A crossbow was once one of the most feared weapons that you could ever find on the battlefield. It was a ferocious weapon that could deliver an arrow at a terrific speed and with deadly accuracy. In wartime these days, there isn’t much need for one as even with how fearsome it was, I think soldiers would feel a lot more comfortable with a Mk 14 rifle.
These days the crossbow isn’t about war, it’s about sport and having fun. Whether you’re out hunting or just having target practice, there are many great reasons to get out there with your crossbow and shoot.
Choosing your crossbow in the first place though can be a challenge. As with a lot of sporting equipment these days, the choices are vast and it is easy to get confused about what the right type of equipment would be best for you and how much you should spend in order to get a quality product. A lot of these question can come down to what you want to use your crossbow for.
Target shooting and hunting require different features and even with those two categories, there are other factors to consider, such as how often it will be used and what type of animals you’ll be looking to hunt. When it comes to buying your crossbow, you just have to have a clear vision in your mind of what you want to use it for.
Recurve or compound?
If you’re completely new to archery or crossbows then the words of recurve or compound might mean very little to you. They are, however, the two different types of crossbow that you’ll be looking at. They both have their advantages and disadvantages which we shall go through now.
The recurve bow is the type of bow that you might picture when it comes to a traditional crossbow, and the same basic design that fought on those battlefields all of those years ago. It is the pure essence of the sport which still makes it so popular today, it is more simple and efficient than a compound bow. There are no cables or pulleys to help with the firing of the device and it is all down to the user. Quite simply, their performance can’t compare to that of a compound bow, they are harder to draw and the arrows won’t fly as fast.
You may be wondering at this moment why they even still exist, but their popularity is in the charm and nostalgia. Users take great joy from transporting themselves back in time and testing themselves with draw weight and a bow that’s more difficult to handle. The satisfaction of hitting a great shot with a compound bow won’t match the joy of doing the same with a recurve bow.
A compound bow then is one that has all the modern technology and has gone through multiple designs in order to maximize performance. They don’t look anything like the type of bows that you still picture in those old films, but that’s not what they are about. Their complication is there for a reason, the cables and pulleys will take the weight off the bow meaning that it can be shorter and easier to handle, while still providing a faster arrow than a recurve bow and also it won’t be as difficult to pull back.
If the recurve bow is popular for the romance, then the compound bow is popular for the performance. When it comes to hunting not only do you want to get your shot in the right place, but you also want to make sure the arrow flies fast enough to kill an animal and not just wound it. A compound bow is for competition, or when you really need that accurate shot.
Everyone wants speed in all walks of life, and the temptation is there to shoot as fast as you possibly can, but a lot of the times it’s simply not required. There are drawbacks to having a fast arrow and if you’re just starting out, then they are drawbacks which are unwanted for what you want to achieve. A faster arrow is harder to shoot as it gives fewer margins for error, and small motion in the crossbow could send the arrow off course.
Unless you’re a crossbow expert who is trying to hunt large animals from a long distance, there is no need to have a crossbow with the fastest arrow speed. If you’re buying your crossbow for target shooting, then you won’t need any special requirements for speed.
When it comes to speed, one of the biggest reasons behind it is the draw weight. This is the amount of weight, in pounds of pressure, which you have to exert on the string in order to pull it back and make it ready to fire.
It’s important not to get a draw weight that is too high, otherwise you won’t be able to fire your crossbow at all. You want to ensure that it is still a little bit of a challenge, but comfortable enough that you can easily repeat the process.
Different parts of a crossbow
Some bows have different ways of cocking back your arrow into the firing position. Some can be done via pulleys while others will have a hand crank to get your arrow in that perfect position. A lot of it comes down to personal preference and it’s important to hold different crossbows to see which one feels best.
This only applies to compound bows and refers to the type of pulley system that the bow has. The more efficient the cam system then the less force the user will have to generate, even with high draw weights. The more professional bows will be able to deliver more results, but all cam systems take the pressure off the user.
The limbs are where the power of the bow will come from. Because recurve bows generate all their power from the limbs without any assistance, they will generally be longer than the limbs of a compound bow. With a compound bow there will be cams on the end of the limb in order to utilize their mechanical advantage.
The risers are the metal pieces at the end of the bow that the limbs will be attached to. These have to continually take the strain of the bow so need to be well made and to a high quality, the arrow that you from the bow will sit between the two risers.
This is where the arrow will sit in the crossbow before it is fired. This has to be one of the most precise parts of the crossbow as it ensures that the arrow can fly true and straight, this is effectively the barrel of your fun, so it has to be perfect.
The sight can vary hugely from one crossbow to the next. On the basic modes it might just be as simple as it is on a handgun, but on the more expensive ones, it might look more like it does on a sniper rifle. This can really help with your aim and its importance grows depending on what you are using it for.
A crossbow will come with many safety features that are helpful, not only for beginners but even more the most skillful of archers. The danger of a crossbow can’t be overstated and it is something that has to be respected at all times.
Your non-firing hand will rest under the drawn string so it’s important that you keep it safe. If you have a lapse in concentration then your fingers could come into contact with the string when it is fired. This could lead to injury, which might be serious. A lot of crossbows will have a wing design that will stop your fingers from sliding up the crossbow, which will prevent you from causing any injury. This is especially useful for beginners who are not used to holding the equipment.
This is a device that works on the same premise as the safety that you’d find on a gun. It stops the string from being released until you are ready to pull the trigger. On some crossbows, this isn’t automatic and you have to set it yourself, on others it will automatically set once the string is drawn. Again, this is a feature that can be brilliant for beginners who are more likely to make a mistake when they are firing a crossbow.
Anti Dry Fire
Dry fire is when a crossbow is fired when there is no arrow in place. If this happens then the crossbow will be placed under an intense amount of strain which could damage it. This is also dangerous if the crossbow fires when you are not prepared for it. There are devices out there that will stop this by recognizing when an arrow is missing and not firing until once is placed into the crossbow.
Which bow should I choose?
It’s important to carefully consider what you bow is going to be used for before you choose which one to buy. If you’re a beginner then you should place more focus on the safety features rather than the speed or draw weight. You want to make sure you can walk before you run and not get too far ahead of yourself.
Compound bows are by far the most common on the market as they have the highest performance, but if you’re looking for a more authentic experience then it might be a great idea to go out there and by a recurve crossbow.
With all the precautions in place, you won’t have any problems with a crossbow but it is still a weapon which can cause serious injury if accidents were to happen. If you get a bow that is too advanced for your ability it will be harder to handle and more unsafe. Make sure you take your time to test out different crossbows to get a feel for which one feels right to you.
If you have any friends who own a crossbow, try it out and see what makes it feel right. It might be the size or the draw weight, or it could just be that the grip handle gives you confidence. Whatever it is that feels right to you, make sure you have a clear idea in your mind before going to buy a crossbow and don’t settle for second best.
Once purchased, make sure you go out and enjoy yourself. You might not be shooting perfectly on your first try, but after a short amount of time you’ll see the improvement and you’ll be pleased you took up what can be such a rewarding sport.