If you’re a fan of crossbows and crossbow hunting, you’ve got to love the first-of-the-year new model roll-outs. The last several years have been the stuff of serious office pool wagering, leaving us to place our marks on where the next limit to velocity might be and by whom.
It wasn’t that long ago when 350-plus feet-per-second crossbows had the hunting crowds all wound up. Now the crossbow “in crowd” is all about 400+ FPS, with at least one major manufacturer edging mighty close to cracking the 500 FPS ceiling.
For 2019, all the new crossbows of interest received immediate member status in the “400 Club.” A few barely made it into the fraternity, several got in without breaking a sweat, and one hit the scene with class-dominating credentials that may stand for some time to come. How long? Hard to say, but the bookies are already taking bets.
To give credit in the order it’s due, we’re going to run down the top new-for-2019 crossbows from all relevant manufacturers in descending order, starting with the fastest and working our way down to the slowest. “Slowest,” though, is a misleading concept because there is nothing listless about a crossbow arrow that leaves the flight deck at 400 feet per second!
TenPoint Nitro XRT
“Sits at the top of the food chain” may be a trite saying, but it does apply to TenPoint’s new Nitro XRT. While it is far and away the fastest of this year’s new models, the Nitro XRT achieves its top dog status not by its 470 FPS speed alone, but the overall package delivers everything you want in a true hunting crossbow—light weight, exquisite balance, and ultra-narrow profile, and, of course, eye-blistering speed.
The Nitro XRT is the next evolution of the reverse-draw Nitro X crossbow introduced in 2018. It utilizes a center-mounted riser assembly that shifts the traditional front-end crossbow weight back towards center of the platform. That dynamic, alone, makes a huge difference not only in providing more stability for executing accurate shots, but also reduces shooter fatigue when waiting for the shot.
Built on TenPoint’s ergonomic and lightweight C3 stock, the Nitro XRT offers shooter adjustments such as length-of-pull and cheek riser height. This allows the crossbow to fit hunters of varying sizes and ensures a comfortable fit when clothing “bulk” shifts from early season to late.
The Nitro XRT’s delicious combination of high speed and reduced noise is a culmination of several engineering features working in unison. For starters, the reverse-draw configuration provides a longer power stroke, producing higher speeds at a lower draw weight. High-rotation RX7 cams, Dual Flex limbs and TenPoint’s intriguing Vector Quad cable system works with a precision CNC-machined aluminum limb pocket system to maximize mechanical efficiency and limb/cam alignment throughout the shot. Add in the integrated string stop system and you have a crossbow that offers precise, consistent, and relatively quiet arrow launches up to 470 FPS at 191 ft/lbs of energy.
Although TenPoint crossbows have been gigged in the past for their trigger feel, the Nitro XRT includes the company’s next-generation trigger system—the T5 with an auto-engaging safety and dry-fire inhibitor. It’s a much smoother and lighter-feeling trigger than the earlier T-series variants found in previous models.
With a $2,549.99 MSRP, the Nitro XRT doesn’t come cheap, but it does come well-equipped. Included in the package is an Evo-X Marksman Precision Scope, ACUdraw PRO silent cocking device, STAG hard crossbow case, neoprene sling, six-pack of Evo-X CenterPunch carbon arrows featuring the new Alpha-Nocks, and a quick-detach three-arrow quiver with an ambidextrous side-mount bracket.
|Draw Weight: 225 lbs.|
|Velocity: 470 FPS (w/370-gr. arrow)|
|Length: 30.7 in.|
|Axle-to-Axle Width: 7 in. (cocked), 12.5 in. (uncocked)|
|Power Stroke: 16.5 in.|
|Weight: 7.4 lbs.|
Ravin is a familiar player on the 400+ crossbow team with its premium R20 series delivering 430 FPS in a class-leading 6-inch axle-to-axle width package. The detractor for many close-quarter crossbow hunters, though, has been the model’s long 34.5-inch overall length. This year, Ravin trims a few inches while maintaining the same impressive speed with the all-new R29.
Boasting a 29-inch overall length, the R29 is a parallel-limb, conventional-draw crossbow that is about as compact as a hunting crossbow can get. And at 5.5 inches shorter than the R20s, it’s an easy decision for hunters seeking maximum output in a compact, brush-friendly package.
Ravins are among the few crossbows on the market with a rail-less flight system, meaning the arrow is supported only at the nock and at the front of the barrel via a roller-type arrow rest. The R29 continues this free-float system that, combined with the company’s HeliCoil cam technology, delivers one of the fastest, most efficient, and friction-free arrow launch systems on the market today.
Aside from the significantly shorter chassis (compared to the R20s and R10), the new R29 has a couple design features that further distinguish it from its larger siblings. First is a one-piece bridge spanning the trigger box and barrel. This bridge provides the rail length needed to position the scope for optimal eye relief, with the additional benefit of providing a more rigid shooting platform. Another noticeable difference is the R29’s unique foregrip. Its curved design and minimal webbing give the shooter good “muzzle” control from multiple grip positions.
