Best New Budget Crossbows of the 2020 Archery Trade Show

These affordable x-bows bring plenty of performance for less than half the cost of the top flagship models

The flagship crossbows from today’s top companies are impressive feats of engineering and performance, aren’t they? Don’t you wish you could afford one? With top-model prices creeping into the territory of a decent used car, most of us are looking for something far, far less expensive. Like half—or less. That’s why I’ve capped this roundup at $700. And the good news is that manufacturers are meeting that demand for affordable options with several new models that offer solid performance, good handling, and no need for a home-equity loan. Here are the top bargains I found at the 2020 ATA Show.

Killer Instinct Speed 425

The Killer Instinct Speed 425 crossbow.
The Killer Instinct Speed 425 brings impressive speed for the price.Killer Instinct

Specs: 7.2 pounds, 14.375 inches wide (cocked), 425 fps

Only a few seasons ago, cracking the 400-fps barrier was a big deal for a flagship crossbow. The fact that Killer Instinct has done that—and then some—with a budget bow is impressive indeed, but even more praise-worthy is the shooting experience of the Speed. It’s no lightweight, but the balance is great, the trigger breaks cleanly, and the AR-style five-position adjustable stock makes finding the right fit a snap. I was surprised by the quality of the Lumix Speed Ring scope; sight in on the 20-yard crosshair and the rest of the hash marks are on out to 100 yards. (Don’t take that for granted, though; make sure to verify it on the range before you hunt.) The Speed 425 comes with an Elite accessories package and is compatible with the company’s aftermarket Dead Silent Crank. $549; killercrossbows.com

Wicked Ridge M-370

The new Wicked Ridge M-370 crossbow.
The new Wicked Ridge M-370 is ultralight, compact, and well made.Wicked Ridge

Specs: 5.8 pounds, 9 ½ inches wide (cocked), 370 fps

The new M-370 is being pumped as the “lightest crossbow in the world.” Somehow, given the implement’s 2,500-year history and the museum shelves piled with preserved specimens, I have my doubts. But the M-370 is a featherweight for sure—certainly one of the lightest I’ve ever picked up. It’s compact, too, at just 9.5 inches axle-to-axle when cocked. The one I tested at the ATA show handled like a dream, and my first thought was, This crossbow would be fun to hunt with. As the name implies, the 370-fps speed is plenty fast, and while the trigger has a little creep, it’s perfectly manageable. Nearly as impressive as the weight and handling are the features packed into this bow; it’s fitted for parent-company TenPoint’s Acu-Draw system, the fore-grip is comfortable and keeps fingers safe, and there are options for mounting accessories. Bottom line: This bow stood out for me, and it’s one you’ll want to take a very close look at. $669; wickedridgecrossbows.com

Barnett TS380

The Barnett TS380 crossbow.
The Barnett TS380 is plenty fast and has a quality trigger.Barnett Crossbows

Specs: 6.9 pounds, 16 ¾ inches wide (uncocked), 380 fps

What is it with crossbow companies making arrow speed part of every bow name? You guessed it, this Barnett flings a bolt at—all together now—380 fps, which is pretty darn quick. Aside from the speed, I liked the adjustable stock on this bow, and the fit and finish is surprisingly slick for a budget model. Most impressive, though, is the TriggerTech trigger group, which combines anti-dry fire with a no-creep pull that breaks at 3 pounds and feels closer to 2. A good trigger is an easy feature to leave off a budget bow—and plenty of companies do—but Barnett chose to include it on the TS380, and it makes a big difference. $549.99, barnettcrossbows.com

Excalibur Micro Axe 340

The ultralight Excalibur Micro Axe 340 crossbow.
The ultralight Excalibur Micro Axe 340 is high-quality, dependable recurve.Excalibur Crossbows

Specs: 5 ½ pounds, 22 inches wide (cocked), 340 fps

A couple of things right upfront: First, this bow disproves Wicked Ridge’s “lightest crossbow in the world” and “lightest crossbow on the market” claims all in one shot. (Maybe WR meant “compound crossbow.”) Second, it’s fifty bucks over my $700 limit. But it’s worth writing about, as it can put a quality recurve-style crossbow in more hunters’ hands. I like recurve x-bows because very little can go wrong with them; they are simple and dependable. Just like Excalibur’s flagship models, the Axe 340 has an awesome trigger, a Dead Zone scope that’s quite good, and a lifetime warranty. Despite the fact the limbs are quite wide, this ultralight bow feels compact and handles very nicely. I shot it several times on the range, but it only took a single bolt for me to say “Yup, I’d hunt with that one.” $750; excaliburcrossbows.com

BearX Constrictor Strata

The BearX Constrictor Strata crossbow
The BearX Constrictor Strata is fast and maneuverable.Bear Archery

Specs: 7.8 pounds, 10 inches wide (cocked), 410 fps

Like the Killer Instinct above, this one breaks the 400-fps barrier, with room to spare, at a great price. And at under 8 pounds and only 10 inches wide when cocked, the Strata handles well and offers a nice, slim-profile for better maneuverability in a blind or in those multi-trunk treestand setups. There are a couple of slick features here too, including a pivoting mount that allows positioning of the quiver on either side, or below, the bow. The illuminated scope is pretty darn good, and while the broad foot stirrup might seem like a minor detail at first glance, you’ll appreciate it when you have to cock your bow while wearing a bulky hunting boot. Speaking of cocking, the bow’s long powerstroke will require you to put a little extra muscle into the pull-rope, but it’s nothing most hunters can’t handle. Once cocked, the Strata is pleasant to shoot, partly because the trigger breaks quite cleanly. $599.99, beararchery.com

Killer Instinct Boss 405

The Killer Instinct Boss
The Killer Instinct Boss fires bolts over 400 fps for under $400.Killer Instinct

Specs: 6.7 pounds, 14-3/4 wide (cocked), 405 fps

This is the least expensive model in KI’s budget-bow lineup for 2020, and yet it still sports some impressive features and qualities. Probably the most impressive is that it fires a bolt 405 fps for well under $400. In addition to being super-fast, the Boss has a six-position stock that adjusts to even small-framed shooters. Also notable is the new X-Lox fore-grip, which not only keeps fingers safe but, like the buttstock, is adjustable. The Dead Silent Kit, which comes on higher-end KI bows, is also a standard feature on the Boss. The powerstroke is fairly long and that combined with a 220-ound draw weight means it’s not the easiest bow to cock, but it’s not too bad either. And while you wouldn’t call it compact, it is fairly lightweight at under 7 pounds. I shot this bow several times looking for a serious flaw in one of the cheapest bows of the day, but I wasn’t able to find one. $349, killercrossbows.com

Barnett Explorer XP370

Barnett Explorer XP
The new Barnett Explorer XP comes in three models that shoot 370 fps, 380, and 400 respectively.Barnett Crossbows

Specs: 6 pounds, 13-1/3 inches wide (cocked), up to 400 fps

This is another new model to take a close look at if you’re just looking to get into the crossbow game with a minimum investment. The Explorer comes in three different models, the names of which correspond to their top-end speed, the XP370 (165-pound draw weight), XP380 (185 pounds), and XP400 (200 pounds). It’s nice to have options in a beginner’s bows, as a younger or more slightly built hunter may want the easier-cocking XP370, whereas someone whose after max speed for the price will want the XP400. The XP370, shown above, features an adjustable buttstock and machined aluminum flight track, and comes with an illuminated red-dot sight. At just 6 pounds, the test model at the ATA show was quite handy and, maybe most impressive at this price, the Metal Injection Molded Trigger broke pretty cleanly. $329; barnettcrossbows.com