The crossbow is a fantastic tool and hunting weapon ideal for the old-fashioned way of game catching with a little more finesse and accuracy than your regular bow and arrow drawback method. Searching the market for a crossbow can be a complicating process: there are over 200 available styles out there, including compounds, recurves, light weights, heavy weights, short, long, fast, and slow. However, for developing your accuracy and agility there are no other better weapons, and that’s why we’ve reviewed the best crossbows under $300.
While searching the market for the best and nothing less, the features which were most important to us and which made certain crossbows more valuable than others included their weight, length, and draw. Each of these features are essential for their effect over a crossbows’ kinetic energy – which determines the power of each shot – and the speed a crossbow quarrel hits its target.
Top 5 Crossbows Under $300 Review 2020
Our research included speaking with professional game hunters, crossbow manufacturers, as well as some of the verified customers for these products. The results are organized into a table with detailed reviews for each crossbow, a buying guide explaining the safety measures and specifics for such a powerful tool, and a final section answering frequently asked questions. It’s our hope this guide simplifies your buying and experience and answers all your questions before you head out on your next hunt.
Barnett Recruit Terrain Crossbow – Editor’s Choice
- Draw weight: 140 lbs
- Speed: 330 fps
- Weight:4 lbs
- Kinetic energy:9 ft lbs
- Warranty: 5-years limited
More features: 12.5’’ power stroke, 4×32 multi reticle scope, rope cocking device included, TriggerTech trigger technology, magnesium riser, Soft-Lok™ arrow retainer
At the top of the market for crossbows under $300, this model first and foremost features all the extras you’d want out of a purchase: a 4×32 millimeter multi-rectical scope, a rope pull cocking device, a lightweight front balanced quiver, two 20-inch headhunter arrows, and even lubrication wax for keeping your weapon in top condition.
The main body and points of the crossbows itself include the fact that this is one of the only full-sized models in the Barret collection and therefore features a solid desert tan stock without any molding or coloration that will give you away while hunting. Draw weight comes in at 140 pounds but with the great assistant of a rope pull to give you a speed of 330 feet per second with an overall kinetic energy of 91.9 feet per pound once released. Technologies include a zero-creep release built into the trigger which requires 3 pounds of pressure to engage the trigger and fir the bow; additionally, the nock sensor eliminates dry firing, and all components of the weapons are made from stainless steel.
For your added purchase safety and advancement of this crossbow’s usability, purchase from this brand includes a phenomenal 5-year warranty.
- 5-year warranty protection for your entire purchase.
- Zero-creep release.
- Massive kinetic energy for a weapon under $300.
- Some customers have complained about consistent accuracy.
- Eye relief on this scope rests at about 5-inches.
- The Youth Terrain #140 is quite a bit faster than this model.
Carbon Express X-Force Piledriver 390 – Best Hunting Crossbow Under $300
- Draw weight: 185 lbs
- Speed: 390 fps
- Weight:2 lbs
- Kinetic energy: 142 ft lb
More features: 3-arrow quiver, 13.5’’ power stroke, adjustable butt stock, crank cocking wrench, adjustable foregrip, rail lubricant included
PileDriver’s model 390 comes with factory-matched components for superior performance including a lightweight compact slim line stock with fashionable texturing for a superb grip and added style out on your hunt; however, also vague enough coloring that you won’t be given away while hiding in wait.
This body type is also 5% lighter than other competitive bows yet still includes essentials like an adjustable butt stock (for making the crossbow more custom fit to your body) and a multi-position foregrip. The rail is made from aluminum and offers repeatable accuracy, which is essential with the crossbows firing speed of 390 feet per second (a kinetic energy of 142 feet per pound). Safeties include Anti-Dry-Fire technology, a solid foot stirrup for cocking, and a rope cocker.
The crank itself is designer to cock quietly without giving away your position, and the crossbow will not fire until strung with on of the quick detach arrows (comes with three 20-inch piledrivers) from the quiver. Purchase includes rail lubricant, 3 practice points for improving your aim and accuracy, and a 4×32 deluxe scope. A final point of interest might be that this crossbow measures in at 37.5 inches, making it a very long weapon when compared to the others on our list.
- Comes with three 20-inch piledriver firing bolts.
- Adjustable butt stock and adjustable foregrip for personal preference.
- Quietest cocking mechanism for added stealth.
- The string is poor quality.
- We suggest purchasing some blue Loctite for the screws to reduce firing vibration.
- Upon impact the bolts are a little heavier and therefore quite loud and harder to dig out.
