A pistol crossbow is a crossbow handgun, hand crossbow, or mini crossbow. You could call them by either name. Pistol crossbows are crafted to be held in one hand and have a shorter draw length than regular-sized crossbows, making them easier to handle with less power. As this video in our article demonstrates, these weapons are not toys! They fire short bolts with a lot of power.
A pistol crossbow is a low-cost investment that is easy to maintain and stock with ammunition. This is an ideal choice for hunting small game, vermin, and rodents on your land (with the appropriate regulations), and it’s also great for target practice. We’ve gathered the best pistol crossbows available and listed their pros and cons to save you time. Have a look.
Our Picks for the Best Pistol Crossbow
- Cobra 80 lbs – The break action self cocking pistol is our top pick for the best overall pistol – 9.8/10
- PSE Viper SS – The ability to adjust the rear sight makes this pistol crossbow the more logical choice.
- Bear X Desire XL – This break action self-cocking pistol crossbow is of quality build and comes with an upgraded red-dot pack – 9.5/10
- Kings Archery Pistol Crossbow – This pistol crossbow comes with a full complement of bolts, making it the perfect addition to your survival kit.
- Pistol Crossbow for Kids – If you have a Bow Hunter in your life that you want to give the perfect gift to, consider this miniature model.
- Spartan 80lbs Tactical Mini Crossbow – 230 ft/s break action cocking the mini crossbow.
All About Pistol Crossbows
Why buy a pistol crossbow?
Pistol crossbows are one of the more affordable options. A quality product (such as our top pick) can be purchased for the price of a meal. That’s a fraction of the size of full-size crossbows, compound bows, and traditional recurve bows. If you’re shooting plastic or aluminum bolts, ammunition is quite cheap–you can get a pack of 50 for less than the price of 12 full-size arrows.
These crossbows are much smaller and, therefore, less intimidating. If you lack experience with shooting, a pistol crossbow is an ideal starting point because it is easier to hold and understand than a gun. If you’re teaching a friend how to hunt or shoot, and want to do some target practice first, get out your PSE Brute Force. They’ll probably be so impressed that they won’t even want to take a turn.
They’re ultimately smaller, light, and easier to carry around than all other bow styles. As for shooting speed, you can’t leave them cocked, but you can quickly load one and leave another resting without it taking up too much space.
How powerful are pistol crossbows?
Can you shoot four full soda cans at about six feet? A pineapple from 6 paces away? In this video, PreparedMind101 demonstrates pistol crossbows’ power and accuracy, quelling doubts that they are nothing but children’s toys.
Are pistol crossbows suitable for hunting?
Is it possible to down a small game using only a pistol crossbow? Though 80 lbs are more than you’ll pull with most full-size recurve bows, there’s more to taking down a game than draw weight. Bolts for pistol crossbows are smaller and lighter than regular arrows, and they don’t pack as much of a punch. Deciding how to take down the game humanely is tricky- you need enough bolt power and a broad-head tip for certain animals.
As an 80-lb pistol crossbow, this weapon packs enough power to take down small games from up to 20 or 40 yards away—common small animals such as rodents, squirrels, bullfrogs, rats, and rabbits. Coupling a pistol with broadhead arrows and focusing on shorter ranges will make you more effective in taking down larger or smaller games.
Scopes and Sights, Red Dot to Optical
The regular pistol crossbow comes with mounting rails on the top, similar to iron sights on a gun, and is designed for both a fore and back sight. These can be detached from the rail and replaced with another type of optic if you prefer. A red-dot sight is a common and useful tool on a pistol crossbow, which is designed for hunting fast-moving rodents and small game at relatively short range. A red-dot sight helps you acquire targets faster than an iron sight. Optical sight, such as a 4×20, is beneficial for taking longer shots because it allows you to zoom in on your target.
Many pistol crossbow mounting rails are not built to standard Picatinny size due to the bow’s size and production expenses. You’ll find that Dovetail is very useful. If you want to customize a pistol crossbow, it is recommended that you purchase one that comes with an accessory pack. This will give you more options to choose from when customizing your bow.
Crossbow Pistol Bolts
Standard crossbow bolts are longer than pistol crossbow bolts. The power stroke or draw length of the bow being shorter is the reason for this. Depending on your preference, most pistol bows can be fitted with either aluminum or plastic bolts. These can usually be found at a low cost. Because they’re small, it’s easy to misplace them when you’re on the go and not at your usual shooting range. A pack of 50 or 100 bolts with point tips usually costs no more than a lunchtime meal.
About Self Cocking
The term “self-cocking” is often used by pistol crossbow manufacturers, but if you’re new to the scene, you may wonder what it means. Well, don’t be incorrect- an automatically cocking pistol won’t actually cock itself when you click your fingers! ‘Self-cocking’ indicates that the bow can be readied without additional objects, like a rope cocker. A self-cocking bow is one where you can cock it using only your hands and the built-in mechanism, like a lever, at the back.
You’ll need to put these bows together yourself. The box usually contains the pistol body, limb, and accessories separately. Although attaching accessories to these bows is simple, stringing is the one job that can be awkward. Because of its size and strength, it can be tough to maneuver the limbs without another person or a tool. If you’re new to archery, make sure to purchase a model that comes with a stringer. This will help immensely and save you the headache of stringing the bow yourself. SAS offers models with stringers included.
