Unlike most vertical bows on the market today, it is almost impossible for a crossbow hunter to buy a crossbow that does not come with a package of included accessories of some sort. A crossbow package can range from a crossbow, some sort of sight, and an arrow quiver, to everything you would ever need to shoot, maintain, transport, and care for your crossbow. For some crossbow hunters, the package may be the way to go. You can go to your local sporting goods store or archery shop and walk out the door with everything you need to hunt with in one quick purchase. On the flip side, if you want to customize your crossbow, or have a favorite scope or arrow company, being forced to purchase a crossbow package with accessories you may never use can be a waste of money. And still yet, just how good are the included accessories in a crossbow package? Are they worth the money you are paying for them? Or are they just cheaply made items added to the package to give you, the consumer, a sense of value? If you’re just getting started in the world of crossbow hunting, there are some accessories that you will need, and some you may not need. In this article, we’ll look at crossbow accessories that are a necessity to have either on or for your crossbow, and we’ll also take a look at just how good the accessories are that come included in a crossbow package.
The most popular and also the most needed accessory included in packages is some sort of sighting system. Generally it is some sort of crossbow specific scope or red dot. Although sometimes a simple pin sight system with rear peep sight can be include. Most of the pin type sights cost just a couple bucks to include in the package and are at best, just something included so a hunter can have a point of aim. They offer crude adjustments and can bend or break easily in hunting situations. Unless your state has specific laws banning any kind of optics on your crossbow while hunting, I would suggest an alternative means in the crossbow sight department. Next in line would be a red dot sight. While there are plenty of good red dots on the market that would work just fine on your crossbow, you can bet the one’s that come in the packages are not very good. Most of the package red dots cost manufacturers less than ten dollars to buy, and many are even made from plastic. Most of the time you’ll find that these cheaper red dot sights do not have crisp aiming points. They look like they bleed together and a hard to differentiate when trying to aim at at a target. They are known for not holding zero and often cause the uninformed crossbow hunter to shoot erratically. Battery life can be poor, and many of these red dot sights do not even work new out of the box.
What most crossbow manufacturers are including in their packages in todays market are scopes. Crossbow scopes typically have multiple aiming points. They can vary in power or magnification and come in a multitude of reticle designs. Unfortunately, your manufacturer will decide for you what reticle they want to include with their scopes so you will not have a choice to choose the one you like or want. Some of the more expensive packages will include a lighted reticle on your crossbow scope. Most of the time these will illuminate in either red or green and include an adjustment knob to control the intensity of the light. So how do you know if your scope is a good one or not? Well for starters, most any scope will work as long as it will hold zero, which means once it is set, it won’t move on you. The difference in price comes with the amount of features it has and the quality of optics it contains. As a rule, the more expensive, the better. You can check your manufacturers website to see the prices of scopes if bought individually. But even on the low end of the price spectrum, as long as it holds zero, it should be good enough to hunt with.
Arrows are another common item often found in crossbow packages. There are two kind of arrows you can shoot out of your crossbow. Your arrows will either be carbon or aluminum, include some sort of plastic veins or feathers called fletching, and should include screw in practice points. Arrows can vary drastically in price. You can almost bet that your crossbow package will include the least expensive arrows the manufacturer can buy. The most common factors regarding how good your arrows are is how straight they are, the variation in weight between each other, and the variation in spine and how the arrows are fletched according to the spine. Unfortunately there is no way for the consumer to measure any of these factors before buying the crossbow package. Generally speaking, most of the arrows that are included in a crossbow package will be good enough for hunting. However, with a little practice you will be able to tell if they are well matched or not. Most carbon arrows found in packages will have one or two that will not group with the others. If you can weed these out, do so. They make great arrows for discharging your crossbow at the of a hunt. If you package includes aluminum arrows, don’t feel like it is a lesser arrow compared to carbon arrows. Aluminum arrows are known to have better tolerances and are often straighter than most carbon crossbow arrows. They shoot very accurate and tend to group well together. Both aluminum and carbon arrows have their advantages and disadvantages, but we’ll save that topic for another article. The next most important accessory in a crossbow package to me would be the quiver. The quiver holds your arrows and keeps them organized. They include a protective hood to cover your practice points or broadheads and at least one arrow gripper where your arrows snap into to keep them from falling out. Most quivers will attach to your crossbow either running parallel to the bow itself or parallel to the stock of the crossbow. While the quiver does a very important job, the style and quality really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Most hunters only use the quiver while walking to and from there hunting location. While hunting from their treestand or in a ground blind, normally hunters remove the quiver. The choice is yours however and if you like keeping it attached to your crossbow, that is your prerogative. After market quivers can cost anywhere from fifteen dollars to one hundred dollars. In the end, they all hold your arrows. So as long as your crossbow package includes a quiver, it will be good enough to get you started.
