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Head-to-Head Review: Top Crossbows of 2014

Head-to-Head Review: Top Crossbows of 2014

As we began our annual x-bow test, it was clear that there would be a certain level of familiarity this year with most of the x-bows, as a large percentage of them were similar to or simply upgrades of last year's models.

Understanding that fact, we chose the best eight bows available to us at the time of testing. This is not every single new x-bow available, of course, but those chosen are proven industry leaders with notable upgrades from their lesser competitors.

After we selected our final bows, we put them through a more rigorous evaluation than ever before. During the week-long testing and measuring process, we compiled some 11 data points for each of the contestants. We measured trigger pull, overall weight, quiver weight, overall length, axle to axle width, overall width, length of pull, speed, noise, accuracy, and quality of the supplied scope.

Next, we grouped those metrics into five scorable categories — each with a 20-point value, which equals a total possible score of 100.

Accuracy: We fired three three-shot groups with bolts provided by the manufacturer. Groups were averaged.

Weight/Size: We measured five comparable lengths and weighed the bow with the scope mounted, but without quiver.

Noise: Each bow was tested three times using the dB Meter Pro iPhone app. Results were averaged.

Speed: Each of the bows was chronographed three times using Easton FMJ bolts with a total weight of 485 grains. Speeds were averaged.

Overall Quality: The editorial team determined quality based on overall feel, ease of use, and shootabilty.

Below is the final table with the scores for each bow, and the gallery reveals our final impressions and measurements for the selections.

Consider this your ultimate buyer's guide.



Mission | Dagger

If TenPoint is the perennial leader in the clubhouse, the Mathews-owned Mission brand is the new up-and-comer. This bow won the day in overall length/weight, was hot on the Venom's heels in the accuracy battle, and, if it wasn't for TenPoint's ACUdraw system, the Dagger would have been neck-and-neck in the overall quality department. We liked the Dagger's RS Tread system, which allows you to cock the crossbow without the aid of a stirrup, eliminating some length and weight from the bow. Bottom Line: Considering its cost and quality, the Mission Dagger may be poised to take over the x-bow market. Model | Dagger
Overall Length Cocked | 30 in.
Overall Weight | 7.9 lbs.
Trigger Pull | 4.2 lbs.
Length of Pull | 14.5 in.
Axle-to-Axle Length Cocked | 14.5 in.
Width Cocked | 19.5 in.
Quiver Weight | 0.43 lbs - 3 arrows
Group Size | 1.3 in.
Arrow Velocity | 316 fps
Noise | 103 db
Scope Details | Hawke Optics, made in china, variable power, five holdover points, illuminated red and green reticles, great quality. Price: $800

Carbon Express | Intercept

The Carbon Express Intercept utilizes a folding AR-style pistol grip, collapsible CAR-style stock, and a healthy dose of Picatinny rails. It had the shortest axle-to-axle width at 13 inches and second shortest overall length. This bow was also the quietest of the bunch at only 101 decibels when fired, but it does struggle with shootability. The dual arrow retention system makes it tricky to load, and the cheek weld was the least comfortable. The Intercept was a surprise contender for Editor's Choice. Bottom Line: Early skepticism was quelled by high scores in size/weight, noise, and accuracy. This bow ranked third overall. Model | Intercept
Overall Length Cocked | 30.25-36 in.
Overall Weight | 9.7 lbs.
Trigger Pull | 2.7 lbs.
Length of Pull | 13-19.5 in.
Axle-to-Axle Length Cocked | 13 in.
Width Cocked | 16.2 in.
Quiver Weight | .34 lbs - 3 arrows
Group Size | 1.7 in.
Arrow Velocity | 361 fps
Noise | 101 db
Scope Details | No power, no markings for make, safety reminder etched into glass, four holdover points, windage markings, red and green illumination in various intensities. Price: $780

Wicked Ridge | Invader HP

TenPoint owns Wicked Ridge, so the new Invader HP has a bunch of elements we love. It was above average in weight, noise, and accuracy, but the overall width when cocked (just under 26 inches) will be a problem when sneaking through tight spots in timber. It wasn't all that fast, either, which is something you'll notice right away if you stack it up against any TenPoint. As always, though, we love the ACUdraw system, and the overall quality of the bow is worth mentioning, given that it costs almost one third of the high-end bows in this test. Bottom Line: Though this was one of our lowest scoring bows — it rated no higher than 17 in any category — the Invader is more than serviceable. If you're on a tight budget, this is your best value. Model | Invader Overall Length | 38 in. Overall Weight | 8.5 lbs. Trigger Pull | 3.2 lbs. Length of Pull | 13.5 in. Axle-to-Axle Length Cocked | 23 in. Width Cocked | 25.7 in. Quiver Weight | 0.26 lbs - 3 arrows
Group Size | 2.25 in. Arrow Velocity | 307 fps Noise | 103 db Scope Details | Made in China. TenPoint 3x multi-line non-illuminated scope with three holdover points. Price: $449

