On the lookout for the best crossbow for under $200? Our team has dug up the dirt on over 20 different 2023 x-bows, studying the variations in comfort, power, accuracy, and of course, overall enjoyment factor. Now, we’re presenting our readers with a pared-down list of the Top 6 Crossbows for Hunting and Target Practice.
As avid outdoor enthusiasts, our whole team was excited to have a closer look at what the modern world of crossbows had to offer. Because there are so many models of “x-bow” on the market, we were forced to limit our comparisons to technical factors like draw weight, arrow velocity, and overall price and value. What we found was not dissimilar to other outdoor equipment: the fastest is not always the best, and the cheapest is not always the worst.
After the review, we’re going to fire off into a more detailed look at the different mechanical factors that come together to make the best crossbows.
|Best Feature||Velocity:||Power stroke:||Kinetic Energy:||Draw Weight:||Weight:||Pros||Cons|
Best Crossbow Under $200
|315 FPS||12 inches||95 FT||150 lbs||7.7 lbs||
Best Compound Crossbow for Youth
|300 FPS||10.5 inches||84 FT||130 lbs||7.9 lbs||
Best Recurve X-bow for Target Practicing
SA Sports Empire Fever Pro
|235 FPS||8 inches||51 FT||175 lbs||5 lbs||
Best Recurve Crossbow for Youth
PSE Insight Trainer
|160 FPS||10.75 inches||35 FT||60 lbs||4.6 lbs||
Best of the Rest
|245 FPS||10.5 inches||50 FT||175 lbs||5 lbs||
Best Scope on a Budget Crossbow
|250 FPS||10 inches||61 FT||175 lbs||6.6 lbs||
Best All-Around – Barnett Jackal
|Power stroke||12 inches|
|Kinetic Energy||95 FT|
|Draw Weight||150 lbs|
Although the Barnett Jackal Crossbow first hit the market close to a decade ago, it has not ceased to be one of the most popular entry-level crossbows on the outdoor equipment market, outselling all of the name-brand competitors and garnering more shining reviews in the process. The innovative design of this powerful weapon offers a military style handling and shape with a more comfortable and modern limb assembly.
The cable system pulls smooth and offers impressive arrow speeds of up to 315 feet per second … one of the top speeds in its class, and probably one of the most accurate. At 7.7 pounds this bow is small and light enough for the beginning huntsman or sportsman, but is sturdy enough to stand strong against more rigorous use. The Barnett Jackal is safe, easy to use, and the TT trigger is a delight of a firing mechanism.
Best Compound Crossbow for Youth – CenterPoint Volt 300
|Power stroke||10.5 inches|
|Kinetic Energy||84 FT|
|Draw Weight||130 lbs|
With a lower recoil and easy-to-cock action, the CenterPoint Volt is one of the best options when you are trying to buy a crossbow for a younger user. The increased ease of use will not only boost their enjoyment of the sport, but it will also provide the youth with a unique opportunity to hone their skills in a less demanding fashion. However, just because the Volt 300 is a great crossbow for youth doesn’t mean that it doesn’t pack a considerable punch for an x-bow in its class. 300 feet per second is comparable to a lot of the other crossbows on our list, and in fact is only a touch slower than some professional models and in fact faster than some pro-level compound bows. There is a bit more assembly requires with the Volt 300, but once you have it put together you can rest assured that the components aren’t going anywhere. An integrated red-dot scope allows for fast on-the-go calibration and will help even the most green x-bow users master their craft in no time.
Best Recurve X-bow for Target Practicing – SA Sports Empire Fever Pro
|Power stroke||8 inches|
|Kinetic Energy||51 FT|
|Draw Weight||175 lbs|
The user friendly design of the Empire Fever Pro by SA Sports has made it one of their most popular crossbows, in fact more popular than the original. New safety features include a large-sized, ambidextrous palm grip and an automatic finger-guard safety mechanism that even experienced crossbow hunters will appreciate. A mounted rail system allows for near infinite customization … something that is not often found on x-bows in this price range.
While it is true that 235 feet per second is one of the slower arrow speeds on our list, the real value of the Fever Pro is the ability to fire off sturdy aluminum arrows over and over again in order to practice your aim. For this reason, we are officially dubbing this the best recurve practice bow … the perfect way to introduce someone to the sport of crossbow hunting. The only drawback of this particular x-bow is that the included aluminum bolts are not as sturdy as some of the third party options that you can find online. We recommend ordering a few extra arrows from a different manufacturer to go along with this great practice bow.
