Crossbows come and go, and serious archers know that it isn’t exactly easy to find a crossbow that is accurate, durable, fully-equipped, and affordable. In this article we’ll review a few of the crossbows that are considered to be the best available on the market right now. First, though, we’ll give inexperienced and beginning archers a little background on exactly what a crossbow is and how it works. We’ll also break down each consideration that you should have in mind when choosing the best crossbow.
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- 1 10 Best Crossbow Reviews 2018
- 1.1 1. Ravin Crossbows R15 Predator – Best Overall
- 1.2 2. Gearhead X16 Hunter Crossbow – Best Technology
- 1.3 3. Barnett Ghost 420 Revenant – Best for Stationary Hunting
- 1.4 4. TenPoint Venom Crossbow – Best for Hunting on the Move
- 1.5 5. Excalibur Matrix Grizzly – Best Bow on a Budget
- 1.6 6. Horton Storm RDX – Best for Innovation
- 1.7 7. TenPoint NitroX – Best for Speed
- 1.8 8. Bear Archery Fisix FFL – Best Crossbow for the Money
- 1.9 9. Southern Crossbow Risen XT 350 – Best for Beginners
- 1.10 10. SA Sports Empire Beowulf – Best Cheap Crossbow
- 2 What is a Crossbow
- 3 Types of Crossbows
- 4 Crossbow Parts
- 5 How to Choose the Best Crossbow – Buying Guide
- 6 How to Use a Crossbow Effectively
- 7 Crossbow Use, Care & Maintenance Tips
- 8 Conclusion
10 Best Crossbow Reviews 2018
|Ravin Crossbows R15 Predator||425 FPS||4.9|
|Gearhead X16 Hunter Crossbow||350 FPS||4.8|
|Barnett Ghost 420 Revenant||420 FPS||4.7|
|TenPoint Venom Crossbow||372 FPS||4.8|
|Excalibur Matrix Grizzly||305 FPS||4.7|
|Horton Storm RDX||370 FPS||4.8|
|TenPoint NitroX||440 FPS||4.9|
|Bear Archery Fisix FFL||375 FPS||4.8|
|Southern Crossbow Risen XT 350||350 FPS||4.6|
|SA Sports Empire Beowulf||360 FPS||4.6|
1. Ravin Crossbows R15 Predator – Best Overall
In a market as large and diverse as Crossbows, being the best of anything is a daunting task. It’s also short-lived as companies make new and innovative products weekly. Ravin has been producing this particular bow for over a year and it still holds up as one of the best, if not the best on the market.
Ravin’s Predator crossbow is a near laser accurate, fast shooting, hard hitting weapon that can nail a deer through the thickest brush and out to ranges that are almost hard to believe. With its included 100 yard illuminated scope, you can be out and hunting the same day.
This is a feature-packed bow, and it takes that to be the best in today’s market. In addition to the scope, the Ravin also comes with a detachable cocking mechanism, sling and quiver mounting system, six arrows with field points, auto safety, and an incredibly useful anti-dry fire mechanism. But by far the best thing about this bow is the insanely low 12 lb draw that still releases an arrow better than 400 fps.
- Super-fast arrow speed.
- Not too heavy.
- Crazy low draw weight.
- Very expensive.
2. Gearhead X16 Hunter Crossbow – Best Technology
With all of the complexity and moving parts, creating a bow that is light and maneuverable is a difficult undertaking. Though an upstart in the Archery world, Gearhead is slowly making ground with both their bows and crossbows. The X16, as with all of Gearheads products, have a very unique look and some of the lowest weights available on bows today.
Some people like classic looks or even historic patterns but that stops before you get to crossbows. Crossbows are all about technology and innovation and none so far have the same look or qualities of a Gearhead bow. The look alone is eye-catching and the performance stacks up to some of the best on the market.
Weighing in at just over 5 lbs, the X16 is a straight shooter with all of the power you need from a crossbow. Taking large game would be a breeze with this bow and with the weight, you can maneuver it around brush and limbs to get that perfect shot. Of all of the bows available in 2018, there may be some that perform better but none that weigh as little and look as good.
- Incredibly lightweight and maneuverable.
- Great styling.
- Accurate at moderate ranges.
- Slower arrow speed.
- Quite expensive.
