When arrow giant Carbon Express entered the crossbow category, it did so with a splash. Over the last few years, the company has introduced a number of head-turning horizontal bows. We spoke with Carbon Express New Product Development Engineer Jeff Pestrue about the latest from this innovative company, what new shooters need to know, crossbow care and more.

Xtreme Crossbows & Gear: Let’s talk about the 2015 Carbon Express lineup. What’s new this year?

Jeff Pestrue: We have basically five new crossbows. Some are updated versions of older models; we increased the performance and decreased the weight. So we have essentially five news models. The Intercept Axon LT is our top-of-the-line crossbow with a suggested retail of $999. Then we drop down to $799, and that’s our Intercept Supercoil LT. Next we have our Covert CX-3SL+ at $699. Then we have two models of our Covert 3.4 at $599. We have it in an FLX Camo and then we also have it in a Muddy Girl Camo, which is the Hot Pursuit. Those are our new ones. The only one we didn’t change is our X-Force 350, which we’ve had in the line for a few years now. It’s at $349.99.

We try to have a best-in-class bow in every price category. We’re trying to give the best value at that money. As you go up from the Covert 3.4 to the Axon LT, it gets more customized as you go. For instance, you can’t change the length of pull – the end of the butt plate to your trigger – on the Covert 3.4 or the next model up. But you can change it on our two best models – on one you can change it in three places and on the other you can change it in many places because it has an AR stock that’s adjustable.

Some people like to be able to fully adjust the crossbow to their personal preference. And if you want that kind of model, we have two that will probably fit your needs. And then we have two that aren’t as customizable, but they still have the ability to change grips and the forearm. You just can’t change the length of pull.

XC&G: When you develop a new crossbow, what kind of testing do you perform before it hits the market?

JP: Before all else, we want to make sure that the crossbow will perform. We shoot them many times. Thousands and thousands of shots. Once we’ve seen that it works, now we look at the features. How much does it weigh? How much is the draw weight? What accessories are going to go with it?

XC&G: What advice do you have for someone buying a crossbow for the first time?

JP: If they can go to a pro shop that actually has the crossbows available to shoot, that would be the method I would recommend. When you just grab one off the shelf and you check it for feel but you haven’t actually shot it – I don’t know if you’re getting the full experience. So I would recommend that they go to a place where they actually can shoot it and try it out. I can’t emphasize that enough: get to your local pro shop and test them out. Compare them.

You should also look at the safety features. Look for something that has some finger-guard protection so you don’t get your fingers up in the cables or the string. You also want some anti-dry-fire protection.

XC&G: What do new shooters need to know about shooting crossbows safely?

JP: When I look at somebody shooting a crossbow for the first time, I’m always looking at where their fingers are on the bow, where their eye is on the bow and if they’re going to hit the target. Beginners haven’t grabbed a crossbow before, so you really want to watch how they’re holding the crossbow. They also want to put their eye on the scope, and you don’t want that. I also recommend that new shooters, once they’ve acquired the target through the scope, look off to the side just to double-check that the arrow is going to hit the target. A crossbow may be sighted-in for one person, and if another person holds their cheek differently, it can change the point of aim.

If you test out crossbows at a pro shop, you’ll have someone there watching you shoot, which can ensure that you learn to shoot the proper way.

Make sure you read the instructions – every part of the instructions – before you shoot. If you have questions, call the manufacturer’s customer service. We have a top-notch customer service team, and they’d be happy to answer any questions.

XC&G: What should new crossbow shooters expect when they cock a crossbow for the first time?

JP: If you’re new to crossbows, the first time you try to cock a crossbow using a rope cocker instead of a cranking device, it’s a little different experience because your muscles aren’t used to pulling the bow back. When someone is trying to cock a bow for the first time, I like to shorten the rope up – basically customize the cocking device – so that there’s no extra slack in the rope. It’s tight to the bow. It makes it easier. Then there’s the technique. You have to use your back and arms at the same time to cock the bow. Once they have the technique down, it’s surprising how easy it is to cock a crossbow.

