7 Best Pistol Crossbows of 2021

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hands aiming crossbow pistol in the field

If you’re like me then there’s just something about crossbows that really sticks with you.

I’m into firearms and archery, and crossbows blend the two disciplines perfectly. They’re easier to use than bows and quieter than guns.

However, most crossbows are pretty impractical devices.

Some states only allow you to hunt with a crossbow during firearm season, or with a crossbow during bow season if you are disabled.

Also, hunting crossbows are big, unwieldy, and quite expensive.

But what about pistol crossbows?

My first crossbow was a pistol crossbow picked up for cheap at a gun show. They’re great for backyard recreation!

And in a pinch, you can even hunt small game with one!

That first pistol crossbow didn’t last very long, though, as too many of these mini crossbows are made cheaply.

Here are the best pistol crossbows available right now.

 

7 Best Pistol Crossbows of 2021: Outdoor Empire Reviews

  1. Overall Best: PSE Archery Viper SS
  2. Best Kids: BOLT Crossbows The Pulse
  3. Best Picatinny Rail: Prophecy 80 Pound Aluminum Self-Cocking Crossbow with Red Dot Sight
  4. Best Self Cocking: BOLT Crossbows The Impact 80 lb Hand Hunting Crossbow
  5. Best Starter Kit: PSE Archery Zombie React Pistol Crossbow
  6. Best Budget: Tactical Crusader 50LB Crossbow Gun
  7. Most Powerful: Wizard Archery 150lbs Short Stock Hunting Crossbow

 

CategoryBest BudgetOverall BestMost Powerful
ProductTactical Crusader 50LB Crossbow Gun
Tactical Crusader 50LB Crossbow Gun

PSE Archery Viper SS
PSE Archery Viper SS

Wizard Archery 150 lbs Short Stock Hunting Crossbow
Wizard Archery 150 lbs Short Stock Hunting Crossbow

Cocking TypeManual pullSelf-cockingRope cocking device
Draw Weight50 lbs50 lbs150 lbs
Maximum FPS150215210
Crossbow Weight2 lbs1.6 lbs6.2 lbs
Accessories4 bolts3 PSE Frenzy bolts- 4×20 scope
- 8 bolts
- rope cocking device
CostCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

 

1. Overall Best Pistol Crossbow: PSE Archery Viper SS

PSE Archery Viper SS

Specs

  • Cocking Type: Self-cocking
  • Draw Weight: 50 lbs
  • Maximum FPS: 215
  • Crossbow Weight: 1.6 lbs
  • Accessories: 3 PSE Frenzy bolts

Overview

The PSE Archery Viper SS handheld crossbow is a self-cocking crossbow manufactured by PSE Archery. If you’re into archery then chances are good you either have a PSE bow or know somebody who does.

The Viper SS is pretty standard in design for a crossbow pistol, though it’s manufactured to a higher standard than most. Its draw weight is 50 pounds, but it can attain a velocity of 215 feet per second, faster than some heavier pistol crossbows!

The self-cocking mechanism is actuated by bunding the lever on the rear of the crossbow. This draws the string. cocks the trigger, and automatically engages the safety. There’s also an anti-dry fire mechanism that disengages when you load a bolt.

Unfortunately, the Viper SS is designed for use with the PSE Frenzy bolts. These are good bolts but this means that cheaper, generic bolts may not disengage the mechanism.

In addition, there’s a finger guard to help keep your fingers from wandering into the string’s path.

Pros

  • High FPS for the draw weight
  • Multiple safety features

Cons

  • Flimsy sights
  • The anti-dry fire mechanism may not work with non-PSE bolts

Recommendation

The PSE Archery Viper SS is a small crossbow that’s fast, accurate, and, more importantly, safe.

 

PSE Archery Viper SS is also available at:

Cabelas

 

2. Best Crossbow Kids: BOLT Crossbows The Pulse

BOLT Crossbows The Pulse

Specs

  • Cocking Type: Stirrup
  • Draw Weight: 28 lbs
  • Maximum FPS: Not stated
  • Crossbow Weight: 1.4 lbs
  • Accessories: 3 bolts,  extra limb tips

Overview

Any crossbow is a weapon that should only be used with responsible adult supervision.

