What’s the Best Pistol Crossbow in 2020?

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Pistol crossbows, crossbow handguns, hand crossbows or mini crossbows. You could call them whichever. A pistol crossbow is a crossbow that’s designed to be held in either hand with a shorter draw and less power than a regular crossbow. They fire short bolts and nowadays do so with incredible power, these aren’t toys as video in our article will prove!

A pistol crossbow costs very little to purchase, maintain and stock up with ammunition. It’s an ideal choice for hunting small game, vermin and rodents on your land (regulations approving) and also for fun target practice. We’ve taken a sample of the best pistol crossbows on the market today and lined them up along with their good and bad points. Take a look…

Our Picks for the Best Pistol Crossbow

  • Cobra 80 lbs – Break action self cocking, our pick for the best pistol – 9.8/10
  • DMAIP 0.3lb Mini Crossbow – This miniature model is the perfect gift for the executive bowhunter in your life.
  • PSE Viper SS – The adjustable rear sight makes this pistol crossbow the practical choice
  • Kings Archery Pistol Crossbow – With a full complement of bolts, this pistol crossbow comes ready for your survival kit
  • Prophecy 80 lbs – Quality build, break action self-cocking pistol crossbow, upgraded red-dot pack available – 9.5/10
  • Rogue 80 lbs – Stirrup cocking mini crossbow – 9/10

Note: Our individual reviews are below, but you can also click any of the links above to check current prices on Amazon and other retailers

All About Pistol Crossbows

Why buy a pistol crossbow?

Pistol crossbows are inexpensive. A quality one (such as our top pick) can normally be had for the cost of a decent meal. That’s considerably less than full-size crossbows, compound bows and traditional recurve bows. Ammunition is also cheap, if you’re shooting simple plastic or aluminium bolts you’ll get pack of 50 for much less than you’d pay for 12 full size arrows.

They’re far less intimidating than full-size crossbows. If you’ve never shot anything before a pistol crossbow is something you can hold and understand with much less fear than a gun. If you’re introducing a friend to hunting or shooting and fancy a bit of target practice, pull out your PSE Brute Force and they’re probably going to be in awe and not keen to take a turn. With a pistol bow… “oh cool let me try”…

They’re ultimately smaller, lighter and more portable​ than all other styles of bow. As to speed of shooting, well you can’t leave them cocked but you can certainly load one quickly and leave one resting somewhere without it taking up too much space.

How powerful are pistol crossbows?

Can you shoot through 4 full soda cans at about 6 feet?​ A pineapple from 6 paces? This video from PreparedMind101 demonstrates this and more and settles the argument about pistol crossbows being nothing but toys. Spoiler alert…. they aren’t!

A little bit of target practice shows why you shouldn’t underestimate the pistol crossbow

Are pistol crossbows good for hunting?

Can you takedown small game with a pistol crossbow? 80 lbs draw is more than you’ll pull with many full size recurve bows, however taking down game is down to more than just draw weight. Pistol crossbow bolts are smaller than full size arrows, they weigh less and pack less of a punch. Taking down game is also not just about bolt power, if you’re humane you need to make a shot that wounds and kills, to do that with some game you need a broad-head tip.

The power of an 80 lbs pistol crossbow is enough to take down small game from distances of up-to 20- 40 yards. Rodents, squirrels, bullfrogs, rats, rabbits, ducks… small game. Couple that pistol with broadhead arrows and shorter ranges and you could take down larger game or smaller game more effectively.

Scopes and Sights, Red Dot to Optical

Just like the regular pistol crossbow come with mounting rails on the top and are designed with both a fore (pin) and back (groove) sight much like the iron sights on a gun. These can normally be detached from the rail and replaced with any other sort of optic you prefer. As a pistol crossbow is a relatively short range weapon used for hunting fast moving rodents and small game red-dot sights are common and useful. A red-dot sight allows you faster target acquisition vs an iron sight. For longer more measured shots, you’d want to try an optical sight such as a 4×20 to allow you to zoom in closer on your prey or target.

