Shoot Your Crossbow Better Today — Part I

Want to make your crossbow shoot better? Of course you do! The good news is, there's much you can do toward that end. The even better news is that it's not too complicated. What follows are some suggestions for making your crossbow a better shooting machine.

Always follow manufacturer instructions when selecting aftermarket bolts for your crossbow, particularly when it comes to weight and/or length.

First, it's helpful to understand the difference between precision and accuracy. I once got in a somewhat contentious debate with a local gun writer about the distinction. He was misusing the terms, and when I called him on it he got very defensive. He shouldn't have, because a lot of folks don't know the difference.

Anyway, accuracy is a measure of how close your result is compared to an expected result. For example, how close your shot is to the center of the bull's-eye. Precision is a measure of repeatability, such as how tight your groups are, regardless of where they hit the target.


Your ultimate goal is to achieve both, which is usually best accomplished by working first on precision, which begins with your equipment.


The Bow

Start with a visual inspection to ensure everything on your crossbow is in good working order. Check nuts, bolts, screws and fasteners for tightness and fix if and where necessary. While you're at it, look for any damaged, defective, misaligned or non-symmetrical parts.

Make sure limbs are properly aligned and seated in limb pockets, especially split limbs. Look at your bow from the side to confirm that wheels are parallel with the rail and not canted.

Manufacturers do their best to ensure quality, but with any mass-produced item there is always the possibility of problems. An air bubble in the extrusion process, a power surge during machining or a moment of inattentiveness on the assembly line could all lead to less-than-desirable results in the product and the way it ultimately performs.


The issue could also be your fault. Men, especially, tend to dismiss manuals. Don't. Read and follow the owner's manual precisely when assembling your bow. I learned this the hard way. After struggling for quite some time to attach the limb assembly to a crossbow, I finally reverted to the manual and discovered I was supposed to back out two small setscrews in the stock before tightening the main riser bolt.

Fortunately, crossbow makers back up their products with warranties. So, if there is a defect or other issue that's their fault, they'll fix or replace it. If it's your fault (you assembled or used it improperly), take it to the local pro shop and get it fixed.

The Bolt


Now turn your attention to the other major component of your shooting system — the bolt. Step one, before you inspect the shaft, vanes, nock and tips for potential problems, is to make sure you are in fact using the proper components.

For bolt length, you have a choice of 20- or 22-inch shafts. Never shoot less than the recommended length, though you can go longer. In fact, there are advantages to the longer shafts that can enhance accuracy and precision.

Next, you have to pick the optimal shaft spine/weight. As you're probably aware, the reason there are so many more choices in arrow spines for compound shooters is because variables such as draw weight, draw length, arrow length and tip weight all influence dynamic spine — the flexing of the arrow at the shot.

Because a crossbow bolt lies on, and in direct contact with, a rail for its entire length, that's much less of a factor. In fact, some bolt manufacturers don't even list a spine rating, instead grouping various shafts only by weight.

Theoretically, you can't go wrong using the shafts that came with your crossbow. When it comes time to replace or supplement them, consult the owner's manual and/or shaft selection guide. However, if you're looking to improve performance with different shafts, there are several things to consider.

One is weight. As with shaft length, it's better to err on the high side. While most crossbows will shoot most bolts just fine, it might be better (and safer) to shoot heavier, stronger shafts with heavier draw weights.

And according to the folks at TenPoint, heavier shafts produce the quietest and most vibration-free shot, are more stable in flight and shoot tighter groups down range. You give up a little speed and flatness in trajectory, but the sacrifice might be worth it.

Precision applies to manufacturing as well as performance in the field. In fact, the two are interrelated. And that's another reason why you might want to consider forking over a few extra bucks for high performance carbon shafts. As with compound arrows, more expensive crossbow bolts have better straightness tolerances and other features.

For example, Carbon Express' Maxima Hunter Crossbolts are laser-checked for straightness to a remarkable +/-.0001-inch and are constructed with BuffTuff Plus carbon weave for superior strength and accuracy. Similarly, Bloodsport's Witness bolts have a straightness tolerance of +/-.003-inch, and the patented Blood Ring technology — a white band that helps you identify the type and location of hit.

To my knowledge (and that of numerous sources I consulted), vane length is largely a matter of personal preference or using whatever was supplied with your crossbow. Still, it can't hurt to experiment a little as you might find one type — short or long — works better in your particular bow.

That gets us off to a good start, but there's plenty more you can do to your crossbow to maximize its performance. We'll look at a few more in the next installment, and then move on to what you can do to improve your own shooting form.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Springtime Turkey Hunt

Springtime Turkey Hunt

Kevin Steele and the boys are bowhunting turkeys with the help of some well-placed decoys.

Ravin R29X Crossbow – New for 2020

Ravin R29X Crossbow – New for 2020

The new Ravin R29X Crossbow includes everything you need for blistering speed (450 FPS!) and deadly downrange accuracy (3-inch group at 100 yards).

First Look: Mathews Vertix Bow

First Look: Mathews Vertix Bow

"Petersen's Bowhunting" editor Christian Berg and Mathews design engineer Mark Hayes talk the smooth, quiet and fast shooting qualities of the new flagship Vertix bow from the Wisconsin bowmaker.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Don't give up on that seemingly untunable bow just yet. Bows

Untunable Bow? Nock Travel Could Be Your Problem

Bill Winke

Don't give up on that seemingly untunable bow just yet.

Going from field tips to broadheads requires arrow tuning on a higher plane.

 Good broadhead flight How-To

4 Steps to Perfect Broadhead Flight

Bowhunting Online Staff

Going from field tips to broadheads requires arrow tuning on a higher plane. Good...

These recent findings can help you better manage your buck population. Whitetail

New Deer Management Study: Small-Antlered Bucks & Stump Sprouts

Jason Snavely - August 10, 2020

These recent findings can help you better manage your buck population.

These boots are Apparel

Field Tested: Danner Vital Snake Boots

Taylor Pardue - July 13, 2020

These boots are "better safe than sorry" at its best.

See More Trending Articles

More How-To

Fields and food plots aren't the best places to kill big bucks. How-To

Avoid “Gun Stands” When Bowhunting

Bill Winke

Fields and food plots aren't the best places to kill big bucks.

To find consistent success, you must be better than average in every respect. How-To

How to Successfully Bowhunt Public Land

Clint Casper

To find consistent success, you must be better than average in every respect.

Follow these tips to prevent contact and increase your shooting accuracy! How-To

How to Eliminate Face-to-Arrow Contact

Levi Morgan

Follow these tips to prevent contact and increase your shooting accuracy!

We must recognize the uncontrollable factors and analyze the challenges they pose. How-To

How to Combat String Jumping

Randy Ulmer

We must recognize the uncontrollable factors and analyze the challenges they pose.

See More How-To

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Bowhunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now