Crossbows have become a hot product over the past five years due to states relaxing their restrictions on Crossbow Hunting. With the current demand for crossbows, manufacturers have stepped up their engineering and production to meet the demands.
This article is designed to explain the parts of a crossbow, benefits of certain parts and what to look for before purchasing a crossbow.
The two main crossbows on the market today are solid limbs and split limb crossbows. In my opinion there is not a specific benefit to either model. Personal preference should be the only factor considered.
Crossbow Speed It can be overwhelming trying to figure out what model suits your needs. Crossbows range in speed from 250 FPS (Feet per Second) to 400 FPS. The poundage on the limbs can affect the speed of the crossbow but there is another aspect that should be considered. The power stroke or length of pull will also affect the speed of a crossbow. A longer power stroke with a 150 lb crossbow can shoot speeds equal to a 200 lb crossbow with a shorter power stroke. Most customers we speak with at Outdoors Experience are looking for a big game crossbow. In my opinion you need at least a crossbow rated at 300 FPS to take down a big game animal at 50 yards. Inside of 40 yards would be for a crossbow rated lower than 300 FPS. We offer many models shooting at or over 300 FPS that are priced well and allow you to purchase accessories under $500.00. In theory the models that have higher FPS will have higher kinetic energy and will allow you to shoot farther than a 300 FPS crossbow. But, in my opinion, at some point you might be getting into overkill if hunting whitetail and hogs in the U.S.
Lets break down the parts of a crossbow:
1. Stock There are numerous styles of stocks on the market. Some have adjustable stock and some allow for crank cocking devices to be added to the stock. If you feel you might eventually need a crank cocker choose a model that will accept a cocking device.
2. Scope The main two Crossbow Scopes you will see in a package are powered Multi-dot/Multi-Line scopes and Red Dot scopes. Some states have restrictions on a power scope and you should check your local laws concerning scopes before purchasing. The benefit of a powered Multi-Line scope is that it will allow you to magnify your target and make a 50+ yard shot much easier. They will have multiple aiming points to assist in judging yardages. The red dot or Triple dot scope offers a wider field of view and in my opinion is a scope for up to 40 yards.
3. Arrow Retention Spring This spring is designed to hold the arrow/bolt down on the barrel or flight rail. This part is essential to ensure correct arrow flight and to keep the arrow in the correct position when aiming down at a target from a treestand.
4. Barrel The flight rail or barrel of a crossbow can be made of machined aluminum or composite. Personal preference is key. This part of the crossbow needs to be free from any debris, chips or burrs and should be kept lubed with some sort of string wax or flight rail lube.
5. String The crossbow string should be kept waxed on the average every 5 to 10 shots. I personally wax my string about every 5 shots. Waxing a crossbow string will ensure longer life of the string. There is a lot of friction created as the string slides down the barrel to propel the bolt or arrow. This friction will cause a breakdown in the center serving of the string if not properly waxed. The serving on the string is usually the first part to breakdown. The more you wax the string and apply lube to the barrel the longer the string will last.
6. Cables The cables on a compound crossbow will run through the stock of the crossbow. Some maintenance is required to keep the cables in good working condition. I would suggest a small amount of wax on the cable to assist in the friction cause on the stock on cable slide during the shot cycle.
7. Limbs As mentioned earlier, there are two types of limbs - Solid and Split. Personal preference is key, and I do not see any advantage to either. Limbs can range in weight from 125 lbs. up to 225 lbs. The weight of the draw weight will typically affect the speed and kinetic energy of the crossbow.
8. Limb Pocket The limbs are attached to the crossbow by a limb bolt in this limb pocket. These bolts are not to be adjusted as with a typical compound bow. They are designed to be set from the manufacturer and should not be adjusted.
9. Cams Compound crossbows will have cams on the limbs. They work the same as with a compound bow and their action during the shot cycle does affect the speed and accuracy of the arrow. The picture shown on our website is a compound crossbow. We also carry a full line of recurve crossbows with the Excalibur line. Recurve crossbows, in my opinion, are just as accurate as a compound and have the benefit of not dealing with cables. The trade off would be a wider crossbow.
10. Foot Stirrup Foot Stirrups can be built in to the design as seen with the Barnett Ghost crossbow or attached to the front of the limb assembly like the Excalibur Equinox. Personal preference should be considered. I do not see any advantage to a built in foot stirrup other than it will typically be a shorter crossbow.
11. Crossbow Quiver As seen with packages, a 4 or 5 arrow quiver is usually included. These quivers attach directly under the crossbow or to the side of the crossbow running parallel with the barrel. All of the quivers we stock will have a quick detach feature.
12. Crossbow Bolts, Crossbow Arrows Crossbow Bolts are available for most crossbows in carbon or aluminum. They can range from 16 up to 22. Manufacturers will recommend a length and total grain weight for their crossbows.
If you are just getting into crossbow hunting, the most cost effective way to get a crossbow is to purchase a package. Most packages come with the crossbow, bolts, scope and quiver. There is minimal amount of expense required to get ready to hunt after purchasing a package. With so many options on the table, purchasing a crossbow can be confusing and maybe overwhelming. We have over 30 years of experience in the archery field. If you have any questions that have not been answered please check us out at OutdoorsExperience.com and one of our qualified staff will be able to assist you.
Brian - OutdoorsExperience.com