Field Test: Excalibur Assassin 400TD

Excalibur’s new Assassin 400TD micro crossbow — featuring advanced take-down technology — pushes arrows downrange at speeds up to 400 fps.

Field Test: Excalibur Assassin 400TD

Innovation continues to be the name of the game among crossbow manufacturers in 2020, and Excalibur, a 40-year player in the crossbow market, has come up with some truly satisfying, useful and practical updates to its signature recurve-limbed line of crossbows. One example is the new Assassin 400TD — a take-down model — that will put traveling crossbow hunters in Seventh Heaven.

Specifications

  • Draw weight: 325 pounds
  • Power stroke: 15 inches
  • Arrows: 16.5 inches (carbon fiber, flat nocks)
  • Arrow speed: 400 fps
  • Trigger pull: 3 pounds; includes dry-fire inhibitor and whisper-quiet safety.
  • Sights: Tact-100 illuminated, 100-yard multi-reticle scope provided
  • Cocking device: Integral cocking device w/handle and strap                     
  • Overall length: 30 inches
  • Axle-to-axle width: 25 inches uncocked; 20 inches cocked
  • Weight: 7.9 pounds
  • Other features: Quick-Loc, tool-less take-down design, adjustable cheek piece, integral cocking-decocking mechanism, string stops, sound suppressors, QD quiver, 16.5-inch carbon arrows and custom-fitted soft case.
  • MSRP: $1,799.99

 

With two decisive clicks, the Excalibur Assassin 400TD limbs are joined to the rail using no tools, no force and no heavy thinking. First, lift the stirrup to clear the connection channel, press the push-button release and then drop the limbs into place. That’s it — the crossbow is assembled and ready to shoot. Disassembly for travel is just as quick, requiring no tools and no loose parts to manage.

Even better is the Assassin’s built-in cocking system, which features a trigger release mechanism that slides down the rail and captures the string with another hearty click. The cocking handle (with safety strap attached) is then engaged, and with a mere 14 pounds of cocking force, the “sled” is hauled up the rail and into place, ready to accept one of Excalibur’s patented 16.5-inch, flat-nocked carbon arrows. The Assassin will also accept arrows weighing at least 350 grains, which is good news for traveling hunters who may not be able to find Excalibur’s proprietary shafts in the boondocks where whitetail hunting is usually best.

Additional notable, useful features of the Assassin 400TD include its quick-adjustable cheek piece, also requiring no tools or fiddling with loose parts. Unscrew the two large knobs at the rear of the stock, set the cheek piece for the desired length and secure the knobs. Simple, quick and easy.

Sure to appeal to shooters, as well as hunters, the Excalibur’s Pro-Shot two-stage trigger, as advertised, breaks cleanly at 3 pounds every time. Not only that, but the Assassin 400’s glove-friendly, over-sized manual safety is whisper quiet, a feature that close-range whitetail hunters will appreciate.

Finally, the Assassin’s new High-Output Express limbs with Armor Tips give the Assassin 400TD the narrowest profile of the entire Assassin family at 20 inches (cocked) while sending arrows downrange at speeds up to 400 fps.

It’s more than worth noting that the Assassin 400 comes equipped with Excalibur’s compact Tact-100 multi-reticle, which features (red/green) illumination — calibrated in 10-yard increments from 20 to 100 yards. The scope is designed specifically for crossbow shooting and is not just another after-market add-on.

I have reviewed and hunted with several Excalibur crossbows over the years and have come to expect no less than stellar performance from them, especially at the range. While some hunters may consider Excalibur’s trademark recurve-style limbs to be old-school, there is something to be said for their minimal technology, especially for those who hunt in areas where repairs and replacement parts are difficult or impossible to find. As is the case with all of Excalibur’s line of recurve-limbed crossbows, there is not much that can go wrong other than having to replace a damaged or worn string, which can be done rather easily even under field conditions.

