- 1 8 Best Budget Crossbows in 2021
- 1.1 1. Barnett TS380 – BEST OVERALL
- 1.2 2. Barnett Explorer XP370 – BEST ON A BUDGET
- 1.3 3. Killer Instinct Speed 425 – MOST POWERFUL
- 1.4 4. BearX Constrictor Strata – BEST ADJUSTABLE QUIVER
- 1.5 5. Excalibur Micro Axe 340 – BEST CAMO PACKAGE
- 1.6 6. Killer Instinct Boss 405 – BEST AJUSTABLE DESIGN
- 1.7 7. Wicked Ridge M-370 – BEST MULTI LINE SCOPE PACKAGE
- 1.8 8. Wicked Ridge RDX 400 – BEST REVERSE-DRAW TECHNOLOGY SHIFTS
- 2 What to Look for When Picking the Best Crossbow
- 3 Final Thoughts
Finding the best budget crossbow takes a bit of research, when I first fell in love with crossbows I made a few mistakes and had to buy a new one weeks later better suited to me, was going to show you our favorites and teach you how to purchase one in our buying guide so you don’t make the same mistakes I did. There are many things to consider, do your research, and you won’t be disappointed.
Having a quality crossbow is vital to your accuracy, especially if you’re learning to shoot or improve your aim. There’s nothing that harms your learning process like using a low-quality crossbow that shoots inconsistently.
Here are the 8 best budget crossbows that we have compiled having particularly beginners and intermediate shooters in mind.
8 Best Budget Crossbows in 2021
- Barnett Crossbows | The most trusted name in crossbows since...
- HIGH-PERFORMANCE: TS380 Crossbow in Digital Gray with a...
- TOUGH: Metal injection molded trigger, CNC machined aluminum...
From Barnett, the TS380 crossbow is a particularly sturdy crossbow that is able to shoot at 380 feet per second (116 meters per second) with amazingly high accuracy.
The Barnett TS380 also has a soft lock that keeps it from shooting when there’s no arrow. This is almost a must feature to have in such a high-powered crossbow since dry firing can break the bow limbs in a single instance. Dry fire can also hurt you. The bow also has finger safety reminders.
Crossbows with high draw weight need to be tough. And Barnett TS380 definitely ticks that box.
The crossbow has an aluminum track which makes sure the arrow does not lose a lot of momentum due to friction. When you shoot from a crossbow, the entire spine of the arrow rubs against the entire arrow tract. This results in a force of friction which can significantly eat up the arrow’s momentum. The worst thing is that the faster the arrow slides, the higher fraction of the momentum it will lose to friction.
To keep this effect from slowing down the arrows, the arrow tracts are lubed with wax. However, when the arrow rubs against the track, the kinetic energy lost to friction converts into heat. The hence heated tract may lower the wax’s ability to lower the friction. This is where the aluminum track comes in.
Aluminum, as you might already know, is often used to make heat sinks in electronics and other high-temperature applications. This is because aluminum has a high specific heat capacity which makes it pretty hard to heat it. This means that aluminum can absorb a lot of heat energy before raising its temperature.
Hence the aluminum tract further reduces energy lost to friction and makes sure your arrows get as much of the total energy supplied by the bow as possible.
Unlike the previous entry, the Barnett TS380 is specially designed for skilled hunters.
The package ships with two headhunter arrows, bowstring, lube wax, a Crank Cocking device, a quiver, and a side-mount adapter.
Barnett is one of the leading crossbow producers and has been in the business of making crossbows since 1952. The Barnett Explorer XP 370 Crossbow is a compound crossbow, and you can bet it has a high draw weight. The crossbow shoots arrows at a high speed of 370 feet per second (112 meters per second), which makes it a good choice.
The crossbow comes mostly assembled. To make the package more compact, it has two pieces, but the two pieces can be assembled in 30 seconds with a single bolt (included).
The Barnett Explorer XP 370 is a Soft Lock that protects it from dry firing. Dry firing is when the crossbow is drawn and triggered when there’s no arrow in the flight groove. Since there is nothing for the drawn string to transfer its momentum to, all the potential energy stored in the string gets dissipated throughout the bow. The jerk from all that energy can deteriorate the crossbow and even cause immediate damage. And if your bow breaks after dry firing, here’s how you can fix it.
To keep this from happening, different bows use different mechanisms. Soft Lock is the mechanism used in Barnett Explorer crossbows, and it keeps you from triggering the release when there’s no arrow.
The Barnett Explorer XP 370 ships with 2 carbon arrows, a red dot sight, a side mount quiver, and lubrication wax.
- BUNDLE INCLUDES: Killer Instinct SPEED 425 FPS Crossbow...
