Written By
Updated Jul 28, 2022 1:37 PM

This year’s Crossbow Test represents an evolutionary leap in performance. It wasn’t long ago that crossbows were shooting in the upper 300 fps range, in this test we shot two crossbows that produced speeds over 500 fps (read about the shootout between the fastest crossbows here).

We brought the crop of new crossbows to Lancaster Archery Supply’s world-class archery shop and range where we tested them for speed, accuracy, cocking, and loading, as well as shooting them from field positions. This year’s field of crossbows shot speeds from 368 fps to 515 fps and posted prices from $600 to $4,000. 

The insanely high-performing crossbows were undoubtedly the highlight of the test, but we also found some real gems in the budget category. Here are our results. 

How We Tested Crossbows

Speed

We measured crossbow speed using a Labradar Doppler chronograph. Each crossbow was shot three times, and we averaged the speeds to give you the spec listed for each crossbow. For context, the bolt weight and momentum are also listed for each bow. You’ll also see momentum calculated for each crossbow instead of kinetic energy because momentum provides a more accurate figure of an arrow’s lethality and ability to pass through an animal. 

Accuracy

For every crossbow, each shooter shot three, three-shot groups at 50 yards from a lead sled.

Cocking and Loading

We evaluated each crossbow for how easy and intuitive it was to cock and load. We also took note of safety features, the nosiness of cocking mechanisms, and each crossbow’s manual of arms.

Handling

We tested accuracy from the bench, but that’s probably not how you’ll shoot when hunting, so we also tested crossbows offhand, kneeling, and off a tripod to see how they handled. 

Gear We Used for Testing

Target: Big Shot Extreme 500

We used the Big Shot Extreme 500 because standard targets aren’t up to the task of stopping bolts from the Ravin R500 and the TenPoint Nitro 505. The Extreme 500 reliably stopped arrows throughout our accuracy testing, and we never struggled to pull bolts. For broadheads, we used a Rhinehart RhinoBlock, which worked great at stopping the bolts, and the broadhead-tipped bolts were easy to remove. But I don’t recommend shooting field points into a foam broadhead target—especially from the 500 fps crossbows— unless you’re looking for a workout.

Chronograph: Labradar 

The Labradar uses doppler radar to track a projectile and measure its speed. We chose it over a traditional chronograph because it provides consistent reading no matter the lighting conditions. 

Shooting Rest: Caldwell Lead Sled

The Caldwell Lead Sled provided a steady rest to bring out the best groups from each crossbow. 

Broadhead: SEVR

The SEVR broadhead is known for its accuracy, which is why we chose it to test the 500 fps crossbows. 

Test Team

Scott Einsmann is Outdoor Life’s gear editor, bowhunter, and a lifelong archery nerd. 

Natalie Krebs is Outdoor Life’s senior deputy editor, a bowhunter, and crossbow test team veteran. 

Editor’s Choice: Ravin R500

Scott Einsmann

Check Price

Key Features 

  • Speed: 502.5 fps
  • Bolt weight: 403 grains
  • Momentum: .898 slug fps
  • Weight: 8.4 pounds 
  • Uncocked width: 7.7 inches
  • String life: 200 shots or 2 years 
  • Price: $3,025 to $3,725

Why It Made the Cut

The R500 shoots a 400-grain bolt at 500 fps with good field point and broadhead accuracy. 

Pros

  • Fast and accurate 
  • Narrow profile
  • Easy to use
  • Good trigger

Cons

  • Difficult to clip bolts onto the string 
  • Quiver and crank are poor quality for the price
  • Expensive

Ravin R500 Review

A crossbow that shoots 500 fps is impressive. But a crossbow that’s safe, accurate, easy to use, and shoots 500 fps is worthy of the Editor’s Choice award. the new Ravin accomplishes all of that and more.  

The R500 doesn’t achieve 500 fps by utilizing a super-heavy draw weight. It uses the same 300-pound draw weight as the 450-fps R29. It gets its speed from a longer powerstroke and efficient cam design. 

