Sub-1 crossbow: Part 1

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Sub-1 crossbow
Sub-1 crossbow. Photo used with permission of Mission Archery.

This report covers:

  • Sub-1 crossbow
  • Would I like to try?
  • Surprise, surprise
  • Description
  • Bubble level
  • No dry-fire
  • Trigger
  • Maintenance
  • Special tips
  • What have I left out?

This is a different kind of blog. I hope it’s one you will enjoy.

Sub-1 crossbow

When I was at Media Day at the Range at this year’s SHOT Show, I stopped by the Mission Archery booth, where they were displaying the Sub-1 crossbow. It looked cool and they engaged me in conversation right away, so I asked where the name came from. They told me this bow can shoot 3-shot groups at 100 yards that measure less than one inch between centers. That caught my attention!

Would I like to try?

This is what Media Day is all about. Of course I would like to try. I wondered what the draw weight was? Two hundred pounds, I was told. Okay, deal me out. Maybe when I was 50 I could draw 200 pounds — certainly not today. Then the representative told me that his 13-year-old daughter could cock it. Well, with that I puffed out my chest and tried to cock it. When it comes to cocking crossbows, anything a 13-year-old girl can do…

Surprisingly, the bow cocked with relative ease! Just grab both handles of the cocking assist rope and stand up. The dynamics have been worked out and once the heaviest weight of about 100 lbs. (half the draw weight because of the cocking assist) has passed, the bow becomes quite easy to draw. At the end of the draw you are holding 20-40 lbs of force. It’s not that different from cocking a mega-magnum breakbarrel and learning to hold the barrel at the muzzle for the best leverage.

I shot the Sub-1 two times from a bench at a target 90 yards away. To my surprise, both arrows landed close to each other! This thing really works! And by the way, the bench I shot from is the same one I bought and will be showing you later this month!

Tom shoots Sub-1
When I shot the Sub-1 at Media Day, I was impressed!

100 yard group
Three arrows into less than an inch at 100 yards is a feat, but not a one-time deal. With care and a little luck, it is possible. Remember, a Robin Hood will destroy either or both arrows, so this is risky!  Photo with permission of Mission Archery.

Surprise, surprise

When I sent my SHOT Show report to Firearms News several weeks ago the editor asked if I would like to write a feature about the Sub-1. Sure I would! Today is the first step in that process. I contacted Mission Archery and they sent me the Sub-1 package deal. That’s the bow, a 1.5-5X32 Hawke crossbow scope with rings, a cloth carrying case, a quiver, a bubble level and three 20-inch carbon fiber bolts (arrows) that weigh just over 400 grains. That package retails for $1699, which is on the high end for crossbows, but not at the top.

I weighed one of the arrows (they are called bolts when used with a crossbow) and got 417.8 grains. The bow is rated to shoot these around 340-350 f.p.s. That may not sound fast to a airgunner but in the world of crossbows it’s pretty brisk.

We have seen airbows like the Air Venturi Wing Shot that they now call the Seneca Wing Shot II in the past few years, and we know they will launch a 430-grain Air Bolt at 550-600+ f.p.s. As far as the application of launching arrows, they aren’t that different, but the operation of this crossbow is entirely new to me. And the Sub-1 crossbow has technology that makes it new to almost everyone.

Description

The Sub-1 weighs 7.5 lbs. without the scope. No other sights are provided so some kind of optical sight is required, and the little Hawke they sent with it is lightweight and compact. We know Hawke quality from their airgun scopes, and it appears to have crossed over to this one. I say that from an initial examination. Even more than a pellet gun scope, I’m going to have to learn to use this one, because an arrow’s trajectory is enormous! So there’s more to come.

The bow is 30.25 inches long and the width, axel to axel, is 13.8 inches uncocked and 10.7 inches cocked. The pull is adjustable to one of six positions, ranging from 14.5 to 15 inches. It came set in the middle at 14.75-inches, but I found 15 inches to be the most comfortable. I find that holding a crossbow is different than holding a rifle and the longer pull feels fine. It brings my cheek to the right place for the scope.

There are 24 patents pending on the Sub-1, but the most significant must be the ability to uncock the bow. All other crossbows require you to shoot an arrow to safely uncock them, but the Sub-1 has been designed to make unckocking easy and safe. You put the safety on, remove the arrow, push the decocking button, pull the bowstring back about 1.5 inches with the cocking assist rope until you hear a click, then let the string go forward under control (you hold both cocking rope handles). This is a very big deal, because good arrows can cost as much as $20. You don’t want to shoot them into the ground too many times.

decocking button
The decocking button (arrow) is a first for crossbows. The automatic safety is just above it.

