ALL ABOUT CROSSBOWS …
Today’s crossbows are amazing pieces of equipment, capable of great power, accuracy and consistency. As design and materials have been improved and refined, so crossbows have become more and more futuristic and effective, as have the bolts, points and sights.
No longer huge, cumbersome weapons, crossbows can now be incredibly light and compact, easy to use and very accurate. It is safe to say the crossbow has advanced more in the last 20 years than in the past 2,000 and innovation shows no signs of slowing down.
Crossbows are really versatile weapons that can easily be employed – as well as enjoyed – by a wide variety of people. Those who, through age, injury or lack of strength, cannot draw a regular bow can still experience the thrill of archery by using a crossbow.
The ease of use of a crossbow also allows it to be employed effectively with little training, while other types of bows take far more skill to shoot accurately. What’s more, with a crossbow, archers are able to release a draw force far in excess of what they could have handled with a regular bow.
Furthermore, a crossbow can hold the tension for a long time, whereas even the strongest longbowman can only hold a drawn bow for a short period of time. Modern crossbows allow hunters who may not be able to draw a bow to deliver an extremely precise shot.
There are two basic crossbow designs. The recurve crossbow has been a basic design concept for literally hundreds of years. It is the crossbow type everybody knows. Recurve simply means the tips of the limbs face away from the user when they are not strung. The simplicity of these bows is that they only consist of a stock, a trigger, limbs and a string. This design transfers to simplicity in use, which is why these are often popular with first-time users.
Recurve crossbows are larger and wider in design than the compound type. The limbs are usually made of metal, fiberglass or wood. They tend to be quieter than their compound counterparts. They do not, however, provide the same accuracy and/or power as many compound models do. The recurve is great for first-time archers or those who prefer simplicity in design and function. Recurves are also generally lighter than compounds, making it easier to carry when traveling far distances on foot or climbing up a treestand.
The compound bow is very much what you would expect based on the name. It is the newer design which has gotten very, very popular. It is archery engineering at its finest. Compared to recurve crossbows, it has shorter limbs, making the compound mostly smaller, more compact and thus more efficient to handle in tight spaces.
On the other hand, it will most often be more expensive as well. Complex lever-and-pulley-style systems allow a larger potential energy in the bolt while allowing cocking mechanisms to require less effort. Compound crossbows are often thought to deliver more energy downrange. Most compounds will shoot the same weight arrows faster than recurves.
Even at the same draw weight, a compound bow will shoot much faster than those of a recurve due to the dynamics of the bow. Increased speed equals increased accuracy in longer shots. Compound crossbows are also typically quieter to shoot than recurves.
BOLTS AND BROADHEADS
Selecting the right bolts for your crossbow will literally make or break your shots. The draw weight and power stroke should determine the arrow weight. The manufacturer will always list a series of recommended bolts and point weights. Aluminium, carbon and composite arrows are now available with a variety of fixed and mechanical points.Mechanical broadheads feature blades that stay ‘hidden’ in the arrowhead during flight and spring open upon impact with the animal. Having far less surface are than fixed blade broadheads, mechanical broadheads obviously are less discriminating to get the flight path and tuning just right. Their accuracy and aerodynamic properties are far closer to regular field points than those of fixed blade broadheads. Fixed blade broadheads are the oldest and simplest type of br
oadhead, having blades that are fixed in place, as the name implies, on the arrow head. The downside of fixed blade broadheads is that the fixed blades can and will plane through the air, because there’s more surface area.
The faster the bow, the more concerned one needs to be about a change in aerodynamic properties of an arrow when tipped with a fixed-blade broadhead. As a rule, faster arrows shoot better with mechanical broadheads compared to fixed-blade broadheads.
That said, always sight in your bow with your hunting arrows and points. Obviously field points and broadheads often have very different flight characteristics, even if both have the same weight.
ALWAYS ON TARGET
As crossbows are gaining in popularity, optics companies worldwide are readily focussing on this growing market niche. Specifically designed scopes and red dot sights for crossbows offer great benefits, begging to be put to use in the field.
A dedicated crossbow scope is definitely not your average riflescope. As the range of a crossbow is far more limited than that of a rifle, crossbow scopes have been tailored for use at these shorter distances.
Whereas most regular riflescopes are parallax-free at 100 yards, crossbow scopes have a parallax-free setting of, for example, only 20 yards. What is more, these crossbow scopes can be finely adjusted with individual clicks of one half and even one quarter of an inch at 20 yards.
In addition, the most dedicated of variable zoom crossbow scopes feature an ocular ring with engravings representing various speeds and magnifications. With these you can fine-tune your scope for optimal aiming and shooting performance with a specific crossbow and arrow combination in mind.
Since the drop of a bolt is so unique, most crossbow scopes also come with a drop-compensated reticle. Available in many different guises, depending on the brand and model, these reticles allow for shooting your crossbow confidently over various distances without the need to guess how much you need to hold over. Once accustomed to these reticles, a shooter will have no trouble in making shots at various distances from 20 up to 70 yards and more, depending on the reticle and the power of the crossbow.
Next to scopes, crossbows can also be fitted with red dot sights. These are wonderfully light and compact while allowing for lightning quick and instinctive target acquisition at short to medium ranges. As we are accustomed to with red dot sights for rifles, these sights do not have magnification.
As opposed to red dot sights for riflescopes though, these red dot sights often feature several dots or even a drop-compensated reticle of some kind to allow for confident crossbow shooting at various distances.