Darton’s new Scorpion crossbow boasts a “compact and lightweight design,” and at 7.8 pounds and 35.5 inches overall, there’s no question that the Scorpion is right up there with other crossbow manufacturers who make the same claim. Despite all that, for me it’s all a question of balance. Many early crossbows (pre-1995, let’s say) were functional but clunky, awkward and uncomfortable to maneuver away from the stand or blind. The majority of post-2010 crossbows are much lighter, better balanced and infinitely more comfortable to carry into the woods or while still-hunting, and the Scorpion certainly meets the criteria for ease of carry.

The Scorpion also features a receiver and fore-end designed for clean mounting, a smooth trigger pull and safe shooting thanks to its extra wide grip flange, which keeps the shooter’s fingers well below the rail and out of harm’s way. A newly designed anti-dry-fire mechanism prevents the crossbow from being fired unless an arrow is firmly seated against the string.

The Scorpion’s positive limb alignment is designed to enhance accuracy, and in my testing the crossbow did prove to be one of the most consistently accurate units I’ve put through the process. Add to this Darton’s integrated riser-string suppressor system and barrel dampener, and the result is an accurate hunting crossbow with noticeably reduced noise and vibration.

Assembly of the Scorpion is quick and easy using two stirrup screws and one limb assembly bolt, wrenches provided. The Scorpion was so new at testing time that it was not mentioned specifically in the owner’s manual (similar models in the Darton crossbow line are noted). However, the assembly process is simple and easy to adapt to the Scorpion model. For example, a lock washer that is used to hold the limb assembly bolt firmly in place is not shown in the instructions for all models, but it is mentioned in the accompanying text. I put the lock washer on the bolt followed by the U-shaped washer and had no trouble with assembly. After shooting several hundred arrows, the limb bolt was still tight and firm, so other than creating some minor confusion in the assembly process, the lock washer proved to be nothing to worry about.

The basic Scorpion Hunter crossbow package includes a 4×32 multi-dot, nonilluminated scope and rings that must be attached to the Picatinny-style rail by the purchaser. A hex wrench is provided for the rings, but the purchaser must come up with a wide-bladed screwdriver to attach the mount bases to the rail. In a pinch, a quarter and pliers or vise grips can be used with good results.

While most standard crossbow packages do include a 4×32 scope, the Darton model ranks as one of the busiest scopes I’ve ever tested. There are six closely spaced dot-crosshair reticles contained inside the scope tube, which Darton says are set in 8- to 10-yard increments. When it’s sighted in at 20 yards, this gives the shooter a potential maximum effective range of 60 yards. This is great for range shooting, but I tend to draw the line at 40 yards for most whitetail hunting situations, even in open cover. Too much can go wrong with a 22-inch arrow at extended distances under iffy conditions, and with a nonilluminated scope in low-light situations, the odds for disaster are too high for my tastes. Range tests revealed the scope was accurate and effective out to 60 yards, but two or three reticles would be more practical and plenty for most real-world hunting situations.

Darton’s BQ4 quick-detachable quiver is also included with both Pro and Hunter accessory packages. The quiver mount is quick and easy to attach for left- or right-handed mounting, and the locking device is tight and solid. The quiver is designed to hold four arrows with fixed or mechanical broadheads. The composite hood liner is designed to reduce noise and won’t dull broadheads. The roomy, solid quiver hanger can be placed on a stand hook or tree stub with ease. I like the quiver’s four-arrow design, which allows the shooter to carry three hunting arrows and one field-tipped “decocker” for unloading the crossbow at the end of the hunting day.

The Scorpion is another good example of why every crossbow owner is advised to abide by the “read the owner’s manual first” rule. Every crossbow has its quirks, and the Scorpion is no different. To cock the bow, the hooks on the rope cocker are placed facing downward on the string alongside the barrel and the rope is passed through the hole in the stock directly behind the sight bridge — not over the butt of the stock or behind the receiver. This is quite different from most other crossbows, and cocking the crossbow in any other way could result in injury or damage to the crossbow.

