Hunting with guns and dogs is an experience in itself, but there’s nothing that quite beats the efficiency and effectiveness of crossbows.
Not only do crossbows offer a great mix of traditional and modern hunting techniques, they can be highly efficient in the right hands. Reusable arrows, silent operation, and of course the amazing looks are just a few out of many perks.
Modern crossbows have added quite a few bells and whistles to the arsenal that make the tool an even more effective weapons. We have incredibly durable and accurate arrows, precision-engineered drawing systems, and amazing optics that combine for a fast, accurate, quiet, and highly efficient hunting experience.
The Best Crossbows in 2018
We’ve compiled a list of some of the best crossbows in the world that offer all that and more. Keep in mind that a good, reliable crossbow (or any weapon, for that matter) will always cost you more than you’re expecting. These are expensive investments, but they are investments that make the entire hunting experience better and safer.
Excalibur Matrix Mega 405
Incredible Professional Crossbow
The fastest recurve crossbow in the world is, the Excalibur Matrix Mega 405 is a beast killer that is reliable, incredibly accurate, and very quiet. This is a premium, professional crossbow that serves its purpose to perfection.
SA Sports Empire Beowulf
Given how quiet this hunting machine operates, you’d be surprised that it’s a compound crossbow and not a recurve one. Smooth, reliable, and revolutionary, the SA Sports Empire Beowulf is a complete product at a highly competitive price.
With a rated speed of 405 FPS and a draw weight of 290 pounds, the Excalibur Matrix Mega can boast as the fastest and most powerful recurve crossbow in the world.
Yet despite its incredible speed and powerful draw, the Excalibur Matrix is surprisingly light and portable.
It features a premium build quality and has excellent stability, which really shows in the brilliant accuracy of this bow. The accuracy is further improved by the premium quality Twilight DLX scope, one of the best scopes you can find on the market.
A 290 pounds draw is quite a lot, however, which does make this crossbow a little difficult to use. The pulls will consume a lot of energy, and the length of the crossbow doesn’t help.
This however is not a problem for many professional users as they don’t always need the fastest speeds, which in this crossbows case only offer a mere guarantee of its power and effective against almost all legal game. A good alternative is to invest in a crank-cocking device.
One of the biggest advantages of using a crossbow over a rifle is the reduced noise. The Excalibur Matrix Mega is king in this regard, utilizing a built-in R.E.D.S suppression system that greatly reduces the noise. It really is a silent killer.
There’s very little to criticizing when it comes to the Matrix Mega. It’s another incredible product from Excalibur, one that professionals have sworn by and will continue to do so for quite a while. Of course, given its price point it’s not a crossbow everyone can afford. However, for its purpose and target audience, it is the best of the bunch.
- Incredible speed and power
- Premium build quality
- Extremely quiet operation
- Ridiculously accurate
- Featured scope is amazing
- Lightweight and portable
- Difficult to pull due to the draw weight
If it weren’t for its successor, the 420 CRT2, the Barnett Ghost 410 CRT would’ve still been the fastest, most powerful compound crossbow in the world. Yet despite having a newer model, the 410 CRT has withstood the test of time and is still preferred by many over its newer variant.
The reasons for the Ghost 410 being Barnett’s (an incredible crossbow manufacturer) bestselling and most highly rated product are quite clear. As the name suggests, this behemoth is capable of firing arrows at speeds up to 410 feet per second.
Yet despite that immense power and penetration, it’s not as costly as some of the other products on our list. This combination is what makes the Barnett Ghost 410 CRT a popular choice among all hunters.
The bow utilizes 22-inch arrows and generates up to 149ft/lbs worth of kinetic energy from a 15.4-inch power stroke. The carry weight of the crossbow is 7.3 pounds – not a lot but still not one of the lighter high-end models you can buy. The draw weight is at 185 pounds, which is reasonably large but manageable.
We love how well-balanced the crossbow is. It is sturdily built and utilizes a accurate scope with a reticule that can be switched on and off for extra assistance. The overall design, build, and usability of the crossbow makes it an excellent choice for intermediate and professional users.
One of the downsides of this crossbow however is its dampening system. This is one of the noisier crossbows out there because there is no dampening system at all. Noise is a compromise you must make however if you want a compound crossbow over a recurve one.
Despite that one shortcoming, there isn’t a crossbow that comes close to this beast at the price point, and its ease of use makes it appealing to a larger audience.
- Unmatched speed and power
- Excellent build quality
- User friendly
- Highly accurate
- Can generate noise due to a lack of dampening system
Excalibur is usually considered a premium crossbow brand offering the most expensive, top-of-the-line bows targeting professional hunters.
