The crossbow market is getting more crowded all the time, but for a substantial number of experienced crossbow hunters, Ohio-based TenPoint (330-628-9245; www.tenpointcrossbows.com)set the bar a long time ago and has been raising it ever since. For 2015 TenPoint introduces the Stealth FX4, described by some shooters as a supercharged version of last year’s successful Stealth SS. At a very comfortable 6.8 pounds the weight is identical, as is the length at 34.4 inches. With a width of 13.3 inches the FX4 is a shade more compact. The 185-pound draw weight is unchanged. The key difference? Thanks at least in part to a power stroke of 13.4 inches compared to the Stealth SS’s 12.6 inches, the FX4 picks up 18 fps to propel arrows downrange at a thumping 370 fps. Retained, in addition to a thumbhole stock, are all the features fans of TenPoint crossbows have come to expect, including the choice of TenPoint’s famous ACUdraw 50 ($1,219) or integrated ACUdraw cocking device ($1,319), a quick-detach three-arrow quiver with an ambidextrous side-mount quiver bracket, a three-pack of TenPoint carbon arrows with 100-grain field points, a BowJax Crossbow Noise Dampening Kit, Dry Fire Inhibitor, 3½-pound trigger and a 3x Pro-View 2 Scope. The black scope, limb pockets, barrel and stirrup contrast nicely with the Mossy Oak Break-Up Country finish on the stock and limbs.

Who says a woman’s crossbow can’t be fast? Not TenPoint. The brand-new Lady Shadow generates 350 fps and 101 foot-pounds of kinetic energy to take down virtually any game on the planet. The size is right, too, with a length of 34.4 inches and a compact width of 17-1/2 inches uncocked, 13-1/2 inches cocked. Mass weight is a very welcome 6.4 pounds. The Lady Shadow features a polymer barrel mounted to TenPoint’s now-familiar FSB (Functionally Superior Bullpup) stock. Rubber safety wings embedded in the barrel provide a safety feature while helping to reduce noise and vibration. The Lady Shadow has a draw weight of 180 pounds, very manageable with the choice of TenPoint’s ACUdraw 50 ($1,019) or ACUdraw integrated cocking device ($1,119). It comes with TenPoint’s 3x Pro-View 2 Scope on a 7/8-inch machined-aluminum dovetail mount, an instant-detach three-arrow quiver and ambidextrous side-mount quiver bracket, three TenPoint aluminum arrows with field points and an instructional DVD. The hot pink premium DynaFLIGHT strings and cable complement the Muddy Girl camo stock.

At 5.2 pounds it’s a featherweight in the premium crossbow world. It’s 22 inches wide (cocked) with a power stroke of 9-1/2 inches and an overall length of 32-1/2 inches, making it far and away the most compact recurve crossbow on the planet. Despite that, the aptly named Excalibur (800-463-1817; www.excaliburcrossbow.com)Micro 335 ($950) cranks out a very respectable 335 fps top speed with a 350-grain hunting arrow. The downsized new Gen 2 CRT limbs, along with the 270-pound draw weight, generate the speed, but it’s primarily the skeletonized Feather-Lite stock that gets the weight down near vertical bow territory. Rubber grip inserts along with the ambidextrous cheek piece make the minimalist stock comfortable. The oversize trigger is a nice touch for cold-weather hunting, and balance is excellent thanks to the recurve limbs and overall design. The smooth-shooting Micro 335 is touted as a great crossbow for treestands and ground blinds, but at this weight (did I mention it’s 5.2 pounds?) it’s a great crossbow for spot-and-stalk hunting as well. Finish options include Realtree Xtra and Textured Black Tactical.

For 2015 Barnett (727-234-4999; www.barnettcrossbows.com) is doubling down with the new Buck Commander Raptor Reverse ($599), billed as the best elements of all Barnett crossbows combined into one package. At 6-1/2 pounds the Buck Commander Raptor Reverse is definitely on the light side, thanks largely to Barnett’s CarbonLite Riser, which eliminates approximately 43 percent of the weight from the riser without sacrificing strength. Arguably even more important, the reverse-draw design puts the limb pockets and the bulk of the limbs themselves further back, shifting the center of gravity and making for better balance while reducing noise and vibration. In addition to those features the Buck Commander Raptor Reverse boasts a CNC machined 7/8Picatinny Rail, a pass-through foregrip with finger guards and an adjustable butt pad to ensure a good fit. Axle to axle it’s a super-compact 10 inches (cocked) with an overall length of 31.7 inches and a 15-1/8 inch power stroke. With an easy-to-cock draw weight of 155 pounds, the Buck Commander Reverse Raptor generates a top speed of 330 fps using the 20-inch arrows provided. In addition to three arrows, the standard package includes a quick-detach quiver and an illuminated 4×32 multi-reticle scope. Available in a carbon-fiber finish or a high-definition camo, this is a crossbow you’ll be proud to slide out of its case.

