November 01, 2017
The Ravin R15 crossbow offers amazing speed and accuracy in a compact design that shoots like a rifle
I'm a shooter. I don't care what it is, if it launches a projectile, I probably enjoy learning how to use it. That said, bows have never really been my thing. I have a compound bow that I practice and hunt with but I use it because it gets me more time in the woods, not because I love the Zen of the bow.
The one thing that I do love about my compound bow is that I can shoot it safely almost anywhere, including in my suburban backyard or garage. It's not loud and, though I certainly have to be aware of my backstop, it's far easier to contain an arrow than it is a bullet, regardless of caliber. When I began testing crossbows a few years ago for Petersen's HUNTING, I realized that there was a way to combine the advantages of a bow with the feel of a firearm: the stock, the grip, the trigger, the scope. This year, when we incorporated the Ravin Crossbows R15 into the test, I found that it was the closest thing to a rifle that I could shoot on a bow range. I was hooked immediately.
Ravin is a new company in the archery space. When their R15 crossbow hit the market, it raised the bar significantly. The makers of this product did not rush to the market but instead went back to the drawing board with a goal of creating the most effective and innovative crossbow possible. The numbers don't lie; it's pretty safe to say that they hit their mark on this one. Ravin's incredible velocity, excellent accuracy, narrow dimensions and overall quality is head and shoulders above the rest of the industry. Ravin crossbows are the most powerful on the market, period.
The most quantifiable attribute of a Ravin is its speed. When I conducted Petersen's Hunting's Crossbow Test in 2015, the fastest velocity we recorded was 374 feet per second. Less than two years later, the Ravin R15 is producing velocities over 425 feet per second! Even the less expensive R9 model produces a previously unheard of 390 feet per second at the "muzzle." That is serious speed. For comparison's sake, the fastest compound bows on the market rarely exceed 350 feet per second.
Ravin achieves this amazing speed due to the HeliCoil technology, which allows the bow's twin cams to rotate 340 degrees. The arrow/bolt also floats above the rail when fired so it is not subjected to friction that would slow its flight upon launch. This "no-friction" launch also helps in the accuracy department. Due to that speed, as well as Ravin's accuracy potential, we can engage targets of beyond 100 yards with the R15.
One of the things that has kept me from fully-embracing crossbows in the past has been their size. Most are incredibly bulky and unwieldy to carry due to their width. The same HeliCoil technology that makes Ravin the fastest crossbow on the market also makes it the most compact, with an axle-to-axle measurement of only six inches when cocked. Besides being compact, these bows are also light with both the R15 and R9 models weighing in at under 7 pounds. So, in the Ravin we have a crossbow that is the approximate size and weight of a traditional rifle or carbine, which is another mark in the "plus" column if we're looking to replicate that shooting experience.
Easy to Master
I won't say that crossbows are more accurate than conventional compound bows because I don't have the empirical data to make such a claim. What I can say is that crossbows are far more functionally accurate than compound bows and can be mastered far faster — as in hours instead of years.
Shooting an "upright" bow to its potential takes a tremendous amount of practice and skill and I have the upmost respect to those who have set themselves on that path. A crossbow, on the other hand, is far more forgiving to shoot. With a buttstock, pistol grip, check rest, forend, and magnified optics, shooting a crossbow is like shooting a rifle; a rifle with no recoil or muzzle blast. Not only does a crossbow allow for fire from the shoulder with multiple points of contact with your body, it allows the shooter to use supported/rested positions with which to steady their aim. Someone with good shooting fundamentals could expect to hit pie plate-sized targets beyond 100 yards with the R9 and R15 on their first outing with it, something that would take years of practice to accomplish with a compound bow.
This isn't really about hunting but it bears mentioning that, at the time of this writing, crossbows are legal for use during archery season in 25 states. An additional three states allow them to be used during a portion of their archery seasons. So if, like me, you're a hunter looking to get out in the woods outside of rifle season and you don't want to spend all summer practicing with your bow, a crossbow is a strong option. And if you're going to hunt with a crossbow, you may as well have the best one on the market — one that pushes your effective range out to borderline rifle distances. The scope included with the Ravin is calibrated to put arrows on-target out to 100 yards and, with some practice, it can be effective beyond that.
The best part is that I can walk out my back door and start putting shots on-target. My dream was always to be able to do that with a rifle and though I have my own private shooting range at this point, it's still 20 minutes away. With the Ravin, I can practice fundamentals using an archery target set up in my garage or shoot a full 3D course among the oak trees outside. Shooting it in the house would get me a quick divorce. Rain, shine or a busy schedule, every day can be a range day with the Ravin and the ammo is reusable.
Crossbows can blur the lines between archery and firearms and the Ravin R15 pushes the envelope toward the firearms end of the spectrum. The accuracy, velocity and quality of this crossbow makes it a legitimate choice for the rifle shooter looking to expand their horizons a bit. The fact that it is a legitimate hunting tool for any game in North America is just a bonus.