The first crossbow I ever laid my hands on was heavy, noisy and hard to use, but it intrigued me enough to look further into their use and efficiency. I wasn’t disappointed. After an hour of practicing, I could put my arrows in a one-inch dot on a 20-yard target. When I look back, it’s hard to imagine what I may have accomplished in the woods if I had the modern technology that is available today.

In less than two decades, crossbows have evolved into modern tools that rival any other hunting rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader or vertical bow, meaning that they are quality pieces of equipment that have been well thought out from top to bottom and front to back. They are engineered to be efficient at transferring energy in a consistent manner and in a way that most sportsmen and women can become proficient in placing arrows on the “X” with regular practice.

If you’ve never picked up or tried a crossbow, it’s high time you did. New crossbows are well balanced, accurate and easy to shoot. Crossbows have always been front heavy, but the modern versions are more center-balanced. The total weight of a ready-to-hunt crossbow has been reduced by half, and most modern bows tip the scale at approximately 7 pounds when all is said and done. Some of the reverse-draw bows move weight even further back on the chassis, making them easier to balance and hold for an accurate shot. Technical features like carbon fiber for making barrels and lightweight carbon stocks continue to reduce the overall weight of bows. Wood and steel have become passé.

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Today’s crossbows are smooth, balanced and easy-to-cock shooting machines. If you’ve yet to experience the joy of squeezing a crisp trigger and watching a bolt fly downrange, it’s time to jump in with both feet.

The better bows on the market offer an adjustable length of pull. The new TenPoint Nitro RDX, for example, has a 3C carbon stock with an adjustable cheek piece and butt plate. The three-position options on the cheek piece ensure that the shooter is properly aligned with the scope. By removing a few screws, you can move the butt plate to adjust for individual length of pull. Fitting the crossbow to the shooter means more consistent groups downrange. Consistency in shooting comes from mounting, holding and squeezing the trigger in the same manner each and every time.

Most manufacturers also offer youth models to not only ensure a good fit but make the bow manageable for a smaller-framed shooter. There simply isn’t enough adjustment in a bow designed for an adult to fit a small-framed shooter properly.

The safety features built into almost all modern bows are easy to find. The forestock on a modern bow flares or boasts an actual finger guard to protect your digits from making contact with the string. The finger guards may seem trivial, but even seasoned shooters can make a mistake.

TenPoint, Wicked Ridge, Browning and most of the other mainstream crossbow manufacturers have made cocking a bow safer than ever. With the trigger-blocking safety off, you cock the bow and, as the string latches in place, the safety automatically engages. Before you even take the cocking aid off the string, the bow has the safety engaged. Not only does it help prevent dry-firing the bow, but it also drastically reduces the chances of an accidental discharge.

One of the biggest changes in recent years is the quality of the triggers found in most modern-day rigs. One of my biggest complaints in the past was the creep and excessive weight to break the trigger. I did understand the incredible weight and tension the trigger mechanisms were required to hold, but it did make it challenging to shoot consistently. The trigger in a bow may be one of the biggest selling features when you compare several models. Triggers on crossbows are now similar in quality to what you’d find in a fine rifle.

Most quality bows are sold as a package and include a quiver, a scope with bases and rings, noise dampeners, string stoppers and even Picatinny rails. Of course, you can add more accessories to customize your bow and choose from an impressive selection of arrows, inserts and broadheads to improve accuracy and penetration.

The crossbow world is becoming a competitive industry, which is good news for hunters. Better quality at competitive prices means the consumer wins, but trying to stay current can be difficult. Anyone considering a new crossbow would be doing themselves a favor if they sought out at least six new bows and shot them all to see and feel the difference.

If you are still shooting crossbows with old technology, it’s time you modernized. Shooting a crossbow from days gone by is like a vertical bowhunter insisting on only using a recurve or stick bow. It does make it more challenging, but is that the only experience you’re after? Most crossbow hunters are looking at extending their seasons by utilizing a bow that is easy to become familiar with for accuracy and dependability. With 39 states offering opportunities to hunt with a crossbow, there’s never been a better time to make a purchase.