The Wicked Ridge (330-628-9245; www.wickedridgecrossbows.com)lineup for 2015 features an entirely new stock on all crossbows, making all of them new in our book. This includes the Invader G3 ($549), which Wicked Ridge touts as a “total makeover” of last year’s Invader HP. The new stock is a pass-through fore-grip design with a long, glass-reinforced safety wing over it. Faster and lighter than its predecessor, the Invader G3, like all Wicked Ridge crossbows, borrows a lot of innovative technology from sister company TenPoint to offer high-end quality at a more moderate price. Some of those high-end features include the ACU-52 integrated, self-retracting rope cocking system; a TenPoint 3x multi-line scope; the Dry-Fire-Inhibitor and the 3-1/2-pound trigger. Also standard with the Invader G3 is a Wicked Ridge instant-detach three-arrow quiver and three Wicked Ridge 400-grain carbon arrows. With a draw weight of only 165 pounds, the Invader G3 nonetheless achieves a good top speed of 330 fps. A new machined riser with optimally configured cutouts, together with the new stock, gets the mass weight of the Invader G3 down to a svelte 6.6 pounds, and at full draw the width is a very maneuverable 19 inches. The Invader G3 is double-dipped in Mossy Oak Treestand.

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Two things immediately got our attention with the new Mission (608-269-2728; www.missionarchery.com)MXB-Sniper Lite Crossbow ($599): It weighs less than 6 pounds, and it features a silent mechanical cocking device. The light weight speaks for itself: all else being equal, who doesn’t think lighter is better? The cocking device is Mission’s new RSD (Removable Silent Draw), which goes on and off in seconds, reduces the weight by a factor of 25 and employs a floating rope design that ensures equal tension on both sides of the bowstring for consistent accuracy. (Did we mention it’s silent?) The Smart Guide cable slide relieves downward pressure on cable and cams, contributing to durability as well as enhancing accuracy. It’s not that often you see a reference to a smooth draw cycle with regards to crossbows, but this crossbow’s SynCam system provides it for easy cocking and cam synchronization. It also contributes to a top speed of 310 fps with an easy 150-pound draw weight and a 14-inch power stroke. Width is 20-1/2 inches and length is 32-3/4 inches. All-in-all the MXB-Sniper Lite is all about ease of use and accuracy, and the Zebra Hybrid Strings and two-tone stealth concealment finish make it one good-looking bow.

Carbon Express (800-241-4833; www.carbonexpressarrows.com)jumped into the crossbow arena only a few years ago, although you wouldn’t be able to tell that from the quality and diversity of its crossbow lineup. For 2015, the company’s Covert 3.4 crossbow is now available in a model designed to meet the needs of female shooters. The Covert 3.4 Hot Pursuit ($600) features an ultra-compact design, measuring 12-1/4 inches cocked and 16-1/4 inches uncocked with a length of 30-3/4 inches. Although it weighs just 6.85 pounds, the Hot Pursuit still delivers speeds of 345 fps and 114 foot-pounds of kinetic energy. A new trigger box makes for a clean, crisp trigger pull, and premium components and craftsmanship make for superior performance. This dependable crossbow boasts an anti-dry-fire mechanism. The Hot Pursuit comes with a rope cocker, 4×32 multi-reticle scope, three-arrow quick-detach quiver, three Hot Pursuit 20-inch bolts, three practice points and rail lube, and it’s finished with popular Muddy Girl camo.

