The Bow Test: 14 New Crossbows for 2016 Tested and Reviewed | Outdoor Life

The Bow Test: 14 New Crossbows for 2016 Tested and Reviewed

crossbow evaluation

crossbow test

Test team member Tony Hansen scores the Mission MXB 400.

Justin Appenzeller

The crossbow craze continues to sweep the nation, recruiting new hunters into archery seasons. Manufacturers are now focusing on adding user-friendly features and taming two consistent crossbow demons: harsh recoil and loud report.

This year, manufacturers focused on ergonomic improvements. Bows became further extensions of the shooter. We noted improvements in fit and finish, as designs matured and companies answered calls from consumers demanding lighter, easier-­to-aim bows. We were impressed by improvements in trigger design. A few short years ago, protracted creep was normal.

Triggers today are greatly improved, and on several models creep has been eliminated.

That said, this wasn’t much of a year for major innovations, and we’ve therefore included reviews here only for the award winners and an outlier. You can find the score breakdown if you scroll to the bottom of the page. Looking for compound bows? Click here.


HOW WE TEST

The overall scores of the compounds and crossbows are the sums of scores of three objective and seven subjective categories, each of which has a grade range from 1 to 10. The objective scores—for noise, vibration, and speed—are determined through a process that involves minimal human interference. Compounds are mounted to a Spot Hogg Hooter Shooter and triggered via a shutter-release cable, while crossbow triggers are tripped remotely as the bows sit in a Caldwell Lead Sled. A sound-level meter measures peak decibels at the shot, while two accelerometers (mounted to the compounds’ risers and near the pistol grip on crossbows) measure vibration in meters per second squared. (With both, the smaller the number, the better.)

How We Test: Bows by OutdoorLife

The Velocitip Ballistic System measures arrow velocity, arrow drop at 40 yards, and kinetic energy at 20 yards. For compounds, the 100-grain Velocitip head was affixed to a Victory VForce HV V1 350 arrow (350 grains total), and crossbows fired a Victory XBolt (422 grains total).

Once the data is gathered, testers shoot the bows and grade each on a number of performance- and design-related criteria (scroll to the bottom for full results). The bows with the highest overall score get our Editor’s Choice award. Products that we feel represent an exceptional value earn the Great Buy badge. As always, this test was an invitational. We asked manufacturers to submit only new models: one compound and/or one crossbow.

Special thanks to Lancaster Archery Supply for hosting our annual test.


CLICK HERE FOR COMPOUND BOW TEST RESULTS


Tenpoint Turbo GT Score: 88 / $999 ** EDITOR'S CHOICE **

tenpoint crossbow

The 3 lb. 4 oz. trigger pull was just right—not too light, not too stiff.

Tenpoint

Now in their third generation of crossbow builders, the Bednar family of Ohio produces arguably the finest lineup of horizontal bows available. TenPoint’s attention to detail and manufacturing quality are impressive, and the company has developed a loyal following of crossbow enthusiasts.

TenPoint Turbo GT by OutdoorLife

The Turbo has been a staple of the company’s lineup for years, offering TenPoint-branded quality at relatively reasonable prices. The new Turbo GT has a shorter stock that improves maneuverability and accommodates a wider range of hunters than its predecessor. The GT has stellar ergonomics and a balance as good as any bow we’ve tested in the last five years. The bullpup grip and adjustable stock with a comfortable comb fit us seamlessly. The forward grip allows the shooter to easily tuck fingers away from the string’s path. The auto-engaging safety and anti-dry-fire device worked perfectly on our model, adding to the emphasis on user safety. Finally, the handsome camo finish, typical of TenPoint, would draw applause from the snootiest art critics.


Browning Zero 7 Score: 87.9 / $1,199

new browning crossbow

Score: 87.9

Justin Appenzeller

Placing a strong second in our test (scoring just a tenth of a point shy of the Editor’s Choice winner) Browning’s new crossbow is as pleasing to look at as it is to shoot. Bold Mossy Oak Break-Up Country graphics grace the stock and limbs, contrasted by a handsome, black matte CNC machined arrow track. A custom Trigger Tech trigger launches arrows effortlessly, with absolutely no creep.

