Crossbow Review: BearX Intense

The BearX Intense is an affordable and accurate crossbow, and it comes in a ready-to-hunt package with scope, quiver and arrows included.

Crossbow Review: BearX Intense

One of the most appealing features of entry-level, “ready to hunt” crossbows is they are literally ready to hunt right out of the box. Little or no assembly is required because the majority of the tool work and adjustments have been done at the factory. Other than mounting a scope and quiver (a 10-minute process even for shooters with 10 thumbs), these inexpensive, sturdy and accurate crossbows will do what the most complicated, advanced (and expensive) crossbows can do — i.e., deliver arrows with speed and accuracy under typical hunting conditions.

Such is the case with the new BearX Intense, a no-frills crossbow that comes fully assembled in a basic package that includes a scope, quiver, cocking rope, three arrows and 100-grain field tips. No more is promised, no more is given, but in truth that’s all a hunter needs to meet the challenges of crossbow hunting from a blind or treestand.

The Intense is offered in a Veil Stoke or TrueTimber Strata camo-pattern composite stock with camouflaged split limbs. Nothing is adjustable on the main frame (stock or grip), however, there is wiggle room provided by changing the position of the included illuminated scope via the Picatinny rail. The set up gives shooters about 6 inches to play with in terms of scope eye-relief, which should be more than enough for hunters up to 6 feet, 6 inches tall. I’m 5 feet 10 inches and found the scope to be just right with the rear-most mount set in the first available rail slot.

Having been around shooters who foolishly let their thumbs and fingers slide up into the path of the crossbow string (losing part or all of them in the process), I was especially pleased to see that the Intense has one of the widest, stiffest grip flanges in the business. Only a 7-foot basketball player would be able to get his fingertips up and around this rig, as good a safety feature as one will find on any crossbow. I’ve never had the pleasure of finger/string contact with any crossbow I’ve ever fired, but from what I’ve seen (at the range and at the emergency room) it’s not a fun experience.

The only parts on the Intense crossbow that require user attention is the scope (mounting is as simple as turning a knurled nut) and attaching the quiver, which requires just two Allen-type screws (wrench provided) and matching lock nuts. The quiver mount is attached to a short Picatinny rail at the front of the barrel and cants to the right or left as desired. Two screws secure the quiver mount to the barrel, and the locking mechanism is solid and silent, an important feature not available on many more expensive crossbows.

This is where I would offer my standard “read the owner’s manual” advice but, oddly enough, the Intense did not come with any paperwork. I suspect that my test model has made the rounds among other reviewers and so the manual was inadvertently left out of my shipment.

I looked for a manual online but could not find one for the Intense on Bear’s website – only manuals for the company’s compound bows came up. This is not a big deal for experienced crossbow users because the Intense is a simple, basic model with no bells or whistles to consider. And, as noted, it is fully assembled in the box, which eliminates most safety concerns. I routinely (and always) tighten all limb, stirrup and scope screws before heading for the range simply for peace of mind, but found that the Intense was ready for the bench with no additional adjustments required.

The Intense uses standard 20-inch BearX TrueX 370-grain arrows with TrueX nock technology featuring a wider, deeper nock than most crossbow arrows currently on the market. I usually work different nock types into my testing routine and found that standard and half-moon nocks functioned perfectly. This holds true with the Intense and the majority of other crossbows on the market, which is a plus when traveling to areas where specialty, proprietary arrows are hard to find. For safety and warranty reasons, of course, the user should always comply with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

I was particularly pleased that the Intense package included a four-dot illuminated scope that is specifically designed for crossbow use. Oddly, the enclosed scope packaging included sighting-in information for a standard, single-reticle riflescope, which seemed odd. Again, anyone who has experienced with standard crossbow scopes will have no trouble adjusting to the four-dot reticle. Obviously, the first (or top) reticle is for 20 yards, then 30, 40 and 50 yards in turn. The best crossbow scopes are calibrated to put arrows on target at all distances after being zeroed at 20 yards, and the Intense proved to be up to the task.

