Crossbow Review: Ravin R18

You’ve probably never seen something so remarkable in the crossbow world.

Crossbow Review: Ravin R18

A comfortable grip and light trigger make the Ravin R18 an enjoyable and easy-to-shoot crossbow.

I don’t know about you, but I appreciate uniqueness and individuality, especially in a day and age when stuff just blends together — many things seem to have that “me-too” vibe these days. It’s tough to mine through all of the fluff, so when I find something that truly stands out, I know it’s time to look closer and see what it’s all about.

Along those lines, I knew that I’d be testing a Ravin crossbow but was unsure which model would arrive at our doorstep. So, when my eyes first met the R18, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. All I could think was, Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a Ravin crossbow! The R18’s shockingly unique design is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I also couldn’t (and still can’t) believe how small it is.

If you haven’t seen or held the Ravin R18 in person, I’m sure after musing at the pictures in this report that you’re as intrigued as I was when I first got my hands on it. If so, read on as I divulge my thoughts after testing and evaluating this not-so-crossbow, crossbow.

The R18 consists of high-quality materials, and though it looks like something from outer space, it is highly dependable and easy to use.
The R18 consists of high-quality materials, and though it looks like something from outer space, it is highly dependable and easy to use.

Test Crossbow Specs

  • Make/Model: Ravin R18
  • Available Finishes: Black
  • Mass Weight: 6 pounds (bare bow); 8.36 pounds (with sight, quiver and arrows)
  • Overall Width: 4.75 inches
  • Overall Length: 18 inches (stock detached); 25 inches (stock attached)
  • Draw Effort: 12 pounds (with integrated crank)
  • Power Stroke: 13 inches
  • Bolt Length and Weight: 16 inches; 350 grains
  • Manufacturer Listed Velocity: 330 fps (measured with a 400-grain bolt)
  • Trigger Pull: Not Listed
  • Cocking Device: Versa-Draw Cocking System
  • Scope: Ravin 3 Dot Reflex Sight
  • MSRP: $2,024.99 
  • Contact: 

First Impressions

The Ravin R18 has a limb system unlike any other crossbow I’ve reviewed. At first, I questioned if it should be classified as its own new “species” in the crossbow world, but fundamentally, it operates just like a standard crossbow — while a first glance might be intimidating, it doesn’t take a Ph.D. to figure out how to shoot it. It looks way different than conventional designs, and that alone will catch a bowhunter’s eyes. I’m not aware of another crossbow that even moderately resembles the R18.   

With that being said, the words “new, different and unique” might scare some hunters while piquing the interest of others. Regardless, Ravin’s R18 diminutive size and wildly futuristic aesthetics blend perfectly with dependable performance. Hunters seeking accuracy, speed and maneuverability — not to mention other great points — should definitely test-drive this hot rod.  

So, what’s all different about the R18 than other crossbows? Other than the outer-space aesthetics it sports, Ravin has incorporated some key features that all harmonize to produce incredible performance. Let’s discuss them.

Small But Mighty

First and most important, the R18 has vertically oriented limbs, and that alone makes it the elephant in the room because conventional crossbows have horizontal limbs. This allows the VertiCoil Cam System to be positioned directly beneath the limb tips and tight to the stock. The tiny cams rotate 720 degrees through the draw cycle, coiling the bowstring and cables around the cam and cam axle. The advantage of this design is a shockingly small 4.75-inch overall width (cocked or de-cocked, it doesn’t change). Talk about maneuverability for super-tight hunting setups. 

Also, the stock is removable, which reduces the overall length to just 18 inches rather than 25. It doesn’t shoot as accurately with the stock removed because you lose a contact point, but I assume that it isn’t truly designed to be shot as a “pistol” without the stock. I believe it’s meant more for packability, which I could see beneficial for hunters who hike deep into the brush or backcountry.

