With increasing number of states easing regulations, the crossbow has seen a steady uptick in popularity. Along with this change has come a reoccurring divide among archery hunters: compound bow vs. crossbow.
What had started as a desire to cling to tradition, which is ironic since the same divide was seen when compound bows became widespread, morphed into which is better for hunting. Each side sticks to its beliefs, but which is correct?
Compound vs Crossbow
Compound bows utilize a combination of pullies and string to compress the limbs, providing the power needed to launch an arrow. This system offers more power than a traditional bow and makes it easier for the user to draw the bow. It also gives the user a more powerful compound bow, increasing arrow speed and velocity.
- Pros– compound bows are lighter, more portable, and faster to shoot than a traditional bow or a crossbow.
- Cons– compound bows require more practice to become proficient. The shooter must hold the draw until ready to shoot. Aimed using a series of pins rather than a scope.
Crossbows utilize two main parts. The first resembles a bow turned on its side. The second is a stock like that used for a rifle. A latch holds the string in place once cocked, and a trigger releases the string when pulled.
Crossbows can be traditional, with limbs and strings like a conventional bow, or compound, using pullies and strings like a compound bow.
- Pros– crossbows are faster than most compound bows. Provide an increased range. Often utilize a scope for aiming.
- Cons– crossbows are usually larger and heavier than compound bows, include more mechanical features that require maintenance, and are slower to reload.
A compound bow offers a maximum range of approximately 100 yards. However, the effective hunting range is 30-60 yards. A crossbow provides a maximum range of 200 yards or more. But, like the compound bow, the effective range is 30-60 yards. Some hunters can stretch this range to as much as 80 yards. Still, accuracy and penetration reduce rapidly as the range is increased.
Due to a slightly longer range, crossbows have a slight advantage over compound bows.
There was a time when crossbows had a distinct advantage regarding arrow speed. Speeds of up to 400 fps (feet per second) were possible from a basic setup. More advanced models were capable of speeds even higher. When compared to early compound bows, where the shooter could watch the arrow arc toward the target, crossbows were the clear winner.
However, the gap has narrowed in recent years. New technology and materials mean compound bows routinely shoot around 350 fps. Top-of-the-line models exceed the 400 fps threshold. With many experts believing anything above 400 fps is wasted energy, providing no additional advantage when hunting, arrow speed is now a draw.
The most significant difference is revealed when it is time to reload. The crossbow must be re-cocked and loaded before you can take a second shot. The compound bow does not need to be re-cocked, so it holds a distinct advantage when taking a second shot if needed.
In the hands of a trained archer, the compound bow is a deadly accurate tool. Experienced archers can repeatedly shoot groups of arrows that touch each other or even hit the same hole with little problem. However, this is only achieved after many hours of practice. Even a slight deviation in form can result in an arrow being far off the mark.
Crossbows are also capable of extreme accuracy. However, there is less of a learning curve and more forgiveness when used by an inexperienced archer. Because the crossbow is shot like a rifle rather than a bow, it is less influenced by style and form. Plus, the scope and trigger mechanism provides additional advantages in aiming and release.
Every hunter should consider safety, and it is one of the areas the compound bow excels. Let’s explain why.
A crossbow needs to be cocked before being used. Most hunters will do this before heading into the field. Even if you do not load a bolt, there is still a significant danger of injury should the crossbow be accidentally fired. Once a bolt is loaded, the crossbow needs to be treated like a loaded firearm – never point it at anything you do not intend to shoot.
Compound bows do not need to be drawn until it is time to fire. Even if an arrow is nocked there is no power behind it, no way for it to accidentally fire. Although you must take the same care once a compound bow is drawn, this is a momentary phase and only occurs when a suspected target is within sight.
Compound bows are lightweight, slim, and easy to carry or pack. Everything is contained in an aerodynamic platform with very little sticking out to get caught. Even the quiver mounts in a way that the arrows are protected. This provides a platform that is easy to use from a stand, in a ground blind, or even on the stalk.
While it is true that crossbows have become lighter, they are still considerably heavier than compound bows. Having the bow mounted horizontally on a more extensive stock means the crossbow is much bulkier. Even today’s micro models leave the quiver exposed to snags making stalking, or even carrying to you stand cumbersome. Once on the stand, there is little difference between the two platforms. However, a crossbow is preferred when hunting from a ground blind.
Both the crossbow and compound bow require regular maintenance. Strings, pullies, and limbs should be inspected regularly. However, the crossbow does include additional components that will need care, including the rail, trigger mechanism, and even the connector that attaches limbs to stock.
Eventually, both will need a new string. This is something that can be a DIY project if you own a compound bow. However, changing the string on a crossbow at home will be tricky, even with a bow press.
Which is best for hunting?
When it comes to which is better for hunting, the compound bow vs. the crossbow, it is as much a personal choice as pros. or cons. In the hands of an experienced archer, both can ethically harvest almost any wild game species. However, for the inexperienced archer, the crossbow does provide a slight advantage coupled with less of a learning curve.
Overall, the crossbow vs compound bow argument is a draw. But if you are a new archer looking to harvest your first animal, the crossbow would be more favorable.
Regardless of your platform, adding a compound bow or crossbow to your arsenal can be fun and challenging and increase your hunting opportunity.
Almost every state provides an extended season for archers, meaning you have additional time to get into the woods. Many also offer additional tags, increasing your ability to provide fresh wild game for your friends and family.
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