One unusual aspect of the Intense is its cocking rope, which includes a sled-type mechanism instead of the standard hooks. I fired the Intense more than 200 times during the course of testing, and made sure the sled was securely seated for each shot. I had no issues with cocking, no string damage and no sled problems to report.

As might be expected with a “you mount it” scope, it required several shots to get the crossbow on target at 20 yards, but from then on all arrows fell into a 2-inch circle at all distances, including 40 and even 50 yards. I had the advantage of a series of clear, calm, crisp September days in which to test-fire the Intense, so every arrow flew straight and true throughout the process. Humidity, wind, rain, snow, high temperatures and other factors can affect arrow flight, but in this case the Intense held up remarkably, almost unexpectedly, well. To properly test the illuminated scope under typical field conditions, I went to the roving range at dawn and dusk when natural light was dim at best. As usual, I discovered that I shot best with the lowest green setting. The brighter the light (red or green), the more difficult it was for me to see my targets, but that is normal for older hunters. The illuminated scope gives shooters three options (red, green or natural light), which should solve any optical issues a user may have regardless of age or visual acuity.

On the Range

All things considered, the Intense performed beautifully in open autumn woods in all light conditions. If I could see the target, then I could make a killing shot, which is all one can ask from any crossbow. I did try a few shots at 50 yards just for test purposes, but in most cases I held my fire beyond 40 yards, registering no misses throughout. The majority of hits were dead center or close to it.

The BearX Intense is easy enough to cock and load using a standard cocking rope, even with a draw weight of 185 pounds. I am in my late 60s and was still able to cock and load the Intense from a sitting position in a ground blind and in a ladder-type treestand. I’m sure I could do the same with the appropriate level of caution in a portable treestand.

I did find the Intense to be quite handy for still-hunting with its 36.5-inch overall length despite its 8-pound weight, which these days is considered slightly heavy for a crossbow. The Intense comes to the shoulder smoothly and comfortably, and is well-balanced, which more than makes up for the extra few ounces in weight.

All things considered, I found nothing to complain about with the Intense. It is an excellent beginner’s crossbow, basic and simple in design and remarkably accurate considering its low MSRP.

As always, I would prefer that the manufacturer would include a sling with each crossbow because no matter now light, short or compact one is, it’s still awkward and unwieldy to carry, especially with a pack and portable treestand in tow.

The Intense package includes the crossbow, illuminated scope, cocking sled, three arrows with field tips, string wax and quiver. Additional accessories are available from Bear including arrows and broadheads. MSRP is $449.99. For more information log onto www.beararchery.com.

Sidebar: Bear 4x32 Four-Dot Illuminated Scope

One of the most useful features of any crossbow is its scope. The very best of these are designed specifically for crossbows and include multi-line or dot reticles calibrated in 10-yard increments for ranges out to 100 yards in some cases. The majority of scopes, as is the case with the scope provided with Bear’s Intense crossbow, have three or four reticles, along with a choice of red and green illumination for low-light periods.

Aside from basic installation on the Picatinny rail of the crossbow, all the owner has to do is purchase a #2032 (round, nickel) battery and install it, which is easy enough thanks to the scope’s knurled, standard flat-head screw slot.

Shooters are advised to experiment with the scope in low-light conditions (stormy weather, cloudy days, dawn and dusk) to determine which light settings are best for various situations. For example, the lowest possible setting (in green or red) works best in most hunting scenarios for the average hunter, but shooters with specific vision issues may find the higher, brighter settings more appropriate.

To enjoy maximum use of any illuminated scope, the user is advised to turn the scope on during periods of low light and then turn it off in daylight situations or when done hunting for the day. The average battery should last an entire season when used sporadically in this manner.

For more information on the Bear Archery line of crossbow scopes and accessories, log onto www.beararchery.com.

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