Getting Started with Your Crossbow: Best Practice Basics

crossbow user sighting target

If you’re new to the world of crossbow shooting, you may feel overwhelmed with all the information available for new crossbow users. But, don’t worry, we’ll just cover the necessary basics. With this information in hand, you’ll be able to hit the range with confidence and have a great time.

How to Cock a Crossbow

One of the most important steps when using a crossbow is properly cocking it. To do this, you must first understand the safety precautions involved in cocking your crossbow. Always be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully before attempting to cock your crossbow.

When preparing to cock your crossbow, it’s important to have the proper tools on hand. Be sure that you have a cocking device or cocking aid that is designed for use with your specific crossbow, and that all the parts are in good working order. If any parts seem damaged, it’s best to replace them before using the device. 

When you’re ready to cock your crossbow, make sure you’re in a safe area with a clear line of sight, away from other people or obstacles. Engage the safety, securely attach the cocking aid or device to your crossbow, then pull the handles, press the lever, or turn the crank until you hear the click that indicates the string has been seated in the groove and is held securely in place by the latch.

How to Load a Crossbow Properly

It’s important to understand the basics of loading a crossbow properly. This will ensure your safety and help you get the most from your new equipment. NEVER put your hand inside the deadly triangle of a cocked crossbow. And never load a crossbow with your hand in front of the bolt. Both could lead to terrible injuries should the crossbow misfire. 

With your hand either above or below the bolt, use your thumb and forefinger to place the odd color fletching into the bolt track down the center of the crossbow from the front end. Push the bolt down the track until the nock seats securely to the string. Once the bolt is in place, you are ready to fire your crossbow. Be sure that the bolt is seated against the string, or it will result in a dry fire, which could ruin your crossbow and void the warranty. Many crossbows have anti-dry fire systems, but as with anything mechanical they are subject to failure.

How Far Can a Crossbow Shoot?

Crossbows are powerful hunting and target-shooting devices that can shoot bolts with great force and accuracy. A well-maintained crossbow is capable of reaching ranges up to 100 yards. The range of a crossbow is determined by many factors that all work together, but are summed up by the Feet Per Second (FPS) rate of the crossbow. Generally speaking, the higher the FPS the farther it can shoot bolts. However, heavier bolts and arrows won’t fly as far as lighter ones from the same bow. But the heavier bolts have better energy transfer than lighter ones. So, even though the lighter bolts fly farther they have lower penetration. 

For target shooting, test your accuracy as far as you can shoot. But for hunting keep it close for greater energy transfer and penetration. Up to 40 yards is best. If you shoot beyond 40 yards you run the risk of the sound of the crossbow getting to the target before the bolt, which could result in a miss, or worse, a wounded animal you’re unable to recover.

Using a Scope with a Rangefinder 

A crossbow scope with a rangefinder can be a great addition to your crossbow setup, as it allows you to accurately determine the distance of your target. When using a scope, it’s important to be aware of the various adjustments that need to be made in order to get an accurate reading.

You want a clear view of your target, and you want an indication of wind strength and direction. Your aim adjustment will be heavily dependent on the wind. Once you have a clear view of your target, use the rangefinder feature of the scope to gauge the distance of your target. Adjusting for wind, aim for the center target and adjust your focus and zoom. The rangefinder will provide you with a distance reading allowing you to make a more accurate shot. 

Crossbow Noise 

The noise created by the crossbow when it’s shot is due to vibration in the limbs and string. All crossbows are made quiet enough to make an ethical shot without spooking the target animal up to 40 yards.  You can add vibration dampeners to your setup to reduce the noise further. 

While a crossbow is louder than a vertical bow, it is much quieter than any firearm and does not require hearing protection. It will sound loud to the shooter because it’s positioned close to your face, which amplifies the noise. 

If you plan to use a crank cocking device in the field, look for one with a silent feature, or the clicking noise may give you away.

3 thoughts on “Getting Started with Your Crossbow: Best Practice Basics”

  1. Bow Bully,

    Max range up to 100yards? My 200lbs cross example – you can’t tell how far it goes :/
    Or do you mean with high accuracy up to 100yards? Yes, possible to shot accurately so far.

    • Yes, tomek, you could reach those distances accurately, but the main thing to consider when hunting is the “effective” range compared to the “max” range. That was what we were trying to highlight.

      The general formula for understanding the effective range of your is: max velocity divided by 10 equals range. So using the CenterPoint CP400 which has a peak draw weight of 200 lbs, similar to yours, the effective range is:

      400fps/10 = 40 yards

      So while you could hit targets beyond 40 yards, you’ll lose a lot of energy when you shoot beyond that distance for taking down larger game.

  2. “…max velocity divided by 10 equals range.”
    The Bow Bully,
    I had not heard that before; that is most interesting and informative; thank you! 🙂
    Blessings to you,

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