Skip to main content

Optical Confusion? The Latest Crossbow Scopes

Optical Confusion? The Latest Crossbow Scopes

You may not need to see your target 800 yards away, but quality scopes and glass are still crucial to successful crossbow hunting.

By Gary Lewis

There is an old saying that a hunter should expect to pay as much for the scope as for the rifle. It's not that simple for the crossbow hunter. Because each hunter is unique, and a crossbow is a personalized tool, so too, the optic is a critical personal component in the system. 

Today there are many options for the hunter who would put a high-quality optic atop a crossbow. 


One major difference between rifle and crossbow scopes is the type of recoil and the amount of vibration. When the bolt leaves the string, the recoil is opposite of a centerfire rifle.


And with a crossbow, there is no need for high magnification. Shot opportunities are 10 to 70 yards and a wide field-of-view is more desirable.

The optimal magnification range is between 1X and 4X. This gives a better exit pupil with more light to the eye.

Another unique factor in crossbows is that the scopes can be calibrated to the speed of the bolt to give the shooter a precise aiming point, tuned to the trajectory.

In other words, with your magnification ring set to, say 340 fps, the reticles will match point of impacts at 30, 35 and 40 yards, for instance. Some shooter like a magnification ring, some don't. But it's definitely a uniquely crossbow feature.


WHAT'S BEST FOR YOU?

The best way to pick a scope is not out of catalog. Instead, try to put the scopes side by side and take them outside, if possible, to view the optics in natural light, preferably in the last hour of the day. 


  • Smell Test

First, can it pass the smell test? Take it out of the box. Was there a scent when the lid came off the box? If it smells like used oil, put it aside. A new scope with fresh lubricant has a clean smell, like it just came out of the laboratory. 

  • Turn It Around

Turn the scope backwards and look at it through the objective lens. Look for small particles and glare from the interior finish. If there are bright spots, they represent light bouncing around, light that doesn't make it to the pupil. 

  • Lord of the Ring

Now look through the ocular lens. Pick a spot across the room and turn the focus ring. Is there slop or binding in the focus adjustment? Check the clarity of the image in the center of the view then look at the overall picture for a clear picture all the way to the edges. 

  • The Wringer

Now take off the windage and elevation caps and check the adjustments. 

The interior lenses should be treated with phase and metallic coatings for color fidelity and light transmission. Look at the specifications then take the scopes outside. Which scopes render colors true? Which scopes show fine detail? The quality matters and a fine crossbow should have the best scope a hunter can find. Which reticle will provide the most precise shooting opportunities. The price tag is not the main concern, the brand on the tube doesn't matter. It's what's inside that counts.


Is The Scope Important?

It's tempting to think a crossbow is a short-range tool and the optic is not as important as it is on a rifle. Remember, this is a telescopic sight, and is a precision instrument that is subject to abuse in the field. A sight that breaks, or fogs, on the hunt is worse than no sight at all. 

Sighted-in at 10 yards, a crossbow arrow that leaves the bow at 200 fps will drop about 87 inches at 50 yards. The same arrow at 300 fps will drop 38 inches. At 400 fps, the arrow drops 22 inches at 50 yards. At any speed, a reticle tuned or calibrated to the arrow should have multiple aiming lines, or stadia. Also, windage and elevation dials should be precise and the focus adjustments should be smooth. Glass should be of the quality that your can see clearly in low-light conditions, which is when we do most of our hunting. 

To my way of thinking, there is no good reason to skimp on crossbow glass, lens coatings and internal construction. A crossbow hunter should put a high priority on a premium scope.


 The Latest Crossbow Scopes

crossbow optics 

Bear X Trophy Ridge Speedcomp XV530ir 

Designed for the Bear X crossbow, this scope is compatible with any crossbow with speeds between 205 to 430 fps. The Trophy Ridge SpeedComp is adjustable from 1-5X with a 26mm objective. The illuminated reticle is designed to sight-in at 20 yards with 9 positions out to 100 yards. 

 $329 

crossbow optics

Excalibur Tact-Zone Illuminated 2.5-6x32mm

Rated for speeds between 275 fps and 410 fps, the Tact-Zone has a substantial 30mm tube and a reticle with aiming points out to 60 yards. The illuminated reticle can be switched between red and green. 

$219

crossbow optics

Excalibur Twilight DLX Multirange

First thing you notice on this scope is the 44mm objective and the 30mm tube. Both of these qualities aid in light transmission for maximum advantage in low light. The reticle is designed for 10-yard increments with speeds between 300 and 400 fps. The illumination goes red or green.  

$299

crossbow optics

Hawke XB30 PRO 1-5x24 SR 

Dial the speed selector from 215 fps to 450 fps to calibrate to the drop of the arrow. Turn the step-less rheostat for brightness of the reticle. And look at the reticle — with its floating range-finding bars and windage holds. Flip-up lens covers keep weather off the glass. 

$329

crossbow optics

Lucid HD7 Gen III Red Dot  

Although this optic was purpose-built for a semi-auto centerfire (up to 458 SOCOM), it can do double duty mounted on a picatinny rail on a crossbow. Three reticle options give the user the ability to tune to the drop of the arrow. 