The pistol grip looks like one from an AR-15. Indeed, any AR-15 grip will fit, as long as it doesn’t have a beavertail.

Bubble level

I’m not kidding — they sent me a bubble level for the crossbow. The sight line of the Hawke scope is about 2.75-inches above the arrow rail, so we will have the same difficulty with canting at distance that we have with any airgun or firearm. I’m right-handed so the bubble mounts on the left side of the bow. I told them about the Leapers UTG Bubble Leveler scope, so maybe they can work out a deal for crossbows.

No dry-fire

Here is a rule you will recognize. Crossbows are not to be fired without an arrow. In other words — no dry-firing! It’s bad enough for a spring-piston airgun, but it’s death for a crossbow! In fact, the Sub-1 manual specifies that only arrows weighing 400 grains or more are to be shot, so they must need the resistance for the bowstring.

The arrows have a half-moon nock that engages the bowstring. Many crossbow bolts have flat ends without a nock. The Sub-1 requires 20-inch arrows with the half moon nock.

Trigger

The trigger is what Mission Archery calls a match trigger. It releases at 3 lbs. 6 oz. In the firearms world that would equate to an AR-15 National Match trigger that breaks under 5 lbs. I had one on my AR for several years and thought it was nice until my Geissele was installed. Of course airgunners are used to triggers that take only grams to release, so please understand we are talking about a different technology. I got to squeeze this one twice at SHOT (remember — no dry firing) so I will have to wait until I shoot to give you more on the trigger.

The safety goes on automatically when the bow is cocked, and you can appreciate that because you then have to put an arrow on the bowstring! Don’t want the bow to fire while you are doing that! You know about beartrap “accidents” when breakbarrel spring guns fire while they are being loaded? Crossbows have the same danger in a triangle that’s defined by the cocked and uncocked bowstring.

Maintenance

You’ll laugh at this one. The manual says to lubricate the rail (the deck upon which the arrow is launched) with rail lube every 5-10 shots. The bowstring runs along this rail and has some downward pressure, so there is constant friction. The lube helps prolong the string’s life. But here is the deal. You can go too far with lubing, just like you can with oiling a spring gun.

Yes lube the rail every 5 to 10 shots but don’t be anal about it. And, if you are shooting groups at long distance, don’t lube in the middle of the string. This is a common-sense thing, but as my late aunt once said, common sense isn’t that common!

Special tips

I called Mission Archery and talked to one of their engineers about the bow, because crossbows are something brand-new to me. I know even less about them than I used to about straight razors!

He gave me some important tips. Here is just one. Archers number their arrows because of course they use them again and again. If one arrow shoots five clicks to the left at 50 yards, you can hold off for it or adjust the scope like we do in field target, because that arrow may not shoot where the others do, but it probably goes to the same place every time. Numbering it allows you to keep a record.

What have I left out?

Well, I’ve probably left out a lot of things you want to know about, but you guys aren’t shy. I’m doing this report just because I can. Thank Pyramyd Air for giving me the latitude to explore subjects like this that may not be central to airgunning, but are central to shooting!

Of course there’s more, but I’ll save that for the next report.

62 thoughts on “Sub-1 crossbow: Part 1

  1. B.B.

    Thanks for an interesting report. Seems that mechanical engineers have been working overtime. First a Sig air rifle that shoots like a magnum and cocks like an R7. Now this meg-cross bow that is easy to cock. Could it be done one handed?

    -Y


  2. BB
    Very cool and alot of interesting info. I’m amazed at the accuracy.

    I always knew that bow and arrows had a arched trajectory similar to air guns. But the holds for different arrows are interesting. I never thought about that. But see how that’s possible.

    I guess the knock keeps the arrow oriented the same way each time you use it. So then you would be able to know how that arrow shoots each time.

    And I did have a old wood stock crossbow when I was a kid. I remember the wood was light colored and it had the steel loop for your foot to cock it. Other than that I don’t remember much about it. Like the sights and such. I do know I lost the arrows and never shot it anymore. I always saved my money to buy pellets and .22 rimfire bullets. That was the big thing for me. But I did shoot shot gun too. And for some reason my dad would give me a box and tell me not to shoot em up.

    Anyway I’m looking forward to the next reports on the Sub-1.



  3. B.B.,

    Very interesting. The fps comparison to air bows is interesting. The sub MOA is amazing. While I never plan to own a cross bow, the technological side of it has my interest? What is new? What is better? New materials? Why?

    ** What does Mission Archery think about air gun/arrow-bolt technology? ** Sure, it is an apples to oranges comparison, but in the end it is all about launching an (bolt/arrow) and hitting what you are aiming at.

