How to Choose a Type of Crossbow (Beginner’s Guide)

By Andy Ryan


Updated at
crossbow set

If you’re new to Archery, chances are you can’t wait to get your hands on your first professional crossbow and begin mastering shooting techniques. We can understand the enthusiasm. However, choosing the right crossbow for your needs and budget can be tricky.

There are a lot of things you need to consider to buy a crossbow of the right make and model. If you’re a beginner and are unsure where to begin, read this guy to get a nudge in the right direction. 

In general choose your crossbow based on what you will be hunting, the distance for shooting, and the weight of the crossbow. Below we’ll give some great tips in our crossbow guide and answer the questions “how to choose a crossbow”.


Selecting the Right Type of Crossbow


The moment you enter a pro Archery shop, you will be exposed to hundreds of different crossbows, each unique in its own way. So, which one do you choose? To select a good crossbow, you’d first have to ask yourself a few questions, primal of them being “what do I need this crossbow for?” Do you need a crossbow to practice target shooting? Or do you need one to hunt deers out in the wilderness?

If it’s for hunting purposes you need a bow, then what kind and size of an animal are you looking to hunt? Is it deer, or a bear, as the crossbow requirements of each of these animals are different? What approximate ranges are you planning to cover? You’d need a different kind of crossbow for shooting 60 yards, and a different one for shooting 30-40 yards. Answering some of these key questions will help you select the right crossbow. However, before you do that, you might want to select the type of crossbow that you want to buy. 


What is Better, a Recurve or Compound Crossbow?

Recurve Bows and Compound bows are both common bows used for hunting, especially deer. Although, they are also widely used for target practicing. Regardless, recurve and compound are two types that should be on the top of your lists, due to their versatility.

However, these two types have a lot of differences. Here are the differences between a recurve bow and a compound bow, and the advantages and disadvantages of each. 

To know more about the comparison between the two, you may check our guide on recurve vs compound bow.


Recurve Crossbows



A recurve crossbow is one of the oldest bows in the world. When unstrung, the limbs of the recurve bow bend away from the archer, giving it its unique shape. The reason why many hunters choose this as their weapon is that a recurve bow stocks more energy, and uses it to give immense speed to the arrow when the hunter shoots it.

It has a simple design, with no intricate connection of cables and pulleys to deal with. Hunting is an extreme sport that requires complete focus, lest you find yourself in a dangerous situation. You can rely on recurve crossbows in critical situations. One of the prime disadvantages of a recurve bow is the long width between the two axles, and it also has a higher draw weight, which can impact the overall speed. (1)


Compound Crossbows



Another kind of crossbow that most hunters trust is the compound crossbow. This bow comes with a connection of pulleys and cables, making it more sophisticated than recurve bow. This also means the axle-to-axle distance in this bow is narrower than a recurve bow, which can make deer hunting from a confined region simpler. It is an ideal piece of archery equipment for both target practice sessions and hunting.

The reason why hunters love this bow is its higher arrow speed, and lower draw weights. The primary drawback of this bow is its sophisticated mechanism, which leads to a higher possibility of technical failures during critical moments. 

Before moving forward to choosing which crossbow manufacturer you can buy your archery equipment from, you might want to mull over the type of crossbow you want to own, based on your preference and additional skill set. If you don’t mind the complicated stringing of the compound bow, by all means, choose that one. However, if you’re more about simplicity and reliability above anything else, then we might suggest you buy a recurve bow. You may want to check the guide on the best recurve bow in the market nowadays.


Bow-Cam Type 



Cams are an important part of the compound crossbow. It allows the compound bow to transfer appropriate energy to the limbs. The cam essentially influences the draw weight during the drawing and releasing of an arrow from the bow. Considering the kind of cam you want is also an important factor to think of.

The cam can be of different types, with all having different sets of benefits, and objectives, even though the mechanical goal remains the same. There are 4 main types of cams, single, binary, hybrid, and twin. The single-cam bow is quieter than the two-cam system and is also easier to maintain. The drawback with a single-cam crossbow is that they have trouble achieving level nock travel. Hybrid cams can help in level and straight nock travel.

