Crossbows have been steadily increasing in popularity over the last decade or so. With popular hit television shows including characters such a Darrel from The Walking Dead, that trend completely makes sense. As an extension of the archery community, there are three basic uses for crossbows: hunting, target archery, and collectible items. In the first two cases, scopes are necessary to provide adequate aiming systems for improved accuracy and functionality. Just as complicated as the question of which crossbow to purchase, so too is the question of which scope will best suit my individual and practical needs as a crossbow owner. As you might expect, the way to narrow your search depends greatly on your intended use of the crossbow you’ve purchased.
In this article, we will analyze the different types of crossbow scopes available on the market, their intended practical applications, and review some of the key features that make each specific style unique and valuable. As with all goo product research, a good foundation of the understanding of how crossbow scopes work, why they were designed with certain features, etc. all play a vital role in knowing exactly which scope is best for your needs.
The Adaptation of Scopes to Crossbows
Scopes originated as a tool to help expert marksmen fire more accurately at long distances. Working off the fundamental principles of telescopes or “spyglass” (the eyepiece you are familiar seeing pirate and other ship captains use on sea voyages to get a closer look at something on the horizon) marksmen scopes were used to magnify an image down range so that a shooter was better able to acquire their target and make a successful shot.
As with many great technological advances, wartime tends to be when humanity makes our biggest jumps. Likewise, the conflicts of World War I and World War II demanded improved marksmanship and, therefore, improved shooting aids to help snipers on both fronts. That technology generated the basic functions of what we use as modern hunting scopes, spotting scopes, and binoculars.
Archery equipment is a primitive form of weaponry in warfare for most countries around that time, but over the course of the Twentieth century, archery hunting saw tremendous growth in popularity. Around the 1960s and 70s in the United States, crossbow finally broke onto the playing field and has been a player ever since.
Scopes are not necessary for vertical archery tackle, as their effective range is limited to distances that most humans are capable of seeing easily with the naked eye. Crossbows on the other hand, especially since the turn of the century, have pushed that boundary. It would be exceptionally difficult to shoot accurately at greater than 50 yards with a simple pin sight like you normally find on vertical bows, but they aren’t typically used to shoot that far. Crossbows do see plenty of action shooting at those further distances, however, and so scopes became adapted to be more well suited for crossbows.
Crossbow Scope Styles
For rifle hunters and enthusiasts, there are really only a couple of different styles to choose from: traditional optics and now night vision optics. The choices vary in terms of magnification, quality of glass, adjustability, and reticle (the internal piece that provides aiming points). Crossbow scopes take on several additional styles. In addition to the two mentioned above, crossbow scopes can also be holographic (like you would see on some tactical handguns) and they can also include an illuminated reticle.
A very distinct difference between rifle scopes and crossbow scopes is their magnification factor. Some rifles are designed for expert marksmen and women to fire rounds downrange at distances far greater than even half a mile at times. A crossbow simple isn’t capable of achieving such long-range. The dynamics of the arrow and forces required are just physically unattainable for any piece of archery equipment. So crossbow scopes typically feature small magnification ratios, if any. Most of this is because crossbows have become a great adaptive tool for physically disabled people who still want to enjoy archery shooting sports. A slight bit of magnification in a crossbow scope can allow someone with the poor vision the ability to be competitive in target archery, or successful in crossbow hunting.
Holographic scopes are far more tactical than any other scope design. Meant for tactical situations and close-quarters shooting, they feature the highest technology of any other style of scope. That also means that they are the most expensive.
Illuminated scopes have become the focus of most of the hunting industry. An illuminated reticle allows for better target acquisition in low-light scenarios, which is when hunters are most likely to encounter their quarry. These scopes come in a couple of different formats: magnified with a reticle or simply with illuminated dots. The benefit of magnification and a reticle is that the scope still offers black aiming dots should the battery or lights no longer work. A simple standard red dot illuminated scope just uses the projection of the light onto the glass. Should something go wrong, you’d just be looking through a pane of glass with no points of reference for aiming.