When the manufacturer’s instructions are followed, the Scorpion is easy to cock using only about 50 percent of the crossbow’s draw weight rating. Any other method is simply more difficult, and hand-cocking (though possible) is not recommended for safety reasons. The Scorpion is designed for use with after-market mechanical cocking aids, but most healthy young shooters should have no trouble cocking the crossbow using the standard E-Z Draw rope cocker provided with either accessory package.

On the range, the Scorpion performed very well. Cocking was smooth and positive with every shot, and the trigger consistently broke at 4 pounds throughout with minimal creep, even after several hundred shots. I lubed the rail and string per the manufacturer’s instructions and had no functioning issues or random “flyers.” Believe it or not, after 20 or so arrows are fired the rail of a crossbow actually does heat up (local temperatures are certainly a factor), so it’s not necessary to apply gobs of wax to the rail to maintain optimum performance. A very light coating of wax applied every 25 shots will keep the string and rail well lubricated.

Darton recommends shooting at 10 yards to ensure the scope is properly aligned, and that is good advice because the scope and mounts must be attached by the purchaser. My first three arrows landed near the upper right corner of my Block target at 10 yards, which means they would not have even touched the target at 20 yards. I made the necessary adjustments until my arrows were dead on at 10 yards, and then moved back to 20 yards.

After a click or two of adjustment I was again dead center at 20 yards, and I continued the process out to 70 yards just to see if the margin of error was indeed 8 to 10 yards between reticles. At maximum range my arrows wandered a bit (due to a light wind and some operator error), but all arrows landed inside an 8-inch circle at 70 yards. I like my circles smaller than that, so I would not attempt shots at live game at such distances, but a shooter with nerves of steel and a target larger than the average whitetail buck might find an 8-inch group more than adequate.

Speed freaks will notice that the Scorpion’s 22-inch arrows fly about 10 percent slower than the shorter, faster 20-inch arrows commonly used in the industry, but few big-game animals can run faster than 335 feet per second. Plus, there is something to be said for stability in flight, and a quality 22-inch arrow will arrive with authority, albeit a few feet behind the slightly quicker competition. The difference is most noticeable at ranges beyond 40 yards, another reason that I prefer not to shoot at live targets beyond 120 feet.

The Scorpion performed well on the “woods walk” course, but the through-the-stock, hooks-down cocking regimen took some getting used to. However, a hunter who shoots and hunts exclusively with the Scorpion will have no trouble adjusting to the difference in cocking style, and in fact I had a nonhunting friend run the course with the Scorpion and he had no trouble with the process.

Complaints? Other than the unnecessarily busy scope reticle and the fact that the crossbow does not come with a standard cocking rope and sling, the Scorpion is as good a value as any other similarly priced crossbow on the market. Big men or those with long arms might wish for an adjustable stock (as some other Darton models do) but, alas, that feature is not available on the Scorpion. The scope can be set far forward on the mounting rail to help with the length issue, but otherwise, shooters can try a padded shirt or jacket to increase stock length under hunting conditions.

One minor gripe is that the Scorpion comes with an assembly manual plus two or three additional flyers and pamphlets covering assembly details that could just as easily be incorporated into the manual. Because the Scorpion is a new product it may well be that those details will eventually be integrated, making the assembly process a little easier to understand at first glance.

Base price for the Scorpion crossbow (without scope or accessories) is $682.40. Stock colors available include Vista G-1 Camo and Muddy Girl (pink) Camo.

The Scorpion Pro package includes a 2-7×40 Toxin Hi-Grade Scope and rings, E-Z Draw cocking rope, BQ4 QD quiver, crossbow case, neoprene sling, rail lube and four 22-inch arrows. MSRP for the Pro package is $332.49.

The Scorpion Hunter package includes a 4×32 nonilluminated scope and rings, BQ4 quiver, E-Z Draw cocking rope, rail lube and four 22-inch arrows. MSRP for the Hunter package is $145.99.