Due to the size of the bow and the manufacturing costs many pistol crossbow mounting rails are not standard Picatinny rail. You’ll find Dovetail in use. If you want to customize a pistol bow, best to purchase one that comes with an accessory pack or just get the bow first size up your options before you also purchase accessories to customize it.

Crossbow Pistol Bolts

Pistol crossbow bolts are shorter than standard crossbow bolts. This is due to the power stroke or draw length of the bow itself being much shorter. You can purchase aluminium or plastic bolts to fit most pistol bows inexpensively. As they’re small they are easily lost when you’re out and about and away from your regular target practice range. But packs of 50 or 100 bolts with point tips (not broadheads) go for a little as the price of lunch.

About Self Cocking

If you’re new to the whole pistol crossbow scene you’re probably wondering what is meant by the term ‘self-cocking’ that manufacturers advertise their pistols with. Well, don’t be mislead, a self cocking pistol won’t actually cock itself for you when you just click your fingers​! The term refers to the ability of the bow to be cocked without using any external devices such as a rope cocker. A self-cocking bow will normally have an in-built mechanism such as a lever at the back that allows you to cock it using nothing but your hands and ‘itself’.

Assembly

These bows don’t come assembled. Normally the box will contain the pistol body, limb and accessories separately. Attached accessories is simple however the one job that can be awkward with one of these bows is stringing. Being so small and powerful the limbs can be awkward to bend into position without the help of another or a shot stringing device. Look for a model that comes with a stringer such as this one from SAS, or has a stringer available if stringing a  bow isn’t something you’ve done before.

Replacement Strings and String Maintenance

Pistol crossbows (and in fact all types of crossbow) wear string faster than other types of bow. This is because the string makes contact with the rail of the bow as it pushes the bolt. It’s a good idea that you maintain a crossbow by using string wax on the string every 5-10 shots and lube on the rail whenever possible. You can do without this, but just be warned you’ll be replacing the string on your bow sooner than someone who takes care of it properly.

Are pistol crossbows legal in my state?

Rules and regulations differ by state and by country. Any sort of crossbow hunting is illegal in the UK whereas in the USA you’ll find that some states have a minimum stock size and draw weight requirement for hunting with a crossbow. We can’t list the laws for all states but there’s a useful resource over at wheretuhunt.org that should send you in the right direction.

The Best Pistol Crossbows – Our Top Picks Reviewed

Cobra System Self Cocking

Snake Eye Tactical 80lbs Self Cocking Cobra Crossbow with 15 Arrows (Regular)
Click the picture to see more images and user reviews on Amazon

This is a good looking pistol crossbow is made from plastic and aluminium.The cocking mechanism looks pretty nice in our opinion. Assembly can be a little tricky and if you aren’t experienced with stringing recurve bows you might need a friend to help.

This pistol has recurve limbs and a draw weight 80 lbs. That’s pretty powerful for a bow of this size. You hold the bow front and back and break the lever at the back down from the body to cock the bow. Whilst you do need some strength you’d probably find your average 12-15 year old could cock this bow unassisted. It’s easier to cock this 80 lbs draw with that mechanism than it is to cock a 50 lbs draw weight pistol crossbow without one! The lever is also slightly less unwieldy than the stirrup and handle you’ll see on other designs. Once cocked the safety auto-engages so there’s no chance of you shooting accidentally whilst preparing to aim.

You get an adjustable pin and groove ‘iron’ sight (although it’s made from plastic) which is good enough for the maximum range you’ll be shooting this thing if you have 20/20 vision. The sights are okay but with modification you could make this better. The top mounting rail isn’t Picatinny so if you want to purchase accessories you’ll need to find ones that work on a 3/8″ dovetail, there is also no fore-rail for mounting a quiver or any other accessories underneath the limbs.

3 aluminium bolts with metal field tips are supplied with the bow. These are are a good weight, great for target practice and playing around getting a feel for the bow.