We really liked the R500’s design. Its narrow profile makes it handy, and it balances over the forward grip for steady offhand shooting. It also has a smart solution to prevent mispositioned fingers from getting sliced off by the string: The R500’s string is fully enclosed with a shroud that resembles a vented tube. 

The cocking mechanism is also really well thought out. The trigger group moves on threaded rails to cock the R500. It’s a clean design that has no straps or ropes. It takes effort to crank, but it’s smooth and most adults won’t have an issue cocking this crossbow. The crank handle that comes with the R500 looks surprisingly cheap—like an Allen wrench bent into the shape of a crank. Its design and construction are almost like an afterthought on an otherwise well-designed crossbow. Another thing we didn’t like is that you have to snap the bolts onto the string rather than slide them into place like many other crossbows. This means the user must grip the bolt to snap it on, and with a broadhead, that becomes more difficult.

That said, I suspect that snapping the bolts onto the string contributes to the R500’s accuracy. The Ravin was the most accurate crossbow in the field we tested, with a 2.7-inch average group at 50 yards. The real test was how it performed with broadheads. We wanted to be sure that a 500 fps crossbow could shoot a broadhead accurately. I shot multiple groups with a 100-grain SEVR crossbow broadhead at 50 yards, and it consistently grouped with field points. The broadhead groups were comparable to our field-point-only groups at 2.75 to 3.25 inches. I swapped the broadhead onto different bolts and of the six bolts I shot with the broadhead, I produced only one flyer, which shot 4 inches outside the group.

Using the LabRadar, we clocked the R500 speed at 502 fps—just over the advertised spec. At that speed, your arrows will drop 1.5 inches between 20 and 40 yards. At 50 yards, your bolts will be going 462 fps and deliver .827 slug fps of momentum. For perspective, a compound bow shooting 300 fps with a 600-grain arrow generates .799 slug fps at point-blank range.

The elephant in the room is the R500’s price tag. It’s an absurdly expensive crossbow, and it’s comparable in price to a precision hunting rifle. But the crossbow market is a hot one, and Ravin is betting that hunters will be willing to shell out for one of the fastest, most accurate crossbows available.

Fastest Crossbow: TenPoint Nitro 505

Scott Einsmann

Check Price

Key Features

  • Speed: 515 fps
  • Bolt weight: 404 grains
  • Momentum: .924 slug fps
  • Weight: 7.9 pounds
  • Uncocked width: 12 inches
  • Price: $3,050 to $4,650

Why It Made the Cut

The Nitro 505 is the fastest crossbow money can buy. 

Pros

  • Fast
  • Easy to crank
  • Built-in the U.S.A. 

Cons

  • Inconsistent broadhead accuracy 
  • Crank failure during testing

Nitro 505 Review

At the 2019 Outdoor Life crossbow test, the fastest crossbow was the TenPoint Nitro XRT at 432 fps. Just three years later, we have crossbows shooting at least 70 fps faster. But one thing hasn’t changed: TenPoint still makes the fastest crossbow. 

Like the R500, the Nitro 505 isn’t getting its speed from its 300-pound draw weight alone. The increased speed comes from a longer powerstroke—two inches longer than the Ravin—as well as its limb and cam design. 

At 515 fps, the Nitro 505 delivers a 404-grain payload with .924 slug fps of momentum. That’s 10 fps faster than the Ravin. Does the extra speed really make a difference? From 20 to 40 yards, the Nitro 505 has 1 inch of drop, while the R500 has 1.5 inches. At 50 yards, the Nitro has .026 slug fps more momentum than the R500. So, in real-world hunting situations, the speed difference is negligible. Nitro 505s also ship with six 450-grain Center Punch bolts, which fly at 488.5 fps. 

At 50 yards, we averaged 3.08-inch groups with the Nitro 505. That’s plenty accurate for any hunting scenario, but we’ve seen tighter groups from less expensive bows in previous crossbow tests. Broadhead groups were hit or miss and ranged from about 3 to 9 inches. The difference in group size resulted from bolts that did not shoot well with a broadhead. That means you can’t screw broadheads onto any bolt and go hunting. You’ll need to weed out flyers and find bolts that shoot well with a broadhead. The heavier and slower Center Punch bolts did not improve broadhead accuracy. 

