Picking between a crossbow vs conventional bow for hunting, whether you own one of them or just get into this field, can be an exhaustive process.

In this guide, we compare their power, weight, accuracy, ease of use, and maneuverability, and show you their advantages.

The best part? You’ll get to know which is a good fit for you.

Sounds good? Let’s dive into it…

crossbow vs bow

Ease of Use:

Fast facts:

Crossbows were used in China back in the fifth century BCE. (University of Washington)

It was so popular because it enabled you to release a bunch of arrows fast and easily without too much fatigue.

If the ancient warriors could use it efficiently, you too (#SPARTAN)

Nowadays, modern bows are easier to master than their traditional counterparts, requiring less time and effort to become effective.

A total beginner to both compound and crossbow shooting can get familiar with it within 1 hour. So your kids don’t give up early after just 30 minutes of playing around and getting bored by the training and inconstency.

crossbow aiming

But note:

You need to practice shooting A LOT before you can hit targets consistently and accurately, no matter which type of bow you use.

There's more:

Preloaded Arrows:

Crossbows have a big advantage by preloading a bolt using a crank device. All you need to do is wait for the buck to go to your hunting range, aim and shoot; not too dissimilar to that of a firearm.

Built-In Charger Crank

Crank device - Via excaliburcrossbow.com

On the other hand, with a compound bow, you’re required to draw back and hold your position until the ideal shot opportunity presents itself.

The longer you maintain that draw, the more fatigue you’ll feel, no matter how much let off (percentage of draw weight support the bow offers) you have.

https://www.w3.org/WAI/tutorials/images/decision-tree

Credit: https://imgflip.com/i/3isrge

In other words, the crossbow is easier to use in my opinion.


Power:

What is Kinetic energy?

It is how much energy (power) the arrow carries in flight.

A high amount of kinetic energy means that the arrow will hit the target harder, and penetrate further than an arrow that carries a lower amount.

3d target

Example:

The crossbow started at 190 foot-pounds of energy, compared to 70 for the compound bow.

At 100 yards, the crossbow bolt still carried 140 foot-pounds of energy, while the compound arrow was down to 40 foot-pounds — an astounding difference.

Why?

Because crossbows have a very special design that can store much higher energy than compound bows.

These components include:

  • Power stroke (the length between loaded and unloaded position)
  • Limb
  • Riser
  • Cams

In short, the crossbow is much MORE POWERFUL and faster than compound bow in the same range.

It means the crossbow is louder, and you’re able to shoot longer distance than vertical compound bow.


Speed

crossbow speed

Crossbows are typically faster than a compound bow, due to higher kinetic energy.

Modern compound crossbows can achieve 325–375 feet per second with a 150–175 pound draw weight.

A compound bow with a hard cam draw weight of 75 pounds will launch a 24″ arrow at 300 feet per second.

But here’s the thing:

Fast speed only makes sense when you use light arrows with less penetration and quickly lose speed (energy) after leaving the bow.

Typically, the manufacturers give the max speed when they pair with the lightest arrows.

Let’s see how it works:

Loss of Speed and Kinetic Energy by Arrow Weight (source)

Total Arrow Weight (grain)

370

425

435

545

Speed lost at 50 yards

-11.9%

-8.9%

-7.6%

-7.6%

Loss of kinetic energy at 50 yards

-25.2%

-18.7%

-15.9%

-15.9%

My Advice: Don’t count on speed only (measure in FPS).


Noise

How loud is the crossbow?

A Scorpyd reverse draw crossbow creates a noise 80 - 90 dB which is equal to a chain saw and jet engine.

Note that whitetail deer are extremely sensitive to noise. If you trigger a crossbow from over 50 yards, they can hear and jump the string (react) before the arrow gets to its target destination; missing your opportunity.

crossbow meme

Tips:

  • Add a noise dampening system to reduce the loudness.
  • Take a shot from within an effective range (more on that below)

A compound bow is 50% less noisy as a crossbow, at only around 40 dB.


Effective Range

What is the effective range?

It is the distance at which hunters can shoot accurately and ethically (to effectively down a deer).

Retain heat

Via legendarywhitetails.com

Why is it important?

When it comes to hunting, there are many variables.

And, when your target animal is farther out, those variables are amplified. For instance, the time for the deer to hear the shot, to the impacts of wind speed and direction.

The further distance, the less clear the shooting lane is likely to be, and the arrow’s speed and power drastically decrease.

It means that the likelihood of a bad hit, a jumped string, a wounded animal, or a failed recovery increases.

