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Crossbow review: Stryker StrykeZone 380

Every crossbow manufacturer offers unique features and strong selling points for its products, and Stryker Crossbows has plenty of both. Part of the BowTech family (a subsidiary of Savage Sports Corporation), Stryker Crossbows is offering the StrykeZone 380 for 2012. It’s the fastest crossbow in an already super-fast StrykeZone line.

It’s easy to assemble with a Phillips-head screwdriver and a 9/64-inch Allen wrench, and I had my sample bow, scope, sling and quiver ready to head for the bench just 15 minutes after delivery.

First impressions: A nice, lightweight crossbow that’s well-balanced, solid and comfortable to shoot. I especially liked that the StrykeZone 380 “GameOver” package includes a cocking rope, scope, sling, five arrows (with target tips) and a quiver. This crossbow is ready for a quick trip to the range and then the blind or tree stand — nothing else to buy except your preferred broadheads.

The StrykeZone 380 is rated at 380 fps with a 160-pound draw weight, and my chronograph gave readings slightly faster than that off a lightly-lubed rail using Stryker’s own carbon-fiber arrows. Technology is great in the laboratory, but being an old-school hunter with more than 50 years of field experience, I judge any bow’s arrow speed by a slightly less scientific method — the Squirrel Factor. If I can nail a squirrel with an arrow at 20 yards, I consider the bow to be “plenty fast!” Bowhunters who have tried to hit an alerted gray or fox squirrel at 60 feet know what I’m talking about — and probably have left more broadheads stuck in unforgiving oaks than they care to admit. The StrykeZone 380 surprised them (and me) last season with three out of three hits at 20 yards. Few adult whitetails are going to jump that string!

Weighing in at a relatively light 7 pounds, the StrykeZone 380 offers a 19 ½-inch axle-to-axle width (15 ½ inches when cocked) and a 15 ½-inch power stroke.

Overall length is 34 ½ inches, easily passing the portable blind test as well as the “Can I shoot behind me in a tree stand?” competition. Thankfully, the trend in crossbow manufacturing is increasingly away from wide, long crossbows that are all but impossible to cock or shoot in the confines of a blind or climbing stand, but Stryker has a winner in its StrykeZone 380 as far as ease of use in cramped conditions is concerned.

Other features of the crossbow include the patented KillSwitch piston trigger design, which allows the trigger pull to be independent of the bow’s holding weight. A double sear produces an ultra-light (among crossbows, anyway!) trigger pull of under 3 pounds, with minimal travel. The bow also boasts Stryker’s Auto-Flip magnetic safety which clicks into the safe position every time the bow is cocked. It will also click back into safe mode if the crossbow is dropped or when the arrow is removed.

The StrykeZone 380 is also equipped with a two-pronged Cease-Fire safety plug that locks the string holding jaws and trigger in place until the bow is ready to be fired.

Available in Mossy Oak Treestand or Optifade Forest, the StrykeZone 380 stock is weatherproof but has five soft rubber inserts on each side of the forearm that provide a sure, steady grip in cold or wet weather. Combine that with rubberized, grip-enhancing gloves, and it’ll be nearly impossible to drop this bow unless your gloves fall off, too!

Options and features are great when it comes to selling a crossbow, and I’m well aware of that. To me, what matters most is if the crossbow you’ve purchased will send an arrow into the boiler room of a broadside whitetail out to 40 yards — every time. I have always been a stickler for accuracy and won’t accept good enough or merely OK shooting. I sight my crossbows in so the second arrow destroys the first. When I can’t afford to shoot two arrows at the same bull’s-eye I consider the crossbow ready for a hunt.

The Stryker 380 package includes a basic Sport Optics 3x32mm 4X scope with crosshair and four circle reticles. Because the scope must be mounted by the user, I recommend shooting first at 10 yards for group, making the necessary adjustments for center and then continue shooting for center at 20, 30 and 40 yards. By the way, I don’t like or recommend shooting a crossbow at live game at 50 yards in woodland situations, but practiced hunters who are set up in open fields with calm conditions can certainly make such shots. It’s not a question of whether the crossbow can perform at long range under ideal conditions; it’s whether the existing conditions (cover density, wind and target positioning, etc.) will allow it.

Even when crossbows are delivered with scopes that are factory mounted and sighted, it’s always recommended that the shooter fine-tune the bow to his stature, vision and temperament starting at 10 yards. As is the case with rifle shooting, it is common for Shooter A to sight in a crossbow to hit dead on at 20 yards and then Shooter B can’t even hit the same hay bale.

It took only three arrows to get the Stryker 380 hitting dead center at 20 yards, and then I had no trouble getting center hits on 2-inch circles at 30 and 40 yards. Stryker does not recommend the use of flat nocks with its crossbows and, in fact, using them will void the warranty. I’m a fan of half-moon nocks anyway, so the point is moot. I did try a variety of half-moon-nock arrows with the crossbow and found little change in velocity or accuracy. This bow shoots straight, fast and accurate, and that’s all anyone can ask from a hunting crossbow.

I waxed the bowstring, rail and cable slide per the manufacturer’s instructions and, after 200 arrows, saw no evidence of wear, string stretch or cable weakening. The cams were solid and tight throughout and I found no mechanical or operational defects. For an MSRP of $749, the StrykeZone 380 is a good value on today’s crossbow market, with nothing more to buy than a protective case and broadheads as needed.

While I could not find any dislikes about this crossbow, but there are a few peculiarities the prospective buyer should consider. Among them is that the manufacturer does not recommend keeping the bow cocked for more than 10 hours — the first time I’ve ever heard of that. In early fall (or during spring bear hunts) it is possible to be on stand for 12 hours or more, so the 10-hour recommendation seems overly cautious. Most other crossbows can be left cocked for days, weeks or even all season — some manufacturers even admit that keeping their bows cocked indefinitely will not hurt them.

Also, Stryker cautions against keeping the crossbow in “areas of extreme temperatures” to avoid string or cable stretching. Over the course of a season I’ll hunt where daytime temperatures are over 100 (as is the case in Texas) or dip below zero (in the latter days of the north-country season — which end in February in some cases). I’ll test this bow under these conditions this season and see how it performs. I have a feeling these are merely cautions and not suggestions that the bow will implode when it becomes hot or cold. Truthfully, I did have a crossbow stock disintegrate in my hands after shooting it at -5 degrees one time, but that was years ago and the problem was in the design of the composite stock, not the string or cables.

Another oddity with the StrykeZone 380 is that the stock lacks a notch for the cocking rope. Instead, the rope must be laid across the center of the recoil pad, which serves as the fulcrum. Care must be taken to keep the rope centered on the recoil pad, particularly during wet or cold weather. I also found it a tad hairy to cock the bow while sitting in my climbing stand, but it can be done with care and focus. If you are being attacked by a rutting whitetail, I’d recommend using the finger method to cock the bow!

A very minor issue with the setup is that when the scope is mounted forward on the Picatinny rail base, the rear scope cap will not fit between the rail and the eyebell. The scope can be moved rearward to counter the problem, but this could create aiming difficulties for hunters with long arms and necks. I have short arms and found the stock to be about two inches too short for comfortable shooting. The stock is adjustable (using plastic spacers), so a little tinkering with the stock and scope should solve any of these issues.

Overall, however, the StrykeZone 380 package is well worth the suggested MSRP and gives hunters a lot of crossbow for the price. To find out more about Stryker’s line of StrykeZone crossbows and accessories, log onto www.strykerxbow.com

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