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Crossbow vs Bow: Which Is Better for Hunting?

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Perhaps you’re new to the industry and would like to learn how to bow hunt, but you’re not sure which one is better, the crossbow or the bow.

Experienced archers have their own opinions and advice when choosing between a crossbow and the traditional compound bow.

Due to personal preferences, it can become confusing for the inexperienced to choose between these two types of weapons.

Crossbow Explained

hunting with crossbow

A crossbow is a bow that sits on a longer frame, similar to a gunstock. It has a built-in mechanism that holds the drawn bowstring. A trigger mechanism releases the string, shooting a small arrow at an intended target. 

We refer to these small arrows as crossbow bolts. Over time, the crossbow has advanced, now using additional materials to increase its accuracy. 


  • Crossbows are beginner-friendly for those learning how to bow hunt and shoot more accurately than other types of bows.
  • There are crossbows with better quality draw weights and kinetic energy than compound bows.
  • Once you cock the bow and nock a crossbow arrow, crossbows are fire-ready. A crossbow stays fire-ready, even if you don’t load it.
  • Crossbows are compact, allowing you to hunt in the bush and tight spaces, such as a deer stand.
  • Once you cock the crossbow, you have less strain on your joints and muscles. To aim and fire, you do not have to hold its string like you do with a compound bow.
  • Crossbows are disability-friendly and easier to manage.
  • Your physical abilities don’t limit your ability to draw weight with a crossbow.
  • Crossbows have a similar feel and action to shotguns and rifles, making it an easy transition between the diverse types of equipment if you would like to learn how to bow hunt.


  • Crossbows require double the amount of draw weight as a compound bow.
  • A hunter must treat a cocked crossbow like the loaded weapon it is. Crossbows can missfire.
  • A crossbow has a slower reload system than a compound bow.
  • A crossbow is noticeably heavier in comparison to a compound bow due to its additional parts.
  • Crossbows are noisier when they release due to stored-up energy in their limbs.
  • After each hunt, always unload a crossbow. To unload the crossbow, you must use a specific device known as a crossbow diffuser.
  • There are inconsistent state regulations regarding the crossbow. Some states may limit the draw weight or require a valid explanation for its use.

Bow Explained

hunting with bow

When drawing the bowstring with a compound bow, cables and pulleys bend the bow’s limbs.

The stiffness of the drawn bow makes the compound bow more energy efficient because it loses less energy due to limb movement during a shot.

The concept of “let-off” allows the user to draw their bow easier and hold their draw longer as they aim to shoot. This simple draw-and-hold position is one of the advantages of the compound bow.


  • Although you need a release aid, compound bows don’t require a particular device to load an arrow.
  • Compound bows are quieter than crossbows as their longer limbs release the stored energy more gradually.
  • Pulling the string gives the compound bow a mechanical advantage over crossbows.
  • The compound bow is quicker to reload than the crossbow—no cranking or cocking is required.
  • Compound bows are lighter than crossbows.


  • It would help if you had the physical stamina and strength to use a compound bow. 
  • The compound bow does not stay in a ready-to-fire position. It only works for as long as the hunter can hold the bow and fire each arrow.
  • Compound bows are longer from axle to axle, making them difficult to shoot in thick bush.
  • A compound bow isn’t beginner-friendly and requires a lot of skill and practice before mastering the art of using it.
  • A compound bow isn’t disability-friendly and will limit those who have a physical disadvantage.

Crossbow vs Bow: Which One is Better?

It is a personal choice, and you should look at it from the hunter’s perspective and the prey’s perspective. A hunter owes it to their target to make a quick, clean, and humane kill.

Whichever option allows the hunter to achieve this goal should be the critical factor in choosing which bow to use. The crossbow’s most prominent advantage over the compound bow is its accuracy and ability to maintain a loaded, fire-ready condition.

Crossbows are beginner-friendly, and you can quickly learn how to bow hunt with this weapon. Physically disadvantaged individuals can also use them without any limitations.

Similarly, younger hunters, or anyone who has difficulty drawing the weight on a compound bow, should consider whether they are ethically capable of hunting with one.

The same goes for the hunter who does not have the time to devote to compound bow practice. These are excellent examples of hunters who would benefit more from a crossbow than a compound bow.

The crossbow may not be as fast while loading, but it has more kinetic energy and has the familiar feel of a shotgun or rifle. Though faster when loading, you may lose out on a shot with the compound bow, but it is lighter and quieter than a crossbow.

Compound bows also don’t have a unique loading mechanism, which is another advantage for anyone who wants to learn how to bow hunt. However, the compound bow isn’t beginner-friendly, nor is it easy for anyone to use if they have a physical disadvantage.

Hunters with physical disabilities or who have had neck, back, or shoulder injuries may find it challenging to practice shooting a compound bow regularly enough to become proficient.

Because such conditions make it more difficult for the hunter to ensure a clean kill, a crossbow is a much better ethical option. That same hunter could quickly become very proficient with a crossbow with much less practice time and be able to make a quick, clean harvest.

