June 12, 2020
By Bob Humphrey
It is said that if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. The archery industry is rife with inventors and engineers continually seeking ways to build better contraptions that help make us more successful. Constantly looking over their shoulders are bean counters more concerned with the market forces of supply and demand. The most successful companies are those that use the latest and greatest in materials, engineering and technology to answer customer complaints and desires. If something works for one company, others are quick to mimic it; thus, we get trends.
I would venture that no segment of the outdoor industry is trendier than archery. As the past few years prove, and this year’s crossbows emphasize, those trends are often driven by customer demand. In this and ensuing columns, we’ll take a closer look at some of these trends.
Addition by Subtraction
If you’ve been a crossbow shooter for any length of time, you probably recall how unwieldy crossbows used to be, what with their long stocks and limbs and heavy weight. Crossbow makers continue to push the envelope in addressing this, with 2020 providing several prime examples.
Just five years ago, the average crossbow width was about 19 inches. By comparison, crossbows in Bear X’s new Constrictor series measure a mere 10 inches when cocked. Barnett’s new Hyperflite EVO 420 is only 9.3 inches across. TenPoint’s new Viper S400 spans just 7.2 inches wide, while its Vapor RS470 measures an ultra-narrow 6.5 inches. Ravin’s new R29X is even narrower at just 6 inches axle to axle. Excalibur even found a way to narrow cocked width down to 20 inches on recurve limbs with its Micro series.
Reducing width was accomplished in several ways, most notably through parallel-/reverse-limb or cam technology. Scorpyd was the first to provide the former, at least on this side of the pond. Others, such as Barnett with its Vengeance, Horton with its RDX and TenPoint with its aforementioned Vapor RS470, followed suit, and with good reason. After all, narrow crossbows are easier to transport and maneuver in tight places than wider ones.
These designs provide several other advantages, too. Compound shooters are already familiar with parallel-limb technology — first introduced by Mathews — and how opposing limbs effectively cancel each other out, significantly reducing shot noise and vibration. These configurations also move weight back toward the shooter, making for a more balanced, and therefore more stable and accurate, shooting platform.
A Little Off the Top
But the industry and the companies’ respective customers weren’t content with merely narrowing crossbows. They also wanted them shorter, and therefore even more maneuverable in tight places such as ground blinds and shooting houses. The average length of a crossbow made in 2015 was about 35 inches. Today’s Barnett Hyperflite EVO 420 is 31.5-32.75 inches long, TenPoint’s Vapor RS470 is 31 inches long and Ravin’s R29X is 29 inches long.
Length reduction was accomplished by several means, including the use of bullpup stocks, a design first introduced by Darton and continued in its Toxin series. Barnett achieved brevity with its Step Thru Riser, which incorporates the foot stirrup into the riser. Companies such as CAM X, CenterPoint and PSE use a collapsible, tactical stock to reduce length and allow for a custom fit — another trend.
Noise and vibration have long been knocks (pardon the pun) on crossbows. Counteracting them is a daunting challenge, given the energy that must be stored in an ever-diminishing (at least in size and weight) piece of machinery. In addition to the aforementioned limb configurations, crossbow makers have also added all manner of silencing technologies to their rigs.
Most of the higher-end crossbows, as well as many of the price-point and starter crossbows, have some type of string stop(s) installed to help deaden vibration and noise. Some also offer additional features. Excalibur’s Suppressor series, for example, includes R.E.D.S. Suppressors on the crossbows’ recurve limbs. Darton’s Toxin crossbows feature patented barrel dampeners and Sims LimbSaver Technology. PSE’s Fang platform combines limb dampeners and string silencers.