Stryker’s Katana 385 crossbow provides all of the basic features of a good, sturdy crossbow with few additional frills. The Katana is slender at 19½ inches axle-to-axle and lightweight at 6½ pounds. Overall length is a comparatively short 35 inches. Draw weight is an easily-manageable 155 pounds and the “competition-grade” trigger pull is slightly less than 3 pounds.

The Katana drives a 20-inch arrow at just over 385 fps using a 13-inch power stroke. At 20 yards the Katana is “Robin Hood” accurate and noticeably quick. The Katana basic package includes a 30mm illuminated red/green reticle scope of Stryker’s design, another advantage because shooters won’t be required to adapt their crossbow shooting to a multi-reticle scope designed for centerfire rifles, as is the case with many other crossbow manufacturers.

Unlike most other illuminated crossbow scopes, however, the Tact Zone scope provided with the Katana is not adjustable for brightness. It’s on or off, which can be an issue in low-light situations where an overly-bright reticle may flood the scope and make target identification difficult or impossible. When this happens, I shut the illumination off and pass on the shot if I can’t make out my target.

Assembly of the Katana is quick and easy using, just four Allen screws to solidly attach the limb assembly to the rail. All necessary wrenches for assembly, including the scope, are provided, which makes the process that much quicker. I had my Katana unpacked, assembled and ready for the range in less than 15 minutes, which is near-record time in the world of crossbows. First impressions suggest the Katana will be ideal for hunting out of a blind or tree-stand (climber or ladder-type) and is well-balanced, short and compact, which makes it a good choice for stalking or still-hunting should the opportunity arise.

Some of the instructions in the owner’s manual (highly recommended reading for any new crossbow purchase) were confusing because they were unclear or did not apply due to recent upgrades and design changes made to the Katana. For example, the instructions cover the assembly of the crossbow starting with the Grip Shield, which was already installed on my test model. Also, some of the instructions include the caveat “On applicable models only,” which added to the confusion. However, any shooter with a moderate amount of mechanical ability should be able to assemble the Katana with a minimum of difficulty. Any questions or confusion regarding assembly, of course, may be addressed by contacting a Stryker representative at www.strykerxbowcom.

My test Katana came with a standard cocking rope and a mechanical cranking device that some shooters will certainly find easier to operate than a cocking rope. A quick reading of the owner’s manual reveals that either cocking device should be “hooks up” when loading the Katana. Attempting to load the crossbow “hooks down” could result in a cocking failure which, if nothing else, will certainly send the shooter to the owner’s manual to find out what went wrong.

With the Katana fully assembled it was time to head to the range. As is usually the case with owner-installed scopes it took several shots to get the crossbow shooting dead on at 20 yards, but from that point the crossbow performed well at 20, 30 and 40 yards. The scope is designed for shooting out to 50 and 60 yards and though accuracy was acceptable I would not recommend taking a chance on a whitetail buck, even a big one, at those distances.

Accuracy with the Katana was consistent and dependable under 40 yards, and in fact I had to shoot at separate targets each time to avoid ruining too many arrows. My shed wall is peppered with “Robin Hoods” and there’s no need to add to the collection, not with the cost of arrows hovering at $10 each. One shot, dead center in a 2-inch bull’s-eye at 20, 30 or 40 yards is more than adequate for impressing your friends at the range.

Because the Katana is lightweight, well-balanced, short and less than 20 inches wide the roving course was a cinch. In fact, I carry a sling and bipod just in case but never used them. Dead-on hits at all ranges and angles were the norm. Cocking was smooth and consistent and I actually ended up using one arrow for the entire course.

The owner’s manual recommends waxing the rail “often” but does not say how often. As a rule of thumb I lightly lube the rail after 10 shots unless the manufacturer clearly suggests otherwise. Stryker also recommends lubricating the string slide (located in the slot under the shooting rail) “occasionally,” which leaves it up to the shooter. I lubricate my slide daily while shooting 50 or more shots but only monthly while hunting. For test purposes I may leave a crossbow cocked for days or even weeks, but most manufacturers recommend de-cocking every 12 hours or “daily” to avoid malfunctions. The simplest, easiest way to unload a crossbow is to shoot a field-tipped arrow into a hay bale or similar soft target. Shooting into the ground, a sand pile or a rotted stump is likely to bend, break or render the arrow useless (and dangerous) for shooting.

Oddly enough, Stryker’s owner’s manual spends half a page explaining how to de-cock the Katana using the cocking rope, superior strength and coordination, since one hand must control both T-handles and the other must release the safety and pull the trigger. This sounds like a recipe for disaster! Even though I have seen strong young men de-cock a crossbow using only their fingers I would not recommend it to anyone. Shoot a spare arrow into a target or hay bale — it’s much safer!

Because the Katana is made by BowTech and is associated with Excalibur Crossbow Inc., some of the accessories are supplied by the latter. The cocking rope, cranking device and quiver worked fine.

In the final analysis, Stryker’s Katana crossbow is an accurate, sturdy crossbow and well-suited to hunting whitetails on foot, in a blind or from a tree stand. MSRP for the Katana 385 is $1,099.99.