The onboard cocking system is slick. It promises even cocking and results in repeatable arrow flight. The parallel mount arrow quiver is also a welcome feature, tucking neatly into the stock and minimizing its effect on shot placement when shooting in crosswinds. The honeycomb accents in the stock and under the arrow track round out a pleasing visual package.

From the testers:
"Cleanest trigger break in the test."
"One of the best in overall appearance and handling at the test."
"The cocking system helped me to ensure I was doing it safely and correctly."


Killer Instinct Furious 370 FRT Score: 87.3 / $699

furious 370 frt

Score: 87.3

Justin Appenzeller

The Killer Instinct is a featured-packed offering which will be very popular with budget-minded hunters. At $750 retail, the 370 FRT has a high-end Trigger Tech trigger, five-way adjustable stock, and Hogue soft molded grip. The attention to detail on this model is also apparent in the premium strings and cables, clean CNC machining, and a premium RealTree Xtra camo dip.

At 8.16 pounds, the FRT is light and maneuverable; and at nearly 380 fps, it has plenty of pop. Almost everyone agreed: the tactical look and feel of the FRT set it apart from the field.

From the testers:
—"Best trigger in the test."
—"Really liked the fit and feel of the grip. Adjustable stock was simple and stout."
—"Cool new stirrup."


Barnett Ghost 415 Revenant Score: 85.3 / $1,200

barnett ghost 415

Score: 85.3

Justin Appenzeller

Generating some 409 fps of arrow speed, the Revenant is the latest speed-centric offering from Barnett. Built on a full-sized platform, the Ghost handles nicely, and is surprisingly light at just over 9 pounds. The premium-priced bow sports a quality Trigger Tech trigger; one which was described by one evaluator as “crisp as you’ll find,” and mimics those found on finer sporting rifles.

The Revenant will excel in most hunting applications, especially in a ground blind. This crossbow’s ability to close long distances will enable practiced hunters to reach across water holes out West or over food plots when chasing spring toms.

From the testers:
—"It shot fine and the trigger was excellent. But it seemed as if the entire crossbow was made of plastic."
—"Crisp trigger, and very fast."
—"Cool camo finish."


Stryker Katana 385 Score: 85 / $1,099

stryker katana

Score: 85

Justin Appenzeller

BowTech’s acquisition of Excalibur crossbows is evident in the design of the Katana 385. The upper is all BowTech, while the stock represents signature Excalibur. The combination results in a pleasing shooter, one which will fit most horizontal hunters searching for a lethal combination of maneuverability and shootability.

At 8.4 pounds, the Katana is light. We immediately noticed the large, hogged-out areas on the arrow track and the skeletonized riser. Both of these features contribute to the nimble balance of this bow. A particularly comfortable stock and forearm make holding the crossbow on target a cinch.

From the testers:
—“Great treestand or ground blind model.”
—“Creep in trigger, and slow for the price.”
—“Compact design, although the comb is a bit too skinny.”


Mission MXB-400 Score: 84.5 / $1,199

Mission crossbow

Score: 84.5

Justin Appenzeller

At just 12.5 inches wide when cocked, the MXB-400 is perfectly suited for a hunt that involves tight quarters. Its skinny profile will tuck neatly inside the confines of small ground blinds or cramped, lock-on treestands. And at 395 fps, the MXB has plenty of speed.

The MXB exhibits Mathews traditional flare for quality, as evidenced in its radically machined-out arrow track and minimalistic stock and forearm. While testing, we couldn’t help but envision this bow in the hands of some futuristic alien on a Hollywood movie set.

That said, the test team did express concern with the “stirrupless” design, which requires the hunter to put their foot/feet (i.e., muddy, snowy, sandy boots) above the riser and limb pockets, and the bow into the grown.

