When you buy and use the best crossbow, you’ll experience hunting trips as you’ve never experienced them before. But if you’ve never used a crossbow to hunt, or if it’s been years since you bought one, you might get a little overwhelmed when faced with the sheer number of options available on the crossbow market today. To help you find the best crossbow for your hunting needs, we’ve purchased the top options available and put them to the test.
During our testing, we measured factors and features like draw weight, power stroke, firing velocity and overall design and durability. With these factors in mind, our top pick is the CenterPoint Sniper 370. With a powerful firing velocity and beginner-friendly design, this crossbow is perfect for beginners and veterans alike. Keep reading to learn more about the Sniper 370 and our other top picks for 2019.
- 1 Top 5 Best Crossbows Compared
- 2 How We Choose The Best Crossbow
- 3 Why You Should Buy a Crossbow (Instead of a Compound Bow)
- 4 Key Features to a Good Crossbow
- 5 Mistakes to Avoid
- 6 What Else Should You Think About?
Top 5 Best Crossbows Compared
#1 CenterPoint Sniper 370 – Top Pick/Best for BeginnersWHY WE LIKE IT: If you’re just getting into crossbow hunting, the CenterPoint Sniper 370 is a wonderful choice to get you going. This crossbow is designed with comfort and reliability in mind, making it an excellent entry point.
The CenterPoint Sniper 370 crossbow is appealing for beginners and seasoned crossbow hunters alike due to its great accessories and fast firing velocity. While its 370 FPS firing velocity isn’t quite as fast as the Carbon Express or PSE Thrive crossbows on our list, this is still more than powerful enough for most hunting applications.
The CenterPoint crossbow also includes a bunch of accessories that are enough to get beginners started. You get a 4×32 mm scope, tactical stock, parallel quiver and three carbon arrows. These are great things for beginners to own off the bat. It allows you to experiment with accessories and see what works for you or not. We weren’t especially pleased with the scope’s overall quality, but this is something you can swap out in the future. All in all, if you need a high-quality beginner’s crossbow, the CenterPoint Sniper 370 is an excellent choice that will last you for many years to come.
#2 Barnett Whitetail Hunter II – Honorable Mention/Best LightweightWHY WE LIKE IT: The Barnett Whitetail Hunter II is the most lightweight crossbow on our list, making it a good pick for long hunting excursions. Combine that with its premium features, and it’s easy to see why it made our list of top picks.
Barnett is one of the most well-known names in the crossbow industry, and for good reason. Their crossbows are made with superior quality and include premium features. The Whitetail Hunter II crossbow follows that same approach. With the lightest weight of any of the crossbows on our list (only 6.4 lbs), this is the perfect crossbow for hunting trips that require some hiking and trekking through the wilderness.
The crossbow also features a 350 FPS firing velocity, which is the lowest on our list. We found 350 FPS sufficient for most our needs, though, so it was an easy point to overlook. You’ll also get a 4×32 scope, parallel quiver and two arrows included with your purchase, which is always nice. One of the features we liked the most about the Barnett Whitetail Hunter was its proprietary TriggerTech technology, which eliminates trigger creep and gives you one of the smoothest trigger experiences out of any crossbows we tested.
#3 CenterPoint Tormentor Whisper – Best Budget/Best QuietWHY WE LIKE IT: The CenterPoint Tormentor Whisper is super affordable and super quiet. If you’re looking for a crossbow that features near-silent firing, this is the choice for you.
As you probably know, one of the most important aspects of crossbow hunting is how quiet you can remain during the hunt. If you’re too loud, your prey will hear you coming and you’ll never get a shot. The same is true for when you fire your crossbow. Hunting crossbows can be loud when firing, but the CenterPoint Tormentor Whisper isn’t. It’s the quietest crossbow on our list, which is surprising for its extra-affordable price point. If we weren’t the ones firing the bow, we probably wouldn’t have known that it fired at all.
The Tormentor Whisper also features one of the fastest firing velocities on our list, measuring in at 380 FPS, which is especially good for a crossbow at this price point. We were impressed with this crossbow’s compact design, as well. It’s narrow enough for use in tree stands or other tight quarters, but it’s one of the heavier options on our list. At 7.8 lbs, it may be a little cumbersome while you’re tracking your quarry over long distances. If you’re looking for a good budget crossbow that’s also incredibly quiet, then you can’t miss the CenterPoint Tormentor Whisper.
