Crossbow Field Test: Gearhead X16 Tactical

The Gearhead X16 Tactical is an excellent crossbow for hunting, and was designed to provide a lifetime of accurate shooting.

Crossbow Field Test: Gearhead X16 Tactical

Crossbow enthusiasts who are all thumbs will be thrilled with the Gearhead X16 Tactical crossbow. it arrives packed in a fitted case in two pieces (stock and limbs) that slide together using a knurled knob that locks both pieces into place. Total assembly time: 5 seconds!

Also of great interest to shooters is the X16 comes with its own fitted soft carrying-travel case that includes more than enough zippered pockets to accommodate extra arrows, cocking rope, broadheads, rangefinder and other necessities.

There’s much more to like about Gearhead’s X16 series of crossbows, which include the X16 Tactical and X16 Target models. Lightweight at just 6.25 pounds, compact at just 35 inches overall and only 14.75 inches in width when cocked, the X16 Tactical is sturdy, solid, weatherproof and ready for the range right out of the box.

Gearhead X16 Tactical Specs

  • Draw weight: 75, 90 or 125 pounds
  • Power stroke: 16 inches
  • Arrow length: 24 inches
  • Arrow speed: up to 350 fps (125-pound draw with 325-grain arrow)
  • Trigger pull: 2.1 pounds; dry-fire inhibitor
  • Sights: Hawke XB1 1.5-5x32mm red/green illuminated scope (extra)
  • Cocking device: Hand or rope cocker
  • Length: 35 inches
  • Axle-to-axle width: 14.75 inches cocked, 18.5 inches uncocked
  • Weight: 6.25 pounds
  • Other features: Adjustable cheek piece and foregrip; one-step assembly; limb dampeners, fitted travel case. Hunting colors available: Anodized Black, Predator Brown Camo (+$150).
  • MSRP: $1,549 (X16 Tactical crossbow only); $219 additional for the Hawke scope, three arrows and quiver. The X16 Target model is $1,299 plus $279 for the accessory package, which includes a hardcover case. 

The X16 is thoughtfully designed for safe shooting with its extra-wide finger flange, adjustable five-position foregrip and unique arrow suspension system, which raises the arrow completely off the rail when cocked and loaded. The nock sits in the anti-dryfire trigger mechanism and is raised above the rail by a dependable Whisker Biscuit arrow rest that is preset and centered at the factory.

Gearhead’s X16 Tactical crossbow included a dependable Whisker Biscuit arrow rest that elevates the shaft above and off the rail. (Photo by Steve Carpenteri.)
Gearhead’s X16 Tactical crossbow included a dependable Whisker Biscuit arrow rest that elevates the shaft above and off the rail. (Photo by Steve Carpenteri.)

The X16 is designed for use with 400-spine, 24-inch arrows weighing at least 300 grains including a field tip or broadhead. Arrows of this length and size are not readily available, so it would be a good idea to order extra arrows prior to a hunting trip rather than hope to find suitable replacements at a local archery outlet. Standard 20- or 22-inch crossbow arrows will not function due to the X16s unique off-the-rail arrow rest configuration.

The current model X16 features a completely new trigger assembly that, upon cocking, automatically places the trigger on “safe” with an audible click. A clearly visible white dot on the safety switch means the crossbow is on “safe,” while the red-painted dot indicates that the unit is on “fire.”

Also unique to Gearhead’s X16 series is that arrows must be loaded with the cock vane (off-colored feather) up simply because there is no split rail for the arrow in which to ride. Proper loading may require the user to twist the nock into position so the cock vane rides upright. This can be done to every arrow to save time and maintain focus during the loading process. When properly aligned, the arrow nock will snap into position with an audible click.

There are two methods that may be employed to cock the X16. A cocking rope (not included) may be used following the instructions outlined in the owner’s manual. With the safety set in the “fire” position, place the center of the string in the groove in the stock located directly behind the trigger box, and then place the hooks onto the string as close to the rail as possible. Pull the string to the back of the trigger box until you hear a loud click, which automatically resets the safety to the “safe” position.

Because the X16 is designed with a comparatively low draw weight (75, 90 or 125 pounds of pull), the crossbow may also be loaded by hand for shooters with the strength and dexterity to complete the process. Cocking the crossbow by hand is faster but use of a cocking rope reduces the pull weight by half, and also makes registration into the trigger box more consistent.

Decocking is best accomplished by shooting an arrow into the ground or a suitable target. Gearhead recommends using a “decocking arrow” with field tip attached to unload the X16 simply because arrows used for the purpose invariably end up being scraped, bent or otherwise damaged in the process. Arrows (and broadheads) are too costly to risk ruining them during decocking.