Choosing the Right Crossbow Scope
Armed with all of this information, there are a lot of different ways to determine which crossbow scope is best for you. To begin, you need to know the purpose for which your crossbow is intended.
If it is a hobby and or target archery competition crossbow, then the scope you choose should be something with a rather significant factor of zoom. You’ll want to be able to clearly see the area on each target that will help you shoot most accurately and, ultimately, make you more successful. One thing to keep in mind here is that, especially for competitions, there may be restrictions to this feature in the rules and regulations that limit the magnification of scope and prohibit certain ratios. You should always check with the event staff for these types of rules.
If you are using your crossbow as a hunting tool, an illuminated scope would be best. The reticles offer the best visibility in low-light scenarios, which is the prime-time for encountering your quarry. However, especially with the rising interest in hunting wild boars at night, a night vision scope might be necessary. Either way, you’ll want a scope that offers the quickest target acquisition possible.
Top 10 Crossbow Scopes
Now that you’ve been on a tour of the history and background of the development of crossbow scopes, and have a better understanding of what they have to offer, we can get into the “meat and potatoes” of this article. The following ten scopes listed are, in no particular order, the ten best crossbow scopes on the market in 2021. This information was compiled from testing, personal experience, and value proposition based on the general needs of crossbow users across the globe. Knowing that each individual might be looking for something slightly different from their crossbow scope, this list contains scopes from each different style mentioned above, across several different price points to include at least one crossbow scope option for every kind of crossbow shooter, hunter, and user.
1. Eotech Model 512 Xbow Scope
The first scope on our list is the holographic Model 512 Xbow by Eotech. As mentioned previously, holographic scopes are quite pricy, and this model rounds our around $450 USD. Being a holographic scope, a pair of AA batteries is required to produce the reticle. The efficiency of the Model 512, however, produces up to a stunning 1,100 hours of continuous run time.
One big benefit of a holographic scope is that they perform really well under low-light conditions. The Model 512 is equipped with two different reticle settings, one designed for general shooting needs comprised of 4 dots set for different shot distances. The other reticle is designed specifically for hunting, with different notches to help a hunter judge the size of an animal in the field. This is extremely important when hunting in regions with strict hunting regulations.
The Model 512 Xbow does not produce any magnification ratio, which is a slight downside, but most holographic scopes perform in this manner. It is small and compact, able to attach via a standard weaver rail system, and is submersible up to 10 feet of water, the Model 512 is an extremely versatile, rugged, and innovative holographic crossbow scope.
2. Trijicon ACOG
The second scope on our list is the ACOG from optics powerhouse, Trijicon. Again, this scope is pretty far up there in terms of price, coming in around $1300 USD, and as with most products, you get what you pay for. This scope is top of the line in terms of features. Light-weight, rugged, and waterproof up to 100 meters, this scope is unique in that it does not require batteries for its illuminated reticle. Instead, it relies on a series of fiber optic cords that absorb light and produce an illuminated glow.
The ACOG features a drop-compensating reticle and range-finding technology. These two features combined enable shooters to be a far more accurate downrange, calculating the exact distances of the desired target. All-in-all, the ACOG is an ideal scope for hunters and target archery competitors simply because of its enhanced accuracy technology. Being back as a design produced by one of the leaders in optics across the globe, you’ll definitely love the ACOG for your crossbow scope.
3. Hawk XB30 Pro
Hawk is another leader in crossbow scope technologies. Their XB30, coming in around $300 USD, boasts a 5x magnification ratio, making its design the ideal choice for someone looking to push the envelope and shoot their crossbow accurately at great distances.
As with a couple of other scopes that will follow on this list, the XB30 Pro features arrow speed compensation. What this means is that if you sight your crossbow in with an arrow that shoots 380 feet per second out of your crossbow, and then decide to try a different arrow, you can shoot it through a chronograph, figure out how much faster or slower than new arrow shoots, and then adjust your scope’s reticle accordingly without having to repeat the process of sighting it in. This is fantastic for hunters and target shooters alike, as there might be any number of different circumstances that require using different arrow weights that shoot at different speeds. The simple efficiency factor of this scope alone makes it a tremendous buy for all crossbow users. Not to mention the fact that it comes with available red dot illumination of the reticle for enhanced low-light performance.