Cabela's | Instinct Lancer

It's not hard to tell that the Cabela's Instinct Lancer is made by Stryker. In fact, it's almost identical to the Stryker Solution LS with the exception of ZONZ Woodland Camo, a set of crossbow pouches, and an angled quiver bracket. To be sure these models are the same, we tested both. While measurements, weights, and specs were identical, they did perform differently. We don't believe this is due to any change in design or quality, but the fluctuation of manufacturing tolerances and shooter variances. The Lancer didn't really stand out in any way other than its fabulous trigger, though it scored average or above in all categories. Bottom Line: The Lancer won the day with its crisp 2.5-lb. trigger pull but wasn't that accurate, never producing a group smaller than three inches. Model | Lancer
Overall Length Cocked | 35 in.
Overall Weight | 9.6 lbs.
Trigger Pull | 2.5 lbs.
Length of Pull | 15 in.
Axle-to-Axle Length Cocked | 16 in.
Width Cocked | 18 in.
Quiver Weight | .48 lbs - 5 arrow quiver
Group Size | 3.4 in.
Arrow Velocity | 360 fps
Noise | 106 db
Scope Details | Made in China. 3x32, non-illuminated with four holdover points. Price: $1,049

Excalibur | Matrix 405

With the introduction of the Matrix 405, Excalibur proves that recurves are still deadly. With 200-pound limbs, the Matrix 405 flings arrows fast — damn fast. Our test revealed an average speed of 391 fps, matching the speed of every compound crossbow we tested. The only downside to this bow is that it's hard to cock — you might as well be pulling the sword from the stone. Additionally, the speed comes with a price: noise. You will need to invest in multiple dampeners to tame this beast. If you fancy classic good looks, a history-proven design, and simplicity that allows you to repair it in the field, the Matrix 405 is for you. Just know that there's a few trade-offs to be made. Bottom Line: The Matrix 405 scored in the lower third of our test due to the 121-decibel crack it lets loose when fired and the strength required to cock. Model | Matrix 405
Overall Length Cocked | 36.2 in.
Overall Weight | 8.4 lbs.
Trigger Pull | 3 lbs.
Length of Pull | 14 in.
Axle-to-Axle Length Cocked | 26 in.
Width Cocked | 26 in.
Quiver Weight | .5 lbs - 5 arrows
Group Size | 2 in.
Arrow Velocity | 391 fps
Noise | 121 db
Scope Details | BEST OPTIC -- Variable power from 300 fps to 410 fps, five holdover point, two windage points, etching on glass that tells you range, variable intensity for green and red. Price: $1,349

Barnett | Razr

The Barnett Razr was an interesting case. There were things we loved about the bow and things, well, we just didn't like at all. The Razr is fast (tested at 382 fps), light (it weighed in at 8.34 pounds with scope), and accurate (produced an average group of 2.5 inches at 35 yards). Ergonomically speaking, though, it's long, bulky, and generally uncomfortable to handle. We also struggled with the arrow retention system while shooting, and the Razr's vibration/noise when fired bordered on unpleasant. Bottom Line: We truly had a love/hate relationship with Barnett's flagship x-bow, but in the end, we can still recommend it as a value plus performance buy. It did very well in important categories like speed, weight, and accuracy, but struggled to keep up in the overall quality department. Model | RAZR
Overall Length Cocked | 34.75 in.
Overall Weight | 8.3 lbs.
Trigger Pull | 4.3 lbs.
Length of Pull | 15.5 in.
Axle-to-Axle Length Cocked | 16 in.
Width Cocked | 22 in.
Quiver Weight | 0.34lbs - 3 arrows
Group Size | 2.5 in.
Arrow Velocity | 382 fps
Noise | 107 db
Scope Details | 3x32 Cross optics scope; Multiple settings of red and green illumination, and four holdover points for range in descending circle order. Price: $1,600

Stryker | Solution LS

Stryker is owned by the compound bow kings at Bowtech, and we've always had an affinity for both brands. The Solution, much like its not-so-different cousin offered by Cabela's, was above average in almost all categories. It came in a bit slower than expected. The Solution was also pretty easy to use and offered great shootability/handling. Its biggest downfall came in the accuracy testing. We couldn't get this bow to turn in anything better than a 3.5-inch group at 35 yards. Bottom Line: This x-bow was a pleasure to shoot and scored well, but its out-of-the-box accuracy left a lot to be desired. Model | Solution LS
Overall Length Cocked | 35 in.
Overall Weight | 9.6 lbs.
Trigger Pull | 3.2 lbs.
Length of Pull | 15 in.
Axle-to-Axle Length Cocked | 16
Width Cocked | 18 in.
Quiver Weight | .48 lbs- 5 arrow quiver
Group Size | 3.75 in.
Arrow Velocity | 369 fps
Noise | 106 db
Scope Details | Made in China. 3x32, non-illuminated, four holdover points. Price: $1,049

TenPoint | Venom

Those that read this test annually will likely ask why TenPoint wins Editor's Choice every year. What can we say? In our opinion, they rule the crossbow world. The new-for-2014 Venom has all the reliable stylings of a TenPoint with a few upgrades. It sports the company's carbon-fiber barrel design to make it lighter and features a snugger fit for the cocking device into the bow's ACUdraw housing. This x-bow is fast and accurate, never producing a speed less than 350 fps or a group size of more than 1.5 inches at 35 yards. Bottom Line: The Venom scored 18 or above in all of the five categories. This bow might cost you a few more dollars, but it will help you kill more bucks. Model | Venom
Overall Length Cocked | 34.6 in.
Overall Weight | 8.36 lbs.
Trigger Pull | 4.2 lbs.
Length of Pull | 13.5 in.
Axle-to-Axle Length Cocked | 13.25 in.
Width Cocked | 16 in.
Quiver Weight | 0.26lbs - 3 arrows
Group Size | 1 in.
Arrow Velocity | 358 fps
Noise | 103 db
Scope Details | Made in China. Scope adjust based on velocity, five holdover points, illuminated for green and red in five intensities. Price: $1,719

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