How To Shoot A Crossbow Accurately

In archery, regardless of the type, one of the most important things is to have an accurate aim. Without this, you will never hit your target and this is massively frustrating.

But what is also frustrating is not knowing how to get an accurate shot in the first place. In truth, this requires a lot of practice and the correct approach, especially when using a crossbow.

One thing that a lot of people do not realize is that shooting a crossbow out of the box doesn’t always mean that you will get pinpoint accuracy. In fact, there are several things that you must make sure of before you can guarantee a dead-on shot every time.

If you’ve been wondering how to make a killer crossbow shot that is accurate to the millimeter; this article is for you.

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What Is A Crossbow?

In recent years, more and more people are buying crossbows. Could this be a result of Daryl Dixon from the walking dead? Or is it merely a spike in the sport? We’d hazard a guess it;s the former, but whatever your reason for getting in on the action, we are sure you will enjoy what you’re about to do.

However, it is important to keep in mind that a crossbow is not like a typical archery bow and differs in many ways.

Crossbows are mechanical weapons whereas a traditional bow operates manually. ONe of the great things about a crossbow is that it is far easier to draw and shoot as you are not having to use your own strength, rather the mechanical system does a lot of the work for you.

Unlike a traditional type of bow, the crossbow is held horizontally rather than vertically which can take some getting used to if you are used to using other types of bow. But the idea is still the same; the string is drawn back, the trigger released and the arrow is fired.

Crossbows harbor some extreme power and as such, are typically used for hunting larger game animals although it is perfectly reasonable to use a crossbow for target practice as well.

Getting The Right Crossbow

One of the most common mistakes made by new archers is that they believe that they can select a bow, pay the fee and be on their merry way; if only it were that easy.

You wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes without first trying them on to see if they fit and buying a crossbow is no different. You must make sure that you are fitted for your bow otherwise, you will be fighting an endless uphill battle where accuracy is concerned.

The three things that you should be testing when trying out your new crossbow are its weight, its draw length, and its width.

You will likely find that if the bow is too large or too heavy, you will have a very difficult time holding it and therefore, controlling it. This will have a direct impact on your accuracy and no matter what you do, the only fix will be to get a replacement bow that fits you correctly.

A lot of people are tempted into buying the biggest and bulkiest crossbow in the store to prove that they can handle it. Only, once they get the bow home, they realize that the opposite is true. It is far more impressive to have a smaller bow that you can shoot accurately than fumbling around with something that is clearly too big for you.

But this is not the only consideration when it comes to choosing your bow. If you want to have a consistently accurate shot then this begins before you have even laid your hands on a bow.

There are two main types of crossbow, those that are used with one hand and those that are used with two hands. The type that you choose will largely depend on the type of archery that you intend to do.

For hunters who might be shooting at larger game and therefore, at a greater distance, a two-handed crossbow is typically the best option. Conversely, if you are aiming for smaller targets at closer ranges, you will likely find that a one-handed crossbow will serve you much better.

Aside from this, you may also wish to speak to your supplier about the various components of the bow, the construction, and its quality but these are more in-depth considerations that would require a dedicated article.

Things That Affect Accuracy

Once you have chosen the right crossbow, there are many things that will contribute to how accurately you are able to shoot it. As we have already mentioned, archery does take a lot of practice, and dedicating the time to getting things right is a must. However, you could practice every day until you are blue in the face and without the following, still not get it right.

Tuning The Bow

If your crossbow is not correctly tuned then this will have a severe impact on your accuracy and yet still, a lot of new archers are not aware of this.

When we talk about tuning your crossbow, we are referring to two main points; balancing the tiller and balancing the brace height.

To begin with, let’s talk about balancing the brace height. Brace height refers to the distance between the belly of the riser and the center of the bowstring when the bow is not cocked.

When you first start using a bowstring, you will notice that it sits at a particular point on the riser. However, every time the bow is fired, the string will stretch a little. This makes very little difference up until a certain point when the string will noticeably move past the point where it originally sat.

This can have an impact on the accuracy of your shot but can be easily adjusted by replacing the bowstring. You should always keep an eye on your bowstring and its condition, changing it when it is necessary. However, as a general rule, a bowstring can be changed every two years but this will depend on the quality of the string and how often it is used.

Next, let’s consider the tiller. This refers to the limb balance. Both limbs should have an equal draw weight and length. It is easy to see when this is out of whack as your arrows will start flying to either one side of the other rather than in a straight line.

You can address this problem pretty easily by taking the measurements from where the limb joins the prod at the string. On both sides of the bow, this distance should be exactly the same, even just a millimeter can make a difference.

If you are using a recurve crossbow, this problem may be corrected by replacing the limbs. However, with a compound crossbow, the solution is far easier and involves using the bolts on either side of the bow to make adjustments until the limbs are balanced.

Cocking The Bow Correctly

One of the most important things is that your bow is properly prepared for the shot. If it isn’t, you can wave goodbye to hitting your target every time, without fail.

Cocking the bow correctly isn’t an overly complicated process but you must make sure that you know how to do it. Many people have problems because of their dominant arm. This is because, as they cock the bow, they will pull with greater strength through the dominant arm resulting in the bowstring coming slightly off-center. Even if this is by the smallest amount, it can make a significant difference.

