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Budget Gear Review: Top Five Crossbows (2016 Edition)

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The world of bow hunting has been rippling with the effects of crossbows entering the field in droves. In states with deer herds growing to numbers out of control, game management experts are able to use bows to quietly dispatch nuisance deer—while hunters in areas that permit crossbows use during bow season are able to get out in the woods with a weapon that inherently works like a rifle.

While there does seem to be proverbial line drawn in the sand between many bow hunting purists, and the use of the crossbow—you don’t need to be Darryl Dixon to see the practice use of the bolt-slinging weapon. (Couldn’t discuss the crossbow without mentioning D.D. could we?)

The Crossbows you need to consider when buying:

Like typical bows, the crossbow could deliver a lethal shot from a distance; however, unlike a standard bow, a crossbow can be fired without drawing and releasing by hand. This advantage is where most bow hunters draw the line (archery pun intended).

As hunters we all know just how difficult a task it is to get scope out a great hunting spot, get there early, and wait for that trophy animal to mosey into our sights. It’s a painstaking endeavor that is most often times rewarded with little more than cold hands and feet, coupled with the mantra maybe next time.

Here’s the deal: at Outdoorhill, we are thrilled to get out into the field whenever we can. With all the respect due to the purists, we can see both sides of the coin—while you have states who will do just about anything to bring in revenue (read: sell more hunting licenses) there are also hunters who have a hard time squeezing the entirety of their hunting season into a few Saturday mornings.

For busy folks, or people who are looking to spend more time in the woods, having a crossbow might be a key factor in buying a hunting license.

Who Would Benefit From a Crossbow?

Popularity of crossbows has exploded lately—and not strictly because of the zombie-slaying motorcyclist mentioned above. Crossbows help hunters bag more game, easy as that.

First, for hunters who are more familiar with firearms than with bow hunting, the crossbow is an easy next step. Coupling your crossbow bolts with some quality broadheads, like the ones recommended in this brief video, you could make your crossbow an extremely effective weapon for putting down deer…or zombies.

A crossbow fits neatly between a rifle and a standard bow. With its gun stock, safety, sighting system (usually a scope), and trigger, it's a perfect transition into archery season for hunters who have never used a bow before. It's also great for hunters who would like to bow hunt, but have medical conditions restricting their ability to pull back a heavy bowstring.

Part of the disdain for crossbows by bow hunters is due to the fact that crossbows require much less skill to shoot than traditional bows. There’s no denying this fact—but the flip side of that view is that the crossbow’s ease of use can make hunters more effective in the field.

Sitting around camp and telling war stories of stalking the perfect buck and dropping him with a perfectly placed arrow is a great fantasy for some, the reality for most hunters is more along the lines of wanting to see a deer—and harvest it for meat. When the goal is to simply fill the freezer, it’s wise to use the equipment that gives you every possible advantage.

There's something about hearing the powerful twang of the bowstring, and whizz of the bolt, that appeals to any hunter who tries it. Combined with the simplicity of many crossbows and it's easy to understand why crossbows are treasured by those who have put them to use in the field.

The Drawbacks of Using Crossbows

While certain crossbows can be as powerful as some standard bows, no bow offers the range of a firearm. Hunting with a crossbow means that you'll have to find yourself within close range of your target, and that can take some maneuvering.

It can also be deadly if your target happens to be a bear or other large game, and your shot falls short of fatal. An angered animal at short range would not leave you time to reload your crossbow, so it's important to understand the risks, and prepare accordingly.

Another drawback to using a crossbow is the bias so many bow hunters have against them. Because the crossbow is essentially a middle ground between a gun and a bow, many bow hunters feel that using a crossbow is like cheating.

While it's admittedly easier to become proficient using a crossbow than a regular bow, it's also true that crossbows require the same mindset required for bow hunting. Careful attention to wind velocity, range, and shaft speed are all vital to both crossbow hunting and bow hunting.

Hunting with a crossbow is a quickly addicting sport. For compound bow hunters who have never tried it, it would be a good idea to take a few shots using a crossbow before condemning them. The truth is, the drawbacks of using crossbows are slim, if you are a hunter who is looking to harvest game.

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The Best Crossbow for the Money: Crossbow Reviews

When it comes to finding the best crossbow for you, there are several factors to consider before swiping your credit card to snag the first flashy crossbow the guy behind the counter hands you.

