The Innovative Gearhead X-16 Crossbow

Gearhead Archery’s new line of X-16 crossbows (Standard, Target and Tactical) feature many new, interesting, useful and productive advances in crossbow technology.
The Innovative Gearhead X-16 Crossbow

“Innovative design” is a term that has been bandied about in crossbow manufacturing circles since Wham-O first advertised its wood-stocked, iron-limbed crossbows back in the early 1960s. There can be no doubt that crossbow design has come a long way in the interim. Most of today’s crossbows are well made, accurate, dependable and simple to use. However, the similarities between manufacturers are often noticeable and no real technological advances have come down the pike in several years.

For the first time in over 20 years of hunting with and reviewing crossbows, I have finally found the first honestly innovative, amazing, even incredible crossbow thus far. Gearhead Archery’s new line of X-16 crossbows (Standard, Target and Tactical) feature many new, interesting, useful and productive advances in crossbow technology. There may not be room to discuss them all in the short space of this article. I’ll try!

For starters, the X-16 is available in all-aluminum or all-carbon fiber, weighing 5.5 pounds and 4.5 pounds respectively. At 36-inches long and 14.5-inches axle-to-axle (cocked), the X-16 is as compact, lightweight and rugged a crossbow as you’ll find anywhere on the market.

Assembly takes approximately five seconds. There are no nuts, bolts, washers or any other hardware to deal with and no tools are required.

But get this — assembly takes approximately five seconds! There are no nuts, bolts, washers or any other hardware to deal with and no tools are required. Simply slide the limb section into the rail section and then tighten a large, free-floating, comfortable knob to complete the job. A spring-loaded retaining pin holds the sections in place, and a tight fit can be maintained by occasionally tightening the knurled knob. That’s all there is to it. Not only is the X-16’s assembly process innovative, it’s designed to allow the user to disassemble the crossbow for travel, a real benefit to hunters who are on the road (or in the air) several times during the fall and winter. A fitted, well-padded nylon case is provided that includes plenty of space for peripheral gear.

The Hawke 1.5–5x multi-reticle illuminated scope is factory mounted and sighted in for 10 yards. Given that I had just three arrows to work with I was careful to shoot just one arrow per target. All were dead-on at 10 yards and maintained their integrity out past 40 yards, which is more than adequate for typical whitetail hunting scenarios.

The X-16 is designed for use with 24-inch standard-nock arrows, unique among crossbows that use 20- or 22-inch shafts. Accompanying test results show that the X-16 delivers arrows at 362 fps, slightly faster than its 350-fps rating. After over 100 shots at the range, the crossbow was still sending arrows downrange at more than 355 fps — more than fast enough to take deer, hogs, bears, turkeys and other big game.

Continuing with the innovations, the X-16 is loaded differently than most crossbows. The pointed end of the arrow goes into the “whisker” arrow rest first, and then the arrow nock is inserted into the anti-dry-fire mechanism with the cock feather facing up, not down, as is common with other grooved-rail crossbows. The arrow ends up laying just off the rail between the anti-dry-fire mechanism and the arrow rest, another unique feature of the X-16. This means there is no arrow drag as the string travels down the rail. This, I suspect, accounts for the additional arrow speed, which is increased by 5 percent or more over the crossbow’s rating.

As is standard among crossbows the X-16’s thumb safety must be in the “Safe” position. Slowly slide the arrow back into the trigger box to raise the anti-dry fire mechanism. Keep pushing until the arrow snaps onto the string. To shoot, simply push the safety button forward. To unload the X-16, use an old arrow or a specially made discharge arrow, and shoot it into a soft target with a safe backstop.

There is no routine maintenance required for the X-16 line of crossbows except to keep the strings properly waxed. Gearhead recommends waxing the center serving that holds the arrow, the power cables and the rest of the draw string every 25 shots or so — five times less frequently than most other crossbow manufacturers recommend. Because the X-16 is sighted in at the factory at 10 yards, I decided to maintain that position and began shooting at 20, 30, 40 and 50 yards using the additional reticles installed in the scope.

Accuracy began to fall off slightly after 45 yards, which is to be expected. All of my arrows stayed within a 5-inch group at 50 yards, which many hunters consider acceptable for whitetails. Where I hunt, there are few wide-open opportunities from a stand or blind beyond 40 yards, but when conditions warrant it — an open field or pasture, no wind, no intervening brush and a relaxed deer standing still and broadside — I would not hesitate to shoot at a trophy-sized buck at 50 yards with the X-16.

