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Crossbow Review: Carbon Express Intercept

Always a leader in innovative crossbow design, Carbon Express has raised the bar with its newest model, the Intercept, a hunting crossbow with a new platform that accommodates most military- and commercial-spec AR parts and accessories. Its 29 inches of Picatinny rail allow the user to customize the top, fore-grip and stock sections for a truly custom unit.

Compact at 35 inches long (the maximum length with the adjustable stock) for shooting from treestands or blinds, the Intercept is just 13½ inches axle to axle when cocked. An eight-position Picatinny stock rail allows the shooter to select the ideal length of pull (from 12 inches for smaller shooters to 17½ inches for adults) and the six-position AR-style buttstock collapses for easy storage and transport without the need for readjustment at the range or blind.

The Intercept is brimming with interesting and useful features that prove its designers are shooters as well as hunters. For starters, a 15-inch Picatinny top rail allows for precision scope placement using CX’s QD scope mounts. This gives the shooter a clear field of view on every shot as well as proper eye relief when shooting from acute angles — such as over bait in a 20-foot-high treestand or in a blind where the target appears from an unanticipated direction. Truth be told, many modern crossbows are designed with a one-position scope mounting system that often requires wiggling and jiggling at the moment of truth. Not so with the Intercept.

Ease of carry while walking to and from a stand or blind or while dragging that trophy buck back to the truck is a major consideration in crossbow design. Any crossbow is unwieldy (it’s just the nature of the beast), but Carbon Express has it covered in the Intercept’s AR concept. The crossbow accepts AR-type slings with two sling studs on the riser and one sling plate on the buttstock.

Shooters and hunters alike will like the Intercept’s low-profile, compact foot stirrup, which sits below the rail to provide a convenient, solid base for cocking the crossbow. Simply place the toe of your boot on the stirrup and pull — it’s as easy as that. Loading the crossbow in a stand or blind is quick and easy for fast second shots when necessary. Also, the stirrup’s under-rail design makes it ideal for hanging on tree hooks, stand rails or blind supports.

The Intercept’s spec sheet is as impressive as the crossbow itself. Designated as the Model 20261 for bookkeeping purposes, the Intercept has a draw weight of 175 pounds. Arrow speeds average over 360 fps on a power stroke of 13½ inches, generating 122 ft./lbs. of kinetic energy, which means the arrow will be through your deer and stuck in the ground beside it before the animal can react to the “thunk” of the crossbow’s limbs on the power forward stroke.

While the weight of the Intercept is listed at 8.3 pounds minus scope, quiver, arrows and fore-grip, the differential is minor when hunting out of a stand or blind with the quiver removed. Balance is a more important aspect in crossbows, and the Intercept “feels” like a 5-pounder at the range or on the way to the hunting site.

The length (30 ¼ to 35 inches depending on stock adjustment) and width (13 ½ inches axle to axle when cocked) makes the Intercept the perfect crossbow for midday still-hunting through thick cover such as bedding areas or rut zones. Here again, balance is key, and the Intercept carries well. Its slim profile design makes it a pleasure to hold while zigzagging through saplings, brush and briars.

Trigger pull is crisp and dependable at 3 ½ pounds with no creep, and CX’s patented Anti Dry-Fire (ADF) mechanism requires that each arrow be firmly seated on the string or the locking mechanism will not release even when the trigger is pulled — either on purpose or by accidental contact.

Specs and marketing fluff are all fine, but the proof is in the shooting. Not all crossbows made today live up to expectations, but the Intercept more than lives up to its hype. Quick and easy to assemble, the crossbow was ready for the range minutes after it was delivered. The QD scope was easy to place exactly where it was needed and the first shot off the bench was in the red, just an inch or so high. One quick adjustment and subsequent arrows were dead center at 20 yards, so close in fact that I opted out of shooting groups.

Because the Intercept’s scope features four line-circle reticles, I zeroed in for 20 yards with the top circle and began backing off in 10-yard increments to see where my arrows would strike. Happily, every arrow fired would hit a 50-cent piece at 20, 30, 40 and 50 yards with only a few flyers due to human error.

Because the Intercept’s owner’s manual suggests that any moon-nock arrow would work in the bow, I selected a batch of shafts from various makers and ran them through the entire range process. As might be expected, some arrows performed better than others at various distances; however, all were inside what I’d call the “kill zone,” an arbitrary 8-inch circle around the bull’s-eye. Knowing that being 8 inches off at 50 yards can create recovery issues on typically tough American big-game animals, I sorted through the pile and saved the arrows that performed best at each distance. With the proper arrow selection at known distances I was able to get the Intercept to shoot 2-inch groups all day long.

It’s also important to point out that various arrows and points (broadheads included) will shoot to a different point of impact when shaft or point changes are made. Always sight in and hunt with the same arrow configurations and use field tips that are similar in weight to the broadheads you intend to use. Any crossbow will perform well with some fine-tuning, but ultimately it’s the operator’s responsibility to ensure that the proper combination of crossbow, arrow and points are used.

Another plus about the Intercept is its weatherproof finish. Most manufacturers will make that claim, but my sample Intercept arrived when I happened to be in Ohio for the last week of the Buckeye State’s archery deer season. On February 1 it was below zero during the day and didn’t get above freezing all week. Seeing a chance to really test this bow, I left it outdoors every night, cocked, for a week. Having seen other crossbow stocks literally shatter when fired under such conditions, I was curious to see how the Intercept would measure up. Happily, the bow performed as advertised. It cocked smoothly and shot accurately each day, showing no ill effects from the bone-chilling cold.

Complaints? I’d prefer that the Intercept (and all crossbows, for that matter) include a protective case as part of the basic package. The best modern crossbows have reached or surpassed the $1,000 mark; quite an investment for any hunter. High-end gear like this deserves a case that will prevent dings, dents and other damage enroute to the range, stand or blind.

Also (and this is a commonality among crossbow manufacturers), the Intercept’s scope instructions are entirely relevant to rifle shooting and do not include specs on shooting with a crossbow. It’s not difficult for the crossbow shooter to back up another 10 yards and see where the second, third and fourth reticles place his arrows, but it would help to have some mention of where best to start the search for accuracy downrange. Some crossbows end up performing best at 5- or 15-yard increments, which makes a huge difference on targets or game.

The Picatinny Option

One of the best features of the Carbon Express Intercept is its innovative Picatinny rail system. Designed to appeal to lovers of AR rifles, the Intercept is the perfect “other season” tool for hunters who already own a variety of lights, grips and additional tactical-style gear.

With a little imagination a hunter could configure his Intercept for bow fishing, night hunting for predators and wild hogs, shooting out of high-elevation treestands, confined one-man blinds and other non-deer hunting situations.

The Picatinny rail also allows the user to make the necessary stock and grip adjustments for basic shooting at the range and for specialty uses such as competitive shooting, woodland practice ranges, roving and other off-season events and pastimes.

The Carbon Express Intercept crossbow package includes the bow, a 4x32 etched glass reticle illuminated scope, three Maxima Blue Streak arrows with field points and QD quiver, cocking rope and rail lube. MSRP for the package is $999.99. Additional accessories including sling, case and a wide variety of AR-type accessories are also available to fit the Intercept’s Picatinny rail system. Options include a crossbow release bolt (for de-cocking the crossbow), a complete line of arrows and fixed or mechanical broadheads, multi-colored lighted nocks, custom field points, scopes, multi-reticle red dot sight, telescoping shooting stick and cocking winch. The entire Carbon Express line of bows, crossbows and accessories may be viewed by visiting the Carbon Express website.


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