight refers to the amount of force it takes to latch the crossbow. And to state it simply, the higher the draw weight, the harder it will be to cock the bow.

However, it is also important to note that the draw weight also determines the amount of speed that the arrow can generate. And so as much as you will want to get a crossbow that is easy to cock, you do not also want to compromise the speed.

When it comes to the draw weight the most important thing is to strike a balance between the ease of use and performance or speed.

#3. Speed

Speed determines how hard the arrow will hit the target and in many instances, it is often the difference between making a kill and not.

Like with other bow types the arrow speed is measured in FPS (feet per second) and the best powerful crossbows are those that deliver at least 300 FPS.

There are some bows that have been recorded to produce speeds of an impressive 500 FPS but you will probably never need all that. And so whether you are hunting small or large animals something in the 300 range should be more than enough.

#4. Accessories

There are several accessories that you need when using the crossbow effectively and many others that are just meant to improve its performance.

The most common crossbow accessories include the bolts, arrows, quiver, scope and a cocking device. And the more accessories you have the better.

A crossbow that comes with these accessories in the package is always a great option as you will not need to buy them separately. Also, if you have to buy anything separately, make sure you know what the particular crossbow model uses to avoid disappointments.

#5. Materials

The crossbow materials matter a lot as they will affect both the performance and durability. When it comes to the material there are several parts to watch out for such as the stock and riser.

For the stock, molded plastic and resin coated plywood are the two most common option. Plastic makes the stock lightweight but it also gives off more vibrations/shock. Machined aluminum risers, on the other hand, are always the best.

Conclusion

Crossbows are a fantastic type of bow for both serious hunters and target shooters. But regardless of where you fall in the two categories, the most important thing is to make sure you get the best crossbows.

In your pursuit of a good crossbow, it is always important to first familiarize with the different types which include recurve, compound and riffle.

And once you know these different types and what sets them apart and consider other vial factors like draw weight, speed and, accessories, it should be way much easier to get a high-quality crossbow.

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