If you can accurately shoot a rifle, you should be fine with shooting a crossbow, right?
Or wait ... do you have to be accurate with a bow to be able to have tight groupings with these hybrids?
According to David Barnett of Barnett Crossbows (www.barnettcrossbows.com), the answer is both, sort of.
"Understanding the mechanics of shooting a rifle is important. But just as important is knowing the properties of archery gear and the relationship between a bow, the arrows (or bolts) you select and the different points you can elect to use," he said. "The bottom line is that transitioning from a gun to a crossbow is very seamless, even though the limitations of a crossbow are very similar to a vertical bow.
This said, Barnett walks us through his best tips for improving crossbow accuracy:
- Use a cocking rope:
"Cocking by hand is inconsistent. You want equal amount of draw on each limb and your string perfectly centered on the flight track. If your string is off center just a little, your bolt flight will be altered, reducing accuracy."
- Mark center:
"Even if you are using a cocking rope, mark the center of your crossbow string while it is at rest. This way, if you loose your rope cocking device, you can cock the bow by hand and know if the string is centered on the track."
- Broadhead selection:
"If you use fixed-blade broadheads, keep the maximum diameter to or below 1 1/8-inch. Because of the high speeds of most modern crossbows, larger diameter broadheads offer inconsistent patterns."
- Arrow check:
"Always check your arrows before you shoot. A damaged fletching, nicked nock or insert could not only dramatically affect your accuracy, but could also damage your bow and cause you injury. Crossbows are under a lot of pressure and torque. Any small problem with a bolt is magnified when you squeeze the trigger."
- Go with the grain:
"Always keep your bolt setup consistent. Make sure the shaft length and weight doesn't vary. And keep your field points and broadheads all the same weight. Mixing points and shafts of different grain-weights can be confusing and may result in accidentally shooting a bolt that's heavier or lighter than you expect."
- Wax and lube frequently:
"I recommend waxing your strings and lubing the flight track every 15 to 20 shots (Barnett Crossbow Lubewax). You want to keep the friction to a minimum on the flight track to increase longevity of your strings and the bow shooting at top speed. Once you coat all the strings and cables, rub the wax in with your fingers."
- Shoulder, squeeze, rest:
"This reminder sounds silly, but remember to pull the crossbow tight to your shoulder. A lot of people forget this simple rule because there is no recoil. Also remember to squeeze the trigger like on a rifle, don't pull it sharply. And use a rest when possible. Shooting sticks are great for crossbows!"
- All about the length:
"Make sure you always shoot the proper length bolt. Crossbows are generally built to launch a specific weight range, most of which comes from the bolt. Shooting one too heavy or too light will eventually cause the bow to malfunction or break. Long term accuracy is certainly lost at this point."
- Practice, practice, practice:
"Again, this seems elementary. However, many folks head out to the woods with a crossbow thinking it's easy after shooting a tight group in the backyard off a bench. Hardly the case. Put yourself in hunting situations and practice shooting from a prone, kneeling and standing position. You'll find that shooting a crossbow is a unique combination of gun and bow ... and the only way to perfect it is by practicing with one!"
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