Following is a précis of 2011's best crossbow packages from seven of our leading manufacturers. All came with the newest in crossbow scope sights and arrows specifically for these bows. Results were impressive. All averaged three-shot groups under three inches at 30 yards, the best much smaller. Trigger quality was excellent regardless of pull weight, and velocities were close to makers' ratings. If there's a new crossbow in your future, any of these 7 new crossbows for 2011 will serve you well.
BARNETT: Ghost 400 CRT
The all-new 2011 Ghost CRT (Carbon Riser Technology) from Barnett has the only patent-protected, ultralight, super-strong carbon riser available for crossbows, with an incredible strength-to-weight ratio and 5/1 safety factor. Rated at an industry-leading 400-fps velocity with a 306-grain, 22-inch arrow, the Ghost also comes complete with Barnett's patented Anti Vibration Isolation technology. The AVi system utilizes a unique polymer material designed specifically for Barnett, which completely encapsulates and protects the bow's Barnsdale laminated limbs and reduces noise and vibration by up to 30 percent, thus increasing limb, cable and string life.
Other features include a smooth, tough aluminum flight track; Crosswire Strings; and Whiplash Cams to ensure smoother, faster, quieter and more precise shots. The Ghost also utilizes Barnett's ADF (Anti-Dry Fire) MIM (Metal Injection Molding) trigger system. Producing 151 ft-lbs of energy with a 185-pound draw weight, the Ghost CRT weighs just 7.8 pounds without accessories or sight. The package includes a sling, Apex quiver, Multi Toll rope cocker, four Gold Tip Laser IV bolts and a 3x32 scope. Weighing a pound less than aluminum versions of the same design, with a fine trigger and superb accuracy, the Ghost CRT approaches the cutting edge of crossbow development.
HORTON: TRT Ultra-Lite Express
At a mere 61/2 pounds without accessories and only 73/4 pounds fully equipped, the Horton Team Realtree Ultra-Lite Express is the lightest high-performance crossbow on the market. It has a forged 7075 aircraft-grade aluminum riser and a forged foot stirrup. Quad-style Gordon composite asymmetric laminated limbs are crafted with Horton's proprietary three-layer lamination process and utilize an impressively efficient cam design with 82 percent energy storage. The TRT Ultra-Lite's polymer rear stock unit has an overmolded rubber pistol grip and cheekpiece for a soft, comfortable feel, with rubber SIMS NAVCOM Sound Stoppers to dampen noise and vibration for a smoother, quieter shot. The interchangeable buttplate and fully adjustable forearm allow a personalized, custom fit. Plus, there's an anti-dry fire mechanism with ambidextrous safety and a MIM Talon Ultra Light trigger.
The TRT package also includes a Hunter Elite three-arrow quiver, three 352-grain Horton Bone Crusher arrows and Stumper Arms with SIMS Navcom material. Plus, there's a 4x32mm Mult-A-Range Scope with four aiming indexes, 1/4-MOA adjustments, quick-focus eyepiece and 50-yard parallax zero. The lightweight Horton TRT Ultra-Lite
Express was by far the easiest-handling crossbow among our samples, with excellent performance. I'm looking forward to taking it afield.
CARBON EXPRESS: CX-1 Package
New to the 2011 Carbon Express lineup is the Covert CX-1 crossbow. Rated at 330 fps with a 185-pound draw weight, the CX-1 features the Carbon Express patented match-grade trigger and ambidextrous safety. Equally important is the Covert CX-1's anti-dry fire mechanism to prevent mishaps in the field. The Silentech coating provides a rubber-like exterior finish that reduces vibration and dampens sound, and it's available in Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity.
The stock design is easy to handle, having a full pistol grip. I hunt a lot with AR-15 rifles and really appreciate this feature, as well as the optional rail-attach vertical foregrip. The bronze-anodized aluminum flight rail, accompanied by carbon-infused limbs and aluminum cams, delivered quiet precision on target in our firing sessions. The nine-inch Picatinny multiposition adjustable optics rail system is particularly helpful in accommodating different shooters' firing positions and styles, since the absence of crossbow rearward recoil allows great flexibility in eye relief.
The Covert CX-1 kit includes a detachable three-arrow quiver accompanied by three Carbon Express exclusive Maxima Hunter crossbolts and a Pro Deluxe 4x32 red/green illuminated scope. A rope cocker, rail lubricant and three practice points are also included.
OK, being an older dude, I'm a sucker for recurves, which means I really like the Excalibur Equinox. Yes, it's 35 inches wide uncocked, and even when cocked it's still five inches wider than most uncocked compound crossbows, but it gives up nothing to any of them in performance. Rated at 350 fps with 350-grain arrows, the Equinox (like all Excalibur crossbows) comes with a guarantee of three-inch or smaller groups at 25 yards.
