Modern crossbows are highly efficient and accurate — amazingly so.
Most manufacturers pre-sight their crossbows at the factory before shipping them. When properly cocked with the right bolt and proper shooting mechanics, these crossbows produce consistent bull’s-eyes out of the box at 20, 30 and 40 yards. You might need to tweak them a little to get pinpoint accuracy or satisfy personal standards, but within recommended range limitations, dead-deer shots should be no problem.
By Al Raychard
We tend to forget, though, that crossbows — recurve or compound — are mechanical devices, and like all mechanical devices, they must be maintained. Parts and components wear and occasionally need to be replaced. Screws loosen, and scopes especially might have to be adjusted from time to time. In a nutshell, as high-tech and well-made as modern crossbows are, they require some attention for reliable accuracy and dependability — particularly before heading for the deer woods.
That’s especially true when the human factor enters the equation. Even top-of-the-line crossbows cannot do their job unless shooters do theirs. Because humans are, well, human, there is a lot of room for inconsistency or poor arrow strikes, even with a new bow. For achieving and maintaining consistent accuracy, most problems are human-based, and as a bow gets used and ages, the possibility of problems increases.
Several considerations can help you achieve and maintain consistent crossbow accuracy. Some involve the bow, but they all boil down to the shooter. Here are some factors that affect crossbow accuracy.
1. A Bow That Doesn’t Fit
Not all crossbows are of the same weight, length and width. Although there is a crossbow for everyone, there’s not a one-size-fits-all crossbow. There is a direct correlation between how well a crossbow fits you and accuracy. If a bow is too heavy, feels too long or wide, or is cumbersome to lift and hold on target, it doesn’t fit, and it’s not right for you.
Crossbows are built on rifle-like stocks, and like a rifle, they should not be overly burdensome, difficult to handle, or awkward or uncomfortable to use. Consider the length of pull to the trigger. Also, the trigger should be smooth and crisp, with little or no creep.
Bigger, heavier, faster and fancier is not always better, and that’s true when hunting with a crossbow and striving for consistent accuracy.
2. The Wrong Arrows
Whether you call them arrows or bolts, most crossbow makers recommend certain lengths and grain weights for various models. Some even recommend specific material — carbon or aluminum — and fletching length. Although most crossbows can shoot arrows with any type of nock, most manufacturers also recommend a specific type. That’s based on a model’s power stroke, draw weight, optimizing front of center and what works best to stabilize the arrow, as determined through extensive testing during the design and testing process.
To achieve maximize accuracy, you should only use arrows recommended by the manufacturer for a specific crossbow, and you should use those for sighting in and hunting every time. Changing or switching arrows will lead to trouble and inconsistent accuracy. It’s true lighter arrows fly faster, but remember that faster is not always better. You might best achieve ultimate arrow flight and overall control by using an arrow that flies at a slower or moderate speed, or at speeds recommended by the manufacturer. Using lighter arrows or arrows not recommended by the manufacturer can put added stress on the bow, increase the chance of injury and might void the manufacturer’s warranty.