Over recent years, as state hunting regulations opened up to crossbow hunters more and more people are starting to use these weapons as effective hunting tools. Here we search for the best hunting crossbow for the money breaking up the different products based on their cost. All of these are capable to hunting game and we’ve selected the top options available making sure that they are powerful and efficient enough so you take home your catch each time.
Best Hunting Crossbows under or around $300
Unquestionably among the best inexpensive hunting crossbows is the Barnett Jackal. In it you get your money’s worth, making it our best hunting crossbow for the money. It has a modest 150 lb. draw weight that yields a good 315 FPS. This gives you over 90 ft-lbs. of energy that’s enough for hunting any game at 40 to 50 yards.
Covered in camo, the Jackal comes with a pistol grip and military style stock that is different from the usual thumbhole stock you’ll often find the brand equipping their crossbow. Excellent for beginners, it comes with safety features including an automatic engaging trigger safety that prevents dry fire possibility.
Barnett Wildcat C5
Very similar to the Jackal but with some modifications the Barnett Wildcat C5 is another entry level crossbow that’s suited for hunting. It offers hunters a good quality shooter for the price you pay and has more packages to choose from mostly differentiated by the stock color and type of scope included.
This is a slightly heavier, longer and wider x-bow when compared to the Jackal but also shoots with a bit more speed and power. Overall, it does an excellent job at medium to long shots and is built well that you need not worry about getting it nicked up or damaged in the harsh wilderness environment or when weather becomes turbulent while hunting.
Barnett Quad 400
At the low to mid $300 level, is yet another Barnett offering in its Quad 400 Core Crossbow. The pricing and quality balance of the brand is one of the reason it is the most popular crossbow manufacturer among the budget conscious. Barnett has a number of products that run between the $300 to $500 which makes it accessible, of which we’ve narrowed down the ones that give you the best performance.
Among the three in this class, it is the most expensive and most powerful. To achieve the extra impact force, it makes use of a longer power stroke despite the similar 150 lb. draw weight.
For more affordable x-bows, see our cheap crossbows list.
Best Crossbows for Hunting Under $500
Excalibur Axiom SMF
It isn’t often that you’ll find an Excalibur crossbow under $500, and the Excalibur Axiom SMF is indeed an exception to that rule. As with other products from that brand, the Axiom SMF is a recurve crossbow that makes it exceptionally reliable and comes with parts that will last you a long time without requiring much servicing.
Excalibur also comes with a lifetime warranty in case anything happens, so your investment is safe. The Axiom shoots at 300 ft/sec., which gives it enough energy to hunt medium and large game. While it isn’t going to match the velocity of some of the other comparable crossbows, it more than makes up for that in its superb accuracy and stability. With it, targets at 60 to 65 yards away aren’t a problem which isn’t always the case with speedier crossbows.
Wicked Ridge Invader HP
The Wicked Ridge Invader HP Premium is similar to the Excalibur Axiom SMF above in that it is an affordable way to get access to a high quality crossbow. Built by TenPoint’s Wicked Ridge subsidiary, the Invader HP offers excellent overall quality including a very smooth consistent trigger that comes with an anti-dry-fire safety feature.
Like the Axiom, the Invader HP focuses on quality rather breaking speed records, though it does shoot a respectable 315 FPS. You’ll definitely find many faster crossbows than these two but it would be difficult to match them in terms of quality and shooting ability.
The Invader HP comes with an excellent multi-line scope, an ACU-52 rope cocking system and it will let you consistently hit center at 45 yards and farther over and over.
For the utmost speed, the Barnett Penetrator comes in with 350 FPS, which tops our under $500 group. What’s even better is that it doesn’t have an exceptionally high draw weight at 185 lbs. and a considerably short 12 inch power stroke.
When considering the Penetrator for hunting purposes you want to take note of its 8.6 lb. total weight is among the heavier ones around. You may want to attach a sling for longer trips so the burden of carrying it won’t be a bother.
Arrow Precision Inferno Wildfire II
We finish this group with another recurve in the Arrow Precision Inferno Wildfire II. The cheapest among this group at $410, it only trails the Barnett Penetrator by 5 ft/sec in terms of velocity making it one of the fastest shooters at $400. This is a lighter alternative to the Barnett with enough power to take on grizzly bears moose and other very large game.
