So you are looking for a crossbow, but do not know which one to get? Well, I cannot blame you! With so many different crossbows on the market today it becomes even more difficult to find the best crossbow. And that is not even looking at what you want to use it for – hunting or target shooting. For target shooting pin point accuracy is important. For hunting it is a combination of accuracy and power.
However, the very first question you should ask yourself is if you want a recurve or compound crossbow…
The Main Differences Between Recurve And Compound Crossbows
Are you a hunter or simply an arms enthusiast considering the purchase of a crossbow? If so, you’ve probably already found out that the market features two main varieties – recurve and compound crossbows. Understanding the differences between the two and the advantages of each variety will make it a lot easier for you to make an adequate buying decision.
What is a Recurve Crossbow?
The design of the recurve crowssbow is the traditional one and it goes many centuries back. Such bows were used in China, Egypt and Ancient Greece. The name stems from the small curves that appear in the end of the bow and that point away from the person using it.
The curves serve a dual purpose. They function as a strain and as a lock. This means that they’ll keep the string from flicking out of the bow, once it has been used.
Apart from featuring the traditional curves that were defining for the old-school recurve crossbows, the modern varieties come with a couple of innovative features. Many of them have scopes, stabilization, sights and cocks, among various other features.
In the past, these crowssbows were made of wood. Today, the market has become much more diversified. Aluminum, magnesium alloys and carbon fiber (which is lightweight but incredibly tough) are all common options.
What is a Compound Crossbow?
As the name suggests, this crossbow comes with a compound system that features a cam for easier drawing of the bow. The limbs of the bow are shorter than those of the recurve crossbow. Because of the size, these crossbows tend to be much more practical for hunters.
Another main difference is that less force will be required to shoot at a target with a compound crossbow. The design is more innovative and streamlined than that of the recurve crossbow, which is why some people tend to be more comfortable with this variety.
Pros and Cons
As already mentioned, both of these varieties come with their specific pros and cons.
A recurve crossbow has fewer movable parts, which means that it requires less maintenance. Restringing is a very simple process. It’s easier to aim and target. The design is simpler than that of a compound crossbow, which means that the risk of getting the bow damaged is limited.
On the downside, a recurve crossbow requires greater draw weight, it has a wider design, there is typically no cocking apparatus and it produces less power than compound crossbows.
The compound crossbow is liked because of the available cocking apparatus, the high speed of bolts, the lower force required for shooting and the practical appeal of the shorter limbs. Some of the problems that the variety has include heavier weight, diminished accuracy when cam position is modified, the need for extensive maintenance and the increased likelihood of wear and tear.
Which Variety Should You Choose?
The primary use will obviously be the determining factor for choosing one variety or the other. If you plan to do a lot of hunting, a compound crossbow will be a better pick for you. Traditional recurve crossbows are better for target practice.
Anyone looking for faster and powerful arrows should opt for a compound crossbow. As already mentioned, a recurve crossbow will be incapable of storing as much energy.
Holding each of the bow varieties to get a better idea about their weight is also a good idea. The final consideration to keep in mind is ease of maintenance. Anyone that’s just getting started with crossbows should opt for a model that has fewer parts and that will require minimal care.
How Do You Pick The Best Crossbow For You?
The best crossbow for me would not necessarily be the best crossbow for you.
Maybe you cannot afford the absolute top crossbow, but the one you can afford is almost just as good. Maybe you do not like something specific on the top crossbow. It does not matter. Our best recurve and compound crossbow charts put the power to select the best crossbow for you in your hands.
Velocity is pretty self explanatory. It is how fast your arrow travels when shot and is normally indicated by feet per second. Velocity for good crossbows normally range between 200 – 400 feet per second.
Generally, the faster the arrow travels the less the arrow drops over a distance. However, the faster the arrow the louder the shot – so keep that in mind when going out hunting.
2. Draw Weight
Draw weight is the peak amount of weight you will need to pull to cock your crossbow. As most crossbows have a draw weight between 150 and 185 pounds most people use some kind of cocking device, like a rope cocker. However, if you are strong you should be able to cock the crossbow. Just remember that it will play havoc on your hands!
Crossbow energy refers to the kinetic energy, or knock down power, of the arrow. The higher kinetic energy the arrow has, the better chance it has to penetrate thick skin and take down larger animals. Kinetic energy is impacted by the speed of the arrow (feet per second) as well as the weight of the arrow (grain).
It should be noted that most good crossbows (certainly all the crossbows that we feature) has enough kinetic energy to knock down pretty much any animal.
4. Power Stroke
Power stroke refers the the length of arrow that is pushed by the crossbow string. The longer the length, the more the string accelerates the arrow. Most quality crossbows have a 12 – 15 inch range, with a 15 inch power stroke normally coming from 22 inch arrows.
5. Crossbow Weight
Crossbow weights can vary significantly, from 5 to 10 pounds. And that is not including any accessories or scopes you added. If you are just shooting a couple of arrows and not moving around too much a heavier crossbow is ok. If you are tracking game and walking long distances every pound matters. It is no fun lugging around a 10 pound crossbow over miles of rough country.
Main point – if a lighter crossbow gives you the velocity and energy you need for your hunt, get it. Only get the heavier ones if you are going after very big game.
For the target shooters among us, ask yourself: would you rather shoulder a light weight or a heavy weight crossbow. Which one will keep you on target the best, when taking into account that every little wobble matters when shooting for accuracy?
Ok, all of us love a bargain. However, generally with crossbows you get what you pay for. Having said that, the difference between a $1,000 crossbow and a $600 crossbow won’t matter to most people. The difference between a $200 and $500 crossbow will.