Bow Report: Carbon Covert SLS

The Covert SLS is one of four Carbon Express crossbows currently in production, and the most compact of the three Covert Series crossbows.
Bow Report: Carbon Covert SLS

The Covert SLS is one of four Carbon Express crossbows currently in production, and the most compact of the three Covert Series crossbows. Barrel and cam color as well as camo finishes differ, in addition to significant differences in weight, power stroke, and speed—but all the Covert Series crossbows feature CNC machined aluminum risers and anodized aluminum barrels, split limbs constructed of carbon infused glass, and premium alloy cams.

Package & Features

Carbon Express describes the Covert Series stocks as a “…compact bullpup design,” with an all-metal trigger mechanism 4 inches forward of triggers found on “conventional” crossbows. The Picatinny Rail System found on all the Covert series crossbows is a 9-inch multi-position system that facilitates mounting accessories, and the forearm is adjustable. A folding foregrip locks in any of five positions (or for that matter, can be removed). An ambidextrous safety system operates in the conventional method of locking into the safe position as the bow is fully cocked, and an anti-dry-fire mechanism prevents the safety from being moved into the “Fire” position when no bolt is loaded. The finish on the Covert SLS is Mossy Oak Obsession, and the entire series features a SilenTech Coating to reduce vibration and sound. All current Carbon Express crossbows are also designed to accommodate an optional cocking winch, for those who have difficulty cocking by hand or with the use of the provided cocking rope.

In addition to the cocking rope, all the Covert crossbows comes standard with a quick-detach 3-arrow quiver, three Maxima Hunter 20-inch Crossbolts with field points, a 4x32 glass etched reticle lighted scope, and rail lubricant. The SLS, along with the Covert CX2, also comes with a 2-inch recoil pad as an option to the 1-inch pad that is installed.

Some Assembly Required

The Covert crossbows come partially disassembled. Assembly instructions in the owner’s manual are adequate, though a first-time crossbow user might benefit from some clearer illustrations. Hex wrenches are provided. The quick-detach bracket must be attached to the quiver using a small Phillips head screwdriver. Assembly took about 20 minutes, and that included vertically aligning the scope reticles and positioning the scope for eye relief. Everything fit together snugly.  Fit and finish on this model tested was excellent.

Shooting The Bow/General


At 10.5 pounds the Covert SLS is slightly on the heavy side. Offsetting the weight somewhat is the weight-to-the rear balance made possible by the bullpup stock design, and the overall short length of this crossbow. Also offsetting it is one of this crossbow’s best features—its extreme adjustability. Between the one-inch and the two-inch recoil pad, the adjustability of the forearm, and the adjustability of the foregrip, the Covert SLS can fit all sizes and shapes of hunters—not to mention accommodating a variety of preferred shooting styles. For offhand shooting, for instance, I prefer a forearm or foregrip in a rearward position, where I can pull my forearm in against my body, almost in the manner of an old-fashioned hip rest. Using this form, I found I was able to hold the crossbow steady enough for offhand shooting out to 30 yards or so. Shooters who prefer a more-forward position have that option. When shooting from a rest, the forearm position is less critical, and the foregrip can be folded against the barrel. (Treestand or ground blind shooters who almost always shoot from a rest of some sort might want to remove the foregrip altogether.)  The forearm is contoured nicely for comfort, and a lip along the top guides fingers and thumbs away from the path of the string and bolt.

A groove atop the buttstock facilitates use of the cocking rope. The center of the rope is placed in the groove, and the cocking hooks are pulled down and positioned on the string. Use of the cocking rope reduces the maximum load rating by about half. The design is such that when pulling smoothly, tension tends to keep the cocking hooks against the barrel. This is important, because improperly cocking crossbows is probably the most common cause of inaccurate or inconsistent shooting. Any design promoting consistent cocking is a worthwhile feature.

Carbon Express Covert SLS

The one-piece cocking stirrup is well designed, knurled, and coated with a gritty rubber-like finish which makes it quiet—in addition to facilitating a good grip. It could be slightly bigger for easier use with heavy winter boots.

The scope has four reticles, which at the turn of a dial are lighted in red or, with continued turns, in green. Each color has four values ranging from very dim to very bright, adjustable for use in varying lighting conditions or when shooting from a lighter background into the shadows. (Generally speaking, I find electronic or irradiated lighting essential in ground blinds.) I was able to sight the scope in quickly at 20 yards and found that the subsequent recticles were close to zero at 30, 40, and 50 yards, though as expected some compensation was necessary.

There is some travel in the trigger, and it’s a little heavy. This is not something I’m generally aware of in hunting situations, and though I am aware of it when target shooting, I can’t say it affects my accuracy in the case of crossbows. Shooters who are very particular about trigger pull will not find the trigger pull on the Covert SLS to be a positive factor.

At the shot there is some detectable vibration, but not an inordinate amount. At 94.1 dBA this crossbow is in the middle of the pack in terms of noise produced—which means that anyone who owns a crossbow more than two or three years old will probably consider it very quiet.

I will confess to a general bias in favor of compact crossbows. Whether I’m carrying a crossbow through the woods or just through my front door and into my vehicle, I like the maneuverability of a compact crossbow or, more to the point, I miss that maneuverability in the case of less-compact crossbows. I’ve also observed that a crossbow that is compact axle-to-axle can offer a wider field of fire, especially in a stand or a blind. At 13 inches axle-to-axle cocked and less than 36 inches in length (including the cocking stirrup), the Covert SLS certainly qualifies as compact.

All in all the Covert SLS is a feature-packed crossbow and virtually a custom product in terms of its adjustability. Any shooter who prefers a compact crossbow should give it a close look. The speed in the 350 fps range is impressive by any standard, if not record breaking; for a crossbow with a 13-inch power stroke, it’s very fast indeed. The Covert SLS is a very good crossbow overall, and for the roughly $600 price tag, it’s a great buy for the money.

Covert SLS Specs

Model.................... 20260

Feet Per Second..... 355

Kinetic Energy....... 119 ft. lbs.

Draw Weight.......... 185 pounds

Power Stroke........ 13 inches

Overall Length:...... 32 inches

Axle-to-Axle Width:..................... 13.5 inches (cocked)

Weight:.................. 10.5 pounds (with accessories provided)

Objective Tests

Bolt Weight:........... 390 grains...... 450 grains

Speed AL*/20 yards:................... 348/337 fps......328/320 fps

K.E. AL*/20 yards:...................... 105/98 ft. lbs.....108/102 ft. lbs.

Sound Level:.......... 94.1 dBA........ 92.6 dBA

*AL is At Launch


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