Best Recurve Crossbow for Youth – PSE Insight Trainer
|Power stroke||10.75 inches|
|Kinetic Energy||35 FT|
|Draw Weight||60 lbs|
At 160 feet per second, the PSE Insight Trainer is one of the slowest crossbows on our list, but since it was made exclusively for target practice, you can’t really hold that against it. A 60 pound draw weight means that even first time users will be able to experience the thrill and skill of crossbow target practice. As expected, the pared-down components of the PSE Insight Trainer also make it the lightest crossbow that we looked at … a remarkable 4.6 pounds. All of the basics of crossbow operation are made easy with this particular model, though the fact that it probably couldn’t kill a squirrel might be a turn off to some of the more hardcore users out there. But hey, if you are already an experienced crossbow user, then you are likely looking for an entirely different class of weapon anyway. Our favorite feature is the easy-draw foot stirrup… it really establishes the basic concept of crossbow operation without overcomplicating it to the point of making it hard to grasp.
Best of the Rest – CenterPoint Tyro
|Power stroke||10.5 inches|
|Kinetic Energy||50 FT|
|Draw Weight||175 lbs|
When it comes to mid-rage recurve bows, the CenterPoint Tyro is one of the best all-around crossbows for either hunting or target practice, as can be evidenced by the staggering amount of online reviews that this particular model has received. With a top arrow speed of 245 feet per second, the Tyro can step up to basic hunting applications while also managing to remain an excellent weapon for target practice. It’s quite durable for a recurve bow, and the components are put together in such a beautifully simplistic way that we would not be surprised to find out that this model was used as an inspiration for all of the competitors out there. When you first look at the scope, you might find yourself wondering if you would do better to replace it with an after-market scope, but in actuality the included scope works even better than you would imagine for a recurve bow under $150. The only potential drawback is that the sight bridge feels a touch high in its factory setting. While adjusting the elevation knob helps a bit, it can only go so far. Still, the Tyro manages to earn our accolade as the “best of the rest” recurve bow for beginners and advanced hunters alike.
Best Scope on a Budget Crossbow – Wildgame Innovations XR250C
|Power stroke||10 inches|
|Kinetic Energy||61 FT|
|Draw Weight||175 lbs|
Made by the pros over at Barnett, the XR250C is a budget-level crossbow that packs a serious wallop when it comes to both arrow speed and overall ease of use. While not the best option for complete beginners, the XR250C features a draw weight that is light enough for smaller users but heavy enough to do some damage when the time comes. Our favorite thing about the XR250C, however, is the built in scope. This 30 mm red-dot scope has a 7 level brightness adjustment setting, which might be one of the most advanced scopes that you can get on a beginner crossbow. While this crossbow is advertised as arriving “ready to hunt”, there is some minor assembly that is still required. Fortunately, the instructions are pretty easy to understand, and in addition, there is a wealth of instructional videos on YouTube that are there to help you out. At just over a hundred and twenty bucks, this is also one of the most affordable x-bows in its class, and truly the best option for anyone who is looking to get started with crossbow hunting on a budget.
2023 Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Crossbow for Hunting & Target Practice
Whether you are new to archery or are and old hand at hunting, a good well-made crossbow can add a whole lot of excitement to the life of a sportsman, with their powerful arrow firing technology and lightweight carry style. Modern crossbows have also been upgraded to be remarkably easy to use, and more and more models are being released that are targeted specifically at new and younger users.
Perhaps you’re looking to take down a buck, or maybe it’s a nice plump turkey you are after. Then again, it might just be an afternoon of careful target practice to hone your skill. Whatever the activity, the crossbows on our list are guaranteed to please.
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with our top picks for the best budget crossbows, it’s time to learn a little bit more about the criteria that we used to make our decisions. By the time you get to the bottom, you will have all the information you need to decide which crossbow is best for you.
Recurve Bows vs. Compound Bows
The primary difference between recurve bows and compound bows is their size. Because compound bows utilize a more complex draw system designed to “compound” the overall tension, they can get away with shorter limbs and shorter barrels.
Recurve bows are far simpler in their construction and design, but they to tend to be larger in both limb and stock. They are easier to use, easier to draw, and for the most part, a heck of a lot cheaper. For this reason, all of the crossbows on this particular list are recurve bows, not compound bows.