#4 Carbon Express X-Force Piledriver 390 – Best Crank CockingWHY WE LIKE IT: The Carbon Express X-Force Piledriver 390 is a super powerful crossbow with an incredibly helpful accessory. With the included quiet crank cocking wrench, this is the easiest crossbow to use on our list.
Cocking your crossbow can be one of the most time intensive and frustrating processes, especially when you’re in the middle of the hunt, but the Carbon Express X-Force Piledriver eliminates that issue altogether. This crossbow includes an incredibly helpful quiet crank cocking wrench, which prevents you from having to cock your crossbow by physically pulling the bow strings back. Simply attach the crank and twist the handle. This saves your hands and allows you to cock your crossbow faster than any other option on our list.
On top of this, this crossbow is designed with customization in mind. You get an adjustable butt stock and a foregrip with multiple positions for the ultimate versatility. It’s also fairly lightweight, weighing in at 7.2 lbs, which is about average for the crossbows we tested. Another one of the Piledriver’s best features is its 390 FPS firing velocity, the second highest on our list. This high of a firing velocity enables you to shoot your targets at farther distances with more accuracy. If you find yourself needing some more flexibility and ease of use in your crossbow, then the Carbon Express X-Force Piledriver 390 and its handy crank wench is the choice for you.
#5 PSE Thrive 400 – Best Value/Best FPSWHY WE LIKE IT: With blistering fast firing velocity, a lightweight build and tons of extras, the PSE Thrive 400 crossbow offers the most value on our list, making it an excellent choice for veteran crossbow hunters.
If you’re looking for speed and a premium design in your next hunting crossbow, you can’t afford to miss the PSE Thrive 400 crossbow. While it’s the most expensive crossbow on our list, it offers the most value by far, especially when you consider the sheer power it packs into each one of its shots. With a blistering fast 400 FPS firing velocity, you’ll be able to hit your targets from farther away. Couple that with the unique computer numerical control (CNC) trigger mechanism, and you’ll have the most precise shot of any of the crossbows on our list.
And while we have our own personal gripes with the “Highlander” camo (we don’t think it looks the greatest) and the included stock, we can’t deny the overall quality and value this crossbow offers. In the end, you truly do get what you pay for with the Thrive 400. We were also impressed with lightweight design this crossbow offers, weighing in at only 6.7 lbs. If you’re okay with spending a little more than average, then the PSE Thrive 400 is well worth it, especially considering all the features and value that comes with the higher price tag.
How We Choose The Best Crossbow
You may be asking yourself, “What is a crossbow?” Well, the answer is pretty simple. A crossbow is actually a medieval device that functions much like a bow. However, when comparing a crossbow vs bow, you will see that they function quite differently. The crossbow uses a mechanism to draw back the string and hold the arrow and place, and uses a trigger to release the arrow. While the description is simple, crossbows come in all shapes and sizes now. However, among their differences, there are a few key things to look for.
FPS is one of the most important things when looking for the best crossbow, and, as I said above, you get a solid FPS from the draw weight and power stroke. Generally, you need at least 150 lbs. for the draw weight. The draw weight determines how much force pushes the arrow forward when the crossbow is fired.
The power stroke determines speed. The longer the power stroke, the faster the arrow will go. This is, of course, is also affected by the draw weight. Together, the two factors determine the FPS. The higher the FPS, the faster and deadlier the arrow will be. While a lethal shot is possible at lower speeds, a higher FPS ensures a faster and more humane shot. High FPS can also improve accuracy within a certain range.
Other factors we considered were weight and size, but those factors depend heavily on the size and strength of individual users.
Why You Should Buy a Crossbow (Instead of a Compound Bow)
Crossbows are great for hunters, especially those who like the challenge of bow hunting but want the ease of use equitable to that of a firearm. When comparing a compound bow vs crossbow, crossbows have a much higher FPS, making them more accurate and deadlier. Crossbows are also great to have for target practice. If you enjoy archery to any extent, a crossbow is a great buy.
