Excalibur 308 Short Banshee

If you need a light, compact bow, look no further.
Excalibur 308 Short Banshee

In the continuing quest for the lightest, shortest, most-accurate deer-hunting crossbow ever, it is fitting that long-time manufacturer Excalibur has raised the bar with its new 308 Short Banshee model. When the company’s Michael Martin told me that the Banshee was only 30 inches long and 24 inches wide (featuring Excalibur’s signature recurve-style limbs), I knew I needed to test it. The crossbow arrived two days later, shipped directly from the factory in Kitchener, Canada.

Assembly of the Banshee was quick and easy, typical of Excalibur’s fine line of hunting crossbows. One large Allen screw attaches the limb assembly (with stirrup installed) to the stock or main frame, and two additional screws lock the quiver mount into place. Total elapsed time, from unpacking to reading the owner’s manual to finished assembly was just under 15 minutes. Because the Banshee is so new it’s actually not even mentioned in the manual and much of the assembly verbiage is irrelevant to this model. However, any end-user with a modicum of mechanical ability should have no trouble figuring out where the big screw goes and how to attach the quiver mount. The only question is deciding on which side the quiver mount should be attached. I shoot left-handed these days due to an eye issue (my once-dominant right eye is no longer useful) so I put the quiver on the left side to keep it and the spare arrows away from my forearm hand.

Excalibur ships the Banshee with the Dead Zone multi-reticle scope pre-mounted, which saves some time. I always make sure that the mount and scope screws are tight before I begin shooting but in most cases, including this one, all screws were fully seated and max tight.

The nomenclature of Excalibur’s new Banshee almost screams still-hunting. Weighing in at only 5.6 pounds, the crossbow is feather light, a definite plus for whitetail hunters who have the opportunity to stalk or still-hunt deer in dense cover. At 30 inches in overall length, the Banshee is undoubtedly the shortest hunting crossbow on the market. And, with its 24-inch tip-to-tip length (no cables, pulleys or cams), the Banshee is well-balanced and comfortable to carry.

Draw weight is listed at 254 pounds, but cocking requires only 127 pounds of effort with a 12½-inch pull length. The Banshee’s stock and limbs are coated with a unique “snakeskin” camouflage pattern with a bronzed patina that eliminates reflections and glare. The basic package includes the crossbow and Dead Zone scope, cocking rope, quiver, three arrows with field points, sound-deadening system and “Air Brakes,” all for an MSRP of $849.99.

In keeping with the Banshee’s “short” designation, its arrows are also somewhat shorter than the standard 20-inch shafts supplied with most crossbows. Excalibur says the shorter arrows are 16½ inches to the “quills,” but I measured them tip to nock and came up with 17 3/8 inches. Excalibur recommends arrows by weight (350 grains) rather than length, so there is wiggle room for using 20-inch arrows with 100-grain broadheads with no significant affect on accuracy or arrow speed.

Speaking of arrow speed, the Banshee 308 is rated for (surprise) 308 fps, with a few feet per second loss when the complete string-stop and silencer package is attached. My sample unit, fully equipped including mechanical broadheads, posted arrow speeds of just under 300 FPS. Some may say that faster is better and the quest for 500 fps continues, but I can say from months of crossbow hunting annually over the last 20 years for deer, bear, hogs, turkeys and other critters that, thus far, none of them can outrun a crossbow arrow traveling at a relatively-slow 300 fps. Considering that crossbows are most effective at distances under 50 yards and that most hunters (targeting bears, deer and hogs in particular) shoot at 25 yards or less, the question of arrow speed is moot.

What excites me most about the Banshee is it is so lightweight and short. Normally I sight in from the bench and then head directly to my roving range for a walking test shoot. However, because I wanted to put the Banshee through to the test from treestands and blinds I set a variety of block and silhouette targets at various distances and angles around two tree stands (set at 15 and 20 feet) and two different blinds — one-man and two-man models.

For starters, the Banshee was deadly from the start, with the first arrow striking just two inches off center at 20 yards. Three arrows later I was off to the test range. As expected, the Banshee showed no weaknesses on the roving targets, which are set along a wooded path at typical hunting distances of 10, 20, 30 and 40 yards. Using the short, flat-nocked arrows supplied with the Banshee all hits were in the kill zone, and when I switched to 20-inchers with half-moon nocks (compensating for the additional arrow length by adding one click of elevation at 20 yards) the results were the same. For the record, Excalibur does not recommend using arrows other than those supplied with or recommended for the crossbow, but, purely in the interest of field testing, I found that standard 20-inch arrows performed equally well at typical hunting distances.

