Should I Get a Crossbow or Compound Bow?

crossbow and compound bow

Successful hunting and target shooting take some serious planning, skill, woodsmanship, and your weapon.

Speaking of the latter, you might have heard many arguments and counter- arguments about how a crossbow or compound bar is the real deal.

And sometimes you are left wondering: should I Get a Crossbow or Compound Bow?

Well, we will match up the two in this article..

And see which of the two weapons carries the magic to make things happen out there during the upcoming deer hunting season.…

Let’s take aim…

Crossbow vs Compound Bow Face-off: Which is the best Pick?

Since some of us may be novices, let’s get the definitions out of our way first..

What Is a Crossbow?

A crossbow is simply a hunting tool, comprising of a bow-like construction mounted horizontally on a stock.

It has been around since the time of the medieval hunters and is used to shoot arrow-like projectiles referred to as bolts or quarrels.

It’s handheld and you squeeze the trigger – when your target comes perfectly on sight- just like we do a hunting rifle.

Contemporary crossbows are so much advanced and can cleanly take down the biggest American game such as the difficult mountain goat.

What Is a Compound Bow?

In modern hunting, a compound bow is nothing else but a bow that utilizes a levering system consisting of pulleys and cables making it easier to draw.

It’s more recent than the crossbow and has attained more popularity since the two-pulley design came around in the 1960s.

Besides hunting, you will find the compound bow being used in target practice including international target archery competitions (and even field archery).

What Are The Similarities And Differences?

The crossbow and compound bow share some prominent similarities, although you’ll notice some glaring differences too.

Let’s tackle the similarities first:

Similarities between crossbows and compound bows

Needless to remind you, the most outstanding similarity is that both bows are made with one goal: to take out game like no one’s business.

Whichever way you look at either, these should ultimately help you annihilate your favorite animal like a champ but, of course, sportsmanly.

Another quality that the two differently-styles bows share is that in both cases, the hunter usually determines how effective they’re through perfect skills and masterly of bushcraft.

I should also mention that they’re both short-range weapons.

Besides, we also all know how exciting it is to shoot with either tool.


Let’s move on

Differences between crossbows and compound bows:

Well, here there are several points that you should note…

Draw Weight:  The Crossbow wins

Perhaps one of the most notable differences between the two is in the draw weight (The amount of force you have to put in to properly draw your bow).

Take note that crossbows typically have double an ordinary compound bow’s draw weight (also called poundage).

Now, the less draw weight means that compound bows are far much easier to draw.

But on the other hand, crossbow’s higher draw weight gives them more power and is a dream for some veteran hunters targeting big time game.

Obviously, this somehow cancels out the drawback of being tougher to draw.

Are we together this far?

I want us now to discuss another major difference…

Handling: The crossbow wins

There’s also the question of which among the two is friendlier to shoot with and more comfortable.

Now, overwhelmingly, the crossbow wins this round.

You see, with a crossbow, all you need to do is pull to aim your arrow and let go (You can always wait for the perfect shot).

In fact, its mechanics are such easy that a physically handicapped person who can’t even shoot a regular bow and arrow will comfortably aim and fell a trophy using a crossbow.

A compound bow, on the other hand, needs more careful handling and concentration as you take aim.

Licensing: The compound bow wins

As we speak, there’s some fear that people can use crossbows – of course they’re quite lethal- and some states require that you get a special permit to use them.

In many others, such as Arkansas, you’re only allowed to practice with it during the archery seasons.

Even then, certain states set extra conditions.

Take Alaska, for example.

Here, you can only use a crossbow with minimum poundage of 125 lbs. In addition, you have to ensure that your crossbow is mechanically safe. 

Still, in other states, only people beyond a certain age can use a crossbow.

A good example is Iowa which allows only resident hunters over 70 years old to engage in deer hunting with a crossbow.

In other words, a crossbow is more feared and the authorities try their best to control its use.

Conversely, compound bows happen to be legal in nearly all states, though you may still need a hunting license especially if you own a more powerful type.

The Powerstroke: The compound bow triumphs

I nearly forgot this….

When it comes to the bow’s powerstroke, the hunter using a compound bow is at a great advantage.

I will first explain what powerstroke means for you to better compare the two types of bows..

Now, in simple terms, powerstroke is that length measured from the bow’s string at maximum draw up to its resting point. 

You can also simplify it further and roughly view it as the draw length.

And it turns out that this ‘length’ is super important when it becomes to powering your arrow/bolt.

Here is how.

The longer your bow’s powerstroke, the faster your arrow will fly towards the target and the more energy it will ooze.

For this reason, a hunter with a 32-inch draw will generally shoot faster compared to his peer with a 29-inch draw due to the extra 3 inches powerstroke.

The secret behind a compound bow ‘out-powering’ the crossbow lies in the modifications you need to raise the powerstroke….

Specifically, a simple module change elongates the draw length in a compound bar.

But crossbows require a much complicated procedure (you must install a longer stock) which often ends up making them heavier.  