3. Barnett Ghost 420 Revenant – Best for Stationary Hunting
The Ruger 10/22 is a timeless firearm. So is the Remington 870. It takes a lot to make a product that stands the test of time and no matter what technology comes around, it never quite manages to overcome the tried and true. That’s the case with Barnett crossbows. Their Ghost series of bows have been a mainstay in the market and taken top ranks every year.
The Barnett 420 is really a beast of a bow, weighing almost 8 lbs and with a draw weight of 185 lbs, this is a serious tool! But it hits like a ton of bricks and pushes arrows out nearly as fast as any bow on the market. It is compatible with Barnett’s crank draw system which is a blessing because drawing this bow is a feat! Never worry that it won’t do its job, this is a bow that will last generations without fail.
By far the best thing about any Barnett bow is the trigger which has a patented frictionless release mechanism. No matter how much weight is resting on the roller, it will take almost none to release the mechanism. This is a bow that will truly outshoot most people’s capabilities.
- Time tested and proven.
- Very affordable for a bow this good.
- Great accuracy.
- Quite heavy but not unreasonable.
- Draw weight is a bit stiff.
4. TenPoint Venom Crossbow – Best for Hunting on the Move
If the Barnett bow is the best for hunting from blinds and treestands, The TenPoint Venom is best for hunting pretty much anywhere else. It has better accuracy than the Barnett and the only reason it doesn’t beat the Barnett outright is because of its higher draw weight and cost.
The Venom really is a great bow, don’t let its place on this list fool you. It may have a higher draw weight but that is offset by the attached Accu-Draw system. It is a better feeling bow than the Barnett and is very balanced and maneuverable where the Barnett feels more clunky.
All TenPoint bows have a reputation for unparalleled accuracy and crop up on almost every best bow list and for good reason. They are superb bows with a ton of features and innovations that make hunting easier. It’s a pretty sure thing to say that TenPoint bows have taken pretty much every large game animal available in North America.
- Simple and elegant design.
- Super accurate.
- Light and maneuverable.
- Very expensive.
- Would expect more power for such a heavy draw.
5. Excalibur Matrix Grizzly – Best Bow on a Budget
In a world of high-dollar, high-performance bows it’s easy to get lost in the land of price tags and technical jargon when all you really need is a device to send an arrow down range into an unsuspecting deer. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune and be backed by technologies more suited to space travel to do the job. That is where the Excalibur Matrix shines!
You won’t find pulleys or fancy mechanics on the Grizzly but you will find a plain and simple bow that just works and for a price that won’t break the bank. It is a stout draw, to be frank, but still lets off at a respectable 300 fps. It also has one of the best triggers on the market, especially in the price range of under 600 bucks.
If you are new to Crossbow hunting you could do a lot worse than an Excalibur bow. They have pretty much perfected the recurve crossbow and have made pretty much the best in that product category for years. One thing is sure, this bow will last forever and is almost impossible to break. You can also take a pop bottle top off at 50 feet with little effort. How can you beat that?
- Durable and rugged yet lightweight.
- Great price point.
- Incredibly accurate.
- Not as powerful as higher end bows.
- Harder to draw than other options.
6. Horton Storm RDX – Best for Innovation
Horton made their name in the far reaches of crossbow hunting past with their Yukon and Summit series of recurve bows. Now they are the parent company of TenPoint but are still producing bows under their original and famous moniker.
Though the Horton bows to seem to lack a little of the refinement of their TenPoint siblings, they have a far better price point. They are also loaded with all the same features, save one. All of Horton’s bow, including the storm, are reverse draw. The limbs are located rearward on the bow and draw forward which gives these bows a balance unlike any other bow on the market!
When it comes to maneuverable bows, which are almost a necessity in the eastern woodlands, none will perform like a Horton bow. You may not have the power of some of the higher end bows it isn’t going to limit your hunting options. This bow is plenty capable and for a lower price than what you would pay for a TenPoint.
- Superbly balanced and weighted.
- Very nice trigger.
- Better bang for your buck than other high dollar bows.
- Not as intuitive to shoot.
- Power could be better out of a bow of this type.
- Cheek rest is a little uncomfortable.
7. TenPoint NitroX – Best for Speed
With modern day crossbows, speed is almost a moot point. When you regularly push 350 fps or better, most people stop counting. But if you are here for pure speed, the NitroX is basically the supercar of crossbows. If the goal is to hit a deer so fast that the arrow does its job before the deer has a chance to spook, you can do that with reported speeds up to 440 feet a second.
