Crossbow vs Compound Bow

Article Posted: August 20, 2013

Wicked Ridge Crossbow

This article is meant to compare the compound bow to the crossbow, and will give the pros and cons of each. Please post comments and questions at the bottom of the page.

Even though crossbows have been around since the 5th century B.C. and compound bows have only been around since the late 1960s, You may be surprised to learn that there are similarities in performance that will give you pause to question whether you'd prefer to use a crossbow or if a compound bow would work better for you. While the two operate in somewhat different manners, and each has benefits and drawbacks, you may find one set of advantages of one will suit your style a lot better.

Today's crossbows aim and shoot much like a rifle with a stock, trigger mechanism and even mounts for rifle scopes. The bow limbs at the front are relatively short compared to other bows which makes for a higher draw weight (how much effort it takes to 'set' the bow to be fired) while creating a high FPS (feet per second) of the bolt off the bow and good range. This often means the draw weight is higher than the average person can pull, requiring either a hook to be implemented or even a cranking mechanism to set the string for the next shot.

A compound bow uses the string and a pulley mechanism to facilitate drawing the bow. This dramatically reduces the draw weight while allowing the bow to have a high FPS and good range as well. The limbs of the bow are significantly longer than those on a crossbow, however, since the string is pulled by hand and there is no trigger mechanism, compound bows are usually significantly lighter than crossbows. There are sighting mechanisms for compound bows which makes them every bit as accurate as a crossbow as well.

Crossbow Pros and Cons

Pro - Very accurate and easy to sight, even for inexperienced bow users

Pro - Can be set and loaded and left that way for extended periods without damage to the string

Pro - Slightly higher FPS and range than other bows

Con - Heavier and more awkward to carry, especially in dense woods and fields

Con - Louder "shot". Due to the engineering of a crossbow and the higher draw weight, a crossbow produces much more string vibration than other bows which could scare off game

Con - Slow to load. Even the fastest crossbow takes much longer to load because of the crank or the hook and stirrup setup

Compound Bow Pros and Cons

Pro - Lower draw weight means the bow is much easier to load and fire

Pro - Faster to load. A compound bow can take only seconds to reload

Pro - Quieter. Due to the engineering and pulley mechanisms, there is very little string vibration to alert game

Pro - Lighter and easier to carry. This means less chances of getting tangled in brush, knocking against trees and the ability to go on a longer hunt without tiring.

Con - Pulley mechanism failures. Even the best compound bows will have pulley issues at some point in time (usually right in the middle of a hunt when you're miles deep in the woods)

Con - Lower FPS and range than a crossbow

Con - Cannot be drawn and left loaded for extended periods. There are mechanisms known as "draw locks" to facilitate this type of action, but these can also reduce accuracy.

Con - Takes a higher degree of skill to be truly accurate

Many states (including new legislation in Kansas, Wisconsin, Indiana, joining most other states) allow for crossbow usage during bow hunting season. This means young hunters, as low as 10 years old in some states, can now use a crossbow when accompanying adults on a bow hunt. Other states, such as New York have declassified crossbows as a firearm which enables them to be used during 'primitive weapons' season.

Thanks to modern technology and artificial materials, both compound bows and crossbows have similar FPS for the bolt or arrow off the bow and similar ranges, with a slight edge to the crossbow, although this is easily negated with the faster load times and quieter operation of the compound bow. The best thing you can do if you're looking into bow hunting is to experiment with both so you can determine which bow will suit you best. A little time spent in an archery range can save you a lot of time, money and hassles later.

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