As always, the bottom line in selecting a crossbow for deer hunting is light weight, accuracy and reliability. Long before a crossbow hunter hits the field, however, there are the matters of assembly and function to contend with. When it comes to these basic considerations, Parker’s “new for 2018” Hammer 325 leads the pack.

Assembly is quick and easy (only five screws required to attach the limbs and quiver mount), plus the entire owner’s manual is relevant to the Hammer 325. Most other manufacturers’ manuals include a mishmash of models, styles and instructions that, in some cases, never even refer to the model shipped in the box. I applaud Parker for taking the time to make all of its instructions and accompanying paperwork apply to the Hammer 325, making the assembly, shooting and maintenance phases that much easier to comprehend.

In addition, Parker has set up a website where purchasers can access a variety of free videos that cover assembly, shooting, arrow choice, crossbow safety, trouble-shooting and many other crossbow-related issues. By the time a purchaser has assembled his crossbow and studied the accompanying literature, he’s ready to head for the woods with full confidence in his new acquisition.

Armed with the necessary screwdrivers and wrenches I was able to assemble the crossbow, quiver mount and quiver in just over 1 minute flat – it was that easy. The one-page assembly sheet is well-illustrated, clear and concise, and all screws and parts required were as described in the text. I suspect that the average 10-year-old could easily assemble the Hammer 325 with ease.

The Hammer 325 basic package includes the crossbow, quiver and choice of factory-mounted scopes (multi-reticle, 3x illuminated, 3x Pin Point or Variable IR) along with four “Capture Nock” 300-grain arrows and field tips. MSRP is $549.95. Parker’s complete catalog of crossbows and accessories may be viewed at www.parkerbows.com.

My sample Hammer 325 came equipped with a 3x illuminated multi-reticle scope, which is exactly what I would have chosen for the kind of crossbow hunting I normally do – shooting from stands or blinds at short range in typically thick whitetail cover.

The scope has four range settings that are pre-set in 10-yard increments. Simply sight in at 10 yards with the top reticle simply to be sure you are on target, and then back off to 20 yards and reshoot for zero. Thus sighted in, the crossbow is good for shots at whitetails at 20, 30, 40 and 50 yards with no additional adjustments necessary.

For the sake of accuracy and peace of mind I shoot my crossbows at all four distances and make minor adjustments as needed. Accuracy is likely to and will drop off at 40 and 50 yards, but in no instance was my Hammer 325 off more than two inches, which is more than acceptable for deer hunting.

By the way, I don’t recommend shooting at deer beyond 40 yards with a crossbow simply because cover, wind, visibility and unexpected movement can affect accuracy and game can be lost. However, in open-field situations where there are no obstacles or wind, taking such a shot may be justified. I prefer to wait till my targets move a few yards closer, which they invariably do.

For testing purposes I used the provided arrows, which Parker recommends “to prevent damage to the crossbow and to protect your warranty.” I had no trouble shooting arrows of similar weight (300 to 400 grains) with other types of nocks but for warranty purposes it’s always best to honor the manufacturer’s recommendations. In any case the Hammer 325 performed well. There were no problems with function or accuracy regardless of the type of nocks used.

As part of my range review I get into a blind and climb into a tree stand to test the crossbow in real-world hunting situations. The Hammer 325 was easy to cock and load while sitting (in the blind) or standing, and I was even able to comfortably load the crossbow while sitting in a climbing tree stand, which is no easy task. Of course, I would recommend that hunters practice loading and cocking their new Hammer 325 before a hunt, preferably in low-light conditions to emulate early-morning and late-afternoon situations. Pull back hard and listen for that satisfying “CLICK!” which indicates a cleanly-cocked crossbow.

By the way, Parker recommends that all of its crossbows be unloaded or de-cocked at the end of the day by firing an old but serviceable arrow into a hay bale, soft dirt or spongy turf. Parker does not recommend that its crossbows be left cocked when not in use or (tellingly) unsupervised. Crossbows are not toys and should not be treated as such.

At just over 36 inches the Hammer 325 is short enough to allow 360-degree shooting in a blind and, with its 20-inch axle-to-axle width gives tree stand hunters plenty of room for error when perched 20 feet or more off the ground. At that height it’s usually no problem to allow a big buck to walk around the tree or into a pre-established shooting lane where typical obstructions (limbs or the tree trunk) end up behind the shooter.

