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 buying a crossbow.
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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.
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 next 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.
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.
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.
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.