Like all TenPoint bows, you are going to get a load of features and an all-around great bow. You know the bow will be tough, rugged, and dependable. But with this bow, you will also get blinding speed without the cost of accuracy usually seen in super-fast bows.
Unlike a lot of TenPoint bows, this is a reverse draw bow with some pretty spacious cams which work to generate all that speed. This is the kind of bow that can leave a deer dead on its feet. If you aren’t fond of tracking, this may very well be the best bow for you, though it is pretty pricey.
- Arrow speed is incredible.
- Power to draw weight great.
- Bow is very well balanced.
- Bow is accurate despite speed.
- Quite expensive.
- Shooting is not as intuitive.
8. Bear Archery Fisix FFL – Best Crossbow for the Money
Who hasn’t heard of the legendary Bear Archery and their equally legendary accuracy? Most people think of Bear in reference to traditional bows but their offerings in compound and crossbows are equally deserving of high praise! If you want a shot after shot accurate crossbow, look no further. And with a little shopping around you can get one for under a grand!
If you want accuracy, what you need is consistency. That requires a rock solid, stable platform. In truth that is what the Fisix is, just pure stability. The price of that stability is weight, this is easily the heaviest bow on this list at a whopping 9.9 lbs. This isn’t a bow to drag through the woods on a long trek but it’s great for setting in a blind and nailing anything that happens by.
Just because its heavy doesn’t mean you sacrifice everywhere else. The bow is plenty fast and very well balanced. You will still feel the weight but it isn’t so cumbersome that you can’t maneuver the bow and line up a great shot. Really, how important would accuracy be if you couldn’t move the bow around?
- Dead on accurate.
- Great bow for the money.
- Rugged and tough design.
- Very heavy.
- Even with a balanced design, feel cumbersome.
9. Southern Crossbow Risen XT 350 – Best for Beginners
Much like compound and traditional bows, Crossbows have a range following and what you need on the range differs greatly from what you need in the woods. A range bow can be a little louder and a little less refined than those in the woods. In the woods you usually take a single shot, on the range you can shoot dozens of times in a day so comfort is king! Hunting is a profit/loss endeavor if you are after the meat but shooting on the range is just for fun so a little cost savings is also in order.
Most people have probably never heard of Southern Crossbow which isn’t surprising considering they are quite a new company with just a couple of offerings. But the offerings they do have seem to be high quality and offer some unique innovations that make them a sure starting place for the budget conscious beginner.
The Risen line of bows use a standard AR-15 style stock which is ideal for beginners and those not too serious about getting into the Crossbow sport. With plenty of speed and just enough power, there are great for some target practice on the range but wouldn’t fair badly in the woods. This bow could be a great transition for those looking to start hunting or just need a bow a little less costly.
- Surprising draw to power ratio.
- Quite affordable.
- Fairly unrefined with a cheaper feel.
- Draw is stiff with no mechanical assist available.
10. SA Sports Empire Beowulf – Best Cheap Crossbow
Sometimes cost is king but not at the cost of performance. Sure, if you spend big money you can get the best but that doesn’t mean you can spend less and get something just good enough to do the job! There are a ton of budget bows out there and most are not worth what you spend on them. But SA Sports has done a pretty good job at a balance of price and quality.
There are bows on this list that are lighter, have more power, and are more accurate, but really there are none that dollar for dollar will perform better than the Beowulf and that is pretty surprising. This bow is lighter than a lot of the high dollar bows but still shoots about as hard. Accuracy isn’t as pinpoint as the big dogs but 10 arrows in a pie pan at 50 feet should be plenty good enough!
If your goal this hunting season is to bring home the meat without breaking the bank, the Beowulf is a really solid choice. It wouldn’t be my first pick but I wouldn’t hesitate to take one out with the confidence that it would do what I needed it to do.
- Shockingly good bow for this cheap.
- Better weight than most high dollar bows.
- A little rough around the edges.
- Scope is cheap and chintzy.
- Could have better power to draw ratio.
What is a Crossbow
A crossbow is a type of bow that utilizes a horizontal bow mounted onto a gun-like stock. Although it might seem as though someone decided to combine a bow with a gun to create the crossbow, the fact is that crossbows were around far before guns were even invented. Arrows shot by a crossbow are also known as bolts or quarrels. Crossbows were invented in ancient China as military weapons, and the innovation of these devices was a game-changer in the field of projectile weaponry. Today, crossbows are mainly used in shooting sports and hunting, especially when silence is of the utmost importance. Knowing how to properly draw a crossbow and efficiently hit a target with a crossbow are considered skills that can take a lot of time to master.
