September 29, 2021
Like every other business in the country, the crossbow industry suffered through major challenges last year. During the early stages of the pandemic, some were concerned manufacturers wouldn’t be able to weather the storm. It didn’t take long to realize that demand would reach an all-time high, and instead of worrying about keeping the doors open, crossbow manufacturers would be putting in overtime to keep up. Consumers often found empty store shelves and online product pages adorned with “sold out” buttons.
The good news is success leads to innovation. This year’s crop of crossbows offers features never before seen in the horizontal bow market. With the annual Archery Trade Association (ATA) Show held virtually in 2021, we weren’t able to get our hands on all the new crossbows, but we can provide a fair representation of some of the best the market has to offer.
All the crossbows tested were shot from a benchrest at 30 yards into a SpyderWeb Target. (Editor’s note: Ravin wasn’t able to provide a test model of the R500E, so its weight and measurements were provided by the manufacturer.) The bench-rest provides a stable shooting platform while still allowing for some human error, which reflects the ergonomics of the crossbow. Arrow groups were measured with a 0.001-inch caliper. Trigger pull weight was determined with a Wheeler Trigger Pull Gauge.
To measure velocity, I fired three shots with each crossbow through a Competition Electronics ProChrono Pal Chronograph. The speeds were averaged to determine the net speed score. Keep in mind, crossbow manufacturers use arrows with varying weights. Lighter arrows will register higher speeds on the chronograph.
Actual weight of the crossbows was measured with a digital pull scale. It’s important to note that the declared weight of most crossbows is best described as a number often crafted by the marketing department and isn’t based on the way hunters use their crossbow. During testing, the crossbows were weighed with the scope and quiver mounted as you would use it in a hunting situation. Don’t compare the actual weight to the crossbow’s advertised weight when shopping as this is not an apples-to-apples comparison.
Excalibur Twin Strike
Excalibur Crossbow’s 2021 flagship crossbow features a design principle never before seen in a crossbow. Two rails, two triggers, and the ability to shoot two arrows without the need to cock the crossbow again. The Twin Strike gives crossbow hunters an advantage in the field they’ve never had: a follow-up shot. Any experienced hunter can appreciate the advantage of a second shot.
Excalibur’s Charger EXT Crank comes included with the package. The crank is completely silent and requires just 14 pounds of effort to cock the crossbow. It’s also removable once the crossbow is cocked or you can hunt with it attached. I was able to cock the crossbow without the crank, but it requires a lot of strength and isn’t recommended. Both strings can be decocked using the crank if the hunt ends without a shot.
- Weight: 10 lbs.
- Length: 34.5 in.
- Axle-to-Axle: N/A
- Accuracy: 1.3 in. (30 yds.)
- Trigger Pull: 4.5 lbs.
- Velocity: 368 FPS (350-gr. arrow)
The Twin Strike also includes Excalibur’s new Overwatch Crossbow Scope, which is a speed-compensating illuminated scope, and the company’s new Rebolt four-arrow quiver. Vertical archers will recognize the Rebolt as a crossbow version of the ever-popular TightSpot Quiver.
The Twin Strike is 34.5 inches long and 21.25 inches wide when cocked. The width is a product of the recurve design. Trigger weight was 4.5 pounds for both triggers. The Twin Strike is advertised at 7.75 pounds, but its actual weight is 10 pounds without the crank and 11.5 pounds with the crank attached.
The Twin Strike is impressively accurate. Both arrows were touching, and when I completed the group with a third shot, the crossbow didn’t disappoint.
TenPoint Havoc RS440 Xero
The TenPoint Havoc RS440 Xero is impressive. The designers at TenPoint have built superior quality into their crossbows for decades, and this crossbow might be the best they’ve ever built. But it’s what’s on top of the Havoc that sets it apart. This crossbow ships with the Garmin Xero X1i Rangefinding Scope in the box. With the push of a button, the scope automatically determines the distance to the target and provides an illuminated aiming point.
- Weight: 10 lbs. 11.2 oz.
- Length: 28.75 in.
- Wdith Cocked: 10.25 in.
- Axle-to-Axle: 7.5 in.
- Accuracy: 1.5 in. (30 yds.)
- Trigger Pull: 3 lbs.
- Velocity: 441 FPS (400-gr. arrow)
The Havoc RS440 includes TenPoint’s ACUslide System, which makes cocking and decocking quiet, safe, and nearly effortless. The Havoc is super-compact and easy to handle; it measures under 27 inches without the stirrup and 28.75 inches with the stirrup. When cocked, axle-to-axle width is 7.5 inches. Trigger weight was a smidge under three pounds, and the two-stage trigger is silky smooth. TenPoint advertises the Havoc’s weight at 7.5 pounds without accessories. I measured the crossbow at 10.8 pounds with all accessories, including the Xero X1i scope. With TenPoint’s EVO-X Scope attached, the crossbow weighed 10.3 pounds.
