Mission Archery's silent, compact SUB-1 crossbow with tactical-like feel and accuracy

Combining 30 years of innovation in the vertical bow world and a love of long-range rifle shooting, Matt McPherson took 3 years to create a new sniper-like crossbow.

Mission Archery's silent, compact SUB-1 crossbow with tactical-like feel and accuracy

Have you ever wondered why many dog owners look a lot like their canine companions? And why, research shows, that dogs adopt many of the same personality characteristics of their owners?

The same is often true in business — especially a small business like Mathews, Inc., and its offshoot, Mission Archery — where both company’s core values are a reflection of founder Matt McPherson. I’ve had the privilege of knowing Matt since shortly before he began Mathews back in 1992 with two employees — himself and Joel Maxfield, who still works for the company — in a steel building similar to a small body shop in Austin, Minnesota, with a vision — the Solocam — that would change both archery and bowhunting forever.

Today, Mathews, Inc. and Mission Archery are a huge success in no small part because both company’s underlying philosophy and way they do business reflect who Matt McPherson is as a man. An amazing engineer, Matt demands innovation and a take-no-prisoners quality in everything the company builds and sells. His devotion to his faith in Jesus Christ sets the tone for how he treats both his employees — today numbering several hundred — and his customers.

In an interview I did with Matt decades ago, he told me the success of Mathews Inc. is based on three core values — innovation, integrity, and impact — that shape the daily decisions and actions of all company employees. “Nothing else is more important to me than that our company and employees live out our core values on a daily basis,” he told me on a September, 2017 visit to the company’s Sparta, Wisconsin, home. “Our employees are committed to exhibiting these core values in all aspects of their daily work, and management is committed to supporting their personal and professional growth as they do so.”

Mission Crossbows

With the mercurial rise in popularity of crossbows for hunting, Mathews entered the fray a few years back with the same underlying philosophy: build innovative products that raise the performance bar. And Mission Crossbows has been successful in this new and highly-competitive marketplace for those reasons. But for Matt McPherson and his team, being just another player in the crossbow game wasn’t enough.

Robb tested the new SUB-1 first at the Mathews factory in Sparta, Wisconsin, and was suitably impressed with its accuracy.

What many people don’t know about Matt — who is also a very talented Gospel musician and singer who builds and sells highly-acclaimed McPherson guitars — is that he also loves rifles, and is a very serious long-range rifle shooter. Understanding that the most consistently-accurate sniper rifles do not shoot the fastest cartridges in the world but the most consistent, Matt decided to build a new crossbow based on this philosophy.

“Many sniper rifles are chambered for the .308 Win., which isn’t super-fast but it is super consistent,” Matt told me. “To compensate for the trajectory you employ a laser rangefinder, which gives you the exact distance to the target, and if you have a high-quality riflescope and the rifle itself is dialed up, hit rates at extreme distances are extremely high.

“It’s the same with both compound bows and crossbows,” Matt continued. “Slower speeds, relatively speaking, produce less vibration and quieter shots. You need that rangefinder to dial in longer distances, so really, does it matter if the arrow is blazing out there but is not consistently accurate? I don’t think so. So when it was time to take crossbows to a new level, we decided not to chase speed, but performance.”

The New Mission Archery SUB-1

It was this sniper philosophy that became the cornerstone of Mission’s game-changing new crossbow, the SUB-1. Three years in the making, Matt told me that he and his team examined every facet of a crossbow with an eye on improving anything and everything about them -- accuracy, ease of use, stealth, maneuverability and fit and feel. The result is more than 24 patents/patents pending for the all-new SUB-1.

“We got the name from the fact that this new crossbow can consistently deliver three-arrow groups measuring less than one-inch at 100 yards,” Matt said. “Another amazing feature is an innovative trigger system that has the ability to safely de-cock the crossbow with the push of a button. No longer do you have to shoot an arrow into the ground at the end of the day to de-cock your crossbow. We think that’s a safety game-changer.”

Consistent one-inch arrow groups at 100 yards? Seriously?? So together with a handful of select media members at the Mathews factory, we shot the new SUB-1 from a bench at distances from 30-100 yards, with a swirling wind that varied between 5-15 MPH. After a very short while, nobody wanted to shoot at any target at less than 50 yards -- if you did, odds were you’d Robin Hood the arrows. Instead we focused on the life-sized bull elk target set at 100 yards, with a small red spot in the kill zone. The crossbow I shot was fitted with a Hawke scope with multiple crosshairs that had been pre-sighted in for this distance. Even in this swirling wind, placing an arrow inside a 6-inch circle at 100 yards — every time — was the rule.

