Bow Test 2015: 11 New Crossbows Reviewed

Crossbow refinement continues for 2015, from the quality of the components (especially the triggers) to overall construction.

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EDITOR'S CHOICE
HORTON Storm RDX

Score: 89.7 / Price: $1,049 / HortonCrossbows.com

In July 2013, three months after Horton Archery shuttered its operations, Hunter’s Manufacturing, the parent company of TenPoint and Wicked Ridge, effectively took ownership of the brand. In the time since, many wondered what the Bednar family would do with Horton.

If the quality of the Storm RDX is any indication, it’s clear that they intend to resurrect the brand in top-notch fashion. At first blush, we were startled by the price of the Storm RDX. However, after testing it, it’s clear that no expense was spared in its design and manufacture.

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The bow’s reverse draw elongates the power stroke to 17 inches, and with a manageable draw weight of 165 pounds, the bow pumps arrows downrange at 360 fps. It produced the field’s least amount of vibration (28.2 m/­s2), and registered minimal noise (92.7 dBA).

The Storm RDX is perhaps the most ergonomically comfortable crossbow we’ve ever tested. The rear-mounted limb arrangement shifts the center of gravity rearward, improving the shooting foundation. At 10.25 inches wide when cocked, it’s well suited for tight confines, and an adjustable cheekpiece allows the user to dial in his eye relief. Rifle hunters will flip over the RDX’s trigger, which breaks cleanly and crisply at 2.7 pounds. Elsewhere, a patented bristle brush replaces the traditional plastic arrow retention spring to mitigate shot twang.

The four-figure price will turn off some, but those who seek a crossbow at the pinnacle of modern innovation will gravitate to the Storm RDX.

LOOKING FOR COMPOUNDS?
Click here to see our reviews of 12 new compound bows for 2015. Wondering how we reached these results? Scroll down for the full score details, or click here to read about our testing methodology.

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WICKED RIDGE Invader G3
Score: 80.1 / Price: $549 / TenPointCrossbows.com

As with most Wicked Ridge offerings, the Invader G3 represents a value-priced crossbow equipped with many features found on premium bows. A slick onboard retractable cocking system, the ACU-52, handles those chores with ease and drew praise from the panel. Split limbs store the energy input by power wheels that are lashed with a DynaFlight 97 string and cables. An oversize foot stirrup accommodates even the widest hunting boots. An open forend allows users to pass their fingers through, offering a sure grab, while an elongated winged flange positioned above the foregrip keeps fingers out of harm’s way.

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A rich, double-dipped Mossy Oak camouflage finish is as unexpected on a bow of this price as it is attractive. If we were prone to splitting hairs, we’d say that the 316.6 fps speed is a bit tepid, but that’s still plenty of zip for an entry-level bow—­especially one with so many great features.

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BARNETT BC Raptor Reverse
Score: 82.6 / Price: $700 / BarnettCrossbows.com
? As you may have noticed, reverse-draw crossbows are all the rage. Their benefits are numerous, one of which is their compactness, and the BC Raptor Reverse measures just 9 inches across when cocked.

The bow’s rearward balance point allows for nimble handling and quick target acquisition. With a draw weight of 155 pounds, the bow cocks easily, and the adjustable stock allows for a customizable fit. On the downside, the Raptor produced the most vibration (42.6 m/s2).

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CABELA'S Equalizer
Score: 67.0 / Price: $900 / Cabelas.com
? At 362 fps, the Equalizer, built by venerable recurve crossbow maker Excalibur, is very fast by any standard, but especially for a recurve. The lack of cams means minimal tuning issues and increased reliability; however, in order to achieve that speed, 250 pounds of draw weight is required to cock the bow—without the aid of cams.

At 7.9 pounds and 25.25 inches across when cocked, the Equalizer balances nicely, but it produces a very loud report when fired (99 dBA).

