Our rankings of vertical compound bows hinge on fine details because there’s little difference between them. But in the crossbow world, there are dramatic improvements in performance and handling each year, and the difference between the winning crossbow and last place is substantial. In a way, it’s unfair to compare them. Then again, there is no industry standard among crossbows as there is with a compound bow’s IBO specs. The rule of crossbow-making seems to be “He who innovates the most, wins.”

There’s a thriving market for high-end crossbows too, and that’s why our test rewards top-end performance. But we factor in value as well, because we know many buyers just want a reliable crossbow to take hunting, and they won’t spend four truck payments to get it. Fortunately, this year’s field has crossbows to suit both tastes—and some great stuff in between.


1. Editor’s Choice: Ravin R26

Ravin R26 • 406 fps • $2,050
Speed & KE Accuracy & Forgiveness Cocking Effort Trigger Safety Handling Fit & Finish Value
Good Very Good Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent Fair

Remember those chintzy crossbow pistols used in ’90s vampire and spy movies? Yeah, they can’t hold a candle to the R26—even though the newest crossbow from Ravin isn’t much larger. Incorporating the best of the Ravin design—level cams that rotate 360 degrees and an easy draw mechanism—into a bull-pup platform makes for the most compact hunting crossbow ever devised. It’s just 26 inches overall, 6.5 pounds, and 5.75 inches axle to axle when cocked. Yet the R26 is still packed full of performance, clocking in at 406 fps with a 404-grain arrow.

We were able to obtain better groups with a few other crossbows, but the R26 was still in the top tier, with a 1.5-inch average at 40 yards. It had an excellent trigger that broke at 2.1 pounds. It would seem the R26 would be a shoo-in for the best-handling bow, and for pure convenience and handiness in a tree­stand, ground blind, or the turkey woods, it is. But when it came to actually shooting it, we found the dimensions to be a little cramped.

It’s a sign of the archery-­gear times to say that a price tag of more than two grand helped this crossbow’s value score, but the R26 costs $500 less than the TenPoint Nitro XRT—which ultimately, albeit narrowly, gave it the win.


2. TenPoint Nitro XRT

TenPoint Nitro XRT • 432 fps • $2,550
Speed & KE Accuracy & Forgiveness Cocking Effort Trigger Safety Handling Fit & Finish Value
Excellent Very Good Very Good Good Excellent Excellent Excellent Poor

The Nitro XRT has vicious power, clocking in at 432 fps with a 467-grain arrow and producing 193 foot-pounds of energy. It finished third in accuracy, with 1.28-inch groups. Although larger than the Ravin R26, it is still a compact crossbow. Some of us found it more comfortable to shoulder and shoot than the winner.

The Nitro XRT uses TenPoint’s proven ­AcuDraw system, which is (mostly) reliable and quiet but slow. The trigger on this bow broke at 2.4 pounds, but it had some creep. The exorbitant price cost it the win, but if you want pure performance and more traditional handling, this is your crossbow.


3. Mission SUB-1 XR

Mission SUB-1 XR • 413 fps • $1,700
Speed & KE Accuracy & Forgiveness Cocking Effort Trigger Safety Handling Fit & Finish Value
Good Excellent Good Very Good Very Good Good Excellent Fair

The SUB-1 XR was the accuracy champ of this year’s crossbow test, with 0.97-inch-average groups, and at 413 fps, it’s a step up in speed from last year’s SUB-1. Its factory bolts were the lightest of the test at 345 grains, and so the bow took a slight hit on KE points. At 3.7 pounds, the trigger was a little heavier than the two bows ahead of it, but crisp.

The Mission is compact and lightweight (7.6 pounds, 30.5 inches long, 9.1 inches wide when cocked), but it’s not in the same class as the Ravin or TenPoint for handling. We did, however, like that it can be cocked with a traditional rope.


4. Scorpyd Deathstalker 420

Scorpyd Deathstalker 420 • 415 fps • $1,235
Speed & KE Accuracy & Forgiveness Cocking Effort Trigger Safety Handling Fit & Finish Value
Very Good Very Good Good Excellent Good Very Good Very Good Good

The Deathstalker 420 is the lightest, most compact crossbow from Scorpyd yet, thanks to a carbon-fiber frame that combines the barrel, limb pockets, riser, and finger guards into one piece. Cocked, it measures 9.5 inches axle to axle, and it received high marks for handling and balance. It shoots a 373-grain arrow to 415 fps. Our bow had a near-perfect trigger, and we averaged 1.59-inch groups with it. It was fitted with an AcuDraw Pro that malfunctioned; we ended up cocking the Deathstalker 420 with a standard rope, and that cost it some points. We would’ve liked an automatic safety too. But its performance is comparable to the three bows ahead of it for significantly less money.


5. Barnett HyperGhost 425

Barnett HyperGhost 425 • 410 fps • $1,300
Speed & KE Accuracy & Forgiveness Cocking Effort Trigger Safety Handling Fit & Finish Value
Very Good Good Good Excellent Very Good Fair Good Good

This was the only conventional compound crossbow good enough to crack the top five. It has a 16 1⁄3-inch powerstroke with a 206-pound draw weight, and so it took a pretty good tug to cock it with a standard rope. The 3.6-pound trigger was excellent. More notable than the bow itself are the microdiameter, 404-grain Hyperflite arrows that it’s designed to shoot. Microdiameter arrows provide the same penetration benefits to crossbow hunters that they do to vertical-bow hunters—if you can get them to work with your crossbow’s rail. This bow is designed for them. We averaged 1.54-inch groups with it, and they clocked in at 410 fps. Word of warning: They’re tough to pull from a target.