Consequently, you tend to receive a better powerstroke in a compound bow.

Vibration and noise: The compound bow scores big yet again

Admittedly, crossbows have really improved and are much more powerful compared to the days gone by.

But this has also resulted in some undesirable results.

For example, the amplified power and velocity leads to more vibration meaning that you’ll experience more noise than compound bows.

And we all know, this might send the animals scampering for safety increasing the probability that you could end your day out empty handed.

The main reason why compound bows are quieter vis-à-vis crossbows is because their longer limbs let you gradually release the bow’s stored energy. They additionally have a reduced string vibration.

Accuracy of the shot: The winner is seemingly the crossbow

It’s fair to say that the compound bow has this far landed some huge blows on the crossbow…

But we can’t declare him the winner this early so let briefly examine the shooting accuracy and see how these two very close weapons rate.

Suffice to say that the issue of aiming accuracy isn’t as forthright as the rest..

Actually, regardless of the type of bow you’re using, you’ll struggle to aim precisely if your skills level is inadequate.

Indeed, it’s almost impossible to say one is better than the other without being biased now that precision largely depends on the hunter.

That notwithstanding, experts contend that crossbows are naturally more accurate even for beginners.

I am tempted to agree since they’re easier to sight.

Also, remember that it’s shot in the same manner like a rifle and so you won’t have much trouble acquiring a steady aim as long as you can shoot any standard gun.
The easy-to-grasp handle also helps you hold aim longer meaning you have ample time to pinpoint your target more accurately.

But it eventually boils down to who you ask.

For example, shooters participating in archery events with compound bows may allege that the consistent anchor point in compound bows give them a precision advantage during tournaments.

Other notable differences

  • Dimensions: The crossbow traditionally has a shorter axle-axle than compound bows. They are thus more compact making them better equipped for chasing down prey that likes to hide in tight spaces.
  • Learning Curve: It goes without saying that the design of a crossbow makes it easier to learn. I am speaking about its fixed draw length, precise bolt housing, and, like I hinted above, the comfier handle.
  • Operation: A cocked crossbow is as dangerous as a loaded rifle and can misfire. The compound bow uses a release aid and doesn’t come with such a coking component.
  • Reloading: Re-cocking your crossbow is a bit cumbersome than nocking arrows in a compound bow.

And as you can see, we can go on and on..

But since we want to answer the question should I Get a Crossbow or Compound Bow?, I will tabulate the advantages and disadvantages of each to make things plainer.

Crossbow and compound bows: advantage and disadvantages

Key Crossbow Compound bow
AdvantagesEasier learning curve.More power.More compact (better for tight spots). Can be used by disabled hunters.Relatively more accurate.Better powerstroke.Faster to reload. Quieter. Less draw weight. No cocking risk. More agreeable legislation
DisadvantagesHigher draw weight.Riskier when cocked.Noisier.Discriminative legislation. Slower to reload.Steeper learning curve. Difficult to handle for people with disabilities.

Crossbow vs compound bow: Our verdict

We would be doing a great injustice if we label one better than the other.

That’s because our hunting needs differ. Plus, there is the issue of skills, hunting environment, and even our previous experience.

And so the best way to answer the question about which is going to be more fun for you is first asking yourself these questions…

 Question Should you get
a crossbow or compound bow?
Our comments
Do you have any physical handicaps?CrossbowThese are easier to handle for people that have mobility impairments
Are you just starting out?CrossbowThe crossbow is certainly easier to pick up
What are your usual hunting conditions and animals?If you’re always in tight spaces, the crossbow is preferable but if you deal with trophies that need quicker reloading and more efficiency, a compound bow will be ideal.Consider all your needs and hunting terrain and evaluate each weapons' pros and cons before selecting. Or buy both 🙂
Are you experienced in shotgun/rifle hunting?CrossbowHandling is similar to rifles
Do you find the traditional hunting method more fun?Compound bowWith a compound bow, your whole body is essentially part of the weapon itself
Do you want to experiment with a different type of bow?Pick a compound bow if you’ve been using a crossbow and vice versa.Be prepared to suffer lower success rates out in the wild during the learning phase.

Have you’ve gotten the idea?

In a nutshell, it’s up to you.

For instance, if you don’t mind the steeper learning curve that comes with a compound bow, you will benefit from a better powerstroke.

Plus quieter hunting.

But you will have to live with it being more difficult to aim with, at least until you have mastered it.


I can bet that you’ve heard someone claim that a crossbow is no match for a compound bow.

Or that you’re likely to be more proficient with a crossbow during the hunting season.

But now you know better. Don’t you?

And hopefully the question should I Get a Crossbow or Compound Bow will no longer bother you.

Instead, look at the advantages and limitations of each type of bow and compare these with your requirements.

That way, you will easily come to a decision.

And in case you’re still in doubt, you can hire each of the tools and experiment with it out there.

You will never go wrong with this strategy.

Happy hunting and target shooting!

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