The Case for an Offset Red Dot on your Hunting Crossbow

   05.19.22

The Case for an Offset Red Dot on your Hunting Crossbow

Offset red dot optics have been in use in tactical and competition firearms for years. I used an offset red dot on my Open Class 3-Gun rifle quite successfully. The offset red dot was a real asset in the fast, up-close stages. What most people don’t realize is an offset red dot can be just as useful on a crossbow.

Last year during the last week of Pennsylvania archery season, we received a snowstorm that dropped about 6″ of fluffy snow on our farm. Spot-and-stalk hunting whitetail deer in these conditions is one of my favorite hunting types. I was in the woods at daybreak, conditions were perfect. The snow was dead silent to stalk hunt in. The deer were bedded in every thicket I encountered. They were in no hurry to leave their beds this morning.

I was working out a heavily wooded stream bottom while watching deer milling out ahead on a slight rise. The plan was to quietly move along the stream and use a small stream channel to get within shooting distance. Along the stream bottom there are a few pockets of thick brush. As I approached one brushy area, a nice doe came trotting towards me. She stopped and was looking around as she partially winded me. The doe was at 15 yards. I had already eased my trusty Killer Instinct X-1 up and had the safety off. I had my scope set on 6x, and I had a scope full of deer hair. In what seemed like an eternity, I found the shoulder and made a good shot. My G5 Mega Meat broadhead put the doe down quickly and humanely.

Enter the Offset Red Dot

As I was gutting the deer, I started thinking about my offset red dot on my 3-Gun rifle. If I had an offset red dot on my crossbow, the shot would have been more comfortable. The next day I took an opportunity to pull the offset mount from my 3-Gun rifle and zeroed it to the Killer Instinct X-1.

offset red dot
Josh Froelich Using offset dots on his JP 9mm PCC. Josh brought the offset dot into the spotlight for the USPSA pistol caliber carbine division. Photo courtesy of Josh Froelich.

Doing a quick calculation in my favorite ballistics program, a ten yard zero on the dot would have the arrow impacting back on target at 40 yards. In hunting situations, the 10 yard zero would be optimal. A few times a year the 3D Archer will encounter targets on a course at 3 to 5 yards. It never fails, there will be shooters complaining that shots like this are too easy and do not belong in competition. Then inevitably, they proceed to shoot a score of an 8 or a 5 because they never practice the really close shots.

When I am competing, I will have my offset red dot zeroed at 5 yards. At 10 yards, on a stationary 3D target, it isn’t tough to see your aiming points on the target. The target surface can get really blurry in a scope (even with the parallax set at 20 yards on a target at 5 yards and in). I do not think the 5 yard zero is practical for hunting.

offset red dot
Arrow impact points of an Offset dot zeroed at 5 yards. On the left side bullseye, the arrow in the bullseye is 5 yards. The arrow above the bullseye was shot at 10 yards. The arrow on the right was fired at 3 yards. it is just under the aiming point.

Shooter Safety Considerations

Most rifle shooters prefer a red dot mounted on the strong hand side of the weapon. I mounted the dot like that initially. Right away I encountered an issue. The limb would smack my support arm if I were not careful. I did not want to have to think about my arm position during an adrenaline-fueled hunting encounter. I pulled the red dot off and switched sides moving my red dot and offset mount to the support hand side of the crossbow. As you can see in the photo below that issue was solved by moving the optic to the support arm side. It felt awkward at first rolling the weapon to the opposite side of what I had trained with on my 3-Gun rifle. I have shot the setup up enough now that utilizing the bow in this fashion is 2nd nature.

offset red dot
The offset dot moved to the support hand side there is no chance of hitting the support arm with the limb.

The Downsides of an Offset Red Dot

The offset mount I am using in the pictures in the article has one small flaw. The mount is not parallel to the bore of my Killer Instinct X-1. If the optic is zeroed at 5 yards, the arrow impacts a little to the right at 10 yards and a little to the left at 3 yards. With today’s expandable broadheads, that little difference in point-of-impact would be of little consequence. In 3D archery competitions, it drives me crazy. I will be working on a mount that is perfect for my Killer Instinct X-1.

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Brian Miller is currently a writer for AllOutdoor who has chosen not to write a short bio at this time.

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