Leader Accessories Crossbow Package – Best Compound Crossbow Under $300
- Draw weight: 175 lbs
- Speed: 285 fps
- Weight:5 lbs
- Warranty: 1-year limited
More features: 11.5’’ power stroke, 5 lbs trigger pull, anti-dry-fire mechanism, 4-arrow quiver, cocking rope included
What you mainly get with this crossbow, priced at around $200, is a fantastic starting package to improve your accuracy and ability to hunt with this kind of weapon. However, just focusing on the body specifics, this crossbow measures in at 36.5 inches and offers a relatively low starter-friendly carry weight of 7.5 pounds.
The body features an aluminum rail for added accuracy, an extra large and balanced front quiver, and camouflage coloring. Technological advancements ensure that you get excellent starter dynamics which include an 11.5-inch power stroke as well as a 5-pound weight sensitive no-creep trigger. When fired, this crossbow has a deadly range of 285 feet per second, though its draw weight is quite heavy at 175 pounds. Extra’s include a cocking rope to assist in drawing the string into place, as well as a sturdy foot stirrup.
The package features which make this the best purchase it can be are the 3 red dot sight scope, large quiver, padded sling, cocking rope, rail lube wax, and a total of four 20-inch aluminum arrows. You won’t get a better package setup with this many extra parts and features even compared against most other (more expensive) professional rigs.
- • 4-arrow quiver with equal number of 20-inch aluminum arrows.
- • Phenomenal included cocking rope.
- • Only around $200.
- • Customers have noted that the front sight is easily breakable.
- • Some complicated assembly required.
- • Added power does tend to make for less accuracy.
Bear Archery Karnage Apocalypse – Best Beginner Crossbow Under $300
- Length: 5”
- Draw weight: 175 lbs
- Speed: 370 fps
- Weight: 5 lbs
- Kinetic energy: 111 ft lb
More features: 14’’ power stroke, 4-arrow quiver, cocking rope included, adjustable butt stock, adjustable fore grip, dual mount string
This crossbow offers aggressive power and performance for handling and hunting in, the most challenging of conditions on any continent. The stock offers 3-inches of adjustabile width with an additional adjustable cheek piece.
The body includes an ambidextrous trigger with dry fire inhibitor, a 14-inch power stroke, and an adjustable fore end grip mounted on a picatinny-style rail system for improved accuracy and comfort. The dual mount string recoil suppressor system kicks in to reduce both noise and also any of the damaging effects from friction/vibration. At full draw the narrow axle is at 14-inches width, at half draw it rests at 18 inches; draw weight rests at 175 total pounds and includes a stirrup to assist with draw weight (though you might want to separately purchase a rope pull cocker).
Purchase includes additional elements of a 4×32 inch scope piece with multi cross reticle and focusing eye, as well as a detachable sling, rail lube/string wax, as well as a front mounted quiver and 3 K20 carbon bolts. Overall firing speed is quite extensive at 370 feet per second and may lead to a somewhat decreased accuracy when firing anywhere further than 250 feet.
- Highly adjustable crossbow for your personal preference and comfort.
- 4-arrow quiver, comes with 3 professional bolts.
- 370 feet per second.
- Some customers have put a shim under their scope to get the best angle.
- Does not cock easily.
- Customers have complained about string quality.
PSE Archery Jolt Hunting Crossbow Package – Budget Pick
- Length: 32’’
- Draw weight: 175 lbs
- Speed: 260 fps
- Weight:5 lbs
More features: 12.75’’ power sroke, red dot scope, auto-safety, anti-dry-fire trigger, rope cocking device included
This crossbow is the budget pick for our list at $134, but for this price this is still an excellent crossbow for the beginner to medium-level hunter. It’s features and performance are unparalleled and deliver the value of an arrow hitting its target almost every time at a speed of 250 feet per second.
The reason this is a possible with such a small crossbow (at only a 32-inch length) is that the design features a deep PSE jolt recurve shape with a cocking weight of 175 pounds that results in an unmatched kinetic energy when comparing size to speed. The quality build is this crossbow’s number one feature, it comes with a CNC precision-machined barrel with recurve shape that improves both stability and power for a clearer accuracy. A rubber string groove comes with an installed reduction in limb vibration after firing, which also reduces audible sound for a silent shot. An anti-dry safety mechanism helps to ensure the crossbow is jolt free and always knocked with an arrow.
Other user-friendly features include a no-creep weight sensitive trigger as well as a retractable shoulder stock to accommodate taller shooters. Package includes an illuminated red dot scope, 4-18-inch aluminum bolts with 100 gr, a 4-bolt quiver, points, a cocking rope device, and rail wax lube.
