I am a keen hunter and have been a crossbow enthusiast for the past five years.
A good crossbow scope can make all the difference to your hunting experience.
I've been there before when, having received your new crossbow, you get it all set up and go out to test it. You're so excited!
You start sighting your scope in (so that it goes where you're aiming,) but after 30 minutes you can't get all of the crosshairs to line-up.
Then a couple of weeks later you're out hunting and it's starting to get dark and suddenly you can't see a thing through the scope, because it's fogged up and not enough light comes in. It's a disaster and is the most frustrating thing in the world.
My recommendation is to set aside a little bit of your budget for a quality scope. The beauty of this is you'll always have it and be able to transfer it between future crossbows too.
It's a strong investment for the future.
What Features Make a Crossbow Scope Good?
There are two types of scope magnification available. Fixed-power scopes and variable scopes.
Fixed-power scopes for crossbows typically come from 3x to 6x magnification, variables are capable of adjusting through these ranges.
Understandably, what you're hunting and over what distance you plan to hunt will define the type of scope that you're looking for, and specifically what magnification to look for.
You might say, I don't know at what distance I'll be shooting!
True, but think about your local area and the terrain. Is it fairly open? Does it permit shots at 40+ yards? Do you have the skill to be able to land shots accurately at 40+ yards? If the answer is no, maybe all you need is a 3x magnification.
Changing scope magnification while out hunting, in any case, is not recommended as you will have to constantly zero-in, (adjust the scope to that specific magnification) which takes a little time.
Therefore, I generally recommend a reliable fixed-power scope that suits your local hunting area.
Generally, a longer scope means a higher magnification. Take care, because a longer scope will be heavier, and will become a trade-off in manoeuvrability.
Illumination is a popular feature on all of the latest scopes. Illumination lights up the crosshairs in low light, allowing you to hunt from dawn till dusk with relative ease.
Several models illuminate the crosshairs in green or red light.
No Stray Light
Stray light is when light reflects off the metal of the scope. This glare goes through the scope and distracts the shooter when taking a shot.
When choosing a scope, take care to look for a model which has an inner coating applied. This stops the glare, making it easier to make out your target.
You may hear this term when purchasing a crossbow scope. It refers to the amount of light which travels up your scope and into your eye. You want a good level of light, to ensure good visibility.
Field of View
Field of view is the width of the image when you're looking down your scope. It depends on the magnification that the scope has, and the configuration of its lenses.
The more magnification you have, the less field of view.
Center tubes come in two diameter sizes; Europeans have a preference for 30mm tubes while Americans tend to go for the 1-inch diameters.
In terms of quality there is no difference, however the 30mm-diameter does have a thicker wall which offers a little more protection.
A common issue with poor-quality scopes is that they are not resistant to the elements.
The worst thing is when your scope fogs up due to condensation. Once it starts, there's little you can do to stop this.
When purchasing a scope, check reviews from previous buyers to see if anybody has complained about this issue.
Durability & Warranty
A well-built scope will last for years, and can be transferred from one crossbow to another.
Most good manufacturers will offer a 5-year or lifetime warranty with a scope. Make sure that yours has it too. Also, check reviews for customer support quality from the manufacturer.
It's no use having a lifetime warranty if you don't receive responses for months, or they send you faulty goods after a long wait.
Sadly, I've heard some horror stories with some manufacturers, but there are some really good ones out there too.
Apart from doing your homework and checking for a good one, you can also make your purchase through a reliable third-party, such as Amazon.This way you know you'll be reasonably covered for returns or other issues.
Eye relief refers to the distance you must place your eye from the eye-piece on the scope in order to see the target properly.
This is a personal thing, although I've seen some scopes that are just mega long or short. One scope I tried had a 4-inch eye relief. I couldn't reasonably get my eye that far back and hold the crossbow comfortably at the same time.
A good scope should come with a lens cloth, scope caps, and some way to attach the scope to the crossbow, i.e. scope rings.
Doing your homework before buying a scope is incredibly important.
Try to test out several before you buy, or have a clear returns policy in place should you not like the scope.
The right scope will make your hunting experience so much better.