The Excalibur Matrix Grizzly is an exception though, as this brilliant recurve crossbow offers Excalibur’s premium feel and performance at a relatively affordable price. This is an incredible piece of gear for medium and small game hunters due to its balanced designed, ease of use, and ease of assemble.
At just 5.5 pounds, the Excalibur Grizzly is easy to handle for most individuals. The light weight is achieved with clever use of composite materials to build the chassis and body.
At 304 feet per second, this bow can hit most medium and small games critically. It won’t work well against large game, but that’s not what it’s been designed for.
One of the bigger downsides of this crossbow though is that there is no anti-fire mechanism. This is a legitimate safety issue in the hands of beginners and should be considered a negative.
Apart from that one drawback, the Excalibur Grizzly is fantastic for intermediate and advanced hunters looking to take down medium and small game. We highly recommend it if you want high quality, great performance, and ease of use at a competitive price point.
- Compact and portable
- Lightweight and well-balanced design
- Very ease to assemble
- Perfect for medium and small game
- No anti-fire mechanism
The compact Venom crossbow from TenPoint is an expensive investment, but it’s hard to deny that it’s an incredible hunting tool due to its reliable performance and brilliant accuracy.
This is a crossbow that works well for everyone. Whether you’re a professional or a beginner, the crossbow’s light weight, great design, and fantastic optics will aid you in becoming an expert hunter quickly. It has a speed of up to 372 fps and a 185 pounds draw weight.
Right off the bat, it’s a crossbow that’s very easy to assemble. In addition to that, the TenPoint Venom crossbow comes with a built-in rope cocking feature allow for easier cocking of the bow. This again is a testament to how beginner friendly this bow can be.
It comes with a highly accurate scope that is already pre-adjusted and focused. All you need to do is attach it and it’s ready to use. The multi-layered optics of the score offer a great amount of zoom, ranging from 1.5x all the way to 5x.
But perhaps the best part of the crossbow is its design. It is incredible compact – almost as if it’s been folded laterally. This shape allows users to move through narrow areas with incredible ease, and the light weight only further improves the experience.
TenPoint compensates the high price point by offering a constrained lifetime guarantee. This will require you to complete the process of the warranty card and give it back in 30 days of buying the crossbow, which we highly recommend you do.
- Very compact design
- Great build quality
- Very ease to assemble
- Great performance
- Excellent optics
- Rope for cocking is a welcome addition
- Extremely expensive product
Another Barnett product making it on the list is a testament to the company’s understanding of crossbow design and manufacturing. This time it’s one of the more affordable products from Barnett, the Wildcat C6.
The Wildcat C6 makes an excellent user-friendly crossbow that aids the novice archers as well as the more skilled hunters. It features a cheek piece and finger-reminder to aid the getting the optimal performance from the weapon.
In addition to this, the Wildcat C6 offers a lower draw weight than what you’d get on most other compound crossbows. The bow shoots at a maximum speed for 320 feet per second, and the draw weight is 140 pounds. This makes it a great choice for beginners, teens, and women.
With a 320 fps maximum speed, you shouldn’t expect the Barnett Wildcat to take down larger game. This is a crossbow designed for hunting small and medium game, and it’s great at its job.
The weight distribution of the Wildcat C6 is a bit front-heavy though. Despite that, it generally has good construction and is fairly lightweight, making it portable and usable for most individuals.
Overall, the Barnett Wildcat C6 is an excellent choice for beginner and intermediate users. Its price point is competitive, and it is greatly effective against medium and small game.
- Compact and lightweight
- Very easy to use
- Great value
- Great for medium and small game Good warranty coverage considering the price point
- A bit front-heavy
- More advanced individuals would look elsewhere
And finally, we arrive to what we consider the best crossbow at an affordable price. The Beowulf by SA Sports is incredibly quiet, which is something surprising given how compound crossbows can be noisy. This is largely due to its well thought out structural design that comes at great value.
It is fairly fast and powerful, packing a punch with a maximum speed of 360 feet per second and a reasonable draw weight of 175 pounds. The Beowulf has a smooth trigger system and utilizes synthetic material which makes it decently light at 6.5 pounds and highly user friendly.
It also has a great ambidextrous and adjustable grip, allowing individuals of either hand preference to use this model with ease.
The scope on the SA Sports Empire Beowulf is rather limiting, but given its price point you won’t expect a premium scope anyway. It still serves the purpose well and remains clear even in poor conditions and weather.
With a 360 fps speed, the crossbow can work well against most medium and some large game. It is a fantastic product to use if you’re a hunter on a budget or just starting out, and is ideal for all genders and most teen.
It does come with a rather limiting 1-year warranty period, but that’s not a surprise given it’s one of the most affordable “quality” crossbows on the market.
Overall, the SA Sports Beowulf is a balanced model at an attractive price point. It’s great for lightweight users and offers a fine experience without having to spend near a grand.