Top Hunting Crossbows Under $1000
Barnett Ghost 410
Among the best crossbows in the market, the Barnett Ghost 410 shoots over 400 ft/sec and comes with a sleek modern design. Its riser uses Barnett’s own CarbonLite technology that makes it much lighter than previous versions despite faster shooting ability. The shift in weight also allows hunters better control thanks to a more centered balance weapon.
All together the high speed and smooth shooting ability gives you excellent accuracy and power over distances of 60 yards and farther. The Ghost 410 is also rated at an astounding 150 ft-lbs. of kinetic energy which means you can take your pick of whatever large and dangerous game you want it will take it down for you.
Excalibur Matrix 355
If you prefer a recurve crossbow’s simplicity and reliability there’s no denying that Excalibur Matrix 355 is among the best in the world. The different platform eliminates the heavier front to rear weight ratio that compound crossbows have due to the much simpler design. This gives shooter a more balanced, lighter bow that is shoots extremely accurate and has very little recoil and noise. This also means you’ll need to do much less maintenance since there are no extra wheels and cables.
Extremely accurate over long distances the Matrix 355 is equipped with a very high quality scope and Realtree Xtra camo.
Barnett BCX Buck Commander Xtreme
Our third selection is the cheapest in this price range at a bit over $600. The Barnett BCX Buck Commander Xtreme is built for deer hunting as well as other game. Introduced in 2013, as an newer model to the very popular Barnett Buck Commander, this shoots a very high 365 FPS and has a very narrow 19.8 inch axle-to-axle width. Among the lightweight Barnett models at 7 lbs., it packs close to 120 ft-lbs. of energy making it true to its name, allowing you to harvest large game animals when you want to.
The BCX Extreme is quiet for a compound crossbow, provides little recoil and comes with an anti-dry-fire system that automatically engages the safety when the bow is cocked. This is an excellent powerful alternative if you don’t want to spend the $700-$1000 for crossbow hunting.
What to Look for in a Hunting Crossbow
1. Have Enough Draw Weight
Game hunting has a number of regulations. One of which is hunters need to use a crossbow that passes the minimum amount of draw weight set by each state depending on which types of game you plan to hunt. For many locations, 125 lbs. is the minimum but you should check your state’s laws and make sure your crossbow fits the requirements.
The crossbow’s draw weight is an indication of its power. While not accurate this figure can give you a basic idea whether or not it is fit for hunting. Our best hunting crossbow picks range from 150 to 175 lbs. with some over that, which ideally the amount you want.
Note that you want enough draw weight and not too much. Too heavy a draw weight means it will be more difficult to pull the string back. So unless you are really strong or use a cranking aid you don’t want to get a draw weight that’s beyond what you can pull during the hunting trip.
2. It Must Shoot with Sufficient Speed
Just as important as draw weight is how fast it shoots. We’ve limited our picks to 300 FPS and above, which is something we recommend. While you can go down to as low as 250 or 275 FPS, having 300 ft/sec. or higher velocities lets you shoot a straighter trajectory within that first 40 yards for better accuracy.
The speed also guarantees that once the arrow hits its mark it is still deadly enough to cleanly kill your prey.
Note that the draw weight isn’t a good indication of speed as you have some crossbows that have 175 lbs. of draw and shoot 300 FPS, while others with that same cocking effort easily reaching 330 to 350 FPS.
3. Have a Good Scope
With a hunting crossbow, you’ll be shooting at 20 to 40 yards away aiming at specific spots in the animal, you want a good scope that will show you your target as clearly as possible. You want multi-dot or multi-reticle scopes that let you judge the range properly. And also make sure they’re sighted in. If you’re scope uses batteries, make sure you bring spare batteries just in case.
4. The Less Noise the Better
Now when we speak of crossbows being loud, the first thing people will think of is how loud a sound the crossbow makes when it fires. While important, this is less essential than having a bow that can be cocked quietly and doesn’t make any noise as you set up.
With the speeds we’re dealing with, which are 300 FPS and above, the likelihood that the arrow hasn’t reached the prey that’s 20-30 yards away before they can react is less likely, than it being spooked by a loud clicking sound when the string hooks to the latch.
So just as important as having a quiet shooting x-bow or one with noise suppressors, get one that’s quiet to cock.
