A popular alternative to a gun or a traditional bow in hunting and shooting sports is the crossbow. A crossbow is a powerful and accurate alternative to the compound bow, providing less noise and more stealth than a gun. This guide will provide you with pertinent information in the purchase of a crossbow and rate the best options on the market for the money.
2019’s Best Crossbow for the Money
The Ravin Crossbows R15 Predator is the best overall crossbow for the money. This crossbow is extremely accurate, fast and makes a large impact on the target. It has a lot of features including a cocking mechanism that increases ease of use drastically.
The R15 Predator comes with an illuminated scope that is rated at 100 yards. With that and its other settings, you are ready to go as soon as you take this crossbow out of the box. Being a compound crossbow also increases the draw weight, furthering its versatility.
The weapon is extremely light and adaptable and is by far the best on our list below for the money. The only problem is that it costs quite a bit. But our rating system is based on what you get for the money and in those terms, there is nothing better than the predator.
What to Consider When Looking for a Crossbow
The stealthier alternative to a gun and the more powerful and accurate alternative to the compound bow is the crossbow. The crossbow is not, however, a combination of a traditional bow and a gun, as it actually predates the invention of the gun by over a thousand years.
Unlike these original crossbows that were designed for the use of the Ancient Chinese military, there are many different characteristics of the modern crossbow to consider. The following characteristics should be considered:
- Types of crossbows
- Draw weight
- Sights and aiming
- Velocity and power
Types of Crossbows
There are two types of crossbows available today, they are recurve and compound crossbows. The major difference between these bows is design and price. The compound crossbow has a much more complex design and is much more expensive than the recurve crossbow.
Similar to a regular compound bow, the compound crossbow consists of axles and pulleys that makes the weapon easier to draw. This complex design differs greatly from a much more simplistic single string design of the recurve crossbow.
Upon comparison, it is easy for you to see why the compound bow would be a little more costly. The compound bow has many more moving parts and therefore requires a more elaborate construction and firing system. This is also the more modern design of the two, as the recurve dates back to resemble the original crossbows of ancient times.
Another way to differentiate between these crossbows is by examining their draw and firing motions. The recurve bow will bend toward the shooter during the draw and rapidly accelerate in the opposite direction when fired. The compound crossbow does not ever bend away from the shooter, as the firing mechanisms are internal to its more complex pully and axle system.
In terms of stealth, the compound bow is a lot quieter due to its multiple moving parts. The recurve bow tends to be loud as it is just the one string snapping forward to release the arrow. This also makes recurve bows a lot harder to draw.
The draw weight of any bow is the measurement of the amount of force that it takes to draw an arrow. The minimum draw weight for a modern-day crossbow is 150 pounds. This is much higher than a standard compound bow which tends to max out around 70 pounds.
This shows just how much more powerful a crossbow can be than a regular bow. The major difference for draw weights in compound versus recurve crossbows is, of course, the effort that goes into achieving that draw weight. Due to their complex mechanism, compound crossbows are much easier to draw.
Drawing a recurve bow will generally take a lot more effort. This is why the common design consists of a foothold on the front of the crossbow. This allows you to hold the bow down with your foot and provide the maximum amount of torque to draw back and set the string.
The best way to describe this drawing procedure is to compare it to a deadlift motion. This means that you are essentially lifting the draw weight as you set the string. This is obviously the hardest way to draw your crossbow. Simpler methods include the use of a rope and a crank.
Drawing your crossbow with a rope cuts the felt draw weight by the shooter in half when cocking the crossbow. It is accomplished by placing a cocking rope on the string and is a relatively cheap way to reduce the effort in loading the weapon.
The third way to draw the string on your crossbow is via a crank mechanism. This is an assembly that attaches to the back of your crossbow. The device is then attached to the string, and then cranked to draw back and cock the string.
The cranking method adds cost and weight to your crossbow, as opposed to the rope method or the manual way. This is definitely something to consider when you are deciding which type of crossbow to purchase. The amount of effort/added cost it may take to cock the weapon is an important factor.
Sights and Aiming
An important part in the selection and operation of your crossbow is understanding how to aim at your intended target, whether it be wild game or targets on a range. There are two primary options for sight styles available for crossbows. These consist of red dot sights and optical sights. These options range in complexity and price.
The most affordable and basic style of scope is a single red dot sight. This is used by lining up your target with the single red dot in the scope, and then making adjustments for factors such as distance and conditions.
A similar and slightly more complex scope style is a three red dot scope. This style makes estimation a little easier to make when shooting at your intended target. This is a display in the scope of three verticle red dots.
