Asking how far can a crossbow shoot accurately, is somewhat of a loaded question.
Depending on the context in which this question is asked and to whom it’s addressed, you might get completely different responses.
The problem is, accuracy can mean different things to different people. If the question was asked to a hunter, they might interpret the question to mean, “At what distance can you deliver a single lethal shot?”
But, if a target shooter was asked this question, it might be understood as “how far away can you shoot and still hit a bullseye?” In this article, we’re going to address this question in both contexts.
Accuracy, precision, and maximum effective range
Let’s set ourselves up for success by getting our definitions straight. Many of us are far removed from grade school and probably use the first two terms interchangeably. But they have two distinctly different meanings.
Accuracy refers to how close your shots are to the intended target, for example, the bullseye on a shooting target. But precision, on the other hand, refers to how close your shots are to each other, whether or not you actually hit your intended target.
If you’re a beginner, the third term might be unfamiliar. Yet, it is particularly important when we’re talking about hunting and crossbows. Simply put, “maximum effective range” refers to the distance that a hunter can shoot a lethal shot.
With those terms out of the way, we are better prepared to explore the answer to the original question, how far do crossbows shoot accurately.
Accuracy in the context of hunting usually refers to a hunter’s maximum effective range. The average maximum effective range for a crossbow hunter is about 50-60 yards.
If you are a more experienced shooter, you might even have an MER of up to 80 yards.
But even for hunters who can shoot accurately at higher distances, the million-dollar question here is whether or not you can shoot with an equal amount of precision.
The truth is, most hunters cannot shoot with high precision at that range. For that reason, you will find most hunters shooting their crossbows from no more than about a 50-yard distance.
They need to make sure that they can hit their prey’s vitals with high precision.
High accuracy, but low precision can mean shooting an animal, but failing to kill it. This is considered to be unacceptable for any ethical hunter.
Target shooting is very different from hunting, our goal isn’t to deal a lethal blow. Accuracy in this context simply means hitting a target, and precision isn’t as big of a concern. In addition to that, while accuracy is essential, precision isn’t. That simple fact increases how far we can shoot accurately.
The world record for the longest accurate crossbow shoot is 680 yards and was done by a Ravin R15. Although it is demonstrably possible to shoot accurately at that far of a distance, for the average joes among us, 180 yards is still a worthy goal to set.
This distance seems to be the average, but it still requires a lot of practice.
How to improve your crossbow shooting accuracy
Although a crossbow can shoot accurately at the distances we’ve already mentioned, for beginner shooters, it’s unlikely that you’ll be accurate at anywhere near those distances.
Beginners may find themselves to be accurate up to a distance of about 20 yards. But don’t fret, with a lot of practice, you’ll find yourself gradually able to increase your accuracy at farther lengths.
As with any activity, technique matters a lot. When I first got into crossbows, I was surprised by how difficult it was to get a good shot. I had assumed that with all the extra mechanics of a crossbow, getting an accurate shot would be a piece of cake.
Although the basics of shooting are very straightforward: cock the bow, load the bow, aim, and shoot. Mastering each step took a lot of effort.
The first step to getting the ultimate combination of accuracy and distance is to make sure your shooting technique is adequate.
Here are some tips for a better crossbow shooting technique.
The most important thing when cocking your bow is to make sure that you don’t cock the bow crooked. Here are three tips to help you get a cock the bow straight every time.
Shorten the cocking rope
For some reason or not, most factory ropes tend to be far too long. This not only can increase your chances of a shoulder injury but will also more than likely lead you to cock the bow crookedly.
Mark your String
Without a visual guide, it’s easy to cock your bow crooked. My second piece of advice to you is to mark your string. Make a mark on both sides of the serving when the bow is at rest, then go ahead and cock the bow. Then, check to make sure that there’s an equal distance between the string and the arrow track on both sides. If not, redo the marks until you get it right.
Mark your cocking rope
Mark a line on your cocking rope, and make sure that you match that line to whatever anchor point you use for your rope cocker.
Conclusion: how far do crossbows shoot accurately?
Here is the TLDR version of the answer to this question.
For hunters, accuracy is understood to mean MER (maximum effective range), that is, from how far away can you lethally shoot your prey. For most hunters, that distance is about 50-60 yards.
For target shooters, accuracy is understood to mean from how far away can you hit your target. On average, the distance is about 180 yards. However, the world record is set at 680 yards.
Although the crossbow you use will massively affect how far you can shoot accurately, proper technique will give you optimal results. It’s the man holding the crossbow that makes the crossbow shoot accurately, not the other way around.