Crossbow Expert 5e

Published on March 12, 2022, Last modified on June 9th, 2022

Are you building a John Wick-style character that uses a crossbow instead of a firearm? Crossbow Expert may be for you.

Arcane Eye may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article. Learn more.

What Is Crossbow Expert 5e?

Crossbows are often underused in typical fantasy, and D&D is no different. While most classes might start with a crossbow, they’re often thrown to the wayside due to the clunkiness of reloading.

However, a feat is out there that gets rid of that annoying downside and allows you to ignore other pain points.

How Does Crossbow Expert Work?

With this feat, you’re granted three benefits:

  • If you’re within 5 feet of a hostile creature, your ranged attack rolls don’t have disadvantage.
  • You ignore the ‘loading’ property of crossbows that you are proficient with.
  • When you make an attack action with a one handed weapon, you may use a bonus action to make an attack with a hand crossbow (if you are holding one).

Is Crossbow Expert Good?

In our 5e Feats Tier List, Crossbow Expert was given an A Tier rating, making it an excellent pickup for specific classes.

One of the more hotly debated feats (before the Errata), Crossbow Expert is still a worthwhile feat to pick up. Ignoring the “loading” property on crossbows enables rangers, fighters, and any other class with an extra attack to attack multiple times with a crossbow on a turn.

The second part of the feat, being able to make a ranged attack within 5ft, is also solid when ranged builds, even casters, inevitably get encroached upon.

The third section is also a nice bonus action for light crossbow users, who will get to attack an extra time.

Crossbow Expert 5e Interactions

There are a few interesting interactions with this feat, mainly with the extra attack. Here are some of the notable things you might run into:

  • You can use any one-handed weapon to trigger the extra hand crossbow attack.
    • This includes using a net for its unique attack or a hand crossbow to attack with it twice.
  • Ignoring the loading property of crossbows allows you to use them for multiple attacks, but you still need to have a free hand to load the bolts.
  • This feat also works with spellcasting. You won’t have disadvantage when making a ranged spell attack either.

Which 5e Classes Make the Most of Crossbow Expert?

The color code below has been implemented to help you identify, at a glance, how good the Crossbow Expert 5e feat is for a specific class/subclass.

  • Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
  • Orange is an OK option
  • Green is a good option
  • Blue is a great option, you should strongly consider this option for your character
  • Sky Blue is an amazing option. If you do not take this option your character would not be optimized

Crossbow Expert is best on builds that:

  • Use ranged attacks as their primary attack, including spells.
  • Want to incorporate crossbows into their weapon kit, specifically hand crossbows.
  • Want to use a crossbow for multiple attacks per turn and need to ignore the loading property.

This feat works incredibly well with other archery-focused abilities, such as Sharpshooter or the Archery fighting style. The first ability of the feat also works wonderfully for casters who might want to have a mix of melee and ranged attacks.

Artificer: If firearms aren’t available in your setting and you want to build a ranged artificer, this feat will be needed to outpace cantrip damage.

Barbarian: Most barbarians won’t stay out of melee range for long, so they can skip this feat. They’re much better off with feats like Slasher or Sentinel.

Bard: Very few bard builds fit the bill of this feat. Bards aren't one to use crossbows, and even if they do they don't get extra attacks. Additionally, very few of their spells make ranged attacks, so it doesn't matter if their target is within 5 feet. Lastly, their bonus action will likely be taken up with handing out Bardic Inspiration, which conflicts with the attack granted by this feat. Valor and Swords bards are more often than not going to be melee fighters, who are also disinterested with this feat's effects.

Cleric: Most clerics don't get extra attacks, which makes the ignoring the loading property feature of this feat irrelevant. As for being able to use ranged spell attacks normally against a target within 5 feet, clerics only get access to one spell which requires a ranged spell attack, guiding bolt. This spell is great for a 1st level spell, but doesn't rationalize picking up this feat.

Druid: Crossbows aren’t available to druids, so this can be skipped. Even with crossbow proficiency, ranged druids are always spellcasting, not Dex-based archers. Druids have very few spell options that require a ranged spell attack, which makes this feat all but useless.

Fighter: Dex-based fighters are pretty powerful, and this feat is one of the reasons why. Paired with feats like Sharpshooter makes them ranged fighters a force to be reckoned with, allowing them to ignore any potential penalties with ranged damage. You’re on par with Polearm Master and Great Weapon Fighting with these feats.

Monk: Sadly, monks cannot use crossbows. The other benefits of this feat might apply better to Way of the Kensei, which would give them a pretty good advantage.

Paladin: Like barbarians, paladins don’t want to be out of melee for long. You’re much better off with melee-centric feats like Great Weapon Fighting or Polearm Master.

Ranger: This can provide a ton of damage for any DEX-based class. The ranger’s hunter’s mark makes this even more effective. This is a great pick-up even before you max your DEX.

Rogue: This is a tricky one. Crossbow Expert gives you a second chance at landing your Sneak Attack, but rogues also want to maximize their DEX as soon as possible and there are better feats available. This one really depends on your playstyle and personal preferences.

Sorcerer: You’re going to want to skip this, as you don’t want to be in melee range. You’re better off with Magic Initiate or Metamagic Adept.

Warlock: Warlocks can skip this. Hexblades are the exception to the rule as it allows them to use eldritch blast in melee ranged, but it’s still only a minor benefit compared to other classes.

Wizard: Most wizards will skip this. School of Bladesinging can get away with this, though, if they want to get rid of the disadvantage on ranged attacks while in melee, but that’s about it.

Crossbow Expert 5e FAQs

Can Crossbow Expert proc off itself?

Yes! The feat’s bonus attack ability doesn’t care what the one-handed weapon is, as long as it’s one-handed. However, the only one-hand crossbow is the hand crossbow, not the light or heavy variants.

Does Crossbow Expert allow you to attack twice?

Crossbow Expert can allow for additional attacks in two ways. First, it allows you to ignore the loading property of crossbows, which allows you to attack as many times as your build allows with the Attack action. Also, as long as you have a bonus action available, you can use it with Crossbow Expert’s third ability. However, you only get one bonus action per round, so use it wisely.

Conclusion

Crossbows are neat but are often underused in D&D. However, that doesn’t mean that this feat is useless. In fact, this feat is one of the best to pick up for those who want to ignore the downsides of ranged combat completely.

How do you feel about Crossbow Expert? Is there an interaction you want to know about that we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments!

Jeff Nabors

Jeff Nabors has been playing D&D ever since he stumbled upon the 3.5E core books in his high school library. When he isn’t running a campaign or designing a game, you can find him on Twitch, writing about game design, or staring off into the endless abyss.

2 thoughts on “Crossbow Expert

  1. okay so i have a battlemaster fighter, using hand crossbow. if i use sharpshooter on my attack can i also use a superiority die maneuver, like trip attack, on the same attack?

    1. Yes, this can work! One thing I would be careful of is looking for the term “melee attack” in the maneuver’s description. For example, you couldn’t use Sharpshooter with Lunging Attack.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.