Crossbows have been around since around 399 BC. What was first a weapon used in war has now evolved into a smaller package used for hunting. Crossbows are an excellent tool for hunting and are also extremely fun to shoot downrange. Over the years crossbows have turned into a hobby and have formed a large community of crossbow enthusiasts. Although it’s a really fun hobby, good crossbows can get expensive and can reach prices of above $1000.
To help you get started on your crossbow journey, we have compiled a list of crossbows that are budget-friendly but still provide you with good shooting experience. We have also included a few tips that can help you choose a crossbow that is perfect for you. After you are familiar with the crossbows you can check out our list of the best crossbow under 400.
Types of crossbows
Recurve crossbows are similar to traditional recurve bows. These crossbows have their tips bend away from the archer and only consist of a simple bow and string. These crossbows are very simple and have no pulley mechanisms. This makes the bows cheaper and easier to maintain. However, these crossbows require a lot of force to pull back and generally offer less power than a compound crossbow. they also require a steadier hand to shoot because they have no support system to help keep the string steady.
A compound crossbow is the most modern version of a crossbow that has seen many years of evolution, with its mechanized pulleys allowing the latch to hold the bowstring in a cocked position. Some of the advantages with this type of crossbow include the let-off feature, which reduces the amount of the draw weight and simultaneously allows for a higher speed shot. Because the cable-and-pulley mechanism stores energy in the limbs while the bow is loaded, the release is generally quicker and more powerful than recurve models.
What to look for in a crossbow?
Speed is a vital part that determines how successful you are in hitting your target. The higher the speed, the harder it will hit your target and thus improving our chances of catching your prey. However, a higher speed also tend to put more strain on the limbs of the crossbow and is generally less forgiving while aiming as compared to a slow crossbow. For a beginner we recommend a crossbow that can shoot up to 350 fps, this speed is not to difficult to control but is also fast enough to get the job done.
Compound bows usually have a built-in scope. The quality and the type of scope you get directly influences your accuracy. There are two types of scopes, multi dot, and multi cross-hair, experienced archers usually go for multi cross hair because it allows them to correct their angling if the scope is mounted correctly. For beginners, we recommend a 4x scope which is ideal for hunting and can allow you to get accurate shots from 20 to 60 yards.
The weight of the crossbow itself is very important. The heavier it is, the more stable your shots will be. When looking for the correct weight, you need to keep your physique in mind. You need to be able to comfortably carry your crossbow for prolonged periods. Pick one that is not too lightweight but also not too heavy to cause you any discomfort.
The draw weight of the crossbow is the amount of force it takes to pull back the string and cock a bolt in the shooting position. It is a very important factor and directly affects how good of an experience you have with your crossbow. The higher the draw weight, the more power you will have with each shot but it will also get difficult to reload the crossbow. When choosing a draw weight, you need to keep your abilities in mind. Only get higher draw weights if you think that you can cock it back multiple times or if you have a cranking mechanism which makes it easier to cock.
For beginners we always recommend a lower draw weight, we advise getting used to how the crossbow works with something easier to manage and can allow for a more fun shooting experience for a longer time.
The noise of the crossbow is something that only affects hunters. When you are stalking your prey, the slightest of sounds when shooting can cause it to move and thus cause you to miss your shot. Nowadays, crossbows come with noise dampening systems that eliminate most of the vibrations produced when you shoot. However, these features are usually available in slightly expensive crossbows and are not needed when you are first starting out.
Best crossbows under 400
1. Barnett Whitetail Hunter 2
The Barnett Whitetail is the perfect crossbow for a hunter on a budget. It can be purchased for $399 which makes it not too expensive and gives you a performance that is worth your money. That is why it is on the top of our list for the best crossbow under 400. The crossbow comes in a very small form factor which makes it easy to carry and maneuver around with. It has enough power to shoot arrows at up to 350 fps. It has a draw weight of 160 lbs pounds which is easily manageable for beginners.
- Ambidextrous design
- Cocking is easy
- To decock the bow, you need to fire one shot with a bolt which is frustrating sometimes
2. CenterPoint Specialist XL
The CenterPoint Specialist is a very high-quality crossbow built by a highly respected brand. It is 24 inches long and weighs about 8 pounds which puts it slightly on the larger and heavier side. One of the key features that put it on the list of the best crossbows under 400 is that it comes with detachable foregrips that you can change according to your preference. The crossbow can shoot arrows at speeds of up to 370 fps.
- Detachable fore grips
- Fast and accurate
- Fire and auto safety features
- Does not come with an illuminated scope
- The pre-installed scope is not good
3. PSE Thrive 400
The PSE Thrive is an excellent option for you if you are looking for something that can do a bit more damage. Its reverse cam technology allows it to shoot arrows at speeds of up to 400 fps which is a lot of firepowers. The crossbow can efficiently shoot at distances of 40 to 80 yards. The crossbow also comes with a multi reticle scope out of the bow which is high quality.
- Very powerful
- High-quality build
- Excellent scope out of the bow
- Slightly dangerous when cocking back
- We recommend the provision of an experienced archer when beginners use this crossbow for the same time
4. Killer instinct crossbows Hero 380
At number 4 on our list for best crossbows under $400, we have the hero 380. This crossbow has a draw weight of 185 pounds and can shoot arrows at about 380 fps. The crossbow weighs about 5.8 pounds and can be purchased for about $299. The low price and lightweight makes this an excellent choice for younger archers who are looking to get started in the crossbow world. The crossbow also comes with an illuminated scope out of the box which is always a good thing.
- Illuminated scope out of the box
- Quiet when shooting
- Shoots fast
- Easy installation of scopes but still not instructions provided out of the box for beginners
5. Killer instinct crossbows Ripper 415
At number five of our list, we have another best crossbow under 400 made by killer instinct. The ripper 415 is for the people who are looking for something fast right from the start. The crossbow is about 14 inches tall and weighs 6.9 pounds. Although it is small it is still a bit heavy which makes it slightly annoying while maneuvering. It has a draw weight of 200 pounds and can shoot arrows at a staggering speed of 415 fps.
- The crossbow has an unstable buttstock and forearm grip
- Has a sturdy aluminum barrel
- String stops included out of the box
- Does not come with a crank
All of the crossbows on our list are perfect for people who are just getting into the hobby of crossbows. They are all reliable and are guaranteed to last you a very long time. Despite their comparatively low prices, they still provide excellent performance and can shoot arrows at amazing speeds and with a lot of power. All of the best crossbow under 400 mentioned in our list can easily be used for hunting because they carry enough power to do some serious damage.
Crossbows might seem complicated at first but once you get started it’s amazing. You can also check our main articles on the best crossbow under 1000, best crossbow under 300/ 500, best crossbow on a budget, best crossbow for youth, best crossbow for women, and the best crossbow for the money.