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Crossbow review: Mathews’ Mission MXB 360

It’s not often that manufacturing and editorial deadlines converge, allowing me to take a new crossbow into the woods for a serious hunt, but Mathews’ new Mission MXB 360 arrived just in time to accompany me on a quest for a big Ohio whitetail.

First impressions do matter, and all of mine were favorable as I prepared the MXB for the trip. Assembly was quick and simple — attach the limbs and scope, sight in and get going. Nothing fancy, complicated or confusing, and that’s a good thing. I want to unpack and shoot my bows within minutes of their delivery, not spend all day assembling them! I especially liked the MXB’s solid parallel-mount quiver. The arrows are right there when you want them and there is no slop, slip or creep in the ambidextrous, friction-fit quick-detachable claw mount.

I was interested to see how the Mission crossbow, designed for 22-inch arrows, would perform against the standard 20-inch crossbow shaft. Although the longer arrow would likely mean more difficulty in finding a supplier in a world of 20-inch crossbow arrows, I figured that six back-up arrows would do me for this outing. One good shot is all it takes, and I don’t stretch it beyond 40 yards anyway. Six arrows in a one-buck state should be sufficient.

At the range, the new Mission shot about three inches to the right at 20 yards, but after a few clicks of left windage I was dialed in and on target.

Cocking the bow is a simple matter thanks to the built-in cocking rope anchor that also serves as a great place to store the cocking rope during the off-season. Of course, the rope must be carried in a pocket or pouch while hunting, but that’s not a major issue. Like most hunters, I have more places to stash stuff in my pack and clothing than I can ever use.

Interestingly, the Mission has no stirrup. Instead, foot holds are built into the limbs where one foot (left or right) is placed on the limb to support it during the cocking sequence.

Another plus about the Mission’s cocking procedure is that the bow comes to full draw with a loud, satisfying “Clack!” that leaves no question that the bow is fully cocked. However, when cocked the bow is ready to shoot and must be manually placed on safe by pressing the safety button (located halfway down the rail) every time it is cocked. This is certainly different than most bows and might take some getting used to for those who are most familiar with auto-safe cocking mechanisms, but if the MXB is the only bow you are going to use, remembering to set the safety won’t be an issue.

I was pleased that Mathews decided to include a free soft travel case with its crossbows. These units don’t travel well due to their size and bulk, and including a form-fitted case for the bow and accessories is a real plus.

Field-testing of crossbows is often a sunny-day affair with conditions of my choosing, but the Mission was put to the test immediately when I arrived for my Ohio hunt. Right behind me was Hurricane Sandy, which produced incessant wind, rain and snow over the next week. When gusts reached 75 mph one morning and trees were falling all over the woods, I elected to sit it out, but otherwise the bow and I were out there, braving the elements, all day every day.

For testing purposes I kept the MXB cocked continuously throughout the trip, firing the bow only every five days or so just to see how it would perform. The cold, wind, rain and flying debris had no effect on the Mission; my first post-storm shot was dead center at 20 yards.

The skeletonized stock and rail helps reduce the weight of the MXB, and the pistol grip made it easy to carry and handle the bow in and out of the stand. The forearm is designed to keep hands and fingers well away from the rail, and there are plenty of cautionary stickers on the rail and forearm reminding users to keep their digits away from the shooting plane.

At first I was surprised at the look of the Mission’s buttstock assembly, a lightweight plastic piece that screws onto the stock with Allen-type screws. I decided to use the bow and let its parts fall where they may, but after 16 straight days of hunting I came away with a new appreciation of the unit. After some 64 sessions of up-and-down by rope and strings the buttstock held firm, and when used in combination with the cocking rope anchor, made slick work of safely raising and lowering the bow from on high. I liked the idea that attaching the rope to the buttstock meant I would be lifting the bow with the rail pointing downward. Many hunters use the stirrup (which the Mission does not have) to raise and lower their bows, which means the bow is aiming at YOU while you are lifting it into the stand. (Never do this with an arrow on the rail!)

The buttstock is designed with a decidedly curved “hook” to it that serves as the perfect anchor point for hanging the bow on a convenient hook, tree limb or rail. The hook is wide and sharp enough to engage any level hanging surface, and I used all of the above with no problems during my hunt. I hung my bow on the side rail of my stands where I could quickly and silently bring it into action whenever deer were approaching. There were no problems with squeaks, chattering, thumping or banging — none of the whitetails I viewed through the Mission’s scope ever knew I was there.

Mathews’ Mission MXB 360 produces arrows speeds of “up to” 360 fps; however my chronograph showed slightly faster speeds — up to 370 with lightweight field tips and a freshly waxed rail. The crossbow weighs 6½ pounds and is a relatively slim 19 inches wide and 35 inches long. Adjustable draw weights are 100, 125 and 160 pounds, with a power stroke of 14 inches. Axle-to-axle length is only 19 inches, among the shortest in the industry and a real boon when traipsing in the dark through brush and saplings to and from the stand site. The Mission is light, short and slim enough to serve as a good still-hunting tool.

The Mission crossbow comes in Lost AT or Black with a standard Zebra Hybrid string, quiver, three 22-inch arrows and case. MSRP is $1,000.

The Scope

I think Mathews has a winner with its Hawke 1.5x32 SR IR illuminated scope. Rather than the standard crosshairs, the scope features a series of free-standing + reticles set at 10-yard increments, with additional reticles set in descending order that, for targeting purposes only, can be used to sight in out to 100 yards. I would not and do not recommend shooting crossbow arrows at live targets beyond 40 yards (perhaps 50 under ideal conditions, which are rare). But, this scope would be ideal for target shooting or competitive purposes on range targets only.

What I was most impressed about was the Hawke’s illumination program, which provides five settings in green or red that illuminate only the + reticles. In low light (which was the name of the game during the entire hurricane period) those reticles stood out in the dismal, rain-soaked woods and made it easy to find a target in the mist and fog. The scope includes convenient flip-up glass lens covers that make a big difference on rainy days, giving the shooter quick access to clear fog-free scope lenses at the moment of truth.

Conclusion

Dislikes? I would have liked to have seen the Mission show up at my door with a sling included, especially for those long walks back to and from the truck during the hours of darkness. Also (and this is an issue with most crossbows I’ve reviewed), I would prefer to see every crossbow supplied with rust-resistant screws throughout. During the Ohio trip I was literally able to watch as rust formed on my scope and assembly screws due to prolonged exposure to rain and mist. Even with daily cleaning and oiling, the persistent humidity was slowly winning the corrosion battle.

One final point: The MXB can only be used with mechanical broadheads because the rail channel design does not permit the safe use of the wider, fixed-blade broadheads. There is not enough clearance around the blades, so the blades are likely to “ride” the rail on the way out, creating an unsafe situation. Plus, the joint where the limbs meet the rail provides a perfect, absolutely dangerous stopping point for an arrow that is fired with a fixed blade broadhead attached. One can only imagine what might happen when the bow is fired, the broadhead blade stops in the limb joint and 160 pounds of torque forces the arrow forward. Not a good situation on any number of levels.

Otherwise, the Mission MXB came through 16 days of all-weather testing with flying colors. I saw 32 antlered deer within 40 yards during the trip and chose not to shoot any of them. This was a trophy hunt, and I did not want to shoot any buck with less than 10 points. I had my crosshairs on every deer I saw and am certain that, had I decided to pull the trigger, any one of them would have come home with me.

For more information on Mathews bows, Mission crossbows and the company’s other archery-related products, log onto www.missionarchery.com or call (608) 269-2728.

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