Crossbow Review: Steambow AR-6 Stinger II

The Steambow AR-6 Stinger II holds six 6-inch arrows that can be fired in quick succession.

Crossbow Review: Steambow AR-6 Stinger II

At first glance the updated Steambow AR-6 seems more like a toy than a “real” crossbow, reminiscent of the old Wham-O offerings of the early 1960s. Having bought and used one of the old PowerMasters almost as soon as they appeared, I can attest that, from a hunting standpoint, they were useless. Inaccurate, unreliable and cheaply made, my Wham-O was relegated to the yard sale table in record time.

The Steambow AR-6 is as far as one can get from being a toy yet it still does not legally qualify as a hunting crossbow in most states. Its small (6-inch arrows), minimal draw weight (55 pounds) and general configuration preclude it from being accepted as a hunting implement except possibly for rats at the dump and similar vermin.

That being said, the Stinger II certainly has its place as a practice crossbow that is especially easy to use and accurate enough for backyard shooting. Its lack of a safety device, however, means it should be used by only an experienced, responsible adult. A firm, decisive trigger pull is required to shoot the Stinger II.

The AR-6 Stinger II is marketed as a modular, tactical crossbow made from high-quality polymer. This material makes it very lightweight yet extremely sturdy. The crossbow features an internal magazine capacity of six 6-inch arrows that can be fired in quick succession. It is manually cocked by the use of an integral cocking lever. Rate of fire depends on the skill, dexterity and strength of the user, but it is easily possible to fire all six arrows within 10 seconds. The adjustable M4-style butt stock makes cocking easier than with previous models and helps steady the unit when shooting.

The arrows are propelled by strong composite fiberglass/carbon-fiber limbs capable of delivering enough speed and kinetic energy for accurate shooting at moderate distances. With Steambow’s proprietary, razor-sharp hunting arrows, the AR-6 Stinger II can be used (where legal) for varmint hunting, pest control or even home-defense applications.

Published Specs

  • Manufacturer: Steambow
  • Model: AR-6 Stinger II
  • Draw weight: 55 pounds
  • Power stroke: 8 inches
  • Arrow length: 6 inches
  • Arrow speed: 190 fps
  • Trigger pull:  3.5 pounds; no safety mechanism
  • Sights: Fiber-optic standard; laser or red-dot sights optional
  • Cocking device: Integrated drop-stock cocking mechanism
  • Length:  22 to 24.5 inches with adjustable butt stock
  • Axle-to-axle width: 17.5 inches uncocked; 15.5 inches ready to fire
  • Weight:  2.5 pounds
  • Other features: Six-shot magazine, adjustable AR-15-style butt stock; adjustable, removable foregrip; upper and lower Picatinny rails for mounting laser and red-dot sights, weapon lights and other accessories; composite fiberglass/carbon-fiber limbs; one replacement string; six target arrows or three broadhead hunting arrows.
  • MSRP: $300


The AR-6 Stinger II is surprisingly rugged, reliable and sturdy, well-suited for continuous, accurate shooting. It contains a cylindrical slot built into the magazine for mounting a red laser sight (optional). A red laser sight is ideal for low-light situations, firing from the hip or one-handed shooting around corners or such. The laser sight is best suited for shorter distances and may not be visible in bright daylight. If weapon lights, the green day-friendly laser or red-dot sight are used, they can only be bolted to the magazine sidewall or mounted on the Picatinny rail.

The Stinger II is equipped with an adjustable M4-style butt stock and vertical foregrip, which aids in cocking and helps steady the unit for longer shots.

The AR-6 Stinger II has a magazine capacity of six arrows but also can be operated in single-shot mode. Total weight is 2.5 pounds.

Assembly of the Stinger II was quick and easy following the instructions in the owner’s manual, which must be read thoroughly before assembling and operating the crossbow. All tools were provided except for a small adjustable wrench needed to attach the magazine to the rail. All parts were easily identified in the manual. The package includes a stringing aid, two extra strings and a spare magazine spring.

After following the clear and concise instructions, my sample crossbow was assembled and ready for use in just minutes.

The Steambow AR-6 is cocked by dropping the butt stock lever. The string is held in place behind a ledge above the trigger. There is no safety mechanism so the crossbow must be fired immediately. A firm, decisive trigger pull is required to shoot the Stinger II.
The Steambow AR-6 is cocked by dropping the butt stock lever. The string is held in place behind a ledge above the trigger. There is no safety mechanism so the crossbow must be fired immediately. A firm, decisive trigger pull is required to shoot the Stinger II.

On the Range

In the interest of giving the AR-6 Stinger II a fair review, I headed for the range to test the crossbow within the manufacturer’s limits. All shooting was conducted from the bench at 10, 20 and 30 yards using a variety of arrows, including hunting-style broadheads, provided by the manufacturer for review purposes.