On a side note, this year, Ravin also introduced the R26. This is an even shorter version of the R29, with an overall length of 26 inches. The velocity of the R26 is 400 FPS, but if you like to hunt really tight places, this crossbow will do the job quite nicely.
|Draw Weight: [unavailable]|
|Velocity: 430 FPS (w/400-gr. arrow)|
|Length: 29 in.|
|Axle-to-Axle Width: 6 in. (cocked), 10.5 in. (uncocked)|
|Power Stroke: 12.5 in.|
|Weight: 6.75 lbs.|
Barnett HyperGhost 425
While Barnett’s newest crossbow comes in only slightly behind the Ravin R29 in terms of speed (425 FPS with a 380-grain small-diameter arrow), the price differential is significant…to the tune of $1,250 less. Of course, there are tradeoffs for the cost. The new Barnett HyperGhost 425 boasts some hefty dimensions: 7.7 pounds, an overall length of 36.25 inches, and a broad uncocked axle-to-axle width of just over 17.5 inches. Still, if you value speed and don’t mind running with a “robust” package, the HyperGhost 425 may have the price-to-performance ratio that works well for you.
Featuring the step-through riser design found on several of the company’s higher-end models, the HyperGhost 425 includes a new CNC-machined aluminum flight track and an interesting retractable counterbalance underarm support. This support transfers bow weight beneath your shooting arm for a more stable and less “nose-heavy” feel.
Included in the HyperGhost 425 package are three HyperFlite arrows, a 1.5-5X32 illuminated scope, rope cocking sled, side-mount quiver, and lubrication wax.
|Draw Weight: 206 lbs.|
|Velocity: 425 FPS (w/380-gr. arrow)|
|Length: 36.25 in.|
|Axle-to-Axle Width: 17.6676 in. (uncocked)|
|Power Stroke: 16.33 in.|
|Weight: 7.7 lbs.|
Excalibur Assassin 420 TD
If you favor simplicity in your crossbow, you probably already know that Excalibur is the go-to source. The company has hung its hat on the traditional recurve limb platform and given the simplicity of recurve crossbows in a marketplace awash in compound variations, Excalibur obviously sees no reason to change its course.
For 2019, Excalibur has introduced two new models that run in the 400 Club…the Bulldog 440 and the Assassin 420 TD. Although the Bulldog 440 is a tad faster, we want to focus on the Assassin 420 TD because of its unique take-down capabilities.
One of the reasons many hunters choose not to go the recurve limb route is the significant width of these bows. Yes, it can cause problems for those who hunt in tight quarters, but that significant width can also be problematic when transporting the bow. The new Assassin 420 TD solves the latter problem with a slick push-button takedown design. In seconds, the limb and riser assembly can be attached to or detached from the stock for easy transport or storage without losing the zero.
Another feature we like about the Assassin 420 TD is its integrated Charger Crank System. This is a no-click crank that lets you both cock and de-cock the crossbow in silence and requires only 14 pounds of cranking effort.
Other features of the Assassin 420 TD that score high in our book include the precision two-stage Pro-Shot trigger and the toolless adjustable stock that lets you change the length-of-pull up to three inches and set the cheek riser height in the field without any tools.
The Assassin 420 TD package comes with a TACT-100 illuminated scope, four-arrow quiver, and four PROFLIGHT arrows.
|Draw Weight: 290 lbs.|
|Velocity: 420 FPS (up to)|
|Length: 33-36 in.|
|Width: 23.25 in. (cocked), 30 in. (uncocked)|
|Draw Length: 18.875 in.|
|Weight: 8 lbs.|
|MSRP: around $1,800|
Mission Sub-1 XR
Mission Crossbows, part of the Mathews Archery family, put its “price conscious” crossbow brand on the map a couple years ago when it introduced the well-designed Sub-1 model. Based on an aluminum-centric platform with special attention given to its match-grade two-stage trigger, fully synced cam system, and high ergonomic factor, the Sub-1 successfully edged the Mission brand into the premium crossbow zone. This year, the Sub-1 line takes an even larger leap with the introduction of the Sub-1 XR.
At first glance, the new Sub-1 XR doesn’t look all that different from the original Sub-1. Both come with the two-stage trigger, although the Sub-1 XR trigger is a hair lighter at 3.0 pounds (versus 3.4 pounds). Also carried over is the minimalist stock, featuring adjustable length-of-pull and cheek riser height, the optional RDS (Removable Silent Draw) cocking system, and the full-purchase pistol grip and foregrip.
Where the Sub-1 XR veers onto its own path is its greater speed—25 FPS more, to be exact. The Sub-1 XR comes with a new riser design and cam design that adds an extra .875 inches to the powerstroke. The axle-to-axle width is also reduced by 1.6 inches, down to 9.1 inches cocked. Added up, the Sub-1 XR’s configuration is good for 410 FPS when sending a 350-grain arrow downrange.
