Review: Ravin R18

by
posted on April 29, 2024
Review Ravin R18 Lead

After a modicum of accuracy and safety is met, my top priority for a hunting crossbow is its size. Crossbows just 10 years ago made me feel like I was dragging a railroad tie to my deer stand. Perhaps I’m exaggerating some, but the point is, crossbow companies have done a wonderful job making bows narrower, shorter and lighter so they can be much more easily carried to the stand or a blind and maneuvered while there. Much of the credit is owed to the Ravin crossbow company of Superior, Wis., when it totally changed the game with its R9 model in 2017.

Ravin R18 crossbow profile facing right.

At just 9 inches overall width when cocked yet fast and accurate, the R9 was about half as wide as most other crossbows and forced other companies to up their engineering budgets or else be left behind. Since then, Ravin and a few other surviving companies have played leapfrog on building the fastest and smallest crossbows—all using the same general technology—until Ravin reupped itself with the release of its R18.

The R18 is unlike any “crossbow” anyone had ever seen. (I place crossbow in quotes because it’s really not a crossbow in the true definition because its limbs aren’t perpendicular to the arrow.) In essence the R18 is a radical-looking arrow-launching machine that’s 25 inches long (with its removable buttstock attached), 6 inches tall and just 4 inches wide. It weighs a shade over 6 pounds bare. In practice, it handles more like a bullpup-style carbine than a crossbow. By anyone’s standard it’s a marvel of engineering, all to solve a problem. As such, Ravin’s R18 is nothing short of revolutionary. 

Its secret is its eccentric system that builds off the firm’s past HeliCoil technology. It utilizes cams, pulleys, cables and some real brainiac thinking to create a dizzying level of mechanical advantage in a package so compact it was once likely thought impossible. Ravin’s proprietary “VertiCoil” technology reorients the limbs so that they are placed parallel with the arrow on both sides of the barrel, then flexed downward and held by the cocked string, thereby creating potential energy. As the trigger is pressed, releasing the string, the limbs spring upward, causing the cables to rapidly unwind 720 degrees around the cams and camshafts. As they uncoil, tremendous energy and string speed is derived, thereby powering the arrow. Because the cams are bound together by a one-piece shaft, there is no timing issue to worry about, a byproduct that increases accuracy potential.

Ravin R18 crossbow cocking system.

Cranking the R18 to load is a bit awkward at first, but soon becomes a quick and easy process. How-to videos can be viewed on the company’s website.

I found Ravin’s velocity claims to be spot-on, with its 350-grain arrows achieving exactly 330 fps for 85 ft.-lbs. kinetic energy. It shot 1.25-inch groups at 30 yards in a 5 mph wind. Its trigger is ridiculously good at just over 2 pounds pull weight.

After handling and shooting the R18 in my yard, my initial thought was that there would be no more reason to hunt with any other crossbow. But as I hunted with it more for deer, turkey and hogs, I found that it does have a few tradeoffs for its compact size. Essentially, it’s not perfect.

First, it’s rather loud. While sound is very tough to objectively quantify outside a laboratory, I believe the R18’s tiny frame does not lend it as much sound mitigation properties as larger crossbows. Its speed is certainly adequate for most hunting scenarios, but it’s certainly not a speed demon compared to some of today’s crossbows. (This fact is fine with me because I’ll take compactness and accuracy over raw speed any day.)

It seems Ravin over-engineered its removable stock; it’s tough to get on and off when it could have been a simple collapsible stock or even a hinge-pin design. Furthermore, when the stock is installed the bow’s length of pull, at over 17 inches, is uncomfortably long for a majority of shooters. I also wish its sled-style ratchet cocking system was silent. Its detachable quiver system needs to be redesigned because it’s too prone to falling off the bow. I wish the Picatinny rail were longer for mounting a scope if the user were to choose one rather than a red-dot sight like the three-dot version enclosed. And finally, its sling attachment system is not well made thanks to a flimsy forward stud. I am being critical here, because with a retail price of $2,000, I should be.

Ravin R18 crossbow top down view.

On the other hand, I found the R18 a pleasure to hunt with. It’s so small it can be stuffed into a backpack for travel, carried at the low-ready while still-hunting, and it’s about as good as it gets for hunting turkeys from the confines of a ground blind. For me the R18’s compactness trumps these details that will hopefully be improved upon in future Ravin VertiCoil models. I commend the company for thinking outside the box and blasting the crossbow needle ahead for hunters.

A few days before writing this story I was asked by a friend if I thought the R18 was worth its price. To me it depends: If you are a serious crossbow hunter who hunts many days per year and who often walks to your stands and prefers to be as mobile as possible when hunting, or someone who hunts from within the confines of a box blind or pop-up ground blind, then absolutely it is. I hope Ravin will produce an updated version of the R18, but only time will tell. Regardless, I feel sure that in 50 years, as someone reads the Wikipedia page on crossbows, Ravin’s revolutionary R18 will be mentioned.

Technical Specifications
Type: vertical-limb compound crossbow
Frame: CNC-machined aluminum
Limbs: split, fiberglass
Grip: nylon fiber
Overall Width: 4" cocked and uncocked
Power Stroke: 13"
Velocity: 330 fps
Overall Weight: 6 lbs.
Overall Length: 25" (w/stock), 18" (w/o stock)
Length of Pull: 17"
Trigger: 2.2-lb. pull weight
Safety: two-position toggle, automatic
Finish: anodized black
Accessories: three-dot mini-reflex red dot sight; 3-pack carbon arrows; quiver
MSRP: $2,049.99; ravincrossbows.com

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