Crossbows have been around for thousands of years and, even then, came in several different shapes and sizes. Widely utilized on the ancient battlefield, crossbows were modified to suit the needs of the average archer AND the large machines of war like ballistae. Suffice it to say that crossbows have undergone many changes over the years, and that is where we find ourselves today. With the heavy push for improved accuracy, speed, and cocking ability, we find ourselves in the middle of yet another revolutionary period in crossbow development.
If you want the latest and greatest technology in any device, product, or equipment, you’re going to have to fork over the cash. In the case of these crossbows, however, you’d be right to brag after making the purchase. Truly, any consumer that has gotten their hands on these know they would be putting their money where their mouth is.
In this guide we dive into the world of extreme engineering and innovation to show you the top five most badass crossbows on the market in 2017. If you’re looking for a crossbow that is both exceptionally functional and incredibly awe-inspiring to look at, this list will cover all the bases.
What makes a crossbow look so cool? There are a lot of different elements out there that catch the eye. Narrowness, speed, camo pattern, overall contours, etc. At the end of the day, however, the ones who can perform up to the hype of their curb appeal are the ones who really take the cake.
- Axle-to-Axle – One of the most important eye-catching elements of any crossbow is just how narrow a company can manufacture them. The narrower a crossbow is, the more maneuverable it will be when actually in use. Not to mention it give them a sleek, otherworldly appearance.
- Camo Patter – In the outdoor industry today, you can find just about as many different camo patterns as you can find stray popcorn in the bleachers after a high school basketball game. While the market might be saturated, that does leave you, the consumer, with a large number of options making the end result nothing short of stellar.
- Speed – No piece of archery hunting equipment is capable of achieving speeds greater than that of the crossbow. Part of what makes a badass looking crossbow even more badass is just how fast it can shoot an arrow. Just as a crotch rocket would lose appeal if it only drove 40 miles per hour, so too would a crossbow lose its badass appeal if it only shoots at 300 feet per second.
- Contour – Like the muscle cars from decades ago, sleek lines and impeccable contours lead to a sensual and seductive visual appeal that can make your jaw hang open. Crossbow manufacturers that are pushing the envelope in this category leave nothing left untold upon first impressions. You can almost hear the pur of a well-tuned engine around those cars, and you will feel the same feeling around these badass crossbows.
- Accuracy – At the end of the day, a well-placed shot can be the difference between success and failure in the field. Precision engineering can never be overlooked to make sure you can rely on your crossbow at any moment.
- Mass Weight – The physical weight of a crossbow can lend itself to great comfort and ease while shooting. At the same time, others can be cumbersome and awkward. This is all dependent upon your personal preferences.
- Shootability – The final thing to look at can encompass all of the above features and how they work together to make the bow as efficient and effective as possible for YOU, the hunter. Fit, feel, and function, as they say, can be deciding factors when purchasing a crossbow.
After taking all of these features into consideration we have carefully constructed a list of crossbows on the market in 2017 that will knock the socks off any archery enthusiast, and likely more clothing off those who are less experienced in the outdoor world. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!
Pricing last updated on 2020-01-16 - Disclaimer
Badasss Crossbow #1: Ravin Crossbows
Arriving onto the scene in late 2016, Ravin Crossbows graced the market with their presence AND their incredibly advanced Helicoil™ Technology. Ravin has developed a cam system that works with the string and cables through helical grooves, which help to virtually eliminate any cam lean that other bows likely experience. Cam lean, for those that aren’t familiar, contributes in large part to many inaccuracies that shooters experience. If the cam tilts off its intended axis of rotation, it throws unneeded torque on the string and can cause fish-tailing and erratic arrow flight down range.
The single feature that sets Ravin and their two crossbow models apart from any other manufacturer is their ability to design crossbows that are a mere 6 inches axle-to-axle when cocked. Most of the other ultra-narrow crossbows on the market today barely reach 10 inches axle-to-axle. Because of this, the Ravin R15 and R9 crossbows truly function as an extension of the shooters body. The other super impressive feature about these crossbows is just how fast they shoot. The R15 boasts an incredibly 425 feet per second! It’s counterpart in the R9 model shoots an impressive 390 feet per second, well above many of the other top end brands in the speed game.
Sporting a revolutionary AR rifle design, the sleek lines of this crossbow truly are a sight to behold. With Ravin Crossbows, you’ll find tactical-looking grips and but stocks, the ability to attach a bipod system to the fore-grip, and a speed adjustable scope to accommodate for guys that like to shoot different arrow weights. Another key feature of the Ravin is its crank lever cocking device, built in to the stock of the bow. Unlike other cocking devices, the entire trigger box travels down the barrel of the bow to attach to the string. This allows improved functionality and the ability to cock and uncock the crossbow without having to fire a shot.
