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Best Crossbows: OL Reviews and Ranks 7 New Crossbows for 2013

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July 15, 2013
Best Crossbows: OL Reviews and Ranks 7 New Crossbows for 2013 - 6

The hunting archery industry has had to face tremendous change recently, as consumers have become better educated, more selective, and less impulsive when it comes to buying bows. A simple color, camouflage, or name change will no longer cut it.

Reacting to this new reality, manufacturers have refined their designs and concentrated on improving mechanical efficiencies in an effort to motivate an educated buyer to drop his money on a new bow.

The evolution in industrial technology has trickled down, too, accelerating design improvements. The latest Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs put powerful design tools in the hands of creative engineers. Consumer sophistication continues to evolve as well, as new products are dissected and debated ad nauseam in internet chat rooms and in the public forum down at the pro shop.

With that in mind, here’s what we uncovered in our annual test of the newest hunting crossbows (see how we test here).

While still not accepted by a contingent of archers as a valid implement for bow seasons, crossbows have been welcomed by many state wildlife agencies. These agencies realize they are a revitalization and recruitment tool that can help preserve the future of hunting.

Relative newcomer CAMX builds the Chaos 325 in the U.S. and offers it factory-direct to consumers. The Chaos has an innovative batwing-­design handguard that flips into position when the bow is cocked. The Chaos, with its two energy wheels, will appeal to hunters who favor cam-based crossbows, even if its design is a bit simplistic.

For rifle hunters crossing over to the crossbow arena, the Darton Viper SS Extreme might pique interest. The finger-forward safety and stock styling are a close match to that of a rifle, making it a great transitional option for gun converts. This serpent spits arrows at 360 fps, a number sure to appeal to speed geeks.

The knock on traditionally designed recurve crossbows is that they’re sluggish. The Excalibur Matrix 380, however, is a breakout recurve, approaching the 360 fps mark with its 260-pound limbs. Simplicity rules the Matrix’s design, leaving little to break or malfunction—a plus when you’re hunting many miles from the nearest bow shop.

Reverse-draw crossbows are the future of the industry, as the advantages of the design far outweigh any disadvantages. With their long power strokes, these bows have superior arrow-speed-to-draw-weight ratios over traditional limb-forward bows. They also have superior balance, as the center of gravity is moved rearward toward the shooter. Horton continues down the reverse-draw path with the Havoc 150. However, at 334 fps, 96 dBA, and an AD/40 of 13.7 inches, the Havoc lacked inspiration.

For those who demand the highest quality in their hunting equipment, TenPoint remains the undisputed king of superior construction. Its Stealth SS is a beautiful machine that earned great marks across the board.

For those who hunt on the move with a crossbow, the 7.78-pound Mission MXB-360 may be your bow. It delivered 362 fps, an AD/40 of 11.7 inches, and ultra-low vibration—a mere 29.21 m/s2 (the lowest in the field). However, its overall score was downgraded due to composite components and a stirrup-free cocking configuration that left the panel somewhat cold.


Bows by the Numbers

All the scores, empirical data, and pricing info at a glance.

Ratings Key
★ ★ ★ ★ - Excellent
★ ★ ★ - Very Good
★ ★ - Good
★ - Fair

AD/40 = Arrow Drop at 40 yd.; KE/20 = Kinetic Energy at 20 yd.; TOF = Arrow Time of Flight to 20 yd.

Editor’s Choice & Great Buy: Barnett Ghost 410

The Ghost 410 is the first crossbow or compound in the history of the Outdoor Life Bow Test to win both the Editor’s Choice and the Great Buy award in its category.

The “410” in the moniker represents this bow’s potential top speed. However, we consistently clocked the Ghost at about 417 fps (with a 416-grain arrow). That incredible speed is throttled through a 15.5-inch power stroke, and an even longer chassis is built under it (37 inches overall). An innovative all-carbon riser lightens what would otherwise be an unmanageable bow, and the adoption of a CNC-machined aluminum arrow track also reduces forward weight, keeping the Ghost’s center of gravity near the centerline. At a shade under 9 pounds, it isn’t light, but it handles and swings ably.

The composite stock has a removable plate for the addition of an optional crank-cocking device. The metal-injection-molded, CNC-­machined trigger features a delightful sweep and little creep.