I was not overly surprised to see that the Banshee was ideal for shooting out of a blind — with a total length of only 30 inches it’s a cinch to switch from window to window and make any shot out to 40 yards with ease. In fact, I sat on a swivel seat in my two-man blind and could spin around like a teenager at the soda fountain without touching any of the interior fabric.

I was curious as to how the Banshee would perform in a treestand, but I had a feeling it would pass the test with flying colors. The primary issue when treestand shooting with a crossbow is that any hunter, left-handed or right-handed will encounter a “dead zone” limited by the length of the limb on the off side. For example, a right-handed shooter can only swing to the left so far before the left-side limb will run into the tree’s trunk. Using the 30-inch Banshee I was able to stand up and shoot at all surrounding targets with ease, including those that were purposely set directly behind the tree. With most crossbows the hunter will have to wait until the target (deer, bear, etc.) clears the tree, which might not work out in the shooter’s favor. With the Banshee, a securely-harnessed treestand hunter can safely stand up and take the back-side shot without worrying about drastic repercussions to himself or his crossbow.

If I had to come up with a complaint about Excalibur’s new Short line of crossbows it would have to be that there is nothing in the owner’s manual that refers specifically to them. Assembly is easy enough considering there are only two parts and three screws to deal with, but there is something to say about peace of mind while assembling and shooting an $800-plus unit. I am sure that Excalibur will include a model-specific owner’s manual for the Banshee and other Short series crossbows because I believe these short, lightweight crossbows will prove immensely popular with children and small-framed adults.

And, as always, I would love to see all crossbow manufacturers include a sling as part of the basic product package. The Banshee is unusual in that it is so short and light, but when a hunter is loaded down with cameras, extra gear and backpacks or handling game, it would be useful to have a sling for ease of carry.

I have been a fan of light, short bows and guns since the early 1960s. Fifty years on I still use my Bear Kodiak Magnum recurve and my Remington Model 600 deer rifle with great success. I plan to add the Excalibur Banshee to my collection of whitetail country “brush busters.”

For an up-to-date look at Excalibur’s complete line of recurve-style crossbows plus details on the revolutionary new Short line of products including the new 308 Short Banshee, log onto www.excaliburcrossbow.com.

Spec Sheet

Manufacturer: Excalibur

Model: 308 Short Banshee

Draw Weight: 254 pounds

Power Stroke: 12½ inches

Arrow Length:  17 3/8 inches

Trigger Pull: 3½ pounds, dry-fire inhibitor

Sights: Dead Zone multi-reticle scope

Cocking Device: Rope cocker

Overall Length: 30 inches

Tip-To-Tip Recurve Limb Length: 24 3/8 inches

Weight: 5.6 pounds

Other Features: Bronzed “snake skin” camo finish, sound deadening limb inserts, “Air Brakes,” three-arrow quiver.

MSRP: $849.99

BONUS: Dead Zone Multi-Reticle Scope

Excalibur’s new 308 Short Banshee comes equipped with a factory-installed Dead Zone multi-reticle scope that is meant and designed for crossbow shooting out to 50 yards.

Calibrated for use with recurve-style crossbow limbs, the scope requires only a few shots to put arrows dead on at 20 yards, and then it’s a simple matter of moving back to 30, 40 and 50 yards to complete the sighting-in process.

One important advantage of the Dead Zone scope is that it is adjustable based on arrow speed. Arrows rated for 300 FPS will strike the target differently than arrows traveling at 350, 400 or more fps, and with the twist of a knurled ring the shooter can make the necessary adjustments without spending additional time at the bench.

The scope does not include any illumination but the extra-thick crosshairs are clearly visible during legal shooting light (½ hour before sunrise and ½ hour after sunset in most states). The large arrowhead aiming points are also sharply defined in low light and are set on fine-line crosshairs to make them that much easier to see.

For more information on Excalibur’s Dead Zone crossbow scope, crossbows and accessories, log onto www.excaliburcrossbows.com.


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