The way to line up a three red dot scope is based on the distance that you are from your target. For closer targets, you would use the top red dot. The middle red dot is used for shooting mid-range targets. The farthest targets within the range of your crossbow would then be sighted using the bottom red dot.
The most expensive scope systems available for crossbows are optical sights. These sights generally consist of cross hares. There are two different styles of cross hares that come in optical scopes. These are single and multiple-reticle.
This is a very similar structure to the red dot system, as the multiple reticle system is designed to better aim at various differences. The primary difference between the dot scopes and optical scopes is that the optical scopes provide a clearer view of the target.
The way an optical sight provides a clearer view of the target is via different magnification levels. Optical sights are generally available in 1x to 5x magnification ranges. Scopes also allow for additional adaptations, such as sights that are illuminated to help line up targets in poorly lit conditions.
Velocity and Power
The minimum velocity that your bow should shoot at is 200 feet per second. This measurement applies within the first 20 yards or so of the flight of the arrow. There are a couple of specifications of a crossbow that factor into the velocity of your shot.
The draw weight, power stroke, and arrow specs are the three most important factors in the amount of energy, and therefore velocity that your crossbow will produce. The power stroke is the measured length that the string travels from a cocked position to rest, after the arrow has been fired. Combined with the draw weight, which was described above, you can calculate your crossbows energy output.
Once the type and weight of arrow are factored in, you should be able to come to a fairly accurate estimation of your crossbow’s velocity. Power stroke usually varies between 10 and 14 inches. Although a longer stroke contributes to more power other factors can balance out or take away from this power.
The Best Crossbow for You
The right crossbow for you will have to match the way you want to use it. There are different crossbows designed for target shooting and hunting. The versatility of the crossbow refers to how many different applications you can effectively use the weapon for.
In order to get the most for your money out of a crossbow, you should consider what your intended usage will be for the weapon. For example, if you are using the weapon exclusively for hunting, you will probably want a stealthier and easier to draw compound crossbow.
If you are looking for the best quality at a low cost, you may consider a recurve crossbow. The overall simplicity of its design contributes to a much lower cost. However, with the right training and adaptations, you can easily work your way around the more difficult cocking procedure.
If you are looking for a reasonably priced crossbow that is also a good quality weapon your price range should begin at $120. Anything priced lower than this point will probably be made of cheaper materials. This could cause the crossbow to break more easily and could be potentially dangerous.
A reasonably priced and good quality compound crossbow will probably run around $300. The compound crossbows are slightly more expensive, but are easier to use and much more stealthy for hunting. The major difference between the two styles mainly comes down to price and comfort.
The Best Crossbows of 2020
The following is a list and breakdown of the pros and cons of the best crossbows in 2019.
Ravin Crossbows R15 Predator
This is an extremely versatile crossbow that comes ready to hunt right out of the box. It has an impressive amount of features, including an illuminated sight that is rated up to 100 yards. It is fast, accurate, durable and extremely light.
The Predator fires arrows at 400 feet per second, which is extremely fast. Because it is a compound crossbow, it has a very low draw weight feel. The draw is only 12 pounds, which is insanely low for such a high firing speed. In terms of a good crossbow for the money, it is hard not to love the R15 Predator.
An issue with the Predator, however, is that you are getting so many features in the package. This makes it a great purchase for the money, but it also makes it cost considerably more than other crossbows.
- Comes ready to hunt
- Includes quiver, bow sight, auto safety, and anti-dry fire
- Very low draw weight
- Lightweight good for agility in woods
- Substantial package for the money
- Very high velocity
- Customization after purchase is not cost effective
Excalibur Matrix 380
The Matrix 380 from Excalibur is a highly rated recurve crossbow for hunting. It has a high velocity and is extremely accurate. Its simple, durable and lightweight design makes it great to take out into the woods.
The 380 has a draw weight of 260 pounds and a power stroke of 13 inches. This contributes to a very high velocity. It is also fairly quiet, as far as recurve crossbows are concerned.
The 380 only weighs 12 pounds, so it will not weigh you down during your hunting excursions. This is also not one of the lower-priced crossbows on the list, due to its higher quality. However, for the money, this is a very good crossbow for veteran hunters, especially for taking down deer and other bigger game.
- Easy to set up
- Ready to shoot out of the box
- Great for hunting deer
- Quiet as far as recurves go
- Powerful and lightweight
- Difficult to cock for less experienced users
- Mostly for hunting applications
- Higher price
Centerpoint Sniper 370
The Sniper 370 from Centerpoint provides a lower cost option that is good for beginners. This compound crossbow is easy to draw and has a fully adjustable stock. There are many features conducive to comfort and learning that make this a great choice for those learning how to shoot.