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CARBON EXPRESS Intercept Supercoil LT
Score: 75.6 / Price: $750 / CarbonExpress.com
? With a decidedly tactical look and feel, the 8.4-pound Intercept Supercoil LT provides a very solid shooting platform, especially when posted up on shooting sticks.

For a full-size bow, it’s quite compact when cocked, measuring just shy of 13 inches. The bow is very well made, with precision CNC machine work throughout. But we were frustrated by the awkward foot stirrup, which could present cocking issues on wet or snow-covered ground.

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DARTON Rebel 135 SS
Score: 78.0 / Price: $850 / DartonArchery.com
? The compact Rebel (32 inches long, 13.5 inches cocked) is an odd duck, with the foregrip positioned ahead of the cams and the string directly below the cheekpiece when cocked. Meanwhile, a cantilevered scope rail floats above the arrow track. The design may be unorthodox, but we ended up liking this arrangement, as it greatly enhances the bow's balance.

The ambidextrous safety is fantastic. And at 357.71 fps, the bow packs a lethal punch while generating very little noise.

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EXCALIBUR Micro 335
Score: 79.5 / Price: $950 / ExcaliburCrossbow.com
? As its name implies, the Micro is compact; and while its size makes it nimble, it also makes it slow. The Micro's 9.75-inch power stroke musters just 308.64 fps of arrow speed, despite a stout 270-pound draw weight (without the help of cams).

We love the skeletonized frame, which makes the bow lively and quick to target. The overmolded forend provides a fantastic grip no matter the weather conditions. Southpaws will appreciate the ambidextrous cheekpiece.

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KILLER INSTINCT Machine
Score: 69.8 / Price: $850 / Killer-Instinct-Crossbows.com
? The Machine evokes Johnny Cash's "One Piece at a Time," comprising a mix-and-match array of components. As with the Carbon Express, we disliked the stirrup, but a folding buttstock allows for a carry length of just over 25 inches.

An excellent red anodized trigger trips cleanly at just 2.14 pounds. We found the bow’s balance a bit awkward; however, the Machine performed well off the bench, sending arrows downrange at 357.38 fps and generating moderate hand shock.

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SCORPYD Ventilator Extreme
Score: 80.5 / Price: $1,800 / Scorpyd.com
? Reverse-draw Scorpyd crossbows are built for speed, and the Ventilator Extreme registered a blazing 429.55 fps, delivering enough kinetic energy (179.4 foot-pounds at 20 yards) to kill any game animal, including an elephant.

Even at that dizzying speed—aided by a monstrous and difficult-to-cock 19.25-inch power stroke—the bow is quiet (93.7 dBA) and generates minimal vibration (33.3 m/s2). Its 2.14-pound trigger was the finest in the field.

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STRYKER Offspring
Score: 83.8 / Price: $849 / StrykerXBow.com
? The aptly named Offspring is the result of the recent Bowtech-Excalibur marriage, and it combines a compound Stryker (Bowtech's original crossbow brand) front end with a minimalist Excalibur stock.

This melding of two technologies produces an enticing package, generating only 91.3 dBA and arrow speeds of 330 fps (on a 150-pound draw weight). We loved how it handled and felt that the bow seemed more compact than its 37.5-inch overall length would suggest.

TENPOINT Stealth FX4
Score: 84.5 / Price: $1,199 / TenPoint.com
? The Stealth FX4 exudes the pedigree TenPoint has become known for. Its bullpup design, with an aggressively angled grip and fixed high cheek comb, is comfortable and aims exquisitely.

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With a trigger assembly identical to that of the Horton Storm RDX, the FX4’s is equally crisp. Our test bow came equipped with the user-friendly integrated ACUdraw 50 cocking system. Quality is apparent in every component and demonstrated vividly in the double-dipped camo finish.

Click to enlarge:

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Edited by John Taranto, product photographs by Nick Ferrari, video by Natalie Krebs. Got comments? Leave them below or email gear@outdoorlife.com. Special thanks to Lancaster Archery Supply in Lancaster, Penn., for hosting our test.