The Ghost produced a whopping 150 foot-pounds of kinetic energy at 20 yards (KE/20) and a minimal arrow drop at 40 yards (AD/40) of 8.7 inches. A ridiculously quick time-of-flight of 144.24 milliseconds (at 20 yards) means an animal will hardly have time to blink as the arrow speeds its way.

While the Ghost 410 is far from inexpensive, it represents a tremendous value given its dominance of this field and innovative design features. It is very deserving of both of our awards.

Overall: ★ ★ ★ ★
Performance (Obj./Sub.): A+/A
Design (Obj./Sub.): A-/A
Price/Value: A
Speed (FPS): 417.46
Weight (lb.): 8.67
Vibration (m/s2): 43.55
Noise (dBA): 94.95
AD/40 (in.): 8.7
KE/20 (ft.-lb.): 149.99
TOF (ms): 144.24
Price: $1,199

Tenpoint Stealth SS

Overall: ★ ★ ★ 1/2
Performance (Obj./Sub.): C+/A
Design (Obj./Sub.): B+/A
Price/Value: A-
Speed (FPS): 351.25
Weight (lb.): 8.54
Vibration (m/s2): 36.73
Noise (dBA): 94.35
AD/40 (in.): 12.4
KE/20 (ft.-lb.): 106.11
TOF (ms): 172.89
Price: $1,219

Darton Viper SS Extreme

Overall: ★ ★ ★ 1/2
Performance (Obj./Sub.): B-/B+
Design (Obj./Sub.): B+/B
Price/Value: B
Speed (FPS): 360.32
Weight (lb.): 9.13
Vibration (m/s2): 50.9
Noise (dBA): 93.45
AD/40 (in.): 11.7
KE/20 (ft.-lb.): 111.55
TOF (ms): 168.34
Price: $1,000

Excalibur Matrix 380

Overall: ★ ★ ★ 1/2
Performance (Obj./Sub.): C+/A-
Design (Obj./Sub.): C/A-
Price/Value: B
Speed (FPS): 357.11
Weight (lb.): 8.07
Vibration (m/s2): 53.9
Noise (dBA): 98.2
AD/40 (in.): 12
KE/20 (ft.-lb.): 109.27
TOF (ms): 170.21
Price: $1,150

Mission MXB-360

Overall: ★ ★ ★
Performance (Obj./Sub.): B-/B
Design (Obj./Sub.): A-/B-
Price/Value: B-
Speed (FPS): 361.77
Weight (lb.): 7.63
Vibration (m/s2): 29.21
Noise (dBA): 94.05
AD/40 (in.): 11.7
KE/20 (ft.-lb.): 112.08
TOF (ms): 168.04
Price: $1,150

Horton Havoc 150

Overall: ★ ★ ★
Performance (Obj./Sub.): C-/B+
Design (Obj./Sub.): C/A-
Price/Value: B+
Speed (FPS): 334.35
Weight (lb.): 8.78
Vibration (m/s2): 61
Noise (dBA): 96
AD/40 (in.): 13.7
KE/20 (ft.-lb.): 95.99
TOF (ms): 180.18
Price: $900

CAMX Chaos 325

Overall: ★ ★ ★
Performance (Obj./Sub.): C-/A-
Design (Obj./Sub.): B-/B+
Price/Value: B+
Speed (FPS): 331.82
Weight (lb.): 7.63
Vibration (m/s2): 63.35
Noise (dBA): 93.25
AD/40 (in.): 13.9
KE/20 (ft.-lb.): 94.3
TOF (ms): 181.67
Price: $859

Comments (6)

Top Rated
All Comments
from samual wrote 34 weeks 16 hours ago

I like the reviews of the BEST crossbows, it's a good reference. For jh45gun and huntfishtrap I suggest you take your cheap broke butts to dicks sporting goods or gandermountain to buy your average just like any other cheap crossbow for $400.