$259 

crossbow optics

Parker Bows Red Hot 3X Pin-Point 

This 3X fixed-power scope boasts a single point of aim. The user simply ranges the target, dials the elevation turret (in one-yard increments, tuned to the arrow) and shoots. Pin point illumination options are red and green.  

$199

crossbow optics

TruGlo Cross-Tec 4x32 IR Compact 

This low-priced compact scope gives the user one magnification, 4X, but two options, red or green, for reticle illumination. It takes a 3V-CR2032 battery. 

$99

Rangefinders/Binos

crossbow optics

Nikon Monarch 7iVR

Vibration has always been the hardest thing about using a rangefinder. This new Monarch uses vibration reduction to make ranging more precise. The user can easily switch between actual distance and horizontal distance (incline/decline) modes to range from 8 to 1,000 yards. 

$399 

crossbow optics

Burris Droptine Binocular

The Droptine comes in two options: 8x42mm and 10x42mm. Look for multi-coated lenses for maximum light transmission and reduced glare. Internally, the tubes are nitrogen-filled for waterproof and fog proof performance. Outer surfaces are rubber armored for grip and drop protection. 

$164-$185

crossbow optics

Leupold BX-5 Santiam HD

Instead of a spotting scope, a hunter can opt for a 15X binocular for those days spent glassing long canyons and wide open country. That's where this BX-5 Santiam comes in, with a long, forgiving eyebox, extra-low dispersion HD glass for low-light conditions and a tripod adapter. 

$1,819

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

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Shimano Vanford Spinning Reel

Shimano Vanford Spinning Reel

In-Fisherman's Managing Editor, Rob Neuman, sits down with bass pro Josh Douglas, to get insight on the all-new ShimanoVanford spinning reel. It features a LongStroke Spool for long-distance casting. The Vanford spinning reel will be available in 7 sizes: 500-5000. MSRP: $299.99 - $239.99.

Bubba Blade: Multi-Flex Interchangeable Blade Set

Bubba Blade: Multi-Flex Interchangeable Blade Set

Four blades in versatile knife system to fit your needs; ICAST Fishing Gear Guide.

Tackle Test 2020: Eagle Claw EC2.5 Spinning Reel

Tackle Test 2020: Eagle Claw EC2.5 Spinning Reel

Tackle Test 2020: Eagle Claw EC2.5 Spinning Reel

Yakgear Basic Kayak Angler & Deluxe Anchor Trolley Kits

Yakgear Basic Kayak Angler & Deluxe Anchor Trolley Kits

New products from ICAST 2020 included the Yakgear Basic Kayak Angler and Deluxe Anchor Trolley kits. Bill Bragman highlights the features of each kit.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Here are the 10 most common spinning and baitcaster reel performance problems and how to fix them.10 Most Common Reel Performance Problems Fishing How-To

10 Most Common Reel Performance Problems

Anietra Hamper

Here are the 10 most common spinning and baitcaster reel performance problems and how to fix...

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures?5 Great Lures For Bluegills Other Freshwater

5 Great Lures For Bluegills

Stephen D. Carpenteri - March 10, 2011

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures?

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? You'll need a cartridge that lives up to the expectations demanded at ranges up to and beyond 500, 600 or even 1,000 yards. Try these different loads until you find the one that thumps steel at long ranges consistently.10 Best Long-Range Rifle Cartridges Ever Made Ammo

10 Best Long-Range Rifle Cartridges Ever Made

David Hart - January 14, 2015

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? You'll need a cartridge that lives up to...

In need of a rugged container to sip from in the backcountry? We've got you covered. From tumblers to bottles to flasks (and even clever bottle openers), we've rounded up some of the best bar gear for the outdoors.Ultimate Outdoor Bar Gear Roundup The Deck

Ultimate Outdoor Bar Gear Roundup

Chelsie Walters and Jessyca Sortillon - August 31, 2020

In need of a rugged container to sip from in the backcountry? We've got you covered. From...

See More Trending Articles

More Optics

Summertime is made for enjoying the rewards of last hunting season and prepping for the fall to come. Here's gear that will help you do both in your backyard.Get Geared Up & Backyard Ready The Yard

Get Geared Up & Backyard Ready

Game & Fish Staff - July 29, 2020

Summertime is made for enjoying the rewards of last hunting season and prepping for the fall...

How to choose and use optics to pick apart vast landscapes and find trophy hunting.Field Skills: Optics Focused on Western Big Game Optics

Field Skills: Optics Focused on Western Big Game

Andrew McKean - October 09, 2019

How to choose and use optics to pick apart vast landscapes and find trophy hunting.

German Precision Optics' 10x50 RangeGuide and Rangetracker 1800 are new for 2020.New GPO Rangefinders Available Soon Optics

New GPO Rangefinders Available Soon

April 08, 2020

German Precision Optics' 10x50 RangeGuide and Rangetracker 1800 are new for 2020.

Not all eye protection is created equal. Here's what to consider to find the best glasses for shooting.A Close Look at Shooting Glasses Optics

A Close Look at Shooting Glasses

Richard Mann

Not all eye protection is created equal. Here's what to consider to find the best glasses for...

See More Optics

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

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

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

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

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 mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now