Factors to consider:

  • Cost. Depending on how much you've planned to spend, you can enjoy a simple-yet-effective crossbow that requires little expert maintenance or a powerful compound crossbow that any bow hunter would gaze at with longing.
  • Design. Crossbow designs vary enormously. Recurve crossbows feature a single bowstring, while compound crossbows offer the increased power of a compound bow. There are models made for target shooting, and those made for big game hunting.
  • Accessories. Enjoyment of your new crossbow will be affected by whether or not your weapon comes equipped with features like a cocking rope, a scope, a quiver, bolts, etc.
  • Power. This is one of the most important considerations, since it greatly impacts which animals you can take, and under what conditions.
  • Firing velocity. Like power, the firing velocity of your crossbow will dictate what game its best suited for. How fast your bow, or crossbow shoots, can be the difference between a kill and a complete miss.

1. SA Sports Fever Crossbow Package

  • Cost: $140-$200
  • Design: Recurve crossbow
  • Accessories: 4x32 scope, 4-arrow quiver, shoulder sling, scope mount, and cocking device
  • Color: Camo
  • Weight: 4.85 Pounds

For hunters aiming to try their hand at a simple crossbow that isn't overly ambitious, the SA Sports Fever Crossbow is a great starter crossbow.

Smaller than typical compound crossbows, this weapon is much easier to load - which can be an excellent advantage for smaller hunters.

Editor Rating:

Things We Liked

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Great for target shooting or beginning deer hunting
  • Nice detachable quiver
  • Can be restrung in the field
  • Draw weight isn't overwhelming

Things We Didn't Like

  • Bolts are cheaply made
  • Scope is poor quality
  • Lacks the precision of higher-end crossbow

Keeping in mind, this crossbow isn't meant to compete with crossbows that cost hundreds of dollars more, you should be quite pleased with the convenience and power of this SA Sports Fever Crossbow package. Make sure to view the accompanying video to learn exactly how to use it; failure to lubricate the string or maintain the crossbow properly can result in disappointing failure, which is common in less expensive crossbows. Also, always make sure to use the provided rope cocking device to prevent your crossbow's accuracy from being affected.


2. TenPoint Wicked Ridge Invader G3 Crossbow Package

If you’re looking to upgrade a beginner crossbow, and get into a lightweight crossbow that shoots fast—you’ll appreciate the moderate price of the Wicked Ridge by TenPoint. Weighing in at just 6.6lbs, but still firing in excess of 330f fps, you’ll be increasing your crossbow potential without murdering your bank account.

  • Cost: $475-549
  • Design: Recurve crossbow

Editor Rating:

  • Accessories: Red Dot scope
  • Color: Wood aluminum
  • Firing velocity: 165 feet per second

Things We Liked

  • Lightweight
  • DFI (Dry-Fire-Inhibitor)
  • Excellent 3.5 pound T2 trigger
  • 330 FPS
  • Great cocking system
  • Compact crossbow
  • Made with quality limbs and cables

Things We Didn't Like

  • 165 pound draw may be slightly low for extremely large game
  • Doesn’t come with a sling
  • Some hunters report it as being louder than they like

The Wicked Ridge is an excellent offering from TenPoint, and many hunters are touting it to be as good as crossbows in the $1000 range. If you’re looking for a great quality crossbow, and already have some accessories on hand, this is a great option to put a quality weapon into your hands for a reasonable price.


3. Barnett BCX Buck Commander Extreme CRT Crossbow Package

Probably the most respected name in crossbows, this Barnett BCX Buck Commander Extreme CRT Crossbow Package offers the Barnett excellence along with the elite Buck Commander endorsement.

A nice upscale crossbow, this compound design is sure to impress you with its power, speed, and accuracy.

  • Cost: $600-$750
  • Design: Compound crossbow
  • Accessories: 3-arrow quiver, rope cocking device, 3x32 scope
  • Power: 185 lbs. draw weight
  • Firing velocity: 365 feet per second

Editor Rating:

Things We Liked

  • Easy to maneuver
  • Powerful yet quiet - for a crossbow
  • Durable
  • Excellent accuracy
  • Illuminated scope
  • Compact profile makes it convenient in tree stand
  • Very fast

Things We Didn't Like

  • Like most crossbows, it isn't as quiet as an upright bow
  • Failure to maintain crossbow correctly will result in damaged string or bow

Even though this Barnett BCX Buck Commander Extreme CRT Crossbow is more expensive than some of the others we've reviewed, we still feel it is an excellent value for the money. The compact design makes it a great choice for anyone who plans to hunt in tight blinds or tree stands, and the power should make a crossbow fan of gun owners and archers alike.

