Image by: Florida Fish and Wildlife
Imagine how amazed your child would be when he or she unpacks a brand new crossbow. Crossbow archery is one of the coolest sports indeed. But you never know if the initial amazement is going to wear off after just a few weeks.
This is why you need to make an informed choice. We’ll help you select the best youth crossbow that provides optimal value for money and ease of use.
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Wicked Ridge by TenPoint Ranger Crossbow Package Review
The Wicket Ridge (TenPoint’s budget line) Ranger is designed with small-framed shooters in mind. This is a serious compound crossbow with cams at the end of the limbs. It is lightweight yet powerful and the string is easy to cock.
Including stirrup, the length of the crossbow is 33.9 inches and the un-cocked axel-to-axel width is 22.6 inches. The draw weight is 150 pounds, so your youngster shouldn’t find it hard to cock the bow.
This crossbow features a patented TenPoint ACU-52 cocking mechanism, which is an integrated system with a self-retracting rope. It cuts the draw weight in half and ensures drawing precision time and time again.
The Ranger is capable of firing arrows at up to 300 FPS. This is a package that includes a TenPoint multi-line scope that can help your child land each arrow on target. Plus, you get three 18-inch carbon arrows with 100-grain points and an instant-detach quiver for the arrows.
Without the accessories, the Wicked Ridge Ranger weighs 5.9 pounds. Your youngster shouldn’t have any problems carrying the crossbow on hunting trips or to the archery range
Another element that stands out is the foregrip. The elongated safety wings keep your child’s hand away from the string release path. And the crossbow also comes with a trigger guard.
Considering the performance, build quality, and safety features, the Ranger offers excellent value despite the higher price range. And even if your child loses interest after some time, this crossbow is suitable for all ages, including you.
PSE Archery Jolt Crossbow Package Review
Looking for a budget crossbow? The PSE Jolt is well-worth your attention. For the price, it can hold its own against other recurve crossbows (within reason). As you might have guessed, this isn’t a compound crossbow like the much more expensive Wicked Ridge Ranger.
The Jolt is 32 inches long and 27.5 inches wide when un-cocked. At 5.8 pounds, this model is among the lightest youth crossbows.
This PSE crossbow sports a CNC-machined barrel and recurve limbs for better stability and power. It is also silent thanks to the rubber string groove that reduces vibration and sound. Plus, it comes with a few safety features.
The anti-dry fire prevents a beginner archer from accidentally firing the crossbow without an arrow, which can destroy the bow. There is also an integrated foregrip with wide grooves that ensure better handling and safety. On top of that, the pistol grip and extendable shoulder stock improve the overall ease of use.
The package includes an illuminated scope, 4 aluminum arrows, quiver, cocking device, rail wax lube, and rubber string grooves.
Everything You Need to Know about Youth Crossbows
The following sections should help you select the best crossbow for your child. It covers everything from safety to desirable accessories, so feel free to check it out.
Safety Aspects of Youth Crossbows
Without a doubt, crossbows can cause some serious damage, to both the target and the user, which makes safety the top priority for any parents.
The first thing to do when you get a crossbow is to give it a thorough look. Inspect the string, cables, bolts, and other elements to ensure the unit is properly assembled. If something seems off, you shouldn’t try to fix it on your own.
The anti-dry fire mechanism is now equipped in all current product crossbows. It protects the integrity of the crossbow and prevents injury that might result from dry firing. The triggering mechanism needs to have a safety lock and make sure your child keeps it engaged until he or she is ready to shoot.
Arrow selection is another crucial safety aspect. The crossbows featured in this article come with proper arrows, so you can have peace of mind there. But if you want to get extra arrows, make sure to look for the right length, stiffness, and weight for your bow.
Proper safety mechanisms and arrows are just the beginning. To ensure risk-free operation, you need to teach your child how to handle the crossbow. This means keeping the fingers away from the arrow track and cables/strings. Instruct your child to point the crossbow in a safe direction at all times, even if it’s not loaded.
Before loading the arrow, inspect if the crossbow is cocked the right way. There is a clicking sound to confirm it’s fully cocked. The crossbow becomes uncocked only after it’s fired. In other words, your child mustn’t attempt to uncock it by hand or with a cocking device.
A crossbow requires some maintenance to keep in perfect working order. It usually involves lubricating the cables and string to prevent white fuzz. Depending on the model, you might need to apply lube after every 5 or 10 shots.
