A Canadian company, Excalibur is well-known for its sturdy, accurate, dependable recurve crossbow designs. I have hunted with and shot them many times over the past 20 years and expected nothing less than the best when I opened the box.
Whatever You Do, Read the Manual
Because Excalibur offers 11 different “Lite” models, the instructions can be a bit muddy. For example, the booklet shows two limb assembly screws, but there is only one for the Micro 355. Also, there was no instructional DVD included, although the booklet’s photos and instructions are clear enough for any shooter to follow.
Oddly, the manual states that the Micro 355 has a draw weight of 240 pounds while the spec sheet provided by Excalibur has it at 280. Specifications junkies may consider this a major faux pas, but the Micro 350 was easy to cock and put arrows into the target with accuracy and consistency, which more than satisfied my requirements as a crossbow hunter.
In the owner’s manual, Excalibur explains how to de-cock the Micro 355 using the anti-dry-fire mechanism and the cocking rope. It takes some skill and finesse to master the process and, truth be told, it’s much easier and likely safer to simply shoot an old field-tipped arrow into a bale of hay or soft ground. The only time I’d feel the need to de-cock the crossbow would be when replacing a worn string, but even then shooting an arrow would be the easiest choice. For the record, I have seen big, strong, neckless men de-cock crossbows by simply holding the string and pulling the trigger, but, as Bob Dylan sang, “It ain’t me, babe!”
Excalibur Micro 355: Features And Specs
There’s a lot to like about the Excalibur Micro 355. The stock is plenty long enough, and there’s enough Picatinny rail to allow mounting the scope well forward to accommodate shooters with long arms and necks. Also, the Tact-Zone 30mm scope is specifically designed for crossbow use featuring clear reticles marked in 10-yard increments from 20 to 60 yards.
Thanks to its one-screw assembly the Micro 355 was easily assembled. Mounting the quiver bracket and scope were also quick and simple since all necessary Allen wrenches were provided. All the shooter needs on hand is a large, flat-blade screwdriver for final tightening of the scope mounts.
When fully assembled, the Micro 355 weighs 5.2 pounds — another plus for hunters who plan to still-hunt or stalk whitetails. Overall length is 33.5 inches, and limb width is just over 24 inches, which is nearly 6 inches shorter than most recurve-type crossbows. Of course, such short, stout limbs require a bit of effort when cocking the bow. However, the power stroke is only 10 inches; so, with practice, most adult shooters will be able to handle the bow, even when hunting from a tree stand.
The trick, I discovered (and it’s mentioned in the owner’s manual), is to pull fast and hard, bringing the string up quickly until it latches securely in the trigger mechanism. If you miss the stroke, the anti-dry-fire mechanism will capture the string and allow a second chance — a very handy feature. I’m over 65-years old and was able to cock the Micro 355 easily on the ground and in a tree stand, so I’m sure most hunters will have no trouble doing the same thing.
Bonus: Tips to Cocking a Crossbow
If cocking a crossbow (any make or model) becomes difficult, there are a variety of after-market cranking devices that can fit over the stock to make cocking easier. After cocking with the safety in the “Fire” position, the shooter must manually place the safety in the “Safe” position, which is done automatically on most other crossbows.
Excalibur Micro 355: Arrow Speed
Arrow speed for the Micro 355 is (surprise!) 355 fps, which my chronograph verified through dozens of shots at the range. The Micro 355 comes with four 16.5-inch arrows and 150-grain field tips, but I found that 20-inch arrows flew equally fast and with comparable accuracy. It is possible to use 22-inch arrows with the Micro 355, but they are substantially slower than the 350-grain shafts recommended by Excalibur. I’ve seen no practical reason for using the longer arrows on the range or for deer hunting. I prefer to use standard 20-inch shafts whenever possible unless a manufacturer specifically advises against it.
Excalibur supplies 16.5-inch, flat-nocked arrows so the arrows may be loaded using any configuration. When using Omni-nocks, half-moon nocks or other arrow styles the off-color vane rule should be followed. Unlike other manufacturers, Excalibur does not require the use of proprietary arrows for warranty purposes, but it does caution against using arrows that are less than 350 grains, including field tip or broadhead.
Another good feature of the Excalibur Micro 355 is that it’s easy to maintain. Simple cleaning and lubrication is all that’s required, and worn strings can be replaced quickly and efficiently at home by the owner. I would pack a string replacement kit for out-of-state trips just for insurance purposes, but Excalibur will ship the necessary parts to any location should something go awry.
Excalibur Micro 355: Field Test
Happily, I got exactly what I expected from the Excalibur Micro 355. Because the provided 30mm scope must be installed by the end user, I expected to make a few click adjustments during the first few shots at the range. In these situations, I start with a 10-yard target simply because a miss at longer range will send the arrow careening off into the hinterlands, never to be seen again. At 10 yards it’s not likely for a new crossbow to be more than a few inches off center, and such was the case with the Micro 355.
Windage and elevation adjustments were quick and effective. After the fourth arrow, I was in the kill zone and ready to go to work at 20, 30 and 40 yards. Although the Excalibur scope includes reticles for 50 and 60 yards and was deer-target accurate at those distances, I prefer to sight in my crossbows for most-likely-scenario shooting at eastern whitetails in typically thick, brushy cover. If I was going out West or on a hunt for other game (hogs, elk, moose, etc.) in more open country, I’d work on groups out to 60 yards. In addition, the Micro 355 was a joy to carry. At 33.5 inches and just over 5 pounds, the crossbow is nicely balanced and should make a great tool for still-hunting between stand sites or stalking in open cover.
Light, short, slender and accurate, the Micro 355 is everything a hunting crossbow should be. If I could have only one crossbow in the rack, this would be the one. However I do continue to complain about crossbow packages that don’t include a sling, as was the case with the Excalibur Micro 355. But for $10 any hunter can acquire a decent carrying strap that will fit any and all crossbows on the market. Otherwise, the Excalibur Micro 355 is definitely one of the top-performing crossbows I’ve handled over the last 20 years.
The Micro 355 package includes a Tact-Zone 30mm scope with red-green illumination and scope caps, Guardian anti-dry-fire mechanism, ambidextrous cheek piece, noise suppressors, four arrows with solid, quick-detachable quiver, field points and a rope cocker. MSRP for the basic package is $757.
For more information, go to www.excaliburcrossbow.com.