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Ravin R26: Crossbow Review and Field Test

The Ravin R26 is an accurate, compact, and dependable hunting crossbow.
P.J. Reilly Avatar
Ravin crossbow in the field.

A hunter settles behind his Ravin R26. Ravin Crossbows

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When Spud Webb was taken in the fourth round of the 1985 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons and then quickly released, few figured the 5-foot-6-inch guard had even the slightest chance of playing in the same league as Michael Jordan. He went on to have a successful 12-year career, including winning the 1986 slam dunk contest, proving that great things can come in small packages.

The Ravin R26 is the Spud Webb of crossbows. At just 26 inches long and 9.25 inches wide at the axles when uncocked, the R26 is one of the smallest crossbows on the market, yet it’s got enough punch to qualify it as one of the best crossbows for hunting. 

Despite its diminutive stature, the Ravin R26 crossbow spits out 20-inch bolts at an incredible 400 feet per second, making it one of the fastest crossbows around. And with every moving part on the bow designed for precision accuracy, it’s a tack-driving machine that will force you to think twice about shooting more than one bolt at the same spot on the target. 

Trust me on that last part. I’ll explain in a bit.

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Ravin R26 Specs

  • Speed: 400 FPS
  • Weight: 6.5 lbs.
  • Length: 26”
  • Width Axle-to-Axle 5.75” Cocked
  • Width Axle-to-Axle 9.25” Un-cocked
  • Power Stroke: 9.5”
  • Kinetic Energy: 142 ft lbs. 
  • Draw Effort: 12 lbs.
  • Draw Weight: 340#
  • Price: $2,024.99
The R26 has a compact profile.
The compact size of the Ravin R26 is one of its best features. Ravin Crossbows Ravin

Ravin R26 Overview

I’d heard plenty about the Ravin R26 when it was launched in 2019 and quickly earned an “Editor’s Choice” award from Outdoor Life as the best new crossbow of the year. When it came time to see if the R26 was equal to its hype, I borrowed one from Lancaster Archery Supply to put it through the paces. The rig I borrowed was the standard R26 package that comes fully assembled in the box with an illuminated scope, six 300-grain bolts plus points, cocking handle and quiver.

The compactness of this Ravin crossbow is what grabs you at first glance. Immediately, you think about easily maneuvering in a ground blind or tree stand, which could make it one of the best crossbows for deer hunting. It’s short. It’s skinny. It weighs in right at 6.5 pounds. It looks like it should be considered a crossbow pistol. How can this thing possibly shoot as good as they say?

The Ravin R26 crossbow is an engineering masterpiece. The engine that drives 400-grain bolts (including points) at 400 fps is the Helicoil cam system. It’s unique design allows the cams to rotate 340 degrees as they launch bolts. Though the bow only measures 26 total inches, it’s got nearly 10 inches of power stroke, since the string at rest sits on the front end of the cams, and the Trac-Trigger Firing System pulls the string back into the butt of the stock, well behind the pistol grip. Kudos to Ravin for maximizing the relatively small window available for string travel.

Cables on each side of each cam coil away from the cams as the bow is drawn to keep them perfectly level during the shooting process. That’s critical to the precision accuracy we talked about. 

Equally important is the frictionless flight system. The only contact points for Ravin bolts are at the nock receiver and on two rollers on a rest at the front end of the bow. There’s no traditional crossbow rail, which basically eliminates friction that would otherwise rob the bolt of speed and possibly influence accuracy. (The absence of a rail also will do wonders for prolonging the life of your crossbow string.)

Where I think the Ravin R26 excels is with the Versa-Draw cocking system. It’s all contained within the bow. No need to remember to pack a cocking rope when you head out to hunt. No bulky, horseshoe-shaped string capture attached to the stock.

The Trac-Trigger block is held in place at the butt end by a ribbon coiled inside the stock. Push a button to release the block and it slides forward on a rail to capture the string. Insert the cocking handle at the butt and turn the crank 10 times to fully cock the bow. 

It’s impossible to over crank the string because the handle will intuitively slip once the bow is properly cocked. You’ll feel that slip and know your bow is ready to shoot.

The Trac-Trigger perfectly captures the string in the same spot, shot after shot. Consistently nocking your arrow in the same place on the string is critical to precision accuracy.

And speaking of nocking the arrow. Ravin bolts employ a nock that’s very similar to those used on arrows shot from vertical bows. It doesn’t just rest on the string. It actually clicks into place on it. And if you don’t hear or feel that click, your bow won’t fire. Properly seating the arrow is what disables the Ravin R26’s anti dry-fire mechanism.