Velocity ( FPS)
With bow hunting, the potential velocity of a bow is one of its most important selling points, so it is no surprise that this is perhaps the most visible metric that the consumer sees when shopping around. Measured in feet per second (FPS), the velocity of any particular bow is one of the strongest indicators of what kind of activity it might be best for. For instance, crossbows for target practice can often be found with FPS ratings of 120-200, which would not be enough velocity to take down a large animal, but is certainly fast enough to help the young sportsman practice their aim.
While there are certainly exceptions to the rule, it is generally accepted that the higher the FPS, the more expensive the bow is going to be, and the more draw weight is required to pull the string back. This is the primary reason why crossbows for beginners tend to feature more timid velocities compared to their more burly counterparts.
The term ‘Draw Weight’ refers to the amount of effort that is necessary to pull the limbs of the crossbow into the firing position. From model to model and manufacturer to manufacturer, the draw weight is going to vary quite a bit, so it’s important to pay attention to this spec in particular when you’re shopping. Generally speaking, the higher the required draw weight, the more arrow velocity you can achieve per shot. However, more draw weight means that it’s harder for the user to cock the bow, which is why beginning users and younger users are encouraged to pick a model with a slightly lower draw weight.
The overall weight of the crossbow is another important factor especially for the dedicated deer hunter who is planning on hauling this thing out into the wilderness. Lighter bows are obviously easier to carry, though a lighter bow usually indicates less velocity and less additional features. In addition, heavier crossbows are easier to keep steady when firing, which can lead to a valuable increase in accuracy for any user.
Not all crossbows come with a scope as a factory standard, but for the most part, the selections that we have made for this list do. A scope is a necessary part of any hunter’s repertoire, so it’s something that should be payed close attention to when selecting a new bow. At the very least, look for a bow with a modular mounting system that will allow for the user to upgrade their scope as time goes on to match their increased skill level.
Conclusion: The Best Crossbows Under $200
Normally, our team likes to select more than just six models for lists like these, in hopes that our readers will be able to find the perfect product for them from a wide range of options. However, the six recurve crossbows on our list represent the best-of-the-best when it comes to budget crossbows that are still capable of doing some serious damage.
If you are shopping for a beginning crossbow user, or if you are simply interested in a lighter, simpler bow that is more suited for leisurely target practice than game hunting, then there is no better option than the PSE Insight Trainer. This small and swift little bow will help any user achieve a good grasp on the various motions, skills, and considerations that come with bow hunting, while also encouraging greater accuracy over time.
The more experienced hunter is going to want something that packs a mightier punch, and to this end we recommend the Barnett Jackal. With an advertised top velocity of 315 feet per second, the Jackal is the most powerful crossbow in the budget class, and is in fact still strong enough to take down a full grown elk in a humane way (provided that you’re a decent shot!). Simply put, you aren’t going to find a better balance of performance and affordability anywhere, and Barnett’s quality control systems are widely regarded to be some of the best in the business. Seeing as how it’s only a few bucks more than the other models presented here, we think it’s a real “bullseye” for any bow hunter on a budget.
Frequently Asked Questions
While it is always tricky trying to come up with an age recommendation for other people’s kids, our team’s research indicates that most hunters and outdoor enthusiasts agree that your child should be at least 8 years old before you let them operate a real recurve crossbow. The truth is, both the size and maturity level of the child are far more important than their age. As a parent, take the time to decide whether or not your child (or the child you are shopping for) is mature enough to responsibly handle a potentially dangerous weapon.
While there are some specialized mechanisms out there available for left-handed bow hunters, the large majority of x-bows on the market are built to be ambidextrous, which means there is no need to double check before buying; the bow should operate the same way regardless of which hand you favor.
Crossbows come in all types of size and power level, just like rifles. For this reason they can be ideal for almost any type of game, from small birds all the way up to deer and elk. But the type of animal is not nearly as important a consideration as the actual regulations. In every state, crossbow hunting is usually only allowed during archery season, which, depending on your locality, can be in different times of the year. Before you take the crossbow out for a spin, be sure to check with your local authorities about when crossbow hunting is allowed.
The recommended draw weight for a beginning user will depend on the type of activity that is intended. Hunting mule deer, for instance, requires around 150 pounds of draw weight for a humane kill, though some hunters insist on an even heavier draw weight for hunting purposes. Entry-level practice bows, however, can have a significantly lighter draw weight as there is no need for a specific velocity … only the ability to practice your accuracy.