The Sniper 370 is fairly lightweight at 12.2 pounds and hits a maximum speed of 370 feet per second. It has a draw weight of 185 pounds and a suppression system that cuts down on noise and vibration. Its sleek design also makes it great for deer hunting, and the cam system helps with accuracy.
- Good for hunting
- Highly accurate
- Affordable and good for beginners
- Ready to use out of the box
- Heavier than other bows
- Not preferred by experts
- Slightly lower speed
Another very impressive compound crossbow for the money that may not be recommended for beginners is the NitroX by TenPoint. This is an extremely durable and extremely high-speed crossbow that is a must-have for deer hunting. It’s lightweight, which makes it easy to carry through the woods. In addition, its complex cam system gives it a reasonably low draw weight.
The NitroX fires at an incredibly high 440 feet per second. This is enough to instantly take out a deer or other large game. This high velocity does not affect the accuracy like you might see on other high-speed models, mostly due to its advanced design. This is a great selection for experienced hunters and again is a little higher in price. With its perks though, the NitroX is worth the higher cost.
- Comes with all the essentials
- Power to draw weight ratio is good
- Made from durable materials
- Very fast and accurate
- Higher price
- Not recommended for beginner use
The Empire Beowulf
In terms of affordability, the Beowulf by Empire is one of the best compound crossbows. The Beowulf is available for less than $400 and is a great choice for beginners, especially for hunting. It is extremely light and is fast and accurate.
The Beowulf only weighs 10 pounds, making it an agile choice for excursions through tougher hunting grounds. The draw weight is 175 pounds and the power stroke is 14 inches. Both of these aspects are impressive for such a low price and result in a firing velocity of 360 feet per second.
This may not be the preferred choice of the veteran hunter, but it is a great package for beginners. The crossbow is sufficient for deer hunting and is built to be a good weapon to carry through the woods.
- Very Light
- High-quality design and materials
- Fast release speed
- Good price for a high-quality bow
- Ready to hunt out of the box
- Not a top choice of veterans
- Excessive lightness may throw off stability
Another high quality and lower priced compound crossbow is the KI 350. Coming in at under $500, this weapon provides a lot of features and versatility for not too much money. This is an extremely lightweight and versatile crossbow.
The velocity of the KI 350 is 350 feet per second. This is accompanied by a fairly light draw weight, due to its cam system. The KI 350 is very light and only weighs 6.5 pounds. It has a built-in anti-dry fire safety and suppression system. It is also a very accurate crossbow.
The low cost and other features make this lightweight bow a very good selection for beginners. This is one of the easier bows on the list in terms of operation. All these features come without sacrificing too much speed or accuracy.
- Very Light
- Fast release speed
- Good natural feel
- Good price for a high-quality bow
- Parts may be difficult to find
- Not the best setup for hunting
PSE Fang Crossbow
The most cost-effective choice on the list is the PSE Fang Crossbow. Coming in at under $300, there are some setbacks, but you are getting a lot of features for the money. This is a relatively low price for a compound bow that is both fast and accurate.
The Fang is very light, only weighing 6.8 pounds and it has a firing speed of 350 feet per second. This impressive firing speed is due to a 14.5-inch power stroke and a 155-pound draw weight. The Fang also has an anti-dry fire safety on the trigger.
The low cost, however, becomes more apparent in terms of comfort. There is no noise or vibration suppression system on the Fang. This can take away from the accuracy of an unprepared shooter. Overall, the price makes this a very attractive selection for beginners.
- Very Light
- Fast release speed
- Most popular among female hunters
- Good choice for beginners
- Under $300
- Good price for a high-quality bow
- No Vibration control
- No noise cancellation
- Not a choice of veterens
With so many variations and choices, finding the right crossbow for the money could be rather difficult. Hopefully, this crossbow and hunter guide provided you with the necessary information and specifications to consider in order to find the choice weapon for you. The most important thing is that you determine the purpose for which you are buying the crossbow and then go from there.
There are two types of crossbows available. The compound bows are slightly more expensive than most recurve bows, but they are also easier to use in a lot of cases. This does not, however, preclude the recurve as a preference amongst experienced hunters, who prefer them for their simplicity and power.
Overall, the best crossbow for the money is the Ravin R15 Predator. It is an expensive choice, but it comes with an impressive amount of features and is of extremely high quality. As you go down in cost, it is important to consider the sacrifices that you are making in different areas, such as speed, accuracy, and quality.