What I’ve done to judge the best crossbow
Straight to the point – the best crossbow for this season is the Ravin R26, basing the result on a wide range of factors, from speed and power, to safety and – importantly – value for money.
Along with the Ravin, I’ve reviewed the following top ten crossbows for sale this year:
- Ravin R26: 8.5/10
- TenPoint Nitro XRT: 8/10
- Mission SUB-1 XR: 7.25/10
- Scorpyd Deathstalker 420: 7.5/10
- Barnett HyperGhost 425: 6.75/10
- CenterPoint Amped 415: 6.25/10
- Wicked Ridge RDX 400: 7/10
- PSE Thrive 400: 5.75/10
- Excalibur Assassin 420 TD: 5/10
- BearX Saga 405: 5.25/10
Before I tell you why they’re the top bows out there, let’s quickly look at the factors involved in choosing the best crossbow for you.
How to choose the best crossbow
Hunting or Target Shooting: what’s the purpose of the crossbow?
Speed, bow weight, bow size and draw weight may make a big difference to hunting, but are not essential for target shooting.
If you’re target shooting, you generally aren’t under as much “stress” as hunting, allowing for greater accuracy with heavier, wider more powerful crossbows.
What properties to look for in the best crossbows
Weight: how much does the crossbow weigh?
While hunting, or maintaining a shooting position, you’ll need to be able to shoulder the crossbow for considerable periods of time. If you’re tired when you’re about to shoot, you’ll put your aim off, which somewhat defeats the point of the exercise!
Crossbow speed & power: why do we want speed, and what’s too much?
Measurement: FPS (feet per second) & KE (kinetic energy)
Speed is good for hunting. A faster arrow works against “string jump” when the animal hears the “twang” of the string being fired, and flees in panic. A faster crossbow means less time to move between shot and impact. Power isn’t everything though. Once you get to 300 FPS with a 400-grain arrow, the relative returns are fast-diminishing. For reference, a 400-grain arrow travelling at 300 FPS has a KE of roughly 76 ft-lbs (foot-pounds of energy)…if that went completely over your head, don’t worry about it!
Size: is crossbow size important?
It’s most important for hunting, as mobility, shouldering your crossbow, and aiming between obstacles is harder with a bigger, heavier crossbow, when hunting space is often limited. Be aware that when cocked, the crossbow consumes less space, and upon firing will expand its limbs and potential hit nearby obstacles without sufficient space.
Noise: am I bothered about noise?
This is probably most important for hunters – if anything a bit of extra noise while shooting targets with your mates will make you feel like a pro. Look for a crossbow with limb vibration dampeners and string suppression systems if you don’t want to wake up the baby.
Power stroke: how tall and strong are you?
The crossbow must be comfortable. If you’re not very strong it’s – put bluntly – a pain in the arse to cock an 18-inch power stroke, but you should be alright with a 12-inch.
Durability: how long will it last?
Measurement: materials used
The truth is you really want a carbon fibre composite, or aircraft grade aluminium for quality that lasts. If part of the crossbow is made of flexible, temperature-susceptible plastics, they will quickly wear out, and could even do damage if they melt in the heat, or snap in the cold. You should also check the warranty on offer to make sure you’re covered for as long as possible.
What accessories does it come with?
Does it come with a scope and how good is the scope? Does the scope come preconfigured? Is it multi-distance? Is it illuminated (red dot)?
What (if any) type of case does it come with? There are three types of case – hard, soft and hybrid. Basically hard cases provide better protection than soft cases, but at a premium. Hybrid cases are new, made of ECA (Ethyl Vinyl Acetate), and are in line with hard cases on quality and pricing.
Best Crossbow Reviews
Ravin R26 Review 8.5/10
Weight: 6.5 lbs Length: 26 inches Width (cocked): 5.75 inches Draw Weight: 240 lbs Power Stroke: 9.5 inches
I absolutely love the Ravin R26, and it is my top pick of all the new bows out.
What I most love is it’s a real hunting bow. The handling is second to none, and it has a really compact feel which – along with its super light weight (6.5 lbs) and slender width when cocked at 5.75 inches – lends itself superbly to mobility. What’s more, the power stroke is an unbelievably short 9.5 inches, making it easy to handle the excessive draw weight at 240lbs.
Although it’s not the most powerful or fastest crossbow out there, it still stands out in the very elite bracket of crossbows. When you combine this with a price almost $500 cheaper than its closest rival, you’ve got a real bow on your hands.
I also like the trigger on it, with very little travel and a firm weight.