However, if you have a child who is mature enough to safely operate a crossbow, then BOLT Crossbow’s The Pulse is the smallest, lightest crossbow you can buy.

It has a draw weight of only 28 pounds so it can be loaded by nearly anybody of any size.

There’s no cocking lever. Instead, you brace the crossbow with the foot stirrup and pull back on a bar until the string is all the way back. Engage the safety, load the bolt, then disengage the safety and you’re good to go!

Needing to manually activate the safety is this crossbow’s weak point.

The package comes with three BOLT Crossbows bolts and an extra pair of limb tips.

Pros

  • The light draw weight makes this crossbow good for repeated practice or weaker users

Cons

  • You have to manually activate the safety before loading the bolt

Recommendation

BOLT Crossbows’ The Pulse has the lightest draw weight of any crossbow pistol. It has no real utility, but it is good for practice!

3. Best Pistol Crossbow with Picatinny Rail: Prophecy 80 Pound Aluminum Self-Cocking Crossbow with Red Dot Sight

Prophecy 80 Pound Aluminum Self-Cocking Crossbow with Red Dot Sight

Specs

  • Cocking Type: Self-cocking
  • Draw Weight: 80 lbs
  • Maximum FPS: 165
  • Crossbow Weight: Not stated
  • Accessories: 3 bolts, vertical foregrip, red dot sight

Overview

The Prophecy pistol crossbow is a pretty good crossbow based on the old Barnett Commando Pistol that is, unfortunately, no longer available for sale.

This particular package includes the Prophecy as well as three bolts, a vertical foregrip, and a red dot sight. Don’t get too excited for that sight, though. You’ll likely replace it immediately.

The rest of the package is good, though, and the foregrip offers a unique way of holding this crossbow, which attaches to the crossbow using a rail. It’s not a true Picatinny rail, but it’s similar enough for most purposes that you could add a laser, light, angled foregrip, or whatever accessory you want!

The Prophecy’s draw weight is 80 pounds, which makes the self-cocking mechanism a bit hard to pull, but on the upside it can throw bolts at 165 fps. I bet that was measured with heavy bolts, though, and lighter bolts can go even faster.

The stock has a wood-like finish, but it is plastic.

Pros

  • Comes with an accessory rail and a vertical foregrip
  • Good-quality pistol crossbow

Cons

  • The included red dot sight is not worthwhile

Recommendation

The Prophecy 80 Pound Aluminum Self-Cocking Crossbow with Red Dot Sight is a fine crossbow that comes with some interesting accessories.

Check availability on Amazon.

4. Best Self Cocking Crossbow Pistol: BOLT Crossbows The Impact 80 lb Hand Hunting Crossbow

BOLT Crossbows The Impact 80 lb Hand Hunting Crossbow

Specs

  • Cocking Type: Self-cocking
  • Draw Weight: 80 lbs
  • Maximum FPS: 225
  • Crossbow Weight: Not stated
  • Accessories: 3 bolts, angled foregrip

Overview

The BOLT Crossbows’ The Impact is a heavy-hitting pistol crossbow that can be used for light hunting purposes and has other qualities that make it a good all-around choice.

Especially notable is the fact that it has both upper and lower Weaver rails. Similar to Picatinny rails, these allow you to add any sight you want to the top of the crossbow and any accessory you want to the bottom. It comes with an angled foregrip, but this grip felt awkward to me.

The safety automatically engages when the string is all the way back for safety.

Unlike many pistol crossbow manufacturers, BOLT Crossbows gives velocity data for both lightweight and heavyweight bolts. Plastic bolts can reach 225 feet per second and aluminum bolts 175 feet per second.

Pros

  • Good power
  • Top and bottom Weaver rails

Cons

  • I’m not a fan of the included angled foregrip

Recommendation

BOLT Crossbows’ The Impact hits hard for a small crossbow and it’s easy to customize, making it one of the best options for your money.

Check availability on Amazon.

