When Barnett rep Graham Johnston said, “Honestly, if I was going to buy (a crossbow) for personal use, this is what I would buy,” I figured that he was feeding me the usual line of PR enthusiasm. When the Raptor FX arrived, however, I was immediately impressed. The shipping box felt like it was empty, though the UPS delivery driver assured me that it was “all there.” Happily, he was right. When it comes to hunting crossbows, I like mine light and accurate. The Raptor measures up on both counts, with several extra features (including a surprisingly low MSRP) that make it an excellent choice for the whitetail hunter’s first venture into the world of horizontal archery.

Basic specs of the Raptor FX are perfect for the first-time crossbow shooter. Comparatively short at 34.25 inches, the crossbow weighs a manageable 6 1/2 pounds. The split limbs are 18 inches wide uncocked (12.75 inches cocked) requiring 150 pounds of pull weight, which is light enough for “hands on” cocking when necessary. The 12.5-inch power stroke sends a 400-grain, 20-inch arrow downrange at 330 fps. A 380-grain arrow broke 340 fps, and heavier (425-grain) arrows were relatively quick off the rail at 325 fps. Having hunted deer, bear, hogs, ground hogs, wild turkeys and squirrels with crossbows over the last 20 years, I can assure you that “string jump” is not an issue with arrows flying over 300 fps, even at 35 or 40 yards. Big-game animals often stare at the bloodied arrow stuck in the ground beside them with a “What just happened?” look on their faces.

The Raptor’s integral anti-dry-fire mechanism is big, bold and obvious within the trigger mechanism. The twin-pronged silver-finished unit holds and retains the string while the bow is cocked and will not allow the safety to be disengaged unless an arrow is fully loaded in the trigger mechanism. To unload the crossbow at the end of the day, simply fire a field-tipped shaft into a convenient target, hay bale or soft ground.

Any crossbow’s weakest point is its string-and-cable assembly. Barnett recommends applying lube wax to the non-served portions of the Raptor’s string upon initial assembly and at 30- to 50-shot intervals. I wax my crossbow strings every few days while hunting or before and after every shooting session. Wax is cheap and easy to apply, and far less expensive than string and cable replacement.

Barnett recommends that its crossbows not be left in the cocked position for longer than four hours. I cock mine in the pre-dawn and do not unload them till I’m out of the stand at dark. For testing purposes I might leave a review crossbow cocked for days (even weeks) with no ill effects. Nothing bad happens when I pull the trigger, and accuracy is maintained. If you’re not testing crossbows, play it safe and follow the owner’s manual recommendations.

The Raptor has a couple of features not found in other crossbows, including an adjustable arrow retainer, useful for fine-tuning of the composite retainer when using after-market arrows that are slightly larger or smaller than standard Barnett arrows. A butt pad extender allows for custom stock adjustments, a nice touch for long-armed shooters.

Initial assembly can be daunting in some cases, but one large bolt and four small screws later, the Raptor was ready for the range. Barnett supplies all necessary Allen wrenches needed to complete the job, another plus for buyers who don’t have access to a fully stocked tool shed. All parts fit neatly and tightly with no forcing required. One additional hex screw puts the quiver mount where it needs to be. From start to finish the assembly process took me exactly 7 minutes, and I routinely take my time to ensure that the instructions provided fit the crossbow that came in the box, which is not always the case.

Mounting of the scope was also a breeze. Any large flat-head screwdriver will fit the base’s oversized mounting screws. Mounting surfaces, Picatinny-style throughout, made it easy to place the quiver and scope bases precisely where I wanted them.

Design features, light weight and ease of assembly are all good to consider when plunking down your hard-earned dollars for a new hunting crossbow, but in the end it is accuracy and dependability that matter most. Most modern crossbows will put arrows in a 3-inch circle at 20 yards, and that’s the least one should expect. The best crossbows do so much better than that it’s folly to shoot more than two arrows at the same target because damage to nocks, fletching or shafts is certain to occur.

When a crossbow manufacturer sends me a bow for testing, I take the company at its word. When a provided scope has three, four or five crosshairs or dots, the maker is telling me its bow can be sighted-in at 20 yards and each progressive line or dot will put the arrow on target at 10-yard increments. Sometimes the difference is 5 yards and is so stated in the manual, and it’s the rare crossbow that doesn’t live up to its billing, even though some simply slap a .22 rimfire scope on the bow and call it good.

