In this product review article our hunting editor, Casey Fiedler, walks you through everything you need to know in order to pick the best hunting crossbow for your specific needs and hunting situation. We’ll take a look at what makes a great hunting bow and what to avoid.
Also see How To Choose The Best Hunting Crossbow later in the article. What are the best hunting crossbows for the money?
Quick Answer: The Best Hunting Crossbows
- Barnett 78128 Whitetail Hunter II
- CenterPoint Sniper 370
- CenterPoint Tormentor Whisper 380
- Barnett Whitetail Pro STR
- Ravin R10 Crossbow Package
Best Hunting Crossbows
|Barnett 78128 Whitetail Hunter II||CenterPoint Sniper 370||CenterPoint Tormentor Whisper 380 Camo|
|Feet Per Second||350 FPS||370 FPS||380 FPS|
|Draw Weight||150 LBS||185 LBS||185 LBS|
|Special Features||Trigger Tech Technology with 3lb zero-creep release. All stainless steel components. Nock sensor and adf eliminate dry fires||Lightweight & durable CNC Machined aluminum rail with shoot through riser||Compact design. Compression fiberglass quad limbs
|Customer Ratings||4.3 / 5.0 Stars||4.5 / 5.0 Stars||4.5 / 5.0 Stars|
Also see: Hunting Crossbow Comparison Chart
Best Hunting Crossbows Reviews
It was a little difficult making a final decision about which crossbow makes the top of the list. However, when it comes down to it the Barnett Whitetail Hunter II took the lead by a small margin.
- 350 fps bolt speed
- 4 pound total bow weight
- Includes scope
Included is a 4×32 scope which is a great match for the speed and distance of this bow. There’s a quiver with bolts (though you may want more eventually) and little things like the lube wax. Just remember to lube your string after about every dozen shots or so.
This is an ideal moderate price crossbow with everything you’ll need to get going. It should be plenty of bow to keep most hunters going for a long time.
Best for quality at a lower price without wondering if you’re buying junk.
If you’re on a tight budget and need something to get you in the field bagging game without opening up the wallet too far, look no further.
- 370 fps bolt speed
- Includes scope
- Includes arrows
At first glance you’re going to notice that this bow seems slimmer and smaller than some others. That’s one of the reasons it didn’t make the top of the list. It’s made a little bit less… rugged than other bows.
However, users rave about the cost to quality ratio and that’s important. It’s more than capable of bagging game with a 370 fps bolt speed and included bolts and scope.
This crossbow makes our list because I think it’s good enough to be a reliable hunting crossbow for beginners or those on a tight budget. The stock and foregrip are adjustable tactical style. However, you’ll have to cock the bow by hand which can be a strain for some.
Best budget crossbow on our list by far.
This bow almost took our top spot but I put it lower on the list for one silly reason – it’s not as proven as the Barnett at the top of our list.
- Silencing system
- Includes scope
- Anti-dry fire / auto safety
- Owner’s Manual
At 380 fps this bow is pushing the top speed of most crossbow limits. It’s just 14” axle to axle when cocked which is narrower than the previous CenterPoint that was 18” when cocked. If you’re hunting from a blind consider this!
The unique factor here is primarily the silencing system which emits less noise when fired. Believe it or not whitetail deer can actually react fast enough sometimes to “jump the bolt” or cause you to miss because they move when they hear the sound of the bow fire. A silenced bow helps reduce this chance.
Best for a narrower bow at a great price that is a bit quiet when fired to improve your chances!
While this bow isn’t as expensive at the ultimate top of the line, it’s pushing the price boundary a little compared to some on our list. However, that comes with some nice upgrades you can appreciate!
- 400 fps bolt speed
- Includes scope
- String dampers for silence
I personally like the minimal skeleton frame design that looks and feels lightweight. That said, the real value is in the included scope, inline bolt quiver, and 4×32 scope. The only thing you’re going to have to do is spend some time sighting it in and get a set of broadheads to hunt with.
Best for a more robust camouflage crossbow with maximum bolt speed.
Last but not least is the very expensive, very small, and very futuristic Ravin R10 crossbow. This bow has cutting edge limbs that make it look and shoot more like a rifle than a bow.
This crossbow has got everything going for it assuming you can afford it. There’s pre-mounted sling attachments so you can throw the small sized crossbow over your shoulder and clamber through the bush to your blind. Plus you can take advantage of the 100-yard illuminated scope to deliver bolts on target every time.
Honestly the coolest thing about this bow is the tech which allows it to look and shoot like a rifle. The short limbs are just 6.5” across when cocked and still deliver the bolt out of the bow at a whopping 400 fps. I have no idea what mix of science and magic make it possible, but it’s an amazing advantage for tree and blind hunting!
