Crossbow Review: Barnett BCX

December 27, 2013

A perennial contender in the world of modern crossbows, Barnett has always had a reputation for building sturdy, solid products that are affordable, accurate and dependable in the field.

Barnett's newest offering, the Buck Commander Extreme (BCX), continues the company's efforts to compete in an ever-changing market. Billed as a "lightweight, compact speed demon," the BCX is all that and more. With a 185-pound draw weight and 13.37-inch power stroke, the BCX generates 118 ft./lbs. of kinetic energy (K.E.) and arrow speeds of 365 feet per second (fps) using 20-inch, 400-grain arrows.

The BCX riser is 43 percent lighter than the company's standard risers thanks to its new carbon technology. In addition, the BCX features Barnett's CNC aluminum flight rail and Picatinny rail scope mount and custom composite laminated split limb assembly.

Assembly of the BCX is one-bolt easy — simply align the cables, seat the limb assembly on the rail prod and tighten the bolt. Assembly of the QD quiver is also quick and easy. The quiver's friction mount is solid and stable, requiring no locking device or latch. Simply snap the quiver into position and you are ready to shoot. The quiver also features a nifty clip for attaching the unit to a blind, stand, limb or pack for storage or for backup shots while hunting.

Barnett's line of crossbows has always been extremely accurate and dependable. Even the company's earliest offerings were dead-on at 20 and 30 yards in all weather extremes from 90-plus degrees F to 5 degrees below zero. I expected no less when I went to the range with the BCX in hand, and was not disappointed.

Cocking was smooth and easy, and the string settled into the anti-dry-fire mode with a decisive click. Barnett's anti-dry-fire mechanism ensures that the string will not move forward without an arrow in place, a situation that could damage or break the limbs or cables due to the extreme torque generated by the 185-pound draw weight and short power stroke. An arrow must be seated firmly on the string or the mechanism will not release. One should never pull the trigger on an empty rail, but if that does happen, the mechanism will not fire. Should a dry fire occur, simply re-cock the string, seat another arrow and proceed.

Even though the provided 3x32 scope had to be installed after delivery, I was on target with the first arrow. A few clicks of windage and my shafts were hitting dead-on at 20 yards. I spent considerable time at the range with the BCX for testing on all four scope settings. I found that the reticles were set in 10-yard increments, so starting at 20 yards with the top reticle, I was good to go at 30, 40 and 50 yards — more than the average crossbow hunter will need for accurate, safe shooting under normal hunting conditions.

Cocking and shooting was flawless throughout the test period, with no squeaks, rattles or other signs of fatigue after cycling 200-plus arrows through the process. It's important to tighten all screws and fittings and follow the manufacturer's instructions for waxing the center serving and flight rail after every five to 10 shots. I went with lubricating every five shots.

I wax my string every day during hunts, because sun, rain and wind can take a toll on a string left in the fully cocked position all day. Barnett also recommends applying wax to the non-served area of the string every 30 to 50 shots or whenever white fuzz begins to appear. If the crossbow is exposed to excessive moisture (as mine was during a 10-day whitetail hunt during Hurricane Sandy in 2012) it might be necessary to apply wax more often. Take a few minutes each evening to wipe down your bow, quiver and arrows to remove dirt, dust, leaves and other debris accumulated during a hard day of hunting. Bottom line: Clean and maintain your crossbow just as you would your favorite hunting rifle and you will enjoy many years of trouble-free shooting for your investment.

At just under 22 inches wide, the BCX is ideal for still-hunting on logging roads and game trails and in open woods. My "roving" trail runs about 400 yards through typical Northeast brush country, and the BCX was up to the challenge, making killing shots on foam targets, hay bales and assorted broadhead targets set anywhere from 10 to 40 yards off the trail. The crossbow comes up quickly and is on target in seconds. The green and red illumination options were a great help in low light. Only the aiming circles light up, and as long as I remembered my range settings (in 10-yard increments in my case), my arrows were delivered as directed with no deviation.

A sling (not included with the bow package, unfortunately) would have been a great help in transporting the crossbow, and I'll have one installed when I head out to hunt in the future. However, thanks to the BCX's lightweight design and easy-grip stock finish, it was no hardship to carry or shoot the bow while field testing. I often carry my crossbows over my shoulder anyway, especially when I'm wearing heavy clothing and a backpack full of gear, but a sling is a convenient option on long hikes into or out of the woods.

The only minor glitch I could come up with is that once the scope is mounted (for my eyes, anyway) it's impossible to attach the rear scope cover. The space between the eyepiece and the Picatinny rail is paper thin, while the rear scope cover is a comparatively thick piece of plastic. I could (and may) whittle a groove in the bottom portion of the cap to make it fit or I can use bikini-type rubber scope covers to solve the problem. In any case, an ill-fitting scope cap is no reason to pass on the BCX — it's all the crossbow you'll need for accurate target shooting and hunting, and the five-year warranty is also a good selling point.

The BCX crossbow package includes the bow, illuminated Cross 3x32 four-reticle scope, rope cocker, three-arrow quiver and three 20-inch Headhunter arrows with field tips. MSRP is $749. For more information, log onto www.barnettcrossbows.com or call (727) 234-4999.