Best New Crossbows from the 2019 Archery Trade Show
Crossbow innovation continues to drive the archery industry. This year at the Archery Trade Association show, we saw exciting new...
Crossbow innovation continues to drive the archery industry. This year at the Archery Trade Association show, we saw exciting new advances from Ravin and TenPoint, plus a bunch of solid new upgrades from other manufacturers. So I roamed the showroom floor and found the best and most exciting new crossbow introductions. This is by no means comprehensive test of the new crossbows. This is simply a first look at the new bows, so you can get an idea of what you’ll be seeing store shelves this year.
TenPoint Nitro XRT
TenPoint‘s latest model is a screamer. With touted speeds of 470 fps, the XRT figures to be one of the year’s top sizzlers. TenPoint diehards will be surprised by the reverse-limb configuration (though not entirely, since TenPoint did have the reverse-limb Nitro in 2018’s lineup), shooters of previous reverse-limb crossbows may be pleasantly surprised by the bow’s overall feel. This is a common knock on of reverse-draw models—the balance of the bow is different (not necessarily bad, just different). But when shooting the XRT at the ATA test lanes, I found it to be well-balanced and easy to handle.
And, it shoots. Fast. The XRT is a premium model with a package of premium components, at a premium price. The MSRP on the model, complete with the ACUdraw PRO, EVO-X Marksman scope, a STAG hard case, sling, and EVO-X Centerpunch arrows, comes in at $2,549. The scope is worth a closer look. It’s excellent, with a quality glass-etched reticle, fully multi-coated lenses, and an impressive 14x magnification. The dovetail bubble level on the side is an often-overlooked accessory that can make a big-time difference in overall accuracy from a crossbow. It’s standard on the XRT and can help shooters achieve the bow’s touted 1.0 MOA accuracy. The bow is delivering plenty of punch as well, with an advertised 191 foot-pounds of KE. In 2018, TenPoint took top honors in our crossbow test with its Stealth NXT model. That bow, however, is a conventional forward-limb design making it difficult to compare to this year’s Nitro XRT.
The R26 seems short. Like really, really short. And, at 26 inches in length, it is indeed. Then you shoulder it and shoot it. And you want to shoot it again. And again. And again. Based on Ravin‘s ultra-popular platform, the R26 is the shortest (did we mention that already?) version the company has delivered and it might be the most fun. It measures a scant 5.75 inches wide when fully cocked and weighs 6.5 pounds. Despite its diminutive nature, it’s remarkably stable. It zips arrows out at 400 fps despite a short 9.5-inch power stroke and proved highly accurate in the short time I’ve been able to spend with it.
Besides the obvious applications of being a whitetail hunting machine, I’m really looking forward to employing the bow during archery-only turkey seasons this spring. With its ease of maneuverability, it’s a legitimate tool for chasing gobblers run-and-gun style without a blind while offering an accurate, stable platform and extended range. But all that fun and promise does come at a cost…it will list for $2,050.
Killer Instinct Furious Pro 9.5
A relative newcomer to the crossbow scene, Killer Instinct has produced a number of solid, value-packed performers. This one might be the best of the bunch thus far. There’s not a ton of glitz or glamour here. It’s a utilitarian-looking model that’s about three feet in length (the adjustable stock option varies the overall span from 32.5 to 35 inches), and it boasts a narrow 9.5-inch axle-to-axle length when fully cocked. That length, even though the “hot” models are shorter than ever, made the Pro 9.5 handle as well as any bow I shot today and should prove to be highly accurate in the field. And it zips arrows downrange, with an advertised speed of 400 fps. It’s also a pretty solid value option. The bow carries an MSRP of $749.
Scorpyd Nemesis 480
Scorpyd is no newcomer to reverse-draw crossbows. They’ve been at it for a long time and, truth be told, their performance has pushed other companies to follow suit. The Nemesis 480 is a “new” model but it’s not one that features a bunch of “new” features or options. It’s simply another solid performer from the company. The 480 comes from the bow’s advertised speeds of 480 fps with a 370-grain arrow. Beef the arrow up to 465 grains (which would be more effective for hunting) and the speeds come in at about 400 fps. The trigger is excellent (and adjustable) and features a Sear-LOC system for strength and security. A cool touch is the ability to add Mathews’ harmonic dampeners to the riser setup. They don’t come standard but can be added. There’s a built-in scope rail, MIM trigger components and Hogue 1911 grips. The bow will sell for $1,899. A crank system can be added for $300 and an ACCUdraw Pro option is also available.
Mission Sub-1 XR
Last year’s release of the Sub-1 was a defining moment for Mission, an arm of powerhouse Mathews, Inc. The Sub-1 was a departure from Mission’s price-point offerings, and a real eye-opener in terms of how precise and accurate a crossbow can be. The XR version features many of the same assets (and components) of the Sub-1 but is substantially faster at 410 fps (compared to 385 fps for the original Sub-1). It’s also more compact, measuring 9.1 inches axle-to-axle when fully cocked compared to the original model’s 10.7-inch width. I was only able to spend a few minutes shooting the bow at the show, but I actually think I may like this iteration even better than the original. The original Sub-1 was a rock-steady bow. Yes, at 7.5 pounds it’s a bit heavy but that weight added to its stability in my opinion. The XR is roughly the same weight but it seemed to be a bit more nimble, perhaps because of its reduced width. With an MSRP of $1,699 it’s not cheap. But there’s a lot of performance and quality in the package.
There’s something to be said about affordability, no matter how booming (or faltering) the economy, hunters love a good deal. This is a bow for those guys. With an MSRP of $299 — including the scope — you’ll be hard-pressed to find a crossbow that costs less. And this one isn’t a dog. It’s not going to win any contests for innovation or style. What you see is what you get, and that’s a crossbow that delivers 380 fps speeds, has an adjustable stock (to make the total bow length 33 to 36.5 inches), and weighs 7.5 pounds. I spent just a few minutes with the bow on the shooting lanes so this certainly shouldn’t be considered an exhaustive review, but it was a nice-shooting bow (I actually busted a nock on the first arrow with my second shot). PSE Archery
Excalibur Assassin 420 TD
Excalibur’s crossbows have remain largely unchanged for as long as the company has been making them — if you look only at the fact that they continue to use traditional, recurve limbs with no cams, wheels or other such mechanical advantages. Everything else is different, and this year, it’s really different. Where to begin? Let’s start with the TD portion of the name…which stands for take-down. The 420 TD is designed to be disassembled into a bite-sized package that fits neatly into a storage case that can be stashed just about anywhere. It can then be re-assembled quickly and — most importantly — without losing zero. That was put to the test on the ATA range (granted, the lanes are only capable of 5-yard shots). I stripped the bow apart, put it back together and stuck an arrow right next to the one I’d fired before disassembly. The bow also uses a very slick cranking system that’s absolutely silent and requires just 14 pounds of force to get the bow to full draw. If you’ve ever tried to hand-cock an Excalibur (and managed to survive the ordeal), you know how tough that can be. This crank system ends that struggle permanently. As for performance, the bow is fast – 420 fps. It’s remarkably quiet. The Tru-Fit stick offers three inches of adjustment and it weighs in at eight pounds. It’ll list for about $1800.
Barnett HyperGhost 405 and 425
Barnett has a pair of new options in the HyperGhost series, the 405 and 425. Both are packaged with Barnett’s exclusive Hyperflite small diameter arrows, an illuminated scope and TriggerTech triggers. As the name suggests, the difference between the two models is speed. The 405 delivers arrows at 405 fps while the 425, you guessed it, delivers 425 fps speeds. The 405 lists for $1,099 while the 425 will sell for $1,299.