crossbow vs compound bow

Crossbow vs Compound Bow for Beginners: Which One Better?

People often compare crossbows to their compound cousins. It is all for a good reason, as they share many similarities.

So, how to resolve the dilemma crossbow vs compound bow?

When it comes down to having to choose only one of the two, what decision should you make?

Range

Before we start, you need to know that your arrow travel distance will depend on the configuration of your crossbow or compound bow, as well as your technique and experience.

Hence, the data provided below is based on my personal experience.

So… how far can crossbow and compound bow shoot?

Crossbow (50 - 60 yards)

crossbow range

A crossbow can send an arrow well over 500 yards when shot into the air.

Of course, it cannot be very precise at such distance nor cause too much damage to the target.

If you shoot to kill or you want to achieve an accurate shot, you should rely on the average effective hunting range, which is somewhere around  50 to 60 yards.

Experienced and well-trained shooters can kill a medium or big game even at an 80-yard distance.

Compound bow (30 - 60 yards)

compound bow range

A compound bow is capable of sending an arrow flying over 1,000 feet away.

Still, the record shot that actually hit its target is 930.04 feet.

An average archer will most probably remain within what is called the “effective range,”  and that means somewhere between 30 and 60 yards.

Even though compound bows are appreciated for having a very large range in comparison to traditional bows, in reality, the precision hit range is quite small.


Speed

Speed sells! We all have to face that fact and join in the race where manufacturers have all lined up to break speed records.

So, who would win the race - crossbow or a compound bow?

Crossbow (400 fps)

bolt speed

Contemporary crossbows are more powerful than their predecessors.

As a result, they can achieve pretty high velocities.

Modern crossbows can send an arrow flying well over 400 feet per second.

Even the most advanced medieval designs could achieve only about 300 feet per second at best.

Most average crossbows at a reasonable price shoot bolts at 350 fps to 375 fps range. Only a few can easily break 400 fps.

You must remember, though, that speed isn't the main point of interest for accomplishing top execution.

Numerous additional factors, such as held vitality and clamor count as well.

Compound bows (300 - 340 fps)

compound bow speed

Modern compound bows are capable of shooting at a speed between 300 and 340 feet per second.

Of course, there are also numerous factors that will influence the speed, such as:

  • The type of your compound bow,
  • Its draw length & weight
  • And the weight of the arrow

The crossbow clearly wins this round.

But even though arrow-speed is great, it makes little difference if the arrow that made the kill flew a few seconds slower than the one that missed it.


Kinetic Energy

equal

It is a common belief that crossbows can generate outlandish amounts of kinetic energy in comparison to the compound bows.

In reality, math is not much different for either of the two.

The average crossbow can generate between 80 to 100 foot-pounds of kinetic energy.

A standard crossbow that develops 300 fps (feet per second) and shoots out a 420-grain arrow will generate 86.78 foot-pounds of kinetic energy.

It shoots out a 350-grain arrow at the speed of 335 fps will generate 87.24 foot-pounds of kinetic energy.

The verdict?

It does not make much of a difference energy-vise whether you choose a crossbow or a compound bow. Math is math.


Power Stroke

power stroke

The power stroke represents the amount of time the string of a bow remains in contact with the arrow.

And it depends on the distance between the string’s resting position and a fully-drawn position.

Generally speaking, the longer the power stroke, the more speed an arrow will develop.

If you compare the power stroke of an average compound bow to a crossbow, compounds will most probably win every time.

Compound bows have a longer power stroke, almost by definition.

  • Why is that so?
  • How does it influence the overall performance of these two weapons?

They have longer limbs and thus a longer string too.

You need to give them a longer pull in order to fully draw the string, and as a result, they have a longer power stroke.

It does not mean that compound bows are faster.

As the velocity of an arrow is determined not only by the length of a power stroke but by draw weight and arrow weight too.


Accuracy

The question of accuracy might be the most debated one when crossbow vs compound bow dilemma is considered.

There are numerous factors that affect the accuracy of any bow. Most will depend on the person wielding it.

