Gear, Parts and Accessories

The Modern Crossbow: A Beginners Guide

Crossbow Diagram

Shooting a bow and arrow accurately is difficult. Shooting a crossbow is also difficult, but much less so. There are many reasons to get into crossbow shooting. You don’t have to spend a lifetime practicing to get effective enough to hunt with one, and advances in technology have made the ancient battlefield weapon an excellent tool for hunting game. As some people age, they have trouble drawing a full power bow. Due to assisting devices on modern crossbows, these people can hunt much later in their lives, since the upper body strength is not as important.

Crossbow Diagram
Basic Components of a Crossbow

Learning how to use a crossbow is actually very easy. As the popularity of crossbows increases, so does the number of crossbows on the market. Choosing the right crossbow can be difficult if you haven’t used one before, so here are a few things to consider before forking over your hard-earned cash on the wrong bow.

Remember that when shopping for a crossbow, weight is not everything. A heavier crossbow can actually be easier to aim, much like a heavy bolt gun. Unless you are taking your crossbow on a long distance foot hunt where you will be hiking for days, don’t worry if it seems a bit heavy at first. Accuracy and stability are more important.

There are two basic design elements in the crossbow world and these are easy to understand and might steer the direction of your decision. The re-curve crossbow is the oldest and simplest design applied to these weapons. It has been a basic design concept for as long as crossbows have been around. The term re-curve simply means the tips of the limb or prods face away from you when they are loose. The simplicity of these bows is that they usually have a stock, a trigger, limbs or prods, and string. The simplicity in design transfers to simplicity in use, which is why these are often popular with first-time users. They are larger and wider in design and string changes are much easier with this type of bow. The prods are usually made of a simple metal, fiberglass, or wood. They tend to be quieter than their compound counterparts are. This simplicity comes at a price, since they really don’t provide the same accuracy or power as some compound models. The compound bow is very much what you would expect based on the name. It is a newer design, very popular, and compact. It is smaller, usually lighter and delivers a lot of power for its small stature. Compounds typically deliver more energy, velocity, and power to your target. Cocking is easier with smaller mechanisms and technology to aid. Overall, most consider them safer and sometimes easier to use.

The compound is going to be smaller, more compact, more efficient, but it will most often be more expensive. The re-curve is great for those beginning or those who desire the simplicity in the design and function. Many of the top manufacturers make both types.

Many crossbows use metal injected molding in the trigger group for less weight and pull. Manufacturers tend to incorporate cocking aids into the stock, requiring minimal manual effort by the user. Safety mechanisms have evolved with secondary measures, such as locating a depression unit in the barrel stock, which prevent you from pulling the trigger unless it is depressed. The riser is the crossbow’s central mount for the limbs. Risers tend to be as rigid as possible. The central riser of a crossbow is usually made of aluminum or magnesium, and many are made of an aircraft-grade aluminum alloy. Usually the manufacturers make them lightweight so they can act to stabilize the overall limb and string assembly while increasing efficiency.

The crossbow world has a lot to offer. If you have never considered owning or shooting one, I encourage you to try it. Your hunting season might be longer, and you get to enjoy that challenge of stalking your prey at close range. Almost anyone can kill a deer with a rifle, but a crossbow brings a newer, higher challenge to its owner.

Take a Look at Some Solid CrossbowChoices

Barnett Wildcat C5
Barnett Wildcat C5
Ten Point Wicked Ridge Warrior
Ten Point Wicked Ridge Warrior
Ten Point Stealth XLT
Ten Point Stealth XLT
Excalibur Axiom SMF
Excalibur Axiom SMF
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (5)

  1. Crossbows have always decimating me since I was young. I got one as a gift for christmas. Now I have to learn how to use one. I’ve used a now and arrow when I was young but this beauty seems a bit concerning.but lots of fun. Thanks

  2. Actually Barry, it’s a bit like a .30-30 or shotgun slug, just shorter depending on poundage of the crossbow. Hunting from a tree stand means just aiming a bit low. ALWAYS sight-in/range your weapon, whatever it is.

  3. anybody making bodkins nowadays, crossbow-specific rangefinders w/ slope-comp (crossbow bolts do have radical trajectories, compared to even hunting-pistols, so tree-stand-shots would be problematical, i guess)

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