In recent years, crossbow design technology has exploded. They are faster and more accurate than ever. For the most part, this is a good thing, with some exceptions.
The wider legalization of crossbows, even during the general archery season, means an aging population continues to enjoy archery hunting. The ease of transition from rifle to crossbow also brings firearms hunters into the woods earlier.
For the most part, this has been successful and a good thing, but it has caused some new challenges.
A crossbow doesn’t require the hunter to draw it in the presence of game, but uses an arrow as a projectile. This requires archery shot placement, which can be confusing for first time archery hunters because they are holding and aiming what feels like a rifle.
Many of these firearms hunting converts are not familiar with archery shot placement or how arrows kill game. This leads to improper shot placement and often, to wounded animals. The key to preventing this is education about proper archery shot placement. Avoiding large bones and only taking shots that guarantee double-lung or heart/lung hits are keys to consistently recovering game animals.
Another issue of late is crossbow hunters taking shots at longer distances than what is ethical. It is up to each hunter to decide what is an ethical shot for them.
Several years ago, a newcomer to the crossbow industry advertised their crossbow as “your next rifle,” bragging of 3-inch groups at 100 yards. In my opinion, this was the worst thing to happen to our sport in a very long time.
Although the bow was more than capable of these tight groups, they didn’t factor in the fact that animals rarely hold still. Also, wind drift impacts arrows severely and can lead to horizontal errors of several inches to more than a foot. This led to hunters pushing the limits of shot distances and many lost or wounded animals.
It also began an “arms race” among crossbow manufacturers that led to drastically increased speeds and extremely compact crossbows. Both of these come with a heavy price (both literally and figuratively).
As crossbows become more compact in width, this narrower profile causes several problems. Reverse limb crossbows have extremely acute string angles which dramatically increases the chance for a dry-fire due to the arrow not being fully seated against the string.
Extremely narrow crossbows also cause extreme cable stretch that can lead to total failure and hefty repair bills.
As a general rule, the more compact the crossbow, the more frequently it requires string and cable replacement. With prices often at or above $200 for this maintenance, this can add up to a lot of money.
And as speeds have increased to well in excess of 400 and even 500 fps, damage from dry-fires or failures is often catastrophic. Many of these spend more time in the repair shop than they do in the woods each year. For this reason, I don’t recommend buying any crossbow that shoots in excess of 425 fps.
One manufacturer who has stayed above the fray is Mission Crossbows. They have continued building high quality crossbows that are the most durable and maintenance-free on the market. Their bows come with a lifetime warranty on both ends of the bow, something offered by no other manufacturer to the best of my knowledge. Their bows will group under 1 inch at 100 yards, but they don’t flaunt this fact. We see less of these for repair than any other brand, and they require less frequent maintenance. For these reasons, they are my recommendation when shopping for a crossbow.
Crossbows have come a long way, especially since they’ve been legalized during archery season in many states. But the advancements in crossbow technology have come at a heavy price in more ways than just dollars.