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Last updated: July 19, 2021
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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.
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.
At the $300 price range, the Killer Instinct Burner 415 is a beast of a crossbow whether you intend to use it for target practice or for shooting live animals. It weighs a measly 6.7 lbs making it an easy crossbows to take on a hunting trip. Your hands won’t get tired as quickly, and this will definitely be beneficial when aiming and shooting.
Speaking of shooting, the product has an impressive 141 ft lbs kinetic energy rating, which is partly responsible for the 415 feet per second speed of the crossbow. This might just be enough to take down the biggest deer in the herd. That said, the draw weight is also quite demanding on the user. However, if you use the provided rope cocker, it shouldn’t be that hard to position your arrows well.
Also, you get the Enhanced Micro-Lite aluminum barrel in this bow. This is meant to enhance your precision while shooting and is supported by the 3.5-pound KillerTech trigger. Nevertheless, some of your arrows might occasionally deviate slightly from the bull’s eye due to the friction when shooting. Consequently, the manufacturer provides you with rail lube to prevent that from happening. However, it’s up to you to make sure you use it on the bow.
Potential users will also like that they can adjust the tool to fit their needs and body type. This is made possible by the X-lock and AR-style buttstock, both of which are adjustable. For the latter, you even get six positions to try out before you settle on the one you’re most comfortable with.
Lastly, in addition to the rail lube and rope cocker, there are other accessories provided that could prove invaluable when you’re using the bow. They include string suppressors, a quiver, scope, and your first set of arrows. The scope in the set comes with a red/blue illuminated reticle, and you can adjust the brightness depending on the time of day.
What stands out?
Impressive arrow speed
Adjustable buttstock and X-Lok connector
What cons did we manage to find?
High restocking fee for returnees
The scope is okay for beginners, but you might need to replace it with a better one over time
Another high-performance option is the CenterPoint Sniper, and it is bound to impress anyone with a sub-$300 price range. The power and performance can in part be attributed to the quad limbs in the bow. Additionally, the precision-machined cams system also plays a role.
When these features are combined, they result in a 185-pound draw weight when you’re loading the arrow for your next shot. The rope cocker is provided since the draw weight will likely overwhelm most users. However, when you finally nock your arrow, you can let loose at an impressive 370 feet per second.
Notably, the tool comes with a machined rail and a shoot-through riser. This also adds to the crossbow’s efficiency as there are no obstacles in the arrow’s trajectory. There’s also very little friction slowing it down.
There are several bonus features as well. For example, you get integrated string suppressors. Even the slightest bit of string noise and vibration can startle the animals you’re hunting and have them scurrying away to safety, and the string suppressors help prevent that.
Another example is the anti-dry fire trigger that makes it harder to fire by accident. In addition to that, the crossbow is designed to work with both left-handed and right-handed use.
Lastly, the crossbow is available in a camo or black finish for the stock, and a few extra accessories are also provided.
What are our favorite features?
Purchase includes several accessories
Ambidextrous use oriented
Incorporated string suppressors
Anti-dry fire safety feature included
What could be better?
Not the best quality trigger
The scope pictured on Amazon is different from the one buyers receive
Up next, we have the Killer Instinct Lethal, which is not all that different from the Instinct Burner 415 in terms of power. However, almost everything else is designed differently despite the two being from the same source. It comes with an ultra-light composite stock so you can shoot for longer without feeling fatigued.
Another positive is the adjustable Picatinny rail. This allows you to try out and experiment with different configurations until you find the one that works for you. After you’ve configured the crossbow, you can then take it hunting.
Additionally, this product option comes with custom rubber shock absorbers. While these are slightly different from other string suppressors and silencers, they still have the same effect where the animal doesn’t know what hit them until it’s too late.
Like the other crossbows listed, this Killer Instinct Lethal is bundled with a few other accessories as well. One is an illuminated scope for shooting in various lighting conditions. Another is the rope cocker, so you don’t strain when setting up the bow-string.
Additionally, there is the three-bolt quiver, the three bolts that will fill it up, and a stick of rail lube.
The Barnett Explorer XP370 is the next option on our list. While it doesn’t ship fully assembled, there is very little left for the user to do once they get it. This crossbow’s draw weight is not very intimidating, and a few of you could pull it off without needing a cocker.
You should know that the option of getting a cocker upgrade is always available if you need it. However, that might push your budget slightly over the $300 limit. If you choose to do it by hand, you’ll be dealing with a 165 lb draw weight that translates into a 370 feet per second arrow speed when you pull the trigger.
The device weighs 6 lbs effectively, making it the lightest option listed. As such, if you’re of small stature and don’t have much strength to carry your bow around your hunting trips, the XP370 is ideal. Also, this bow works if you tend to carry lots of supplies and are trying to minimize the strain.
For extra safety, you get the Soft Lok floating bristle arrow retainer which is a patented technology by Barnett that adds downward pressure on your arrows. Also, the trigger is designed to fire with zero creep, therefore improving your shooting accuracy.
The XP370 is sold as a ready-to-hunt package with an illuminated scope, lube wax, a lightweight side mount quiver, and finally, 20” carbon arrows. This crossbow also has an anti-vibration mechanism for quieter shooting.
The XtremepowerUS Hybrid Crossbow has an interesting body that looks more or less like a gun. The package is quite heavy in comparison to the competition. However, the accessories do account for some of the weight. That said, it will still be more challenging to carry this around your hunting grounds.
It has an 80 lbs draw weight and thus shouldn’t be problematic to cock and fire. However, the shooting speed is quite low. As such, it might be better not to use this option on moving targets. That said, you can easily catch up on target practice at the archery range.
Additionally, the fully adjustable stock and foregrip are essential in making sure you’re comfortable anytime you use the bow. Another reason to get this Hybrid Crossbow is the red pointer sight that makes target acquisition a cakewalk. You get a few accessories, and one of them is a crossbow bag so you can have an easier time carrying it around. The rest include gloves, a featherless fishing fork, featherless fishing arrows, and a spanner.
What makes it special?
Easy to cock
Inbuilt red pointer sight
What cons did we find?
Low shooting speed
Things to Consider
The remainder of this buying guide is provided to educate customers on the safe uses of crossbows as well as the specifics, which are part of the crossbow design and how these features affect each weapons’ overall effectiveness.
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.
One important feature many beginners might not be familiar with is the retention spring, and this piece is important to know mainly because it requires a lot of maintenance to keep your crossbow at 100%; it’s the part which is stretched when cocking and then snaps back into position once cocked.
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 Killer Instinct Burner 415 and the Killer Instinct Lethal 405 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 Killer Instinct Burner 415 is a great pick because this crossbows 14.5-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 Killer Instinct Burner 415 . This is because that particular crossbow has a 3.5 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 quiet option from our list is the CenterPoint Sniper 370 Crossbow integrated string suppressors 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 a lifetime warranty that belongs to Instinct Killer crossbows.
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.
The Killer Instinct also doesn’t fall behind where kinetic energy and speed are concerned. The rubber shock absorbers also make it easy for your arrows to hit your targets without startling them. Finally, this option has adjustable components as well.
As for the CenterPoint Sniper, we liked it because of the integrated string suppressors and vibration-free shots. The safety features also led to a favorable rating in our books. Know of any other top-quality crossbows under $300? Fill us in by commenting.