What we liked:

  • Auto engaging safety when cocked
  • 80 lbs draw / 165 fps
  • Easy to use self-cocking mechanism
  • 3x bolts supplied

What we didn’t:

  • Noisy
  • Reflective gold sections aren’t stealthy
  • Plastic tactical sights only
  • 3/8 Dovetail top mounting rail

Check the price on Amazon »

DMAIP 0.3lb Mini Crossbow

DMAIP 0.3LB Mini Crossbow
Click the picture to see more images and user reviews on Amazon

Sometimes, you just want to have a little fun. This all-metal mini crossbow looks both sleek and menacing, but it’s basically just a toy. It reminds us of those executive toys like the five inertia balls, except probably a little more entertaining.

Weighing only a third of a pound, this pistol crossbow is truly mini. It could fit in the palm of your hand. The arrows it shoots are equally small. In fact, they’re toothpicks. That said, don’t underestimate the power of this gadget. It can put toothpicks well through cardboard, which means it should stay out of reach of children. Only buy this for the adults in your life.

All in all, we think this is a great gift. Specifically, get it for the bowhunter in your life who likes to daydream about the woods while they’re stuck at the office. It comes with a convenient stand, so it’ll sit nicely on anyone’s desk. Plus, the stainless steel makes it as much of a decoration as a plaything. Finally, it comes at a price that’s under almost any gift limit.

For what’s essentially a toy, DMAIP actually manufactures this mini crossbow with considerable concern for quality. It comes with extra limbs and an extra string on top of a lifetime free replacement service. Even though there aren’t any instructions, it’s pretty easy to assemble.

What we liked:

  • Small and lightweight
  • Powerful
  • Fun gift
  • Low price
  • Stainless steel design
  • Lifetime replacement service

What we didn’t:

  • No instructions
  • Assembly required
Just a Dude reviews the DMAIP 0.3lb Mini Crossbow

Check the price on Amazon »

Kings Archery Crossbow Pistol

KingsArchery Crossbow Self-Cocking 80 LBS Adjustable Sights, 3 Aluminium Arrow Bolts Bonus 120-pack Colored PVC Arrow Bolts Warranty
Click the picture to see more images and user reviews on Amazon

This model is similar to many of the others on the market. However, what makes it stand out is its durable fiber-glass construction. That keeps weight down and makes this a reliable bow, even if you’ve had it stored in your go bag for years.

Whether you want this as part of your survival kit or for the occasional squirrel hunt, this model comes with everything you need. Along with the self-cocking system, it comes with an adjustable sight that you can tune for small game.

Best of all, you can purchase this crossbow with bolts included. A lot of arrows. In fact, the biggest package comes with 123 aluminum and PVC bolts. That’s nice because crossbow pistol ammo is often difficult to find. Plus, if you want this for your survival kit, you’ll want to pack plenty of bolts along with it. Of course, you can buy it alone without the bolts if you prefer.

The 80-lb draw weight is as powerful as a full-sized bow, and the bolts are strong enough for small game. It’s a fine choice for fun, rabbit hunting or survivalism.

What we liked:

  • Durable fiber glass
  • Self-cocking pistol
  • Adjustable sight
  • Comes with up to 123 bolts
  • 80-lb draw weight

What we didn’t:

Loose trigger

Check the price on Amazon »

PSE Viper SS

This model is just plain fun. But don’t think that doesn’t mean you can’t make good use of it, too. With  216 FPS firing speed, this is one of the fastest pistol crossbows we’ve found. Add that to the 50-lb draw weight and the both rear and front sights, and you have a serious weapon for small-game hunting. The rear sight even has windage and elevation adjustment.

This model has a few other good features as well. There’s an auto safety and anti-dry-fire trigger which are especially nice if you’re just having fun on the range. Similarly, a finger guard protects your hands from the string.

Like most pistol crossbows, the Viper has a self-cocking mechanism, so it’s easy to use. At 1.5 lbs, it’s no problem to hold and aim, either.