6. Great Buy: CenterPoint Amped 415

CenterPoint Amped 415 • 388 fps • $380
Speed & KE Accuracy & Forgiveness Cocking Effort Trigger Safety Handling Fit & Finish Value
Fair Excellent Fair Fair Excellent Fair Fair Excellent

Though the Mission was the overall accuracy winner, the sub-$400 Amped 415 fired the tightest individual groups of the test. (Krebs gets the bolt-busting honors—­though Robinson shot a group with this bow that wasn’t far behind.) At 388 fps with a 402-grain arrow, the Amped 415 finished on the low end of the speed/power spectrum. It had a heavy 200-pound draw weight (though the shorter 14.5-inch powerstroke mitigated some of the cocking effort). The fit and finish were fair—as expected for the price—and a conventional compound crossbow isn’t going to get great handling and balance marks compared to the Ravin. Its trigger was light enough at 2.6 pounds but sloppy.

Is it remotely of the quality of the test’s top bows? No. But put all that aside and consider that it produced tighter average groups than either the winning Ravin R26 or the TenPoint Nitro XRT. You could buy five of these for the price of the Ravin, or six for the price of the TenPoint—and still have money left over for broadheads. That impressed us. We figure it does you too.


7. Wicked Ridge RDX 400

Wicked Ridge RDX 400 • 367 fps • $860
Speed & KE Accuracy & Forgiveness Cocking Effort Trigger Safety Handling Fit & Finish Value
Fair Good Very Good Fair Excellent Very Good Very Good Very Good

This is Wicked Ridge’s first flagship-level crossbow. It’s a reverse-draw model that handled nicely and was easy to cock, thanks to a modest 175-pound draw weight and 15.5-inch powerstroke. It was the slowest crossbow of the test at 367 fps, but to be fair, the RDX 400 was equipped with extra-heavy (447-grain) aluminum bolts. You should be able to gain some speed by switching to a lighter carbon bolt (check manufacturer recommendations). At 9 inches axle to axle when cocked, it handled nicely. The bow’s trigger was light enough at 2.7 pounds, but it had a lot of creep. We docked points for that. Accuracy was acceptable but not great, with 1.99-inch groups.


8. PSE Thrive 400

PSE Thrive 400 • 384 fps • $600
Speed & KE Accuracy & Forgiveness Cocking Effort Trigger Safety Handling Fit & Finish Value
Fair Good Good Poor Excellent Fair Good Very Good

The new Thrive 400 didn’t tank in any particular test category. But neither did it earn any outstanding marks. We averaged 1.95-inch groups with it, and the trigger, though pretty smooth, was the heaviest of the test at 5.7 pounds. The Thrive 400 shot 423-grain bolts at 384 fps, and so it finished on the low end of the speed/kinetic-energy category. Still, with a 175-pound draw weight, the bow wasn’t bad to cock, it had a safe design, and the fit and finish and handling were good for the price—but the price was still significantly more than our Great Buy crossbow, which was a better performer.


9. Excalibur Assassin 420 TD

Excalibur Assassin 420 TD • 427 fps • $1,900
Speed & KE Accuracy & Forgiveness Cocking Effort Trigger Safety Handling Fit & Finish Value
Very Good Fair Poor Excellent Poor Fair Very Good Poor

When I first saw the takedown feature of the Assassin 420 TD, I was impressed. But it can be a safety hazard. Even when the bow wasn’t fully locked onto the barrel—which, take my word for it, is an easy thing to overlook—it would still shoot. I once cocked the bow and shot it, and the two pieces separated. We had further problems with the cocking device and anti-dry-fire system. Though the ­Excalibur had things going for it—a great scope, an outstanding trigger, and plenty of speed—it was the only bow of the test to be docked serious points for safety. It also finished last in the accuracy test, with 2.32-inch groups.


10. BearX Saga 405

BearX Saga 405 • 402 fps • $350
Speed & KE Accuracy & Forgiveness Cocking Effort Trigger Safety Handling Fit & Finish Value
Good Good Poor Poor Excellent Fair Poor Excellent

This crossbow was just like the CenterPoint Amped 415 in a number of ways. In fact, we frequently confused the two during shooting because they look so similar. But closer evaluation revealed key differences. The fit and finish on this bow couldn’t compare to that of the Amped 415. Though it was faster (402 fps), the BearX shot lighter 373-grain arrows, which cost it some kinetic-energy potential. The trigger wasn’t good, and we managed only 2.02-inch groups. You get more for your money with the CenterPoint, but the Saga 405 remains the least-expensive bow of the test, and it’ll work just fine in the deer woods.

Read Next: 9 Best New Compound Hunting Bows, Tested and Ranked

How We Test Crossbows

Alex Robinson testing crossbows
Robinson logs a 40-yard group off the shooting bench. Hollis Bennett

This year’s crossbow test panel included Hurteau, Robinson, senior editor Natalie Krebs, and me. We put all of the crossbows through the same paces, regardless of design. We weighed bolts, checked speeds through a chronograph, and calculated kinetic energy. Accuracy was measured by averaging two 3-shot groups from each shooter, taken at 40 yards from a Lead Sled atop a D.O.A. shooting bench

( Trigger pulls were weighed on a Lyman trigger scale and subjectively judged for quality. Cocking effort is subjective: Either the bow was a pain to cock or not. We also scored the bows on fit and finish, and safety. The most important categories—speed and kinetic energy, accuracy, and handling—are ­double-​weighted. We didn’t consider noise in the crossbow test.

Value is bang for the buck, and we awarded a bonus point to the final score for any bow with outstanding accessories (bows receiving this are indicated by an asterisk in the chart on p. 122). The highest-scoring crossbow overall is Editor’s Choice, and the crossbow with the best value is named the Great Buy. —W.B.