Crossbow hunting is the fast fastest growing portions of hunting in the United States. The idea is that you have the lethality challenges of bow hunting with power and range limitations but you lose the long learning curve associated with learning to hunt with a bow.
More than that, crossbow hunting is just plain fun. You can add additional accessories that make the crossbow more effective and accurate. It’s on par with something like pistol hunting because when someone asks, "Why would you hunt with that?" the only logical answer becomes "Why not?"
A big reason people use optics on a crossbow is because it adds to the crossbow’s effective range, makes seeing the target easier and many of the new technologies going into scopes such as BDC reticles, make bows deadlier and easier to use. Outfitting your bow with the best crossbow scope for our style of hunting is a huge advantage in the woods.
The 5 Best Crossbow Scopes
When you go to buy your optic the first place to look is your regulations manual or bulletin for all the areas you plan to hunt with your crossbow. This is because while crossbows are an extremely fast growing sect of the archery hunting world, there are still many, many restrictions on using crossbows and the equipment that can be used with them. Stack on top of that the reality that many game regulations are often arbitrary and ambiguous, you have a recipe for confusion with a side of tag soup!
If you plan on using an electronic sight, magnified sight or a sight with a ballistically calibrated reticle, make absolutely sure they’re legal. If the equipment is banned on a vertical bow during archery season, it’s probably also banned on a crossbow during archery season. When in doubt, get in writing, as in an e-mail, from your local game and fish to make sure what you plan on using is legal.
When you go shopping for your crossbow scope you’ll be making a few hard compromises because the greatest features always have drawbacks you have to overcome. The largest one is cost. Good glass isn’t cheap and the high-end optics makers produce scopes with high end price tags. The way around this is to have a plan when you start evaluating scopes and make sure you know your priorities when you go into the field.
Here are some things that are good to know when looking for the perfect crossbow scope:
Magnification is one of the whole reasons to get an optic. It will help you see the target better, which in turn makes the shot easier to make. It’s important to remember though, magnified optics help you see better, not help you shoot better. You still need to have your fundamentals in order beforehand as well as knowing how to use the correct level of magnification.
More magnification is certainly not always better and you need to strike a balance between how much you’re going to need and how much will get in the way. Generally speaking, for crossbow hunting anything over 5x or 7x power is going to be major overkill. A good habit to be in for mitigating these magnification problems is dialing back your magnification when you are finished all the way to the lowest setting. That way you never pick up a weapon that is on a crazy high magnification and miss a shot because of it.
BDC reticles are nothing new. They’ve been used since the dawn of telescopic sights for rifles way back in the 1950’s. They are however relatively new for civilians and very new for archery tackle.
A BDC reticle, Ballistically Calibrated Reticle, is a specialized aiming sight designed to allow you to use a holdover that is accurately measured. This can be a help if you’re a long-range hunter. For archery it helps because when a deer or hog is within archery range, a turret adjustment is out of the question. The BDC is going to be a lifesaver and huge confidence boost for killing game.
This is of course, assuming you know how to use it. Some of these reticles are very difficult and counter intuitive to use. You must practice and know your reticle like the back of your hand, before you go into the field, otherwise you’re going to pay for it with a big bowl of tag soup.
Size and Weight
When you outfit your crossbow the size and weight of all the accessories combined can be just as much as the bow itself. Crossbows also have a unique problem that the bow is very tippy and front heavy because the bow is so far out from the stock. The size of a scope can make or break it.
Forget anything with target turrets or huge objective bells. The maximum range you’ll find yourself shooting will be well within 75 yards and you’ll never use these features so don’t even consider them.
The answer is to use the scope as a counter balance and keep it close to the opposite end of the crossbow. Of course reducing overall weight will make it inherently more comfortable and the load easier to carry. But if you’re dead set on a heavy scope, don’t worry about it because on a crossbow the extra weight can sometimes be a blessing in disguise.
Our Top Crossbow Scope Reviews
Now that you understand what makes for a good scope on a crossbow, lets take a look at some of the best choices availabe.
Hawke XB30 - Best Crossbow Scope for the Money
If you really want the absolute best crossbow scope you need a specialized scope for the job that builds on everything that has been proven on a rifle scope throughout the decades.
This is the ultimate crossbow scope because not only does it deliver supreme features with a small form factor with high quality and to top it all at a better than fair price.
The extreme benefits of this scope start with the small size and lightweight design that will complement almost any crossbow you’re likely to hunt with. The reticle is simple and easy to use while the illuminated and magnification makes it easy to get a shot off in last few minutes of shooting light where archery trophies are taken.
This is a middle of the road as far as price goes and it can have trouble gathering light because of the small objective lens but it will perform in the field. The 1x power is great for close in hunts and the 5x will come in handy for reaching out from a ground blind or treestand. If you’re strapped for inspiration on scopes, this is an excellent scope.
Trijicon makes some of the best military grade optics uncle Sam can buy. They make many, different models of what has become their flagship product, The ACOG including one for civilian sportsmen that is designed specifically for a crossbow.
The ACOG is renown as a durable, almost bombproof, optic for serious use that you can bet your life on. The same construction techniques and materials that are used on the battlefield go into this scope. It has a specifically designed ballistically calibrated reticle that relies on fiber optics to display the green dot reticle.
The included mount works just as well as it does on its firearm designed cousins. This is an excellent scope but it does have its drawbacks. It is expensive, very expensive. You can expect to spend just as much as you did for your bow as you did for this scope. It’s also much heavier than other optics and has fixed magnification.
