With so many different crossbows to choose from, and with a drastically large price range of $300- $2000 one must ask are they all the same? Simply the answer is heck no! Just like anything else, you get what you pay for in most instances. In some cases you can get a budget crossbow from a trusted brand, do a few small tweaks, and you will be just as happy with it as you will a $1500 purchase. That is a key phrase there, "Trusted Brand." As far as deciding what makes up a trusted brand ask yourself these questions:
- What does their warranty look like?
- What is their reputation with products across the board?
- Where was it made?
- How easy is it to get replacement parts?
Once you've settled on a brand the next choice is your budget. Shoot a few different ones and pick the one that feels best; and gets you in the least amount of trouble with you know who! A few things you want to make top priority when purchasing a crossbow are safety, speed, weight balance, quietness, and a crisp trigger.
My crossbow is the BearX Fortus. It retails at $399 and shoots 350 fps out of the box. (We have found that most of them are actually shooting 355fps out of the box.) At $399 you can see that it is at the bottom of the price range. I trust the Bear brand, was impressed by their warranty, and the xbow fit me well. I've made a few tweaks that I'm going to share with you to explain how I'm going to push my Fortus to its maximum potential.
One way companies can sell you a crossbow with a smaller price tag is to put a lesser quality bolt in the box. Now I'm not saying that all factory bolts are bad, BUT I am saying that you can make an immediate improvement in accuracy and KE by upgrading. I got a hold of some Easton FMJ bolts, 20", and shot them in a group after shooting my factory bolts. There was a noticeable difference in sound from the shot and also in the size of my group at farther distances. The extra weight of the FMJ's helped to quiet my Fortus and blew its KE through the roof. It did slow the speed down however from 355fps to 338 fps. A welcomed trade for the decreased noise and increased penetration power.
This topic is simple. If your crossbow did not come with a rope cocker of some design, buy one! They are cheap. They are worth it. They are essential to your accuracy and safety while cocking your xbow. Cocking your crossbow by hand is definitely doable. It's also the free alternative. There is no way to be precise and consistent in where and how you grab the string and apply pressure while drawing it back. This can and will result in timing issues in your cams causing issues down range. Use a rope cocker.
Get comfortable with your scope if you aren't able to make an upgrade here. You will notice in the picture that the vertical line is not perfectly perpendicular with the ground. The farther your target, the more left or right you will hit if you are holding you crossbow at an angle. Another item to address on your scope is the screws and the eye relief. Put Loctite on every screw once you have it set perfectly and make sure the scope is set so that you can see the entire field of view from your most comfortable resting position. This is adjusted by moving the scope forward or backward.
While we are on the scope something that needs attention is your form. My dad always told me as a youngster learning to shoot to, "Stay in the scope." Pulling away to hopefully catch a better glimpse of your deer running off to its eminent death is enticing. It is also the reason for the majority of our misses. This is even more true with a crossbow. The bolt takes much longer to leave the rail than a bullet a barrel. So hold out. Stay in the scope until that bolt hits its mark.
You have to tune a compound bow. You can also tune a traditional bow. So why wouldn't you tune your crossbow? Most crossbows I come across have a slight to severe case of cam lean. What is cam lean? It is when the cams are not in line with the string coming off of it when locked in the drawn position. This can rob your xbow of speed, make it louder, cause more vibration and decrease accuracy. This is easily fixed by putting it in a press and making yoke adjustments to get them lined out. I also check cam timing while doing this as well; making sure the cams are both rotating equal amounts when fully drawn. (Take it to your local Pro Shop to have this done.) I don't know many, well no one actually, that use a crossbow and tune it like this. It may be because I'm primarily a compound shooter and I like to get my equipment as near to perfect as possible. These changes may or may not be necessary for the xbow you've undoubtedly killed multiple deer with. It will indeed increase its ability. Even if only ever so little.
With hunting season around the corner don't feel bad about getting a crossbow that does not tote a "top of the line price tag." You can make it shoot like a high-end bow by simply pushing it to its maximum potential. Make sure to check out the Easton Full Metal Jacket bolts. They come in 20" and 22" and check out the new line of Bear X Crossbows.