The Best Recurve Crossbow: Our Picks for 2023

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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 have 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 buyer’s guide at the end to help you choose the best recurve crossbow for your needs.

The Best Recurve Crossbows: Our Top Picks

We’ll get to the full reviews in a second, but first we want to give you a brief list of our favorites with a short explanation of why they made our list. This way you can easily jump to the reviews of the crossbows that seem relevant to your personal situation.

Excalibur Micro Mag 340: With balanced power and important bowhunting features, it’s our overall top pick.

Barnett Wildcat: Since it’s a ready-to-hunt package, you can get started faster.

Excalibur Assassin 400 TD: This is our top recommendation for hunters specializing in whitetail deer.

CenterPoint Tyro 4X: It’s a great choice for beginners who need something safe and easy to learn on.

Excalibur Matrix Bulldog 440: It’s the fastest product recurve crossbow currently on the market with 440 fps of bolt speed.

Excalibur TwinStrike Crossbow Package: Unique technology allows you to fire two bolts from two different rails at once.

PSE Archery Viper SS Handheld Crossbow Package: We recommend this model for survivalism due to its high bolt speed and self-cocking mechanism.

Southland Archery Supply SAS Jaguar: It’s bare-bones and easy to use and hunt with regardless of your budget.

Snake Eye Tactical Cobra-System Pistol Crossbow: We consider this the best pistol crossbow available thanks to its long range.

EK Archery RX Adder: It’s hard to find a better, smoother repeating crossbow for both fun and practical purposes.

The Best Recurve Crossbows: Our In-Depth Reviews

In these reviews, we’ll go over all the details. We’ll dive into the features, specifications and unique aspects of each model and describe why that might benefit certain people and situations. If you found a crossbow in our top picks that stood out, make sure you read its full review to see if it could be the best recurve crossbow for you.

The Best Recurve Crossbow Overall: Excalibur Micro MAG 340

Our Verdict: 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, making it a model that fits a range of bowhunting applications and our favorite overall.

Excalibur Mag 340 Accurate Durable Safety Hunting Archery Crossbow, Mossy Oak Break-Up Country
  • HIGH PERFORMANCE – The Mag 340 brings best-in-class performance, value, accuracy, and a lifetime warranty; This archery crossbow is is designed to take care of all your needs, capable of taking down any animal in any situation
  • ACCESSORIES – The Mag 340 crossbow comes equipped with: Rope Cocking aid, Dead Zone Scope, 1-inch scope rings, Guardian Anti-Dry-Fire scope mount, 4-Arrow quiver, R.E.D.S. Suppressors, 3 Quill 16.5″ arrows, 3 100gr field points
  • COMFORTABLE & SILENT- The Rope Cocking Aid creates comfortable cocking and decocking of any Excalibur crossbow by reducing the felt draw weight by up to 50%; The R.E.D.S Suppressors can be positioned to reduce shock, vibration, and noise

Pros:

  • Manageable FPS

  • Lightweight

  • Narrow ATA length

  • Noise dampener included

  • Included cocking aid

  • Dead-zone scope included

Cons:

  • Lower FPS than some models

  • No cocking crank

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’s still manageable and accessible for archers who don’t go hunting every weekend for long periods of time.

The most important feature to address is 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. But missing that shot is a lot less likely anyway since you get a dead-zone scope included in the package.

Best Ready-to-Hunt Recurve Crossbow Package: Barnett Wildcat

Our Verdict: If you don’t want to go through the hassle of picking out individual crossbow accessories and just want to hit the tree stand, the Barnett Wildcat is a ready-to-hunt package that will get you started faster.

Barnett Wildcat Camo Recurve Crossbow Hunting Package, with 4x32mm Multi-Reticle Scope, 2 Arrows, Lightweight Quiver
  • BARNETT WILDCAT CAMO RECURVE CROSSBOW: Recurve crossbow with complete hunting accessory package. The Wildcat offers a classic, easy-to-use design and features a full camo wrap, anti-dry fire trigger system, and shoots 260 feet per second
  • VERSATILE: The recurve bow was created with first-time crossbow users in mind. The Wildcat is lightweight and sturdy, making it easily maneuverable by beginners and includes a quiver and two aluminum arrows so you can get practicing right away
  • SAFETY FEATURES: Soft Lok Floating Bristle Arrow Retainer, Anti-Dry Fire (ADF) Trigger System, Finger Safety Reminders.

