Crossbow popularity is certainly on the rise. New crossbow technology is allowing for trail blazing performance out smaller and smaller platforms. While the price tags of flagship crossbows certainly reflect rising demand and new technology, at times crossbow durability is suffering.
While there can certainly be a manufacturing defect causing a crossbow failure, the larger portion of failures seem to be coming from new crossbow user errors from the lack of education. If you just ate the hefty price tag of a new modern crossbow, be sure you understand the platform and all recommendations.
Here are 4 things you need to understand to get the most out of your selected crossbow platform!
PROPER NOCK FIT
Unfortunately, shooting and hunting with a crossbow isn't as simple as grabbing any bolt off the shelf and hitting the field. Once you've selected a bolt to start your build, your attention should go directly to finding the correct nock for your crossbow. There are a plethora of nock options for crossbows, and it's imperative you are shooting the correct nock for your setup.
Proper nock fit allows the crossbow string to be completely engaged when your bow is at full draw. This ensures the crossbow's stored energy is efficiently transferred to the bolt.
With crossbow platforms becoming more narrow each year, string angles are becoming steeper and steeper which makes nock fit more important. With crossbow bolt nocks not fitting correctly, some portion of the platform's stored energy is not transferred and essentially acts like a dry fire every time the trigger is squeezed. Although, the failure may not occur right away, over time issues will arise. This is the number one reason, the longevity of crossbows is an issue amongst new shooters.
Telling signs you may not have proper nock fit.
- Visual gaps between the nock and string
- The crossbow seems loud when shooting
- Errant bolt flight
- Difference between specs and performance
- Consistently breaking/damaging nocks
THE RIGHT BOLT FOR YOUR CROSSBOW
The crossbows of today are not the same as they were 10 years ago. Crossbow platforms of today are engineered for high end performance. Like any mechanical device built for ultimate performance, the end user needs to be aware of best practices.
Bolt length can range from 16"-22" but you shouldn't be guessing on what you need. Your bolt length should match what is recommend for your specific crossbow.
Establishing proper bolt weight is a little more open ended. Crossbow hunters certainly have the ability to customize their bolt weight pending what type of performance they are after. The important note here is that crossbow shooters should not shoot any bolt lighter than the manufacturer's recommendation. Most manufacturers show crossbow specifics when tested with a 400-450 grain bolt. keep in mind this is the total bolt weight with broadhead, vanes, nock, etc.
LUBE YOUR RAILS
Most crossbow users look at waxing/lubing their rails as offseason maintenance when in reality this should be looked at weekly. Every time your crossbow comes out to fire a few bolts, you need to check your rails.
Waxing/lubing your rails allows the crossbow string to effectively slide making the transfer of energy to the bolt more efficient. Efficient energy transfer is going to increase the performance of the bow, help with longevity, and also provide better downrange flight characteristics.
Crossbow rails void of proper lubrication cause the string to chatter, skip, or jump making the transfer of energy and down range performance of your bolt more erratic.
Telling signs your rails need lubrication
- Visual wear on your strings
- Visual wear on your rails
- Loud or undesired noise when shooting
DECOCK YOUR BOW
Somewhere in the last 30 years, crossbow hunters have picked up the terrible habit of leaving their bows cocked for days on end. Manufacturers will note most platforms are designed to stay fully cocked for 4-24 hours but also warn of dangers leaving systems engaged over that 24 hour mark.
Leaving a crossbow's system under constant load for prolonged periods of time, without question, shortens the lifespan of the system. This is all encompassing from strings, cables, cams, and limbs.
Get into the habit of storing your crossbow correctly by following the manufacturer's guidelines of decocking your crossbow after every hunt.
While the overall shot count or life expectancy of a crossbow is shorter than vertical bows that doesn't mean abrupt failures are ok. Now is a great time to go over your crossbow and correct any issues that may be apparent. Once you're back to a clean slate, verifying and adopting these few items will help you get more out of your crossbow.