Stryker Crossbows and Excalibur Crossbows put their horizontal bow vision together. The result: The 150-pound draw weight Offspring ($849). Said by Stryker and Excalibur to be an industry first, the Offspring marries the Stryker’s innovative compound limb design with Excalibur’s rugged and dependable stock assembly to create a powerful compound/recurve crossbow. Designed to be smooth shooting and whisper-quiet, the Offspring propels bolts downrange at 360 fps. Not too shabby for a 13-inch power stroke and easy to draw 150 pounds. In addition, the 3-1/2-pound match-grade trigger is already capturing the attention of serious crossbow goers. The trigger is said to be void of creep and ultra-smooth, thus boosting accuracy and overall shooting confidence. The Offspring spans a compact 20 inches in width and measures 37-1/2 inches wide, and at just 6½ pounds is easy to tote around the woods or the range. The crossbow features a silent manual safety and includes Excalibur’s Guardian Anti-Dry Fire scope mount. The Offspring is available in BlackOps and Mossy Oak Break-Up Country, and comes as a package that includes a multi-reticle scope, ADF scope mount, three Octane Accustrike carbon arrows, a four-arrow quiver and bracket and a rope cocking aid.

Winchester (877-227-9445; www.winchesterarchery.com)describes the new Dark Horse ($1,400) as “hard hitting.” Given its top speed of 375 fps and a corresponding kinetic energy of 132 foot-pounds, we’re not inclined to argue the point. The 13-inch power stroke, compact 17-1/4-inch axle-to-axle length, 8.8-pound mass weight and overall contemporary appearance aside, several things stand out about the Dark Horse. The first is Winchester’s unique de-cocking technology, which employs an internal hydraulic cylinder to quietly and easily uncock the bow. No need to remember field points or bring targets along when hunting with the Dark Horse. The folding adjustable fore grip is another welcome feature. Mounted on a Picatinny rail, it adjusts quickly and easily to fit any shooter. Two additional pic-rails are available for mounting flashlights, cameras or other accessories. The WXB-Evolution FFP scope is a nice feature, too, with unbreakable glass-etched reticles and adjustable illumination. Standard with the Dark Horse are LimbSavers and dual string suppressors for quiet shooting, a removable quiver, five carbon bolts with field points and a rope cocker. And it’s always a welcome touch when a crossbow comes standard, as does this one, with its own properly fitted soft case. The Dark Horse is made in the U.S.A. and finished in Tactical Black.

Horton (330-628-9245; www.hortoncrossbows.com)is back with several new crossbows, including the Storm RDX, and we’re happy about it. The iconic Ohio-based company has a new but familiar look thanks to the influence of its new owner. If the adjustable bullpup stock in Mossy Oak Treestand doesn’t tip you off, the TenPoint logo on the optional ACUdraw cocking device will. The brand-spanking-new Storm RDX sports a few other familiar TenPoint influences as well, including the Dry-Fire-Inhibitor and the 3-1/2-pound Bullpup T3 Trigger, but it’s the totally new features that really got our attention, starting with the reverse-draw design. Among other advantages, the reverse draw puts the center of gravity further back for better balance and contributes to an extremely compact design – as in 15-1/2 inches wide uncocked, 10 inches cocked. Lengthwise, the Storm RDX is 35-1/4 inches. With a rugged machined-aluminum riser the Storm RDX weighs in at a moderate 7.7 pounds. Thanks in part to the long draw stroke inherent in the reverse-draw design, the Storm RDX sends a 400-grain arrow streaking downrange at 370 fps with a 165-pound draw weight. Included with this crossbow is a Horton 4×32 multi-line scope, a Horton three-arrow quiver with three carbon arrows, and your choice of the Dedd Sled rope cocker ($1,019) or the integrated ACUdraw cocking device ($1,219). Black riser, limbs, cams, stirrup and scope contrasting with the Mossy Oak stock make for a sharp-looking package.

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Darton’s (989-728-9511; www.dartonarchery.com)new Rebel 135 SS ($892) grabbed our attention with its overall length of 32 inches, made possible in part by Darton’s forward trigger design. This design offers the additional advantage of better weight distribution to make an already light bow (7-1/2 pounds) feel even lighter. With a 13-1/2-inch power stroke and Darton’s innovative trackless barrel design, The Rebel 135 SS achieves a top speed of 350 fps with a 180-pound draw weight. Width is a comfortable 17 inches from axle to axle. Thanks to dual string suppressors, LimbSavers, and a patented barrel dampener, the Rebel 135 SS is impressively quiet. Safety is always paramount for Darton crossbows, hence the enhanced thumb and finger guard, anti-dry-fire system and ambidextrous safety. Inclusion of the 2-7×40 Toxin High-Grade scope – which boasts a 40mm objective lens, 2×7 variable power, and a lighted red or green glass reticle, among other features – takes standard optics to a new level. The Rebel 135 SS comes with the same Soft Touch coating as found on Darton’s premium vertical bows, and finish options include Next Vista, Muddy Girl and (our favorite on this crossbow) Carbon Black.

