A rifle that shoots arrows? Well, yes and no and sort of “maybe.”

by Rob Reaser

Ever since man quit chucking rocks at critters in order to get a meal, he’s tried many different methods for sending sharp sticks downrange quickly and accurately. From atlatls and wooden limbs bent taught with hand-twisted fibers to today’s lightning-fast crossbows and vertical compounds, many a contrivance has launched the mystical flight of the arrow.

The latest implement to propel an arrow with accuracy and lethality is the Crackshot XBR by Traditions Firearms.

If the Crackshot name rings a bell with you, it should. This is the single-shot rimfire rifle platform Traditions offers in .22 LR and is one of our favorite plinker rifles. Recently, someone in the Traditions R&D bunker made one of those large leaps in hypothetical thinking. You know…the kind that takes something from here and something from there and combines those somethings into something that’s never been combined before. Often, such amalgamations fall into the, “Oh, well…it seemed like a good idea at the time” category, never to be seen again. We have a feeling that the Crackshot XBR may not be one of those ideas.

What are we going on about? How about a rifle platform that shoots both rimfire ammunition as well as arrows? In sum, two “firearms” in one.

The Crackshot XBR is a modular weapon that comes from the factory capable of sending .22 short, long, and long rifle ammo downrange with pleasing accuracy. It also comes with a second “barreled receiver” or “upper receiver” assembly (however you want to look at it) that is designed to launch crossbow-size arrows. We’ll take a deeper dive on both configurations in a moment, but first, we want to address the question that’s probably on the tip of your tongue right now… “Can you hunt with the XBR upper?”

Really, it depends on what kind of hunting you’re thinking about.

With an arrow velocity of up to 385 fps, an arrow launched from the XBR certainly has the mettle to drop everything up to deer-sized critters with ease. The question is not can it be done, but can it be done legally. This is something Traditions Firearms is working on with the various state game departments across the country. Given the overt platform mishmash that is the Crackshot XBR, the problem for the hunting rule-makers is determining how it fits in with conventional game seasons. It’s not a rifle, but can it be used during rifle season? It’s not a bow, but is it so different from a crossbow that it can’t be used during crossbow season?

These are the questions to be answered in the near future, we hope. In the interim, the Crackshot XBR is a fun implement that can be applied in areas for hunting select species for which there are no weapon restrictions. Not long ago, for example, we leveraged the Crackshot XBR on a hog hunt on private land. You may be able to use it to hunt varmints where you are. Check the regulations first, of course, but the point is that there are options where the Crackshot XBR can let you scratch the hunting itch. If not, it is downright fun shooting at archery targets in the back yard.

The rifle portion of the Crackshot XBR kit is a single-shot break-action chambered in .22 LR. It’s hammer-fired and includes a manual trigger block and transfer bar. There are no open sights, but there is a polymer Picatinny rail shroud that allows you to install a scope or red dot optic atop the 16.5-inch barrel.

Disassembly of the rifle barrel is simple. Unscrew the sling swivel stud from the forend and the barrel can be separated from the receiver.

Installation of the included XBR assembly is the reverse of the rifle disassembly. The XBR upper comes with a 4×32 fixed scope mounted to a Picatinny rail. We found the scope well suited for our hog hunting exploits in the typical ambush ranges of ≤ 30 yards. For longer range shooting, where arrow drop becomes a factor, the Crackshot XBR would be an ideal candidate for a speed-adjustable crossbow sight.

So, how does the Crackshot XBR receiver do its thing? Quite simply. Fitted into the receiver is a tube that is, essentially, a chamber extension. A “barrel shroud” fits over the tube and threads onto the receiver.

The Crackshot XBR utilizes standard-length crossbow arrows without nocks.

To load the Crackshot XBR, the arrow slides onto the chamber extension until it stops.

To propel the arrow downrange, the Crackshot XBR relies on Powerloads that Traditions sells in 100/box allotments. These are proprietary cartridges that only look similar to the propellant cartridges some of you who use Ramset power tools (fastener guns) may be familiar with. Pretty cool. With the arrow inserted fully into the barrel and a Powerload seated in the chamber, the Crackshot XBR is ready to launch an arrow once you cock the hammer and pull the trigger.

We didn’t have a chrono available for our field test, but Traditions claims the Crackshot XBR can propel an arrow up to 385 fps. That velocity will depend, of course, on the weight of the arrow and the point used. (The Crackshot XBR is designed for use with 2216 aluminum arrows.) Still, that is within the speed realm of the upper half of conventional crossbow velocities, so there is no question as to the Crackshot XBR’s lethality on game animals. We tipped ours with a SEVR Titanium 2.1 two-blade expandable broadhead for our hog hunt and the results were predictably devastating.

Traditions sells the Crackshot XBR in three flavors — Kryptek Highlander camo, Realtree Edge camo, or black. All packages come with a 4×32 scope mounted to the XBR receiver and include three Traditions Firebolt arrows. Optional for hunters is a quick-detach quiver system that holds three arrows.

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