Most archers can agree that it’s difficult to make accurate shots at seemingly short ranges. With open sights, shots at 60 yards seem superhuman, and shots at even 20 to 30 yards can be tricky.
A straightforward upgrade makes it easier to get hits at any range: a scope. At the end of the day, if you’re using standard sights, or the scope that came with your crossbow, you’re not getting the optimum performance from your bow.
The right crossbow scope improves accuracy at all ranges, arrow placement, and takes the guesswork out of range and elevation estimation.
What does this mean for hunters and competitive archers?
More successful hunts and more humane kills.
Better placement in competitions.
Simple as that.
To help you out, we’ve put together a comprehensive crossbow scope overview so that you can get the absolute performance from your crossbow.
OUR FAVORITE CHOICE
NIKON BOLT XR
How to Pick the Perfect One for your Crossbow
Choosing the right one is a little more straightforward than selecting the right crossbow. But no matter what, you want an optic that’s going to be right for your particular needs. As a general rule, the quality of a crossbow scope scales with the price.
So that means that the most expensive will be perfect for everybody?
Not exactly. There are features that not all archers need, so it’s only wise to shop around and buy one that does what you need, without paying for bells and whistles you’ll never use.
Here are their main characteristics, and why they matter:
Most scopes will have a number like 3×32 in the description. The first number is the magnification. So a 3×32 scope has 3x magnification, which will make the image look 3 times closer than it would with the naked eye. Higher magnification scopes are best for hunters that hunt small game like turkeys, or competition archers who need accuracy on small targets.
The second number in the 3×32 specification is the diameter of the objective lens, in millimeters. A 3×32 scope has a 32mm objective lens. A wider lens will collect more light, so more light reaches your eye. It means better image clarity and low-light performance. Archers that shoot at night, at dusk, or at dawn benefit from a scope with a wider objective lens.
Any quality scope will be waterproof, dustproof, and fogproof. Some brands have better weatherproofing than others. An excellent fogproof coating is most critical for image clarity and shooting performance. Archers who live in wet climates should always evaluate the fogproof coating on a scope before buying.
All scopes will have an aiming reticle. The best scopes will have range markers that show the arrow’s trajectory at various distances such as 20 yards, 30 yards, and 60 yards. A scope without range lines usually needs to be adjusted to match the range of the target, so a scope with range lines is best for archers who need to take quick shots at short or fixed known ranges.
An illuminated scope will use either gathered light or a battery to illuminate the image for easier low-light or nighttime target acquisition. Lighting provides the most benefit to hunters who hunt at night, or in low-contrast conditions.
Top 7 Crossbow Scope Reviews
Now that you know what features you’ll need in an optic, these are the top crossbow scopes to buy this year, and who’ll they’ll work for.
Nikon Bolt XR
Nikon probably has more experience in optical technology than any other company in this lineup, and they’ve got an excellent reputation for producing high-quality cameras and lenses.
The Nikon Bolt XR is hands down the ultimate combination of performance and price on the market. This Nikon Bolt XR review should give you an idea of the blend of features that Nikon achieved to serve the vast majority of crossbow shooters.
The Bolt XR offers 3x magnification, which is ideal for hunting medium to massive game, or competition shooters who will be engaging up to 60 yards. The magnification isn’t adjustable, but 3x is moderate enough that it won’t negatively impact short range shooting.
32mm lens diameter has become somewhat of the standard for scopes, and Nikon meets this benchmark. Additionally, Nikon claims that the Bolt XR transmits 92% of the collected light to the shooter’s eye. It means that this will perform very well for archers who shoot at dusk or dawn.
The accessory is built with all of Nikon’s lens technology and durability.
All Nikon lenses are coated with multiple layers of anti-reflective and anti-fog coating, so the Bolt XR will hold up for many years in cold and wet climates.
The reticle offers a lot of precision with aiming points in 10-yard increments from 20 to 60 yards. 10-yard increases are excellent for competition shooters who need to shoot at multiple known ranges, and hunters who need perfect arrow placement for smaller game.
The Bolt XR doesn’t have any reticle illumination. So it may be less than ideal for archers who live in the high northern latitudes or often shoot in very dark conditions. On the flipside, the Nikon offers 3.4-inch eye relief, which minimizes eye strain during long hours of consistent use or use in less than optimal light conditions.
Excalibur has an excellent range of scopes in the realm of value pricing. However, the Excalibur Tact Zone Illuminated Scope packs a ton of utility into a really affordable package. Here’s what makes this one so capable:
The variable magnification runs from 2.5x to 6x. This range offers excellent sighting capacity at both short and long ranges. Variable magnification is ideal for locating a target, then zooming in for the most precise shot. It makes the Excalibur Tact-Zone excellent for any archer who likes to use their scope for scanning the field, but also needs to narrow the focus for perfect arrow placement.
