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The Crossbow Expert Feat: Reload! Powerful Ranged Attacks

The Crossbow Expert feat is made to buff out crossbows and bring them into line with many other weapons in the mid and late stages of Dungeons & Dragons campaigns.

The strength of crossbows falls off heavily when brought into the late game because of their loading feature, which is meant to help bring down some of their early power.

The Crossbow Expert feat is the perfect feat to take for any rogues and rangers looking to maximize their crossbow damage. This feat allows them to use multi-attacks with their crossbows and mitigates the reductions that they would take from being in close range with their crossbow. 

How Does Crossbow Expert Work?

Thanks to extensive practice with the crossbow, you gain the following benefits:

You ignore the loading property of crossbows with which you are proficient.

Being within 5 feet of a hostile creature doesn’t impose disadvantage on your ranged attack rolls.

When you use the Attack action and attack with a one-handed weapon, you can use a bonus action to attack with a hand crossbow you are holding.

Crossbow Expert allows a player to get the same use out of their crossbow that players using other weapons get with their long and short bows, as well as allowing for close-range crossbow action. 

The first part of Crossbow Expert is that those with the feat can ignore the loading property of crossbows as long as they have proficiency with them.

Loading. Because of the time required to load this weapon, you can fire only one piece of ammunition from it when you use an action, bonus action, or reaction to fire it, regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make.

Loading usually prevents players from making multi-attacks with Crossbows because they would have to load and reload in between shots. Being able to ignore this weapon property means that a player can make multiple attacks in a turn using a crossbow, something that standard bow wielders could already do.

Crossbow Expert will be used most by damage dealers who wish to wield a crossbow as their main weapon. Primary casters and classes with no use for ranged weaponry will want to skip this feat in favor of something that will benefit their melee attacks more.

Classes with Synergy with Crossbow Expert

Really, any class that gets the Extra Attack feature and wants to wield a crossbow as their primary weapon will take Crossbow Expert.

Not taking it on an Extra Attack class means that you won’t benefit from Extra Attack while using a crossbow, which immensely lowers your damage if the crossbow is your weapon of choice.

Rogue

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Crossbow Expert feat was made for Rogues. The negation of close-range disadvantage and the ability to make a bonus attack with a one-handed crossbow when you attack really does speak to the Rogue’s needs when it comes to wielding a crossbow.

Fighter

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Like the Rogue, the Fighter can benefit from 100% of the Crossbow Expert feat. A ranged-focused fighter with the Crossbow Expert feat can fire their crossbow up to four times a turn, make four attacks with a melee weapon, and then fire their crossbow as a bonus action.

Ranger

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ 

Rangers don’t get anything from the close-range disadvantage negation, but since they’re a long-ranged focused class, they don’t get as much as the Rogue or the Fighter.

Rangers will see use from the close-range buff only if they happen to get cornered by an enemy. However, a ranger whose primary weapon is a crossbow will still want to take the feat so they can use Extra Attack with their crossbow.

Classes with Anti-Synergy with Crossbow Expert

Neither Barbarian nor Paladin has any compelling reason ever to be making a ranged attack. Paladins, especially, have anti-synergy with ranged weapons since they can’t use Divine Smite with a ranged weapon.

These classes will want to avoid Crossbow Expert in favor of a feat that suits the class better.

Spellcasters may think that the negation of close-range disadvantage is compelling for them if they get rushed, much like rangers, but since they won’t be using any other feature of the feat, this isn’t worth taking over an ASI.

If you’re dead-set on getting the close-range buff, you’ll want to take Gunner since it gives that same buff but also lets you increase your Dexterity by 1.

Is Crossbow Expert Good?

Yes! Crossbow Expert is an outstanding choice for classes that have synergy with it. Both Rogue and Fighter players can take Crossbow Expert once they’ve reached their Ability Score benchmarks.

Taking the feat gives both classes more versatility with their positioning and more options in combat since they can whip out a hand crossbow at any time or use a heavy crossbow to fire from range.

The ability to make multiple attacks with your crossbow means that if the party sets up an ambush, a Fighter with Crossbow Expert can make up to 4 attacks with their crossbow using their multiattack.

For Rogues, they’ll be able to slip in and out of battle using Crossbow Expert to make bonus attacks with the crossbow while attacking with their primary weapon.

The Ranger class can also make good use of the Crossbow Expert feat since it enables them to use Extra Attack with their crossbow if they want to use a crossbow as their primary weapon.

Taking the Crossbow Expert feat provides the Ranger with more safety should they wind up in close-quarters combat, as well as better utility when wielding a crossbow.

The biggest drawback to the Crossbow Expert feat is the lack of an Ability Score Increase. Crossbow Expert is only strong on a character who has already met their required Ability Score benchmarks.

If you are still hurting for Ability Score Increases, you’ll want to steer clear of this feat until you’re sure you can make those benchmarks.

Like many feats, the Variant Human race has, by far, the best synergy with this feat since it sacrifices nothing to get access to it. Variant Human Rangers will want to consider dipping their de facto feat into this or Gunner, depending on their starting ability scores and desired weapon of choice.

If a Variant Human wants to use a crossbow as their primary weapon, they should take this feat without question. Variant Humans who may wish to use a hand crossbow in their off-hand will also want to take this feat.

However, Variant Humans who are only looking to access the close-range disadvantage negation will do better if they dip into Gunner unless they already have 18 or 19 Dexterity.

Frequently Asked Questions About Crossbow Expert

Can You Dual Wield Crossbows with Crossbow Expert?

According to sage advice, no, you can’t. You need to have one hand free to load and reload your crossbow, so there’s no way to wield two at the same time.

Can You Fire Twice with a Heavy Crossbow Using Crossbow Expert?

Yes, sort of. If you have the Extra Attack feature, you can fire twice with a heavy crossbow as long you have Crossbow Expert. You will not be able to make the bonus attack with it, though, as that specifies Hand Crossbows only.

Can You Use a Hand Crossbow as a Bonus Action Without Crossbow Expert?

No! The attack that Two-Weapon Fighting grants with your bonus action must be a melee weapon unless you have Crossbow Expert.

Conclusion

Crossbow Expert is a remarkable feat to have in your back pocket on any character who can effectively wield a crossbow. Those who have met their benchmarks will see a lot of use for Crossbow Expert.

It can aid them by giving them versatility or more damage with their primary weapon.

Regardless of your situation, Crossbow Expert is a fantastic addition to any character sheet where a crossbow might be helpful. Happy questing!