From the testers:
—“Ambidextrous safety is nice and ‘clicks’ positively.”
—“Balanced well, appreciated the longer length and adjustable stock.”
—“Cocking this bow is not fun, and it puts the prod in the mud.”


Cabela's Instinct Order Score: 81.5 / $1,100

The Cabela's crossbow

Score: 81.5

Justin Appenzeller

Cabela’s turned to the design pros at TenPoint Crossbow Technologies to build their new Order. The patented Acu50 cocking system is the slickest we’ve seen, easing the chore for even the most physically challenged hunters. While odd-looking, the bullpup stock with its radically upswept cheek rest actually shouldered well and settles naturally for a perfect cheek weld. The trigger is typical TenPoint: smooth and sans surprise surprises, and the wide trigger face provides a good purchase for gloved fingers.

Still, testers were a bit puzzled by the robust retail price on a store brand. Arguably, though, you’re paying for TenPoint quality—just without the pedigree label.

From the testers:
—"It's priced like a top-end model but falls just a little short of top-end performance."
—"AccuDraw was a welcome feature."


Southern Crossbow Revolt 370 Score: 79.5 / $500

Revolt 370

Score: 79.5

Justin Appenzeller

This small Texas-based company is producing quality crossbows at a competitive price. Their Revolt 370 offers everything you need to drop large North American game without breaking the bank. At $599, the Revolt provides good speed (359 fps), good kinetic energy (113 ft./pounds at 20-yards), and a great trigger pull (2.94-pounds)—while remaining quiet during the shot (92.8 dBA).

A fully machined arrow track is a bonus on a relatively bargain-priced bow, and the grip is solid with or without gloves. We were a bit perplexed with the fore grip however—it’s awkwardly angled and takes a bit of getting used to.

From the testers:
—“The trigger has some creep, but it’s got great speed for the value.”
—“Good value, although it’s a bit heavy.”
—“The ambidextrous safety was easy to engage and positive.”


Crosman Centerpoint Sniper 370 Score: 79.2 / $300 ** GREAT BUY **

centerpoint great buy

The Sniper 370 is a great-shooting crossbow for an even greater price. Score: 79.2

Justin Appenzeller

The Sniper 370 performs on par with other crossbows that are priced considerably higher.

The adjustable stock will accommodate most hunters, and the molding and grip are rugged and sufficiently comfortable. A CNC-machined rail is a big surprise on a crossbow at this price—normally we’d expect an injected-molded plastic unit.

Crosman Centerpoint Sniper 370 by OutdoorLife

Oversize string stops halt vibration in its tracks, while quad limbs deliver a respectable 340.7 fps. The 4-plus-pound trigger had noticable creep—but at this price, it’s hard to complain. The auto-safety and anti-dry-fire device were also satisfactory.

Overall our panel was impressed by how well this bow performed, and we would recommend it for any hunter on a budget or anyone shopping for his or her first crossbow.


Wicked Ridge Warrior Score: 78.5 / $449

wicked ridge warrior

Score: 78.5

Justin Appenzeller

The minimalistic Warrior from Wicked Ridge is sure to please those in search of a no-frills design. At 7.74 pounds, the Warrior was the second lightest crossbow in this year’s test. And at 317 fps, it was also the slowest bow we tested. So if you’re looking for a blazing fast crossbow, the Warrior isn’t for you. But with an MSRP of $469, the Warrior is still worth a look for entry-level archers on a tight budget. The injection molded stock and its aggressive cheek plate are comfortable and aim easily.

From the testers:
—"The trigger was light—too light."
—"Basic bow. Lower price, nothing fancy."
—"It looks like a bit of a flashback."


Darton Toxin 150SS Score: 77.5 / $1,000

Darton Toxin

Score: 77.5

Justin Appenzeller

Rex Darlington, the design brains behind the Darton lineup, is one of the original compound bow pioneers. Possessing some twenty patents, Darlington has discovered how to shift the arrow track and trigger system rearward along a crossbow and into the stock. This feature reduces the overall length while still retaining the power stroke. The result is a compact bow—that’s fast (387 fps)—with a sweet feel.

