August 09, 2021
By Bob Humphrey
One of the more exciting trends in the crossbow world this year is the development of high-tech optics.
There was a minor movement in optics several years back when companies such as Nikon and Leupold introduced crossbow-specific scopes, but those were basically modifications of existing physical features such as fixed, compensating reticles and smaller size. Perhaps they were a bit ahead of their time, because interest was lacking and most lines were discontinued. Since then, others, perhaps motivated by increased crossbow-hunting opportunities and ever-faster crossbows, have taken up the torch and not only run with it, but jumped ahead by incorporating rangefinding technology. What follows is a trio at the head of this year’s class of glass.
Burris Oracle X Rangefinding Crossbow Scope
The Oracle X Rangefinding Crossbow Scope’s generous 2-7X variable range allows you to zoom in and out for far and near targets, and features magnification compensation so your aiming point remains accurate when changing magnification. An integrated inclinometer also compensates for steep angles. You zero the top reticle with physical windage and elevation adjustments on the base, much as you would with a rifle scope, and locking screws ensure adjustments stay in place. Subsequent sighting-in at longer distances using the truing menu provides an accurate ballistic curve for your specific bow-and-bolt setup.
With the Oracle X, accurate ranging comes with the push of a button. The Bluetooth wireless remote can be attached anywhere on your crossbow with zip ties or Velcro (included), so your eye remains on target when ranging. The reticle then provides an accurate, LED-illuminated aiming point. The scope weighs just over 30 ounces and the base mounts on both Weaver and Picatinny rails and features built-in adjustment for custom eye relief. Waterproof, shockproof and rugged enough to handle any conditions, the Oracle X also features Burris Optics’ no-questions-asked forever warranty. $899 | burrisoptics.com
Garmin Xero X1i Crossbow Scope
A crossbow-specific version of Garmin’s similarly named A1i Bow Sight, the Xero X1i offers laser rangefinding capability with fixed 3.5X magnification and a range of neat features. Illuminated aimpoints automatically adjust to ambient light conditions, ensuring easy acquisition without obstructing your sight picture, and you can choose from several options in reticle shape (dot, circle, etc.) and colors (red, green, yellow, orange, blue). If you have a chronograph, you can set your bow speed in the menu and the scope automatically adjusts reticles for your trajectory curve. Or, you can manually zero a couple of different ranges and the scope automatically adjusts for the rest.
If you use different bolt-broadhead combinations for different applications, you can create custom bolt profiles with unique aimpoint stacks for a variety of setups. You can also range and lock in distances to fixed locations like you might do with a conventional rangefinder when first settling into your stand. The integrated inclinometer compensates for steep angles and displays line of sight distance, angle and compensated distance, and an aimpoint level shows if you’re canting. The X1i can be linked with other compatible Garmin GPS devices to show both your and the target’s exact locations when the shot was taken, which could be tremendously helpful in locating your bolt and recovering game. An automatic string counter records each shot to help you monitor string life and general maintenance.
The X1i weighs 28 ounces and is just over 6 inches long. It’s available directly from Garmin and also as a factory option on several new TenPoint crossbow models. $1,399 | garmin.com
Halo Optics Hyper X Laser-Rangefinding Scope
Halo Optics incorporated both its existing technology and new features into the Hyper X Laser-Rangefinding Scope. The foundation is a 4x32mm scope with premium, multi-coated glass lenses and a rugged housing and water-resistant body on a Weaver-style rail mounting system that fits most crossbow rails. A variable, illuminated reticle system allows you to toggle between crosshair and/or dot reticle modes to suit preference or conditions, and to adjust reticle settings to match the specific speed of your bow. The wireless remote activation button can be conveniently and ergonomically mounted anywhere on the stock, eliminating the need to adjust shooting form or grip. A simple press of a button gives an exact range reading to a single target two times faster than previous Halo models and many of the current competition. A long button press puts the optic into scan mode, allowing you to steadily range and lock in multiple targets — up to four distance readings per second — at different yardages so you can adapt your plan in real time. In addition, the scope’s Angle Intelligence automatically calculates angle-compensated distance. $499 | halooptics.com
Putting It All Together
The advantages of integrated rangefinding capabilities, as highlighted above, are obvious. Now shooters can acquire their target in the scope and be ready to fire almost immediately. Without lifting their head from the stock and losing the sight picture — all while precious seconds elapse — they can press a button and get instant, illuminated and accurate instruction on where to aim.
Some might argue all this is too much technology, perhaps offering an unfair advantage; however, the overall objective once game is close is to make an accurate, lethal shot. You still have to put yourself in a situation that presents that shot opportunity, and that’s the essence of fair-chase hunting.