Cocking aids are included in many crossbow packages. Typically if your crossbow comes with a cocking aid or cocking sled, it means that you need one of these items to cock your crossbow. If your package doesn’t come with a cocking aid of some sort, chances are you don’t need one to shoot your crossbow, but it will make cocking the crossbow much easier. The most popular type of cocking aid is a rope cocker. Rope cocking aids are pretty much a rope, two pulleys that hook to the string of your crossbow and what look like two handles you would see on a pull start lawn mower. They are easy to use and cut the draw weight of your crossbow by fifty percent. Some of the rope cocking aids will have an aluminum sled that rides the rail of the crossbow. Most of the time you will find a cocking sled included in crossbows that have reverse draw technology or very short axle to axle dimensions. Most rope cocking aids retail for twenty dollars or so, so if your crossbow package does not include one and you feel you would benefit from using one, they are inexpensive and readily available. Crank style cocking aids can come in very handy in needed. At the time of this article I only know of one crossbow that includes a crank style cocking aid with the crossbow as a mandatory option and that is because there is no other way to cock the crossbow without it. Some crossbow packages offer a crank style cocking aid as an extra option or upgrade. Crank style cocking aids are slower to cock, add weight either directly to the bow, or must be packed along with your hunting gear. Most are noisy and sound like a manual boat winch on a trailer. They do however have one key advantage. That is, they reduce the amount of energy you need to cock a crossbow to almost nothing. They are great for children or smaller framed women who don’t have the upper body strength it takes to cock a crossbow, and are great for the older hunter that has lost upper body strength or anyone with a handicap or injury that prevents them from cocking a crossbow using one of the other methods. Crank style cocking aids normally run somewhere around one hundred dollars or so. As stated before most manufacturers don’t even offer them as a package option, but they are available if needed as a stand alone accessory.
Many times a sling will be an included accessory in your crossbow package. Crossbow slings for the most part are just gun slings. Unless it looks like it may do something different than a normal gun sling, it probably isn’t anything special. Chances are if you already own a rifle or a shotgun, you will have a sling that you can use on your crossbow. Lubes and waxes. While it is important to lube and wax your crossbow from time to time, most hunters will not ever shoot their crossbows enough to even really need to do so more than once a year. Waxing your string is a good idea to keep it from fraying and or dry rotting. Some manufacturers include rail lube in crossbow packages. Truth be told, most hunters never lube the rails on their crossbows. I’m guilty myself of never lubing the rail of my crossbow. However, I advise following your crossbow manufactures recommend maintenance schedule regarding lubing the rail and waxing the string. You can normally purchase rail lube and string wax from between five to ten dollars each, so if they are not included in a package, they won’t put a big dent in your pocket book. Sometimes a crossbow case will be included in a package. Most crossbow cases are soft sided cases but some of the higher end packages can include a hard plastic case. Some hunters find cases come in very handy to keep dust and dirt away form your crossbow, especially if your crossbow will be riding in the bed of a pickup truck. And other hunters never use a case for normal hunting situations. Hard plastic crossbow cases are great for airline travel with your crossbow but most are cumbersome and bulky for everyday use. Most soft sided crossbow cases run somewhere between thirty-nine to sixty-nine dollars. Some of the hard cases can set you back in excess of one hundred dollars. Before spending your hard earned cash on a crossbow case, you need to decide if you will ever have a need for one and if so, what type would better fit your needs.
Well by now, if I haven’t confused the heck out of you, you should have a good idea of what accessories are a must have and which ones manufacturers throw into crossbow packages to give you the perception of value. For the newbie crossbow hunter, a package is probably the way to go. They allow a hunter to purchase most everything they need in one swoop and concentrate on learning how to safely shoot a crossbow. For those of us that have been around crossbows long enough to decide what we truly value in crossbow accessories and what we can kick to the curb, well unfortunately we don’t really have a choice. There are only a few companies today that even offer to sell crossbows without any accessories. So for now, we’re stuck paying for items we don’t want or need. Maybe in the future when the crossbow market becomes more mature (as in more experienced crossbow hunters) and there are more companies offering after market crossbow accessories, more manufacturers will offer to sell just a bare crossbow to hunters and allow them to add the accessories they desire. Until we reach that point, it looks like the crossbow package is here to stay.