Crossbow vs Compound Bow

Archery and bowhunting have grown in popularity, and since some states are relaxing crossbow bans and restrictions, many are considering switching to crossbow hunting. But it could be tempting to stick with the compound bow. Each bow has unique pros and cons. We’ll look at them in each category to see which is best suited to your needs. 

Crossbows 

A crossbow is like a cross between a traditional bow and a gun. A crossbow contains a built-in mechanism for the bowstring and a trigger mechanism that releases the string, sending an arrow flying at a target. Crossbow arrows are known as crossbow bolts. 

Modern crossbows come in three key variations, the compound crossbow, the pistol, and the recurve. The recurve is lightweight, the compound is most powerful, and the pistol crossbow is ideal for small game. 

Before considering a new crossbow, you should consider power stroke, limb type, draw weight, FPS, noise, cocking mechanisms, triggers, sights, scopes, and other equipment. You should also consider portability and price. 

Compound bows 

A compound bow uses pulleys and cables to bend limbs when you draw the bowstring. The pulley and cam system give you an edge, making the bow stiffer than a typical recurve bow or longbow. They are easier to draw, more energy-efficient, and easier to use. Several features to consider include IBO (International Bowhunters Organization)and FPS (feet per second) speed, brace height, draw length range, riser styles, pricing, and more. 

Arrow speed 

When you’re hunting, you need speed, but for a humane kill, you also need kinetic energy. You don’t want to cause an animal to suffer a severe injury or slow death. Crossbow and compound bow speed is measured in FPS and FPKE (foot-pounds in kinetic energy). FPKE tells you how powerful your shot is. 

An IBO standard is used with compound bows, allowing you to compare all bows with one standard. The standard equals the speed of a 350-grain arrow shot by a 70-pound bow with a 30-inch draw length. A certified chronograph measures FPS. Crossbows don’t have the same standard. Compound bows measure around 350FPS, but crossbows can top 400 FPS. 

Winner – Crossbow

Range

There are two ranges to consider, overall and effective range. 

A typical compound bow has an overall range of approximately 100 yards, with an effective range of up to 60 yards. Though accuracy may suffer, crossbows can be used from several hundred yards away. A skilled hunter could hit targets 80-100 yards away if you’re hunting. 

Winner – Crossbow

Draw weight

 Higher draw weight is ideal for taking down big game; thanks to let-off, it’s much easier to use higher draw weights when hunting with a compound bow. However, you can use a cocking device with your crossbow to use a higher draw weight.

Winner: Both

Reload speed 

Shooting or reload speed is a good thing to consider – most skilled archers won’t be in this position, and you should aim for a one-hit kill. But if your first shot misses, what do you do? 

The compound bow is quicker if you need to reload and fire again. You can reload faster and easier for multiple shots. 

Winner – Compound bow

Accuracy 

Many archers hotly debate this category. Several circumstances can dictate accuracy. 

 Crossbows are easier to aim with, as it takes no force to hold the draw. But crossbows can be overall bulky and difficult to move around with. You can also purchase advanced scopes. 

A compound bow is more challenging to aim with; you may experience fatigue while you’re aiming. But it’s generally easier to move around with. The compound bow also has a consistent anchor point. 

Winner: Both 

Safety

You should always consider safety first – these aren’t toys, and severe injury or death can occur if not taken seriously. 

Crossbows can be dangerous, with the most significant safety issues present during the shot. First, you should ensure no fingers, hands, or body parts in the bowstring paths – you could lose a finger. 

Another thing to consider is size – the crossbow will be narrower when cocked. Ensure no obstacles or branches obstruct your crossbows, cams, or limbs. 

It’s a bad idea to walk into the woods or climb into a deer stand with a cocked crossbow. Uncocking a crossbow can also raise safety issues. 

You should take care to uncock it properly. 

The compound bow is often considered safer – they’re not loaded, and you’re in control 100% of the time at full draw. But there are still safety concerns to address. 

You should get your bow inspected by a professional at least once a year – they can check for invisible wear and tear and ensure your bow is set up properly. Correct setup reduces the chance of harm. 

Winner – Compound bow

Portability

There are several things to consider for this category – will you be stalking in the woods or sitting in a tree stand? A crossbow is more challenging to use if you’re constantly on your feet. It’s bulkier and weighs you down, but if you’re sitting down, it doesn’t matter. There have been advancements that make crossbows more lightweight. However, the compound bow is easily more portable. 

Winner: Compound bow

Maintenance

You’ll need to maintain your equipment regardless. You should inspect your equipment before each use, take it to a professional at least once a year and store your equipment correctly. You should also wax your bowstring regularly. 

The crossbow will require more maintenance as it has additional parts. You should clean and inspect your scope and sights and lubricate your trigger box to ensure it works properly. Compound bows require less maintenance. 

Winner: Compound bow 

Noise

 A compound bow is quieter overall, ideal if you’re hunting. But a crossbow can be made almost as quiet with a silencer. A compound bow will require less work to be silent, though. 

Winner: Compound bow 

Cost

Cost is difficult to compare. Most lower-end and mid-range crossbows and compound bows are a  similar price, so there’s no clear winner here. 

Winner: Both 

Crossbow vs compound bow? 

Compound bows and crossbows are subject to different legislation, so you should check local laws to ensure both are legal. If so, you can make your own choice. Each type has pros and cons; when it comes to overall power, the crossbow is the best. But if you’re looking for portability and silence, the compound bow is the winner. You should consider where you’re hunting, your method, whether you’re hunting small or big game, and how physically fit you are. If you plan well, your hunt will surely be successful. 

Trey

About the Author

Trey is a lifelong hunter and avid camper. He lives outside Denver, CO with his wife Kaci and their lab mix Ziggy. They spend as much time as possible outdoors - hunting, fishing, and camping.

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