If I had you cock a crossbow, the first thing I would say to you is, “No matter what, don’t give up. Let down slowly. If you can absolutely not pull it back, you let down slowly.” Sometimes when people can’t pull it back, their first impulse is to just let go. It’s going to get harder to pull. At some point in your stroke, it’s as hard as it’s going to get. And then it gets easier at the end. If you do it right, it’s pretty easy.

XC&G: What do crossbow owners need to do to maintain their crossbows?

JP: The main thing is the lubrication on the rail and the strings and the cables. We recommend they lube up every 25 shots. And then, over time, even with the best care of the lubrication, you’ll eventually wear out the serving on your crossbow, so you have to check the strings and cables and replace them as needed.

XC&G: How important are quality accessories?

JP: It depends on your style of hunting. You can get a really inexpensive scope or you can get a really fancy scope. All of our kits come complete with the sighting system, the arrows – we’re Carbon Express, so these are premium arrows, the quiver, the points. And every one will get the job done as we sell it. Some people like to shoot farther distances, and they may want to upgrade to a better scope.

Some people have trouble looking through a scope. It’s not always intuitive. We offer the Reflex Multi-Reticle sight. It just has a crosshair on the plane. It’s lit, and so when you see it, you’re only looking through that one pane. If you can see the crosshair, you just put that crosshair on your target. It has to be sighted-in for that range. But for anybody that can’t look through a scope, I’d put them on that sight. It’s great for kids.

In addition, our models are allowed to have aftermarket grips on the handles. They also have Picatinny rails, so if for some reason you don’t like the way the grip works or the forearm works, you can buy aftermarket accessories and pretty much accessorize these bows the way you would like to. You can change out the grip on all our new models, and they all have Picatinny rails so you can put accessories on. Those are the main accessories. You’ve got your grip, your scope and your forearm. Your arm out front – some people have forearms, some people have folding foregrips. There are many different styles of holding the bow.

You generally want a low-profile broadhead because crossbows are faster than compounds. If you have too big a head on there, they tend to plane on you.

We have a broadhead called the XT Dual Blade. It’s only a 1-1/8-inch cut, but then there are two bleeder blades. It gives one main cut and then two short cuts. It flies like a field point but it has six cutting edges, so it opens up a nice wound. It flies great, works great. Of the three crossbow broadheads we offer, that’s my favorite.

XC&G: How does crossbow hunting differ from bowhunting?

JP: The main thing is that with a vertical bow, you have to actually draw it. With a crossbow, it’s ready to go. It’s already drawn. I think it’s easier when you’re starting out with a crossbow. I have two kids, 8 and 10 years old. And I can take any one of these models and have them shooting bull’s-eyes at 20 yards in a matter of five minutes. I’ve found that if you can make a bow for a child, it will work well for an adult.

XC&G: How do you think crossbows are affecting hunting demographics?

JP: I think crossbows will help more kids get into it. And I think in the future more kid-oriented bows will be available. There is already a trend toward making bows that are easier and lighter to pull. This is our first year with a pink bow, and that’s a trend that’s still growing. So I do think in the future, we’ll see more women and kids in the sport, and manufacturers will continue to develop new bows for that market.

When you’re 8 and 10, you cannot hold the crossbow up in general. So my kids shoot off some sort of platform, whether it’s a picnic table or a blind. Our bows all have an L-shaped foot stirrup that pretty much will hang on a box blind on the window. Once that’s there and it’s supported, and once the child has a good form with their shoulder and knows how to put their eye, it’s no problem.

The biggest thing is trigger pull. When you’re a small child, you want a nice, easy-to-pull trigger. They don’t have a strong trigger finger. All of ours are 3-1/2-pound triggers. But you also need to look at the way the trigger works. It needs to be a smooth, easy-to-move trigger. If you’ve got a trigger with a long creep in it, it’s no good because the kids don’t know when it’s going to go off. I like a nice, crisp trigger.

So, again, if you make a bow that will work for a child, it will work great for an adult, too.

XC&G: Do you think we’ll see more crossbow advances in the future?

JP: Crossbows have improved every year. They’re getting lighter, faster and more compact. But people don’t like things that create maintenance issues. As you start making them even lighter and even faster, you can create issues.

Our bows are workhorses. They’re fast enough to do anything you need them to do. Of course, we’re always looking at ways to improve.


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Featured in Bowhunting World’s Xtreme Crossbows & Gear issue