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Crossbow Myths & Misconceptions

by Doug Koenig   |  July 19th, 2012 7

Although vertical bowhunters and crossbow hunters often argue about differences between their chosen weapons, columnist Doug Koenig argues that — at least from a practical standpoint — they share much in common.

100-Yard Range?
One of the comments I’ve heard from non-crossbow shooters or just hunters who don’t want crossbows used is you shouldn’t allow crossbows in archery season because hunters can shoot deer with a crossbow at 100-plus yards.

First off, you can kill a deer with a lot of weapons out to 100 yards, but that doesn’t mean you should try. Sure, someone could aim really high with a vertical bow and let one fly and kill a deer if they hit it at 100 yards. That doesn’t mean they would — or should — try it! The same is true for a crossbow. The trajectory of a crossbow bolt is no flatter than the trajectory of an arrow from a compound bow. Yes, if you aim high enough, you can hit a target at 100 yards. But personally, I feel it is highly unethical to take shots much past 50-60 yards. Even the most expert shots wouldn’t shoot past that. There are simply too many things that can go wrong between the time the shot is taken and the time the bolt arrives. All the animal has to do is take one step and you’ll have a gut shot! Wind becomes a real factor also. A 5 mile per hour breeze will move your bolt 10 inches or so at 50 yards. Just imagine a higher gust!

Flatter and More Powerful?
Another myth is that crossbows shoot as flat as a rifle. The laws of physics say that’s impossible. Think about it; a 400-grain bolt moving at 350 fps is nothing like a .308-caliber, 150-grain bullet moving at 2900 fps — more than eight times faster than the bolt! Crossbows simply don’t shoot flat. In fact, as I said in the previous paragraph, they have roughly the same trajectory as a vertical bow.

If you don’t believe me, just head out to the range and see for yourself. Invite one of your buddies who owns a crossbow to come over and shoot long-range targets side-by-side with you and your compound. I guarantee you will both see some serious arc in your shots!

Another myth is crossbows have more knockdown power than vertical bows. You can go back to the previous paragraph. A crossbow that shoots a 400-grain bolt at 330 fps is no different than a vertical bow shooting a 400-grain arrow at 320 fps. It is almost exactly the same.

More Wounding?
Do crossbows wound more animals than vertical bows? I say no; I don’t see how. I know plenty of archery hunters who have wounded deer with vertical bows and crossbows, but I’ve never seen a pattern of one group wounding more than the other. If anything, I would argue that — given the ability to shoot a crossbow off a rest for added accuracy — the chance of wounding an animal with a crossbow might be somewhat lower.

I also know a lot of gun hunters who have wounded deer too. Unfortunately, it happens to even the most ethical, conscientious hunters. It’s part of hunting. Nobody wants to wound anything, but when you put a moving, living target in the mix, sometimes the unforeseen happens.

  • Perry

    I agree with the author. I have noticed that the crossbow's velocity seems to drop off rapidly after the first 30 yards more so than a compound. Probably not so but that is how it seems.

  • Michael E

    I started bowhunting with a recurve in 1980.In time my age and lack of strength took me to the compound.
    A motorcycle mishap to my shoulder lead me to the crossbow, so I could continue my love of bowhunting.
    I practice and do my scouting now, just as hard with the crossbow as with my other bows. Its been ALL bowhunting to me.
    I will not shoot past the distance with the crossbow as I did with my other bows.I could take a chance at longer shots but, the love and respect for the animals I hunt keep me in the confines of ethical bowhunting.This is something all bowhunters should keep under their top knot !

  • Mark

    Another disadvantage of an Xbow is additional shots. Loading a second bolt is slow, more than likely noisy and probably dangerous in a tree.

    Perry, as for velocity , there is a video showing the drop off of a compound versus a compound. Using the same pin, the Xbow drops more as you increase the distance.

  • Richard

    Shot compound bows since I was 12 yrs old. At the age of 37 I switched to a crossbow. I pro's and cons to both compounds and crossbows. But what it all boils down to is confidence in your shots. Rather than the type ofbow, it's confidence that is the best weapon. My favorite hunting advise that I tell everyone is PROBLEY SHOTS LEAD TO PROBLEM SHOTS. Nomatter what you hunt with you need to practice, practice, practice in different weather conditions and lighting. Practice till you KNOW WITHOUT A DOUBT that your gonna put that arrow/bolt where you want it. Never shoot at a deer (or any living creature) if in your head are the words "I think I can" or "probley". Confidence "I KNOW I CAN" is the greatest weapon and is the most accurate.

  • lewis

    do crossbows and compound bows shoot the same exact arrow?

    • Jay

      No, crossbow arrows are much shorter and do not need the "notch" at the end of the arrow

  • Barry bow lover

    Shooting a compound is much more fun for me, ive never gotten on with Xbows. I guess if you want it raw you should take a recurve, but as far as the hunt goes its compound all the way.

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