Crossbow hunting is booming across America, with more and more states legalizing horizontal bow use every year. There are many reasons for this—an exploding whitetail population, aging hunters who can no longer draw compound bows and ease of setup are usual the top three. Though I am a hardcore and dedicated compound bow shooter and hunter, I enjoy hunting with crossbows, too—a lot.
In this exclusive two-part series, you’ll get an inside look at the hottest crossbows for 2012. They have been listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in the order in which I think they should be ranked.
Arrow Precision Inferno Blitz II: Talk about a bargain! This bow features a fully dipped pistol grip thumbhole camouflage stock with rounded cheek plate, auto safety, machined aluminum barrel, compression fiberglass limbs and machined aluminum wheels on a cast aluminum riser. With a 150-pound draw weight, this bow shoots hunting arrows at 285 fps. The package includes 4x32 multi-reticle illuminated scope, quick-detach quiver, four arrows and rope cocking aid. MSRP: $299
Carbon Express Covert SLS: In just its second year in the crossbow business, Carbon Express has become a very popular option for serious hunters. The new Express Covert SLS slim line design allows for easy maneuvering in both ground blinds and tree stands with its 13-inch power stroke limbs. Other features include Advanced Bull-Pup stock with adjustable forearm and five-position tactical foregrip on a 9-inch Picatinny rail that makes mounting multiple accessories easy. The anodized aluminum flight rail supports a CNC machined aluminum riser with carbon-infused limbs, cams and tunable string and cable system. It has a 185-pound draw weight and arrow speed of approx. 355 fps. It comes complete with a deluxe lighted scope, quick-detach three-arrow quiver and three Carbon Express Maxima Hunter 20-inch shafts. MSRP: $599.99
Darton FireForce: Darton has long been known as a leader in compound bow innovation, so it is no wonder its crossbows are hot stuff, too. The FireForce features the company’s DualSync cams, oversized axles and sealed Quad Ball Bearings along with ultra-wide laminated split limbs—all of which are designed to withstand maximum stress and produce maximum performance. It also has a Tactical stock that has been redesigned to be more user friendly. For those who value top-end raw arrow speed, this bow shoots a 400-grain arrow at a screaming 395 to 410 fps. It comes with an integrated string suppressor and the company’s patent-pending Barrel Dampener to minimize vibration and noise. MSRP: $1,050
Excalibur Ibex SMF: This bow is somewhat unique among modern crossbows in that it offers recurve limbs and a cool thumbhole stock finished in Realtree AP camo. It’s designed to be a solid, game-getting tool that will last for years at an affordable price. The 175-pound draw weight generates 305 fps with a 350-grain arrow. It is available only in a kit that includes matching multiplex crossbow scope and mounts, quiver with mounting bracket, four arrows and a cocking rope. MSRP: $539.99
Horton Fury: This hot new bow is built around an advanced CNC machined lightweight barrel and new string stumper arms. Together with a 160-pound draw weight and 15 ½-inch power stroke, you’ll get an arrow speed of about 355 fps. The unique thing about the bow, however, is Horton’s patented Frontal String and Reverse Draw Technology, which really helps when trying to maneuver through the deer woods and also aids in balance. It looks weird at first glance, but when you hold and shoot the bow you quickly understand the company’s thinking. The stock features a Monet Carlo cheek piece, precision machined CNC cams with dual sealed bearings, CNC machined riser and Picatinny rail, an anti-dry fire mechanism, Talon ultra light trigger with dual-sided safety and spring-loaded bolt retention system. MSRP: $899
Maximus ERGO: The name comes from this bow’s “ERGO-nomically” designed system that incorporates nine patented or patents-pending features. It weighs just 7 pounds with scope, and is 17 ½-inches axle-to-axle and 16-inches wide when cocked. It has a bull pup stock design and a trigger with a true, 2 ½-pound pull weight. It comes in both 150- and 175-pound draw weights, which results in a 400-grain arrow leaving the bow at up to 330 fps. Both models come complete with a Maximus 100-yard reticle scope, quick-detach side mount quiver and three Maximus Carbon Slayer arrows. MSRP: $749-$799