4. TenPoint RangeMaster Pro
Like the previous scope on the list, the RangeMaster Pro scope from crossbow manufacturing powerhouse, TenPoint Crossbow Technologies, features a unique arrow speed compensator for improved versatility and accuracy with different arrows.
Also, like its Hawk companion, the RangeMaster Pro features a 5x magnification ratio and does offer another very cool alternative that the XB30 does not: dual-color illumination. The RangeMaster can be set for either red or green dot reticle illumination which is a huge benefit for shooters who might happen to be colorblind. Coming in at around $300 USD, the RangeMaster Pro from TenPoint offers another great option for all crossbow users.
5. TRUGLOW Tru-Brite Extreme IR
Rounding out the first half of our list, the Tru-Brite Extreme IR from TRUGLOW features a lot of the same technology as the previous scopes but comes in around $150 USD in price. Again, featuring calibration options for varying crossbow shooting speeds between 225 and 400 feet per second as well as an option for an illuminated reticle, you’re getting a 5x magnification scope at a pretty darn good price point. The tradeoffs being that this scope doesn’t have quite the quality in the glass as our former scopes. If you’re looking to stay in a budget, the Tru-Brite Extreme IR is the perfect scope for you!
6. TenPoint ProView II
Another TenPoint scope starts off the second half of our list. Coming in around $200 USD and featuring the same two color options for reticle illumination, the ProView II is a fantastic little scope for any crossbow shooter. It does lack a little bit in the magnification realm, only offering a 3x power of magnification. It’s not ideal for shooters looking to push the envelope in terms of distance but is perfectly capable of high-quality performance at distances out to 50 or 60 yards. The ProView II is certainly a great scope option for the majority of hunters and target shooters.
7. Hawk XB1
Now it’s Hawk’s turn to make a second appearance. The XB1 features the same 5x magnification as its big brother, the XB30, but does not come with an illuminated reticle. It does, however, have a price on its side, coming in at $160 USD. That’s not too shabby for a scope that still offers calibration for shooting speeds between 225 and 400 feet per second! As with the remaining three scopes that will follow the XB1, value is king, and this scope certainly has enough value to be a great scope option for crossbow shooters and hunters alike.
8. TRUGLOW Cross-Tech
TRUGLOW is going to round out the remainder of the field, simply because their scopes offer the greatest variety of style while still providing good value at relatively cost-effective price points. The Cross Tech is a beautiful little scope that won’t break the bank, costing around $100 USD. Dual-color illumination of the reticle, rugged shock and water resistance, and a 4x magnification ratio make this a tremendous budget-friendly crossbow scope.
9. TRUGLOW 4×32 Compact
TRUGLOW’s Compact Crossbow Scope is a small package that comes in at around $90 USD. This is your bare-bones, run-of-the-mill workhorse crossbow scope. With no illumination, it loses some of its lusters, but you can put this scope through the ringer, drag it through the mud, bang it against a tree, and still pull off very accurate shots. Nothing fancy, just down and dirty 4x magnification and a sleek look.
10. TRUGLOW Traditional Red Dot
The final scope on our list is the TRUGLOW Traditional 30mm Red Dot scope. As mentioned earlier, this scope is a great little piece for around $80 USD. With flip-up lens caps and a Lifetime warranty, you really do get a lot of bang for your buck on this scope. The same improved low-light target acquisition as featured on some of the more expensive and high-tech scopes on this list, it’ll definitely get the job done. The only thing for you to consider is whether or not it’s worth the risk to not have a backup reticle built into the scope. As mentioned earlier, the projections of the red dots onto the glass is all you get, so if the battery burns out or the light quits working in the field, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Wrapping It Up
Now that you’ve had a chance to look over some of the scope options that are available in 2021, with the background information that was mentioned earlier in this article, you’re armed with sufficient information to purchase the appropriate crossbow scope for your specific needs. May your purchase be fruitful, your time shooting be enjoyable, and remember to share the fun of crossbow shooting and crossbow hunting with others!