Unless you are a crossbow hunter that has been living under a rock for the last 18 months, it's no secret that the crossbow marketplace changed significantly in 2017. Brand new to market, Ravin Crossbows climbed to the top nearly overnight by introducing disruptive technology in two models with an ultra-thin profile of only six inches cocked. Though their 2017 climb may have been one of the fastest and set them as a new benchmark for high-end crossbows, legacy brand TenPoint Crossbows has wasted no time in reminding consumers why it has built a reputation as one of the best.
At this year's ATA show, TenPoint introduced three very competitive models for the crossbow user. The two flagships the Stealth NXT and Nitro X, have drawn most of the attention of the media, as they will perform nicely against any of the price points of the competitive offerings. Yet, this week I traveled to my local archery retailer to gather a field-tested opinion on the TenPoint model that is lingering behind the scenes and below the $1,500 price point, the Shadow NXT.
Walking in the door of the shop, I knew that the one distinct factor that separated the Shadow NXT from other ultra-narrow competitors, or the Stealth NXT and Nitro X, was its introductory price tag of $1,099. So, my objective for the in-store field test was to confirm that this bow maintained a high-end fit and feel, while providing competitive performance at 70% — or less — the cost of its $1,500-plus peers.
I've spent many years in and out of archery retail, and there is no debate that speed is the most commonly discussed feature of crossbows among shoppers. At a speed rating of 380 feet per second, which I felt was a smooth and efficient 380 after shooting, this bow is no slouch. It may not surpass the imposed 400 fps speed landmark of the industry, but provides more than enough speed to pursue any deer or big-game species here in North America. At this velocity, the Shadow NXT is within 20 fps of its closest priced competitor, and 40 fps faster than any vertical hunting bow setup that I have owned.
While the bow that I shot was assembled, it had not yet sent an arrow down range. So, I was eager to test TenPoint's "Out-of-the-Box Accuracy" guarantee that is a result of a pre-shipped factory bore-sight. My first shot was 2-inches left at 20 yards, which is within reason and user variance. With a few clicks of adjustment, my second, third and fourth shots were all dead-center bulls-eyes sharing the same hole. I was impressed, as it was evident out of the box that this bow's accuracy was not one to question.
Also vitally relevant to the amount of user influence on accuracy is the trigger. This is an area of the crossbow market that I feel has seen a vast improvement over the last 2-3 years. TenPoint's well-machined trigger was just as pitched in its marketing material — a smooth and crisp breaking trigger that was very close to the advertised spec of 3.5 pounds. This trigger will be the last thing on your mind when bearing down on your target of preference.
Testing the down range accuracy and consistency was not feasible at this range, as I was limited to 20 yards. As for consistency, my initial thoughts are that the same-hole performance of shots 2-4 are a foreshadowing of down range performance, as well as a testament to the new Vector Quad cable system, which uses four cables instead of two to promote stability in the cam action.
Fit, Feel and Profile
From the time I first picked up the Shadow NXT, I could feel that there was nothing inexpensive about the bow. It definitely carries on the classy ergonomics of past flagship TenPoint models, yet I feel it might be even better balanced. It has a pistol grip styled stock paired with a comfortable length of pull, and fit my 6'1" frame easily. Also important for those with long fingers like myself, the safety-engineered fore-grip and wings kept me from losing finger tips, while maintaining an intuitive feel and reducing bulk.
All impressive facts, but the profile story to tell with this bow is the axel-to-axel length. At 6.5 inches cocked, I felt that this bow more closely resembled the footprint of a short firearm than a traditional crossbow. Though a half-inch wider than the spec of its ultra-narrow competitors, I compared it closely to each and my naked eye had a heck of a time distinguishing a difference. Even with the half-inch variance, this bow is a vast improvement and will greatly improve maneuverability in a ground blind or ladder stand.
The bow that I tested came equipped with a rope sled, TenPoint 3x Pro-View 2 Scope, a three-arrow Instant Detach Quiver, three TenPoint Pro Elite Carbon arrows, three 100-grain field tips and an integrated Sound Dampening System for $1,099. Like most crossbow packages sold today, you have more than enough to get you shooting in the yard or on the range.
As stated, this package came with the manual rope sled for cocking. The pull weight of 200 pounds and the 12.2-inch power stroke were manageable for me, but the assistance of an on-board crank would have been convenient, or could even be required by some. If you are interested in an on-board crank, for an extra $100 bill you can bump up to the Shadow NXT package equipped with the ACUdraw 50 cocking system, still keeping you at an efficient price point.
If you're looking for more extras, TenPoint leaves little for you to desire in the realm of accessories. They offer a full line of proprietary accessories at most of their retailers and at www.tenpointcrossbows.com. Reviewing assortments at both retail and on the web, if there is one must have accessory to partner with the Shadow NXT, it's the new STAG hard case.
The STAG is a hard-shell case that provides a solution to the inconvenient tradition of large and bulky travel cases for crossbows at just $179. The TSA-compliant case is velvet lined with multiple security straps for your bow and quiver, supported by a modular padding system. Another very neat feature is the integrated storm flap, which allows for you to expose your stirrup to conveniently hang your bow while in the case.
In spending some range time behind the Shadow NXT, I found only a couple things to pick on. As a matter of fact, my only two gripes were a scope adjustment ratio that was designed for crossbow distance instead of rifle distances (1/4-inch at 20 yds, not 100) and the wish for a fully-enclosed trigger guard. Also important to note is the fact that neither of these had anything to do with the performance of the bow.
All things considered, the Shadow NXT definitely delivered on my expectation of a $1,099 crossbow. My time behind this bow proved that TenPoint has produced an offering that achieves high-end feel, solid velocity and impressive technology at only 6.5 inches cocked — definitely worth the price point. For me personally, a guy who is not so caught up on top-end velocities, the level of feature benefits delivered in this package would make it hard to justify the up spend to higher-priced competitors. As consumers hit the marketplace for new bows this summer, I don't see this crossbow lingering in the shadows for long — pun intended.