Crossbow Test 2012: Best New Hunting Crossbows

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Our annual bow test doesn't end with compounds. Crossbows continue to grow in popularity, and we keep making our tests tougher and tougher. (Best New Crossbows 2013) In this year's test, we're introducing two new performance metrics that we feel are destined to become industry standards: AD/40, which predicts arrow drop at 40 yards, and KE/20, which provides a true measurement of kinetic energy at a realistic hunting distance, in this case 20 yards. These two new measurements, combined with our existing and unrivaled evaluation process, will help you decide how to spend your money at the bow shop as you prepare for this season. RATINGS KEY
★ ★ ★ ★ - Excellent
★ ★ ★ - Very Good
★ ★ - Good
★ - Fair See the 2012 Compound Bow Test here.
Stryker Strykezone 380 The StrykeZone 380 is a compact bow that squeezes stellar performance out of a modest 160-pound draw weight. The 15 ½-inch power stroke zips arrows at an incredible 375.2 fps, delivering a powerful 119 ft.-lb. of kinetic energy at 20 yards (KE/20) with 10.6 inches of arrow drop at 40 yards (AD/40) (see "How We Test" on p. 24 for explanations of these new metrics). Split limbs shoulder aggressive cams that are surprisingly easy to cock. Weighing a mere 8 pounds, it will tote easily on extended spot-and-stalk assignments and be nimble in treestands. The creamy smooth trigger trips at 2 pounds 13.1 ounces, while the 19 ½-inch axle-to-axle width contributes to this bow's compactness. The 380 generates a meager 22.12 m/s2 of vibration, and is relatively quiet at 92.2 dBA. All this comes at a palatable price. Test Result
Overall: ★ ★ ★ ★
Price: $749
Performance: A-
Design: A-
Price/Value: A+
Speed (FPS): 375.2
Weight (LB.): 8
Vibration (M/S2): 22.12
Noise (DBA): 92.2
AD/40 (IN.): 10.6
KE/20 (FT.-LB.): 119
Company: Stryker
Tenpoint Carbon Elite XLT The Carbon Elite's wrapped carbon-fiber arrow track is lighter than traditional machined or extruded tracks, resulting in a well-balanced full-size bow that tips the scales at 9.3 pounds. The XLT is compact, with a limb width of 17 ½ inches. A top speed of 341.7 fps makes the bow plenty fast, but it remains whisper quiet at 90.4 dBA. Accoutrements include a double-dipped Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity cloak, and a crisp 3-pound 1-ounce trigger. The Carbon Elite is gentle to shoot, producing a skinny 23.6 m/s2 of vibration. For those with disabilities, or folks who don't like to overexert themselves, the high-end ACUdraw crank is the most advanced yet simplest cocking mechanism found on any crossbow--but it contributes to an eye-popping price. Test Result
Overall: ★ ★ ★ ½
Price: $1,699
Performance: A
Design: B+
Price/Value: B-
Speed (FPS): 341.7
Weight (LB.): 9.3
Vibration (M/S2): 23.6
Noise (DBA): 90.4
AD/40 (IN.): 12.2
KE/20 (FT.-LB.): 99.5
Company: Tenpoint
Darton Serpent Vista LTD II The Serpent's simplistic design is devoid of frills and gimmicks. It has a great grip and shoulders naturally. The ergonomically designed forearm is clean and fills the hand nicely. Short, stout, preloaded split limbs rest in as clean a limb pocket as we've seen. The flight track is extruded then machined to exacting tolerances. A forward-mounted safety is positioned "just right" for the ready-to-shoot position. The Serpent casts arrows at 355.5 fps with minimal vibration (15.66 m/s2), and is virtually hiss-free at 89.6 dBA. With a draw weight of 180 pounds, the bow cocks easily. It has a slender profile, at only 19 ½ inches wide at full draw and an overall length of 35 ½ inches. Test Result
Overall: ★ ★ ★ ½
Price: $899
Performance: A
Design: B
Price/Value: B-
Speed (FPS): 355.5
Weight (LB.): 9.6
Vibration (M/S2): 15.66
Noise (DBA): 89.6
AD/40 (IN.): 10.9
KE/20 (FT.-LB.): 107
Company: Darton