- Amazing budget friendly package and crossbow.
- Great starter crossbow.
- Retractable shoulder for taller to shorter shooters.
- Instructions for assembly are poorly written, making assemble somewhat difficult.
- Comes with a poor starter string.
Cheap crossbow – what to expect for the price
Though these cheaper crossbows may lack the refinement and precision of higher priced instruments, typically you will only notice that the included scope, cocking mechanisms, and arrows seem to be designed the cheapest. These crossbows under $300 are still from the top brands in archery and for the most part, you can expect them to be more than capable enough for tagging and bagging.
Vocabulary time – what is what in a crossbow
There is a lot of terminology when it comes down to using a crossbow, and although some of these are obvious – the trigger being the part that unhinges the latch and allows the string to loose the arrow – many are a little less well known. For instance, the stock, which is the part you put against your shoulder before firing. Like any stock (such as the stock of a rifle) using this piece gives you more balance and control, as well as accuracy.
Other parts include the bridge which runs under your site, the latch which holds the string in place once cocked, the sight itself that often has a scope sight attachment, and many others.
Other simpler terms include the foregrip where you place your hand that is not being used, the flight groove which holds your arrow in place, the barrel which is the lower part of the flight groove, and the limbs which are either side of the bow. When drawing, a very important term to know is the stirrup, and this is the place you put your foot through while the crossbow is pointed into the ground in order to cock your weapon.
Types of crossbows to know
Recurve crossbows – which are the most traditional weapons within the crossbow collection – have the most basic design at face value. These designs feature strings which can be replaced at pretty much any bow shop, making upkeep pretty easy when you own a recurve. Also, generally these crossbows are lighter and easier to carry far distances. For instance, the lightweight PSE Archery Jolt Hunting Crossbow Package is a great pick.
Compound crossbows on the other hand offer a frame which is more narrow than other bow types, but because of this they include a pulley system attached. With this pully system and the narrow body arrows propel farther and faster than any standard recurve crossbow will. However, compound bows can be harder to load and draw; kinetic energy for this bow type is stored in the pully system and uses multiple mods and cams. Also because of this the maintenance for a compound bow can be much more extensive seeing as the kinetic energy is stored in a pulley system which uses multiple mods and cams. Replacing parts (since there are so many) can be harder than just stopping at your local bow store for the things you need. Another downside to owning a compound bow is the overall weight of the weapon, where bonuses include higher accuracy, a quieter shot, and a smaller profile because compound bows typically have shorter limbs.
Finally, although there are other crossbow types, typically these versions fit under the ‘recurve’ or ‘compound’ categories.
Features to consider while buying the best crossbow under 300 dollars
The following features are listed above with many of the crossbows, in this section we further elaborate on each feature – crossbows which best match this feature – and how each feature overall affects the usability of a bow.
Many hunters think they need a faster crossbow, and that the higher the speed the quicker the kill or more accurate the shot. However, it’s not necessary to buy a crossbow which fires at 400 feet per second. These crossbows are typically in the thousand-dollar range and are more often as inaccurate as other cheaper devices. For simple target shooting, most deer hunting, 350 feet per second is already more than fast enough. In fact, the faster an arrow flies, the less likely it is to hit a target over a long distance because you decrease a crossbows natural tolerance for little mistakes. Where speed matters, a fine balance is important, so bows like the Barnett Recruit Terrain Crossbow are actually a great pick.
As draw weight gets higher, so does the difficulty of drawing your bow, so this is one concern. The more important concern is getting a humane kill every time, because for animals like moose, deer, and even small black bears the ideal draw weight should be at least 150 pounds. This is because a draw weight of 150 pounds equates to about 300 feet per second which is essential for a clean and direct kill. Based on this knowledge, it’s also safe to say as the size and weight of your prey increases, then so should your crossbows’ required draw weight. It’s always important to keep this in mind and know your limits for a kill. Crossbows like the Carbon Express X-Force Piledriver 390 and the Leader Accessories Crossbow Package have great draw weights for a broad range of different sized game.
Kinetic Energy determines the amount of energy transferred from the crossbow string to the arrow upon release, and it is directly related to the draw weight and the power of the stroke. The higher the draw weight, the more energy that will be transferred to the arrow and the more deadly it will become, meaning the faster it will fly. Typically, you can overlook kinetic energy for the listed speed, but on the current market there are many manufacturers that only list their kinetic energy and not overall firing speed.
