The Best Recurve Crossbow: Our Picks
In the world of crossbows, recurve crossbows are a unique breed: they’re easy to load, easy to use, and with their long limbs and long barrel, they can provide a great deal of speed and accuracy. They're not as well-known as compound crossbows, but they've got a lot of advantages.
Here, we’ll take an in-depth look into recurve crossbows, and discuss our favorite options. Our list contains selections across a range of types and models, and we’ve included a quick “buying guide” at the end to help you choose the best recurve crossbow for your needs.
Quick Picks: Our Favorite Recurve Crossbows
Before we dive into too much detail, here’s our list of top picks:
Our Picks for Best Beginner Recurve Crossbows:
The CenterPoint Tyro: Best for beginners and folks who want to get started hunting or target shooting right away
The K Exclusive Avalanche Anaconda: Our “runner-up” starter recurve crossbow—it’s got a solid construction and helpful accessories
Our Picks for Best Intermediate Crossbows:
The Excalibur Matrix GRZ2: A good option for intermediate crossbow users, with high-end construction matched to mid-range power
The Barnett Blackcat: Our “runner-up” intermediate crossbow, because of its focus on hunting and ready-to-use set-up that includes broadheads
Our Picks for Best Expert / High-End Crossbows:
The Excalibur Matrix Bulldog 440: An incredibly powerful yet surprisingly lightweight model, a solid option for bowhunting (and bowhunting big game)
The Excalibur Micro MAG 340: This model earns a place on our favorites list by providing deluxe quality in a compact, agile frame
Our Pick for Best Repeating Crossbow:
The EK Archery RX Adder: Our pick for best repeating crossbow, due to its versatility and ease of use
Our Picks for Best Pistol Recurve Crossbows:
The Snake Eye Tactical Cobra: Our top pick for pistol crossbow—we were impressed with the versatility of this small yet powerful option, and finally.
The M84 Hell Hawk: For its size, the Hell Hawk has incredibly fast bolts, and a convenient Picatinny rail—our “runner-up” pistol crossbow.
The Best Recurve Crossbow: Our Selections
OK, now that you’ve read the overviews, let’s get into the nitty-gritty, and take a very close look at each of the recurve crossbows on our list. We’ll start with what we consider a great option:
The CenterPoint Tyro Recurve Crossbow
Summary: The CenterPoint Tyro combines everything we want to see in an entry-level recurve crossbow: safety, ease of use, and power.
Lots of safety features
The biggest problem new archers often discover when looking for a starter crossbow is finding one that allows them to hone their skills, while still being capable options for target shooting and/or bowhunting. We think the CenterPoint Tyro is a good option because while it’s an entry-level bow and is easy to use, it has the power and durability you often see in more “deluxe” options.
We’ll start with the most important component for a beginner: the safety features. The Tyro features an auto-safety mechanism, so if you forget to turn activate it (as beginners are apt to do!), you’ll be less likely to hurt yourself or others by accidentally firing the weapon, and the attached cocking stirrup at the front also lets you more easily cock the crossbow, which can prevent injury—you’d be amazed at how many crossbow injuries occur while loading a bolt. Both are those are, in our humble opinion, fantastic safety features.
Now for the “fun” feature: power. The Tyro hits bolt speeds of 245 FPS, which is on the higher side of things, especially for a beginner recurve crossbow. It’s not as fast as some of the high-end models out there, but it means you can practice without being overwhelmed by the speed and power of more advanced crossbows, and it’s still enough to hunt mid-sized game like turkey and whitetail deer. Keep in mind, you’ll need to do so at closer range—usually within 40 yards for a crossbow of this caliber—but nonetheless, pretty good.
Our biggest complaint about this model, though, is the accessories. It’s nice for a beginner crossbow to come with accessories at all—they can help you get started and learn how to use them—and the Tyro includes a sight and attached quiver with four aluminum bolts. Those will let you hit the ground running, but you may want to “trade up” for better accessories once you get your bearings.
Finally, the quality of the Tyro’s construction and design is worth noting, especially for an entry-level bow. Recurve crossbows in general need less maintenance than other types, and the Tyro’s compression-molded fiberglass limbs can potentially take years of repeated use without breaking down. That means that you can keep the Tyro in your arsenal even if after you’ve become an archery expert.