5. Best Pistol Crossbow Starter Kit: PSE Archery Zombie React Pistol Crossbow Package

PSE Archery Zombie React Pistol Crossbow Package

Specs

  • Cocking Type: Self-cocking
  • Draw Weight: 50 lbs
  • Maximum FPS: 50
  • Crossbow Weight: 1.6 lbs
  • Accessories: Extra bolts, foregrip, stringer, red dot scope

Overview

Most crossbow pistols come with three bolts, which just isn’t enough. You’ll lose or break all three during your first practice session if you’re unlucky!

PSE Archery has the Zombie React package to fix this problem, and some others, too. The box includes the crossbow pistol, ten arrows, a stringer to make stringing the crossbow easier, and even a halfway-decent red dot scope!

This makes the PSE Archery Zombie React a good single purchase for getting into crossbows or for buying as a gift. There’s no need to add a pack of bolts or upgrade the sights right off the bat.

The crossbow itself has a bright green stock and has its name on the prod. I’m not a fan of “zombie green” weapons, but that doesn’t detract from the quality of this crossbow.

And you can always paint it.

Pros

  • Comes with extra bolts
  • The included red dot sight is better than that what comes with certain other crossbow pistols

Cons

  • Not everyone will enjoy the zombie motif

Recommendation

If you want to buy one item and be ready to shoot a crossbow in your backyard, then you’ll want the PSE Zombie React pistol crossbow.

6. Best Budget Pistol Crossbow: Tactical Crusader 50LB Crossbow Gun

Tactical Crusader 50LB Crossbow Gun

Specs

  • Cocking Type: Manual pull
  • Draw Weight: 50 lbs
  • Maximum FPS: 150
  • Crossbow Weight:
  • Accessories: 4 bolts

Overview

The Tactical Crusader a crossbow pistol for under $20. My first crossbow pistol cost me twice that decades ago!

This one has a 50-pound draw weight that’s awkward to draw. There is no stirrup or self-cocking lever so you have to push on the grip with one hand while you draw back on the metal piece with the other. Even 50 pounds may be too much for some people to draw repeatedly.

But hey, it’s good exercise, right?

The prod is made of metal instead of the fiberglass typical of other crossbow pistols. I prefer this because metal prods are less likely to break. However, they are harder to string. This 50-lb crossbow can be harder to string than an 80-lb crossbow!

The sights, however, are not very good.

They don’t like to stay set. One reviewer suggested using epoxy to keep them in place. Loctite might work, too.

Pros

  • Metal prod
  • Very inexpensive

Cons

  • Hard to string
  • No stirrup
  • Wandering sights

Recommendation

The Tactical Crusader 50LB Crossbow Gun is certainly not the best crossbow pistol on the market. It is, however, very good for the surprisingly minuscule price!

Check availability on Amazon.

7. Most Powerful Crossbow Pistol: Wizard Archery 150lbs Short Stock Hunting Crossbow

 

Wizard Archery 150lbs Short Stock Hunting Crossbow

Specs

  • Cocking Type: Rope cocking device
  • Draw Weight: 150 lbs
  • Maximum FPS: 210
  • Crossbow Weight: 6.2 lbs
  • Accessories: 4×20 scope, 8 bolts, rope cocking device

Overview

Let’s finish with the most powerful crossbow pistol I’ve seen. How does 150 pounds sound?

That’s almost twice the draw weight of the next strongest crossbow pistol!

Wizard Archery’s 150 lbs Short Stock Hunting Crossbow is a cross between a sawed-off shotgun and a crossbow. The grip is more like a shotgun grip than a normal pistol grip.

Wizard Archery claims speeds of up to 210 feet per second with this crossbow. This doesn’t seem that impressive compared with the faster PSE 50-lb crossbows until you realize this one is throwing bolts that are over twice as long (14 inches!) and weigh much more.

They’ll hit harder than the bolts cast by any other crossbow pistol. In fact, you can use this one to hunt deer!

The package also includes a 4×20 scope, eight bolts, and a rope-cocking device. No stringer is included, which is unfortunate, because you will require a stringer to string this crossbow, since trying to handle 150 pounds while stringing will open you up to injury.