Unlike most crossbow packages, the Sub-1 XR doesn’t come fully outfitted as a matter of course. While buyers can choose between black or Realtree Edge camo finish at no extra cost, the base model comes only with a case and rope cocker. For a ready-to-hunt package, buyers must select the Pro Kit option, which adds an optic, quiver, three arrows, and rail lube for an extra $199.99.
|Draw Weight: [unavailable]|
|Velocity: 410 FPS (w/350-gr. arrow)|
|Length: 30.5 in.|
|Axle-to-Axle Width: 9.1 in. (cocked), 12.5 in. (uncocked)|
|Power Stroke: 14.625 in.|
|Weight: 7.6 lbs.|
Bear Saga 405
Historically not a major player in the crossbow market, storied Bear Archery aims to change that this year with its line of Bear X Crossbows. In all, six new crossbow models hit the scene. Topping the list is the Saga 405.
While it makes sense that one of the country’s longest-lived archery brands would get in on the growing crossbow market, Bear chose to begin by carving a spot in the “price value” segment rather than go head-to-head with the more established premium brand. The top-of-the-line Saga 405 is priced at $349.99 and the rest of the 2019 Bear X models go down in price from there.
So, what does $350 get you? An economy crossbow package that doesn’t excel in any particular area but does offer one of the best price-to-FPS ratios going. The Saga 405 is rated at 405 FPS and includes an adjustable stock length and foregrip to provide a little custom comfort. A 4×32 scope with a multiple crosshair reticle is included, along with a four-arrow quiver, three carbon arrows, cocking rope, and lubricant.
|Draw Weight: 210 lbs.|
|Velocity: 405 FPS|
|Axle-to-Axle Width: 14 in. (cocked), 18 in. (uncocked)|
|Power Stroke: n/a|
|Weight: 7.8 lbs.|
If the new CP400 crossbow from CenterPoint sniffs of something familiar, you would be correct. The parent company of CenterPoint, Velocity Outdoors, purchased Ravin Crossbows late last summer and, in surprisingly short order, the blending of DNA has already occurred.
Heretofore, CenterPoint has been an “on-ramp” crossbow brand, offering good value and performance at a modest price tag. The acquisition of Ravin by CenterPoint’s parent company, however, injected new opportunities to bring CenterPoint to a new level. The early result is the new CP400.
The CP400 is a parallel-limb, conventional-draw crossbow that looks to owe much of its business end to its new sibling brand. The riser and limb configuration bears more than a passing resemblance to models in the Ravin lineup, and the CP400’s HeliCoil cam system is straight-up Ravin-licensed technology.
The CP400 comes in at 400 FPS, with axle-to-axle cocked width similar to the Ravin crossbows at 6 inches. With a 31.75-inch overall length, the CP400 isn’t the shortest crossbow out there, but it will work fine for tight-quarters hunting.
A cool feature we like on this model is the folding foot stirrup. When not extended for cocking, the stirrup drops down 90 degrees, allowing you to use it as a bipod-like support for bench shooting or for shooting prone in the field.
Although CenterPoint will likely remain the value brand in the Velocity Outdoors portfolio, we expect to see more premium technology to filter into CenterPoint’s offerings in the future.
|Draw Weight: 200 lbs.|
|Velocity: 400 FPS (up to)|
|Length: 31.75 in.|
|Axle-to-Axle Width: 6 in. (cocked), 10-inch (uncocked)|
|Power Stroke: 13 in.|
|Weight: 7.8 lbs.|
Wicked Ridge RDX 400
Wicked Ridge steps up its game considerably this year with the introduction of the new RDX 400. This new flagship model for the Wicked Ridge line doesn’t quite step on the toes of its TenPoint and Horton sibling brands, but it comes mighty close. As a brand best known for crossbows that deliver middle-lane performance at mid-range prices, Wicked Ridge is certainly edging into the premium lane thanks to its 400 FPS velocity and slim 9-inch axle-to-axle width.
The RDX 400 carries plenty of TenPoint and Horton engineering, starting with the reverse-draw limb configuration and sturdy stock. With the riser mounted just forward of the trigger, the typical nose-heavy weight is shifted rearward to provide an excellent balance that assists in off-hand shooting and reduces fatigue. Additional TenPoint technology staples include 12-inch limbs powered by the company’s Reaper Cam System and 3.5-pound auto-engaging trigger with trigger safety and Dry-Fire-Inhibitor.
As with all Wicked Ridge models, the RDX is feature-heavy and ready to hunt. The TenPoint 3X Multi-Line scope comes pre-mounted and bore-sighted, so zeroing takes only minutes. Buyers can select between the ACUdraw crank or rope sled cocking devices, and the package rounds out with a Wicked Ridge three-arrow quiver, three aluminum arrows, and a pre-installed string-stop system.
|Draw Weight: 175 lbs.|
|Velocity: 400 FPS (up to)|
|Length: 33.25 in.|
|Axle-to-Axle Width: 9 in. (cocked), 15-inch (uncocked)|
|Power Stroke: 15.5 in.|
|Weight: 7.1 lbs.|