- Excellent design
- Super compact, so great for mobility
- Great trigger
- Sometimes the dimensions feel so small that it’s strange when shooting
- Best handling
- Lightest crossbow
- Award-winning crossbow
TenPoint Nitro XRT Review 8/10
Weight: 7.4 lbs Length: 30.7 inches Width (cocked): 7 inches Draw Weight: 225 lbs Power Stroke: 16.5 inches
The TenPoint Nitro XRT is a monster weapon, and another masterpiece by TenPoint Crossbow technologies.
The new spiralled XR7 cams they’ve employed can rotate a massive 404 degrees, meaning with the right bolt, it can achieve speeds of upwards of 450 FPS.
Nonetheless it is by far the most powerful crossbow out so far this year (pending the release of the Scorpyd Nemesis). It’s quiet as a mouse, and fantastic to move around and shoulder. It also has some pretty good grouping compared to other bows.
For downsides however, look no further than the price tag. If it came in a little better on the wallet I may have made this the best crossbow.
The new trigger shows off a new string-latch design, with some 50% less travel. That said, there’s still a little creep noticeable when firing arrows down the testing range.
- Unbelievable power
- Comfortable to shoulder
- Deadly quiet
- Horrendous price
- Some trigger creep
- Fastest crossbow
- Most expensive crossbow
- Quietest crossbow
Mission SUB-1 XR Review 7.25/10
Weight: 7.6 lbs Length: 30.5 inches Width (cocked): 9.1 inches Draw Weight: 250 lbs Power Stroke: 14.6 inches
Next up in our best crossbow challenge was the Mission SUB-1 XR from Mission Crossbows.
This crossbow fell into our top two for most accurate crossbow, and is also good for noise.
Unlike most bows you can safely decock the Mission with the press of a button, and I also like the removable silent draw crank system, which makes cocking the crossbow easy, which is lucky, as it has a hefty 250-pound draw weight.
The trigger is nicely set at 3 pounds, and I generally like the feel of the bow.
I would mention that the factory bolts that come with the bow are a bit on the light side, so the 413 FPS that I clocked in when I played with it could probably be pushed further with another compatible bolt, making this one mean piece of kit.
- Most accurate crossbow
- Cocks easily with a draw crank system
- Light factory bolts
Scorpyd Deathstalker 420 Review 7.5/10
Weight: 6.2 lbs Length: 32.5 inches Width (cocked): 9.5 inches Draw Weight: 150 lbs Power Stroke: 17.25 inches
The Scorpyd Deathstalker 420 with its reverse draw technology is super light at 6.2 lbs and compact, with a not unreasonable 9.5-inch width when cocked.
The riser and limb arrangement is reversed to eliminate all of the brace height, which maximises the brutal powerstroke of 17.25 inches to position this crossbow in my top two for power alongside the XRT.
The slick carbon frame makes it excellent to handle, and another bonus is the new Kempf trigger for its sweet punch and zero travel.
Unfortunately in terms of safety, I feel the manual safety could be stepped up to compete with the other best crossbows, and I also struggle with the Acudraw Pro, which has come apart a couple of times while trying to cock the weapon, which definitely isn’t what you want with something as powerful as the Deathstalker.
- Super light & compact
- Slick carbon frame for mobility
- Excellent trigger
- Had trouble with Acudraw Pro
- Manual safety
- Great value for money
Barnett HyperGhost 425 Review 6.75/10
Weight: 7.7 lbs Length: 36.25 inches Width (cocked): 17.6 inches Draw Weight: 206 lbs Power Stroke: 16.3 inches
The HyperGhost 425 from Barnett stood out from the pack for its insane penetration of the target.
The new Hyperflite .204” small-diameter arrows which comes with the crossbow achieves insane penetration on the target like no other crossbow I’ve tried. I’m really excited about these arrows, and want to see them shipped with more crossbows:
Aside from getting up to some 410 FPS, the HyperGhost 425 has new anti-dry fire TriggerTech technology for a 3-pound, zero-creep shot, which I love.
The only drawback perhaps is cocking the weapon with a draw weight of 200 pounds.
- Excellent trigger
- Insane penetration thanks to Hyperflite arrows
- Tough to cock due to draw weight
CenterPoint Amped 415 Review 6.25/10
Weight: 7.8 lbs Length: 36 inches Width (cocked): 12 inches Draw Weight: 200 lbs Power Stroke: 14.5 inches
The CenterPoint Amped 415 is the best crossbow this year for accuracy, managing some excellent grouping.