The objective lens diameter is 32mm. The lens diameter isn’t exceptionally large, but the light gathering and image clarity of the Excalibur are outstanding. Full multi-coating on the lenses prevents fogging and repels water for excellent performance in rainy conditions.
The reticle is etched into the glass and can be illuminated in red or green. The range markers are set from 20 to 60 yards in 10-yard increments. The image clarity combined with the light gathering and reticle illumination make the Excalibur Tact-Zone the excellent crossbow scope for night hunting, especially for those tracking smaller animals.
However, all these great features have a minor drawback. The Tact-Zone is designed to be very precise, so the zeroing process is rather complex. Once the zeroing is complete, though, the range markers are finely tuned to your crossbow and can be adjusted for any arrow speed.
Hawke 3x32 IR
The Hawke 3×32 IR runs just a bit less expensive than the Excalibur Tact-Zone. The Hawke 3×32 doesn’t offer any variable magnification, but here’s a quick Hawke to show you where the 3×32 IR holds its own.
The Hawke has fixed 3x magnification, which is an excellent all-around magnification that gives a solid performance at all ranges, and a wide field of view for scanning. This level of magnification is perfect for medium to large game hunting, but might be a bit low for hitting small game at long ranges.
Hawke employs an industry-standard 32mm objective lens, which collects plenty of light for dawn and dusk shooting. The lenses are fully multi-coated, and the magnified image is clear.
Where the Hawke really shines, though, is the reticle. The 3×32 IR has range markers in 10-yard increments all the way out to 60 yards. Additionally, each range marker has a dot that represents a 2-inch diameter at the specified yardage. The reticle also illuminates with 5 brightness settings, and even the lowest setting is visible in daylight.
Overall, the Hawke is easily the top option for hunters who hunt medium or large game in low light conditions and demand perfect arrow placement.
Under 100 Dollars
The UTG 4×32 comes in at just around $75, with mounting rings for Picatinny and Weaver rails. If you’re familiar with optics, you know that good glass isn’t cheap. So what will this get you into a crossbow scope?
As it turns out, the UTG 4×32 is a quality model at this price point. First, the magnification. A fixed 4x magnification is reliable and provides excellent clarity for longer range shots, so this could be a slam dunk upgrade for archers looking to shoot smaller targets at the 50-60 yard marks.
The UTG is equipped with a 32mm objective lens, which hits the industry benchmark. The scope body also has a shroud for less glare in daytime shooting situations, which is excellent for hunting in areas of low brush and limited shading.
UTG used something they call, “broadband lens coating” to add fogproof and dustproofing to the scope. UTG may not have Nikon’s reputation to back their coating process, but fogging hasn’t been an issue.
The reticle is one area that seems less than optimal. The five range lines cross the entire diameter of the eyepiece. So the reticle can get in the way of what you’re looking at sometimes. However, there is good news about the reticle.
The illumination on the reticle is outstanding and provides excellent nighttime and low-light operation. Additionally, the illumination can be changed to red or green, depending on your needs or preference.
So, what’s the verdict?
At less than $80, the UTG is hard to pass up if you need an affordable unit with solid low light performance at medium and long ranges.The 4x magnification may be a touch too much for archers looking to shoot only at short ranges, and there have been some reports of quality control issues.
However, the problem optics make up only about 2% of the shipped scopes, so if you’re looking for a quality bargain, the UTG is a good buy.
Excalibur Twilight DLX
Calling something the “best” is a pretty serious claim. However, there are good reasons that the Excalibur Twilight DLX crossbow scope gets this honor. This one weighs in over $220, so the price isn’t the main selling point. Let’s have a look at what you pay for.
First, the Excalibur DLX offers adjustable magnification from 3x to 6x, which a solid range. The range of magnification means this one will be just as capable at 20 yards as it is at 60 yards. It is excellent for competition shooters and hunters that need precise arrow placement at all ranges.
The 44mm objective lens is enormous. The light gathering capability of this unit is incredible and provides amazingly crisp images in low light conditions. The image clarity is also partially due to full multi-coating on the lenses. Full multi-coating also means excellent anti-fog and anti-dust properties.
The reticle is a very clear stack of chevrons with range markers from 20 to 60 yards. The reticle illumination is impressively bright and can be set to red or green. The reticle pattern is easy to pick up, and excellent for archers who need to make quick shots from the ready.
If the Excalibur DLX has any limitation, it’s that it’s designed for bows that shoot at 300-400 FPS. Anything faster or slower than that is very difficult to zero correctly. This one is suited to high-end crossbows that operate at reasonably high speeds, or for archers with the ability to match their crossbow speed to their scope.