Compound bow with cam system

bow cam

Compound bows are extremely accurate weapons due to cam systems that regulate every draw of the string and make it consistent.

Thanks to the string loop, your arrow will nock to the same spot on the string each time you shoot.

Crossbow with scope

crossbow scope

Crossbows permit the shooter to hold the aim longer and almost eliminate the tension of holding the string.

Another accuracy advantage of a crossbow is a crossbow scope, especially for longer-range shots.

Paired with a range finder, a crossbow scope makes hitting the target much easier.

The bottom line is, you can choose either of the two and still get accurate shots as long as you have enough practice.

I give a small advantage to the crossbows due to the addition of scopes.


Ease of use

Archery isn’t easy

You’ll need to practice a lot to become successful. Still, some types of bows are harder to control than others.

Crossbow - easier to master

crossbow practice

Crossbow loading and unloading can be rather dangerous, so make sure you spend enough time practicing this part too.

Your reward will be the fact that firing shots will be easy to master and almost effortless.

Compound bows - need more practice

practise compound bow

Compound bows are more comfortable to use, by far.

They are not difficult to load up and maintain in comparison to crossbows.

The pulley system allows you to apply less pressure to get a decent draw weight.

As a result, you can invest only 20-25% of your physical power and still reach your peak performance.


Size & Weight

weight and size

Crossbows are generally bulkier than compound bows even though compound bows have a longer A2A length (axle-to-axle).

Compound bows are lighter too since crossbows feature more moving parts and accessories that add up weight.

Most crossbows are as much as two to three times heavier than an average compound bow.


Noise

noise

When hunting, noise is your worst enemy.

Bowhunting should provide silence and stillness, and all bows are thus more-less quiet.

The noise that does occur is made by the vibrations created when the string is loosed.

Crossbows feature higher draw weight and have more stored energy; they often produce more noise too.

New technology such as limb dampeners and string suppressors aims to reduce the noise and even the odds with the compound bows.

crossbow silencers

Via tenpointcrossbows.com


Draw Weight

draw weight

Draw weight relates to the amount of power needed to draw the string. It is measured in pounds.

Crossbows generally feature higher draw weights that range between 150 and 175 pounds.

Some even go over 200 pounds. You’ll probably need a cocking device to span such bows.

Compound bows have a draw weight that ranges between 50 and 70 pounds.

Some state regulations forbid using a crossbow with extremely high draw weights. Stay informed!


Drawing the Bow

Crossbows can be troublesome to draw due to their weight.

You need a lot of muscle power to draw the high poundage, and thus, you might resort to a crank.

cocking crossbow

Via bowhunting.com

Unfortunately, crank can be rather inconvenient, too, as it requires extra time to set up between shots.

Compound bows are quieter and require less set up.

Their components rarely need to be replaced or repaired.

Drawing the bow still requires muscles and weaker or injured persons might find it overwhelming.


Disability-friendly

disabled hunter crossbow

A crossbow is generally easier to shoot accurately for beginners or people with physical disadvantages.

If you have some physical limitations or an injury, you will have more difficulty operating a compound bow.

Target or field crossbow is a discipline open to people with disabilities.

Competitors can shoot from a sitting position, too, as well as use a spring stand to support the weight of the bow.

It is best to have someone assist in re-loading, though.


Final Verdict:

Have I helped you resolve the dilemma crossbow vs compound bow?

I hope I did.  Do not forget that both require practice if you want to use them with any success.

When you know how to use a weapon, everything else becomes less important.

The compound bow is excellent if you are nostalgic and want something similar to a traditional, vertical bow.

If you are a modern hunter good at a rifle and shotgun hunting, you’ll be quite familiar with the mechanism behind the crossbow.

It is also an excellent choice for those with physical limitations.

Robert Gate

Hi, I’m Robert Gate – an avid hunter and founder of ArcheryTopic.com. I grew up in Texas, USA and learned archery from my dad when I was a child. He gave me a Mathew bow as a gift when I got 12 years old. Read my story!

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