The K Exclusive Avalanche Anaconda Crossbow
Summary: The quality construction and effective-but-manageable specs make the K Exclusive Avalanche Anaconda a great way for beginners to start learning.
Assembly can be challenging
The K Exclusive is another option with specs appropriate for beginners, but a lot of raw power great for target shooting or bowhunting.
While it may sound like a lot, the 175 pounds of draw weight isn’t too much, especially thanks to the included cocking rope, and it provides 245 FPS of bolt speed—not too shabby for a recurve crossbow. With short ranges under 40 yards, that can be enough to accurately hunt small- to mid-sized game, from varmint to turkey to white-tail or mule-tail deer—and it’s certainly enough to start target practicing!
The biggest downside to the Avalanche Anaconda is that the assembly can be somewhat difficult. It’s not the construction is poor—in fact, the parts themselves seem to be well-made, and that can translate to durability in the long-run. It’s that the instructions can be a bit minimal, and that can be a challenge for someone with no crossbow experience. If you’re having a lot of trouble, you can always head for YouTube, or even better, take it to your local pro shop, and ask them for their help.
This model’s accessories are another perk. K Exclusive has designed the Avalanche Anaconda to be a complete crossbow kit to get beginners started right away, and they’ve included a stringer, wax, a sling, a red-dot scope, and a quiver with four aluminum bolts. That’s pretty decent. It would be nice to see some broadheads, but maybe that’s a little greedy of us 😉
The Excalibur Matrix GRZ2 Recurve Crossbow
Summary: A mid-range crossbow with the features and craftsmanship of a deluxe model, the Excalibur Matrix GRZ2 is our pick for those beginners looking to take their archery skills to the next level.
Capable of great accuracy
Minimal safety features
Excalibur is well-known in the archery and bowhunting community for making high-quality, deluxe crossbow models that are powerful tools for expert crossbowmen. With the Excalibur Matrix GRZ2, they take that same craftsmanship but put it into a mid-range bow more accessible for intermediate archers. We’d probably list this as the best recurve crossbow overall, and we think very highly of it.
First and foremost, Excalibur manufacturers the GRZ2 with the same synthetic material they use for many of their other models, including what they refer to as a “Feather-Lite Skeletonized Stock. In other words, “very light, very strong.” Altogether, the material makes for a lightweight crossbow that’s still durable, which can allow you to take the crossbow into more extreme hunting conditions—something you may be itching to do if you’ve graduated from your beginner model!
The speed and performance can also be a step up for someone used to starter bows. With a bolt speed of 305 FPS, a draw weight of 200 pounds, and 72.3 FPKE (that is, kinetic energy in foot-pounds—very good), the GRZ2 can shoot accurately at midrange and take down mid-sized to large game, like elk, moose, or bear (but you should consult your state’s conservation rules to be 100% sure it meets requirements). It can handle serious target shooting as well.
Here’s the catch: to make this a mid-range bow with high-end construction, Excalibur had to skimp on a couple of features. One of the most notable feature missing is noise suppression. The GRZ2 has very little noise suppression, and that’s important if you’re using it for hunting. A loud shot could mean you spook game, essentially limiting you to a single, all-or-nothing bolt, which not a great situation for people still working on their accuracy. You can add a noise suppression kit, but it would be nice if it came with one. The GRZ2 is also missing safety features like an auto-safety and anti-dry-fire mechanism, so it’s not the best option for beginners, and those with some experience should be careful as well—and be especially with any beginner they may want to take on a hunting trip.
Lastly, the crossbow is easy to assemble and maintain, and while there are plenty of options for upgrading the GRZ2 with your own accessories, and it comes with a scope, a rope-cocking aid that makes the high 200 pounds of draw weight more accessible for intermediate users, and three bolts equipped with field points that fit in an attached four-bolt quiver.
We’re big fans, and this gets our pick for best recurve crossbow overall.
The Barnett Blackcat Recurve Crossbow
Summary: With minimal assembly and hunter-specific features, the Barnett Blackcat comes ready-to-hunt mid-sized game with both safety and accuracy. A great option for new crossbow hunters.