At 7 pounds the Hammer 325 is well-balanced and comfortable enough to carry in the still-hunting position. As I “stalked” my targets on the roving range I had no problem bringing the crossbow smoothly into the shooting position. The ambidextrous safety is comfortably located at the rear of the receiver and flips to “Fire” with a barely-audible click. During the test I made it a point to cock, load and fire the Hammer 325 two or three times on random targets and had no malfunctions, mishaps or misses as a result.

It is generally rare to fire more than two shots during actual hunting conditions but I have hunted in a few states where multiple deer may be taken. On one hunt I was able to down a buck and two does out of the same herd with successive shots – certainly unusual but doable. In my efforts to duplicate that scenario on the range with Hammer 325 came through with flying colors. Each arrow was on target with every shot, which for me is a requirement for any crossbow I take into the whitetail woods. If there’s a problem with a test crossbow’s mechanics or sight system I make every effort to resolve the issues before heading afield.

In discussions about arrow speed one could make the case that the Hammer 325’s fps rating is neither phenomenal nor ground-breaking, especially considering that many modern crossbow manufacturers have already surpassed the 400 fps threshold. However, after more than two decades of deer, bear and hog hunting with crossbows I can attest that none of these large, heavy animals will jump the string or outrun an arrow traveling even at a relatively sluggish 325 fps.

I ran the Hammer 325 through the chronograph test and found that with the arrows provided by Parker on a freshly-waxed rail I was getting slightly higher readings, all the way up to 330 fps, which, again, is faster than any trophy-class whitetail’s reflexes at 20, 30 or even 40 yards.

My only complaint about the Hammer 325 is that no sling or cocking rope is included in the basic crossbow package. Parker does offer its Red Hot cocking rope as an accessory, which will naturally increase the basic cost of the unit. I believe that one must have a sling in order to transport a crossbow and one must also have a cocking rope in order to shoot it, so it makes sense to me that both items should be included in the basic crossbow package. This has not yet become the industry standard but I, for one, hope it soon will be.

In the final analysis the Parker Hammer 325 is an excellent entry-level crossbow that is easy to assemble and shoots accurately and consistently out to 40 yards. It is sturdy, nicely balanced and suitably compact for use in blinds, climbing stands or ladder stands.

I will definitely make room for it on my next whitetail hunt.

Spec Sheet

Manufacturer: Parker Crossbows

Model: Hammer 325

Draw weight: 170 pounds

Power stroke:  11.25 inches

Arrow length:  20 inches

Trigger pull:  3.5 pounds with anti-dry-fire device

Sights: Various scope packages offered

Cocking device: Rope cocker (not included)

Overall Length: 36.75 inches

Axle-to-axle length: 20.25 inches

Weight: 7 pounds

Other Features: String suppressers standard; Kryptek Highlander tan camo finish.

MSRP:  $549.95

Parker’s 3x Multi-Reticle Illuminated Scope

One of the most useful accessory items for any crossbow enthusiast is an illuminated scope that is specifically designed for crossbow use. Options range from non-illuminated, no-power, single-reticle models to a wide variety of multi-reticle illuminated scopes including fixed-power and variable-power models.

Parker’s 3x Multi-Reticle Illuminated Scope is the ideal choice for the new Hammer 325. The scope itself is short, compact and lightweight, barely noticeable on its elevated mount.

Inside, the scope offers four circular, vertical reticles set in 10-yard increments so the crossbow may be sighted in at 10 or 20 yards. Outside are the usual elevation and windage adjustments, flip-up lens covers and a red-green illumination knob with six degrees of brightness that include all four circles. It’s generally recommended that only the lowest setting be use because the brighter settings can obscure a potential target, especially in near-dark conditions.

For test purposes I ran the roving range one-half hour after sunset using the lowest (green) setting and had 100-percent hits on all targets. For some reason I did not do as well with the red setting, but experience suggests that this is a personal choice – some hunters are deadly using red illumination while others prefer green.

In checking my records over the last 10 years of crossbow hunting I found that 90 percent of my biggest bucks were taken before sunrise or after sunset. In all cases green illumination was the key element for my success. In fact, some of those deer were taken using early-model Parker crossbows with illuminated scopes, so I have a history of good luck using Parker products.

For more information on Parker crossbows, scopes and accessories, log onto www.parkerbows.com.