Depending on your hunting requirements and capabilities, and provided you keep the limitations and advantages of both bows in mind, both bows are excellent choices when you want to learn how to bow hunt.

Similarities and Differences Compared

The crossbow and compound bow are two different weapon systems that hunters use to shoot arrows at a target.

If you’re a beginner learning how to bow hunt or a professional hunter, it is essential to know the difference between these two pieces of equipment.

Knowing the difference between these two bows will help you choose the right equipment for your hunting purposes.

Compared to firing a crossbow, the string on a compound bow shoots the arrow more than double the distance. A crossbow must have double the draw weight of a compound bow to shoot at the same speed.

Therefore, the crossbow requires additional parts to produce the same power as a compound bow. These parts make the crossbow heavier and noisier, as it must absorb more shock than the compound bow.

1. Speed

crossbow hunting

Speed and kinetic energy determine the range and effectiveness of your shot.

Both bows use feet per second, also known as FPS, to provide you with an average shooting speed. A foot-pound of kinetic energy (FPKE) is an accurate measurement for the power of a shot, depending on the arrow’s weight. 

Combining speed, FPS, and FPKE gives you a good idea of which bow will be best for the type of animal you want to hunt. The compound bow consistently has the fastest speed, hovering around a maximum of 350 FPS.

However, the crossbow and some more inexpensive crossbow models measure between 350 and 400 FSP, making this bow the fastest shot between the two.

2. Range

There are two types of ranges: overall and adequate. The compound bow has an overall range of 100 yards and an acceptable range between 30 and 60 yards, depending on the archer. 

The crossbow with less accuracy, can shoot up to several hundred yards, making this bow the better option for range.

3. Shooting speed

bow hunting

When learning how to bow hunt, shooting speed refers to how fast you can shoot multiple shots with your bow. It helps if you always strive to kill with the first shot.

However, if your first shot is a miss, is a crossbow or a compound bow better for getting that second shot off to get the kill?

After many reviews, the compound bow is considered ideal for its shooting speed due to the ease of reloading and shooting multiple shots. 

4. Accuracy

When you aim with a crossbow, you have the advantage of using less effort to hold the draw when you cock the bolt. An added benefit to this bow is its high-powered scope.

The crossbow’s disadvantage is its weight and bulkiness. These features make it challenging to aim unless you have the bow resting on a flat surface. 

The compound bow is lighter in weight and easier to hold, but it can cause fatigue. Fatigue can cause accuracy issues as you must keep the draw while simultaneously aiming at your prey.

However, the compound bow has an anchor point on every shot, which increases accuracy. Both the crossbow and compound bow rely on accuracy and aiming, based on personal opinions from multiple experienced hunters.

5. Safety

During the shot, the primary safety concern with a crossbow. Always make sure of your fore-grip hand that you have no fingers or part of your hand in the way of the bowstring. 

Secondly, a cocked crossbow is much narrower than during and after a shot. No obstructions should be in the way of your crossbow’s limbs and cams. It is best not to walk around with a loaded and cocked crossbow, as this is a significant safety issue.

Uncocking your crossbow can also be risky. Only when you are ready and in control to take aim and fire does the compound bow have an arrow on the bowstring.

Although there are safety concerns when using a compound bow, this is the safer option. Experts recommend that you get your bow inspected by a certified professional before the start of each hunting season. 

An expert will check the wear and tear on your bow and ensure it is safe. Well-maintained bows are safe and avoid any potential harm due to a mechanical malfunction. Additionally, ensure that all your arrows are in good condition, with nothing broken or bent out of shape.

6. Portability

hunting with bow

If you are going on a hunt that requires sitting most of the time, using a crossbow won’t make a difference to your comfort or the portability of the bow. 

You won’t feel its weight or bulk because you’ll be in a resting position most of the time. However, if you are going on a hunt that requires walking, the compound bow will be better to use as it is lighter and easier to handle. 

Advancements made to the crossbow make it lighter and easier to manage, but the compound bow is still the better option for portability.

7. Maintenance

The crossbow and compound bow require regular maintenance and lubrication. Both bows require a close inspection before use, as well as regular bowstring waxing.

Any bowhunter should regularly take their bows for professional inspections to ensure they are functioning correctly.

Always keep your bow and equipment in a safe storage space during the off-season to ensure their upkeep.

In this instance, the crossbow requires more attention than the compound bow, as it has more parts to clean.

8. Noise

Although you can buy extra parts to make your crossbow quieter, the compound bow is much more silent when out in the field.

Final Word

When it comes to hunting and learning how to bow hunt, it all depends on your area’s regulations and personal preference. Read your local hunting laws to see if using a crossbow is legal in your state.

If a bow is legal to use in your state, it is up to you which bow holds the most appeal—the crossbow or the compound bow. So, consider where you’ll be hunting, the type of game you will be targeting, and your current physical status.

Practice, become proficient, and you will improve your chances of a successful hunt with whatever bow you choose.