Draw Weight and Speed
The draw weight and speed can vary significantly from one model to another.
At the low end, there are youth crossbows with a draw weight of 100 pounds, which should be suitable for even the youngest of shooters, since the draw is assisted by the construction of the crossbow (you’re not actually moving 100 lbs.). On the other hand, the draw weight can go all the way up to 185 pounds.
When making a selection, consider your child’s age and strength and find a crossbow that he or she won’t struggle to draw. However, you should know that greater draw power doesn’t always translate to more speed.
For example, there are models with 175 pounds of draw weight that can only fire arrows up to 240 FPS. That’s because there are other factors that come into play. But with all equal, a higher draw weight will result in a higher FPS.
It should only take a few seconds to draw a youth crossbow. With practice, your child should be able to do it quicker. We’ll come back to this later.
Price and Affordability
There is a youth crossbow for every budget. But you may not want to skimp as the really cheap models might compromise build quality and or safety features.
Rather than focusing on the price, take a look at what a crossbow has to offer. The material is a good place to start. Carbon fiber crossbows may be the best choice, but they’ll also come with premium price tags.
The number of accessories that come with the crossbow will affect the price as well. Experts and seasoned archers usually go for the bare crossbow since they may already have everything else. For a novice, you’re better off going with a package that comes with every you need to start shooting. Packages usually reflect a discount compared to buying everything separately.
Some packages may come with all standard accessories. Some may include a superior scope or special arrows. You’ll just have to weigh everything before you pull the plug.
Take the PSE Jolt as an example. The package comes with 4 arrows and some maintenance gear.
Weight and Dimensions
Compared to adult crossbows, youth crossbows weigh much less for the fact that they are smaller. On average, the bare bow weighs around 5 pounds. And there are even smaller models that can come in at 4 pounds on less.
But you may not want to go for the lightest crossbow you can find. Especially with the budget models, it usually means more plastic parts and lower durability and quality.
As for dimensions, the first measurement you encounter might be the axel-to-axel width. The uncocked width ranges from around 18 to 27 inches. More width might make the crossbow top heavy, especially for very young shooters.
This brings us to the matter of crossbow balance. A good crossbow needs to have an even weight distribution for its size to allow for easier handling and targeting. As a rule, a child should be able to easily pick up a loaded crossbow without any strain in the arms or shoulder.
A few factors determine the quality of a youth crossbow and the materials are the first thing to consider. You should look for a good combination of machined aluminum and high-quality plastic. Carbon fiber is also an excellent option if you are ready to spend more.
All of the mechanical elements need to be integrated or securely bolted to the crossbow body. In other words, the whole thing needs to feel solid and rigid. The string and cables affect the crossbow’s quality as well. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes and can influence the crossbow’s performance.
The common string materials are synthetic, polyester, and natural fiber. The material affects the string friction and the way you attach it to the bow. Regardless of the material, you should go for a crossbow that comes with a sting with reinforced looping to prevent stretching or breakage.
Only compound crossbows come with cables, which operate the cams and in essence help you draw the crossbow. That’s why compound crossbows are capable of much higher draw weight and kinetic energy/speed.
Having a great scope and carbon arrows also adds points for quality. A good scope has to come with a metal casing and high-quality optics so that the sight is bright and clear. Carbon arrows provide superior durability and greater range.
The speed is measured in FPS (feet per second) and most modern crossbows are rated between 235 and 300 FPS. There are a few compound crossbows that might reach up to 330 FPS, but this may be in flux as manufacturers come up with more and more advanced crossbows.
When considering the speed, you should think about your child’s purpose for using the bow. For example, if you want to take the young one hunting, it would be better to choose a faster crossbow. This way you maximize the chances of a hit even with a moving target.
You might be wondering what are the other aspects that affect the speed since we’ve established that the draw weight isn’t the only one. The limbs play a major part as well, of course, as the draw is only to tense the limbs and store potential energy. This can be further enhanced by the use of cams as seen on compound crossbows.
The good strings are usually made of high-end synthetic fibers or linen. As for the limbs, you might guess that carbon fiber is desirable. However, the traditional laminated wood and aluminum alloy limbs can also deliver decent speeds, especially with youth crossbows.