R26 80 yard group.
One of the test groups shot with the R26. PJ Reilly

A minor annoyance is that Ravin states on all its packaging materials for its bolts – including packs of bolts sold separately – that the bolts each weigh 400 grains. They actually weigh 300 grains, but that weight climbs to 400 when you add 100-grain points. I get it. That’s kind of nitpicky on my part, but I want to know what the arrows alone weigh before I add points, which may or may not weigh 100 grains.

The R26 Shot 400 FPS.
The R26 Shot 400 FPS.

Anyway, the bolts I used really did weigh in at 401 grains WITH points attached. Shooting them through Lancaster Archery Supply’s Custom Chrono machine, I got speeds of 402, 402 and 403 feet per second on three successive shots. As a long-time tester of archery gear, it’s nice to reproduce manufacturer-advertised speeds with equipment most people will take to the field.

The Ravin scope that comes with the R26 crossbow kit is intuitive. It’s got rings for aiming points every 10 yards from 20-100 yards. You adjust a dial on the scope to match your crossbow’s shooting speed, and the aiming references are supposed to adjust accordingly. Oftentimes, that doesn’t happen. With the Ravin R26 I shot, it did. Perfectly. (A bonus is the scope includes illumination, which allows you to see the aiming references in red or green light – with adjustable brilliance – which is especially helpful in low light shooting.)

The bow was nearly perfectly sighted in at 20 yards out of the box, but it was shooting a bit high. After two shots and a few clicks, it was dead on. And then I made the mistake of taking a second shot without removing the first bolt from the target. I destroyed it, smashing the nock and cracking the back end of the arrow. A millimeter to the right, and I would have tubed it.

So then I took the bow outside and shot it at 30 yards. The 30-yard ring was right on. At 40 yards, I broke another bolt when it slammed into a point that had previously broken off in my target sometime in the past. Why do I mention that? Because at 60 yards, I hit the exact same hole and broke another bolt! This test was getting expensive.

Eighty yards is the farthest I can shoot on my home range, and I shot two bolts that both cut a small square of duct tape serving as my bull’s-eye. I did that while sitting on a lawn chair with the bow simply propped on my knee, just as I’d shoot while seated in a tree stand. 

And let me be clear. I am not an exceptionally skilled trigger man. I’m average at best. The trigger on the Ravin R26 fires with a tad over 2 pounds of pulling force. There’s no play in it, although there is movement. I’d characterize it as a steady movement that travels cleanly under pressure until the bow fires. I know my shooting skills. That’s why I can say the Ravin R26 is the tack driver – not me.

The R26 shot a near robinhood.
The author nearly tubed a bolt from 20 yards while sighting in the R26. PJ Reilly PJ Reilly

What this Ravin Crossbow Does Well

The Ravin R26 shoots bolts accurately and fast.

It’s as simple as that. The Ravin R26 is a sniping machine that will excel as a hunting crossbow. It’s as if the engineers took the tried-and-true mechanisms of precision arrow delivery perfected by vertical-bow archers and simply turned everything sideways. Remove the rail to eliminate friction, keep the cams level through the shooting cycle and nock the arrow in the exact same spot for each shot. That’s a recipe for success.

The operation is so simple, and the bow is so compact, virtually anyone can cock and shoot this bow regardless of age, strength and/or stature. Obviously, you’ll want to supervise young children, but where other crossbows require significant strength and coordination to cock, the R26 is a piece of cake.

Where this Ravin Crossbow is Lacking

The Ravin R26 is loud. For that matter, though, is there any crossbow out there that anyone would call “quiet?” Loud kind of comes with the territory when shooting a crossbow. The R26, however, also has an audible click, click, click as you wind the crank handle. You’re not reloading without every deer in the vicinity knowing it.

It is possible to decock the Ravin R26 without shooting it, which is always nice. However, you have to be on your toes when you decock the R26, or you could wreck some fingers. To decock the R26, you install the crank handle and give a slight turn forward to depress the Trigger-Trac release button, and then you have to unwind the crank while holding the button down. If your hand slips off the crank, watch out, because it’s going to spin freely with a good bit of force behind it.

It’s pricey. The Ravin R26 package I borrowed sells for right around $2,000. Sure, there are several crossbows that cost more than that, but I don’t think anyone would call two grand “budget friendly.”

Final Thoughts on the Ravin R26 Crossbow

Personally, I don’t mind paying for quality gear if it actually is quality. Often you pay for a brand name, but the equipment is not quite up to snuff. That’s not an issue with the Ravin R26 crossbow. It’s perfectly sized – and powered – for stand/blind hunts in the whitetail woods or for strapping to your backpack while climbing the hills in search of bugling elk. And when the time comes to take the shot you’ve dreamed of, your confidence will soar knowing you’re peering through the scope of one of the most accurate crossbows money can buy. You can buy a Ravin R26 from Cabela’s by clicking, here.