Pros

  • Can be used to hunt deer
  • Lots of power in a small package

Cons

  • Does not come with the stringer

Recommendation

The Wizard Archery 150lbs Short Stock Hunting Crossbow is the most powerful crossbow pistol on the market and it’s capable of easily taking down large game, such as deer.

Check availability on Amazon.

 

Why Should You Buy a Crossbow Pistol?

man holding pistol crossbow

Pistol crossbows can, at first glance, seem like a toy.

They’re about the same size as a toy gun and much less powerful than a “true” crossbow. Surely they’re the BB-gun of the crossbow world, right?

That’s not so.

A pistol crossbow is a weapon. And while you can use one for recreation (and that’s the primary purpose of most crossbow pistols), any of the crossbows reviewed here is capable of putting down an animal or severely injuring someone, if not worse.

Even a dinky 28-lb crossbow can still throw bolts fast enough to penetrate skin.

This makes these exhilarating weapons for practice. And since they’re small, quiet, and easy to use, they’re great for backyard shooting. Some are even light enough for children to use!

kid holding pistol crossbow beside target board

This makes them a great learning tool before graduating your child to a “real” weapon, such as a firearm.

Also, crossbow pistols make for good small-game hunting weapons. Even a 50-pound crossbow pistol will take down a rabbit, which can supply you with supper for the evening. And since a crossbow pistol weighs only about a pound and a half on average, they won’t weigh you down as you go on a hike.

Crossbow pistol bolts are inexpensive and come in large packs. Get some plastic bolts for practice and aluminum bolts for hunting. The heavier bolts will drop faster but will also impart more kinetic energy into your target.

All in all, crossbow pistols are good recreational tools that are small, quiet weapons perfect for light hunting and controlling pests.

 

Crossbow Pistol Buying Advice

man holding pistol crossbow in the field

Pistol crossbows don’t vary that much in design.

All of them have a prod, which is the horizontal bow at the front. Whether it’s made of metal or fiberglass, this is the heart of the crossbow. When the string pulls back the prod’s limbs, kinetic energy is stored, which is unleashed through the bolt as you pull the trigger.

There’s also the stock, which holds the prod, trigger, grip, and everything else. You need a string, of course, which attaches to the tips on either end of the prod. Every crossbow pistol comes with an appropriately sized string and you can buy replacements if yours breaks, which can happen.

There are several variations that can either make or break the crossbow pistol for you, though.

 

Draw Weight

hand holding both ends of a pistol crossbow

The crossbow’s power is the biggest issue.

A lighter crossbow will be easier to draw. If you don’t want to hunt with your crossbow then you should get a lighter pistol. 50 pounds is a good choice. You won’t be shooting at targets a hundred yards away, but for shooting in the backyard, you don’t need too much power.

If you want to hunt with the crossbow pistol then you’ll want a more powerful model. 50 pounds might be able to cut it against rabbits, but it won’t be nearly as effective as a heavier version and you won’t be able to hunt at farther ranges.

I’d recommend at least 80 pounds, even if you’re hunting only the smallest of critters.

There’s only one choice for larger game: Wizard Archery’s 150-pound short stock crossbow pistol.

man aiming a crossbow pistol

That’s because crossbows are not as efficient as longer-limbed bows. Draw weight is only one part of a bow’s potential for velocity. The other aspects include limb length and draw weight, which is called “power stroke” in crossbow parlance.

Pistol crossbows, because of their small size, do not have long limbs. This is good for not getting caught in foliage but bad for making a bolt go fast. The same is true with the short power stroke.

So, a 50-pound pistol crossbow may be above your state’s minimum bow draw weight, but be sure to check for any crossbow minimum draw weight. In Illinois, for example, you can hunt deer with a 30-pound bow. But a crossbow has to draw at least 125 pounds!

On the other hand, heavier draw weights are much harder to draw back and cock. This sounds obvious, but it’s hard to internalize without getting your hands on both a light and heavy crossbow pistol.