For that reason it represents great value for money, shaving hundreds off some competitors.
The Amped 415 is easy to manoeuver and came with an adjustable stock, pistol grip, and its Whisper Silencing System for some solid noise reduction and vibration control.
Where I do feel it suffers is in the trigger department, with significant creep on the 2.6-pound trigger.
How much does it matter though when this crossbow is competing with the very best, and coming in at under 500$.
- Best grouping
- Best budget crossbow
- Poor trigger
- Best crossbow under $500: I want to point out just what great value for money this bow is. The price is infinitely cheaper than the top crossbows, and is my best crossbow for the money.
Wicked Ridge RDX 400 Review 7/10
Weight: 7.1 lbs Length: 33.25 inches Width (cocked): 9 inches Draw Weight: 175 lbs Power Stroke: 15.5 inches
The Wicked Ridge RDX is the least powerful of the crossbows on my list at around 380 FPS, and isn’t bad for accuracy, without standing out either.
What I do like is the handling of the crossbow with its reverse-draw technology and easy to cock draw weight of 175 lbs, also including a cocking device. You can fit into any treestand or blind with this crossbow.
I also find it to be nearly vibration free.
The downside is the trigger which, although light at 2.7 pounds, has a lot of creep in it.
- Nice handling
- Lots of creep
PSE Thrive 400 Review 5.75/10
Weight: 6.7 lbs Length: 32 inches Width (cocked): 18.25 inches Draw Weight: 175 lbs Power Stroke: 17 inches
The PSE Thrive 400 is a decent crossbow, with a tested FPS of 385.
It’s one of the lighter bows at 6.7 lbs which is great for hunting all day, and although fairly wide when cocked at 18.25 inches when compared to most of the other models, I believe it would still be fine climbing and manoeuvering around any treestand.
I think this would make the best beginner crossbow for anyone looking for strong specs in a well-priced crossbow, particularly if you’re looking for a bit of extra power from your first purchase.
This crossbow should have no problem over 60 yards.
I do feel that the bow suffers from a heavy trigger, which is a shame, as it would really bring it all together nicely.
- I don’t feel there is any one special point about this crossbow
- Heavy trigger
Excalibur Assassin 420 TD Review 5/10
Weight: 8 lbs Length: 33 inches Width (cocked): 23.25 inches Draw Weight: 290 lbs Power Stroke: 18.75 inches
Although I’ve given the Excalibur Assassin crossbow what seems an average score of 5 out of ten, I really appreciate what the guys at Excalibur have tried to do with this weapon.
First of all, thanks to their quicklock technology, you can have the bow packed up or reassembled in minutes, and it packages up nicely into a manageable space.
This is the only recurve crossbow to make my cut against the more fashionable compound bows, but you can tell that they’ve done it on purpose to amplify other features, like durability and manageability, so I respect their design.
The crossbow also comes with a strong scope, and excellent trigger, two things sometimes overlooked when choosing the best crossbow, in favour of more powerful alternatives.
I do feel however that despite the takedown technology being a great idea, that it lacks somewhat in safety, as it’s possible to shoot the crossbow even if the pieces aren’t correctly locked in.
- Good scope
- Good trigger
- Safety concerns
- Best Recurve Crossbow
BearX Saga 405 Review 5.25/10
Weight: 7.5 lbs Length: 37.5 inches Width (cocked): 14 inches Draw Weight: 210 lbs Power Stroke: 20 inches
The BearX Saga comes in at the lower end overall, but don’t forget that it’s competing against the very best crossbows out there.
It’s nice and compact, has a decent 4 by 32 power scope, and the under-rail handgrip and butt are adjustable so you can make it fit you.
It also boasts dual string suppressors to dampen the shot and kill the vibration.
It stands out on price, as it’s still a fast crossbow at 405 FPS, for an excellent price of under $400.
As you may already see, I’m a fan of a really good trigger, because it’s so important to every shot. Unfortunately the trigger for the BearX Saga 405 is a little bit sloppy for my liking.
- Great price
- Poor trigger
Conclusion – The Best Crossbow
Both crossbows are light and have excellent dimensions for manoeuvrability. They have great grouping accuracy, they are quiet, and of course, both of them look absolutely fantastic.
Both crossbows will remain leaders in the field for a long time, and would be well worth the purchase despite the high price tag.
The Scorpyd Deathstalker 420 also deserves a mention for what I feel are the best specs for an affordable crossbow. It handles excellently, and has a lovely biting point on the trigger.