The Raptor is the rare crossbow that is supplied with a 4×32 crossbow scope that is intended entirely for crossbow use. In fact, the instructions included with the scope clearly indicated that one should use 4-inch targets starting at 15 yards. Aiming dead-center, adjust the scope so the arrow hits the top of the target. Next, move back until, using the same aiming point, you are hitting the bottom of the target. In this case the crossbow is on target from 15 to 23 yards. Next, move back to 26 yards (good to 32 yards), continuing at 34, 42 and 48 yards, which means the crossbow will be on target out to 53 yards. A handy chart is provided to help keep all those numbers straight. A shooter using an accurate rangefinder should have no trouble placing the proper crosshair on target for an inside-4-inches hit.

Being an old-schooler, I simplify things by sighting-in at 20 yards and then move back in 1-yard increments. It’s the rare whitetail situation where a shot must be taken at 60 yards, and when I’m in a blind or treestand I’ll wait for a better, closer opportunity. If I’ve picked the right spot, my shots will be at less than 30 yards, certainly closer than 40 yards, so all of that long-range calibrating is moot except in the very late season when foliage, corn and soybeans are out of the picture.

Personal preferences aside, I tested the Raptor with the provided five-line reticle scope (a red dot scope is optional) and had no trouble keeping my arrows on target even at 60 yards. A 4-inch orange circle is a big target even at that distance, and from a steady rest I was able to drop every arrow (including some from various manufacturers) into the appropriate circle. Not every arrow struck dead center, but anything in the orange was considered a hit for hunting purposes.

After firing more than 100 arrows, the Raptor was still tight and functional. There were no issues with string fraying, loose parts, wear or rattles. The effects of all that kinetic energy can (and has) caused some crossbows to implode, but the Raptor came through each session with no ill effects.

I could find nothing the serious deer hunter would complain about as far as assembly, operation and accuracy are concerned. The Raptor FX handles and shoots as well as many top-end crossbows costing hundreds of dollars more, and is an excellent choice for the beginner (a pink Lady Raptor version is available). With basic maintenance and care, the bow should provide great service on the range and in the field for many years.

As always, I’m a big fan of slings and carrying cases, which Barnett and most other manufacturers consider “accessories” available at additional cost. I have no doubt that buyers would gladly pay the extra fee for these items to be included in the package price. Crossbows are cumbersome to carry, especially for long distances through brushy cover, CRP fields or cut cornfields. And having a case to protect the crossbow during transport would only make sense. Anyone who buys a crossbow for hunting will want a sling and case eventually. Why not make these items part of the package?

The basic Raptor FX package include the crossbow, scope (4×32 or red dot), quiver package, three arrows and field tips, rope cocking device, lube wax and all necessary hex wrenches. MSRP is $399. For additional information, log onto www.barnettcrossbows.comor call (800) 237-4507.

SIDEBAR:

SPEC SHEET

Manufacturer: Barnett

Model: Raptor FX

Pull weight: 150 pounds

Arrow length: 20 inches

Arrow speed: 330 fps 

Trigger pull: 4 pounds  

Sights: 4×32 multi-reticle scope provided; red dot scope optional

Cocking device: Rope cocker               

Overall Length: 34.25 inches

Axle-to-axle length: 18 inches      

Weight: 6.5 pounds

Other features: 12.5-inch power stroke, butt pad extender, pass-through foregrip, crank option pre-installed, anti-dry-fire safety, camouflage composite stock and limbs; Lady Raptor FX available in pink.

MSRP: $399

For more information: www.barnettcrossbows.com

SIDEBAR:

Light And Quick — A Hunter’s Dream

Barnett’s new Raptor FX has two things going for it from a hunter’s viewpoint: At 6 1/2 well-balanced pounds, it’s one of the lightest, most comfortable crossbows to carry, and its 18-inch axle-to-axle width (12.75 inches when cocked) makes it easy to maneuver through foliage and thick brush for more effective still-hunting or stalking.

Also, the Raptor’s unique pass-through foregrip and ergonomically designed skeleton stock provide plenty of handling options. The crossbow might be transported in a variety of positions while maintaining full control of the limbs, rail and firing mechanism. These features come in handy when faced with obstacles such as fallen trees, small streams or circumstances where unsure footing might require a change in approach.

The Raptor’s comparatively short overall length also makes it the ideal choice for hunting out of ground blinds, box blinds, climbing stands or strap-on stands where space is limited yet the shooter has a relatively wide field of fire. The Raptor’s short limbs make it the perfect choice for stand-up shooting at the occasional over-the-shoulder opportunity.

For a look at Barnett’s complete line of crossbows, arrows and accessories, log onto www.barnettcrossbows.com.