That said, there no noticeable loss in arrow speed or accuracy when using recurve limbs. The built-in hand charger is a blessing in itself, requiring only 14 pounds of effort to bring the Assassin 400 up to full power. It happened that my test unit arrived during a certified Nor’easter, so I cleverly assembled the bow, cocked it, and left it on the back porch in a biting wind while a foot of snow piled up and temperatures dipped into the teens. The next morning, I headed straight for the range and was not surprised that the first arrow was only two inches off center at 20 yards. Three shots later, I was test-firing arrows out to 50 and 60 yards. The wind was relentless and precluded any serious work at 70 yards or more, but subsequent testing at the range proved that the Assassin 400 was more than adequate for deer-sized targets at maximum range.

As always, I suggest and recommend that hunters keep their shots within 40 yards regardless of any crossbow’s advertised capabilities. Experienced shooters who are honest about their abilities and existing conditions may well consider taking a longer shot should one present itself.

After sight in at 20 yards, I began shooting one-shot “groups” at various distances to avoid ruining my basic stock of four arrows to ruinous Robin Hoods. Using 2-inch orange stickers as bullseyes, I was hitting dead-on out to 60 yards with every shot. For testing purposes, I switched to a supply of standard moon-nocked arrows and proceeded to destroy most of them by attempting three-shot groups at all distances. Even at 60 yards, my arrows were often touching with fletching ripped off at nearly every shot. Suffice it to say that the Assassin 400 is as accurate as any crossbow on the market. The trigger pulls consistently, breaking crisply at 3 pounds even after several hundred shots.

Deciding that no more tinkering from the bench was necessary, I headed for the roving range, where most of the targets were covered with snow following the recent storm. In as close to late-season conditions as one could ask, I started with a couple of easy 20-yard Block shots and then worked my way along the trail to the 30-, 40- and 50-yard silhouettes. Thanks to the Assassin 400’s built-in charging handle, I was able to cock and load in record time. The strap-assist feature makes cocking the crossbow much easier, and there were no mishaps or malfunctions during the morning-long session.

For added spice, I fired at least two arrows at each target in rapid succession, meaning about two arrows every 20 seconds. As close as it gets to cowboy-action speed in the world of crossbows! I put one arrow behind the shoulder on molded targets, another in the neck, and where Blocks, bales, or other options came up, I put one arrow dead center and the second shaft about 6 inches high or to the left or right. Again, there were no issues, faults, or failures — the Assassin 400 is dependably accurate under typical field conditions.

The Assassin 400TD package includes the crossbow, factory-mounted scope and rings, sound deadening system, ambidextrous cheek piece, four-arrow QD quiver, four Proflight 16.5-inch arrows, field points, fail-safe strap and charger handle, plus a custom-fitted soft case (above).
The Assassin 400TD package includes the crossbow, factory-mounted scope and rings, sound deadening system, ambidextrous cheek piece, four-arrow QD quiver, four Proflight 16.5-inch arrows, field points, fail-safe strap and charger handle, plus a custom-fitted soft case (above).


At 30 inches (33 inches with the adjustable cheek piece fully extended), the Assassin 400 easily falls into the “compact” range for hunters who expect to do most of their shooting out of blinds, climbing stands or tree stands. Cocking the crossbow in confined spaces is made immeasurably easier by the integral charging system, which means no more hunching over in crowded blinds or treacherous balancing acts in tree stands 20 feet or more off the ground.

Traveling hunters will appreciate the Assassin 400’s fitted soft case, which features pockets within pockets and more pockets inside and out for all manner of gear, accessories, arrows and broadheads. Because the Assassin 400 is a take-down model, everything fits neatly into a slim-profile, 10x30-inch case that easily (and safely) stows in any vehicle, boat, ATV or snowmobile. The case can also be attached to a backpack for ease of transport into a wilderness campsite or cabin.

I have nothing negative to say about the Assassin 400, expect for my usual complaint about the lack of a sling as part of the crossbow package. Even at a relatively heavy 7.9 pounds, the crossbow is nicely balanced, accurate and sturdy. It performed flawlessly in less-than-perfect wintry conditions, seemingly perfectly suited to the needs of even the most discerning whitetail hunter.

MSRP for the Assassin 400TD in Realtree Edge or TruTimber Strata is $1,799.99. For additional information on the complete line of Excalibur crossbows, visit www.excaliburcrossbow.com.

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