Ready to rock
3-dot laser sight
Relatively low firing speed
We believe the Barnett Blackcat to be a good mid-range option for someone who only wants to use their crossbow for hunting, more specifically, game like white-tailed deer or turkey. Because the assembly is so straightforward—it comes nearly ready to go—you might not need to know a lot about crossbows or general archery to get into the woods and start hunting. That can be especially nice if you’re a rifle hunter, and you want to take advantage of the few extra months of hunting that crossbow hunting can provide.
The one thing to keep in mind about the Blackcat is that the bolt speed on this model is 260 FPS. That’s good, and it’s enough for mid-sized game, but it’s not enough for big game, and you’ll be less accurate at longer distances. To balance out those challenges, Barnett includes a red-dot laser sight that can greatly improve accuracy. Those sights can help tremendously, and they’re what can make a “good” option a “very good” option. The kit also includes two aluminum bolts with hunting broadheads already equipped.
Despite tough construction and a durable frame, the Blackcat manages to weigh in at only 4.8 pounds, and that can make it a great option for hiking and trekking. It also has an anti-dry-fire mechanism and finger safety reminders to prevent accidents in the woods—another great feature for new hunters (just remember to switch the mechanism off if you’re lucky enough to get your eyes on some game!).
The Excalibur Matrix Bulldog 440 Crossbow
Summary: Our pick for best deluxe recurve crossbow; when it comes to high-end models, the Excalibur Matrix Bulldog 440 has one of the fastest bolt speeds on the market and is capable of pinpoint accuracy.
Capable of incredible accuracy
We can’t really find any structural disadvantages of this model…!
The Excalibur Matrix Bulldog 440 is our favorite high-end recurve crossbow and our top recommendation for the big game hunter, including elk, moose, or bear. As the name suggests, it hits bolt speeds of 440 FPS, which is blistering fast for a crossbow in general, not to mention a recurve—recurve crossbows tend to have a lower FPS than compound crossbows, but that’s a trade-off you won’t need to make here. 440 FPS is fast.
The high firing speed by itself can provide considerable accuracy—even at longer ranges—and the Tact-100 scope has an adjustable mount so that you can sight it in as accurately as possible. That can take some time, but it can make a considerable different in precision. Those features are fantastic, but what we like even more is the three-pound Pro-Shot trigger. You’ll have to mean it when you let loose a bolt—no more loosed bolts because your finger twitched. If you’ve ever used a hair-trigger crossbow and loosed a bolt before you were ready, you know how frustrating that can be—we think that three-pound trigger is a really nice feature.
The Bulldog also stands out amongst other deluxe recurve crossbows because of its lightweight and reasonably-sized frame. At only 6.2 pounds, it’s lighter than many crossbows that don’t come close to its firing speed. That can make it great for multi-day big-game wilderness hunting trips—not only will that weight bear you down a little less, but the size of it is more maneuverable in tree stands, or on horseback, or even just still hunting through thick brush.
Finally, we have to mention the crank, which can be a considerable upgrade from the rope cocker because it decreases cocking time and noise. That’s important when hunting, especially multi-day wilderness hunts where you don’t want to spook everything around and ruin the whole trip.
Excalibur has conveniently made the Bulldog 440 with cheek supports for both right- and left-handed people, and they’ve included four proflight bolts with field points attached to a four-bolt quiver. The bolts can certainly be effective, but for hunting, it’s probably best to upgrade the tips to hunting broadheads.
Overall, the best of the bunch, in our humble opinion.
The Excalibur Micro MAG 340 Recurve Crossbow
Summary: The Excalibur Micro MAG 340 finds a good middle ground between deluxe and intermediate models through a small, lightweight frame with useful accessories, including a noise-dampener, which can make it great for bowhunting.
Small ATA length
Noise dampener included
Difficult to cock
The Excalibur Micro MAG 340 is an interesting bow because it lies somewhere in between a mid-range model and deluxe. It’s got a very decent amount of power, but it has a few of the imperfections you see in mid-tier crossbows.
This is most apparent in the firing speed of 340 FPS. This is fast, and faster than most vertical bows are capable of reaching, but still not as fast as the most high-end crossbows that can top out at over 400 FPS. Those numbers make it more accessible to those who still feel they’re in that “intermediate” archery arena and don’t really need the fastest model out there.