This is the distance a string will have to travel from its loose position until it reaches the latch and is cocked. Most crossbows will have a stroke between 10-14 inches. For this reason, the Bear Archery Karnage Apocalypse Crossbow Package is a great pick because this crossbows 14-inch power stroke will increase its accuracy while its draw weight and kinetic energy increase its firing speed.
Size and weight
Crossbows come in varying sizes and weights since there are so many models out there. These models include recurve and compounds as well as one-handed “pistol” models and two-handed models (which are the most common).
For the ideal size you should actually do research on the type of game you are hunting and crossbow hunters which hunt that game. For instance, hunters who operate from tree stands typically prefer a longer crossbow that’s lighter, this is because the crossbow has a longer range but is still easy to carry up a tree.
Where weight is concerned the weight of your crossbow actually also has a lot to do with the size of the game you can catch. For instance, in catching any medium to large sized game – small moose, whitetail deer, and similar animals – a crossbow should at least have a weight over 7 pounds to typically guarantee a humane kill.
For a crossbow this feature is a must have, even if you’re already an expert hunter. Integrated safety devices will help keep you from damaging your new crossbow as well as from injuring yourself, and typically all you need is a mechanism which keeps the trigger from releasing whenever you draw. We suggest an auto-engaging safety, not only because all the reviewed bows on this list come equipped with one, but also because you’ll never have to remind yourself to reset the safety before drawing. After all, forgetting the safety can result in unintentionally pulling the trigger and taking or delivering serious injury. For this reason, all the crossbows examined on our list include safety features and even no-dry-fire technology.
When looking at triggers, there is no better example than the Barnett Recruit Terrain Crossbow. This is because that particular crossbow has a 3 pound pressure release trigger, meaning the trigger takes a lot of pull to fire the crossbow and therefore ensures better safety and that your arrow won’t suddenly fly loose before you’ve ever taken aim.
Recurve models with parallel limbs are the quietest crossbows on the market; the second quietest models are typically compound crossbows. An extremely silent option from our list is the Carbon Express X-Force Piledriver 390 with rubber rope stops and a machined aluminum rail for little to no vibration.
Choose a warranty which best matches the price of your purchase. For anything over $100 the warranty should at least last a year or two and give you full cover over the body of the crossbow. Where warranties are concerned, the most valuable one on our list is 5-years and belongs to the Barnett Recruit Terrain Crossbow.
Maintenance tips for crossbow owners
Maintenance for a crossbow can be expensive and take a long while, but this is only if you’re not regularly checking your bow and fixing, replacing, or tweaking with issues that already exist. If you only maintain and fix your bow once a year, you’ll have a harder time overall and spend more money. Put simply, these are the things you should check and fix:
First, always check for worn, missing, or loose parts before using your crossbow. Next, replace these parts immediately; especially replace any frayed or worn strings. Keep your barrel and flight groove lubricated (many of the crossbows include lube wax), and also wax the crossbow strings and cables. If you have a scope, make sure to keep it clean and scratch free. Before firing, always check your arrows. Finally, keep your crossbow secured away from children and keep it in an environment where weather will not affect or damage it.
Put your crossbow point into the ground before drawing; next you can place your foot on the piece which sticks from the end of the crossbow (the stirrup). From this position you’ll get the easiest draw, especially if you have a rope cocking aid to attach on either side of the rail to pull the handles. Continue pulling straight up on the handles evenly until you feel the string engage in the firing mechanism and lock securely in place; at this point you can remove the rope cocker and then knock an arrow on the rail. There is even some finesse for loading an arrow, and remembering that the arrow should be loader with the odd color vain straight down will ensure that the arrow is fully seated against your string; a fully seated arrow will ensure a straight shot with little vibration and much better accuracy.
A beginner should certainly invest in a cheaper crossbow, this is because many of these are actually quite near to as good as a professional more expensive crossbow, and they’re still quite accurate and fast enough for learning how to shoot.
Our top three picks from this list for the best crossbow under $300 are listed here to further assist with your buying experience.
Barnett Recruit Terrain Crossbow. This crossbow has one of the most professional designs for its low cost, and at this price it includes phenomenal features as well as a great lower-weight draw with still phenomenal accuracy and speed.
Carbon Express X-Force Piledriver 390. This crossbow is easily one of the best hunting designs on our list, and is a great choice mainly because its highly adjustable for all kinds of different hunters.
PSE Archery Jolt Hunting Crossbow Package. The budget pick for our list, this package features great extras and a great crossbow for a great price!