“The SUB-1 is truly more accurate than the arrows we have — and we use the best arrows we can buy,” Matt said. “The truth is, the bow can do this -- but most shooters cannot.” The SUB-1’s we tested were loaded with 20-inch arrows from Victory Archery built to .001-inch straightness with 3-inch vanes with a one-degree helical fletch, 100-grain target points, and a weight of 420 grains. Initial arrow speed was right at 350 fps.

The Inner Workings

Matt applied what he learned from over 30 years of innovation in the vertical bow world to create the new SUB-1. “I looked at conventional crossbow designs and was blown away at how cumbersome, loud, inaccurate, and cheap they felt and thought to myself, we can do this better,” he said. Here are some of the highlights:

Benchmark Fire Control: Three years in the making, this patented system is the first of its kind to allow shooters to safely de-cock their crossbow without disengaging the safety, pulling the trigger or shooting a bolt. No longer do you need to worry about a discharge bolt! At the core of the Benchmark Fire Control system is a two-stage, match grade trigger that utilizes a fully contained rolling sear set at a crisp 3.4 pounds. The Easy-Load bolt retention arm allows for effortless loading while applying optimal downward pressure on the bolt for a more secure hold, eliminating noise and vibration, while ensuring consistent accuracy.

Controlled Acceleration: Precision shooting is achieved not by one specific component, but by the sum of its parts. The SUB-1's patented Sync X cam system utilizes two circular and concentric string tracks, allowing the string to travel at a constant distance from the center of rotation resulting in unparalleled accuracy. This fully-synced cam system works in unison with the CNC machined flight tract completely eliminating horizontal and vertical nock travel. The 80 percent let off Sync X cams deliver controlled acceleration resulting in uniform arrow launch while providing effortless cocking and de-cocking. “The high let-off also translates into longer string life,” McPherson said. “Also, high-speed photography shows that our Controlled Acceleration creates the ultimate in smooth string travel, with no string ‘flapping,’ which you find with other crossbows,” McPherson said.

“I like to describe the Controlled Acceleration as more like a rocket launch than a gun going off,” Matt continued. “A gun goes off with a big bang and rapid acceleration, while the rocket starts off slowly, then begins to accelerate. This is way less harsh on the equipment and aids accuracy a lot. It’s a very big deal when you’re talking about taking performance to the next level.”

Fit and Feel: The SUB-1's rifle-inspired stock is fully-adjustable for a custom fit. Stock length can be set in six different positions (LOP 14.5-15.75 inches) and the comb height, with ambidextrous cheek piece, has a range of 1.25 inches. The ergonomic over-molded AR-style pistol grip is contoured for a positive feel and is fully interchangeable with aftermarket AR-style grips.

Stealth: “Silence was a crucial performance metric that drove the overall design of the SUB-1, making it significantly quieter than competitors' crossbows,” McPherson said. “It’s very small, giving it an almost tactical-like feel. This is even more true when you compare our R.S.D System (Removable Silent Draw) to the loud boat winch-like cranks on other models. Mission Crossbows engineers designed this crossbow to be extremely compact and easy to maneuver in the field, ground blind or tree stand.”

You don’t want to shoot at the same spot at less than 50 yards with the SUB-1, or you’ll end up destroying your arrows.

The Bottom Line

My overall impression? While I’m no expert when it comes to crossbows, I have shot and hunted with them enough to be pretty familiar with them. That said, the SUB-1 has been designed and built on my own personal philosophy when it comes to shooting both rifles and bows and arrows — a slow hit beats a fast miss, every time. If you’re looking for a crossbow that shoots arrows that break the sound barrier, this is not the one for you. But if you’re looking for a crossbow that is super accurate, well balanced, plenty fast, and designed and manufactured to the strictest standards of quality, the SUB-1 deserves a close look.

The Sub-1 is offered in Under Armour’s Ridge Reaper Forest or Black. Visit www.MissionCrossbows.com  for full specifications, finish options and more information on the new Sub-1 crossbow, and experience it at your local Mission Crossbows Retailer. MSRP is $1,499 (black and UJA Forest, bow only), $1,699 (Black and UA Forest, Pro Kit).


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