In the hunting scene there is an age-old debate on which is better, vertical bows or crossbows. A cross bow is horizontal and has mechanisms that make it easier to fire. A vertical bow can take more effort, is harder to aim and requires training and practice, perhaps more so than a crossbow does.
The conversation about which is better is really dependent on you and your preferences. There is no hard and fast way to say which will work better for you. However, there are some proof that lays with crossbows at the top. For a start, crossbows are generally deadlier.
When you test the two types of bows against each other with the most recent upgraded models you can find that a crossbow will shoot a 400-grain bolt at around 385 fps, sometimes even breaking 400 fps with even heavier bolts.
In comparison, the bows set at 28” and 60lbs, shooting a 364-grain arrow tend to reach 289 fps on average. Going up to 70lbs, you would perhaps reach 300 fps.
Crossbows are also easier to shoot, as vertical bows generally require much more practice and a good form, you need to train harder and learn stance and positioning to shoot a vertical bow, with a crossbow, you don’t need to do any of this and so the ease of use can often win this contest.
Are crossbows more powerful than bows?
If you are seeking the more powerful of the two options then you may find yourself looking into some heavy mathematics that will surely give you a bit of a headache. We have got the math for you though. You want to know if a modern crossbow is more likely to deliver more kinetic energy to the target you are aiming for than an average modern compound bow.
To clarify this crossbow speeds and draw weights will always vary by model, but individual units of the same model will generally shoot the same draw weight, draw length and arrow size, and so speed and energy is typically close.
A compound bow speed and energy will vary a lot more, this is because many are highly adjustable, so each shooter can totally customize their draw weight which is not something that you can do on a crossbow. You can also adjust and customize the draw length as well as the arrow length and weight which will all contribute to the speed and energy of the shot.
But when you look at the averages there is a difference between crossbows and bows, a crossbow generally beats a compound/vertical bow in kinetic energy and speed, even with all the alternations and customizations you can do to a bow.
There may be exceptions to this factor, but typically the average modern crossbow will deliver slightly more kinetic energy than the average modern compound/ vertical bow. But this is on average, don’t forget.
Is a crossbow faster than a bow?
Speed is primarily determined by the power stroke and draw weight, and a compound bow will typically have a draw weight that is less than half of what a crossbow has.
The power stroke is the distance the bow string travels from full draw to resting position. A compound bow with a 30” draw length and a 7” brace height will have a 23 power stroke. (You take the brace height from the draw length to get the power stroke number.)
The longer the power stroke is the faster the arrow will fly, a person who has a 30” draw will shoot faster than someone with a 28” draw simply thanks to the extra 2” power stroke. Unlike a compound bow which only needs a module change to make a draw length longer a crossbow would have to be made longer increasing the overall length and making the bow heavier altogether.
Then there is draw weight. Draw weight is the maximum amount of force it takes to draw the bow. A crossbow has a much higher draw weight, with an average of 150, in order to generate the speed and energy needed to fire the arrow, this is to compensate for the much shorter power stroke. With a crossbow the power stroke is around 14” on average, so the draw weight needs to make up for this lack of power stroke.
A crossbow is faster thanks to the exceptional draw weights, however, they have a higher poundage which creates vibration and extra noise, not what a stealthy hunter wants.
Is a crossbow more powerful than a compound bow?
In short yes, crossbows are more powerful than compound bows, despite them having a smaller power stroke, they have an exceptional draw weight. They do however also pack more weight, so you will have to lug around a bow that has all that extra weight on it, it will also be more likely to produce noise after you’ve taken the shot which can be counterproductive for a hunter.
The power behind a crossbow, which comes from its hardcore draw weight, also makes the weight two to three times more than a modern compound bow, which can make it a bit of a chore to carry around on a long hunting trip. While it has a much more powerful and excessively fast shot, it also lacks in accuracy slightly in comparison to a compound bow, especially amongst pros.
Despite all these issues, it is not hard to see how the crossbow can be favored, it has a powerful shot, and it does not require excessive training. However, if you are more in favor of accuracy and lightweight gear easy to carry around on your hunting trips than a compound bow is likely to be more efficient for you.
The average power of a crossbow is 99.747, for an arrow at 420 grains fired at 327 fps, in comparison to a compound bow which has an average power of 72.16, at 400 grains fired at 285 fps.