Admittedly, the string’s proximity to the user’s face may be a concern for some, but we didn’t have any issues with it. The oversized foot stirrup is great for heavy boots. Darton has also moved the safety lower on the stock, which received mixed reviews from our testers.

From the testers:
—“Compact with a long power stroke—the best of both worlds.”
—“Safety isn’t well placed.”
—“No positive click to tell you the safety is engaged.”

Bear Fisix FFL Score: 76.7 / $1,049

Bear Fisix crossbow

Score: 76.7

Justin Appenzeller

The Fisix will present a conundrum for many hunters. At 11-plus pounds, it’s heavy compared to others in the field. Much of its weight is found in the beefy riser and truss system. While this may strike it from some wish lists, the weight may prove to be a selling feature for others looking for a solid holding, rock-steady aiming bow.

The open foot stirrup/hanger is one of those “why didn’t someone think of this sooner” designs. The AR-style stock sports an adjustable cheek pad for that just-right ergonomic interface. The reverse limb design allows for a longer power stroke, while keeping draw weight down to a meager 135-pounds.

From the testers:
—“This model is big and awkward.”
—“If Batman had a crossbow, it would be a Bear Fisix. Nice tactical design.”


Excalibur Micro 355 Score: 76 / $1,099

In search of a simple crossbow? The “cam-less” Micro 355 relies on its flexing recurve limbs for power, which makes it a bit of an orange amid all the apples in the crossbow test. The cam-free design eliminates timing issues altogether while minimizing forward mass weight, making this a nimbler aiming bow than compound-style crossbows. The string can be changed in the field if necessary­—without the aid of a press—and can be uncocked without discharging an arrow.

On the downside, without cams to multiply the draw force, recurve crossbows generate lower arrow speeds. At 331.5 fps, however, the Micro we tested was fast enough to catch up with any whitetail in North America.

Excalibur Micro 355

Score: 76

Justin Appenzeller

In search of a simple crossbow? The “cam-less” Micro 355 relies on its flexing recurve limbs for power, which makes it a bit of an orange amid all the apples in the crossbow test. The cam-free design eliminates timing issues altogether while minimizing forward mass weight, making this a nimbler aiming bow than compound-style crossbows. The string can be changed in the field if necessary­—without the aid of a press—and can be uncocked without discharging an arrow.

On the downside, without cams to multiply the draw force, recurve crossbows generate lower arrow speeds. At 331.5 fps, however, the Micro we tested was fast enough to catch up with any whitetail in North America.

From the testers:
—“Compact, simple, fast.”
—“Lightweight, but hard to cock and loud.”
—“This bow is a shooter, but it’s hard to truly compare when its a recurve model.”


Scorpyd Ventilator 175 Extreme SDS Score: 75.9 / $1,530

new scorpyd crossbow

Score: 75.9

Justin Appenzeller

The Ventilator is another blazing fast crossbow from Jim Kempf and Scorpyd, the inventor of reverse draw limbs. Mounting the limbs in reverse fashion (as opposed to forward-mounted traditional limbs) elongates the power stroke and ulitmately allows more energy to be transferred to the arrow.

At 422.7 fps and an incredible 155 ft./lbs. of kinetic energy delivered at 20 yards, arrows from the Extreme SDS will blow through anything in their path. Titanium hardware throughout is a welcome feature for those tired of rusty fasteners on expensive archery gear. A novel spring-loaded string dampener system reduces vibration (29.2 m/s2) on a crossbow that aims and balances naturally. Its noise score hurt its final score, however, as did most of the subjective categories.

From the testers:
—“It’s fast as hell, but it’s challenging to cock and hold.”
—“The new spring-loaded stops are a nice touch.”
—“It’s crazy loud.”
—“Giant safety, solid build.”


CROSSBOW TEST RESULTS

crossbow scores

crossbow chart

The full test results

Crossbow Chart

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