- INSANE SPEED: Unstoppable 425 FPS punches through targets...
- SNIPER PRECISION: Exceptional low-light clarity and a 20-100...
The Killer Instinct Speed Crossbow is similar in features and design to the Killer Instinct Boss Crossbow, except it has a higher draw weight which allows the higher speed of 425 feet per second (130 meters per second). The bow delivers kinetic energy of 156 foot-pounds which is enough to take down the entire bull in one shot.
The bow also delivers sniper precision and allows you to shoot targets a hundred yards away without having to worry about random errors messing up your shot. This crossbow has an AR-style buttstock which can be adjusted to increase or decrease the length of the crossbow. With 5 point adjustability, you can customize the crossbow to exactly match your length requirements.
- 10” wide cocked and 14” wide uncocked
- Delivers blazing speed at 410 fps with a draw weight of 190...
- Ambidextrous top mount 5-arrow quiver for custom quiver...
The Bear X Constrictor Strata lives up to its name and has a beast-level draw weight of 190 lbs. This allows the crossbow to shoot arrows at a speed of 410 feet per second (124 meters per second). The crossbow is equipped with a top-mounted five arrow quiver which is shipped with the crossbow.
The Bear X Constrictor Strata Crossbow also has an anti-dry fire mechanism that keeps you from firing it accidentally when there’s no arrow in the arrow tract.
This crossbow is ambidextrous, which means that both left-handers and right-handers can easily use the bow. You can also mount a five arrow quiver on top of the bow to the left or to the right depending on your dominant hand.
One of the things I personally like about this crossbow is its grip. Unlike a lot of the other crossbows that I’ve used, this crossbow has its weight quite well distributed throughout the crossbow. This makes it really effortless to hold the bow you’re trying to aim. Often, having to actively balance the crossbow while aiming is quite distracting and results in inaccurate shots.
The package also includes three BearX Truex bolts, a quiver, an illuminated scope, a ling, a cocking rope, and string wax.
Unlike the entries so far, the Excalibur Micro Axe 340 is a recurve crossbow. However, it shoots arrows at 340 feet per second (103 meters per second) which is pretty impressive for a recurve crossbow. The crossbow is made of aluminum which makes it quite durable and particularly lightweight. The Excalibur Micro Axe 340 crossbow also has an anti-dry fire mechanism, although it would have been quite durable without it as well.
The Excalibur Micro Axe is designed with price in mind. It is aimed to deliver high-end features at a low-end price. However, if you judged the bow based on its price, you’d be wrong. Unlike other bows available at this price, the Excalibur Crossbow Micro Axe is designed by one of the leading crossbow producers in the world. This means that the crossbow does not compromise of quality of materials and is designed by the same engineer who has designed some of the most high-end crossbows in the market.
- QUICK AND DEADLY: Tough and agile mechanism helps you hit...
- ADJUSTABLE DESIGN: 6-position adjustable butt-stock...
- POWER AND SPEED IN 1: Fires at a rate up to 405...
Killer Instinct is another brand well known for making quality and featureful crossbows. The Killer Instinct Boss 405 crossbow shoots at 405 feet per second (123 meters per second). The crossbow is designed with stealth in mind and is equipped with string suppressors which keep your prey from noticing you, earning the brand its title.
The Killer Instinct Boss 405 crossbow is able to generate kinetic energy of 134 foot-pounds and is a perfect blend of high precision and deadly raw power.
This crossbow also has an aluminum track which offers less friction than other materials and allows you to shoot arrows as smoothly as possible.
The crossbow ships with three carbon cross bolts and a five-bolt quiver.
- ACUDRAW COCKING DEVICE - Built-in cocking device draws your...
- GORDON GLASS LIMBS - Double laminated Gordon Glass limbs...
- T4 TRIGGER - Auto-engaged safety trigger features a...
Wicked markets its Wicked Ridge M-370 crossbow as “the lightest crossbow in the world.” However, don’t let its lightweight fool you into thinking it’s not a threat. The crossbow can deliver pounds of kinetic energy to its target. Given that, the crossbow is indeed quite lightweight and compact.
You can increase the speed by using lighter arrows. However, contrary to popular belief, using lighter arrows does not lower the total kinetic energy delivered by the bow. It may increase the energy lost to air friction. Furthermore, lighter arrows experience more air drag but the same drop. Both of these problems can be avoided by using arrows with thinner spines rather than lighter material.
The crossbow ships with three XX75 arrows and a quiver.
- Patented reverse-draw technology shifts the riser from the...
- The RDX 400 features a perfectly balanced reverse-draw bow...
- Machined lightweight aluminum riser and pockets provide...