The rangefinding scope will help all shooters be more accurate during the hunt by providing a precise aiming point at any lethal distance. The Garmin Xero X1i is the ultimate hunting crossbow scope, but if you would rather have TenPoint’s more traditional EVO-X Scope, the MSRP of the Havoc drops to $2,549 in gray or $2,649 in Veil Alpine camo.
Ravin Crossbows couldn’t provide a test model of the R500E in time for this issue, but the crossbow received some serious attention when it was introduced. Ravin is promising the R500E will deliver 500 fps, with the arrows it ships with. Unprecedented speed is exciting, but the cocking system is just as impressive. The Ravin Electric Drive System allows shooters to cock and decock the crossbow with just the push of a button. This cocking system is detachable and includes a charger. If you’re leery of technology or of having a dead battery in the field, the R500E can still be cocked manually with Ravin’s VersaDrive System. It’s an easy-to-use silent crank that comes standard on both the R500E and the R500.
- Weight: 9 lbs. 14.4 oz.
- Length: 29.25 in.
- Width Cocked: Not Tested
- Axle-to-Axle: 3.6 in. (unverified advertised distance)
- Accuracy: Not Tested
- Trigger Pull: Not Tested
- Velocity: 500 FPS (400-gr. arrow Not Tested)
The R500E is listed at just 3.6 inches axle-to-axle when cocked. While the true width of the crossbow is certainly wider than the axle-to-axle figure, it’s still ultra-narrow. At 28 inches in length, the R500E is also super-compact. With no test model available, trigger data wasn’t available, but in the past Ravin has built excellent triggers into their crossbows. The same can be said for accuracy.
Ravin is advertising the weight of the R500E at 9.9 pounds. As stated earlier, the advertised weight and the actual weight of a crossbow are two very different numbers. You can bet that the R500E will be well over the advertised weight, especially with the Ravin Electric Drive System attached.
Matthew's Mission SUB-1 XR
The team at Mission and Mathews didn’t introduce a new model for this year. Still, we included the Sub-1 XR because of the crop of new crossbow shooters looking for their first flagship bow, and I think any list of the best crossbows would be incomplete without the Sub-1 XR.
The Sub-1 XR is easy to cock without a cranking device, but a totally silent Mission RSD Crank is an optional add-on. A speed-compensating Hawke scope is included in the package, as is Mathews’ legendary quiver and a soft case. But this crossbow can also be purchased without the scope, quiver, and arrows for $200 less, which is a nice option for those shooters who already have a scope they love.
- Weight: 9 lbs. 4.8 oz.
- Length: 30.75 in.
- Width Cocked: 13 in.
- Axle-to-Axle: 9.1 in.
- Accuracy: 1.4 in. (30 yds.)
- Trigger Pull: 3.9 lbs.
- Velocity: 408 FPS (345-gr. arrow)
When cocked, the Mission Sub-1 XR is 9.1 inches axle-to-axle and 13 inches wide at its widest point. The crossbow measures just over 30 inches long. The trigger breaks crisply at 3.9 pounds. Mission advertises arrow speed at 410 fps, and the test shots were almost spot on at 408 fps. The Sub-1 XR is advertised at 7.6 pounds, but with all the accessories mounted, I weighed the crossbow at 9.3 pounds.
This crossbow really shines on the range and in the field. It’s incredibly accurate. And if the hunt doesn’t end with a shot, the Sub-1 XR can be decocked easily. It is the safest and easiest crossbow without a crank to decock
Great New Crossbows Under $1000
1. Wicked Ridge Blackhawk 360
The Wicked Ridge Blackhawk 360 is lightweight, incredibly accurate, and made in the USA. Despite shooting a speedy 360 fps, at $399, it won’t break the bank.
2. PSE Coalition Frontier
At just $299, the PSE Coalition Frontier is affordable for just about anyone. But don’t let the price tag fool you. This crossbow fires an arrow at 380 fps and delivers plenty of power for even the toughest of game.
3. BearX Impact
The list price is slightly over $1,000, but there’s a good chance you’ll find the BearX Impact at your favorite retailer priced at $999. It’s super-compact, shoots 420 fps, and comes with a cocking crank in the box.
4. Barnett HyperTac 420
Here’s a narrow speedburner topping out at 420 feet per second. The HyperTac 420 is just 9.2 inches axle-to-axle when cocked and includes a speed-compensating scope.