What To Look For When Choosing A Crossbow Under $500
You might think that when looking for a budget crossbow under $500 that you have to sacrifice certain features or preferences. That isn’t the case, though. You can still be picky. Here are some specific things to look at.
RELATED: Best Crossbow
It’s not always necessary to get a brand name, but in the case of crossbows, certain brands do give you the confidence that they’ll be well crafted. When looking for a budget crossbow, specifically, several name brands help assure you that the low price doesn’t necessarily mean lower quality. These include:
- PSE Archery
- TenPoint (who also make Wicked Ridge models)
- Bear Archery
- Killer Instinct
RELATED: Best Hunting Gear
Compound, Recurve or Reverse Draw
Among the three main types of crossbows, compound models are by far the most common. They provide power and speed without being too bulky. Plus, they minimize draw weight without sacrificing power.
As opposed to compound crossbows, recurve models are much simpler. As a result, they rarely break down, require minimal maintenance and are easier to use. This makes them good for beginners. Their main downside is size, specifically ATA width. They also usually have a bit less power, but this can also be good for beginners.
Reverse-draw crossbows are a newer type of crossbow with a more innovative design that involves, well, drawing the crossbow the opposite way. The advantage is that you get a longer power stroke, which means the bowstring accelerates the bolt for more time, giving you more speed and power with a narrower ATA. They also tend to shoot more quietly.
Unfortunately, reverse-draw models are a bit more complicated to use and are usually more expensive. They’re a better choice for experienced archers looking for something new.
Crossbow bolt speed, measured in feet per second, or FPS, usually ranges between 300 and 500 FPS and is one of the most important features to look at. While just about any crossbow is fast enough to hunt medium-sized game like deer, you may want a more powerful model for big game like elk, moose or bear.
RELATED: Best Place To Shoot A Deer With A Crossbow
Additionally, while faster bolt speeds give you more range and improve accuracy, they can be hard to handle for beginners, and the effective range of the crossbow does not really change that much. We usually recommend you stay under 400 FPS for your first crossbow, but over 400 is fine if you have some experience.
Draw weight is less of an issue for crossbows compared to vertical bows because pretty much any crossbow is going to be impossible for someone to cock without some kind of device. However, a lower draw weight may be easier to cock just using a foot stirrup rather than a cocking rope or crank. This is important for archers who don’t have a lot of upper body strength.
Unless you’re a record-holding powerlifter, you’ll almost certainly need some kind of cocking device to cock your crossbow. The simplest way is with a foot stirrup. By putting your foot through the stirrup, you get leverage that allows you to pull up the bowstring.
However, other methods can make things a lot easier. For example, a cocking rope better distributes the draw weight so it takes less effort to pull up the bowstring.
The easiest way, though, is with a crank. By rotating the crank, you slowly draw back the bowstring with little effort at all. Some crossbow models come with a crank that’s integrated into the frame, a great feature to look for.
A crank also works to decock a crossbow, which makes them that much more valuable.
Crossbows are dangerous weapons, so safety should always be a priority, doubly so if you’re shopping for a youth or beginner crossbow shooter. Standard safety features include trigger safeties and anti-dry-fire mechanisms that keep the crossbow from releasing the bowstring if there isn’t a bolt loaded. Dry firing can damage a crossbow and even cause it to splinter and injure the shooter.
More advanced safety features include finger wings, trigger guards and even rail sensors. These do their best to prevent your fingers from crossing the plane of the crossbow bowstring which moves so fast that it could potentially cut off your finger.
It’s always nice when a crossbow comes with accessories so you don’t have to buy them separately. Essential accessories you should look for so you can start hunting right off the bat include:
- Crossbow bolts
- Some kind of cocking method (stirrup, cocking rope or crank)
Of course, some crossbows also come with other accessories that can increase your chances of hunting success. These add a lot of value to the package and include:
- Carrying case
- Limb dampeners
- String silencers
- Rail lube
We also want to mention crossbow broadheads. You need hunting broadheads to go hunting, but these are rarely included in hunting packages, even if they come with bolts. If the package does, that’s a great feature.
With proper maintenance and care, your crossbow should last for years, but it’s always worth checking the warranty a given crossbow comes with. For one thing, a long warranty lets you buy with the reassurance that you can return or repair it if there is some kind of defect. More importantly, long warranties signal that the manufacturer is confident in their product and has crafted it with care.
Even if you’re on a budget, you can still get a crossbow with the features and accessories you need. Our best overall crossbow under $500 is the Wicked Ridge Rampage 360, but the staff here at DeerHuntingGuide.net really love the PSE Archery Fang HD as well.
Make sure you’ve considered all the reviews and how each crossbow might fit your personal hunting needs and situation.
Now it’s time to go buy your favorite crossbow on the list, take it out in your yard and get it sighted in, just in time for the hunting season!