Youth Crossbows vs. Regular Bows for Hunting
Youth crossbows may be more desirable than regular bows for hunting purposes.
First comes the size. Compared to regular bows, crossbows are much more compact and easier to carry around in the woods. Moreover, contemporary models are as lightweight as most regular bows.
The accuracy, of course, depends on the shooter, but crossbows might offer some advantage especially for youths. They have a string lock that ensures consistent shooting and a rail that keeps the arrow still. And don’t forget the scope – it is much easier to use on a crossbow than on a regular bow since you’ll be able to aim almost like a rifle.
In addition, you should factor in the draw. Crossbows come with a drawing mechanism that keeps your fingers and forearms away from the string. Also, you don’t have to draw and hold like a regular bow. And think about the design as well.
You can hold a crossbow like a rifle and press a trigger to release the arrow. So there is no way for the string to come in contact with their hands or forearms. With regular bows, you need to use a thumb release or fingers, which just brings more safety concerns.
Overall, it should be easier for you to teach a child how to use a crossbow. The only compromise is the time it takes to cock and arm a crossbow.
Good Accessories for Crossbows
There are a bunch of crossbow accessories to choose from. Here are what you’ll need to make it fun and easy for your child to use the bow.
Unless the crossbow features an integrated cocking device, you really need to get one. This is usually a winch-operated gadget that mounts on the crossbow. It allows the child to easily cock the crossbow, regardless of the draw weight.
If you want to take your child hunting, a crossbow sling is a must. It makes walking with the crossbow a breeze.
The case is another essential accessory for a few reasons. It protects the crossbow and the optics during transport. In addition, you can store arrows and other crossbow accessories in the case.
Choose one that has soft protection on the inside and a 330° zipper, which allows you to quickly access all the contents.
There are special targets just for crossbows that can withstand the higher kinetic energy of a crossbow arrow.
The usual options include 3D competition and practice targets, bags, and foam block targets. Bags are the most affordable option, mostly used with field points. 3D targets come in various shapes and sizes that mimic game animals.
Holders or stands keep the crossover safely stashed away. They are a great option for the home or even at the range. The crossbow would point downward, but it’s still at hand when you want to use it.
On any hunting trip, chances are you are going to be well away from your target. There are a few different scopes to choose from, including fiber optics, red dot, or laser sight.
And guess what? The bows reviewed in this article come with an excellent scope. So there’s one less accessory to worry about.
The quiver is another absolute necessity on hunting trips and at the archery range. It needs to be strong enough to support broadheads. And there are quivers that attach to your belt or to the crossbow.
Both the Wicked Ridge Ranger and the PSE Jolt come with a quiver that attaches to the crossbow and supports broadheads.
Monopods and Bipods
These accessories are designed to provide additional stability and accuracy, which is important for young archers or bowhunters who are just starting out. A monopod or bipod makes it easy for them to find the shooting position. Plus, they don’t have to worry about shaky hands on hunting trips.
When hunting, one of the biggest challenges is to stay silent. All crossbows make some amount of noise since the energy conversion to the arrow’s kinetic energy isn’t 100% efficient, so it’s worth considering a dampening kit. It applies to the crossbow’s foot stirrup, string, and limbs to reduce vibration and noise.
Trigger and Rail Lube
You should teach your child crossbow maintenance from the start. It’s important to note that common lubes might leave residue or damage the bow, so consider a lube that’s specially designed for crossbows. Show your youngster the love and care that a soldier or sharpshooter gives to their prized rifles and it might inspire him or her to do the same.
The string is a vital crossbow component. As such, it needs to work smoothly and efficiently at all times. Applying wax to the string protects it and ensures its longevity. And again, you need to use crossbow wax or risk gumming up the string.
The only safe way to uncock a crossbow is to fire at a target. This is where discharge targets come in handy, especially on hunting trips. You should use a field point when you shoot at the discharge target to prevent damaging your broadhead.
The Final Word
Hopefully, you are now armed with everything you need to know about selecting the best youth crossbow for your child.
First of all, find a model that fits your child in terms of size and weight. Make the build quality and safety features your top priorities. Unless you already have the accessories, for a new archer, you’re better off with the crossbow package than the bare crossbow.
Any way you slice it, the Wicked Ridge Ranger is an awesome compound crossbow in its price range. The package comes with an excellent scope and three carbon arrows. More importantly, it sports a safety drawing mechanism.