Replacement Strings and String Maintenance
Crossbows, specifically pistol crossbows, have a shorter string lifespan than other types of bows. The string connects to the rail on the bow, which then propels the bolt. Crossbows should be maintained by using string wax on the string every 5-10 shots and lube on the rail whenever possible. If you don’t maintain your bow string properly, you’ll have to replace it sooner than someone who takes care of it.
Are pistol crossbows legal in my state?
The rules and regulations vary depending on the state or country. In the UK, crossbow hunting is not allowed, while in America, depending on your state, there may be a minimum stock size and draw weight requirement to go crossbow hunting.
The Best Pistol Crossbows – Our Top Picks Reviewed
This pistol crossbow is made from plastic and aluminum and looks great. We think the cocking mechanism is designed nicely. If you need experience stringing a recurve bow, putting it together can be challenging and might require assistance from someone else.
This pistol is fitted with recurve limbs and a draw weight of 80 lbs. This bow is more powerful than one might think, given its size. To cock the bow, hold it front and back and break the lever at the back down from the body. Although you need some strength, the average 12-15 could cock this bow unaided. This 80-pound draw is significantly easier to cock with this mechanism than a 50-pounder pistol crossbow without one! The lever is also much easier to handle than the other designs that have a stirrup and handle. The safety is automatic, so you’ll never have to worry about accidentally shooting while getting ready to aim.
The product comes with an adjustable pin and groove ‘iron’ sight (plastic made), which suffices for the maximum range you’ll be shooting it at, given that you have 20/20 vision. While the sights are good, a few changes could make them great. Unless you buy accessories designed for a 3/8″ dovetail, the top Picatinny rail won’t work with quivers or other below-limb mounted gear. The bow comes with three aluminum bolts, each WITH a metal field tip. These are if you’re looking for a weight that’s good for target practice and getting a feel for the bow.
This model is a lot of fun. But don’t think that means you can’t put it to good use, too. This pistol crossbow has a firing speed of 216 FPS, making it one of the fastest options on the market. With a 50-lb draw weight and rear and front sights, this is a serious weapon for small-game hunting. The rear sights on this gun are adjustable for windage and elevation.
This model also has a few other benefits. The auto safety and anti-dry-fire trigger are excellent if you’re targeting practicing. In the same way, a finger guard shields your hands from the string. The Viper pistol crossbow, like most others, has an easy-to-use self-cocking mechanism. At 1.5 lbs, it’s easy to hold and aim.
The Bear Archery company produces this pistol bow. They’re a go-to manufacturer in the archery world for those who want quality products. They have experience with all sorts of compounds and recurves. The 60-pound draw weight pistol they offer is said to shoot the supplied bolts at up to 175 feet per second. Although most pistol crossbows can be tough to put together, this one was easy in comparison.
This product is easy to use because it has a self-cocking arm mechanism. To cock the bow, grab both stocks at the front and rear, then pull them apart from the body. Though this action requires some physical strength, it should be relatively easy for kids aged 12-15. This is not a toy. The amount of power you can generate with it is enough to kill someone.
This XL bow is an excellent choice for those who want a little extra size. The compact build and adjustable length make it easier to store and carry and comfortable for people of all sizes to use. They will probably break if you shoot the aluminum bolts at anything hard. We recommend upgrading to plastic bolts, as they can take more abuse.
This model functions similarly to the other models available on the market. However, what sets it apart is its durable fiberglass construction. This bow is reliable because it’s lightweight and can withstand years of being stored away. This model comes with everything you need for your survival kit or the occasional squirrel hunt. The self-cocking system is a great addition, and the adjustable sight lets you shoot small games with ease.
The best part is that you can purchase this crossbow with bolts—more arrows than usual. In fact, the biggest package contains 123 aluminum and PVC bolts. Crossbow pistol ammo can be tricky to come by, so it’s great that you were able to find some. Additionally, if you wish to include this in your survival kit, make sure to pack an ample amount of bolts as well. You can, of course, buy it without the bolts if you prefer. The draw weight of 80 pounds is just as powerful as a regular-sized bow, while the bolts can take down small games. It’s an excellent choice for fun, rabbit hunting, or survivalism.
Sometimes, you need to let loose and have some fun. Although this mini crossbow may look dangerous, it is nothing more than a child’s toy. The arrows it shoots are just as small. They’re approximately the size of nerf gun bullets but with suction cups on end.
Overall, this would be an excellent gift. Get this for the bowhunter in your life so they can daydream about being in the woods while stuck at work. The kids can have fun, too, by playing make-believe and searching around the house. It makes for an excellent addition to any desk. This gift is one that any budget could accommodate.
With an 80-pound draw weight, this bow can shoot bolts at up to 235 feet per second. This model is well-constructed, with a soft-grip trigger and handle. The foregrip is also coated to provide a nonslip grip. The fact that it comes with a bow-stringer makes assembly easier, and the limbs detach from the main body. The body also has a Picatinny mounting rail where you can attach additional accessories, like a quiver.
You’ll be relieved that this crossbow has a safety system to help avoid dry firing, which damages the limbs and lowers its life expectancy.