Whenever I handle a bow, it always takes me back to when I was a kid and I would make bows out of maple or red oak and then go play with the other kids. Using a bow is just such a visceral experience, because the most important part of the whole equation, is you, the archer. Anything and everything you do will affect your shot, much more than if you were using a hunting rifle.
Unfortunately, I don’t go out bow hunting as much as I would like, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love the feeling. The reason I don’t bow hunt so much now is that a medical condition prevents me from fully drawing the bow so that a bummer. But, to get my bow hunting fix I’ve moved on to crossbow hunting.
For my particular situation, crossbow hunting is a Godsend. I love that it allows me to hunt using different tools and skillsets than using regular hunting rifles. For anyone that has tried crossbow hunting, you know that things are not on the cheap side. Because I believe that people should be fully informed before making any kind of meaningful decisions, I decided to attempt to answer the question of what is the best crossbow under 500 dollars.
There is a lot of equipment in that price range, and I will try to narrow them down as much as I can so that you don’t get analysis paralysis and overthink it. Luckily, I have used crossbows for several years and that should help me give you an accurate list.
Crossbows under 500 – What to expect?
There is a huge variety of crossbows out there, and frankly, it’s pretty hard if you are a beginner and want to choose your first crossbow. There are a lot of topics that can be discussed here, but in the interest of keeping things as simple as possible, I will only mention the most important things that you need to know for now.
Just so we are clear from the start, when you are looking to get a crossbow under 500 dollars, you have to know that what you will be getting is an entry-level piece of gear. If you compare a crossbow under 500 and a crossbow at 1000 or more dollars, you will notice that there is a clear difference between them, especially in the precision department. Also, you will usually find that the cocking mechanism, the scope, and the arrows seem to be designed and made the cheapest way possible in some entry-level crossbows.
However, the crossbow itself is still more than capable of hunting deer or other large prey as long as you know its limitation.
Price vs performance
As long as you know what you are getting, then you will find that there are some crossbows out there that offer a great balance between price and performance. The entire idea of the budget crossbow is to find that happy medium where you get high performance, high reliability, and low cost. Sure, there are some features that you won’t have on a budget crossbow but at the end of the day, an entry-level crossbow has all the features that you need to hunt. The more expensive models just make hunting a bit easier or more comfortable, that’s pretty much it.
Also, just to give you a sneak peek the best crossbow under 500 will perform almost on par with models with much higher price tags.
Most bolts shot from entry-level crossbows will reach around 300-350 feet per second, whilst bolts shot from higher-end crossbows will usually pass 400+ feet per second. That difference in speed will also cause a significant difference in kinetic energy. However, even an entry-level crossbow shoot from a closer distance will be more than enough to take down a deer.
At longer distances the bolt won’t usually hit the target with enough remaining kinetic energy to good clean through it, so shorter distances are recommended if the bow isn’t that powerful.
As long as the hunter is properly position and firing from the optimal distance, then even budget crossbows are more than enough to take down any target.
Most crossbow manufactures will sell you kits which usually include the following elements: crossbow, scope (reflex, red dot, etc.), quiver, rope cocker, arrows, sling mounts, and lube wax.
However, as previously mentioned, the scope will probably be of lower quality and more serious hunters will usually want to replace it will something a bit more powerful.
All in all, even with the standard kit you will still be able to hunt to your heart’s desire.
As with any important purchase, the manufacturers of crossbows offer different lengths of warranty. Because we are only interested in the best crossbow under 500, we will not take into consideration, crossbows that don’t offer any kind of warranty.
Best Crossbow Under 500 | Top 5 Reviewed
Barnett Whitetail Pro Crossbow
We start this list off with what is a top contender for the best crossbow under 500 dollars. This crossbow from Barnett has a draw weight of 165 pounds which should give the arrows it fires a speed of around 400 feet per second. Those are some big numbers we are talking about here.
This crossbow feels exactly as a high-end crossbow should feel. Lightweight with a fiberglass composite step-through riser, but still stable thanks to a comfortable grip. This crossbow was designed with full-frame shooters in mind, as it offers a natural shoulder rest whilst its lengthened stock doesn’t hinder movement or shooting because it doesn’t have the bulkiness that you find in cheaper crossbows.
Barnett has also thought about stealth, and they incorporated several features to help you stay hidden for as long as possible. Some of the things you get are string dampeners for audio silence and camo wrappers for visual stealth. Also, the crossbow comes with the proprietary Frictionless Release Technology which offers a free-floating roller between sear and trigger which makes for a very sensitive release trigger.
On the safety front, you get an anti-dry fire along with a nock sensor to put your mind at ease. It also comes with an illuminated scope, side quiver, and a three-pound pressure release.
String dampeners for reduced noise
It will be hard to draw for some people
The lengthened stock offers stability and power
Quickdraw and nock thanks to the side-mounted quiver
Barnett Whitetail Hunter II Crossbow
Another fine crossbow from Barnett, this time we have the Whitetail Hunter II. Thanks to its design, Barnett has managed to shave off a bit of weight on this crossbow while still being able to make sure that it packs a punch. So, let’s talk numbers for a bit, we have here a 6.4 pounds crossbow that has a draw weight of 150 pounds. That equals around 103 feet pound of kinetic energy and around 350 feet per second in speed. Not bad for something this light, right?