The Nitro 505 has a self-contained cranking system. You do have to unwind the crank with one hand while the other hand guides the latch mechanism down the rail. With a light push, the latch clips onto the string and it’s easy to cock. The crank on the Nitro 505 is very smooth, and its well-designed handle provides comfort and leverage. The first crossbow we received from TenPoint had a crank failure during testing: The strap disconnected from the internal mechanism. We’ve had no issues with the replacement crossbow.

Just like with the Ravin crossbow, you’ll have to pay for all that speed. Prices for the Nitro 505 range from $3,050 to $4,650 depending on the package you go with.

Best Recurve Crossbow: Excalibur TwinStrike TAC2 

Scott Einsmann

Check Price

Key Features

  • Speed: 346.6 fps
  • Momentum: .538 slug fps
  • Bolt weight: 350 grains
  • Weight: 7.5 pounds
  • Uncocked width: 25.5 inches
  • Price: $1,600

Why It Made the Cut

The Twinstrike is the only crossbow that can fire two bolts without reloading. 

Pros

  • Fast follow-up shots
  • User serviceable 

Cons

  • Front trigger can be difficult to reach
  • Complex cocking process

TwinStrike TAC 2 Review

The TwinStrike TAC 2 is the second generation Twinsitrike, which shares the same signature feature as its predecessor: A quick follow-up shot. It accomplishes that by using two recurves stacked on top of each other. Each bow is cocked independently using a detachable crank. There are two triggers on the Twinstrike. The front trigger fires the top bow, and the rear fires the bottom bow. The new TAC 2 is .3 pounds lighter than the original, has a shorter overall length, and is about 20 fps slower.

We used both the top and bottom bow during accuracy testing and can confirm that both shoot bolts in the same spot. For the sake of science, I also shot both bolts simultaneously. The spread was about 1.5 feet, but that’s simply because it’s difficult to fire both bolts at the exact same time and the recoil from the first shot spoils the second. So, yes you can shoot two bolts at once, and even though that feature doesn’t have a practical purpose, it is fun.

We averaged a 3.19-inch group at 50 yards and clocked the TAC2 at 346.6 fps. The bolts are shorter and lighter than the other crossbows we tested at 350 grains, and they generate .538 slug fps at point-blank. 

Twinstrike triggers
The Twinstrike’s front trigger can be difficult to reach. Scott Einsmann

There are some cons to this crossbow. The front trigger will be difficult to reach for shooters with smaller hands. The loading process is complicated (you definitely have to read the instructions before using), and testers had safety concerns around loading. You must cock the bottom crossbow with the safety off—the latch will not engage with the safety on. The dryfire mechanism is your safety while cocking the bottom bow, and we confirmed it does work. Also after loading both bolts you must put the safety on manually.

This crossbow has a cool factor and a feature that others can’t touch. Like all recurve crossbows, it’s field serviceable, and no bow press is required to replace a string.

Best Value: Centerpoint Wrath 430

Scott Einsmann

Check Price

Key Features

  • Speed: 408 fps
  • Bolt weight: 400 grains
  • Momentum: .725 slug fps
  • Weight: 8.3 pounds
  • Uncocked width: 13 inches
  • Price: $800

Why It Made the Cut

The Centerpoint Wrath is a fast and accurate crossbow with a reasonable price tag. 

Pros

  • Compact
  • Balances well for offhand shooting
  • Fast

Cons

  • Cocking mechanism gets stuck on stock

Centerpoint Wrath 430 Review

Centerpoint and Ravin are sister companies, and you’ll see a lot of Ravin technology in Centerpoints. The Wrath 430 is at the upper end of what I’d call a budget bow at an $800 MSRP—retail prices are lower. 

This bullpup-style crossbow is the most compact in the Centerpoint lineup. The stock is polymer, and it gives the crossbow a cheap feel, but it doesn’t affect performance. The trigger pull felt heavy, but it was still the fourth-most accurate crossbow we tested. We shot a 3.27-inch group average, and it produced speeds of 408 fps with a 400-grain bolt. The Wrath 430 has an advertised speed of up to 430 fps, but Centerpoint doesn’t provide a bolt weight to achieve that speed. So we won’t say it can’t hit its spec because a lighter bolt could reach that 430 fps mark, but we weren’t able to achieve those speeds in our test.