Because the X-16’s marketing department makes much of the crossbow’s lightweight and sturdy design, I was interested in seeing how the crossbow performed on tree-stand and blind targets at known distances, but even more curious about how it would handle while still hunting and “stalking” foam targets on the roving range. Thanks to the X-16’s five-position adjustable fore grip and comfortable pistol-grip design I found it surprisingly comfortable to hold and carry the unit while moving along my woodland course. At only 5.5 pounds, my aluminum-framed test model was lightweight, well balanced and quick to the shoulder. There were no misses or mishaps on the 20-target course.

Because the X-16 is such an innovative product, it is more important than ever to read the owner’s manual from cover to cover. Everything from assembly to disassembly for travel is discussed in detail with excellent photographs throughout. There are plenty of recommendations included for safe use while shooting the X-16 and when the crossbow is not in use. For example, it’s not recommended to leave the crossbow in the cocked position “for extended periods of time,” although I routinely leave my test crossbows cocked from dawn till dark (even in summer) to simulate hunting conditions. The X-16 showed no signs of string fatigue or parts failure during this particular test period, which featured 80-degree days, rainy nights and frosty-cold mornings.

Complaints? As usual, I wish Gearhead and other crossbow manufacturers would supply a sling for their products. The X-16 is built on the AR design and has loops or grooves included where a sling might be installed, but none was provided. Also, there was no quiver included in my package nor, for some reason, was there any string wax. The owner’s manual does recommend keeping broadhead-tipped arrows “in a quiver” but apparently, it’s up to the owner to provide their own. This only adds to the expense of a crossbow that, in aluminum, has an MSRP of $1,499 and, in carbon fiber, a price of $1,999. As a whitetail hunter, I would prefer that a quiver, cocking rope and sling be standard equipment on any crossbow and one day it just may come to pass.

One additional consideration is that the X-16 is designed for 24-inch arrows, unusual in the crossbow industry. Three arrows are provided with the standard X-16 package but of course, any hunter/shooter is going to want to build up a supply of arrows. Shafts of that length are not commonly found in sporting goods stores, archery shops and the like, so it will be necessary to order additional arrows from Gearhead or have them custom made at a local shop. To be on the safe side, I always travel with a dozen new arrows and broadheads plus two or three “discharge” arrows for unloading the crossbow after each day’s hunt.

From the standpoint of solid design, sturdy construction, accuracy and ease of assembly Gearhead’s X-16 line of crossbows are untouchable in today’s market. The metal finish is such that rain or snow will not affect the crossbow’s function in any way. I would expect no trouble hunting with the X-16 out of a tree stand, blind or while still hunting in typically thick whitetail habitat.

Spec Sheet

MANUFACTURER: Gearhead Archery


DRAW WEIGHT OPTIONS: 75, 90 or 125 pounds

POWER STROKE: 16 inches

ARROW LENGTH: 24 inches with standard nock

ARROW SPEED: 350 fps

TRIGGER PULL: 3.1 pounds; dry-fire inhibitor (2.1 pounds in Target and Tactical models)

SIGHTS: Hawke 1.5-5x multi-reticle, red-green illuminated scope provided, factory mounted and sighted.

COCKING DEVICE: Cocking rope (optional) or by hand

OVERALL LENGTH: 36.5 inches

AXLE-TO-AXLE LENGTH: 14.5 inches (cocked)

WEIGHT: 5.5 pounds (aluminum frame); 4.5 pounds (carbon frame)

OTHER FEATURES: Adjustable foregrip, stainless steel hardware, whisker rest standard, sound dampeners standard. Predator custom dip, Carbon Fiber or Desert Tan colors; also available in Tactical and Target variations.

MSRP: $1,499 (aluminum frame), $1,999 (carbon frame)


Read That Owner’s Manual!

Shooters who are familiar with standard crossbows are sure to find the design, form and function of Gearhead Archery’s X-16 line of crossbows to be new, unusual and definitely a step above the norm for a variety of reasons.

Assembly of the X-16 is a uniquely different experience from the start. So is loading an arrow, which sits above the rail at a slight angle with the cock feather facing up, not down, as is typical of most crossbow designs. Without reading the owner’s manual a hunter may well attempt to load the arrow with the cock feather down, producing less than the desired result.

Also important to shooters is the adjustable fore grip, which provides five different settings that can be useful when hunting out of tree stands, blinds or while still hunting or stalking.

In addition to basic shooting and safety tips the manual includes important notes about assembly, function, weather conditions, handling, storage, maintenance and warranty facts that are unique to the X-16 line of crossbows. It takes mere seconds to assemble the X-16, but it is highly recommended that purchasers spend a few minutes reading the owner’s manual before putting the crossbow together and heading for the range.

For more information on Gearhead Archery’s complete line of hunting crossbows, visit

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