What are the Best Youth Crossbows?

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Both the Barnett Recruit recurve and compound crossbow are lightweight, maneuverable and compact. These bows have pass-thru fore-grips to encourage correct hand position and anti-dry fire technology so they won’t shoot without a bolt on the rack. They have smooth trigger actions and come with everything you need to get started out of the box. You get a red-dot sight, arrows (bolts) and a bow quiver. If strength is an issue and the supplied rope cocker would be too tough for your youth to pull these bows are also compatible with a Barnett crank cocking device.

They are our top choice for a youth crossbow. The only choice you have to make is compound or recurve? (Hint: this article should clear up the pro’s and cons for you on that too…)

Recruit Recurve

Barnett 78615 Recruit Recurve Pkg by Barnett
Click the picture to see more images and user reviews on Amazon
  • 245 fps, 65 ft lbs Kinetic Energy
  • 150 lbs draw weight
  • Weighs 5 lbs
  • 32.5″ Long x 27.675″ Wide

Quieter and lighter than the compound variant, the recurve is also easier to maintain when the string breaks. It’s a little shorter but due to the recurve limbs a lot wider.

Due to the reduced design complexity the recurve is also normally cheaper to purchase.

Check the price on Amazon »

Recruit Tactical Compound

Barnett Recruit
  • ​330 fps, 91.9 ft lbs Kinetic Energy
  • 130 lbs draw weight
  • Weighs 6.4 lbs
  • 34.25″ Long x 18.25″ Wide

The tactical compound youth bow packs more of a punch but weighs more and is a few inches longer than the recurve.

Depending on the exact age and strength of your youngster you can also get this bow in 100 lbs, 60 lbs and 30 lbs draw weights. 

Read our more in-depth review of the Recruit Tactical.​

Check for prices on Ebay »

Choosing a Youth Crossbow

In this guide we will be covering how to select the best youth crossbow for a child, pre-teen or teen. Crossbows are not nearly as mainstream as compound bows or recurve bows, so that makes the challenge a bit more difficult. It is harder to find a good selection of crossbows built for children. 

The first question you must ask yourself and the child is… is a crossbow is the right weapon for them? A crossbow is a unique cross breed between a firearm and a conventional bow. It gives you the ease of use that pulling a trigger always provides, but it gives a more primitive and personal experience than a firearm. You can watch the arrow fly through the air at the target. If you hunt, you can sometimes smell the animal before firing because it is so close. It is easier to learn how to fire a crossbow than it is learning to fire a conventional bow, but more challenging than a firearm.

Responsible Maintenance

A crossbow also has the additional burden of more string maintenance. It demands more responsibility. I suggest waxing the string every five shots on any crossbow because of the friction against the frame.

Regulations and Classes

You also must check your local regulations to see if hunting with a crossbow is allowed and how the schedule is different from a conventional bow. As for the learning process, you are mainly on your own. You can rarely find an archery class or school that teaches crossbow use. You really must have an experienced user to show the child how to use it.

Better for Hunting…

As for hunting, a crossbow can give a child the additional arrow speed and power that they may lack with a traditional bow. With a compound or recurve bow, a child must have a certain amount of strength to draw and hold the string back. However, there are plenty of mechanical advantages available through draw devices for crossbows such and rope and crank cockers. The average child can fire with significantly more power on a crossbow than they can on a conventional bow.

For me, the only reason I use a crossbow is for hunting. It allows me to be more accurate and shoot with more power than I can with a conventional bow. However, it opens up an additional hunting season for me to harvest meat. I hunt to fill the freezer… period. For that purpose, a crossbow can greatly help. For target shooting, I prefer a firearm or a conventional bow.

Automatic Safety

There is also the question of safety. Some people would say a crossbow is safer because it actually has a safety built into the firing mechanism. Generally when a crossbow is cocked or loaded a safety will engage that must by physically disengaged before you can fire the bow. Some bows even go as far as sensing whether a bolt is on the rack before they will allow that safety to disengage. Others would say that the ease of simply pulling a trigger makes the crossbow more dangerous. I think each option has its pros and cons. The key is proper safety training on any type of weapon.

How Heavy?

Another variable to consider with a crossbow is the weight. The average crossbow is more than twice the weight of a conventional bow. For some children this will make it difficult to keep the bow steady. For others it will actually help keep the bow steady. Before you make the decision to purchase a crossbow for a child, you should go through a few tests with them and determine using random household object how much you think they will be comfortable holding for any length of time.

If you can, find a bow shop that has youth crossbows and let them hold one on a target without an arrow. See how comfortable they are and if they are able to hold the pin on target for at least eight seconds. This is how long it takes to get a good sight picture before firing. Many crossbows come with a scope these days, so the distance from the eye to the rim of the scope is very important. See how comfortable they are with the scope view.

Consider Starting with a Pistol Crossbow…

You can spend $20-$30 and buy a good pistol crossbow to let the child get a feel for this type of weapon. While the grip and power are very different, this was my first test drive into the crossbow world. It made me feel much more comfortable. People are generally far less intimidated by the pistol crossbow than the full size models.

Recurve vs Compound Youth Crossbows

Once you have decided to purchase a crossbow, there are a few more decisions to make. Likely the most important is whether to go with a recurve or a compound crossbow. I like a recurve crossbow. While it has longer arms making it harder to maneuver through thick brush, it is lighter and more accurate than a compound bow. There are fewer moving parts so overall there is less maintenance, except for the string itself. String replacement is also very easy on a recurve crossbow. It is a bit harder to draw back a recurve, but with the draw assistance devices you can always have a mechanical advantage.

Compound crossbows give you a mechanical advantage when drawing the string, but I find that benefit to be negligible. The arms are shorter so you have a smaller package, but it is heavier as well. The only real reason I see for buying a compound crossbow is if there is a serious issue with drawing back the string on a recurve.

Draw Weight

There are not many specifications you need to worry about on a child’s crossbow. If you want the child to use it for hunting, you want the draw weight to be around 150 pounds. Other than that, it just needs to fit the child.

Youth Crossbow Style

Do consider the pattern and color of the bow. You will need a camouflage pattern for a hunter, but most target shooters just use a solid color. Be wary of the cost with crossbows as you do not want to spend several hundred dollars only to find out they do not use the bow. My first full sized crossbow only cost me $125.

Do pay attention to bolt weight and broad-head weight. This can greatly affect bolt flight, accuracy, and arrow penetration. You may have to try a few different bolts and a few different broad-heads to find some that work. I went through three different broad-head designs before I found one that flew true to my field heads.

Anything to share?

I hope this roundup was useful and led you in the direction of a quality target for your setup. Please let us know if we’re missing your favorite and need to add it to this review, or if there​ are any aspects of any of the above we’ve not covered correctly! Either leave a comment or send us some feedback!

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