Scorpyd Ventilator The Ventilator's 165 pounds of draw weight propelled arrows at an incredible 393.2 fps, and produced the top KE/20 and AD/40 numbers (131 ft.-lb., 9.3 in. ), with only 14.66 m/s2 of vibration. The bow generated 94.3 dBA. The reverse-draw limb design balances the bow well in hand. Top-shelf Barnsdale limbs produce the horsepower for this thumper. The 2.09-pound trigger is outlandishly smooth and the best we've tested. However, even with its short slide-style cocker, the Ventilator is a handful to load. Our bow arrived with an unappealing silver finish, though it's available in all black and black/camo. For those searching for the ultimate in performance--and who can foot the robust price--the Ventilator is worth a long look. Test Result
Overall: ★ ★ ★ ½
Price: $1,349
Performance: B
Design: A-
Price/Value: B-
Speed (FPS): 393.2
Weight (LB.): 8.8
Vibration (M/S2): 14.66
Noise (DBA): 94.3
AD/40 (IN.): 9.3
KE/20 (FT.-LB.): 131
Company: Scorpyd
Wicked Ridge Raider CLS This split-limb workhorse from TenPoint's entry-level brand is agile at 8.9 pounds, and with a draw weight of 180 pounds it zips arrows at a 334.4 fps clip. We found the double-dipped camo finish clean and richly detailed. The integrated, self-retracting Acu-52 rope cocking mechanism is as smooth a system as you'll find. The Raider is pleasant to shoot, with just 27.30 m/s2 of vibration. However, it does have considerable pop at 95.7 dBA. As with all products that come from TenPoint's Ohio factory, the attention to quality is evident in this bow's construction. Meticulous design features will please those searching for a mid-priced shooter that features high-end amenities. Test Result
Overall: ★ ★ ★
Price: $799
Performance: C+
Design: B
Price/Value: A
Speed (FPS): 334.4
Weight (LB.): 8.9
Vibration (M/S2): 27.3
Noise (DBA): 95.7
AD/40 (IN.): 12.1
KE/20 (FT.-LB.): 95.1
Company: Wicked Ridge
Carbon Express Covert SLS This priced-right, solid performer is big on features, from its adjustable forearm grip to its bullpup stock. The 185-pound draw weight slings arrows at 342.5 fps. The Covert impressed with its compact size (35 ¾-inch length, 13-inch axle-to-axle cocked width), making it ideal for ground-hunting duties. At the shot, the Covert produced 30.53 m/s2 of vibration, falling about mid-pack. The 6-pound 7.1-ounce trigger is stiff and in need of a bit of softening. A quality Mossy Oak Obsession film dip adds to this bow's appeal. The Covert's adjustability is stellar, with expansive scope positioning options and numerous forearm grip positions. The shovel-handle foregrip adjusts forward and back, customizing the fit no matter the shooter's build. Test Result
Overall: ★ ★ ★
Price: $599
Performance: B-
Design: B-
Price/Value: A+
Speed (FPS): 342.5
Weight (LB.): 9.7
Vibration (M/S2): 30.53
Noise (DBA): 94.6
AD/40 (IN.): 12.4
KE/20 (FT.-LB.): 99.5
Company: Carbon Express
Parker Tomahawk The diminutive (7.1 pounds, 34 ½ inches overall length, and uncocked and cocked widths of 20 ½ and 18 ¼ inches, respectively) and attractively priced Tomahawk is almost small enough to shoot with one hand, like a pistol. The molded grip is pleasing to hold, and was one of the best in the test. The Parker launched arrows at 322.6 fps, while producing the worst AD/40 (13.2 in.) and KE/20 (88.8 ft- lb.) readings of all the compound crossbows. The integrated finger flange on the forearm is nice for forgetful archers whose fingers might wander up toward the arrow track as they bear down on a target. The 160-pound draw weight is manageable, and the ballistic polymer stock will absorb punishment. Test Result
Overall: ★ ★ ★
Price: $499
Performance: C
Design: B+
Price/Value: A-
Speed (FPS): 322.6
Weight (LB.): 7.1
Vibration (M/S2): 31.35
Noise (DBA): 96.3
AD/40 (IN.): 13.2
KE/20 (FT.-LB.): 88.8
Company: Parker
Excalibur Eclipse XT Recurve crossbows, like the 8.6-pound Eclipse XT, have a wide following among hunters, as they tend to be more reliable than compound designs. One reason is that the lack of moving parts means less fuss in the field. This bow is built on a 200-pound thumbhole platform, and received kudos for its striking black carbon film finish. The raised cheekpiece makes for a comfortable face-to-stock weld (available in both left- and right-handed configurations). The 2-pound 8.7-ounce trigger is comparable to the finest rifle triggers. At 318.7 fps (its 86.4 ft.-lb. KE/20 and 14.7 in. AD/40 are to be expected), the Eclipse won't set any speed records; however, it is fast enough to catch up to any game animal. Test Result
