by Geoffery Toye, HBM European Correspondent
With ever more states in the USA encouraging the use of the crossbow for hunting, an enormous market has opened up.Crossbow sales have increased on an unprecedented scale, so much so that crossbowyers can scarcely keep up with demand.Predictably, in a society driven by free market forces, and with material and sourcing cost increasing, the retail price of hunting crossbows has increased apace; for some of us, perhaps prohibitively so.
Canadian Crossbowyers Excalibur have responded with their new crossbow, the Axiom.This is offered as a hunting crossbow of high quality, but with costs pared where possible without compromising that quality, which has made the company a world leader.
I have previously reviewed Excalibur bows and in my personal bow collection there are two, which I often shoot.I have found them to be robust, delivering excellent and dependable performance qualities which have seen them used in some of the hardest conditions on earth, and at sea, notable for scientific work, wildlife management and whale tagging.They are uncomplicated, recurve designs which have stood the test of time and not been found wanting.The founder of the company, Bill Troubridge, accidently drove a truck over one of his bows after which he reportedly dug it out of the dirt and shot it at a target only to discover that it had not lost its zero.He thought that would be a great thing to advertise his bows so he drove over it again, this time with a camera running, and filmed it all, including the same result.Do not try this at home; but you have to be impressed.
When I asked Bill what the Axiom was like he replied, “Like the Phoenix, but without the lipstick and high-heels.Want us to send one over?”Of course I did.
When I unwrapped the parcel, the crossbow I saw certainly did not resemble in any particle the poor relation I supposed I had unwittingly speculated that it might be.The reported more economical finish on the stock was very nice indeed.The metal parts were right up to Excalibur’s high standards.I could see nothing wrong with this bow.In fact, the classic Excalibur stock was rather nicer than previously, the shape, since I last examined one (both my other Excalibur bows have custom wood stocks), having been refined here and there to give a more elegant, sharper finish.
This bow was pretty much my beloved Phoenix, but with one or two accessories pared away in the interest of trimming the price so, going through the contents of the box I identified the parts that were, as it were, missing, or had changed.
There was a nice bow-quiver with fittings, all as standard except that the shroud on the quiver was light olive green instead of full camouflage, and some carbon arrows and field points.Scope rail was standard, roubust, with deep anti-recoil grooves to accept the cross-bolts of the included sight mounting clamps, and already fixed to the latch-housing, which was also as standard with excellent finish.The sight is an economical model, in that its reticles were fixed for bows of around 300 ft/sec arrow speed, is waterproof, of perfectly adequate specification, looks very well made and returns an excellent sight picture.It is actually called the Axiom Sight, similar in principle to the form Drop Zone and Max Zone sights, but with multi-reticle calibrated to hunting ranges appropriate for the Axiom.
The riser is as standard, a fine example of precision machining with dovetails to accommodate Excalibur open sights, which were not included.Limb finish is very pleasing, camouflage effective for woods/green terrain.The limbs are fixed in the conventional Excalibur manner with limb-bolts and bolted-down link-plates, but lacking the dissipater bars equipped with sound and vibration-absorbing compound blocks normally fitted to Excalibur hunting bows as standard.This is a fairly powerful bow of 175 pound draw weight and, with no cocking-aid included; many would find it daunting.For some that might already own on fully accessorized Excalibur, the cocking harness could be shared.There is no deck lubricant included and, while that too could be shared between crossbows, it is definitely a necessary item.
The Axiom package is assembled to a price-point objective, but is not simply less costly.Items are certainly include or excluded to a remit of marketing and entry-level bow, but the remit was that from the start this bow had to be presented to hunting capability, and to be able to accept quality accessories, which can be added subsequently as funds permit and personal choice dictates.
After taking initial photographs, I quickly assembled the bow.A spot of lubricant on the deck and the bow was ready to begin the tests.On the range, I spanned the Axiom using my Excalibur two-to-one harness.The familiar sound of the solid latch components clicking into place was reassurance that I was in the presence of one of the finest crossbow triggers in the industry.I applied to manual safety and slid an arrow under the long tongue of the retainer-spring; all straightforward.On the Excalibur, more than a quarter of a century of crossbow-making, hunting and tournament experience results in everything located ergonomically; at Excalibur they worked out a long time ago the right place for everything on their crossbows.
Very light in the hands, the bow would be no chore to carry in the woods and it shoulder easily with the superb balance and comfortable hold.I really liked the subtle modifications in the stock.The safety catch lifts smoothly and the light trigger, said to be around three pounds, releases the latch with precision.
Despite the vicissitude of its long journey, the sight was not far off zero.Shooting offhand, the first shot drove the arrow to the fletches within an inch or so of the center of the target at 23-yards, the second touched the hole of the first.Arrow flight was fast, the hint of a shallow descending angle of the shaft in the target, with no sideways sheer, indicating a clean launch. Noise and vibration were noticeable, the sensitive might feel even intrusive to the pleasure of shooting with the Axiom, but it clearly did not affect the accuracy of arrow flight.Therefore I think what I detected must have been more in the secondary recoil where the limbs were settling after the shot.
The Axiom’s undeniable high standards of quality and design had distracted me from the simple fact that this albeit fully capable bow has what is not strictly essential pared away.It had not, therefore, been fitted with suppressers and as such it would be inappropriate to judge it against other, more accessorized bows from the Excalibur stable, especially since the Axiom is supplied ready to accept those accessories.That said, and my sensitivities aside, that arrow had done the business, there it was grouping consistently and deep in the target.
With the sight zeroed, repeated shots over a prolonged series of test sessions would return the usual Excalibur outstanding accuracy, one hole groups at 23-yards, ragged hole at 30 shooting over a cushioned rest under low wind conditions, and a slight improvement over my original Excalibur test which had returned a ragged hole at 22-yards, a difference I would suggest likely to be explained more by my increase in experience of these bows, rather than the bow themselves.I found smoother results with heavier arrows, around 420 grains.There was no doubt that the review bow could shoot with authority.
So, if subjective conclusions are in order, here are mine: Performance, engineering and finish are excellent.Deck lubricant is necessary, a cocking harness may also be essential as, even if you have the muscular strength, use of a harness or crank is a discipline, which will almost certainly return better accuracy.The stock and limb finish, quiver and sight are just fine as they are, so forget the lipstick the Axiom doesn’t need it.However, if you buy one and happen to share my sensitivities, remember that if you wish, that raw energy can be effectively refined that Excalibur has the means and it is easily added.I would say the Axiom is already a fully competent hunting bow too.I think it deserves to stand a little taller and you know and high heels might be nice after all.It is not so much that I could get exactly what I wanted, but rather that nobody has to pay for what they don’t want.We each get to choose.
The Axiom has the last word; the simple eloquent statement that, while I was first reporting a perceived finesse missing from my shooting experience, then going on to demonstrate the validity of the Axiom system by resolving it perfectly, the bow was steadily delivering precision accuracy, shot after shot, more than adequate power, and no visible string wear over a prolonged test, equally with suppressors and without.Combined with robustness and the dependability of sound engineering, these are the qualities that the informed crossbow enthusiast, whether in the hard condition of the hunt or the breatless precision of top lever tournament, has learned to associate with the name Excalibur; qualities which the Axiom makes a little more accessible.
(With special thanks to Rob at Excalibur for generously supplying the Axiom and explaining its concept and as always to Dave Holder – HBM reader and owner of pro-shop BowPlus, Whitechurch, England – for kindly importing the review bow.)