All that said, this is a bow that’s best left to those who can afford to spend top dollar for a compact, state of the art crossbow.
Hunting Crossbow Comparison Chart
|Best Hunting Crossbows||Price||Feet Per Second||Draw Weight||Special Features||Customer Ratings|
|Barnett 78128 Whitetail Hunter II||$299.99||350 FPS||150 LBS||Trigger Tech Technology with 3lb zero-creep release. All stainless steel components. Nock sensor and adf eliminate dry fires||4.3 / 5.0 Stars|
|CenterPoint Sniper 370||from $209.99||370 FPS||185 LBS||Lightweight & durable CNC Machined aluminum rail with shoot through riser||4.5 / 5.0 Stars|
|CenterPoint Tormentor Whisper 380||$347.41||380 FPS||185 LBS||Compact design. Compression fiberglass quad limbs||4.5 / 5.0 Stars
|Barnett Whitetail Pro STR Crossbow||$523.42||330 FPS||165||Invader G3 is the safest, lightest, narrowest, and fastest Wicked Ridge Invader model to date||4.7 / 5.0 Stars
|Ravin Crossbow R010 Predator||$1,334.97||400 FPS||--||Built-in Sling Mounts|
,Anti-Dry Fire/Auto Safety
|5.0 / 5.0 Stars
How to Choose the Best Hunting Crossbow
Some of us love and embrace crossbows, others condemn them as “too easy”. No matter which camp you’re in it’s hard to deny that crossbow hunting is more accessible for those who can’t pull or use a traditional bow be it disability, age, or other reasons. That’s why many states now afford crossbows the same treatment as compounds, recurves, and pistol crossbows.
Getting started hunting with a crossbow can be a new and overwhelming experience for those of us coming from other backgrounds. Fortunately, they’re not that much different from compounds and their heritage is almost as old as the longbow and recurve.
To make sure you get more time in the field hunting and less time online shopping I’m going to break it down for you. We’ll go over the criteria you should keep in mind when buying a new hunting crossbow. I’m also going to review a handful of the best and most affordable hunting crossbows for the money. Let do this!
- Draw Weight
- Bolt Speed
- Bolt Weight
- Nock Style
- Bow Weight
- Sight Types
- Axle to Axle Width
- FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions
For hunting you’ll need the correct draw weight for your quarry. When hunting large, big bone animals you’ll want enough power to punch through hide and ribs. Hunting small game or at closer distances means you can probably get away with lower draw weights.
In many states you’ll have to keep up with regulations. The State will most likely have predefined minum draw weights for hunting so make sure to double check before you buy!
While many compounds, recurves, and longbows average around 50-70 pounds (for a normal user) crossbows can push all the way up to 200 pounds. Anything around 150 pounds should be plenty adequate for bagging game.
Be careful about going too high on draw weight as they can become difficult to draw back. Some crossbows today have assisted cranks and some are pulled back by hand.
Advanced crossbows can actually re-cock themselves using a disposable gas supply! This might be a good choice if you’re unable to otherwise crank or pull back a bow string of this weight.
You’ll have to forgive me, I’m old school. I still call crossbow “arrows” bolts even though most people fail to distinguish the difference.
Bolt speed is important for two reasons:
- Faster bolts give the tager less time to react
- Impact force is much more important to kinetic energy than mass
As it turns out any increase in velocity is exponentially important meanwhile any increase in mass is linearly important.
So, if you’re trying to find a way to get more impact force to penetrate large game you want a faster bolt. That faster bolt also has the added benefit of arriving at the target more quickly. This means the animal has less time to “jump the bolt” or move.
When you pull the trigger your crossbow bolt will jump forward. Along with it will go the broadhead, nock, shaft, and inserts. The total weight of your crossbow bolts will be equal to the combined weight of:
I’d advise you not to get too caught up in the weight of your bolt. Broadheads have weights usually of either 100 grains or 125 grains so your choices are pretty limited anyways.
Today it’s cheap to buy good carbon bolts – just make sure they have a nock and fletchings that are compatible with your bow. The best bolts are usually composite made from aluminum and carbon fiber but they’re expensive and most users will see diminishing returns on their investment in these.
There are really no reasons for most hunters to be buying aluminum bolts as carbon tend to be higher quality and just as affordable as aluminum.
Generally speaking, manufacturers will recommend a bolt weight to be used with your crossbow. Stick to this bolt weight as lighter ones may damage your bow and heavier ones may fly too slowly.