Types of Crossbows
There are two basic crossbow types: the recurve crossbow and the compound crossbow. Both types of crossbows are derived from types of traditional bows. We will discuss each type of crossbow so you can have a better understanding of what you’re dealing with in each situation.
- Recurve Crossbow: – The tips of a recurve crossbow flex away from the shooter. It uses one string that is attached to pulleys, each of which has cables that are attached to the opposite limb. This allows the bow’s limbs to have a longer draw length, and this translates into more acceleration and a lower “hand shock” for the archer. Recurved crossbows have a higher chance of making noise with each shot, and the formation of the bow puts more strain on the bow’s materials.
- Compound Crossbow – The compound crossbow does not turn away from the archer at any point. It has a lower draw weight than the recurve crossbow because it only has one string and there is no cable or pulley system involved. Compound crossbows are known for being easy to cock and they require less strain on behalf of the archer.
The compound crossbow does not turn away from the archer at any point. It has a lower draw weight than the recurve crossbow because it only has one string and there is no cable or pulley system involved. Compound crossbows are known for being easy to cock and they require less strain on behalf of the archer.
A standard crossbow consists of the following parts, although some parts may be specific to either a compound crossbow or a recurve crossbow:
- Stock – The stock is the part of the crossbow that you put against your shoulder. It is also known as a tiller.
- Bridge – The bridge runs underneath the site along the middle of the crossbow.
- Latch – The crossbow latch holds the string in place until the archer pulls the trigger to release the arrow.
- Sight – The style of a sight varies, and some crossbows only have a small indicator instead of a sight. Most crossbows, however, have a scope-style sight that the archer uses to achieve a better aim.
- Serving – The serving is the point of the bow string at which the arrow’s tail connects.
- Retention Spring – The retention spring is stretched with cocking and snaps back into position when the trigger is pulled.
- Trigger – The trigger unhinges the latch and allows the string to propel the bolt toward the target.
- Foregrip – The foregrip is where you place the hand that is not being used to control the trigger.
- Flight Groove – The flight groove holds the bolt in place and ensures that the arrow proceeds immediately and directly forward when the trigger is pulled.
- String – The string is used to add tension to the bow, and it also makes contact with the rear of the bolt.
- Riser – The riser is found at the forward portion of the flight groove and holds the head of the bolt in place until the trigger is pulled.
- Barrel – The barrel is the lower part of the flight groove and this word can be interpreted as being composed of the foregrip, flight groove, and riser.
- Limb – Each bow has two limbs, or sides of the bow that go in either direction away from the center of the bow.
- Stirrup – The stirrup is used to cock the crossbow. You place your foot through the stirrup and cock the bow while the stirrup is firmly on the ground.
- Quiver – The quiver holds extra bolts and is often located on the underside of the bow toward the front end.
How to Choose the Best Crossbow – Buying Guide
If you’re looking to buy a crossbow then you’ll want to take certain things into consideration when making your selection. You should closely evaluate each of the following points when comparing crossbows to buy:
- Compound Bow Type – Each type of bow is useful for something specific. Buy the best type of bow for your game or sport, and buy a bow that matches your experience level.
- Main Use – Is the bow going to be used for archery sports or for hunting? If the bow is to be used in hunting then you’ll want to buy the appropriate bow for the game you plan to hunt.
- Sound – How audible is the crossbow when it fires? Is the cocking noise extreme loud or potentially unnerving to game in the area?
- Bow Weight – How heavy is the bow? Some hunters may not be able (or willing) to lug around a heavy bow even though it could mean a better shot.
- Draw Weight – What is the draw weight of the bow? It’s important to take this into consideration because the bow’s draw weight will have implications for how easy it is to use, as well as what types of game it can bring down.
- Speed – What is the average velocity of arrows released from this bow? Most bows have a “feet per second” rating that you can look to for comparison shopping.
- Manufacturer Guarantees & Warranties – Does the manufacturer of the bow (and arrows) offer any sort of warranty period? How are warranty claims processed? What happens if something is defective or breaks? Is there a reduced cost or free replacement program in effect for the bow (or the arrows)?
