Going horizontal: Tips on buying a crossbow
Like it or not, crossbows are here to stay, and more New York hunters are hunting with them every year.
We talked to several archery pro shop owners about what new-to-the-sport crossbow buyers are looking for and just about all of them said price. It seems customers looking to buy their first crossbow don’t know very much about the type of crossbow they want to buy so they come in with a price range and buy a crossbow within the means of their budget.
If you’re thinking about purchasing a crossbow before next hunting season, here are a few things you should know.
Walk into a big box or pro shop and you’ll see an array of crossbows offered at a wide range of prices. Choice is a good thing, but how do you decide which crossbow to buy? Basically, crossbows come in three different configurations and each can determine how much you will pay.
A crossbow design that has been around for centuries features recurve limbs and will probably be the cheapest in terms of cost. These limbs are similar to those found on a vertical bow and have the advantage of allowing shooters to change their own bow string when the need arises. This feature alone could save the owner a good deal of money later on.
Since crossbows are quite heavy by nature, one with recurve limbs will usually be lighter than other models. The recurve offers the simplest shooting arrangement because it lacks the complicated stringing required for the round-wheel or asymmetric-wheel compound crossbows. With recurve limbs, moving cams and cables are eliminated, saving valuable weight. Because there are no moving parts, expect these bows to be offered at a lower price point than other models.
Crossbows are also available with cams or eccentrics like those featured on vertical compound bows, and these are the models you’ll most likely find stocked by pro shops. As expected, compound crossbows with this configuration are usually easier to cock, send a bolt downrange faster and are quieter than those models with recurve limbs. In addition, a compound crossbow has shorter limbs, making it somewhat easier than recurves to handle in tight places.
Most compounds will shoot the same weight arrows faster than recurves. Complex lever-and-pulley-style systems allow a larger potential energy in the bolt while allowing cocking mechanisms to require less effort. Since they have more parts they are more likely to malfunction, so be sure to ask about the reliability and the warranty that comes with the model you’re inclined to purchase. Just like automobiles, crossbows from some manufacturers are less reliable and more likely to need repair than others.
The third type of crossbow design offers what’s known as a reverse-draw configuration. This is where the tip of the limbs are pointed down-range, away from the shooter, and when cocking the bow the limbs move inward toward the shooter. Many of these bows have a very short axle-to-axle length and may be ideal for use in close quarters like a narrow treestand or ground blind.
The reverse draw can be used with a shorter power stroke, shorter axle-to-axle length and smaller, more aggressive cams, which translate into more speed. Two of the biggest downsides to the reverse design is their cost and the fact they are also harder on bow strings. Don’t’ expect to work on one of these models yourself because the mechanisms are more complex, so the work is best left to a professional. They’re expensive and can cost nearly $2,000, so if money is an issue a reverse limb bow may not be for you.
Before purchasing a new crossbow, a word of caution is in order. The current trend for crossbows on the higher end of the spectrum is for short axel-to-axel bows. The new Raven has an axle-to-axle length of only six inches when cocked and 10-1/2 inches uncocked. The Sub-1 by Mission has a cocked axle-to-axle length of approximately 10-1/2 inches and an uncocked axle-to-axle length of approximately 13-3/4 inches that, according to current law, makes them illegal for use in New York state. It makes no sense, but it’s the law.
Finally, before purchasing a crossbow, be sure to ask about the warranty and what’s covered for how long.