Bolt Throwers: The 7 Best Crossbows

Aug 9, 2015

Category: Gear

Crossbows have been getting some bad press lately. Even purists have taken to calling the once beloved flat bows “overrated,” “clumsy,” and “awkward.” Such lies should not be tolerated. Ever since compound longbow makers have found new ways to add increased speed, power, and accuracy to their equipment while simultaneously cutting down on size, it seems there is no room at the dance for a good x-bow.

These type of bows still pack more of a punch than compound longbows and don’t require going through elaborate draw motions to get it. Sure, if you have all day to setup your target, draw, and fire, then you can make a longbow work, but game is rarely that accommodating. True, they can be difficult to use, but if you find one with proper balance for moving and shooting, easy draw features, and a combination of weight and killing power, then you’ll have a weapon perfect for fast, silent takedowns. If you’re ready to get in touch with your inner Daryl Dixon, it’s time for one of the 7 best crossbows.

Barnett Jackal

Barnett Jackal

Pro: High quality, low price
Con: String requires repeated waxing

For the Bargain Hunter: Whether you’ve blown all your money on a new Benz or setting up your moonshine still, you’ll still be able to scrape together enough cash to buy a Jackal, and be happy you did. With 315 fps (feet per second) firing capability that bears 84 ft. lbs. of kinetic energy it’s able to handle game of nearly any size. Don’t try for that Kodiak bear just yet, but an elk will go down as smooth as you please. The Jackal comes equipped with a green/red laser sight for any lighting conditions and one-shot accuracy. The draw weight is only 150 lbs. so it works well for beginners. You’ll need to keep your wax handy since this will need a little TLC after every few shots. [Purchase: $284]

Excalibur Matrix 355

Excalibur Matrix 355

Pro: Lightweight
Con: High draw weight

Recurve of Note: Just so you know, yes, you had better hit the gym if you’re going to get a recurve, but this is well worth the extra reps. It does have a 240 lbs. draw, but there’s a rope aid that makes cocking relatively smooth. The release is a full 355 fps, so the payoff is well worth the strain. The good news is that even if your bulging biceps are weary from cocking it, the 5.4 lbs. body can be carried for hours without wearing you down, something that you just can’t find if you were to add cams to the crosspieces. Target shooters and hunters alike will fall in love with the pinpoint accuracy while smaller shooters will enjoy the airy design. For a recurve, it is surprisingly compact. Beginners will find it daunting at first since it is made with the hard-core bowman in mind. [Purchase: $918]

TenPoint Venom

TenPoint Venom

Pro: Very maneuverable
Con: Kiss your savings account goodbye

Lightning Fast: Not ready to take the plunge and try a recurve but still want speed, mobility, light weight, and supreme killing power? Then you’re going to want to spend a few hundred more and treat yourself to the Venom. TenPoint has a knack for making strong shooters that are accurate and yet slender as a supermodel. At 6.5 lbs. this is about as feathery as you’ll find any of the picks on the list. The 17.6 inch uncocked width slips down to just over a foot when ready for action and it packs 114 lbs. of kinetic energy that pushes bolts at 372 fps. You can expect a slightly higher 185 lbs. draw weight that will give you a challenge, but can be managed. The advanced bullpup design makes the weight sit perfectly on the center line so you can twirl and shimmy with it, if that’s how you like to bag your bucks. [Purchase: $1,700]

Carbon Express Intercept

Carbon Express Intercept

Pro: Customizable body
Con: Loud

Custom Fit: Tired of all your ninja pals and black ops buddies toting around all the good gear? Time to put them to shame. The Intercept is the true hunters tactical option. They didn’t just slap a stock and some black paint on the body, they designed the Intercept to go behind enemy lines. The body is fully customizable giving you the option of 13-19 inches of draw thanks to a Picatinny stock rail on the underside. The AR stock has six positions so you can find the most comfortable pose whether breaching or lying in wait. Everything breaks down for easy transport so you can take the shot and fade into the smoke. A 175 lbs. draw weight kicks out 360 fps that sails on one of the flattest trajectories out there. The Picatinny rail on the top works with any kind of optics, so choose your favorite scope and report back to HQ when the job is done. Just don’t expect a silent kill since the string will twang on release. [Purchase: $805]

Barnett Ghost 410

Barnett Ghost 410

Pro: Small, light, and powerful
Con: Too wonderful, you don’t deserve it

Takes All Comers: The Ghost 410 is probably the best all-around choice for anyone. The 410 fps speed off of 185 lbs. of draw is enough to help slake anyone’s blood lust. The 7.5 lbs. body is light enough to be carried around and still pack a punch. The Carbon Riser Technology allows the bow to be dry-fired 1,000 times before saying uncle. The 19-7/8 inch axle-to-axle width can be concealed in a blind or move through the forest with ease. The foot stirrup is part of the riser so it has a very sleek, aggressive look that also cuts down on length. It has 149 lbs. of kinetic energy which makes it enough to take on a grizzly at a full 70 yards. It’s hard to find bad things to say about this Ghost model. You can’t make love to it…and we hope you don’t try. The power does mean it needs a lot of wax to prevent fraying. [Purchase: $918]

Scorpyd VTEC

Scorpyd VTEC

Pro: Center balance
Con: Heavy

Perfect Balance: Reverse-draw crossbows are a pain unless your entire hunting experience takes place in a blind. They can be hard to maneuver, easily get caught, and experienced hunters and target shooters often find their accuracy spotty. The VTEC quiets such criticisms by using a narrow 22.25 inch body that rests all the weight at the center, making it quicker than most standard bows for rapid turning, aim adjustment, and movement through the brush. It loses nothing in speed since it tops out at more than 410 fps on a 165 pound draw. The trigger is a responsive work of art that deserves to be framed as much as fired. The only trouble is the 9.5 pounds of weight make lugging it after prey a hefty workout, though the excellent balance helps somewhat. Since this will make your wallet a lot lighter, it shouldn’t be too troublesome. [Purchase: $1,400+]

Parker StingRay

Parker StingRay

Pro: Easy to cock
Con: Safety can be temperamental

Best for Bowfishers: Don’t try to retro-fit a bowfishing package onto a standard crossbow. It will never reach the potential that you’ll find in the StingRay. The 100-125 lbs. adjustable draw lets you choose how much hit you need, whether seeking out river trout or sturgeon. It comes pre-loaded with an AMS Retriever Pro reel and day-glow braided Dacron line that is 200 lbs. test. Easy to cock and easy to use with most sights or advanced optics. The safety is good, but you can get the occasional dry fire if you aren’t careful. [Purchase: $403]

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