10 Myths vs 10 Facts on Contemporary Crossbows

Seven-year-old Casey (shown with his mom) proves that, with proper training, crossbows can be safe and enjoyable, even for youngsters.

By Ron Roberts

Crossbows are hot. There is a growing army of crossbow enthusiasts, and they are passionate about these weapons and everything about them. But, like other distinctive pursuits, myths abound, often to the detriment of crossbow shooters and to the avocation itself. Misinformation is out there, and it’s fueling the fire of those who don’t really know. Fortunately, however, truth is on our side.

So, what are 10 of the wildest crossbow myths and 10 of the most important crossbow facts? Read on.

Myth 1

A crossbow isn’t really a bow.

Fact 1

When comparing a crossbow to a compound bowshot with a release, the only differences between them are:

*The crossbow trigger mechanism holds the draw for shooters.

*The crossbow’s bow assembly is positioned horizontally.

*The crossbow is aimed like a rifle.

Both weapons fire an arrow equipped with a broadhead designed to penetrate an animal, causing it to bleed to death. The arrow from both weapons travels approximately the same distance at about the same speed and energy with nearly the same trajectory.

Myth 2

Crossbows make deer hunting too easy.

Fact 2

The X-Force 800 Pro from Eastman removes all doubt that modern crossbows are legitimate hunting tools.

The only advantage a crossbow has over a conventional bow is that it holds the bow in the drawn (ready-to-fire) position for shooters. Shooting a crossbow is generally easier to master than shooting a vertical bow, but it’s not “just plain easy.” Crossbow hunters must have the same woodsmanship ability and nearly all the same shooting skills vertical bowhunters have.

Myth 3

Anyone can pick up a crossbow, practice for an hour, and be ready to head to the woods.

Fact 3

There are many ways to make a bad shot with a crossbow. First, if a crossbow isn’t cocked straight, it won’t shoot straight. If the bowstring is pulled even 1/16 inch off-center, that difference can translate into a 6-inch error at 20 yards. Also, like any conventional bow shooter, a crossbow shooter must maintain a proper stance and squeeze, rather than “jerk” the trigger. The shooter must steady his or her entire body and follow through (watch the entire arrow flight through the sighting mechanism) after the release. And finally, crossbow hunters must be adept at at distances.

Myth 4

A crossbow shoots much faster and farther than compound bows.

Fact 4

Under controlled conditions, velocity and kinetic energy tests were performed on two compound bows with 70-pound peak draw weights (248 and 205 fps) and two crossbows with 150-pound peak draw weights (228 and 242 fps). Compound bows and crossbows produced similar ballistic results. That is, the crossbows didn’t shoot farther or faster than the compound bows. If anything, crossbows begin to lose velocity and energy a bit more quickly than do compound bows after 40 yards because they shoot a lighter and shorter arrow. However, the difference is slight.

Myth 5

Crossbows have the knockdown power of a firearm.

Fact 5

Crossbows are ballistically comparable to conventional vertical bows and they kill by hemorrhaging rather than shock.

Myth 6

Crossbows shoot as flatly as black-powder rifles.

Fact 6

Again, comparison tests show that crossbows don’t perform the same as firearms. Crossbows typically start losing velocity and energy at 30 yards compared to black-powder rifles, which begin losing velocity and energy at 100 yards.

Myth 7

Crossbow hunters are less experienced than conventional bowhunters are, so they’ll injure more deer.

Fact 7

There is no credible evidence to support this claim. Crossbow hunters must apply the same basic skills and techniques conventional bow hunters do. Nobody enters the woods for the first time as an expert. As a hunter gains experience in shot placement, judging distance and overall hunting skill, he becomes far less likely to injure a deer. Additionally, one of the largest groups of new crossbow hunters are experienced conventional bow hunters who can no longer hunt with a compound bow. They bring a vast amount of bow-hunting knowledge with them. Finally, plenty of conventional bow hunters injure deer. The best approach to the issue of ethical shooting might be for individual states to require proficiency testing of all hunters.

Myth 8

Crossbow hunters are less ethical, less dedicated, and less proficient than conventional bowhunters.

Fact 8

This myth generally assumes conventional bow hunters are skilled experts that share a common passion, fervor and ethics about hunting. However, this assumption is unsupportable. It’s safer to assume (and easier to support) that many conventional bow hunters would have greater success and more “ethical hunts” if they used crossbows.

Myth 9

The crossbow is the preferred poaching weapon.

Fact 9

On December 13, 1999, at the request of the American Crossbow Federation, Michael J. Budzik, director of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, wrote: “From a law-enforcement standpoint, violation statistics are just about equal between crossbows and vertical bows, and the total of both is an extremely small portion of the overall enforcement effort.”

Ohio’s experience suggests that claims about crossbows being the preferred weapon of poachers is false. In fact, conventional wisdom suggests crossbows would not be efficient poaching weapons.

Myth 10

Crossbows are dangerous.

Fact 10

Referring to the previous material, we again cite Budzik: “ …Our statistics regarding hunter incidents [accidents] show very little difference between the two bow types. Since 1976, we have had only 21 archery-related hunting incidents: 10 caused by longbow and 11 by crossbow. Harvest data suggest that more people hunt with crossbows than with longbows in Ohio.”

Some crossbow manufacturers have added safety features to their crossbows to reduce hunter and shooter injuries and to reduce opportunities for dry-fire situations.

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