Going out and purchasing a new crossbow can be a bit difficult if you don't have the right information available at your feet. Before going in to the top models and top crossbow brands, it's important to start with a something a little more basic - the different types of crossbows.

The information below is going to summarize the most popular types, some miscellaneous options, as well as a few popular questions related to this crossbow topic.

We hope this blog provides you with a wealth of information and helps you figure out the best crossbow for your next hunting trip.

Trivia Question: In which century did crossbows first appear in Europe and become widely adopted as a military weapon? (Answer at the bottom)

Main Types of Crossbows

As you can tell by the list below, the most common types of crossbows are the traditional recurve and the compound crossbow. However, there's one more that's relatively new to the list...

1. Traditional Recurve Crossbows

A recurve crossbow is a type of crossbow that has a single string and limbs that curve towards the archer and away at the tips. When the archer pulls back the string, the limbs bend, storing energy that is released when the string is let go, propelling the arrow forward.

Recurve crossbows have very few moving parts, and while they are often made from materials other than wood, they are still relatively light and easy to maintain. Because of their lightweight frame, some hunters prefer to use recurve crossbows in the field.

2. Compound Crossbows

The main difference between traditional recurve and compound crossbows is the use of cam/wheels on the bow's limbs. Additionally, compound bows incorporate multiple cables instead of a single string.

By incorporating the cams, you're transforming rotary motion into linear motion, pushing that energy into the string. This mechanical advantage decreases the draw weight, but increases the energy and bolt speed.

Finally, the compound crossbow adds improved accuracy. The pulley system of a compound crossbow also helps to reduce vibration and noise, making the bow more accurate and easier to shoot.

3. Reverse Draw Crossbows

A reverse draw crossbow is a type of crossbow that has its limbs attached to the backside of the riser, as opposed to the front, like traditional crossbows - in other words the cams/wheels are closer to cocking stirrup, and further away from the trigger.

In a reverse draw crossbow, the string is drawn by the riser towards the shooter, rather than away from the shooter as in a traditional crossbow. This results in a longer power stroke, which means the crossbow can achieve higher arrow speeds with less effort.

Reverse draw crossbows also tend to be more compact and easier to handle than traditional crossbows, making them a popular choice for hunters and shooters who want a high-performing crossbow that is easy to maneuver in tight spaces.

According to TenPoint, a reverse draw crossbow provides the following benefits:

1) Improved bolt speeds due to the distance of the cams/wheels.

2) Smoother, quieter shot, with less shock and vibration, and more speed with less draw weight.

3) Better accuracy due to longer nock-to-string engagement time during the shot.

Most Common Types of Crossbows

Other Types of Crossbows

Outside of the popular options of crossbows mentioned above, there are a couple of miscellaneous ones that should be talked about:

1. Pistol Crossbows

Pistol crossbow are commonly referred to as crossbow handguns, hand crossbows or mini crossbows, but there's two things you need to know before purchasing one of these:

1. Pistol crossbows do not have a rear stock and butt - they are a one-handed grip version of a standard crossbow.

2. A crossbow handguns draw weight is much lower than a standard crossbow - maxing out at around 80 lbs.

Additionally, while these crossbow do pack a bit of a punch, we strongly recommend to only use these for target shooting. A draw weight at this level might take down a small animal; however, due to the fact that a lot of these manufacturers are not hunting specific brands, they might not fully disclose the power of their products.

2. Automatic Crossbows

Automatic crossbow, or self-reloading crossbows, allow the user to shoot multiple times without having to reload the weapon.

While most of today's models are engineered for looks and for having a little fun, automatic crossbows did find their place as short lived weapon on the battle field. The Chinese developed a self-repeating crossbow known as a "zhuge nu" that would fire round after round quickly through their ingenious mechanisms.

Misc. Crossbow Models

Crossbow Type FAQs

Listed below are some of the most frequently asked questions related to the different types of crossbows:

1. Crossbow vs. Bow - Which One Is Better?

As quickly summarizing from BowHunting, the crossbow is a far superior weapon weapon compared to the standard bow. Overall, it's an easy weapon to shoot - providing a level of efficiency that's hard to beat.

However, if you're looking for more of a subjective answer, we'll really have to leave it up to each individual hunter and their style of hunting to figure out which one is "better"!

2. Who Invented Crossbows?

While the exact origins of the crossbow are not officially known, many experts believe the crossbow was invented somewhere in China during the Warring States period (475-221 BCE) in China. 

3. What Are The Two Most Common Types of Crossbows?

As mentioned above, the two most common types of crossbows are the traditional recurve and the compound crossbow. Additionally, you can now split the compound option into two separate categories - standard draw and reverse draw builds.

4. Is A Crossbow A Traditional Bow?

A crossbow is not considered a traditional bow in the archery world. Using the term 'traditional bow' is used to reference a longbow or recurve bow. Both of these constructions have a vertical bow riser and do not incorporate a horizontal rail as found in standard crossbows.

5. What Are The Most Popular Crossbow Brands?

The full list of best crossbow brands can be found in another one of our blogs, but here's a quick summary list:

1. Ravin - Read about the Best Ravin Crossbows today!

2. TenPoint - Read about the Best TenPoints Crossbows today!

3. Barnett - Read about the Best Barnett Crossbows today!

4. Wicked Ridge

5. Excalibur - Read about the Best Excalibur Crossbows today!

6. Killer Instinct - Read about the Best Killer Instinct Crossbows today!

Answer: Crossbows first appeared in Europe in the 11th century, and by the 12th century, they had become widely adopted as a military weapon.

Also, if you're interested in learning more about the the Best Sitka Hunting Gear, we have that for you too!