- Compact design
- Really good for an inexpensive crossbow
- Great value
- Incredibly quiet for a compound bow
- Warranty coverage is disappointing
- Scope could be better
The main difference between a compound crossbow and a recurve crossbow is the way the string is attached to the prods. Recurve crossbows are quite simple, with the strings directly attaching to the ends of the limbs like a conventional bow.
Compound bows are more complicated as they use cams and pullets to draw the string. This reduces the draw weight and smoothens the entire drawing process.
Compound bows have many advantages over recurve bows that make them a popular choice for modern bowmen. In addition to the reduced draw weight, their design is such that it takes much less lateral space than recurve bows.
Depending on the environment in which you’ll be hunting, this may or may not be an extremely important factor. Generally, compound bows are fantastic for beginners, intermediates, and professionals who want a streamlined performance from their weapon.
However, with the advantages also come a few disadvantages, and that’s why recurve crossbows still exist and are widely popular. The biggest disadvantage is string replacement. Compound crossbows are a lot harder to restring, and most of the times you’ll need to assess the pulleys to see for any damage if there is a string break in the middle of the hunt.
Recurve crossbows are also a lot quieter than compound crossbows due to fewer movement parts. Moving parts are also a bit problematic in inexpensive and even some expensive compound crossbows as the cams can sometimes be knocked out of sync, which can lead to inaccurate shooting. This can be fixed, but it will require you to end your hunt if it happens in the middle of it.
One last advantage that recurve crossbows have over compounds is that the latter feel front heavy due to the existing mechanisms. Of course, the biggest disadvantage of a recurve crossbow is a fairly egregious one: you’re the one pulled the entire draw weight, which can be strenuous in the more powerful crossbows.
Both in the end have their benefits, and that’s why both types are widely used. We recommend you decide which one is for you well before you decide to purchase one.
The draw weight of a crossbow should be an important factor in your purchase. The draw weight is the amount of pull (measure as a force) required to flex the limbs of a bow into a firing position.
The higher the draw weight, the more potential energy stored into the crossbow, and the more powerful (and faster) the shot. However, a higher draw weight also means needing an incredible amount of energy to pull the string into a firing position.
Not all of us are built like prime Arnold Schwarzenegger, and that’s okay. Ideally you want an as powerful draw weight as possible for the highest potential, but you don’t want one that you cannot pull yourself.
If you feel that this is a place where no compromise can occur, then purchasing a crank cocking device is highly recommended to assist you.
The range of a crossbow is the length that it can cover after it has been fired. As you’d expect, there is a good correlation between range and speed (fps).
However, certain crossbows perform better than others even when they have comparatively lower speeds. This is because of accuracy over longer range. A crossbow like the Excalibur Matrix Mega has incredible accuracy over a large range.
Generally, the range of a crossbow can go up to 50 yards. The impact of the arrow decreases as it travels further. You’ll want to decide if you’re a close-ranged hunter or a long-ranged one, and choose a crossbow accordingly.
The Power Stroke is the length that the arrow needs to be pulled back by the string until it is cocked and ready to fire. This is different from draw weight (though the two are connected) as the draw weight is the amount of force needed to pull the arrow back.
Ideally, crossbows having power strokes between 11” and 14” are considered good. Anything beyond that would be very difficult to pull, and anything below that won’t provide the arrow enough potential to hit fast speeds.
And fast speeds largely determine the effective and penetration of an arrow. This is measured with FPS (feet per second) and is one of the most important factors. It is tied with draw weight and the power stroke. The faster the arrow, the more penetration and the more lethal the results.
What’s the minimum speed I should look for?
Any crossbow that delivers a minimum FPS below 300 will not be able to hunt large game effectively. We generally recommend one that can generate at least around 300 FPS speed.
Is a quiet crossbow essential?
This largely depends on the type of game. Most herbivores have highly developed auditory senses and will run away at the slightest sound of danger. However, if crossbow is fast enough (such as the Barnett Ghost 410 CRT), it can afford to be noisy as it will not give the game any time to react.
Does the color choice matter?
We believe it does. It might sound silly at first, but it makes sense when you think about it. A color that blends with the hunting grounds will ensure a better experience. More obnoxious colors will be easily spotted by animals and they’ll simply run away.
How can I improve the longevity and consistency of performance of my crossbow?
This is a question that has a very comprehensive answer. We highly recommend that you read the instruction manuals of the crossbows and take your time researching proper maintenance and care methods before you purchase a crossbow.
The forces involved in firing, cocking, and utilizing a crossbow are so strong that they will take a toll on the weapon. For this reason, it’s important to take care of your crossbow and maintain it regular. This will not only improve longevity but will also ensure safety. After all, no one wants their weapon to fail during a hunt.