BOWTECH’s new Stryker StrykeZone 350 is sure to appeal to fans of AR-15-style rifles, what with its sleek, weather-resistant composite stock, ergonomic design and flat black finish throughout. Lightweight and well-balanced at 6.9 pounds, the StrykeZone 350’s 15½-inch axle-to-axle width makes it an excellent choice for still-hunting in thick brush or high-alert stalking when such opportunities are presented.
First impressions are the most lasting ones, and I was pleased to find that assembly of the StrykeZone 350 was quick and simple. Three Phillips-head screws attach the stock to the rail section, and four Allen-head screws lock the loading stirrup solidly in place. Two more Allen-head screws attach the quiver mount to the rail, and that quickly the crossbow is ready to shoot.
With its comparatively light 135-pound draw weight and 15½-inch power stroke, the StrykeZone 350 is a pleasure to shoot, thanks in part to its consistent 3-pound trigger pull, which is touted by Stryker as “the lightest trigger on the market.” Trigger travel is less than .015-inches, which allows for more accurate shooting at 30- and 40-yard targets.
Additional features include Stryker’s patented Cease-Fire double-barred secondary safety, which slides into place after the crossbow is cocked, immobilizing the trigger. The standard Auto-Flip safety is reactivated when the Cease-Fire insert is removed prior to shooting. Also, the Stryker 350 comes equipped with a solid, easy-to-use quiver that holds five arrows — two more than most other crossbow quiver designs. Being an “any game in season” hunter, I like having extra arrows on hand when a squirrel, rabbit, turkey, coyote or other target suddenly presents an opportunity.
The StrykeZone 350 package includes a basic 3×32 four-dot reticle scope and mounts that attach to the Picatinny top rail in seconds using the provided Allen wrench. The rail and mounts provide several inches of adjustment variables so the crossbow comes to the shoulder quickly with no additional gymnastics required.
From a whitetail hunter’s point of view, accuracy is always the most important element, and the StrykeZone 350 passed the range test with flying colors. I was pleased to see that Stryker included a convenient rail-end groove in the design of the 350, which makes cocking the bow much simpler. Some previous Stryker designs required that the cocking rope be draped across the buttstock, which can create some slippery situations in tree stands or blinds, especially during periods of wet weather.
Cocking the StrykeZone 350 is quick and nearly effortless thanks to the bow’s 135-pound draw weight. Young shooters down to 12 years old were able to cock and shoot the bow without trouble, which is a consideration when outfitting a younger hunter for the upcoming crossbow season.
While the StrykeZone 350’s owner’s manual recommends moon nocks over flat nocks, my review bow came equipped with updated star-type nocks that ensure maximum contact with the string as the arrow travels down the rail. Defying the manufacturer’s recommendations (and not something you should do), I tried shooting the bow with all kinds of arrows (aluminum, carbon and graphite), various styles of fletching and a variety of nocks and had no trouble with performance or mechanics. Accuracy was comparable with all styles of arrows out to 40 yards, which is about maximum for most deer-hunting situations. My minimum requirement is arrows touching at all distances, and the StrykeZone 350 was up to the task.
Of course, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on string and rail waxing, maintenance and care. It takes only a few seconds to properly lube a crossbow between arrow groups, and the results are invariably worth the effort. Failing to follow the manufacturer’s instructions could void the warranty. The StrykeZone 350 comes with a lifetime warranty, which makes the expense of a little wax here and there more than worth the trouble.
My crossbow range layout includes a blind, a permanent treestand and a climbing stand. Once I have the bow on target from the bench, I move to the blind, where I have targets set up at 20, 30 and 40 yards. It’s the rare crossbow that cannot be cocked, loaded and fired while seated inside a typical deer blind, and the StrykeZone 350 passed that test easily. In the climbing stand the crossbow was easy to load and shoot in the usual left-to-right arc while seated and was dead-on at 40 yards, even when shooting behind me while standing. Many wider crossbows or those with recurve-type limbs can present problems when faced with behind-the-tree opportunities, but the short, narrow Stryker 350 was comfortable and effective.