To cock your bow correctly, you should always go through the following steps.

  • With the crossbow on flat ground, keep it secure with your foot.
  • Take hold of the string and pull it evenly on either side.
  • Now move the string to the cocking mechanism and place it here. An audible click will be emitted.
  • Take your arrow and put it into the groove.

Shooting The Bow Correctly

Before you even consider shooting your bow, you must make sure that you are using the correct form. All too often, archers blame other aspects of the process without taking a look at how the stand and how they hold themselves.

However, by learning the correct form from the get-go, you will notice that your arrows are always on target.

Where other types of bow require one form, that of a crossbow is slightly different. This is because other sorts of bows are held vertically whereas a crossbow is held in a horizontal position.

According to experts, rather than aiming for the form used in other areas of archery, those shooting a crossbow should be studying the form used in rifle shooting. This is because the design of the crossbow is more similar in nature to this weapon, despite appearing like a traditional recurve bow or a modern compound bow.

When you begin practicing with a crossbow, you will likely notice that this is a rather cumbersome piece of equipment. Fortunately, the modern crossbows tend to be much lighter than some of the older models but they still require a good amount of strength. This confirms our earlier point regarding finding the right weight for you.

If the equipment is too heavy, you will not be able to hold your form and as a result, your accuracy will be off.

When you sight in your crossbow, you should do this from a bench in the same way you would sight in a rifle. As you look through the sight, you will want to make sure that your view is consistent every time, if it is not, once again, the accuracy will be affected.

You should be looking at a view that is crystal clear and centred as well as appearing sharp and it is worth taking the time to sight in the bow properly to avoid issues down the line.

Once you are ready to fire your arrow, it is important to maintain a consistent stance. One of the first things to keep in mind is where your cheek meets the crossbow. This point, known as the cheek weld, should always be the same. You might not think it, but just being slightly off can vastly divert your arrow.

It is also vital that you line your bow up correctly. This means that each of the limbs should be parallel to the ground atg equal distances. It is no use having one limb slightly lower than the other as this will cause the arrow to veer off.

One of the best ways to avoid this problem is to make sure that your bow is correctly fitted and while we keep coming back to this point, it is one of extreme importance. Furthermore, practicing will help you to naturally hold the crossbow correctly and after some time, you will be able to feel when it is level.

A crossbow, unlike other types of bow, is fired using a trigger. This is significantly different to other bows which are typically released using either the fingers or a bow release. This means that even if you have practiced with other archery equipment, you will need to work on your release if you want an accurate aim.

It is essential that you are vital when pulling the trigger, it should be gently squeezed as opposed to being tugged or pulled and it most definitely should not be jerked.

The reason behind this is simple, if the trigger is jerked, this will move the entire bow, throwing the arrow off course before it has had a chance to clear the bow and enter its flight.

A lot of crossbow users are tempted to fiddle with the trigger or adjust it but this is neither necessary or safe.

Doing this will almost certainly throw your arrow off course but it will also serve as a way of making the crossbow more dangerous to use. The reason for this is that messing with the trigger could cause it to fail.

Bow Maintenance

Much like any other piece of mechanical equipment, a crossbow needs to be well-maintained if it is going to function correctly.

After each shooting session, it can be helpful to give your crossbow the once over to ensure that there is no damage or that none of the components have come loose. Doing this will give you the opportunity to address problems right away rather than letting them become worse.

You should also check the condition of the bowstring, replacing it at the first signs of fraying or breaking. Most manufacturers will detail in the user manual that waxing the bowstring will lengthen its lifespan and this should be another key aspect of your bow maintenance.

Furthermore, you will need to lubricate various components of the bow, particularly the trigger box and axles. This will give it much smoother operation and help to prevent jerking or unnecessary movement when firing it.

Using The Right Arrows

Something that not a lot of people think about is the type of arrows that they are using. Sure, you might switch up the arrow type depending on the type of archery you are doing but have you ever considered that your arrow choice might impact your ability to maintain accurate shots?

When you purchase your crossbow, one of the first things that you should discuss with the person in the store is which arrows are recommended for your crossbow.

Unlike other types of bows, these often come with a specific type of arrow that is perfectly designed to be used with that exact bow. The things that might be different from one bow to the next in terms of what arrows are suitable could be the length of the arrow, the fletching, the weight, and even the materials.

Many are tempted to go for lighter arrows because these have a much faster flight. While this is true, it is better to have a more accurate arrow than one that flies quickly but never hits its target.

You should also make sure that, before every shot, you inspect your arrow to make sure that it is fit for shooting. If there is any damage, particularly if the arrow is bent or misshapen, this can result in it flying off course.


Firing a crossbow is an extremely rewarding activity, especially when you hit your target in just the right place. However, getting this level of accuracy every time you shoot requires a decent amount of practice.

But for some archers, this practice is not enough and this is because there are other aspects of shooting a crossbow that must be considered if you want to get it spot on.

This includes things such as correctly maintaining your bow, cocking it correctly and making sure that you have good form. Furthermore, you will also need to think about the type of arrows that you are using as most crossbow manufacturers recommend specific ones for their equipment.

All of this together, along with plenty of practice will help you to ensure far greater accuracy.

About Brad Harris