Other cautions detailed in the all-important owner’s manual include waxing the center serving of the string every 25 shots. In addition, Gearhead recommends decocking the crossbow at the end of the day rather than leaving it cocked for long periods of time.

Gearhead’s X16 Tactical crossbow features an adjustable cheekpiece along with a five-position foregrip. (Photo by Steve Carpenteri.)
Gearhead’s X16 Tactical crossbow features an adjustable cheekpiece along with a five-position foregrip. (Photo by Steve Carpenteri.)

On the Bench

For testing purposes, I loaded the X16 Tactical early in the morning and left it outdoors in 90-degree heat and humidity until dark (essentially a typical hunting day) and fired it without issue after being cocked for 14 hours. During typical fall/winter hunting seasons, the days are much shorter by several hours, so the X16 should perform as designed under normal hunting conditions. Finally, Gearhead recommends drying the crossbow’s components after use in wet (rain or snow) conditions.

With all this in mind, I headed for the range to sight in the X16. It had been factory-sighted for 25 yards, which is fine for most situations, but being an old-school crossbow fan I made the necessary adjustment so the bow shot dead-on at 20 yards. Two clicks of downward elevation and I was in the 10-ring at that distance. The optional Hawke 1.5-5x scope is calibrated in five 10-yard increments, which means when zeroed at 20 yards my arrows were falling into the bull’s-eye with pleasing regularity at 30, 40, 50 and 60 yards, which is ideal for most deer, bear, hog and turkey hunting situations. Past experience has taught me not to shoot second or third arrows at the same bull’s-eye because the risk of expensive Robin Hoods is too high.

Taking advantage of the miserable conditions (record-setting heat and humidity), I fired multiple arrows at various distances throughout the day from early morning to late evening with consistent results. The X16 functioned well throughout the process and produced pinpoint, killing shots from 10 yards to 60 yards. This, of course, was from the solid stability of an open-field bench rest.


Roving Range Testing

I was interested to see how the X16 Tactical would perform on the roving range, which was considerably darker and denser due to heavy summer foliage. In some situations, I had to remind myself where the silhouette target was because the greenery was so thick.

The X16 turned out to be well-balanced, lightweight and compact, perfect for still-hunting in typical whitetail habitat. I tried the Hawke scope with green and red illumination, as well as with the illumination turned off, and had no trouble finding my targets or putting my arrows where I wanted them.

My roving range is set up with Block-style targets and silhouettes set at varying distances from 10 to 40 yards, and the X16 was more than up to the task. I wouldn’t hesitate to use it on live game out to the maximum scope setting, although it is my habit to wait for close-range shots on animals rather than farther away. In a wooded setting, a 60-yard shot is unlikely if not impossible, although when hunting open fields, pastures, powerlines or clear-cuts, long-range opportunities might arise.

From the bench, the X16 Tactical was on the money out to 60 yards, and on the woods range every arrow hit pay dirt, even at 40 yards in mottled, sun-dappled conditions.



All things considered, the X16 Tactical is an excellent crossbow for hunting and was designed to provide a lifetime of accurate shooting. It is lightweight, compact and sturdy, easy to cock and safe to shoot. With careful handling and routine maintenance as outlined in the owner’s manual, the X16 should certainly provide many years of dependable service.

Aside from the likely difficulty of finding suitable after-market 24-inch arrows for the X16, I found little to complain about. There is only one sling swivel attachment on the crossbow (near the butt stock) which means the top end of a sling (not provided, by the way) would have to be tied on or otherwise attached to the front end of the unit.

In addition, long-term users can expect to replace the arrow rest at some point, which means returning the crossbow to the manufacturer for installation and resetting.

Of course, abuse, mishandling, dry firing, alterations or modifications made to the original product are not covered by the lifetime warranty, nor is using arrows weighing less than 300 grains, or employing nocks other than those specified in the owner’s manual.

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Sidebar: Gearhead X16 Quick Breakdown

Traveling crossbow hunters will love Gearhead’s X16 quick breakdown feature that allows the crossbow to be disassembled into two pieces (stock and limbs) in seconds.

To assemble the crossbow, remove the crossbow limbs and main frame from the provided soft travel case. Line up the female dovetail on the head with the male dovetail slot on the main frame. Slide the two components together until the spring locking pin snaps into place.

Apply thumb pressure downward on the head while tightening the thumb knob on the right side of the bow finger tight. The crossbow is now ready to shoot.

To disassemble the X16 crossbow for travel, loosen the thumb knob, pull back on the rubber lever of the spring-loaded pin and then slide the two components apart.

With practice you can assemble or disassemble the Gearhead X16 in 5 seconds. When properly assembled, the crossbow remains sighted in to provide bench-quality accuracy right out of the fitted case.


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