Excalibur is the only crossbow maker to offer an accuracy guarantee, and the Equinox easily exceeded that standard even at 30 yards in our review, a performance aided by the fact that it has one of the lightest and smoothest trigger pulls of any bow tested.
The one-piece thumbhole synthetic stock has a full pistol grip and reversible rollover cheekpad, and it's very comfortable to handle and fire. Our review sample came with Excalibur's Lite Stuff accessory package, including a Vari-Zone multiplex crossbow scope plus mounting rings, a four-arrow quiver and mounting bracket, and a rope cocking aid for precise string alignment. My aging shoulders also appreciated the mechanical C2 Crank that somebody thoughtfully added. Did I mention I like this bow?
DARTON: Serpent LTD II
With an uncocked limb width of only 22 inches tip-to-tip, the new Darton Serpent LTD II is one of the most compact full-power bows on today's market, with a straight-line stock design and full pistol grip, plus buttplate extenders for an adjustable length of pull. Rated at 325 fps with heavy, 425-grain-weight arrows, the Serpent LTD II offers energy to rival much faster bows.
Darton is emphatic that 400-grain arrows are the minimum weight that should be used with this bow and notes that use of any lighter-weight arrows is considered a "dry fire" and will void the warranty. The arrows that came with the package weighed in at 462 grains with practice tips installed.
Additional Serpent LTD II features include a hard-anodized Teflon-coated aluminum barrel, machined arrow track, SIMS LimbSaver technology, dry-fire protection mechanism, adjustable arrow retention and an ambidextrous rifle-type safety that does not engage automatically when cocked. The bow comes with an EZ Draw rope and is one of the easier full-power crossbows to manually cock. The package also includes a 4x32mm scope with adjustable objective that focuses down to 10 yards and a multicrosshair reticle for sighting in at different yardages.
WICKED RIDGE: Invader
Wicked Ridge was founded in 2010 by TenPoint CEO Rick Bednar with a simple mission: to provide high-quality, high-performance crossbows and accessories that are simple, reliable and very affordable. Its designs are created by TenPoint and share TenPoint's fundamental features. If you wanted to think of a Wicked Ridge product as an entry-level TenPoint with all the critical basics, you wouldn't be far wrong.
Consider the new Wicked Ridge Invader. Rated at 305 fps velocity and 86.8 ft-lbs of energy, it has a 180-pound draw weight. Cocking, however, is easy with Wicked Ridge's patented ACU-52 integrated, self-retracting rope cocking system, which reduces the draw weight by 50 percent while cocking accurately and evenly every time.
Other standard TenPoint-derived features include TenPoint's smooth and quiet 31/2-pound PowerTouch trigger, an integrated dry-fire inhibitor (DFI), an ACRA-ANGLE barrel to promote cocking accuracy and prevent finger pinching and a CNC-machined riser. The Invader package also includes a TenPoint 3X Multi-Line scope with 20-, 30- and 40-yard sighting points, a Wicked Ridge six-arrow instant-detach quiver, six Wicked Ridge 20-inch 420-grain aluminum arrows and a Wicked Ridge heavy-duty sling. Base weight of the bow is 7 1/4 pounds. Basic, functional, accurate.
TENPOINT: Carbon Fusion CLS Package
For many serious crossbow hunters, TenPoint's new Carbon Fusion CLS package represents the peak of crossbow design today. From the unparalleled precision accuracy of its woven carbon-fiber barrel to the Compact Limb System (CLS) that provides the narrowest cocked width of any full-featured hunting bow in the industry, the Carbon Fusion CLS is the Mercedes of crossbows.
Other basic features are TenPoint's patented PowerTouch trigger, patented integrated ACUdraw mechanical cocking mechanism, IsoTaper quad-limb system, patented VIBRA-CUSH bow-to-barrel mounting system, a silent ambidextrous automatic cocking safety and a patented secondary forearm-mounted grip safety. The list goes on.
Additionally, the Carbon Fusion CLS package includes a TenPoint Range Master Pro 1.4-5X scope with 30mm tube and etched-glass, five-level illuminated reticle, which is mounted on a machined-aluminum 7/8-inch fixed dovetail mount.
Plus, there's an instant-detach four-arrow HX quiver, a six-pack of 20-inch 420-grain TenPoint Pro Elite carbon-fiber arrows with practice points, a SteddyEddy telescoping lightweight aluminum monopod, TenPoint's exclusive Bowjax Crossbow Noise Dampening Kit, a GripGuard forearm safety shield and TenPoint's airline-approved Compact Travel and Storage Case for the whole shebang. The basic bow weighs just 71/4 pounds and is rated at 345 fps velocity and 111 ft-lbs energy with a 185-pound draw weight. Fully rigged with all those accessories installed, it's 11 pounds.