Most beginner archers interested in purchasing a new crossbow, be it for hunting or just some target practice, will obsess about the draw weight of the weapon. In case you don’t know, “draw weight” refers to the amount of force you need to apply to pull the crossbow string through its full range of motion, thereby latching it and cocking your weapon. Some crossbows (pistol-types) come with as low of a draw weight as 50 lbs, while the more powerful hunting models can go up as high as 250 pounds. Have a look here for best crossbow
Beginners usually think that draw weight is the most accurate indicator of how powerful a crossbow is. As a result, this stat ends up becoming the only thing they look at, while ignoring all the other characteristics that make for a fine crossbow, such as how ergonomic the design is, how reliable the string and scope that come with the package, or how responsive and smooth the trigger is.
The truth is, a crossbow can have a very high draw weight while still not being all that powerful. Consider this as an example: the average crossbow (150 lbs. draw weight) propels an arrow with around the same force as an average compound crossbow (65 lbs. draw weight). How is that possible? It’s possible because the draw length on a compound bow is MUCH longer than the draw length (power stroke) on even the best crossbow. The draw length refers to the distance a string will travel before it is ready for release; on a crossbow this is usually around 14″, while on a regular vertical bow – closer to 28″.
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What’s the moral here? That draw weight is useless on its own unless the power stroke can “back it up,” so to say. There are many x-bows with a 200 lbs. draw weight, but a power stroke as low as 10.5″; and these will end up being less powerful than a 175 lbs. crossbow with a power stroke of 14.5″.
So what should you pay attention to get an idea of how powerful your crossbow is going to be? The velocity. Measured in FPS (feet per second), this is calculated based on the weapon’s draw weight AND power stroke (draw length), making it the most reliable indicator of the deadliness of any crossbow. A solid modern crossbow will come with an FPS of 300+, which is more than enough to take down a bear from even 50 yards away while still achieving a full arrow pass-through. I recommend checking out a crossbow comparison chart for a side-by-side comparison of the FPS that modern x-bows have to offer.
If all you want to do is some target practice, and if you don’t plan on shooting at bull’s-eyes located further than 45 yards away, then draw weight and FPS are the least of your concerns, as even a 200 FPS cross-bow will be more than capable. Instead, you should be paying attention to how accurate the scope is; make sure to get one with at least 3 reticles (or red dots, depending on the sight), and that it is as capable of holding zero as possible (make sure to read some reviews online to determine this).
So remember: next time you’re looking for a new X-bow, look at the FPS – not the draw weight. You’ll be far better off for it.