If your crossbow fits the bill, the combination of high magnification, excellent light gathering, and bright illuminated reticle make the Excalibur DLX the ultimate option for long-range shooting in dark conditions.
Truglo has a solid reputation for making quality pistol and rifle sights, especially night sights; so it makes sense that the Truglo Red-Dot is the top option for a short-range illuminated optic.
While a red dot is more of a sight than a scope, if you’re looking for quick target acquisition and snapshots at short ranges, the Truglo Red-Dot is easily the greatest red dot “scope” for a crossbow.
This is how the TruGlo Red-Dot stacks up in terms of optics.
There’s no magnification. The Red-Dot is most optimal for short range shooting in situations that require quick reaction shots.
At 30mm, the objective lens on the Truglo Red-Dot is slightly smaller than the competition. However, since the Red-Dot is shorter, it doesn’t need quite as much light to function well, and the Red-Dot will work well for low-light shooting.
Truglo has a strong reputation for durability and weatherproofing and has applied their standard multi-coating to the Red-Dot so that the Red-Dot won’t fog up even in humid climates.
The Red-Dot utilizes a 5 MOA dot for sighting, which is ok for short range engagement. However, the dot is a little larger than ideal for longer range shots. Since it’s a red dot sight, the reticle is always illuminated and is never difficult to see in the dark.
The Truglo Red-Dot also comes with an added bonus: mounting hardware for Picatinny or Weaver rails, which means you won’t need to buy any rings.
Overall, the Red-Dot is a sight designed for a specific purpose: fast shooting at short ranges, and it’s perfect for that context.
Trophy Ridge SpeedComp XV530IR
Trophy Ridge isn’t such a well-known brand, but the current verdict on their lineup is that they’re just as high quality as the more popular manufacturers. So far, the Trophy Ridge SpeedComp XV530IR has a perfect rating.
Trophy Ridge uses a variable magnification of 1-5x for the SpeedComp. The clarity at the highest magnification isn’t quite as good as a model with a wider objective lens, but it’s still very sharp. This makes this accessory excellent for hunters or competition shooters that need both magnified and unmagnified performance.
Even though the objective lens is only 30mm, the glass is incredibly high quality and multi-coated, so the SpeedComp has good image clarity in low light conditions for shooters looking to do dawn and dusk hunting.
Additionally, the multi-coating features fog and water-resistant properties. It’s reported that Trophy Ridge contracts Hawke to manufacture their scopes, so the lens coatings are likely just as durable as Hawke coatings.
The reticle on the SpeedComp is excellent, with 9 range lines that go from 20 to 100 yards. This is a great reticle for competition shooters who need accuracy at multiple ranges. The long maximum range marking also makes this a good option for shooters with powerful crossbows.
The reticle illumination is red and very bright. For most low light shooting the illumination is fine, but in near dark conditions, some shooters may find the reticle to be too bright, even on the lowest setting.
Another strength of this model is that it’s compatible with a lot of crossbows. The SpeedComp can be used on crossbows with speeds from 250 to 430 FPS, which means there are very few crossbows that outperform this unit.
The narrow objective lens and bright reticle of the SpeedComp may make it a bit less than ideal for hunters who require excellent low light image clarity. However, this is an attractive option for competition shooters and daytime hunters.
Our Best Choice
Again, the accessory you use should be based on your needs and most common shooting conditions, and there were some popular models that were left off this list. For example, there’s no Parker Red Hot here (it didn’t perform as well as the competition at the same price point), and some archers may need something even more situational.
Here’s how this review shakes out as a whole:
- If you need variable zoom capability for hunting different sized animals at varying ranges, the Excalibur Tact-Zone will probably suit you the most.
- If you need exceptional low-light and night hunting capabilities, but hunt mostly medium to large animals, the Hawke 3×32 IR is the way to go.
- Archers on a limited budget will do well with the UTG 4×32.
- Hunters and competitors that value quick shots at short range over everything else should look at the Truglo Red-Dot.
- For maximum performance with high-end crossbows, the Excalibur DLX is your best bet.
Best Value for the Money
Nikon Bolt XR
All the models here will be excellent for hunters with particular needs, but this is the bottom line recommendation:
The Nikon Bolt XR is the top value for the money. The Nikon will fit the needs of most crossbow competitors and hunters.
If you want the an all-arounder, or are looking to purchase your first crossbow scope and aren’t sure which characteristics you value most yet, the Nikon is a great go-to piece.
Additionally, the Bolt XR is the most purchased on this list and maintains an almost perfect rating.
So there you have it. Grab one, and start getting accurate hits with your best crossbow!