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Crossbow Vs Compound Bow

Hunter dressed in camouflage clothing holding a modern bow.
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As the new hunting season inches on, many hunters are considering whether to get a crossbow or stick with the compound bows they know and understand. This is especially the case in a lot of states that have relaxed their laws regarding crossbows.

Both crossbows and compound bows have their own set of advantages and disadvantages in creating a successful hunt. So let’s stack both of these bows and see how they compare so you can make a choice between the two for yourself.


Crossbows have built-in mechanisms that hold down the draw bowstrings and a trigger mechanism that releases the string to send small arrows in the air towards an intended target. The small arrows used in a crossbow are called bolts.

Crossbows have been in use for centuries, maintaining a lot of their popularity in modern times. Over the years, crossbows have been perfected through the use of new materials, creating a much more effective weapon overall.

Today, the crossbow comes mainly in three forms, the recurve, the compound, and the pistol. The recurve is lightweight, which makes it popular for hunting. Compound crossbows are heavier and the most powerful, which makes them ideal for hunting bigger game. The pistol crossbow is the smallest and least powerful of the bunch, making it suitable for hunting small animals like squirrels.

Compound Bows

These bows use a system of pulleys and cables to bend limbs when the bowstring is pulled. This pulley system gives the user a greater advantage, allowing the bow’s limbs to be stiffer than a longbow or even a recurve bow overall. The result is a more efficient bow as there is less energy lost during movement when the arrow is shot.

The consequence is a greater draw weight than what you would find in traditional bows, be they longbows or even recurve bows. This has led to a comeback as more and more hunters embrace using bows and arrows in hunting instead of using guns as is the tradition.

The crossbows have a lot more moving parts, which increases the likelihood of failure. You also have to often replace the bowstring, which typically requires a professional as it can be pretty tricky.

Here are some of the ways crossbows compared to compound bows.

Speed and Kinetic Energy

When you are on a hunt, the goal is to hit the target and hit it with enough force to take it down. You also have to consider taking down the animals as quickly and as humanely as possible. Once a target is hit, it should ideally drop and die as quickly as possible as opposed to running off and potentially having a painful death in the days to come.

Compound bows are measured to have a maximum of about 350 FPS. As high as this is, some crossbows have been measured to go as high as 400 FPS. Some relatively inexpensive models go as high as 350 – 370 FPS. As a whole, crossbows tend to be more powerful.


The range is determined by the overall range, which is how far the shot can go, and the effective range, which is just how far the shot can go and still be effective at taking down its target.

Most compound bows will have an overall range of up to 100 yards and an effective range of about 30-60 yards, depending on the archer’s capabilities.

Crossbows can shoot up to several yards away. Skilled hunters could effectively hit targets that are up to 80 yards out. However, most archers can manage to hit a target that is about 30-60 yards away from them.

military man with crossbow

Shooting Speed

Shooting speed defines how fast multiple shots can be made with your bow. Most hunters are less likely to find themselves in this situation. The goal should always be to take down your target with a single shot.

However, in the case you need to take another shot as quickly as possible, the crossbow is the best choice. This is because the crossbow can easily be reloaded, which makes it better for shooting multiple shots.

Aiming and Accuracy

Crossbows require almost no effort on your part to hold the draw. In addition, they tend to have very powerful scopes, which makes aiming that much easier to aim. Due to the overall weight and bulkiness of the crossbow, aiming can be difficult, especially when not in a prone position or resting the crossbow on a flat surface.

Compound bows require you to draw while aiming, which makes it difficult and can cause strain on your muscles. However, compared to crossbows, compound bows tend to be lighter and easier to handle. They also have an anchor point on each shot which makes them that much more accurate.


Regardless of your weapon of choice, safety should be of most importance to everyone. Fatal injuries are not unheard of during hunting accidents, making your choice of weapon that much more important.

Compound bows are typically safer as they are not loaded with the hunter holding the arrow in place while having control over it the entire time. It is still recommended you have your bow inspected by a certified professional before the start of every hunting season. This should be done to ensure there are no unseen tears and points of failure to avoid accidents in general.

All arrows should also be inspected to ensure nothing goes wrong during the hunt and potentially cause fatal injuries.


On the upper end of crossbows and compound bows, the price difference is enormous. However, when looking at the mid-range and the low-end models, you will find the prices are comparable to each other.


Before deciding on either one, make sure you study up on the regulations in your local area to make sure you adhere to the law. For most hunters, overall power and portability are the deciding factors. For overall power, crossbows take the cake; for portability, compound bows take the win.

It is all, in the end, a matter of personal preference.