It’s easy to understand why the popularity of crossbows has increased recently throughout the country. When compared to other archery systems, the crossbow is generally more accurate, has a longer range and produces higher arrow velocities. And overall, a crossbow is easier to master than the other types of bows.
But because of those inherent advantages, some jurisdictions place special limitations on crossbows as hunting tools. For example, in some locales, crossbows are not allowed during the normal archery hunting season but might be permissible during rifle season. Every area views crossbows and their use differently, so you must check regulations before heading afield.
Nonetheless, when it comes to hunting potential, a well-placed crossbow bolt can be extremely effective for all types of game. For deer-sized game, they work exceptionally well. Many hunters have shown crossbows to be equally effective on the largest game animals; that includes the most dangerous of the African “big five.”
The critical procedures for using and shooting a crossbow are fairly easy, even for a novice. So whether you intend to include a crossbow in your normal survival gear or use it regularly to put meat on the table, a properly designed crossbow might be the perfect alternative to a firearm.
Although not totally silent, when a crossbow trigger is squeezed, sending its arrow or bolt airborne, the sound is so slight that most animals dismiss it as a threat or danger. And although most archers consider a normal-style bow, which might produce a velocity of 300 fps, to be extremely fast, and with which a 40- to 45-yard shot might pose a significant challenge, a crossbow can sometimes far exceed those limitations and capabilities. A new crossbow from Ravin Crossbows provides the perfect example.
I got my first glimpse of Ravin’s new American-made R9 Predator Camo crossbow at the 2017 SHOT Show. I squeezed the trigger a couple of times on a distant 100-yard target. That’s all it took for me to become convinced that I needed to learn more about this weapon. Its ability to launch a 400-grain arrow at the phenomenal speed of 390 fps and produce 135 foot-pounds of kinetic energy is impressive. But when you consider the draw weight is 195 pounds and you only have to exert 10 pounds of cocking force to prepare it for firing, plus its ability to place every bolt on target to about 100 yards, I became even more impressed.
The Ravin R9 Predator Camo crossbow comes with almost everything you need to fire that first bolt. A fine 1.5-5X illuminated-reticle scope developed for use on crossbows accompanies the R9. This scope’s multiple-crosshair design has been marked from 20 to 100 yards in 10-yard increments, and the reticle’s fully adjustable illumination is provided in red and green coloration. When the scope has been set to the velocity matching the specific crossbow (in this case, 390 fps), you only have to select the proper trajectory reticle that matches the range of your target and fire.
In addition to the scope, the R9 comes with a quiver, six crossbow bolts and six 100-grain practice field points. That essentially gives you everything you need to get started. I chose a couple of block targets designed for crossbow use from Black Hole. It takes a pretty substantial target to stop one of these fast-flying, high-energy arrows, and the Black Hole block targets did that effectively. I found the arrows were difficult to remove from the targets, but I learned that twisting the bolt first to break the bond before drawing it out worked pretty well.
The Ravin R9 is the most compact crossbow on the market, measuring 34.5 inches long and weighing just 6.9 pounds. When uncocked, its width is about 13.5 inches. When cocked, the bow limbs contract to 6 inches across.
The engine behind the R9 design is the company’s patented HeliCoil system. The term “HeliCoil” describes how this design coils the cables away from the top and bottom of the cams in helical grooves. Doing so keeps the cams more precisely balanced, which produces higher velocities and better overall shooting accuracy. The cams rotate 340 degrees while remaining level during drawing and shooting. Unlike most crossbows, this lets the arrow and cable free-float above the rail, eliminating the usual friction inherent in the other designs, and helps extend the life of the cable.
I’m a bit fanatical about triggers. Too often, factories seem to ignore how important a trigger is to the accuracy of any weapon, whether handheld or shoulder-mounted, firearm or crossbow. Ravin sets the R9’s trigger pull at just 2 pounds. The test model’s trigger lacked any of the usual slop, creep and travel from which other triggers frequently suffer. So crisp and smooth was this trigger’s movement that I would rank it with the best of any rifle trigger I’ve used.
One of the unique and impressive elements of the Ravin design is its cocking system. In most cases, cocking a crossbow is accomplished solely by brute force. To do this, the shooter typically places his or her foot in a stirrup on the front of the crossbow stock and then uses his strength to draw the cable back into the cocked position. If that were the design in this case, it would be equivalent to lifting 195 pounds of dead weight. But that isn’t how the Ravin R9 is cocked.
Instead, you place the limb-tip bumper on the ground, remove the cocking handle where it’s conveniently stored on the underside of the stock and then insert it into one of the recessed holes on either side of the stock. While holding the spool thumb release down with one hand, you slide the Trac Trigger Firing System forward until it makes contact with the bowstring cable and attaches itself. After that, the cocking handle is rotated to draw the cable back into the cocking position. I was amazed the first time I did this, finding the process amazingly effortless and easy.
Having the opportunity to handle the new R9 at the SHOT Show Industry Day at the Range only whet my appetite. Lots of folks there wanted to see how it would perform; that obviously cut down on my own range time. Upon returning home, I immediately placed an order with the company. Before long, I was shooting the R9 at my range.
I found it easy to zero the scope, sending my first shot to a target only 10 yards away. When I saw where the bolt had struck, I adjusted the scope reticle, with each click of the scope equaling 0.1 inches at that close range. Then, I took a second shot to make sure I was on target. I fired the third bolt to a target at 50 yards, using the scope’s 50-yard reticle. And voila, I was on target.
The accuracy and consistency of my next shots further impressed me with the R9 Predator Camo. The bolts hit so close to each other that I only fired two shots at a time before removing them from the target, fearing I would eventually Robin Hood (split one arrow with another) one if I didn’t do so.
Overall, the accuracy was far better than I would have predicted, and it was on par with most centerfire rifles. Typically, my bolts would create groups off the bench at less than 2 inches wide, with some groups as tight as 0.75 inches.
All in all, there’s a whole bunch to crave about Ravin crossbows for the hunter or survivalist in you—the technology, the ease of use, a trigger that’s second to none, the accuracy and effective range. Ravin is definitely in this market for the long haul.
If you want to step up in both price and power, check out the Ravin Predator R15, which generates a velocity of 425 fps, as opposed to the 390 fps of the R9. It requires a draw force of 12 pounds versus the 10 pounds needed for the R9, and produces 160 foot-pounds of kinetic energy as opposed to 135 with the R9. Both are attractively finished in camo and come with the same accessories and general design specifications.
The newest Ravins were recently introduced shortly before going to press. Be on the lookout for the R10 and the R20, including a Sniper Package variant.
For more information, visit RavinCrossbows.com.
Ravin R9 Predator Camo Specifications
- Weight: 6.9 pounds
- OA Length: 34.5 inches
- Draw Force: 10 pounds
- Sights: 1.5-5X illuminated scope
- Power Stroke: 6 inches (cocked), 13.5 inches (uncocked)
- Safety: Anti-dry-fire/automatic
- Included Accessories: 6 arrows with nocks, 6 practice field points, removable cocking handle, quiver, mounting bracket
- MSRP: $1,549
This article is from the summer 2018 issue of Ballistic Magazine. Grab your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com.