With crossbow designs improving rapidly, it’s difficult to avoid descriptions such as “innovative,” or “cutting edge.” That’s especially true for a crossbow like PSE’s (520-884-9065; www.pse-archery.com)Dream Season RDX 365 ($700). For starters, check out the reverse-draw cam system, which makes possible a longer draw stroke that results in a top speed of 365 fps despite a relatively compact length of 37-1/2 inches (including the stirrup) and a draw weight of 165 pounds. Then there’s PSE’s 3-pound trigger, which is among the best in the industry. A machined-aluminum barrel is mated to a composite stock for superb accuracy, and, consistent with all the preceding qualities, the 3×32 scope with illuminated reticles is several notches up the scale from your average crossbow scope. The Dream Season RDX 365 has multiple limb dampeners and string stops to keep it decidedly quiet, and naturally it comes with an auto safety and an anti-dry-fire mechanism. Axle to axle it’s 20 inches, with a mass weight of 7.6 pounds. It comes standard with the aforementioned scope, a five-bolt quiver, three 20-inch carbon bolts with 85-grain field points, a sling, a cocking rope, rail lube and a surprising – given its quality – price. The Dream Season RDX comes in Mossy Oak Country.

It’s ideal for women and youngsters and is marketed accordingly, but frankly we don’t see anything not to like about PSE’s new Vector ($450) for any crossbow hunter who doesn’t shop in the Men’s Big & Tall clothing section. At 310 fps with a 400-grain bolt, it’s plenty fast enough for any hunting scenario, and what’s not to like about a mass weight of 6.3 pounds? Draw weight for 310 fps is 150 pounds, but that can easily be adjusted down to 125 pounds for younger shooters. With a power stroke of 11-1/4 inches, the Vector has an overall length with stirrup of 32 inches and a super-maneuverable width of 18-1/4 inches axle to axle. The Vector features an upgraded cam system, PSE’s premium 3-pound trigger, built-in string stops, an anti-dry-fire mechanism and auto safety, and other features found on PSE’s premium crossbow lines. It comes with a 4×32 scope, a sling, three 20-inch Charger Carbon Bolts with field points, a cocking rope, a five-bolt quiver and rail lube. The Vector is available in Mossy Oak Infinity or black with purple accents.

The tagline is “Get More With Less” – as in 390 skeptic-silencing fps from Stryker’s (888-689-1289; www.strykerxbow.com)155-pound draw-weight Solution LS. The Solution LS ($1,049) also offers less – less weight at 6.9 pounds, less length at 35 inches including the stirrup and less width at 19-3/16 inches at brace and 16-1/16 inches at full draw. And then there’s less trigger travel at .015 inches and less pull at a very crisp 3 pounds. The Solution LS (the LS stands for Luxury Series) features a Cam Assist System to decrease stress and increase durability. Stryker’s Grip Shield offers additional safety, as does the Cease Fire secondary safety that locks down the trigger and jaw when cocked. (This is in addition to the primary Auto-Flip Magnetic Safety that resets when cocked or when the arrow is removed.) Balance is excellent, thanks in part to the less length, less width and less weight, and the Solution LS comes out of the box with three arrows, a three-arrow quick-detach quiver, a multi-reticle scope, a cocking rope and string stops. Contrasting with the black quad limbs, stirrup, barrel and scope is a Realtree APG stock.

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Still Scorpyd’s (319-331-4700; www.scorpyd.com)most popular crossbow to date, the Ventilator ($1,400) is a Reverse Draw Technology crossbow capable of hitting speeds up to 400 fps (150-pound draw weight version). With a mass weight of 7.9 pounds, this 12-7/8-inch axle-to-axle (cocked) crossbow sports on overall length of 35-1/2 inches and features a vented folding stock. The Anti-Dryfire Device ensures safety, and Scorpyd’s MIM trigger components help ensure what Scorpyd calls “the world’s best shooting experience.” The folding stock allows for greater ease when cocking the crossbow while boosting overall maneuverability. Rounding out the features of this field-worthy crossbow are its forged riser, Barnsdale Laminated Limbs, titanium fasteners, vented barrel and ViperX strings and cables. The Ventilator crossbow package comes with the choice of a Hawke 1.5-5 MAP non-illuminated or 1.5-5 SR illuminated scope, quiver, sling, sling studs, sled cocker, string stops, Bowjax Limb Dampers and six Scorpyd SPEC GoldTip Laser III arrows. Yep, with this package you are woods-ready from the get-go. The Ventilator also comes in 100- and 125-pound draw weight options.