- Scope – Does the bow include a scope? If so, what are the scope’s capabilities? If no scope is included then what kinds of scopes could be added onto the bow?
- Customization – One of the great things about crossbows is that they can be extremely customizable. If you’re the type of archer who wants to add and take away parts to turn your “off the shelf” bow into a fully customized weapon then does the bow you’re considering allow you to do so?
- Arrow Size – Know how long the arrow is, and know how large of an arrowhead your bow can handle. The arrows of a crossbow are very specific to the crossbow being used.
- Extra Parts – Does the bow come with any spare parts, such as strings, cables, or pulleys? How hard (and expensive) is it to get your hands on high-quality replacement parts? You never want to go short on quality when it comes to replacement crossbow parts.
- Cocking Aids – Does the bow in question have a built-in cocking aid to make drawing the string easier? If not, then can one be added on with relative ease?
- Design – Is the crossbow outfitted with a camouflage color scheme that will confuse potential game targets, if applicable?
- Price – Price should never be your main or only consideration, but when comparing similar crossbows you should definitely let price be part of the equation.
How to Use a Crossbow Effectively
The famed artist Leonardo DaVinci drew what is now a famous sketch of a crossbow, and we aren’t here to try to “one up” the master. The mechanics of a crossbow are actually quite simple, but it takes time, patience and training to learn how to effectively use a crossbow.
There are a few different types of crossbows (see above section) but they all work in the same general fashion. You have to consider the size and shape of the bow, the size of the arrow, the draw weight, the draw length, and other factors that also apply to “regular” bows. To use a crossbow you usually need to follow these steps:
- Place the crossbow’s stirrup on the ground and place your foot through it.
- Hold your foot firmly in place once your foot is all the way through the stirrup.
- Pull the string with both hands and with the same amount of force. You might want to use an automatic cocker to help you pull the string back to the appropriate degree on both sides. When the bow is fully cocked you should hear a loud “click.”
- Place an arrow into the crossbow’s groove and make sure that the end of the arrow is touching the string. One of the arrow’s feathers (also known as fletchings) should be in the crossbow’s groove.
- Your crossbow might have an automatic safety feature, or it might have a manual safety option. Make sure the safety is engaged until you are fully prepared to fire the weapon. To fire your crossbow simply aim and pull the trigger.
It’s vital to note in this section of the article that a crossbow is not a toy and that you should only use your crossbow under the direct supervision of someone who is qualified to use such a device (if you are not such a person yourself). You should only use bolts (arrows) that are designed to be used with the specific crossbow that’s in your hands. Crossbow legality differs from state to state and within specific municipalities so be sure to check the crossbow laws in your area before you do anything else.
Crossbow Use, Care & Maintenance Tips
The following pointers will help you keep your crossbow and bolts in pristine condition, thus allowing you to get the maximum amount of life out of your investments.
- Check for worn, missing, damaged or loose parts before each crossbow use.
- Replace all frayed or slightly worn strings immediately.
- Keep the barrel and flight groove lubricated according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Wax the crossbow string and cables according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Keep the trigger box and exposed mounting bolts lubricated according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Wiggle the riser and limbs to make sure they do not move independently from the crossbow’s stock.
- If you use a scope, you can clean it occasionally with an alcohol-based wipe.
- Use a can of compressed air to get any particles of direct out of the nooks and crannies of your crossbow.
- Periodically re-tighten all bolts in an even manner and a little bit at a time. You should do this every 50-100 shots.
- Check each arrow before loading into the crossbow. Make sure the arrowhead is firmly in place and that there are no cracks or splinters along the shaft.
- Use a vibration dampening device to reduce noise and vibration.
- Purchase a crossbow case with a hard shell, and keep your crossbow, arrows, wax, oil, etc. in the case.
- Keep the crossbow away from the prying hands and eyes of children at all times.
By now you should have a solid understanding of the various types of crossbows, and you should be familiar with each individual part of a crossbow. You should also be able to take our reviews of 2016’s best crossbows and use the information we’ve provided to make a valid selection based on the advice provided in our buying guide. Bookmark this page so when you buy your new crossbow you can use the crossbow care and maintenance tips provided above to keep your crossbow in working order for the longest period of time possible. If you have anything you’d like to see added to this article, or if you would like to let us know what your choice for the best crossbow of 2016 would be, feel free to leave us a message in the Comments section below.