You get what you pay for, and I want top products for my money. Thanks for all you do Outdoor staff. Keep up the good work.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 39 weeks 3 days ago

I'm sorry, but having a $1200 model for your "Great Buy" is just absurd. I'm sure you think it does represent good value for the money, but I'm guessing that 90+ percent of your readers wouldn't/couldn't buy a $1200 crossbow, and so therefore it would not be a "Great Buy" for them. Either pick one of the (few) cheaper ones for that award, or do away with it this year.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from JohnT wrote 39 weeks 3 days ago

Thanks for the comment, jh45gun. Outdoor Life's gear tests are of new products, which tend to be more expensive than products that have been around for years. In the case of bows and crossbows, all manufacturers are invited to submit one new-for-year compound bow and/or one new-for-year crossbow for testing. If you do not see a certain manufacturer represented, it is because they either did not send a product for testing or the product they sent failed mechanically during the test and was disqualified.

John Taranto
Gear Editor

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from superdough wrote 39 weeks 3 days ago

unlike jh45gun, I appreciate the reviews on the higher end stuff. The title of the review is "best crossbows", not "adequate crossbows for a budget".

Like quality shoes for a runner, or the best tools for a mechanic, quality products in the field make the whole experience more enjoyable, safer, and a higher probability for success. When I'm looking for equipment, I always gravitate toward the best quality I can get.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jh45gun wrote 39 weeks 3 days ago

To make this fair you should have a example from all crossbow makers. To be honest with you unless Barnett has improved greatly I would not own one. Plus as I have said before their are plenty of excellent crossbows on the market in the 400 and 500 dollar range that the average guy can afford. Many crossbow users are older folks maybe on a fixed income they cannot afford a 900 to 1000 dollar crossbow. Or for the guy who wants to buy a crossbow for his kid might not want to spend that high either. Or for the wife or guy who is just getting in to hunting and wants a good but lower priced crossbow. Your reviews for all them people are useless. Seems like whether it is guns or archery equipment seems like you writers always go for the high priced stuff and most of your readers do not buy that expensive stuff I would think most are in the 500 to 600 dollar range whether it be a pistol or a rifle or a crossbow. You guys should learn your readers preferences.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment (200 characters or less)

from jh45gun wrote 39 weeks 3 days ago

To make this fair you should have a example from all crossbow makers. To be honest with you unless Barnett has improved greatly I would not own one. Plus as I have said before their are plenty of excellent crossbows on the market in the 400 and 500 dollar range that the average guy can afford. Many crossbow users are older folks maybe on a fixed income they cannot afford a 900 to 1000 dollar crossbow. Or for the guy who wants to buy a crossbow for his kid might not want to spend that high either. Or for the wife or guy who is just getting in to hunting and wants a good but lower priced crossbow. Your reviews for all them people are useless. Seems like whether it is guns or archery equipment seems like you writers always go for the high priced stuff and most of your readers do not buy that expensive stuff I would think most are in the 500 to 600 dollar range whether it be a pistol or a rifle or a crossbow. You guys should learn your readers preferences.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from superdough wrote 39 weeks 3 days ago

unlike jh45gun, I appreciate the reviews on the higher end stuff. The title of the review is "best crossbows", not "adequate crossbows for a budget".

Like quality shoes for a runner, or the best tools for a mechanic, quality products in the field make the whole experience more enjoyable, safer, and a higher probability for success. When I'm looking for equipment, I always gravitate toward the best quality I can get.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntfishtrap wrote 39 weeks 3 days ago

I'm sorry, but having a $1200 model for your "Great Buy" is just absurd. I'm sure you think it does represent good value for the money, but I'm guessing that 90+ percent of your readers wouldn't/couldn't buy a $1200 crossbow, and so therefore it would not be a "Great Buy" for them. Either pick one of the (few) cheaper ones for that award, or do away with it this year.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from JohnT wrote 39 weeks 3 days ago

Thanks for the comment, jh45gun. Outdoor Life's gear tests are of new products, which tend to be more expensive than products that have been around for years. In the case of bows and crossbows, all manufacturers are invited to submit one new-for-year compound bow and/or one new-for-year crossbow for testing. If you do not see a certain manufacturer represented, it is because they either did not send a product for testing or the product they sent failed mechanically during the test and was disqualified.

John Taranto
Gear Editor

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from samual wrote 34 weeks 16 hours ago

I like the reviews of the BEST crossbows, it's a good reference. For jh45gun and huntfishtrap I suggest you take your cheap broke butts to dicks sporting goods or gandermountain to buy your average just like any other cheap crossbow for $400.

You get what you pay for, and I want top products for my money. Thanks for all you do Outdoor staff. Keep up the good work.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment (200 characters or less)

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