Pros:

  • Versatile camo finish

  • Multi-reticle scope included

  • Mounted quiver included

  • Two bolts included

  • Extensive safety features

Cons:

  • Low 260 fps bolt speed

  • Loud

  • No cocking device

We love Barnett crossbows in general, and while most of them are compound models, we’re fans of the Wildcat recurve because it’s both reliable and affordable, great for both hunting and target shooting. For example, the camo design is a great touch for those who want to blend in with their surroundings while hunting.

However, the primary reason the Wildcat made our list is that it’s a full ready-to-hunt package. It includes quality accessories that you need for bowhunting like a 4x32mm multi-reticle scope, mounted quiver, even two bolts. Since most hunters just want a crossbow to take advantage of the longer archery season, this saves you time and hassle having to pick out a bunch of accessories. It’s also a good way for beginners to start off on the right foot.

As for specs, the Wildcat has a draw weight of 150 pounds. This is definitely enough to hunt with, if a bit difficult to cock. The shooting speed is 260 fps, which is on the low side even for recurve crossbows and therefore better for stand hunting in thick woods over long distances.

Our main problem with the Wildcat is that it’s a bit noisy when shooting. It’s certainly powerful enough that your quarry isn’t going to jump out of the way, but it may jerk enough to throw off your shot. Again, this means the Wildcat is better for stand hunting at relatively close ranges.

Finally, let’s talk about safety. Barnett went all out in this regard. In addition to your typical anti-dry-fire mechanism, the Wildcat also has a floating bristle arrow retainer as well as finger safety reminders. This makes it great for beginners who are likely to make mistakes, of course, but safety is important for everyone, so we were impressed with these features.

Best Recurve Crossbow for Deer Hunting: Excalibur Assassin 400 TD

Our Verdict: With serious power, advanced accessories and state-of-the art camo designs, the Excalibur Assassin 400 TD is designed especially for hunting whitetail deer.

Excalibur Assassin 400 TD Accurate Adjustable Durable Safety Hunting Archery Crossbow, Timber Strata
  • ACCURATE & EFFECTIVE – The Assasin 400 TD hunting archery bow features a new pro-shot two-stage trigger system; Its light pull weight combined with its crisp, clean, and consistent break simply makes you more accurate
  • ADJUSTABLE & SILENT – The fully-adjustable Tru-Fit Stock of this archery bow allows every archer to achieve the perfect fit in no time; The Integrated Charger Crank and S.D.S Silencing system are incorporated for reducing noise and providing safety
  • TACT-100 SCOPE – This crossbow scope has an illuminated multiplex crosshair system and adjusts in precise 10-yard to 100 yards and an adjustable reticle for velocities of 300 to 450 fps; It is perfect for hunting, target shooting, or long-range practice

Pros:

  • 400 fps bolt speed

  • Illuminated scope included

  • Two-stage three-pound trigger

  • Quiver and four bolts included

  • Sound dampening system

  • Integrated crank

Cons:

  • A lot for beginners

  • Picatinny rail for scope requires adjustment

The fact that we have so many Excalibur crossbows on our list should tell you something. Excalibur arguably makes the best recurve crossbows, and that’s because they’re entirely dedicated to them. Pretty much all their models are high quality, but the Assassin 400 TD is one of their top-shelf models that has impressive features that serious bowhunters can take advantage of.

First of all, just notice the 400-fps bolt speed. That’s faster than a lot of compound models and plenty for hunting even big game with a more traditional weapon that requires less maintenance. 

That power and high bolt speed also makes the Assassin super accurate. You can take full advantage of this thanks to the included illuminated scope. Illumination is ideal for whitetail hunting because you can aim better at dawn or dusk when deer are most active. Plus, the two-stage three-pound trigger pull is right in that sweet spot where you can shoot precisely right when the kill zone is in the crosshairs.