    Good Day to you and to all,….. Chris



  4. BB,

    That is an amazingly accurate crossbow! And it looks like a prop from a new Batman movie or something. What are the ballistics like with that setup? I mean, if it’s zeroed at 100 yards, what would the rise be at 50 yards? What size game is a crossbow like that suitable for hunting anyway? My only experience with crossbows is a Barnett Imp pistol crossbow I had back in 1985. Barnett were the only show in town at the time. The Trident was their other pistol crossbow. Their full size models were the Wildcat, the Panzer and the Commando (which had a very cool “break-barrel” cocking mechanism, sleek design and even featured as an assassin’s weapon in one of the 1980s James Bond movies). Hope to see more crossbow tests from you from time to time.


  5. BB,

    Many years ago I had a Barnett RC150 crossbow. It was awesomely accurate at 50 yards with open sights.

    Recently I acquired a Barnett Raptor FX3. The scope that came on it was from the same company that makes scopes for air rifle package deals. I just mounted this scope on it.

    https://www.opticsplanet.com/leapers-utg-4×32-pro-5-step-reticle-crossbow-scope.html

    I have not yet had the chance to even zero it, but I am really looking forward to playing with it some this spring.



      • BB,

        It is a superb entry level crossbow. For that matter, it will do just fine for anything you would want to do with one. It just does not have all of the latest and greatest bells and whistles you find on the newer ones.

        Before you do shoot it I would strongly recommend that you closely inspect the limbs for cracks and the cables and string for any damage or fraying. I have had a string break. It is not fun.



  6. Wow! a Crossbow review – great stuff!!

    Chance would have it that I recently noticed this crossbow on the Cabela’s website and plan to check it out the next time I visit. It looks to be a real innovative design.

    I have an Excalibur Exocet crossbow which is a very accurate non-cam design that shoots a hunting arrow at about 325 fps. A very effective weapon – Robinhoods are common enough that I don’t shoot multiple bolts at one target.

    As a kid, I made a couple of crossbows including a mega-power ballista that used a truck leaf-spring as a bow and needed a winch to cock it. Power is good… more power is better – right??

    Sub inch groups at 100 yards is amazing. Very impressive!

    Just a comment to those who might want to hunt deer with a crossbow. While the accuracy and energy is available at long range the biggest concern is the speed at which a deer can move to “jump the string”. Cam bows and crossbows make a fair amount of noise when fired and are best at short range where the deer has less time to move resulting in a poor hit.

    Cheers,
    Hank


  7. BB,

    Do the bolts have two or three fletchings. I made a crossbow a long time ago from plans that were published in “Mother Earth News” and it’s design required bolts with only two fletchings. The bow and string were from Barnett and I had to replace the string pretty often because of that downward force you mentioned. I didn’t know there was a lube for that. I was supposed to use Delrin for the rails but used UHMW instead and thought that was why the strings wouldn’t last. The trigger was pretty bad and I think, with what I have learned here, I could now make it much better today. Had no idea how a trigger worked at all when I made that one. The plans also included making a ” goat’s foot lever ” for easier cocking.

    Awaiting the shooting. 1 MOA at 100yds is amazing and about 20 times the accuracy I could get out of mine. And twice the range.


    • Halfstep,

      The arrows have three fletchings. The odd-colored one goes down through the launch rail. The bow also has a lever that presses down on the arrow shaft to reduce flexing (I think).

      As for the groups at 100 yards. I am going to try, but we will have to wait to see what I can do. The guys who shoot groups like that know these bows very well.

      B.B.


      • BB,

        No, trust me . This bow is going to shoot 20 times more accurately than the one I made even if your kitty is the one shooting it. I know this bow very well. 🙂


  8. B.B.,

    This is an exciting crossbow. In today’s market it is probably worth what it retails for; unless I hit the lottery I won’t ever own one, though.

    I want to let you know about another exciting crossbow, the Ravin crossbows; there are currently three variations on a theme. Among other things, these offer anti-dry-fire and de-cocking mechanisms.

    I expect Ravin and Mission are setting the standard for improved safety.

    http://ravincrossbows.com/

    ~ken



  9. Very interesting, but there are a few things left out of this report.

    1. How does the crossbow attain this kind of accuracy? Most firearms cannot do this well and firearms are categorically more accurate than archery. Crossbows should be better than archery bows but well short of firearms. If there isn’t some new technology at work, one can only assume that the answer is workmanship which leads to.

    2. Price. My understanding is that pcps, at least the early ones, did not gain their accuracy through powerplant design but through superior workmanship which led to high price. So, what does this crossbow cost? $10,000?