For crossbow bolts your nocks look quite a bit different than the large nocks on compound bow arrows. Crossbow nocks are short, stubby little things that come in one of two main flavors
You can get either half moon or flat nocks for your crossbow. Similar to bolt weight, however, it’s smart to go with the nock type that your manufacturer recommends.
Using the wrong nock could cause a drop in accuracy or a dry fire which may ruin your crossbow. That would be a sad day, wouldn’t it? So, don’t do it!
Many crossbow users choose to use a crossbow for reasons of physical disability. Crossbows make a fantastic choice for those who would otherwise struggle to use a compound so let’s make sure we don’t mess that up if it’s a priority for you.
Especially for those who already may struggle to get out hunting and use a bow, having a heavy crossbow might be a deal breaker. To get in and out of the tree or blind you don’t want to be lugging along a heavy lead weight of a crossbow.
Consider getting a sling to carry the bow over your shoulder and if you struggle to carry heavy weights you may want to keep weight in mind when buying as a critical decision factor.
Crossbows today launch bolts so fast, far, and straight that they might as well be short-range rifles. With that accuracy comes the ability to use advanced modern optics to help guide your shot home.
No matter what scope you choose, make sure that it’s crossbow compatible. Crossbows create a ton of sudden vibration and impact on the scope when fired. These stresses are different from firearms and many manufacturers have specialized scopes to handle this without breaking or losing accuracy over time.
For crossbows there are a handful of scopes that can work:
Short range scopes can be used with crossbows and may feature various reticles. Consider a scope that can be calibrated to predict bolt drop over distance if you plan to take long range shots on a regular basis. Most crossbow scopes are unlikely to be higher than about 6x zoom as it becomes largely unnecessary.
Red dot scopes are usually zero zoom or 2-3x zoom scopes with a simple illuminated reticle in the center of the view. These are easy to use, leave room for peripheral vision, and can be used to rapidly acquire a target. Ideal for short ranges or crowded shooting lanes.
Adjustable zoom scopes have a bezel or dial that can be turned to change the zoom power of the scope itself. These are great if you hunt multiple areas and let’s say one of them has crowded shooting lanes and short shot while the other is near the edge of an open field where you might need to take a long shot. You can just change the zoom on the fly!
Be careful about going with high zoom scopes as they can severely restrict your field of view making it harder to find targets. Plus, crossbows have a relatively limited range so zooms above 10x are just not needed.
Axle to Axle Width
Like most bows, the size of the bow makes a big different in how easy it is to transport and use. Especially when you’re climbing or shooting from inside a small blind, large bows are annoying.
In crossbow hunting this measurement is usually called the axle to axle width. This is the distance in inches from one side of the crossbow limb to the other. The smaller this number the more narrow your crossbow will be.
For those hunting from ground blinds a narrow axle to axle distance will handle more like a gun and less like a bow.
FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Are crossbows legal to hunt anything or anywhere?
Answer: No. You should check with your local natural resources office or hunting licenses division to make sure you’re staying legal.
Many areas have restrictions about illuminated scopes, bow maximum draw weight, and what game you can and can’t hunt with a crossbow.
Please never hunt game in trees with a crossbow. If you miss the bolt can travel a very great distance with lethal potential.
Question: Should I go for cheap or quality?
Answer: It’s up to you, really.
If you’re a beginner or you’re not sure you’ll stick with it, I’d advise that you go with the cheapest option possible. If you don’t ever use it again you won’t feel so bad about spending $300 versus $1,200.
If you’re a proven hunter and know your crossbow will live a good, long life of service I recommend you invest in top quality.
Question: How do I get my crossbow fixed if it breaks?
Answer: If your bow breaks under warranty return it to the seller or manufacturer, for sure.
Over time though your string may wear, your limbs might fail on accident, or you might drop the bow and mess something up.
In order to fix these problems I suggest you look for trusted local archery stores where you can go and get your bow fixed by a professional. They’ll make sure it’s dialed back in for you!
Crossbow hunting is becoming more and more popular for all hunting and whitetail hunting in particular. It’s helping more people enjoy hunting than ever before. But with that comes responsibility.
Remember to get your license and take a safety training course from your state. You’ll learn more about the laws and regulations plus you’ll avoid heavy fines and even jail time. If you’re caught without a license it could cost you your bow, a fine, or even a criminal record.
All of the crossbows on our list can get you out bagging game in no time flat! Once you order it in, make sure you tune the bow for yourself. Practice on a target for a while and gain the confidence you’ll need to pull the trigger under pressure.
Thanks for reading The 5 Best Hunting Crossbows. We hope this article has helped you to discover the best choice for a hunting crossbow for your needs and preferences. You might also be interested in our related and informative deer hunting article entitled, Deer Hunting Regions of the United States.
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