The scope isn’t the only accessory you get, though. The Assassin 400 TD also comes with a quiver and four bolts. We also love that it has an integrated cocking crank that makes cocking the crossbow a lot easier and quieter. And this is a pretty quiet crossbow in the first place thanks to the sound dampening system.

Overall, this is a top-shelf crossbow that can be a lot to handle. However, if you’re a serious and regular bowhunter, it’s one of the best recurve crossbows for hunting whitetail deer and even bigger game.

Best Recurve Crossbow for Beginners: CenterPoint Tyro 4X

Our Verdict: The CenterPoint Tyro combines everything we want to see in an entry-level recurve crossbow: safety, ease of use and necessary accessories. 

CenterPoint Tyro 4X Recurve Crossbow Package With 4x32mm Scope, Camo
  • LIGHTWEIGHT ADJUSTABLE STOCK – Easy to shoulder for a variety of users
  • COMPRESSION MOLDED FIBERGLASS LIMB – With a traditional look and feel
  • AUTO-SAFETY COCKING MECHANISM – For safe handling

Pros:

  • Lots of safety features

  • Entry-level operation

  • Camo finish

  • Durable design

Cons:

  • Low 245 fps bolt speed

  • So-so accessories

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 activate it—as beginners often do—you’ll be less likely to hurt yourself or others by accidentally firing the weapon. Similarly, 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 of 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 after you’ve become an archery expert.

The Fastest Recurve Crossbow: Excalibur Matrix Bulldog 440

Our Verdict: The fastest production recurve crossbow you can currently get, the Matrix Bulldog 440 is our top-shelf recommendation for hunting big game like elk, moose and bear.

EXCALIBUR CROSSBOW E73583 Crossbows with Scopes Packages, Multicolor
  • Speed Up To 440 Fps
  • Draw Weight: 300Lb
  • Physical Weight: 6. 2 Lb

Pros:

  • Super fast

  • Capable of incredible accuracy

  • Pro-shot three-pound trigger

  • Quality accessories

  • Lightweight

  • Quiver and four bolts included

Cons:

  • A lot of power for the inexperienced

  • Scope rail requires adjustment

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. In fact, it’s the fastest recurve crossbow on the market.

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 difference 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 fired 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.

Furthermore, 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.

Finally, 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.

Best Dual Fire Crossbow: Excalibur TwinStrike Crossbow Package

Our Verdict: If you’re looking for the newest, most cutting-edge bowhunting technology, the Excalibur TwinStrike allows you to shoot two bolts at once to increase your likelihood of a kill shot.

Sale
Excalibur TwinStrike Accurate DualFire CeaseFire Safety Hunting Archery Crossbow, Mossy Oak Break-up Country
  • INSTANT FOLLOW-UP SHOT – Excalibur TwinStrike Hunting Crossbow has DualFire technology that equips you with dual triggers, engineered to accurately fire two shots from a single crossbow with tight groupings to maximize a shooters effective range
  • OVERWATCH ILLUMINATED SCOPE – The Overwatch Crossbow Scope features an Illuminated Multi-plex reticle with 2x-5x magnification; It is perfect on the range or in the field when the shot of a lifetime counts
  • ACCURACY & EFFECTIVENESS – This hunting bow features an over/under design incorporating a quad limb and dual string set-up – both arrows shoot through the riser for increased consistency and accuracy; Rebolt crossbow quiver securely holds arrows

Pros:

  • Dual firing

  • 360 fps bolt speed

  • Ceasefire anti-dry-fire technology

  • Integrated cocking crank

  • Included accessories

Cons:

  • Unique design has learning curve

  • Four-pound trigger pull is stiff

We’re ranking this as the best dual fire crossbow, but we actually aren’t aware of another model on the market. In other words, the TwinStrike has a unique and innovative design that you can’t find anywhere else: the ability to shoot two bolts without reloading. Basically, you have two triggers and two rails and can fire two bolts at your quarry at once, increasing your chances that one of them lands right in the kill zone.

Otherwise, the TwinStrike is still an amazing recurve crossbow and a great choice for bowhunting. It shoots bolts at up to 360 fps, great for whitetail deer as well as larger game like elk. It also comes in two different camo finishes for matching your local environment.

