Compound Bow vs Crossbow

When Is a Compound Bow vs Crossbow the Best Choice?

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Are you thinking about getting a new bow for the upcoming archery season? Maybe you’ve considered getting a compound crossbow instead of a compound bow, but you’re not sure if it would be better to try shooting a crossbow over a bow.

Maybe you’ve heard that crossbows are better than a compound bow, but maybe you’ve also heard that a compound crossbow not as good as a compound bow. Or you’re afraid your bow hunting buddies will disown you for trying something new?

Hunting buddies aside, a crossbow is a tool that is worth considering if you are looking to get a new weapon. Most states allow crossbow hunting, either during bow season or during the general firearm season. So should you get a crossbow? Let’s review the advantages and disadvantages of each and the choice should become a little clearer.

Two Styles of Bow – One Objective

When it comes to compound bows and crossbows, they’re made for the same purpose: to hunt game. No matter what you think of crossbows, the objective is the same: harvest an animal in an efficient and sportsmanlike manner.

Crossbows, like compound bows, are a tool to get the job done. At the end of the day, if the weapon helps you bring home meat for the table, it’s a good weapon to have.

Compound crossbows are generally more powerful than compound bows. They can stay cocked for hours once you load them, and you do not have to unload your crossbow until the end of the day. This means the crossbow is ready to fire, only when you are.

To make matters more confusing, just like there are compound bows and recurve bows, there are compound crossbows and recurve crossbows. Each of which has their own advantages and disadvantages.

Pros and Cons of Crossbows vs Compound Bows

There are a lot of differences between a compound and a compound crossbow and below are some of the differences that might help you in choosing one over the other.

Making The Case for the Crossbow


  • Beginner Friendly – Crossbows are arguably easier to learn and shoot accurately than other types of bows. See some of the top entry-level crossbows here.
  • More Kinetic Energy – You can obtain crossbows with much higher draw weights and kinetic energy than compound bows.
  • Ready to Fire – Compound crossbows are ready to fire once you cock the crossbow and nock a crossbow bolt, i.e., a crossbow arrow, and stay ready to fire indefinitely if they are not unloaded.
  • Compact Frame – While not as narrow as a firearm, crossbows are compact enough to hunt in the brush, overgrown thickets, as well as tight spaces in a tree stand.
  • Stays Cocked – You do not have to hold the compound crossbow’s string the way you do with a compound bow to aim and fire. You have less strain on your muscles and joints once it is cocked.
  • Disability Friendly – Crossbows are usually easier to work with when it comes to physical disadvantages.
  • Higher Draw Weights for All – You aren’t limited in draw weight by your own physical abilities with a crossbow.
  • Easy Transition from Rifles – Compound crossbows have a familiar feel and action for those who hunt with a shotgun and rifle. They can introduce rifle and shotgun hunters into the world of archery.


  • Higher Draw Weight – Crossbows require twice the amount of draw weight to send a crossbow arrow at the same speed as a compound bow. That means a 150 lb crossbow will send the crossbow bolt at the same speed like an arrow shot from a 75 lb compound bow.
  • Loaded Weapon – Once you cock the crossbow, you must treat it like the loaded weapon it is. And just like a rifle, it can be prone to misfire.
  • Slower Reload – Cocking a crossbow is a lot slower than nocking an arrow with a compound bow. Once you shoot you must use a cocking device or cocking rope to pull back the crossbow’s string.
  • Heavier -Crossbows are heavier and unwieldy when compared to the lighter compound bow.
  • More Potential for Noise – Compound crossbows are relatively noisy when they release because of the stored up energy in the limbs.
  • Must be Unloaded – Compound crossbows must be unloaded at the end of the day and require either a discharge target, unloading bolt, or a defusing device such as a crossbow defuser.
  • Inconsistent Regulations – Some states limit the draw weight of crossbows, and some states require special circumstances for use.

Making The Case for the Compound Bow


  • No Cocking Device – Compound bows do not require a special device to nock an arrow, although you will need a release aid.
  • Stealth – Compound bows are usually quiet in comparison, the longer limbs allow for a more gradual release of the bows stored energy.
  • Mechanical Advantage – Compound bows have a “let off” when the string is pulled. The draw weight reduces to half when the bowstring is half drawn, making it easier to draw – and hold – a heavy bow.
  • Faster Reload – Compound bows are faster to reload than compound crossbows. Not that you’ll be Robbin Hood, but it only requires pulling another arrow and drawing back again, no cranking or cocking required.
  • Lighter – Compound bows are usually lighter than crossbows.


  • Physical Strength Required – Your physical strength limits your draw weight, even with a 50 percent let off.
  • Hold and Fire – You must nock an arrow and draw in order to shoot. The compound bow cannot stay in a ready to shoot position longer than the bowhunter can hold the draw.
  • Longer Axle to Axle – Compound bows, although made to be compact, can still have trouble shooting in thick brush and brambles.
  • High Skill Required – It usually takes a fair amount of practice and form to become proficient with a compound bow.
  • Physical Limitations – Those who have physical limitations may have trouble operating a compound bow.

What to Choose?

So, which type of bow should you get? Should you get a compound bow, or should you try a crossbow? Both obviously have their advantages and disadvantages.

The greatest advantage the crossbow has over the compound bow is the ability to maintain a loaded, ready to fire condition, whereas the compound bow, though faster when loading, may lose out on a shot to the crossbow.

Crossbows: Crossbows can be learned quickly and allow those with physical limitations to hunt with a bow readily. While they are not fast while loading, they can have more kinetic energy than compound bows. Furthermore, the mechanism behind the crossbow is very familiar to those who are used to rifle and shotgun hunting.

Compound Bows: Bows are lighter and quieter than crossbows, but they require practice and training to become proficient with them. They also do not need a special mechanism to load them. If you want a more traditional approach to bowhunting, stick with the tried and true vertical bow.

Both bows are excellent choices, depending on your needs. You may simply want a crossbow simply to try out another facet of bow hunting that people usually don’t try. Regardless of which bow you decide to get, both are excellent choices provided you keep in mind their advantages and limitations.

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