There is an old myth that crossbows shoot like firearms. In a sense, the mechanics are the same. That does not mean that a crossbow is effective out to 200 yards like some rifles are.
Yes, a crossbow shares some functions with the way firearms shoot. There is a safety button or switch, you pull a trigger to fire the arrow, and you shoulder a crossbow the way you would shoulder a rifle. But there are more differences than similarities.
A crossbow is a piece of precision archery equipment. You fire an arrow, using strings and limbs, and for compound crossbows, cables and cams. Far more similar to traditional archery and compound vertical bow functionality. A majority of crossbows also shoot within 100 fps of vertical bow speeds (300-400 fps) rather than the 1,000 + fps of most bullets. These elements also mean that their effective range is comparable to other vertical archery equipment.
As part of TenPoint’s Family of brands, our crossbows are bore sighted at 20 yards right here in the factory. When the consumer receives their product, within minutes they can be driving tacks down range, shooting effectively. As with most vertical bow hunters, effective range for a crossbow is about 40 yards. At this distance most hunters are able to fire a crossbow accurately enough to be lethal.
Just like vertical bows, kinetic energy is the name of the game. As an arrow follows its trajectory down range, the greater the distance to its target, the more loss of kinetic energy occurs. Heavier arrows tend to decrease the shooting speed of any piece of archery equipment, but are better able to maintain efficient kinetic energy to point of impact. With a steady hand and heavier arrow/broad head combination, some hunters might be able to pull off a 50 yard shot. This distance is about the max for effectively hunting with a crossbow.
There will be some target shooters who claim, or maybe even have proof, that they shot their crossbow at further distances. Keep in mind, however, that just because they were accurate at these distances does not guarantee their arrow would have delivered enough ‘oomph’ to be lethal while hunting.
When it comes to crossbows, as is the case with any weapon, remember that the shooter, not the equipment, is a better determinant for its effective range. As a hunter, if you are only comfortable shooting at 20 yards, a crossbow will not automatically enable you to shoot at 80 yards. Keep in mind also, that the majority of archery shots on whitetail deer in the woods are at 20 yards or less.
To increase your effectiveness while shooting a crossbow, or any piece of hunting equipment, it is best to practice like you hunt in order to turn your target practice to trophy taking. Practice from a tree stand, ground blind, or whatever you plan to hunt from. The more familiar and comfortable you are with the shooting scenario you might be in while hunting, the higher your success rate will be.