    3. What kind of 13 year old girl can draw 100 pounds? Physics says that energy cannot be created or destroyed. 200 pounds of draw weight is 200 pounds although it can be divided up and made to seem less. If there is no technological assist, then that work has to be done by the shooter. Even coming in at half that is still a considerable amount for any 13 year old girl unless she is world kettlebell champion Ksenia Dedyukhina. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCi1ISW0m40

    Matt61



      • Sounds like a real bargain. If the cocking mechanism involves holding the crossbow down with your foot, as I’ve seen in medieval pictures, and pulling upward in the style of a deadlift, I could see that. It wouldn’t make for rapid fire though.

        Matt61


  10. Hello everyone

    I have a question regarding lubrication on a PCP airgun. I seem to recall it being stated that one should put some silicone chamber oil in the fill port, or Crosman pellgun oil, occasionally. I know that ChrisUSA told us what should be used on different materials as well but I didn’t write it down. If chamber oil should be introduced into the reservoir, what would be the best way to do that? Put some in the hand pump hose connection, or in the gun’s port. The Urban uses a fill probe so I guess it could be put in there as well? Thanks guys, I value your suggestions.



    • George,

      Fill the fill port with silicone chamber oil (one or two drops) then fill the gin with air. Done! Probes are harder ti fill this way, but just get it near the intake hole and then insert the probe and fill the gun.

      B.B.


      • B.B.

        Thank you for that information. How often should this be done? I would think this would deter any effects from moisture being introduced using a hand pump.

        Twotalon says to keep Crosman Pellgun oil away from high pressure air. But that is the oil that was recommended for my Crosman Nitro Venom breakbarrel, and also was used on my Crosman muti-pump.
        I do have both of those lubricants. I have the RWS silicone chamber oil & spring oil.

        Geo


    • Geo,

      Silicone Dielectric Grease or Silicone Chamber Oil (depending on the application) for : Plastic to plastic
      White Lithium for : Metal to plastic
      Moly Paste for : Metal to metal



      • ChrisUSA

        Thanks for that information. I know you commented in a post a few days ago about which lubricants to use where. It’s pretty difficult to go back and find those comments in earlier posts though. I have copied you comment and saved it in my airgun folder on my computer.

        I got the scope mounted on my Urban late this afternoon. The UTG mounts I bought are a little thick and being that the scope is compact, it doesn’t give me quite enough travel for good eye relief. I have to move my head a little closer to the ocular lens. I’ve got it mounted back as far as it can go. If I had slimmer rings I could get the scope back a tad farther on the rail. I chose a compact scope in hopes of less weight. But I weighed the scope and rings and they weigh 1 lb 9 oz (26 oz) which still seems a little on the heavy side. I bought the UTG scope you recommended in a comment to me a while back. It’s a very nice scope though. UTG 3-12x44mm SWAT with 30mm tube and etches glass reticles plus a 60mm wheel.

        Geo



        • Geo,

          Thank you for the nice update. I have at least 6 sets of extra rings that either came with something or did not work for whatever reason. There is always a bit of trial and error involved. That scope is the one I had on the TX200 and I used a LimbSaver brand butt pad to get an extra 1″ LOP. Opposite of your problem. The 2, eye relief and LOP are not always connected, but can be.

          When comparing weights, know what you have and what the weight is of what you are looking at,. as reference. The UTG’s are well built. Going to 1″ tube can cut weight and then you can get the longer version to give more adjustment,.. as another option. Having more than enough latitude on tube area is better than being restricted, but comes with added weight, usually. You have a lot of uninterrupted rail there to play with.

          Shoot it awhile. Make sure the when shouldered with your eyes closed, that when you open your eyes, that the eye relief is good, (or not) but it should be repeatable. (( If you have done all you can do, {offset rings} will bring that scope back, if you are sure that is what you want/need. ))

          I do believe that benching VS standing will set you up different on LOP and eye relief, so consider how you will be shooting. Having to come in a scope a bit is better than having to back off of one.

          11mm to P/W rail adapters are another idea. You can mount that further back on the 11mm and move the whole thing back. But, because you are raising the scope, you may have to go from Med. rings to Lows, for example, plus going to P/W rings.

          Hope some of that helps or at least gives you some points to ponder.


          • Chris USA

            Thank you for all the suggestions. I guess I should have gotten the standard length version of the UTG with high rings. I was just trying to keep the weight as low as possible. The scope came with the W/P rings included but they are of no use to mount to the Urban’s 11mm dovetail rail. Yes, I could add an adapter but that would just add more weight too.

            I was looking at the BKL 30mm offset rings with the single strap. They are a bit pricey at $45. I may have to re-evaluate the whole configuration because I am not liking it right now the way it is.
            I am uploading some pictures of my Urban with the scope mounted.




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