They say you get what you pay for, and with the Barnett BCX Buck Commander Extreme CRT Crossbow Package, you might even get a little more. If you are a serious crossbow hunter, chances are you won't be disappointed with the power of this bow.


4. Barnett 78610 Recruit Compound Crossbow Package, Black

For small-framed hunters, women, and young hunters who want to try their hands at crossbow hunting, the Barnett 78610 Recruit Compound Crossbow offers excellent power and quality without requiring excess muscle to load.

This miniature crossbow can pack quite a punch, and the intricate design is a great example of why the Barnett name is so highly regarded as the best for crossbows of all sizes.

  • Cost: $265-$500
  • Design: Compound crossbow with adjustable butt stock
  • Accessories: Quiver, three arrows, Red Dot scope and rope cocking device
  • Power: 130 lbs. draw weight
  • Firing velocity: 300 feet per second

Editor Rating:

Things We Liked

  • Extremely lightweight and easy to handle
  • Secure safety mechanism
  • Great balance and trajectory
  • Excellent for children as long as adult supervision is provided
  • Easy draw weight and powerful
  • Durable parts should last

Things We Didn't Like

  • Included red-dot optic doesn’t have magnification
  • Not as powerful as more expensive models

If you're in the market for a small, but lethal crossbow, the Barnett 78610 Recruit Compound Crossbow is an excellent choice. Its quality and precision make the higher price tag worth it, and it's a much better value that larger crossbows. This crossbow is a great middle-of-the-road crossbow for the serious young or smaller hunters.


5. Carbon Express Intercept Axon Crossbow Kit

For some hunters, only the best will do. In that case, the Carbon Express Intercept Axon Crossbow is hard to beat.

Despite its hefty price tag, this crossbow is a dream of precision, accuracy, power, and convenience.

The compact design sacrifices nothing in terms of strength, instead affording the ability to deliver a lethal blow even in tight spots or long ranges.

Editor Rating:

  • Cost: $740-$1,000
  • Design: Compound crossbow
  • Accessories: Rope cocking device, 3-arrow quiver, 3 bolts, rail lubricant, 3 practice points, 4x32 lighted scope
  • Power: 175 lbs. draw weight
  • Firing velocity: 360+ feet per second

Things We Liked

  • Adjustable everything makes this ideal for any adult hunter
  • Accuracy rivals that of rifles
  • Perfect for both rifle hunters and bow hunters
  • Eye-catching design
  • Compound bow offers amazing power and range

Things We Didn't Like

  • Can be difficult to cock without a crank
  • Very loud for hunting
  • Hefty price tag

The Carbon Express Intercept Axon Crossbow is definitely not for novice or casual hunters. It takes some muscle to load and shoot this crossbow. Still, if you are serious about crossbow hunting, this Carbon Express Intercept Axon Crossbow is very hard to beat. With an item like this in your hands, there is no limit to the game you will be able to take down.


So, what's the best crossbow for the money?

Although each of these crossbows have their strengths, we at Outdoorhill really like to give our recommendation on a product that will be the most effective at getting you into the field without forcing you to sell the back forty in order to afford it.

The Wicked Ridge, by TenPoint is our top pick for this year’s best crossbow package. While this crossbow was not the cheapest crossbow on the list, we believe the excellent power, compact design, and quality workmanship made it quite likely that this crossbow will far outlast its cheaper competitors.

As always, we hope these reviews have helped you make an informed decision regarding the best crossbows on the market this year. While there are certainly other great crossbows out there, we believe that you'll have a hard time beating the performance of the models we’ve highlighted in this article.

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As you head out to into the field, or to the range, make sure to remember that as enjoyable as crossbow hunting is, it's still a deadly weapon that must be handled with great caution. We joke about slaying zombies, and mention our favorite character Darryl Dixon, but a crossbow is not a toy.

Treat it with care, never dry-fire it, and you can look forward to many years of happy hunting with your crossbow.

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