More importantly, the lower firing speed means the bow can be smaller. With an ATA length of 25 inches when uncocked and a weight of just 5.5 pounds, the MAG 340 still packs a punch while being more maneuverable. That’s great for still hunting, stalk hunting, and perhaps more than anything else, stand hunting. It can be difficult to wield larger crossbows in a stand, and Micro MAG 340 seems suited to in-stand maneuverability.
The most notable problem with the MAG 340 is that it can be difficult to cock. It has a powerful 270 pounds of draw weight but no crank, like you’d see on higher-end models, so you have to use an included rope cocking aid, and that can slow down the process a little bit. That can be a big deal when you’re in the stand, you let loose a bolt, and you miss—you’ll want to reload as quickly as possible. So that’s a minus, but not a terrible one, especially considering the added accuracy crossbows can have. To that, it features a dead-zone scope, and that’s definitely an asset.
The EK Archery RX Adder Crossbow
Summary: Repeating crossbows are a lot of fun, and we think the EK Archery RX Adder is one of the best options for taking advantage of this advanced technology.
Limited bolt options
Repeating crossbows feel like a brand-new invention, but they actually have a long history, going all the way back to ancient China. They gave armies a serious tactical advantage, especially in urban warfare, because the automatic reloading mechanism saved a lot of time and crossbow archers could shoot at much faster rates. These days, repeating crossbows are somewhat rare, and EK Archery is actually one of few modern manufacturers who makes them.
If you’re looking for a repeating crossbow, we suggest EK Archery’s RX Adder model for its ease of use and versatility. Specifically, we like the self-cocking mechanism—it involves a forward level, and it’s really easy to use. Load it, cock it, shoot it. The five-bolt magazine is gravity powered, meaning that after you shoot, a new bolt falls down into the barrel, and an easy flip of the lever mechanism cocks the bowstring again.
As for versatility, the Adder shoots at 230 FPS, which is pretty decent. You could potentially hunt small game with it, but as always, you should check your state’s draw weight / bolt speed laws before doing so.
The main thing to keep in mind with this model is the bolt specification. The Adder uses 7.5-inch Adder bolts, and since it has an attached magazine with specific dimensions, you can only use these bolts. Fortunately, it comes with five already, so that’s a plus, but they can be difficult to replace.
The Snake Eye Tactical Cobra Crossbow
Summary: The Snake Eye Tactical Cobra makes the most of the pistol crossbow design by providing a long range and versatile design options.
Surprisingly long range for a pistol
Several available designs
Hard to aim
Pistol crossbows are a lot of fun, but they have plenty of practical uses, and they can be great options for hunting small game (it can be a drag to haul around a regular-sized crossbow just down a pheasant or a rabbit. And even target shooters can enjoy them in close-range pistol crossbow events.
The Snake Eye Tactical Cobra has some nice specs and some decent stats—it has 80 pounds of draw weight, providing 165 FPS of bolt speed and accuracy out to 18 yards—but our favorite aspect of the crossbow is that it’s relatively easy to cock, thanks to the rear lever system (and you can get it with a front-end stirrup, if you prefer that for cocking). That’s pretty much all we could ask for in a pistol recurve.
Our biggest problem with the Cobra is that it can be difficult to aim. That’s more of a criticism of pistol crossbows in general, though, so we can’t fault it too much for that. It can also be a bit difficult to assemble.
The M48 Hell Hawk Recurve Crossbow
Summary: With an assault-style frame devoted to tactical advantage, the M48 Hell Hawk is a fun crossbow that can pack a lot of power.
Picatinny rail for accessories
Adjustable butt stock
High bolt speed
We try not to get too wrapped up in this sort of thing, but the M48 Hell Hawk is just cool to look at. It has an assault-style design that includes an adjustable and removable buttstock, as well as a Picatinny rail along the barrel, that allows you to attach all sorts of tactical accessories like lasers and flashlights. Pretty neat.
For a pistol crossbow, the Hell Hawk packs a punch—its 80 pounds of draw weight produces bolt speeds of 185 FPS, and that’s faster than a lot of pistol crossbow models we’ve come across. It also features a fiber-optic sight, which we really like—one of the knocks against pistol crossbows is that they’re difficult to aim, so that sight can even things out a bit.