Overall: ★ ★ ★
Price: $920
Performance: B
Design: C+
Price/Value: B-
Speed (FPS): 318.7
Weight (LB.): 8.6
Vibration (M/S2): 35.05
Noise (DBA): 91.2
AD/40 (IN.): 14.7
KE/20 (FT.-LB.): 86.4
Company: Excalibur
Horton Fury The reverse-draw Fury features a CNC-machined riser and extruded aluminum barrel. The first thing we noticed when shouldering the Fury is its great balance. The reverse draw limbs put the balance point between the forearm and grip. A 15 3⁄8-inch power stroke stokes the light 160-pound limbs, reaching a terrific top-end speed of 359.6 fps. The bow also impressed by registering 11.1 AD/40 and 109 KE/20. The futuristically sculpted stock is great; however, the shallow forearm is a bit unnerving when you settle into your forward handhold. Built-in string stops manage vibration and shock to the tune of 36.36 m/s2. At 8.9 pounds, the Fury is lightweight, but it roared at 96.7 dBA on the sound level meter. Test Result
Overall: ★ ★ ★
Price: $899
Performance: C
Design: C+
Price/Value: B-
Speed (FPS): 359.6
Weight (LB.): 8.9
Vibration (M/S2): 36.36
Noise (DBA): 96.7
AD/40 (IN.): 11.1
KE/20 (FT.-LB.): 109
Company: Horton
Winchester Blaze The Blaze is Winchester's sophomore effort in the crossbow industry. The 155-pound limbs shuttle arrows downrange at 323.6 fps. The Blaze produces little vibration, registering 22.91 m/s2. However, it registered a comparatively paltry KE/20 reading of 88.6 ft.-lb., and was loud at 95.8 dBA. Weighing 10.4 pounds, it was far from nimble and handled like a sporting clays shotgun. When it comes to the bow's aesthetics and amenities, the pistol grip and cheekpiece are great; soft-touch rubber inserts in both add a comfortable feel. Stainless hardware eliminates the potential for messy, rusted fasteners over time. A short power stroke of 12 inches is corralled by two thoughtfully designed string stops. Test Result
Overall: ★ ★ ½
Price: $899
Performance: C
Design: C+
Price/Value: B-
Speed (FPS): 323.6
Weight (LB.): 10.4
Vibration (M/S2): 22.91
Noise (DBA): 95.8
AD/40 (IN.): 13
KE/20 (FT.-LB.): 88.6
Company: Winchester
Cross Archery DOA The DOA's long 16-inch power stroke and 185-pound draw weight generate the raucous top speeds that parent company Barnett is legendary for, sending arrows downrange at 384.1 fps (not to mention a thumping 125 ft.-lb. KE/20 and just 9.9 in. AD/40). At 94.1 dBA and 36.85 m/s2, the DOA does rattle a bit. The metal-injection molded trigger has a bit of slack in the take-up, but it trips with a delightfully light 2 pounds 11 ounces of pressure. Like the Winchester Blaze, this 10-pound offering is going to be more at home in a blind than on stalks. The bow's composite stock is rugged and capable of withstanding abuse, and the anti-dry-fire mechanism is among the best we've seen. Test Result
Overall: ★ ★ ½
Price: $869
Performance: C+
Design: C-
Price/Value: C-
Speed (FPS): 384.1
Weight (LB.): 10
Vibration (M/S2): 36.85
Noise (DBA): 94.1
AD/40 (IN.): 9.9
KE/20 (FT.-LB.): 125
Company: Cross Archery

howwetestcrossbow

OL's Protocol Explained Bows are tested as "kits"--that is, each is equipped with its factory scope. Objective testing is done from a Caldwell Lead Sled FCX and triggered using a remote trip. Weight, noise, and vibration are measured as they are with the compounds. A 415-grain arrow is used in testing; however, due to the varying draw weights of the bows, speed is not a consideration in final scores. Each bow receives a score from 60 to 100 in 10 categories. Objective categories are weight, peak noise, and vibration. Subjective categories are ergonomics, safety (design), cocking (ease-of-operation), fit and finish, balance, trigger feel, and Price/Value. Overall scores and the award winners are determined as they are with compound bows.

Outdoor Life is known for running one of the toughest bow tests in the industry. Find out which crossbows scored the highest in our annual bow test.