Aimpoint Micro T-2 2 MOA Sight - Best for Low Light
The Aimpoint Micro is one of the favorite sights from the company and a great choice for hunters who want a dead simple and ridiculously reliable red dot sight for their crossbow. This has the attributes of a very good red dot sight while being made by the global leader in red dot and electronic combat optics.
The sight is very small, very light, but doesn’t sacrifice any usability. A large objective bell isn’t necessary and the absence of bulk is a great way to save on weight and make your crossbow lighter.
The small form factor paired with the durability is nice but what really sets Aimpoint sights apart is their battery life. The battery life is second to none, and you could leave your sight turned on literally every year, all season long and only change it once before each season. This is a very high end red dot sight and you’re going to appreciate it as one of the best one can buy.
Leupold is the largest producer of sports optics and makes arguably the best quality you can get. They make dozens of riflescopes and supply dozens of militaries around the world with scopes and other optical equipment. They have a limited number of crossbow scopes that all feel more like tuned down rifle scopes than purpose built scopes, but they certainly are worth the money because of the low price and excellent glass quality.
The highest recommended model is their crossbones model with a 2-7x33 configuration. This gives you a substantial amount of magnification and light gathering abilities for the task at hand but leaves out anything you don’t need.
This is a cheaper scope for crossbow hunting but you will need to get rings to mount the scope. This is an excellent scope for general crossbow hunting but is a little larger and will be just as expensive as other scopes in the end while providing the same level of performance. The quality of this scope is top notch and is the main reason to buy this scope.
Vortex is known for new and exciting products that come to the market at cheaper prices than other companies. They make a ton of different products including several for archery and crossbow hunting. They’re best known for their lifetime warranty that advertises if you ever break one of their products in the field or otherwise, they’ll replace it.
Their best scope for crossbow hunting is one of their high-quality red dot sights. They make awesome red dot sights perfect for crossbow hunting because they have a very large field of view and come in at prices that almost no other company can reach with their level of quality. The Strikefire is a huge red dot with a full 30mm objective lens and carries with it all the benefits of a red dot sight.
Some basic tips to keep in mind when you’re hunting for your crossbow scope:
1. Try Before You Buy
When you’re shopping for a scope for your crossbow you’re picking a very personal item. Trying a new scope is important before you buy it because tiny difference between manufacturers and product lines can mean a lot in the field. The whole point of the scope is to help you in the field but if you don’t try your new scope before you buy it you’ll have a bad scope and it’ll hurt you in the long run. As much as you can, get the product in your hands before you buy it.
2. Buy Off-Season
Buying a scope between hunting seasons and during the first quarter for the year is a good idea because manufacturers will be putting out their new updated models and the old ones will be marked down. This is good news because if a scope is great now, it’ll be great next year so you can save lots of money even if you buy online, many large retailers sell their overstock through their website.
3.Know Your Safety Points
Before you commit to a scope on your crossbow make sure there’s a safe way to grip the bow and carry the bow after it’s attached. Crossbows aren’t as simple in shape as rifles and they come in all shapes and sizes.
4. Customized Mount
Many crossbows need a custom mount from the manufacturer to attach it to the stock. This is because there’s no standard shape or size for crossbows. Unlike rifles, optics companies don’t tend to make mounts for crossbows, so make sure you have the correct mount, usually from the manufacturer, to attach your scope. This can affect your budget because mounts from the manufacturer are notoriously expensive.
5. Good Glass is Worth it
If you want a decent scope, expect to pay a good amount of money. Several hundred to several thousand dollars is never out of the question for good optics. However, there is a point of diminishing return and a point where the money is necessary. The sweet spot for crossbow scopes starts at around $180 and tapers out around $1,200. If the scope is in this price range, odds are, there’s some good glass in there and quality components that are certainly worth it.
6. Take Advantage of the Warranty
If you pay several hundred dollars for a performance driven scope, you’re more than likely to get a good warranty with it. Use it. The American Firearms industry is one of the best in the world in regards to taking care of their customers. If you have a problem with your scope, literally anything, most optics manufacturers will help you out. Even if it means replacing it outright.
7. Keep it Simple
When you set out for a scope, keep it simple. Hunting is more about skill than equipment anyway and a hard to use scope is going to weigh you down and constrict you. When you go shopping eliminate anything with turrets, low battery life, weird mounts, or anything that just seems dubious in value. This includes BDC reticles which are the worst offenders of the simple principal.
8. Have it Professionally Mounted
Just as you would a rifle scope, if you’ve never mounted a scope or if you don’t have the proper tools, get it professionally mounted on your bow. Most gunsmiths will be happy to do it, just as they would a rifle and you won’t have any problems. If you install the scope incorrectly you can run into a wide world of problems.
9. Think Differently
You don’t have a rifle in your hands, so don’t treat it like a rifle scope. Think like an archer and use the crosshairs as you would a pin on a sight. It’s important to remember that crossbows aren’t rifles and arrows behave very, very different from bullets.
When you set out to buy a new scope for your crossbow you’ll find yourself doing a careful balancing act of cost, features and the function of the scope in the real world. Little details can drive price up through the roof but transfer little in to the field. On the other hand, small things left out can ruin a product and make it unusable.
Define what you need your gear to do and nail down how much performance you’re willing to pay for and start from there. If you head out to the outdoor super store, you’re likely to leave with an empty wallet and more scope than you need and it won’t be the best crossbow scope for you.
Whatever you buy, get out in the field practice, and hunt because that’s the whole point of the crossbow in the first place.