We liked that the forward grip keeps your support hand low and safely away from the string. The crank is quiet, but the crank handle inserts into a hole in the back of the stock and can get wedged in place. For hunting, we would prefer to use a cocking rope but found that because of the long powerstroke, it was difficult to use with the rope cocker. 

Bear Impact

Scott Einsmann

Check Price

Key Features

  • Speed: 420 fps (advertised)
  • Bolt weight: 382 grains
  • Momentum: .712 slug fps 
  • Weight: 8.9 pounds
  • Uncocked width: 12 inches 
  • Price: $1,099

Why It Made the Cut

The Bear Impact features a low-profile quiver mount and a compact width, making it maneuverable in the woods. 

Pros

  • Good speed and accuracy
  • Comes with four bolts

Cons

  • Needs more premium features for the price

Bear Impact Review

Bear Archery makes crossbows? Yes and, like their compound bows, they are building crossbows to fit any budget from the $300 Trek 380 to the Impact at $1,100. We evaluate bows in the $1,000-plus category with a more critical eye than the budget-friendly options. The competition in that higher price bracket is tough, because consumers expect peak performance from a crossbow that costs a grand. 

Let’s start with what we liked about the Impact. It’s a compact bow at 12-inches wide, uncocked. The adjustable length of pull is a nice feature for fitting the Impact to multiple shooters. It also has a built-in bipod that would work well for resting on a limb or the window of a box blind. It shot an average of 3.77-inch* groups at 50 yards. 

There’s an asterisk attached to that group size because we only got through three of the six groups with the Bear Impact. The tab that depresses to release the string hook broke during testing. We also could not chronograph the Impact before we had the failure. This crossbow simply didn’t bring the performance to match its price tag. 

Barnett Hyper XP 405

Scott Einsmann

Check Price

Key Features

  • Speed: 407 fps
  • Bolt Weight: 400 grains
  • Momentum: .723 slug fps
  • Weight: 7.9 pounds
  • Uncocked width: 13.75 inches 
  • Price: $600

Why It Made the Cut

This crossbow uses small diameter bolts with less wind drift, which can improve penetration. 

Pros

  • Good trigger
  • Shoots unique, micro-diameter bolts

Cons

  • Only comes with two arrows
  • Can’t be decocked without firing

Barnett Hyper XP 405 Review

The Barnett Hyper XP 405 gives crossbow hunters a lot of value for the price. It has some cool features, like that it shoots micro-diameter bolts, and it has a TriggerTech trigger. The collapsable stock is excellent for fitting the crossbow to the shooter and reducing its size for transportation. The stock is also ergonomic and features rubber over-molding around the grip for additional comfort. The trigger is insanely good for a crossbow in this price range. It also shoots a respectable 407 fps. It printed 3.5-inch groups at 50 yards. 

The downside is that the Hyper XP 405 only comes with two bolts, and it doesn’t include a crank. But, you can buy a crank for an extra $150. We recommend that upgrade because using the included rope cocker is difficult due to the Hyper XP 405’s long powerstroke. The last few inches of cocking the crossbow are especially difficult. It also can’t be decocked without firing. Another con is that the bolts are expensive; they’ll run you $90 for five. 

If you’re looking for a crossbow for around $600, it’s going to be hard to beat the features you get from the Hyper XP 405. 

Barnett Whitetail 400 XTR

Scott Einsmann

Check Price

Key Features

  • Speed: 401 fps
  • Bolt weight: 404 grains
  • Momentum: .71 slug fps
  • Weight: 7.2 pounds
  • Uncocked width: 16 inches
  • Price: $600

Why It Made the Cut

This is a no-frills, well-built performer that gives a lot of value for the price.

Pros

  • Nice features for the price
  • Good trigger
  • Comfortable stock

Cons

  • Comes with two bolts

Barnett Whitetail 400 XTR Review

The Whitetail 400 XTR has many of the same features we like about the Hyper XP 405, like the TriggerTech trigger. The big difference between the two is the Whitetail Hunter shoots standard-diameter bolts. That feature will appeal to many crossbow hunters because the standard bolts are about half the price of the small-diameter ones.