Hybrid cams also need less maintenance than twin cams, so that’s another reason why you could consider going for this option. One of the disadvantages of a Hybrid-cam is calibrating it for efficiency. However, they can indeed prove to be fast when oriented properly. You can choose Binary cams for their speed, and twin cams for their accuracy and superb nock travel.

Of course, bows with any of these cams would require some getting-used-to, especially if you’re not a professional. While we would suggest you try every kind of bow to see which ones suit you the best, you can choose a single cam for starters, and make your way through others as you get the hang of the bow. 


Crossbow Speed



Whether you’re a target shooter or a hunter, it goes without saying that you would want a good crossbow that shoots with speed. The question here is, is speed really a vital factor? While in some cases, speed could play an important role, it shouldn’t be your sole deciding factor. For instance, you can easily get your hands on a 400 fps bow, but ask yourself, do you need such a fast bow? Not if you’re going for deer-hunting or practicing shoots at an Archery club. You would just end up paying a lot of money for something you don’t particularly need.

If you ask us, a crossbow that shoots arrows at 260-270 fps should be more than enough to hunt deers. Not only will you be able to control the crossbow better, but you would also be required to pay a lot less, which could be considered a win, as crossbows as it is could be really expensive. The weight of the arrow also plays an important part in determining the speed.

A heavy arrow will inevitably slow the speed down. On the upside, it will shoot with more force. As a compromise, choose an arrow that is fast enough to achieve your goal, but not so speedy that it becomes difficult for you to shoot the target, be it a deer, or an inanimate object. If you’re a beginner, be mindful of the safety standards while shooting a crossbow.

Thankfully, there are certain safety features that can help beginners get the hang of a new crossbow. Some of these components are Anti Dry Fire (prevents the crossbow from firing when there is no arrow), Auto-Engaging Safety (keeps the mechanical safety in check), and Forward Grip Design (helps in optimum finger positioning). Thus, safety measures are another thing that you need to look out for while buying a crossbow, especially if you have little to no experience in shooting a crossbow. 


Features and Specifications to Consider while Buying a Crossbow


Apart from the types of crossbows, the type of cam system, and the safety standards of the crossbow, there are certain features and specifications of a crossbow that need your attention while selecting an ideal bow. Some of the features and specifications that need to be considered are as follows. 

Bolt Speed

Bolts refer to the projectiles used in shooting crossbows. It is to crossbow what arrow is to a regular bow. Hence, the speed of the bolts is an important factor to consider. The speed of a projectile for a specific distance is calculated through FPS or foot per-second basis. We’ve already spoken of the ideal bolt speed. You can gather information on speeds of different types of crossbows from the seller, or an expert technician. 




If you want a crossbow for hunting trips, naturally, you would want a weapon that is as quiet as possible, to not alarm the animal that you are hunting. The main cause of noise in crossbows is the power stroke (short and heavy) when the bolt is discharged. The noise emitted by a Recurve bow is fainter than a Compound bow. Hunters should keep the noise factor in mind while hunting for a crossbow, but be mindful that quiet bows could impact the speed of the weapon.


Some Additional Factors to Consider

  • Flight Groove 
  • Weight of the Crossbow 
  • Cocking Weight


Cocking Mechanisms


There are three methods of cocking a crossbow. You can use your hands, use a mechanical advantage, or use an ACUdraw. You can use the mechanical advantage in nearly all the recurve and compound bows.


Once your Crossbow Arrives


Once your crossbow arrives, you have to consider a set of other things as well. You would first be required to assemble the crossbow when you take it out of the box. You just have to mount the scope and add a few accessories, the rest of the bow will come pre-assembled. Then, you have to select the right arrows for the weapon, as you might not be provided with arrows by the company.

Lastly, you have to select a target. Use an extremely sturdy target to practice your shots, as crossbows are dangerously powerful weapons that fire with fast speed, and can easily penetrate standard targets used in Archery. If it’s the good old-hunting you want a crossbow for, then the target is pretty much pre-determined. We hope you found this crossbow guide helpful! (2)

And here’s a bonus guide for you on how to store a compound bow properly. I hope this article helps you! Until next time!

(1) extreme sport –
(2) powerful weapons –