December 26, 2016
By Bob Humphrey
In the last issue, I offered some tips on how to improve the accuracy and precision out of your crossbow, primarily by ensuring all is in proper working order and selecting the right and best components.
In this installment, we'll pick up where we left off with equipment before moving on to you, the shooter.
Before running out of space last time, I was discussing bolts and the importance of choosing the right length, weight and quality. Once you've done that, the next step is to choose components that are also up to the task.
Nocks are a critical component that can really make a big difference. For starters, you want the right ones for your rig; the two most common types being flat and half-moon. Again, your best course of action is to consult your crossbow owner's manual for recommendations, as they sometimes vary.
If not properly indexed, half-moon nocks can be loaded incorrectly, which may result in the bow not firing (because the anti-dry-fire mechanism remains engaged). Flat nocks can be fired from most bows, except those with acute string angles.
Not only can using the wrong nock type affect results, it could void your bow's warranty. If you're still not sure, TenPoint's Omni-Nock was designed with six micro-grooves that form three bowstring channels. This eliminates indexing problems so they can be used in virtually any bow.
And if you really want to fine-tune precision, consider Carbon Express LAUNCHPAD Lighted Nocks, which feature a precision-aligned nock barrel so they're perfectly aligned with the center or throat of the nock, and a concentric design that ensures the nock will center itself in the shaft more consistently.
What you put on the business end of your bolts also matters. We'll start with weight. I'd venture to guess most folks are shooting 100-grain broadheads, and that's fine; I do. Depending on your crossbow/bolt combination, it's possible you might gain a slight advantage going to a heavier, 125-grain head.
You'll retain more kinetic energy and boost FOC (the forward of center balance point) with the heavier head, but the difference is small enough that I'd stick with 100-grain heads if that's what you are comfortable with and you are happy with the results.
More important is style, and I'm not talking about the camo finish or the look. At the risk of offending a few hunters and manufacturers, I strongly recommend mechanical broadheads. The primary reason is simplicity. Once you sight in with fieldpoints, there's no need for further tuning. The only caveat I would offer is that you pick a head that is designed and/or rated for the additional speed and energy of a crossbow.
If you're a fixed-blade fanatic, you have a couple options. One is to add a rubber O-ring behind your head (if it doesn't already come with one) so you can make minor adjustments in blade alignment to tune your bolts. The other is a hybrid head, and there are numerous options.
They may require a tad less tuning, and you get fixed-blade reliability (not that you should have to worry about mechanicals) combined with the extra cutting surface of a larger expandable blade that won't negatively influence bolt flight.
Shock and Awe
Let's go back to our crossbow for a bit and discuss a few more items that were once options but are increasingly becoming standard, at least with higher-end models. No system is perfect, but crossbow makers have directed considerable effort toward addressing some of the more common complaints among crossbow users, specifically shock, noise and trigger stiffness.
Though there's really no recoil from a crossbow, the noise and vibration from releasing that much energy into a mass of metal and plastic can be somewhat disconcerting to both shooter and target, when the latter is alive.
Even the fastest crossbows are shooting well below the speed of sound, but you can minimize the surprise the same way you do with a compound bow — by adding suppression. First, there were limb tamers. Now there's more vibration-reducing technology on risers, stocks and barrels.
And increasingly more crossbows are coming with string stops. You can add any or all of these features if your crossbow doesn't already have them.
An alternative is to simply choose a reverse-limb crossbow. In addition to providing better balance and a more stable shooting platform (which also positively influences accuracy), the reverse-limb design effectively cancels out vibration in much the same way as parallel-limb compound bow designs.
Unless and until you've used a high-grade trigger, you'll never appreciate how much it can positively influence accuracy and precision. Exceedingly stiff triggers have long been one of the big knocks on crossbows, but manufacturers have made tremendous strides in recent years.
Several now boast trigger weights under four pounds, and some — such as Browning and Killer Instinct — have incorporated after-market technology from TriggerTech that uses a roller system to eliminate sliding friction that causes creep and heavy pull weights. If there's one available for your crossbow, you should strongly consider installing an aftermarket trigger.
Now that we have the best components, all in good working order and ready to use, it's time to cock your bow — another area where you can have a fairly significant influence on both precision and accuracy. Not only should you use a cocking device, you should make sure it's the one designed specifically for your bow.
I have several that occasionally get mixed up, and there certainly are differences. This ensures the string remains centered. Otherwise you could load too much weight on one side or the other, reducing accuracy; and you'll never pull it back by hand the same way twice, which reduces precision.
Well, it seems we've run out of space again, but this should give you at the very least a good start. Be sure to check future issues for more ways to improve crossbow accuracy and precision.