Unless you need the heavier power, even with a self-cocking pistol I’d recommend the lighter, small crossbow.

 

Draw/Cocking Method

pistol crossbow at full draw on table with arrows

In order for a handheld crossbow to work, the string needs to be pulled back into position.

Every crossbow pistol uses thick metal wires with upturned edges to catch the string, and  how you pull those pieces of metal, though, depends on the type of crossbow pistol.

My first pistol crossbow just had a squared-off loop sticking out from the back of the stock. You pulled back on that metal and your force was transferred directly to the string. Slightly better versions have a metal stirrup in front so you can hold the crossbow with your foot for easier pulling.

More advanced crossbows, however, are “self-cocking.” They don’t actually cock themselves. Instead, there’s a lever on the rear of the crossbow. You bend the lever down and the device takes advantage of mechanical leverage to catch and pull the string with less effort on your part.

It will still take a hefty amount of force in order to squeeze this lever, mind you! But a self-cocking crossbow will be much easier to use shot after shot than a manual pull pistol crossbow.

 

Size

hand measuring pistol crossbow on table

All crossbow pistols are about the same size, with one or two exceptions.

80-pound crossbow pistols will be slightly larger than their 50-pound brethren in every way. And self-cocking crossbows will have a lever that makes them longer than manually cocked crossbows.

Generally, though, the size difference is minimal, except for the Wizard Archery crossbow, which is the size of a full-size hunting crossbow minus the stock.

If you do want the smallest crossbow pistol then choose a light draw weight model without the self-cocking lever and without a stirrup.

 

Accessories

pistol crossbow with accessories

Whether you want accessories or not is up to you.

A few pistol crossbows come with accessory rails that allow you to attach other devices. A foregrip is a good choice because you want to keep your fingers away from the crossbow’s string at all costs.

Red dot sights also go well with crossbows because it’s rare that you’ll release a bolt at a target far enough away to deserve a telescopic sight. However, you can typically remove the red dot sights that are included in most pistol crossbow packages; it’s rare for them to be of high quality.

As for bolts, the more bolts the crossbow comes with the better. Not to belittle your aim, but you will lose some or all of the bolts that come with your crossbow!

 

F.A.Q.

FAQ

What is the best way of carrying a crossbow pistol?

Pistol crossbows are annoyingly awkward to carry. They have all sorts of projections and I’ve never seen a holster for one.

The best way I’ve found to carry a crossbow pistol is with a custom-made hanger with two loops and snaps that hold the pistol facing upward by the prod or stirrup. However, that was a custom leather item.

A leather loop with snaps, such as a Hide & Drink whip holster, can be used to attach a crossbow pistol to your belt.

 

How do you string a crossbow pistol?

Stringing a crossbow pistol is the worst part of owning one!

You need to firmly press on the tips, bend the limbs inward, and hook the string’s eye over both tips. This is a four-handed job, and I only have two hands.

The best way I’ve found to do this without a stringer is to attach the string to one tip. Put that tip on the ground and put your shoe on the prod, under the string. Push that end into the ground as you pull the other limb with your hand and affix the other end of the string.

The easies option is to buy and use a stringer, which comes with its own instructions.

 

Is it legal to hunt with a crossbow pistol?

The legalities of hunting with a mini crossbow depend on where you live and what you’re hunting. I can tell you that if you want to hunt deer, you won’t be able to do so with a 28-pound, 50-pound, or even 80-pound crossbow pistol.

Small game and varmint hunting is more likely to be legal, though it’s not guaranteed. You may have to contact your local Fish & Game or Department of Natural Resources in order to find out this information.

 

Recommended reading:

Best Crossbows Reviewed & Revealed

Review: Wicked Ridge Warrior G3 Crossbow Package

Native Ads
Andrew Jackson learned to walk in the mountains and has spent much of his life exploring the outdoors. He is equally at home in the woods, at the range, or on the gunsmithing bench, and loves to build guns almost as much as he enjoys shooting them. His travels have taken him to the four corners of the United States. Though his favorite hunting spot is in Alaska, Kansas deer taste better.

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