5. You Want Something Reliable and Easy to Cock
After waiting for hours the whitetail you’ve been waiting for finally comes into your sights. At that exact moment what you don’t want is a crossbow that isn’t reliable, starts giving you issues or is difficult to cock. A smooth cocking dependable crossbow lets you cock, aim and shoot without problems. The opposite on the other hand, can leave you with missed opportunities or cause you to make enough noise to scare it away.
6. Consider the length, width and weight of the Crossbow
You’ll be carrying the weapon as you walk to your hunting grounds, maneuver it around to cock then aim and will be in a tight space with your hunting buddies. How long, wide and heavy a crossbow is makes a difference between one that’s fun and convenient to use to one that you’ll just be leaving at home and using sparingly.
List of the Top Crossbow Manufacturers
These are among our list of the top crossbow manufacturers in the world. They build a variety of products ranging from the entry level shooters to the top end elite x-bows.
Barnett Crossbows is one of the top crossbow manufactures in the market. It ranks among the leader sellers in the world as it offers a wide range of items spread out across the entry, mid-range and top end lines. It has a number of products in the $300 to $400 range which rank among the most popular choices for hunters because of their high speeds. While they offer recurve, compound and reverse draw versions, their top performers are the compound crossbows, majority of which shoot over 300 FPS with a few notable ones like their Ghost lineup, including the Ghost 410 and 400 models, having velocities over 400 FPS.
Their affordable models include the Panzer V and very popular Barnett Jackal. Many of their bow feature new technology including those fitted with carbon risers that improve front to rear balance.
Excalibur crossbows are built by hunters for hunters. Established in 1983, they are one of the leading brands when quality and durability are concerned. The brand specializes in recurve crossbows which are made to for hunting.
They even have a saying telling you that the products they build are made to shoot groups of at least 3 inches or less at 25 yards with broadheads.
While most of their products run from $600 to right about $1000, they do offer some $400+ models like the Excalibur Axiom and Ibex SMF. These are excellent for simplicity of maintenance, operation and will let you hunt with the best of them.
Horton was one of the top names in the crossbow world because it offered excellent products. In its earlier years it was one of the top manufacturers which is why we still include it here. Over recent years it had more production issues and by mid-2013 it had to close its doors.
Horton Archery’s assets were purchased by cross-state rival TenPoint whose CEO Rick Bednar at the time of TenPoint Crossbow Technologies’ purchase of Horton used to be Horton’s CEO. TenPoint has mentioned it plans to relaunch the Horton name in the future.
TenPoint Crossbow Technologies
The TenPoint brand is among the leading crossbow manufacturers in the United States. It is among the leaders when it comes to crossbow innovation and is responsible for some of the most useful features found in x-bows today including the ACUDraw cocking and cranking system. Its bows are also fitted with built in anti dry-fire mechanisms called DFI or dry fire inhibitors which safeguard the shooter from damaging their crossbows because it won’t let you fire if there isn’t an arrow seated on the rail.
Known for high quality, high performance TenPoint’s products are also high in cost which is one reason they aren’t as well sold as those of Barnett and some other names. In terms of build, shooting accuracy and overall ability, if you can afford their price tag, there aren’t many around that work as well and come with a lifetime warranty.
Wicked Ridge Crossbows
The Wicked Ridge brand was launched in as TenPoint’s answer to the more affordable middle market. It launched in early 2011 and is well known as a producer of very reliable crossbows. Many will tell you that they are a great alternative to the Excaliburs and TenPoints if your tight on budget.
Their product line, while still limited, has shown to be excellent in terms of reliability and performance and often come with a number of TenPoint features or similar ones with them. As of this writing, two of their three products, the Warrior HL and Invader HP are priced under $500, while the Raider CLS runs around $700.
Parker Compound Bows Inc. is an example of a company that used its knowledge in the industry to expand to other products. Founded by Bob Errett in 1984, he continues to run the company today. Errett learned his craft from the legendary Fred Bear as his employee before deciding to branch out on his own.
While the company started out with a different name and focus, it has had a number of transformations over its lifetime, shifting from its initial role as a general archery supplier, to a compound bow builder then adding crossbows to its lineup.
Our Leading Crossbow Manufacturers List
Over time, we will continue to add more names to our list of the top crossbow manufacturer as there are many around and new ones that are rising.