Crossbow:

Many manufacturers claim that their product can shoot up to 100 yards, but it’s not generally a recommended practice.

According to Hunter-ed, it’s ethical to take down a whitetail in a short range of 40 yards or less, no matter which bow you use.

In short, both the crossbow and the vertical bow have the same effective range.


Weight

weight

Generally compound bows are typically lighter than a crossbow by 25 - 30%, which makes it easier to carry during long walks in the woods.

Let me tell you:

It means the less weight you pack, the longer you’re able to hike with less exertion. It’s great for mobile hunters who often bring less gear.

With a heavier pack weight, you should be okay if you are hunting near your truck, as hiking a couple of miles is usually reasonable.

However, to get deeper, into less-pressured areas, a heavier pack weight will have a significant impact on your energy levels and overall fatigue.

# Pro tips: In my experience, less is more.

Pack in 20 lbs. Remember, you need to save some weight and space to pack out a deer; which is usually around 80 lbs.


Accuracy

archery target

Typically, a crossbow takes fewer variables to shoot accurately. They eliminate some of the obstacles you deal with in a compound bow, such as:

  • Torque
  • Cam timing
  • Rest tuning
  • Aiming techniques
  • Precise stance…

Pick a crossbow up.

Aim. Steady. Shoot.

It’s that simple.

# Pro tips:

Shooting regularly from different angles to know how it works, and you’ll improve your accuracy. It applies for any bows.

If you love hunting on the ground or treestand, practice in these situations. Familiarising yourself with these situations will reduce the chances of getting nervous in the field.


Maneuverability

Tree saddle mobile stand setup

The crossbow has the big advantage of hunting in a ground blind or box blind, where you have lots of room to set up and cock the bolt. But it can be difficult to reload it on a treestand with tight space.

On the contrary, the compound bow has a slim profile and is great for treestand hunting. It enables you to carry it up the tree with less effort.

Let me explain…

Let’s say you’re standing on a hang-on stand, just miss a shot, and would like to reload the crossbow bolt. It’s difficult to re-cock in a limited space.

So they're both have their own advantages.


Follow-up Shot

Conventional bow

In case you just missed the first shot, as it only takes seconds to grab, nock the second arrow to get another chance to take down the deer.

That means you can easily follow up a shot with a traditional bow.

Crossbow:

It’s a pain in the butt to load the next bolt quickly and quietly with minimal movement. Want a second shot on that deer? Hopefully you find him again tomorrow.

deer meme - you miss me

Price

cost

Traditional bow

Starting from just a few hundred dollars (ranging into the thousands for high end setups), which is cheaper for beginners.

Crossbow

Often starting sub-$1000 and heading upwards from there.
Have a look at these 2 high-end bows:

GOOD NEWS FOR YOU:

You don’t have to spend big bucks for the fastest and newest crossbow. There are many budgets and beginner-friendly options available on the market.(#Thanks-GOD)

Just like for a first car, a Toyota Corolla is adequate rather than forking out for a Ferrari Testarossa.

In this case, crossbow is more expensive for beginners.


So, Which One is Better?

faq

Well, it depends. Both vertical bows and crossbows are decent for hunting, easy to use, and work well within their effective range.

Here’s a slight difference:

Crossbows are more powerful, have higher speed, shoot more accurately, and work across longer ranges than a conventional bow. However, it is also louder and heavier to carry.

Who is the crossbow good for?

  • Younger children
  • Disabled hunters
  • Ageing hunters
  • People who have physical or shoulder injuries that can not draw a compound bow.
    Hunters who want extra hunting days in bow seasons (yes, it’s legal in many states - but check your local regulations for details).
  • People who prefer hunting in a blind instead of taking the risks of using tree stands.

A vertical bow features a shorter range, is less powerful, and has a slower speed than a crossbow. But it is also quieter, lighter, cheaper, and easier to set up on a treestand.

Who is a conventional bow good for?

  • For archers who don’t need something too powerful, too fast, and too easy to play around with.
  • If you love the challenge of having to overcome all variables to master a compound bow, you’ll find it challenging, yet satisfying.
  • For treestand hunters who love the versatility of shooting in tighter spaces.
  • For mobile hunters who need a minimal setup and cut some weight.

Check out this collection of the best crossbows and compound bows here.

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About the Author

Hi, I'm Robert Gate, a hunter from Texas and Founder of ArcheryTopic.

I first learned archery from my dad when I was 12 years old. He gave me a Mathew bow as a gift and instantly fell in love with the pursuit.

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