If the Wicked Ridge M-370 sounded like a monster, wait till you see the specs on this one. Arrows shot from the Wicked Ridge RDX 400 carry kinetic energy of 140 foot-pounds. The arrows travel at 400 feet per second, which is a lot considering the energy they carry.
Like some of the other high-speed crossbows, the RDX 400 has an aluminum arrow tract which keeps the track from heating up and adding to its friction.
The Wicked Ridge RDX 400 is more on the high-end side because of its numerous features accessories but compared to other crossbows of this caliber and quality, the RDX 400 is quite affordable.
The crossbow ships with a complete package, including the cocking device.
What to Look for When Picking the Best Crossbow
As we already mentioned, consistency is by far the most important factor to consider when picking a crossbow. This means that the flight groove (the tract the arrow follows) is well-built and shoots arrows and shoots consistently.
You can test the consistency of a crossbow by fixing it in a crossbow stand, aiming at a target, and shooting multiple arrows without tilting or moving the crossbow. The closer the two arrows hit, the more accurate the crossbow is. Ideally, a crossbow will shoot multiple arrows at the same spot, even at a target 50 yards away. If you shoot two arrows and they hit five inches from each other, it’s pretty disappointing because this is a random error. As a shooter, you won’t be able to do much about this inaccuracy, and you’ll never be able to improve your aim after reaching a certain point.
Beginners and intermediate shooters particularly have troubleshooting at long ranges. This is not just because farther targets are smaller but also because arrows experience a lot more drop and air drift than bullets. To understand why we need to get into the physics of an arrow trajectory. (1, 2)
Drop is caused by gravity. The amount by which an arrow is pulled downwards depends purely on two things: the total time of flight and the height disparity between the shooter and the target.
For simplicity, let’s assume you’re shooting at a target places at your level. The amount of drop you’ll have to account for when shooting at a distant target depends on the time it will take your arrow to reach the target. This means that a target that is farther away will have a greater flight time, and hence the arrow will experience more drop. That, you probably already know, but here’s something you might not have deduced from these facts.
A faster arrow experiences less drop for the same reason closer targets have a smaller drop: the arrow takes less time to reach the target. This is actually the one reason bullets experience so little drop; they’re faster.
As a beginner, you should train yourself for accuracy and not for accommodating the drop. Training for both at the same time is also not a good idea since it will make it much more difficult to learn either.
Hence, the faster the bow shoots, the better.
Draw weight is the measure of the sheer amount of force your crossbow is able to apply. Why do you want a bow with greater draw weight? Well, there are two reasons.
For the same arrow, a crossbow with greater draw weight will shoot faster arrows. Higher draw weight makes it easy to learn to shoot since it decreases the arrow drop. But this, you already know, so we’re going to discuss the second reason in more detail since a lot of even experienced shooters don’t know the physics of archery.
If you’re somewhat good at estimating drop for a given flight, your main enemy is air drag.
Air drag is caused by the wind pushing and dragging your arrows away from the trajectory. Unlike drop, drag is really difficult and sometimes impossible to predict, even for the most skilled archers.
This is because even if you know exactly by what amount a given wind will dislocate your arrow from its drag-free trajectory, the wind can change direction and speed at any moment making your calculations obsolete. The wind might also have different speeds and directions along the path of the arrow, but you can only tell the wind speed where you’re shooting from.
Is there a way to keep your arrows on course? Of course, there is (wordplay intended).
Unlike drop, the amount of drag an arrow experiences depends on its weight, surface area, and shape. Here’s a chart showing how these factors impact drag. (3)
|Weight ↑||Drag ↓|
|Spine Thickness ↑||Drag ↑|
|Shape Smoothness ↑||Drag ↓|
Hence, an ideal arrow that experiences the least air drag is one that is heavier, thinner, and smoother. This is quite intuitive, we’re sure, but it’s important to consider these things.
However, if you shoot a heavier arrow from your bow, it will go much slower than a smaller arrow. The only way you can afford a heavier arrow is if you also have a bow with a higher draw weight.
Compound crossbows generally have higher draw weights than recurve crossbows.
It’s not news that crossbows can be as dangerous as guns. Crossbows with high draw weights are particularly dangerous. Last but not least, make sure the crossbow you chose has a reliable trigger safety option. One impressive idea is auto-engaging safety. The safety sets automatically when the crossbow is drawn.
If you’re a beginner, we would suggest choosing an easy-to-use and safe crossbow, even if you have to sacrifice some of the features. However, we’re sure you know your own needs and should choose based on your particular concerns. In any case, we’re sure the analysis provided here will be of great help when you’re choosing the right crossbow for yourself.
(1) physics – https://www.britannica.com/science/physics-science
(2) trajectory – http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/traj.html
(3) surface area – http://www.math.com/tables/geometry/surfareas.htm