New made-in-the-USA crossbows prove high performance and budget-friendly prices are not mutually exclusive

by Rob Reaser

The archery segment — and the crossbow marketplace, particularly — has enjoyed a robust year despite (or perhaps because of) the 2020 pandemic disruptions. The fact is that veteran and new hunters alike have zeroed in on crossbows to expand their hunting opportunities (translation: put more meat in the freezer) and to establish a weapon alternative in the face of scarce or often non-existent centerfire rifle ammunition stock. Crossbows are, after all, legal substitutes for firearms in many states, and their inherent accuracy and lethality on big game animals within typical archery distances (out to 50 yards) makes them a solid option for any hunting pursuit.

The challenge for hunters who are new to the crossbow world is balancing quality and performance with price. Good crossbows don’t come cheap, and those that are made in the USA rather than those assembled from parts made in China present an even higher cost. But as they always say, you get what you pay for.

One crossbow brand that has historically bucked that trend is Wicked Ridge — a line of wallet-friendly crossbows under the TenPoint Crossbow Technologies banner that are also made in the U.S. and benefit from much of TenPoint’s premium crossbow innovations and technology.

For 2021, Wicked Ridge is taking a large step into its growing spotlight by delivering two new crossbows that span the chasm of reliable performance and affordability…the NXT400 and the Blackhawk 360.

Wicked Ridge NXT400

The new NXT400 sits at the top of the Wicked Ridge product pyramid. Developed to provide hunters with performance benchmarks typically found in crossbows costing twice as much, the NXT400 packs a wallop for its $1,099 MSRP.

Speed continues to be the key arbiter of crossbow status, and the NXT400 delivers with a factory-rated 400 fps when shooting a 400-grain arrow and with kinetic energy of 142 ft/lbs. That places the NXT400 in the realm of premium crossbows costing significantly more. That speed comes from an exquisite combination of RX-6 cams and 200-lb. Dual Flex limbs.

To ensure downrange accuracy and repeatable point-of-impact, the NXT400 calls on several proven technologies, such as the Vector-Quad four-cable configuration that reduces cam lean and adds overall strength and stability. The Tri-Lock pocket system mounted to the NXT400’s CNC-machined 7075-T6 aluminum riser offers precision limb-to-pocket alignment to further the accuracy and stability quotients.

Another hallmark of the NXT400 is its remarkable 6-inch cocked axle-to-axle width. This makes the NXT400 the narrowest crossbow in the Wicked Ridge lineup and provides the kind of high maneuverability favored by those hunting in treestands or in tight ground blinds.

From an ergonomic standpoint, the NXT400 hits all the right notes. The foundation comes courtesy of TenPoint’s renowned Functionally Superior Bullpup (FSB) stock molded from PolyOne’s OnForce composite material. This stock presents a length-of-pull and cheek height that expertly fits most shooters across a wide range of body sizes and clothing options. With its strategically cored buttstock and 21.5-inch machined aluminum barrel, the NXT400 weighs a pleasing 7.4 pounds and measures 33-inches without the stirrup.

As with all Wicked Ridge crossbows, the NXT400 comes in package form, ready for final sight-in and hunting. Included is TenPoint’s ACUdraw crank-style cocking device integrated into the buttstock and the company’s 3x Pro-View scope. The crossbow also comes with three Alpha-Nock carbon arrows, a quiver, and a string stop system for reduced noise and vibration. Stylish, double-dipped PEAK camo rounds out the package.

Wicked Ridge Blackhawk 360

With its $399.99 MSRP, the all-new Wicked Ridge Blackhawk 360 is the lowest-priced crossbow on the market today that is made in America. The downside? Nothing that we can find.

The Blackhawk 360 hits the 360-fps mark when shooting 370-grain arrows. That’s big-game-killing performance by any standard and one of the best performance-to-price ratios you’ll find anywhere. That performance is attributed to the Blackhawk 360’s 175-pound WRX laminated limbs and robust 5S cams actuated by DynaFLIGHT 97 strings and cables. Cocked axle-to-axle width is 15 inches and overall length, minus the stirrup, is 35.5 inches.

As an entry-level crossbow, the Blackhawk 360 gives up nothing. The skeletonized stock hosts TenPoint’s reliable 3.5-lb. trigger system with an incorporated dry-fire inhibitor. Overall weight is a surprisingly light six pounds. If accessories, such as a light for nighttime hog hunting or a bipod or shooting stick mount is your thing, the Blackhawk 360 can accommodate with its Picatinny rail positioned below the front of the barrel.

Offered with a tactical black stock and PEAK camo limbs, the Blackhawk 360 comes ready to roll with TenPoint’s pre-mounted and 20-yard-sighted Multi-Line scope, three XX75 Alpha-Nock arrows, a quiver, and a rope cocking device.

In these times of supply chain challenges, crossbows have really stepped into their own for many hunters looking for viable centerfire rifle alternatives to put meat on the table. While new crossbow hunters may experience a bit of sticker shock when they check out the crossbow rack at their sporting goods dealer, it’s great to see an American-made brand like Wicked Ridge step up and offer products priced to meet the times while delivering the performance and reliability discerning hunters expect.

Shoot On Editor-in-Chief Rob Reaser is a lifelong outdoorsman, former magazine editor, columnist, and contributing editor to numerous national publications in the automotive and outdoor segments. He has also authored and co-authored several DIY gun building books. His shooting and hunting passions cover everything from traditional archery and big-game bowhunting to the latest in handguns, rifles, and reloading. Rob has a troublesome habit of pulling guns and things apart to see how they work; occasionally, he manages to get them back together...

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