Sporting a racy appeal and tactical-style stock, Velocity Archery’s (270-231-2911; www.velocityarchery.com)new-for-2015 Justice is sure to appeal to the AR-style crowd. Its 185-pound draw weight sends bolts screaming up to 370 fps and this speed coupled with overall bolt weight produces a devastating 122 foot-pounds of kinetic energy. Fitted with an ambidextrous safety and anti-dry-fire mechanism, this 36-inch long horizontal rig was built to ensure maximum safety. With a mass weight of 8 pounds and a total width of 21-1/2 inches, the Justice was built for treestands, ground blinds and spot-and-stalk missions. The 4-pound trigger was designed by Velocity to be crisp and allow the shooter to execute proper squeeze. The Justice comes fitted with a 4×32 illuminated crosshair scope, quiver, sling, three carbon bolts and is finished in stylish Reaper Buck camo.

A fiery furnace capable of hitting speeds up to 375 fps, Arrow Precision’s (610-437-7138; www.arrow-precision.com)Firestorm II is fitted with precision-machined aluminum cams to ensure maximum speed and functionality. Featuring a 14.2 power stroke, this 165-pound draw weight crossbow sports a light, crisp and creep-free 2.4-pound trigger that shooters are sure to praise. In addition, the individual compression molded limbs, lightweight composite stock and extruded and machined-aluminum track and barrel make this 8.2-pound rig a real tack driver. Measuring 40-1/2 inches long and 25.6 inches axle to axle when cocked, the Firestorm II is available as a package that includes a 4×32 illuminated scope, quick- detach quiver, four carbon bolts, a rope cocking device, padded shoulder sling and is cloaked in NEXT Vista camo.

Xbow Accessories

It’s no secret crossbow hunting is all the rave, and Rinehart’s (608-757-8153; www.rinehart3d.com)X-Bow Unloader ($40) is the perfect target for taking a practice shot before heading to the woods and for unloading your horizontal assassin upon returning to your truck. The X-Bow Unloader features a durable carry-rope handle and Rinehart’s legendary self-healing foam.

The Padded Crossbow Case from Velocity Archery (270-231-2911; www.velocityarchery.com)was designed to fit all Velocity crossbows as well as crossbows from a number of other horizontal-bow manufacturers. Fitted with two pouches for extra crossbow gear and available in two styles of carry straps (padded shoulder and hand carry), this case is a take-anywhere safe house for your crossbow.

Breathe new life into your crossbow with BlackHeart’s (800-366-4269; www.blackheartarchery.com)custom crossbow strings ($40). Produced using BlackHeart’s exclusive DuraWeave process – a process that includes pre-stretching the strands to achieve more consistent string length – these strings are built to ensure maximum crossbow performance. Other notable features include GuideLock Center-Serving and GuideLock End Loop Serving.

Partnering with broadhead master NAP, Barnett (727-234-4999; www.barnettcrossbows.com)gives crossbow goers the ultra-sharp GameCrusher Broadheads. Featuring ultra-sharp Diamize blades, this mechanical was designed to fly like a field point and cause immediate trauma.

A tested and proven system for split-limb crossbows, X-Factor’s (770-874-0390; www.xfactoroutdoors.com)Supreme Crossbow System ($45-$51) reduces noise levels by as much as 38 decibels and cuts felt vibration up to 30 percent. Offered in an array of colors and camo patterns, this system is quickly becoming a must-have item for the split-limb crossbow crowd.

Designed to fit most crossbows on the market today – even those with reverse limbs – the Rota Case from SKB (800-654-5992; www.skbcases.com)is constructed of heavy-duty rotational molded plastic to ensure superior strength and protection.

TruGlo’s (888-887-8456; www.truglo.com)Tru Brite Xtreme IR Crossbow Scope can be calibrated to work with crossbows with fps ratings between 225 and 400 and target ranges from 20 to 50 yards. The reticle can be used in standard black without illumination, and the adjustable scope base and rings provide greater vertical adjustment.

Still popular is HHA Sports’ (800-548-7812; www.hhasports.com)Optimizer Speed Dial ($199-$369). The Optimizer attaches to any standard7/8-inch Picatinny crossbow rail to enhance any scope setup and is guaranteed accurate by HHA at speeds between 225 and 450 fps and ranges between 20 and 80 yards.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>