The same goes for shooting from a conventional two-man permanent ladder stand. There’s plenty of room for the crossbow and a day pack, and shooting off the rail was easy and accurate. Whenever possible I like to keep my crossbow on the seat beside me with the limbs resting on the rails, but the Stryker 350 is short and compact, making it easy to hang on a hook screwed into the tree or on an S-hook looped through the stock with the crossbow hung stirrup-down over the rail. I noticed, too, that the crossbow’s slick composite stock was quiet and steady while lifting it off the hook in anticipation of a shot. Care should be taken to eliminate unexpected squeaks, bumps or rattles while preparing for a shot.
One positive aspect of the StrykeZone 350 is that, after several hundred arrows fired under range conditions, the bow and all its parts remained tight, solid and smooth in all aspects of operation. As mentioned, I followed the manufacturer’s instructions on lubrication and waxing and had no problems with it. All of the original assembly screws remained tight and secure at the end of the test period and no parts of the bow showed the first signs of wear. Of course it is possible to abuse a crossbow to the point of malfunction, but proper operation and maintenance should give the owner years of trouble-free service. Should service be required, return the bow to the original dealer for inspection and purchase confirmation. Stryker returns warranty crossbows to the owner within three business days of receiving it at the company’s Eugene, Ore., facility.
I found little to complain about on the StrykeZone 350. The provided 3×32 scope is not illuminated, which can be an issue when shooting in low light, but in most “half-hour before sunrise” states there is sufficient light available during legal shooting hours to make a clean shot even without red or green illumination.
The only real gripe I have is with the paperwork accompanying the crossbow and scope. Neither manual addresses the specific unit contained in the box. For example, the section that discusses nocks does not include the arrows that were shipped with the bow and the cocking procedure shown in the manual reflects older-model Stryker bows but not the model I received.
As is often the case with crossbow scopes, the accompanying manual discusses how to use the scope as a rifle scope but does not address how to sight-in with a crossbow using the dot reticles provided. The manual refers to zeroing a rifle at 100 yards, when of course the crossbow is rated for 50 yards or less. It’s a simple matter to ignore the manual, sight-in at 20 yards using the top reticle and work back to 50 yards in 10-yard increments, so the oversight is not disastrous, although it may be confusing to a first-time crossbow user.
Finally, I would like to see more crossbow packages include a soft case as part of the basic package. Crossbows are expensive tools and deserve to be carried in a fitted case that will protect the unit from damage and the elements while in storage or en route to the range or field. Also, crossbows can be cumbersome and awkward when carrying packs, stands and other gear, so it would be nice to have a sling included in the base package. I recently dragged a hefty whitetail about a mile in knee-deep snow (uphill no less!) wearing a pack with my crossbow over my shoulder. I’d have gladly given away half the meat for a sling!
Overall the StrykeZone 350 is an excellent choice for both new and veteran crossbow shooters. Lightweight, well-balanced and accurate, it more than meets the needs of any whitetail hunter. For more information on Stryker crossbows and accessories, log onto www.strykerxbows.com.
Manufacturer: Stryker (a division of BOWTECH)
Model: StrykeZone 350
Pull weight: 135 lbs.
Arrow length: 20 inches
Arrow speed: 350 fps
Trigger pull: 3 lbs.
Sights: 3×32 circle-reticle scope provided
Cocking device: Rope cocker
Overall length: 34.4 inches
Axle-to-axle length: 15 3/8 inches, cocked
Weight: 6.9 lbs.
Other Features: Kill-Switch trigger, Cease-Fire secondary safety
The Perfect Crossbow Accessory
One of the most important features of the StrykeZone 350 is its unique yet simple quiver and mount design. Requiring just two screws to install, the one-piece mount fits on the underside of the rail just below the stirrup, providing quick and easy access for right- or left-handed shooters.
Solid, silent and durable, the quiver snaps into place with ease. The quiver holds five arrows (two more than most other crossbow quivers), giving the hunter a variety of options when other legal game is in sight during a long day on stand. The quiver is designed to accept 20-inch arrows with field points, small game heads or mechanical or fixed broadheads.
Both quiver and mount are included with the StrykeZone 350 crossbow package. MSRP is $639.99. For more information, log onto www.strykerxbows.com.