Since this model features unique technology, you might be a bit worried about safety. Excalibur addressed that with Ceasefire technology that won’t let the weapon fire without loaded bolts. There’s also an integrated cocking crank that makes cocking both safer and easier, not to mention quieter for those overnight hunts.

Last but not least, there are even included accessories. Namely, you get a scope and quiver, probably a good thing since you’ll be shooting twice as many bolts.

Best Recurve Crossbow for Survivalism: PSE Archery Viper SS Handheld Crossbow Package

Our Verdict: For those looking for a miniature pistol crossbow either for hobby or survival purposes, the PSE Archery Viper SS manages to seamlessly combine fun and practicality.

PSE Viper SS Crossbow Viper SS Handheld Crossbow, Black
  • INTEGRATED COCKING MECHANISM – Integrated cocking mechanism of the crossbow with safety lock serves as a second safety and ensures fast and easy set up
  • AUTO SAFETY & ANTI-DRY FIRE TRIGGER – Rear sight with elevation adjustment, front sight pin, new anti-dry fire mechanism for safety
  • A GOOD CHOICE FOR RECREATIONAL USE – Perfect for fun, recreational target shooting, it’s great and easy-to-use to get yourself familiar with crossbow archery

Pros:

  • High bolt speed for pistol crossbow

  • Useful survival weapon

  • Self-cocking mechanism

  • Safety features

Cons:

  • Requires mini crossbow bolts

  • Few bolts included

Okay, so to be clear, the PSE Archery Viper SS is not designed for bowhunting, at least not for medium-sized game like whitetail deer. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a useful device, though. With 216 fps of bolt speed produced by 50 pounds of draw weight, you can theoretically use it to hunt small game, especially in a survival situation. You could also use it for home defense or as a backup weapon when hunting dangerous game like moose or bear.

However, even without all that, the Viper SS is one of the funnest crossbows out there. It has a simple self-cocking mechanism, so you can shoot the miniature bolts repeatedly, three of which are included. Plus, it’s manageable and easy to use even if you don’t have previous crossbow experience.

At the same time, you can enjoy this pistol crossbow with confidence thanks to the many safety features. These include an auto safety and an anti-dry-fire trigger. You might forget proper use if you’re just goofing around, so this gives you an extra layer of security. 

Best Recurve Crossbow on a Budget: Southland Archery Supply SAS Jaguar

Our Verdict: We recommend the SAS Jaguar as a simple model that still gives you enough power for bowhunting without requiring a prohibitive initial investment.

Southland Archery Supply SAS Jaguar 175lbs Recurve Hunting Crossbow Red Dot Scope Package (Black)
  • 175-pound draw weight
  • Compression Molded Fiberglass Limb
  • Auto safety cocking mechanism design

Pros:

  • No-frills design

  • Lightweight

  • Included red-dot scope

  • Auto safety mechanism

  • Accessories included

Cons:

  • Limb end caps wear bowstrings

  • Low bolt speed

  • Hard to cock

So obviously we like the price point on the Jaguar, but that’s not the only reason it’s on our list. Though it might surprise you by looking at its bare-bones frame, it’s actually an effective weapon designed for hunting. It even gets 245 fps of bolt speed on 175 pounds of draw weight, which isn’t super powerful, but it’s definitely enough, especially if you’re a beginner.

In fact, one big advantage of this simple design is the light weight. Nevertheless, the stock is reinforced, so you get durability and stability while shooting that improves your accuracy. Speaking of which, the Jaguar comes with a red-dot scope that’s easy to use.

Now, we really wish the Jaguar came with some kind of cocking device because those 175 pounds can be hard to cock with just the basic cocking stirrup. However, it does come with an auto safety mechanism that increases its utility for beginners. 

As for accessories, you get a large quiver as well as three bolts. A unique addition is the sling that makes it a lot easier to carry, whether to the range or the tree stand. 

Best Pistol Recurve Crossbow: Snake Eye Tactical Cobra-System Pistol Crossbow

Our Verdict: The Snake Eye Tactical Cobra makes the most of the pistol crossbow design by providing a long range and versatile design options. 

