While a standard bow uses the tension of the bow (that you place on it), to propel the arrow forward, a crossbow uses a mechanical process. But how far can crossbows shoot once you have the string cocked back and set in place, ready for you to pull the trigger?
It depends on the crossbow, but a 300fps crossbow will fire a bolt 500 yards, possibly more depending on the wind and other factors. Of course, 500 yards is well beyond the effective range of a crossbow.
With a solid, premium crossbow that fires bolts at 300 FPS, your effective range is about 50 to 60 yards. A crossbow is not meant for extreme-distance shooting, at least not for hunting anything you actually want to kill.
How Far Can Crossbows Shoot
How Fast Does the Bolt Travel
It depends on the crossbow. Some crossbows are designed to fire bolts at 700fps (feet per second), while others can only fire crossbow bolts at 200fps. For comparison’s sake, a medieval crossbow bolt traveled at about 160fps, which was more than enough to puncture plate armor and kill the person within it.
Obviously, bullets travel a lot faster, but 700fps crossbows get close (at least within shouting range) to some calibers. Slower bullets travel at roughly 1,000fps, so 700fps isn’t too shabby for a mechanical operation.
In miles per hour
Crossbow bolts travel anywhere between 80 and 150mph. Neither speed may seem too fast, but most people don’t stand on the road and observe a car blasting by at 150mph. It’s a lot faster than it sounds.
Longest effective shots
Crossbow bolts have the potential to travel 500 yards, with some going farther than that when fired at a 45° angle. The thing is, they are not accurate at incredibly long distances, which is why there is an effective range and a general range.
The longest crossbow bolt, accurately fired and striking the target, is 200 yards.
Range of Accuracy
The range of accuracy for most crossbows is about 50 yards, with 60 yards pressing the issue. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some crossbows out there that can accurately push beyond 60 yards.
The reality is, most crossbows simply can’t do that. The above link is a 200-yard shot from a US Marine Recon Sniper and is not an accurate depiction of the day-to-day use of a crossbow. In other words, you can’t watch the video and expect to just stroll out into the woods and start dropping deer at 200 yards with your mighty crossbow.
One of the biggest things you have to worry about when distance shooting a crossbow is gravity. Gravity has a much higher effect on crossbow bolts and arrows than it does on bullets, simply because they travel a lot slower and have a larger surface area.
That surface area is working against the air as soon as it’s fired, creating more friction, and allowing gravity to take over sooner.
With a 350fps crossbow, you can expect a drop of about 21” at 50 yards. You stop and think about that. A measly 50 yards, and if you’re aiming at a buck’s shoulder, right in the kill zone, you’ll be lucky to scratch his belly for him as the bolt passes underneath.
- 50 yards = 21” drop
- 40 yards = 11” drop
- 30 yards = 3.8” drop
- 20 yards = 0” drop
As you can see, once you hit about 26 to 27 yards, the rate of drop rises quickly. Just the 20-yard span between 20 and 40 equals a 4” to 11” drop, and the bolt fades quickly after that.
A crossbow bolt from a good crossbow has a 500-yard range—maybe a little farther and maybe a little shorter, depending on the wind, the bolt, and your crossbow. That’s not an effective range, just the general range when you’re holding the crossbow at a 45° angle or higher.
Of course, you should never do that if you don’t know what lies 500 yards out. That’s a good way to get someone hurt. The speed of the bolt is pretty fast, easily trumping the old medieval crossbow bolts, which themselves had plenty of killing power.
For the most part, distance with a crossbow is dependent on the bow and the weather of the day. Not all crossbows are created equally, but no crossbows are designed to accurately fire beyond 50 or so yards.
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