Because the base-model Stinger II is equipped only with a fiber-optic front sight and a post rear sight, it took some time to learn how best to aim the unit for optimum accuracy. Some tips for aiming are included in the owner’s manual, and by following its recommendations I was getting Robin-Hood level accuracy at 10 yards.

Fortunately, the provided practice arrows are nearly indestructible with no damage done in the process. My six-shot groups averaged about 2 inches using the basic open sights.

After moving back to 20 yards, my groups opened up to between 3 and 4 inches, which was better than expected despite the comparatively low velocity of the 6-inch arrows.

In an effort to give the AR-6 as complete a review as possible I took it to the roving range but limited my attempts at targets that were less than 30 yards distant. Considering that I was also using open sights, accuracy was surprisingly good out to 25 yards, where the majority of hits were in the “kill” zone. There’s little doubt that a good red-dot sight designed for the purpose would reduce my groups considerably at that distance.

I did notice that penetration began to fall off radically between 25 and 30 yards. At close range, the arrows would be buried to the fletching, but as the distance to the target increased, some arrows would penetrate only as far as the mini broadhead or, at best, 2 or 3 inches. Of course, a compressed Block-style target or molded 3-D target is not quite the same as a live animal, so it’s only fair to assume that, with razor-sharp broadheads, the Stinker II would do the job on small game and varmints. (Again, users are cautioned to check state and local regulations governing the use of the Stinger II for hunting.)

Although I made the effort shooting the AR-6 at targets beyond 40 yards, using the standard open sights was an iffy proposition at best. Granted, I hit the target nine times out of 10, but accuracy was sorely lacking. For example, I count hits in the legs, rump or head area of the target as misses, especially when I’m aiming for the heart-lung area.

Beyond 30 yards accuracy fell off considerably, to the point that I would not recommend the AR-6 with open sights for hunting any type of game. Every bolt hit the target face, which was surprising in itself, but pin-point accuracy was sorely lacking, no doubt due to the limitations of the open sights.

Steambow’s accompanying literature and entertaining YouTube video (the video highlights the Stinger I model) suggest that greater accuracy is possible when lasers or red-dot sights are incorporated, and that may be true. However, out of the box with open sights the Stinger II is for all practical purposes a 20-yard performer – fine for target practice, shooting vermin or, as the manufacturer suggests, home defense.

What’s unique about the Stinger II is it holds six arrows loaded with their double fletching positioned horizontally in the top-mounted magazine. The arrows are then gravity-fed onto the rail after each shot. As the unit is cocked (by holding the foregrip and dropping the butt stock) the next bolt drops onto the rail where the string is deposited to a ledge just above and behind the trigger. After the trigger is pulled, the string is essentially pushed over the ledge and into the waiting flat end of the bolt (there is no nock).

The standard blue training arrows that ship with the bow start out at 190 fps, which is impressive at short range (10 to 15 yards), but slow considerably and noticeably as the distance to the target increases, confirming the Stinger II’s status as a short-range plinking unit.

Standard features include an open fiber-optic sight on top of the magazine, a top Picatinny rail for red-dot sights, bottom Picatinny rail for after-market tactical lights and foregrips; a cylindrical slot built into the magazine for use with an optional red laser sight; weapon lights, green day-friendly laser or red-dot sights can be bolted to the magazine sidewall or mounted on the Picatinny rail.

MAP (minimum advertised pricing) for the Steambow AR-6 Stinger II and six practice arrows is $300. For additional information, log onto

Sidebar: Steambow Stinger II Crossbow Arrows

As unique as the Steambow AR-6 Stinger II is with its six-shot magazine and AR-15-style adjustable butt stock, the variety of accompanying arrows designed for target shooting and hunting are equally impressive.

The new AR-6 target arrows weigh 142 grains and are made from sturdy aluminum pipe with stronger walls than the company’s earlier arrows. Target arrows are anodized in blue for easier identification when loaded into the magazine. Other arrow configurations vary in color so that the shooter can determine the next shot at a glance.

Steambow’s new AR-6 hunting arrows in red offer the same performance and quality as its original hunting arrows except that the contour of the vanes are designed to match all  other arrows in the company’s catalog ensuring more consistent accuracy. The AR-6 hunting arrow weighs 154 grains and is very accurate and penetrates deep into the target at close range. The cut-on-contact fixed-blade broadhead is sharp; I think it’s cutting performance on an animal would be very good.

Finally, the AR-6 Bodkin practice arrows in black boast a tip made from hardened carbon steel. In combination with their heavier weight — 161 grains — they provide additional penetration on hard and soft targets. Their weight is close to that of Steambow’s hunting arrows, which allows for the same point of impact, ensuring consistent accuracy even when Bodkins and hunting arrows are mixed in the magazine.


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