The only issue that sticks out to us when looking at the Hell Hawk is the increased length. You can adjust it between 22 and 24.4 inches, which is a bit long for a pistol crossbow. That can be an issue if you’re looking for a pistol crossbow for its maneuverability—it’s a little bit bigger than some other pistols you may find. This model is probably less of a side-arm and more of a primary small-game or target weapon.
And… there you have it! That’s about all the recurve crossbows we can think of. We hope there’s something for you’re here, and if you need some help choosing one, then the following sections may help you:
Things to Be Aware of When Looking for a Recurve Crossbow
Bolt Speed and Kinetic Energy
Naturally, different crossbow models shoot their bolts at different speeds, measured in feet per second, or FPS. That measurement of speed has a lot of implications, and if you’re looking for a recurve crossbow for hunting, you especially need to pay attention, because higher speed means more kinetic energy, which means the ability to hunt bigger game.
Kinetic energy also changes based on the weight of your bolts, so unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast rule about how much kinetic energy you’ll need. That said, for big game like moose, elk, and bear, you probably want the fastest you can find, near or over 400 FPS. For mid-sized game like whitetail deer and turkey, you can go a bit slower, between 250-350 FPS. For small-sized game like rabbit and squirrel, crossbows shooting under 200 FPS can be enough.
It’s not just energy, though. Faster bolt speeds mean more accuracy because your bolt travels farther before it begins to drop. You can also shoot accurately and longer ranges. However, this can be harder to manage for new archers, so you may need to work your way up to higher bolt speeds if you don’t have the experience yet.
Size and Weight
While recurve crossbows have the advantage of low maintenance and easy use, they have one main disadvantage: limb length, also known as ATA length. Long limbs can get caught on things and make noise or disrupt your aim. Plus, they add material which increases weight.
For target shooting, increased size isn’t such a big deal, but when searching for a recurve crossbow for hunting, it’s important. Noise can spook game, and getting a limb caught at just the wrong time can mean a lost opportunity. More significantly, heavy crossbows are hard to hold and aim for long periods of time, which might be necessary while you wait for your quarry to come into range. You also have to consider that you’ll have to carry your crossbow with you while hunting, which is harder the heavier it is.
Hunting or Target Archery
Recurve crossbows are great options for bowhunters. That’s because bowhunting season is usually considerably longer than rifle season. You can take advantage of this with a crossbow without having to worry about the more technical aspects of a vertical bow.
That said, if you’re getting a recurve crossbow for hunting, there are certain things to look for. Size and weight are important since you’ll have to carry your crossbow through the woods while making little noise. You also might want accessories like a scope, light, and sling as well as little things like a camo finish. You’ll also need hunting broadheads for your bolts which may or may not be included with your crossbow.
The most important thing to check, though, is your local laws. There are often regulations that require you to use a minimum draw weight or bolt speed to hunt certain game. This is to prevent you from injuring an animal without killing it, causing undue pain and suffering, as a result of a crossbow that’s too weak.
Target shooters don’t really have these concerns. If you’re a target shooter, your main focus when looking for a recurve crossbow is accuracy. Of course, there are other factors to consider as well like ease of maintenance and versatility. There’s also no reason you can’t look for a crossbow to do both.
Getting the crossbow that’s right for you means getting one you can manage based on your experience level. As a beginner, you probably aren’t ready for the high firing speeds and draw weights of deluxe models while as an expert, you need just this to take your archery to the next level. Our reviews divide recurve crossbows into three levels: beginner or starter, intermediate or mid-range, and deluxe or high-end. While not all models fit exactly into these molds, it’s a good frame of reference to have in mind.
Your Own Tastes
Last but certainly not least, you should go for a recurve crossbow that you like. That could mean the design, the name, the brand, whatever. After all, archery should be something you enjoy, and your crossbow is a big part of that. Don’t get stressed worrying about specs and designs. Get something you’ll like and will have fun using. With the right recurve crossbow, good times are right around the corner.
Did We Miss Anything?
…nothing we can think of! That’s a pretty decent discussion of recurve crossbows. Compound crossbows may have more notoriety, but as far as ease-of-use and maintenance go, recurve crossbows are hard to beat—especially when you consider the draw weight and FPS many models are capable of achieving.
Alright—we hope that helps! Good luck, have fun, and happy shooting!