Skip to main content

Cross Marks The Spot

9 accuracy tips for getting the most out of a crossbow

Cross Marks The Spot
9 accuracy tips for getting the most out of a crossbow

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 (, 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:

  1. 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."

  2. 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."

  3. 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."

  4. 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."

  5. 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."

  6. 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."

  7. 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!"

  8. 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."

  9. 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!"

Go to 2013 Deer Camp

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Sometimes you have to fish a bait that allows you to cover a lot of water efficiently. When you're on the search for bass that have moved into deeper water off the bank and away from obvious holding spots, a swimbait can locate them.

On the Search with Swimbaits

One of the best imitations of a wounded baitfish is the soft-plastic jerkbait, or fluke. A fluke darting just beneath the surface can be too much for a bass to resist. Rig it and fish it according to water conditions and cover to make this great bait even more effective.

Fun with Flukes

There are three models in SPRO's Outsider crankbait series: 55 (runs 3-4 feet), 60 (7-9) and 80 (19-21). Professional bass angler Jonathan Kelley goes over the specifics at ICAST 2022 in Orlando.

SPRO's New Outsider Crankbait Series: First Look

Professional bass angler Jonathan Kelley highlights the features of SPRO's new lures at ICAST 2022 in Orlando.

New Essential Series Spinnerbaits and Buzzbaits from SPRO

Syd Ribes with Sea Falcon highlights four new lures for saltwater fishing. At ICAST 2022 in Orlando.

New Lineup of Lures from Sea Falcon

Syd Ribes highlights two new saltwater lures from SPRO: Flutter Tail Shrimp and Cannon Ball Jig. At ICAST 2022 in Orlando.

New Saltwater Lures from SPRO

AFTCO's Matt Florentino highlights the features of the new Barricade cold-weather suit, a Best of Category winner at ICAST 2022 in Orlando. With Game & Fish's Adam Heggenstaller.

New from AFTCO: Barricade Cold Weather Tactical Gear

Three-time ICAST Best of Category winner Bubba covers it all with new knives set. With Bubba's Matt Kinamore and Game & Fish's  Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2022 in Orlando.

4-in-1 Bubba Multi Flex Cutlery Kit

The innovative landing net will weigh and measure your catch while it's still in the net. Best of Category winner at ICAST 2022. With Game & Fish's Adam Heggenstaller.

Award-Winning Frabill Witness Net 'Keeps You Honest'

Game & Fish Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now