From a hunting standpoint, crossbows offer more of a challenge. The max range for a crossbow is 30 yards, which is a pretty short distance (especially considering crossbows can only be used during firearm hunting season). Many people prefer the short distance though because it requires the hunter to be creative in order to draw in game.
However, they also have many advantages. Crossbows aren’t as loud as guns, not to mention arrows are often reusable (unless they break off in your game). Crossbows are also easier to use than regular bows, and you have the advantage of adding scopes to them.
Key Features to a Good Crossbow
There are few things you should always consider when buying a crossbow. Here is what to look for in a crossbow:
Recurve vs. Compound
- The compound vs recurve debate has always been a heated one, but ultimately it comes down to preference. However, you will want to consider whether or not your crossbow is compound or recurve before you buy it.
- Basically, a recurve crossbow has no mechanical parts, and every moving piece is influenced by the user. A compound crossbow has a series of pulleys and cables. Compounds normally require more maintenance, but both offer the same level of accuracy and power.
- Some crossbows are louder than others, and that is something you should consider – especially if you are going hunting. The quieter the crossbow, the more effective it will be for hunting.
- The draw weight is one of the most important factors to consider in your crossbow comparison. The draw weight is essentially the force you will need to cock the crossbow. While you can manually cock a crossbow, you essentially have to be able to lift the equivalent of the draw weight.
- Most crossbows come with some kind of draw device, like a crank, so that isn’t a huge issue.
- The real reason draw weight is important is because it factors into the FPS, which we will discuss below. Essentially, the more draw weight, the more FPS. For hunting purposes, you will want a draw weight of at least 150 lbs.
- If you don’t know what is the range of a crossbow, just remember it is similar to the range of a compound bow. The max range of a crossbow is usually 30 yards, so you should make sure the crossbow you get fires accurately at that range.
- Power stroke is the other key factor in determining FPS. The power stroke is essentially how far back the bolt or arrow needs to be pulled until it is latched and cocked.
- Generally crossbows have power strokes between 10 and 14″. The longer the power stroke, the more FPS you will get.
- FPS is the ultimate factor when determining what is the fastest crossbow. FPS is short for feet per second, and you will want somewhere in close to 300 FPS for hunting.
- However, while FPS is a key factor, remember the difference between 280 and 300 FPS is virtually indistinguishable.
- Size is also a personal preference, but a key factor nonetheless. The larger the crossbow is, the more draw weight and power stroke you will probably have. However, you don’t want to get one too large, otherwise it becomes too hard to handle.
Mistakes to Avoid
Not Enough Power: You will want to find a crossbow that is right for your needs, of course. Since hunting is the key purpose for owning a crossbow, you will want to make sure you buy one with enough speed and power to take down whatever you are hunting. If hunting is your reason for owning a crossbow, make sure you don’t get one with a draw weight lower than 150 lbs and a power stroke no shorter than 10″.
Too Much Draw Weight: The draw weight is important, but it can also be a huge hindrance. A lot of people may not be able to cock a draw weight of 200 lbs. Make sure you are capable of using the crossbow you purchase.
Spending Too Little: Don’t cheap out on your crossbow. Understandably, you don’t want to go into debt, but that doesn’t mean you need to get the cheapest bow out there. Generally, the more you spend, the better built your crossbow will be.
What Else Should You Think About?
Owning the best crossbow is just one factor to consider in your hunting experience. If you are a full-blown outdoorsman, you will want to consider things like tents, outdoor lights, and how to charge your phone. You may also need to find some ways to entertain yourself while out in the woods (when you’re not hunting, obviously).
If you still aren’t sure if crossbows are for you, maybe you should look into another archery weapon. For instance, you can get a solid compound bow for a comparable price to crossbows. If you are a beginner and need the practice, you’ll definitely want to get a target as well.
For the hunters out there, you may be wondering what can you hunt with a crossbow. Well, really, you can hunt just about anything. While they are mainly used for deer hunting, you can hunt turkey, squirrels, or any other variety of game.
Lastly, be sure to check any laws and regulations in your area regarding crossbows. Some states only allow crossbows during firearm season, while many allow it to be used during archery season as well. Check here to see what is allowed in your state. Unfortunately there is no real standard crossbow regulation, show be sure to look into your local laws to see what you need to do to stay within the bounds of the law.
Just remember to stay safe and have fun!