One last feature of note for the Ravin Crossbow lineup is their unconventional use of one of the most advanced camouflage patterns on the market: Predator Camo. Incorporating digital elements in a naturalistic camouflage provides excellent color contrast and visual perceptive depth and, while not critical on such a slim piece of shooting equipment for concealment purposes, Predator Camo does lend the Ravin Crossbows to one hell of a badass, sexy piece of horizontal archery equipment.
For more information on the Ravin Crossbow lineup, click HERE.
Badass Crossbow #2: GEARHEAD X Series
Gearhead came onto the market within the last couple years, and they did so with a tsunami rather than just a simple splash. Looking like something a kid would build for the science fair out of an Erector Set, Gearhead definitely provides an incredibly unique and highly sophisticated appearance. With all the cores and cutouts, and the overall design of the crossbow stock and riser, you’re sure to get unmatched durability while maintaining one of the lightest crossbows on the market. The X series is manufactured in aluminum or carbon, up to the consumer’s discretion, and tips the scales as 5.75 and 4.75 pounds respectively. What the Gearhead X series lacks in narrowness, it certainly makes up for with its lightweight design in terms of maneuverability.
The X Series comes in two models: the X16 and X19. The numbers represent the power stroke of the crossbow, which is equivalent to the draw length of vertical compound and traditional archery bows. The longer your draw length, the faster a vertical bow is capable of shooting, and it translates in the same manner with power stroke and crossbows. The X16 shoots up to 340 feet per second and the X19 fires arrows up to 365 feet per second. Compared to the Ravin, these speeds hardly live up to expectations. But compared to the rest of the market, at draw weights of less than half that of other crossbows, at consumer’s choice of between 40 and 90 pounds, to be able to achieve those speeds for the X Series crossbows is highly impressive!
The Gearhead X Series crossbows find their place at number two on our list simply because of, well, how badass they look! Perfectly functional, exceptionally designed, and wicked cool with a black finish, the total package of this crossbow certainly makes up for its more average speeds.
For more information on the Gearhead X Series crossbows, click HERE.
Badass Crossbow #3: Killer Instinct SWAT
For the guy that truly wants a tactical beast of a crossbow, the Killer Instinct SWAT hits one out of the park. Take it from us, the SWAT is aptly named. Before we get into the features of this crossbow, let’s take a look at its specs:
- 385 feet per second
- 14 inches axle-to-axle
- 9 pounds physical weight
- 165 pound draw weight
- 5 inch power stroke
Now, when compared to other crossbows on the market, the performance of the SWAT alone, by no means, qualifies it as a stand-out model. So why does it fall at number 3 on our list? When you see the bonus features and design aspects, you’ll be drooling.
First, the SWAT is outfitted with a 5×24 power, speed selector scope; the XB30 PRO crossbow scope by HAWKE® Optics. Featuring the most advanced reticle on the market for crossbows, with a speed compensating dial AND reticle outfitted for accuracy from 20 to 100 yards, if there ever was a crossbow scope designed to help shooters reach out and drive tacks at long distances, the XB30 Pro is the scope to do it!
The SWAT just keeps the innovations coming! Its sleek black finish boasts a collapsible foot stirrup, comfort fitted fore-grip, limb dampeners to reduce vibration and noise, a comfortable AR pistol grip by Hogue Inc., and a subcompact butt stock for an overall length of just 29 inches, make the SWAT the most tactically outfitted AR style crossbow on the market. But wait, there’s one more thing.
Killer Instinct stepped it up a notch and enclosed the barrel. Now, with an upper and lower barrel section, the SWAT features Concealed String Technology (CST™) which provides a longer power stoke and a free floating sting. This reduces the friction the string experiences which helps to maximize the efficiency and power output of the sting to the arrow, increasing kinetic energy down range.
For more information on the Killer Instinct SWAT crossbow, click HERE!
Badass Crossbow #4: Barnett Ghost 420
Having upgraded the Ghost 410 from 2016, Barnett continues to make improvements year in and year out. From a company known for their radical designs, the Ghost 420 fits the bill for looks and ups its game with the second fastest shooting speeds on this list at up to 420 feet per second!
Speed aside, we should start by noting the impressively urban look of the monochrome Mossy Oak Treestand camouflage pattern. With the same predatory look of the infrared night vision, you’re sure to be a well-equipped menace with the Ghost 420 in hand, whether you’re hunting or target shooting. Though the looks of this bow are impressive, it falls short on our list in terms of functionality. At 20 inches axle-to-axle, the Ghost 420 falls well within, even below, the standards for high-end crossbows on the market today. Another staggering feature, and not necessarily in a good way, is that Barnett jumped its draw weight to 185 pounds of force in order to achieve its impressive speeds, and with no built in cocking aid to solve this problem, the Ghost 420 finds itself at number 4 on our list.