The Frictionless Flight System is another key attribute. With most crossbows today, the bowstring and bolt make full contact with the rail, but, with the R18, the bowstring free floats above the rail. This increases the bowstring’s life because there isn’t friction-induced wear with every shot. The design is also geared toward improving accuracy. Much like an arrow on a compound bow, the bolt nock attaches to the bowstring and rides on a rest positioned at the front of the crossbow.  

The Trac-Trigger Firing System is a patented mechanism that slides forward on the rail and secures directly to the center of the string every time the bow is drawn, which produces straight nock travel and optimizes consistency. This also works in conjunction with the Versa-Draw Cocking System, which I’ll get back to in a few minutes.

Power doesn’t always come from size. Consider a bullet, for example; though small, it can cause serious damage to anything it impacts. The same concept comes to mind regarding the Ravin R18. With a remarkable 4.75-inch width and 25-inch overall length, it truly redefines compactness and maneuverability. Don’t let the petite size fool you, though, because it can pack a punch with a 400-grain arrow hitting a 330-fps velocity. It’s mind-boggling that something so small can strike so hard, but that’s exactly the point behind the innovative design.

Cocking the Ravin R18 is a breeze with the integrated Versa-Draw Cocking System.
Cocking the Ravin R18 is a breeze with the integrated Versa-Draw Cocking System.

On the Range

With the R18’s unconventional design, you’re probably wondering how it handles and shoots. First of all, it’s extremely short, compact and easy to point and acquire a target. My husband took it turkey hunting a few times and found that it was excellent for tight setups. He didn’t have to watch the limb tips as with a horizontal limb design. Remember, the overall width is just 4.75 inches, and the limbs spring upward at the shot, not forward.  

As for my testing, the first thing that stood out was the quality of construction. I have no doubts this crossbow will withstand the tests of time and be handed down through generations given proper maintenance. I also really enjoyed the ergonomic pistol grip, compact size and light, travel-free trigger, which makes shooting a breeze. The fore-grip isn’t the most comfortable one I’ve ever felt, but it’s intentionally small and skeletonized to minimize weight and bulk.  

Another key point to note is the integrated Versa-Draw Cocking System, which not only makes the Ravin R18 an “all-in-one” crossbow, but also makes cranking a piece of cake for most users. Plus, you can also de-cock it — no need for extra tools or fumbling with loose parts. And, the integrated crank is ambidextrous, making it user-friendly for both right- and left-handed folks. The cranking handle is detachable and stows in a perfectly appointed and secure storage location on the stock, which is also convertible based on dexterity.

The compact design is incredibly maneuverable and packable, thanks to vertical limbs powered by the VertiCoil Cam System.
The compact design is incredibly maneuverable and packable, thanks to vertical limbs powered by the VertiCoil Cam System.

Let’s not forget the real meat behind the Ravin R18, which is its accuracy. I was pleased when I took a few shots at 20 yards, and then when my husband and I moved back to 40 yards, the accuracy was excellent. We didn’t shoot it farther than that due to the optic having hold points to 40 yards, but I’m sure that with a different scope, you could push the envelope to 60 yards and beyond. In skilled hands, the R18 will have no problem putting down game at 40 yards and beyond.

To give an honest evaluation, I’ll note that this crossbow is considerably louder than I anticipated it would be. Due to its percussive “crack,” I decided to wear in-ear hearing protection for the bulk of my field testing. On the range, hunters might consider wearing earplugs. That said, in cool temps, a stocking cap will cut the noise.

I like the compactness of Reflex 3-Dot Reflex Sight, and it held its zero just fine after being sighted in. I also really like the three illuminated red dots, which are set for 20, 30 and 40 yards. For bowhunters looking for a more sophisticated scope, Ravin has them available. Ravin also offers expandable broadheads, which would be deadly from the R18.

Final Thoughts

If there’s one main takeaway from this test, it’s that this USA-made crossbow is so streamlined. Even when outfitted with accessories, it’s just so easy to stick in a closet, pack in a vehicle, or tote through the woods.

Besides that, I want to end this field test right where I began: If you want to own and hunt with a crossbow unlike anything else on the market, the R18 is truly unique — and accurate.

Photos by Darron McDougal


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