The stock is ergonomic and well-balanced. The balance makes for steady shooting from field positions, and it feels much lighter than its 7.2 pounds. Barnett added nice touches like rubber over-molding on the cheek rest, grip, and stirrup. That coating adds comfort, and deadens any noise caused by knocking the stirrup into stands or bow hangers. 

It is a long crossbow at 36 inches, including the stirrup. It’s a beast to cock without a crank. You can buy a crank for the crossbow ($150), though, and it would be a wise investment.

It has a very nice TriggerTech trigger and shot a respectable average of 3.58-inch groups at 50 yards. We clocked it at its specified 400 fps, giving it .71 slug fps of momentum. That’s really good performance for a crossbow in this price range. 

Killer Instinct Swat X1

Scott Einsmann

Check Price

Key Features

  • Speed: 382.6 fps
  • Bolt weight: 390 grains 
  • Momentum: .661 slug fps 
  • Weight: 7.25 pounds
  • Uncocked width: 9.75 inches
  • Price: $1,200

Why It Made the Cut

The Swat X1 is a powerful crossbow in a tiny package.

Pros

  • Compact
  • Good trigger
  • Smooth cocking crank

Cons

  • Quirky cocking and loading procedure

Killer Instinct Swat X1

There’s a lot to like about the Killer Instinct Swat X1. This is a compact crossbow—25 inches long—that’s very easy to shoot offhand and kneeling, thanks to its size and balance. It also has one of the nicest triggers we tested, and it shot a respectable 382 fps with a 390-grain bolt. 

The accuracy was just average, with 3.7-inch groups at 50 yards. In terms of effort, it was an easy crossbow to cock, but we didn’t like its quirks in the cocking and loading process. As you cock the crossbow, you have to lift the cheek rest out of the way and then close it again before shooting. This added step is a compromise for the SWAT X1’s smaller size. 

Wicked Ridge Raider 400 De-Cock 

Scott Einsmann

Check Price

Key Features

  • Speed: 367.5 fps
  • Bolt weight: 404 grains 
  • Momentum: .658 slug fps
  • Weight: 6.5 pounds
  • Uncocked width: 19 inches
  • Price: $800

Why It Made the Cut

The Raider 400 De-Cock offers a ton of premium features for under $1,000. 

Pros

  • Easy decocking 
  • Built-in the U.S.A.
  • Built-in Crank

Cons

  • Wide limbs
  • Slower than advertised 

Wicked Ridge Raider 400 De-Cock Review

Wicked Ridge is the sister company of TenPoint, and you’ll get features from the more expensive TenPoints in Wicked Ridge crossbows. A great example of that technology trickling down is the Acudraw included in the Raider 400 De-Cock. It’s a built-in cocking and de-cocking mechanism that’s smooth as butter to crank. But, it did occasionally get stuck while retracting it. 

It used to be the norm that crossbow hunters carried a decocking bolt, but these days more crossbows can be decocked without shooting. It’s a really nice feature to make your crossbow completely safe before climbing down from a treestand. It’s also a surprising feature to see on a crossbow under $1,000. 

The Raider is a wide crossbow, which gives it some wobble when shooting unsupported and makes it less maneuverable. It shot an average 4.02-inch group at 50 yards and 367 fps with a 400-grain bolt. Wicked Ridge advertises 390 fps with a 400-grain bolt, so that’s a substantial disparity of 23 fps.

The Raider 400 was the least accurate crossbow we shot, and it didn’t hit its specified speed. But it also has premium features—features you don’t usually find on crossbows under $1,000—and it’s built in the U.S.A.

The Upshot

While speed is driving innovation in the crossbow market, there’s a lot of room to improve crossbow safety, ease of use, and accuracy. Longevity is another area that needs improvement. For example, the R500 has a recommended 200-shot string life. As crossbow design continues to evolve (and the prices continue to increase), we expect to see the overall quality of the bows to improve as well. Hopefully, the technology on the high-end crossbows trickles down to more affordable models.