One thing it does have going for it is that it is outfitted with an illuminated 5×32 scope and a rubber butt pad extender for adjustability and comfort. Overall, the Barnett Ghost 420 is still a gnarly looking tactical style crossbow, well deserving of a spot on our badass crossbow list.
For more information on the Barnett Ghost 420, click HERE!
Badass Crossbow #5: Horton Vortec RDX
Horton, having been a well-known brand in the crossbow world for decades, was acquired by industry leading TenPoint Crossbow Technologies in late 2013. With the functionality of the workhorse Horton brand image, TenPoint added their American-Made innovation and has made great strides to improving a newly established Horton lineup. Here we find, coming in at number 5 on our list, the Horton Vortec RDX.
The only reverse draw crossbow to make the cut, the curb appeal of the Vortec will leave you wanting to shoot it for yourself. The highlight of this bow is how well the color scheme works together. Sporting Mossy Oak Break-Up Country camouflage, jet black limbs and riser, and the vibrant green of the new Horton logo, this bow definitely stands out in the crowd. Other notable aesthetic elements include an ultra- narrow front end at 9.125 inches axle-to-axle (second most narrow on our list), neon green and yellow string and cables, and the new Reaper Cam system, with tooth-like openings giving the Vortec a look not unlike the bayonets on old muskets.
What the Vortec RDX flaunts in terms of physical appearance, it does sacrifice a little bit in performance. The Vortec RDX is outfitted with a 3 power illuminated scope and only shoots 340 feet per second, making it the slowest bow on our list. This is largely due to an effort to redesign the features of its predecessor, the Storm RDX from 2016, to make the bow more user friendly and cost effective. You’ll find that the Vortec is the cheapest crossbow on this list.
Probably the biggest selling point for this crossbow is just how well balanced it is. When shouldered, the Vortec feels almost weightless even though it does tip the scales at just over seven-and-a-half pounds. This is due to the weight distribution of the riser being in the center of the bow. No longer is the weight hanging off the front of the bow, so the overall mass weight is more evenly distributed between pistol grip and fore-grip hands, offering an excellent shooting experience.
For more information on the Horton Vortec RDX, click HERE!
The biggest take away we found from compiling and researching the crossbows that made our list is that badass crossbows come in all different shapes and sizes. In fact, that is EXACTLY what qualified them to be badass. Each crossbow is just a cut above the rest who have tried to follow suit. In today’s market, unless a company is satisfied with simply being an efficient hunting crossbow manufacturer, they cannot settle. From tip to toe, every element has to be carefully examined and considered. From camouflage to stock and riser contours, to limb design, cam construction, and the scope a certain crossbow is outfitted with. All of these things must be taken into account, studied, researched, tested and re-tested, all to ensure that the finished product is worthy consideration as a badass crossbow. The way it has been done before, just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Companies have been thinking outside the box for years. Now, a team must think outside the box that the previous box used to call home. That is the only real way to catch the eye of consumers and crossbow enthusiasts like us.
Extreme engineering that pushes the boundaries of what is known to perform well, and innovative design teams that are willing to go the extra mile to find materials that allow these radical engineering concepts to take form, are the cornerstone of the future in crossbow technologies and innovations. The advances that we see in the manufacturing process for every industry and the binding of chemicals to make new and improved building materials, like aerospace carbon fiber, so too will crossbow, and all other outdoor equipment, be propelled into the future.
The Future of Crossbows
It is hard to say exactly what direction crossbow manufacturers will go in the coming years, but one thing is certain: there will continue to be some badass crossbows out there! Looking at how far crossbows have come in their thousands of years of existence, one’s imagination can wander when attempting to picture what they will look like in the future. Based on current market trends, you can bet that, at least for a little while longer, the main push will be narrower, faster crossbows. Stay tuned. Based on our list, you won’t want to miss the next round of ultra badass crossbows to grace the market.
If you like what you’ve seen form the list above, there are some tremendous additional resources that can provide you with even greater details and customer reviews for the five crossbows we’ve covered. A simple google search will take you to the crossbow page on their website, but visiting each brands social media page can provide press releases, different images, product videos, and consumer reviews. Also, different websites and forums such as ArcheryTalk.com and CrossbowNation.com are great places to go and read different testimonials about the overall function of these crossbows as well as breakdowns of highly specific details that might be of great importance. Lastly, if you aren’t finding the information you’re looking for, it is always a good idea to look up the customer service numbers for each company. Their staff and personnel will be well equipped with the information you seek. In the meantime, contact your local dealers and see if they carry these crossbow models. The best way to figure out which one you like best is to see, and shoot each crossbow in person. And when you do, we promise, you won’t be disappointed!