As with the previous crossbow, this one comes with the patented Frictionless Release Technology which offers the same free-floating roller between the sear and the trigger which makes for one of the smoothest triggers you can find on the market. You also get a three-pound zero-creep release which gives you instant feedback upon firing.
For safety, you get the tried and tested anti-dry fire and nock sensors so you can be sure that you shoot your foot.
Build quality is high, as we only find stainless steel with additional composite laminated components here. You also get heavy-duty, dual stage lockable latches and a built-in pressure release valve to ensure that the crossbow can withstand transportation, whether that’s by car, plane, train, you name it.
A good 4×32 scope is there to provide you with decent optics, a light quiver with some 20-inch arrows, and the all-present lube wax.
All in all, this is a complete package that in my book is another contender for the title of the best crossbow under 500 dollars.
Professional metal injection molded trigger
The scope is limited and that will affect your accuracy and distance shooting
Very light crossbow
Draw weight is manageable for most people
CenterPoint Sniper 370 Crossbow Package
Another budget crossbow that feels high-end is this one from CenterPoint. The big surprise here is the fact that the rail and the cam of the crossbow are CNC-machined which is honestly not that common under 500 dollars.
It’s around 185 pounds of draw weight, which propels the arrows at around 370 feet per second, placing it better than average for this price range. The quad limbs which being machined made are excellent at delivering power and precision.
In the handling department you will find a fully adjustable stock and foregrip so no matter how you like to hunt, you will feel comfortable using this crossbow. When talking about stealth you get the all-important integrated string suppressors that will keep your shots quiet and vibration-free. Safety measures include an anti-dry fire system with an auto-safety mechanism that should help prevent accidental shots.
The whole crossbow is made to be lightweight and easy to use thanks to its aluminum and composite construction.
The overall package is rounded out with a 4×32 mm scope, a rope cocker, quiver and, three 20-inch carbon bolts. The overall quality of the product is backed by its 5-year warranty, so you have peace of mind knowing that if something breaks then you will get that problem solved easily.
In my book, if the crossbow was a bit faster and the scope a bit better then it definitely would have been the best crossbow under 500 dollars for me. As things currently stand, that title will probably remain with the Whitetail PRO for the time being.
CNC-machined parts for extra precision and speed
The scope is not illuminated
Comes with a rope cocker
Killer Instinct Burner Crossbow
In terms of raw speed, the only one that comes close to this crossbow from Killer Instinct is the first one on my list. When you have 220 pounds of draw weight and 141 feet per pound of kinetic energy you will get your arrows traveling at around 415 feet per second. All that for a crossbow that is under $500. If this is not a steal for power junkies, I don’t know what is.
The other idea behind this crossbow is the fact that the manufacturers want everybody to be able to use it, so that means that it has to be adjustable. And that’s exactly what happens because the stock can be adjusted to six different positions, and coupled that with the adjustable foregrip should allow any hunter to find a spot where they feel comfortable.
The Pro package also comes with a 4×32 IR-W Scope, a rope cocker, string suppressors, a 3-bolt quiver, 3 HYPR Lite Bolts, and a rail lube. The rope cocker is a bit addition because at 220 pounds of draw weight, it might be hard for some people to draw it properly, and the rope cocker fixes that. For safety, you also get the anti-dry fire system, so it should keep the crossbow from firing when empty.
Limited lifetime warranty
There is a 30% restock fee for those returning the crossbow
Excellent arrow speed and power
Great all-around package (crossbow and accessories)
Barnett Explorer XP Crossbow
The last crossbow that I feel warrants the money you spend (in this price range) on it is the Barnett Explorer. It’s a very strong mix of affordability and solid materials, and it changes your perception of what a budget crossbow out to be like.
The draw weight isn’t as high as some of the other crossbows on this list, and at right around 165 pounds of draw weight, it should give the arrows a nice 370 feet per second speed. In the right hands, that is more than enough to drop most targets.
Another good feature of this bow is the fact that it ships mostly assembled, which is a huge plus for first-time buyers because they don’t have to deal with assembly.
Where safety is concerned you get a Soft Lok floating bristle that will keep the bow from dry firing. Talking about the release, as with other Barnett products, this one also features the Frictionless Release Technology which offers an impeccably smooth trigger.
The hunting package also includes a red/green illuminated red dot sight, two 20-inch Carbon arrows, a side-mounted quiver, and lube wax.
All that being said, in my opinion, this is a great budget choice, especially for a beginner or for a first-time crossbow owner.
The scope that comes with the package leaves to be desired
Minimal assembly required
Good build quality
I think everyone realized what the best crossbow under 500 dollars is by now, but if you haven’t then just know that for me that crossbow is the Barnett Whitetail PRO. It has everything you would like in a crossbow, while still being in our price range. You get a piece of equipment that I honestly feel is more akin to a higher-end model than a budget one. Sure, some things could be improved, but this combination of quality, price, and power is unbeatable in this price range.
The Barnett Explorer has to get the title of the best budget crossbow under 500 dollars because it offers good build quality and performance for a much lower price tag than the Whitetail PRO. In my opinion, it’s a very good first-time/beginner crossbow.
Just for the fun of it, my choice for the best fun crossbow under 500 dollars goes to Killer Instinct simply because it offers a lot of power for a low price. You get more power than the best crossbow on this list while only costing a fraction of the price. Sure, there are tradeoffs, but overall, this is a fun crossbow that I bet a lot of people would like.
As always, inform yourself before buying anything, know what are your must-haves and your nice-to-haves, and then get to work. Happy hunting!