Snake Eye Tactical Cobra-System Self-Cocking-Pistol Crossbow 80 lbs 225 FPS (8026PL-AM)
  • Snake Eye Tactical Cobra System Self Cocking Pistol Grip Pistol Tactical Crossbow
  • 80-Pound 225+ FPS Ideal for turkey/small game hunting
  • The Crossbow features an 80 lb. draw weight and fires bolts up to 225 fps

Pros:

  • Surprisingly long range for a pistol

  • Tough construction

  • Several available designs

Cons:

  • Complicated assembly

  • 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. After all, 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. For instance, it has 80 pounds of draw weight, providing 165 FPS of bolt speed and accuracy out to 18 yards. Our favorite aspect of the crossbow, though, is that it’s relatively easy to cock thanks to the rear lever system. Alternatively, you can get it with a front-end stirrup if you prefer. 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 true 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.

Best Repeating Recurve Crossbow: EK Archery RX Adder

Our Verdict: 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 but historied technology.  

EK Archery Repeating Adder Crossbow 130 lb Cross Bow with 5 Shot auto-loading Magazine Includes 15 Carbon Arrows Bolts. Urban Preppers, Bushcraft, Home Defense, Target Shooters, Small Game Bow Hunting
  • 15 pieces of 7.5″ Carbon Bolts: Kit includes 15 pieces of our enhanced blue vane 100 grain tip carbon bolts. Carbon Bolts are more durable and can withstand repeated shots before they need replacing.
  • Limbs: Durable Compression Fiberglass. Powerful Interchangeable limb set for increased velocity. Included limb draw weight 130lb, speed 230fps. Ideal for adult crossbows for hunting & target shooting.
  • Sling Mount: Quick Detachable Sling Shoulder Mount. Quick access sling mount. Compatible with most any sling that has a QD mount or that can take one.

Pros:

  • Automatic loading

  • Lever-cocking mechanism

  • Versatile

  • Five bolts included

Cons:

  • 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 isn’t the fastest out there but it’s impressive for this mechanically intricate type of weapon. You could potentially hunt small game with it, but as always, you should check your state’s draw weight and 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.

Things to Consider When Picking Out a Recurve Crossbow

Recurve crossbows are usually simpler than other types of crossbows like compound models, but they still vary between each other in a number of factors. In some cases, one feature might make a model the best recurve crossbow for one person but not for another. As a result, you should read this buyer’s guide thoroughly and consider how it applies to your personal situation and goals. 

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 penetrate deeper into an animal. This allows you 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 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 at 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, which you’ll usually see listed as “ATA length.” Technically, ATA stands for “axle-to-axle” and refers to the distance between the two cams’ axles on a compound crossbow. However, archers and manufacturers use it as shorthand to describe the width of recurve crossbows as well. 

Long limbs are a downside of recurve crossbows because they 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. This is especially true with crossbows because extra limb weight is located forward, so it puts leverage on your shoulder muscles.

You also have to consider that you’ll have to carry your crossbow with you while hunting, which is harder the heavier it is. You probably have a lot of other kit to carry too, and if your tree stand is far out, you don’t want to get tired or expend so much energy that you heat up, sweat and start to smell. Game animals have great senses of smell, so this could give away your position.

Hunting, Target Archery or Survivalism

Recurve crossbows are great options for bowhunters. That’s because bowhunting season is usually considerably longer than rifle season and crossbows can often be used during archery season. Assuming this is the case in your state, you can take advantage of this with a crossbow without having to worry about the more technical aspects and necessary practice 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. 

Finally, some archers are interested in crossbows for self-defense, survivalism or just playing around. There are a lot of good options for these things, but you don’t necessarily want to pay top dollar for specific hunting features. That’s why we’ve stated bows that are good for these purposes in our reviews.

Experience Level

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?

That’s a pretty detailed 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. We believe that all of the above crossbows are high quality and can go toe to toe with any model on the market. That said, if you think we missed something, be sure to get in touch!

This article is written by:

Gregory Johnson

Gregory Johnson

With almost 20 years of archery experience under his belt, Gregory founded the Complete Guide to Archery website in 2017. His purpose has been to spread knowledge about the hobby and sport to anyone willing to learn.
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