What we liked:

  • 216 FPS firing speed
  • Adjustable rear sight
  • Auto safety
  • Anti-dry-fire trigger
  • Self-cocking mechanism
  • Light weight

What we didn’t:

  • Low 50-lb draw weight
The Global Prachadile Channel gives an opinion on the PSE Viper SS Pistol Crossbow

Check the price on Cabelas »

Rogue 80lb Aluminium

Rogue 80 lbs Aluminum Pistol Crossbow with Build-in Arrow Holder
Click the picture to see more images and user reviews on Amazon

This bow has an 80 lbs draw weight and claims to shoot bolts at upto 160 fps. This has a short draw, or a 5″ power stroke for those of us who know what that means. If you don’t checkout our crossbow pages, we explain there. But in brief this has a shorter draw than other pistols with the same 80 lbs weight meaning the power is going to be slightly lower. 

The great things about this bow are the price. It’s one of the cheapest out there (or was last time we checked). The in-built bolt holder that allows you to carry up-to 5 bolts under the limbs. Auto-safety engages every time you cock this. Cocking is done with the inbuilt foot stirrup and rear handle. A strong adult male could cock this one handed, youths and women will probably find the need to use both hands from a crouched position to pull it back enough. That front stirrup does flail around when you aren’t actually using it. A magnetic latch or something to tuck it away would have been nice.

We’ve noticed some complaints about alignment of the string to the bolt when cocked being in-exact and contributing to string wear. This isn’t something we experienced, but we always maintain our gear well and regularly wax crossbows strings (every 5 or 10 shots) to prolong the string life and recommend that you do the same.

Pictures say more words than we can, pretty pictures, well….

Here’s a great video of this pistol bow in action during from target practice from American Gun Chick! Maybe not the greatest review but… nice to watch!

What we liked:

  • Aluminium construction
  • 80 lbs draw weight
  • 160 fps
  • Auto engaging safety
  • 3x bolts included
  • Affordable
  • In-built arrow quiver / bolt-holder

What we didn’t:

  • Short draw
  • Noisy
  • String alignment issues
  • 3/8 Dovetail top mounting rail

Check the price on Amazon »

Prophecy 80 lbs

Prophecy 80 Pound Self-Cocking Pistol Crossbow with Cobra System Limb
Click the picture to see more images and user reviews on Amazon

SAS (Southland Archery Supply) make this pistol bow. They’re a known manufacturer with a reputation that is growing for producing quality archery kit at affordable prices. Compounds, recurves etc, they’ve experience of it all. Their 80 lbs draw weight pistol claims to shoot supplied bolts at upto 165 fps and has a 5″ power stroke.

Supplied instructions are adequate and assembly of this bow isn’t too hard for someone with basic abilities however stringing these things is always a bit of a pain, however SAS have produced a pistol crossbow stringer (not included), to make the job simple.

This has a break action cocking mechanism. You grab the front and the rear lever and break that rear level down away from the body to cock the bow. This action requires some strength but your average 12-15 year old shouldn’t struggle too much. This however is in no way a toy, the power you can deliver with the supplied is enough to kill.

One of the great things about this bow is that there is an upgraded version available (shown above) that includes a red-dot sight and a fore grip and also wood-effect grip. It costs a little more but (other than a quiver and some different bolts) it’s nice that you can get everything you need in one package and know it will work together without any modification.

Shoot the supplied aluminium bolts into anything that’s hard and you’ll likely break them. We’d recommend upgrading to some plastic bolts as they can take a lot more abuse.

Here’s a great video review of this bow from PerparedMind101.

What we liked:

  • Quality build
  • 80 lbs draw weight
  • 165 fps
  • Break action cocking mechanism
  • Aluminium frame
  • 3x bolts included
  • Wood effect version with scope and fore grip available

What we didn’t:

  • No under mount rail

Check the price on Amazon »

1 thought on “What’s the Best Pistol Crossbow in 2020?”

  1. Hello. Which crossbow from this two should I buy? Alligator has 185 fps, Cobra has 165 fps. But Alligator has plastic body and Cobra has alluminium body. Cobra is little cheaper in my country. Does difference in 20 fps mater a lot in term of strength and penetration? Thank you

    Here are links for Cobra and Alligator pistol crossbows:

    http://www.poelang.com/products/detail.php?pid=33&fmenu=2&cid=17&language=_eng

    https://www.archery-manufacturer.com/crossbows/MK-TCS1-G.htm

    Reply

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