by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Sub-1 crossbow
Sub-1 crossbow.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Airgun shows
  • Crossbows
  • A lot to learn
  • Read the manual
  • Lightbulb!
  • Just like an airgun
  • Fire
  • Confidence
  • Shot 2
  • Shot 3
  • Arrow management
  • Summary

I am not writing a history report today, because there are too many things on my backlog. Not all of these reports are about airguns, as you can see by today’s title, but they are all pertainent to the subject at hand. This one more than most!

Airgun shows

First, here is a list of the airgun show dates that I know about.

Flag City Toys That Shoot airgun show April 14

Malvern Airgun Extravaganza — Arkansas — April 27 & 28 (For more information email [email protected])

Gene Curtis Memorial Fun Shoot and Airgun Show — This one is not well publicized. It’s at the Tri-County Expo Center in Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas May 18-20. I have no phone number or email address link yet.

Texas Airgun Show Saturday, June 23, followed by a field target shoot on Sunday, June 24.

Midwest Airgun Show June 30

Baldwinsville Airgun Show –New York — July (For more information email [email protected])

Kalamazoo Airgun Show August 19

Pyramyd Air Cup September 21-23

North Carolina Airgun Show October 19 & 20

Crossbows

Back when I decided to write about sharpening straight razors to experience what a new airgunner must feel like, I should have chosen crossbows, instead. The Sub-1 was thrust upon me when the editor of Firearms News asked me for a feature after seeing my report from the SHOT Show. He was intrigued by a crossbow that can put three arrows into less than an inch at 100 yards, as I’m sure most shooters would be.

A lot to learn

Because I am an American man, I was born with the full knowledge of firearms in my DNA. That’s a joke, for all of you who just arrived on Earth. But don’t most men act that way?

Crossbows, on the other hand, are mysterious and arcane. No one is born knowing how they work. You hold this lethal weapon in your hands and, if you make a mistake, it could be disastrous! The same is true of firearms, but as I said, American males are born knowing how to handle them.

Read the manual

First I read the manual that came with the bow. I prayed there would be no jargon inside, and thankfully there was none. I learned that the crossbow has to be lubricated every 5-10 shots and, since no lube came with the bow, a trip to the archery store was next.

The very helpful salesman told me that not only does the launch rail (I’m learning the jargon) need to be lubed, the bowstring also needs to be waxed for longer life. These powerful crossbows wear out their bowstrings pretty fast, so you do what you can to prolong their life.

lube kit
The lube kit I bought consists of these three appetizing items — String Snot, Rail Snot and a general purpose oil called Got Snot? Yum!

I then lubed the rail and waxed the string, following the directions on the package. The oil is for the bearings and pivot points that all seemed fine. Then it was time to shoot. But there were still some questions. For instance — how do you boresight a crossbow? What lines up with what? The crossbow had come to me with the scope attached, which I hoped meant it was already on target, but I wasn’t about to shoot it until I knew it would be safe.

This crossbow is normally sold without the scope installed — just like most air rifles that come with scopes. The company set this one up for me because I’m reviewing it. But if it came with the scope not mounted, what do you do?

Lightbulb!

Then it dawned on me! We don’t boresight airguns, either. We mount the scope and shoot them, hoping to hit somewhere inside a safe backstop. How can we make certain that we will? By getting very close to the backstop for the first shot.

I had an arrow stop I had purchased for testing the Seneca Wing Shot II air shotgun with Air Venturi Air Bolts, and we know that its velocity with arrows is close to 600 f.p.s., so the same arrow stop should work fine for a crossbow that’s rated at 340-350 f.p.s.

I went out into the small backyard of my very suburban home and set the arrow stop bag on the ground. Then I backed up 15 feet. It was time to cock the bow and load an arrow. I had cocked it once at the SHOT Show, where it felt easy enough. But remember, I had been challenged by the prowess of a 13-year-old girl. Or at least that is what the clever salesman made me believe. Now, however, I was alone in my backyard with no one to tutor me. What if I did something wrong?

Just like an airgun

And that’s when it hit me. This must be what a new airgunner feels like when he has to cock and shoot that brand new airgun all by himself. Forget straight razors — this is something I can relate to!

I had read the manual, so I did what it said, plus what I had remembered doing at SHOT. Lo and behold — it worked! In fact it was easy. And my question about what happens to the cocking aid rope and handles after the bow is cocked was answered. It becomes loose and useless after the bow is cocked, so you remove it! Time to load an arrow.

Again drawing on the wellspring of knowledge that’s found in the manual, I placed an arrow on the launch rail with the white fletch down between the split rails and slid it all the way back until it contacted the bowstring. The nock (the metal thingy on the back of the arrow that sometimes grabs the bowstring, but not in this case) is shaped like a half moon. It fits around the cocked bowstring without locking onto it.

Fire!

There was no turning back now! Standing just 15 feet from the bag I shouldered the bow like a rifle, released the automatic safety (it comes on every time the bow is cocked) sighted on the center of the bag and gently squeezed the trigger. The shot went off before I was ready. Did I shoot through the fence? Was the neighbor’s dog still alive?

Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles — I hit what I was aiming at!!!!! I was so thankful that the crossbow was apparently sighted-in. I took a picture to show you.

Sub-1 shot 1
I was aiming at the 9-ball in the center of the bag. I’d call that a hit!

The crossbow recoils about like a magnum spring rifle — quick and light. There is no vibration whatsoever. It’s a solid feel. Also, the Sub-1 is one of the quieter crossbows on the market, which hunters appreciate, because game doesn’t usually move when it releases.

Confidence

At this point my confidence soared! The arrow was deep in the bag but came out easily. I threaded the cocking aid rope onto the bow the way the manual said and cocked the bow again.

Sub-1 cocked
I’m holding the bow at full draw, which takes only 20-40 lbs. This is easy!

The bow is very easy to cock. Just grab the cocking assist handles and stand up. As the bow draws back it does pass a spot of maximum resistance, but that spot comes at a place where most people will have the greatest strength and mechanical advantage. In other words, the designers thought it through!

Shot 2

Shot one had been offhand from 15 feet. For shot 2 I backed up to 15 yards, which is three times as far, but still pretty close. This time I sat on the ground and assumed a good AAFTA field target sitting position. Shot two went to the dead center of the aim point! Whaaaat?

Sub-1 shot 2
Shot 2 went exactly where I aimed! This is addictive.

Shot 3

By now I was an expert — a legend in my own mind! So I backed up as far as my tiny yard permits, a trifle over 20 yards. Shot three went into the same hole as shot one.

Sub-1 shot 3
Shot 3.

Arrow management

I hope it is obvious that I could not and should not have fired three different arrows at the target without extracting them as I went. I would have ruined two or three arrows that way. The Sub-1 is so accurate that you have to watch what you do. We airgunners shoot our two-cent pellets at targets and look at the holes they make. Archers shoot $10-20 arrows at targets and hope that one of them doesn’t hit any of the others. The Sub-1 got its name by putting three arrows into less than one inch at 100 yards. At closer distances they are all going to stack! You have to be careful if you don’t want to ruin a lot of expensive arrows. And there is more.

Mission Archery told me that archers number their arrows so they can watch the flight patterns of each one. I wrote numbers on the white fletching with a Sharpie (an indelible felt-tipped pen). Arrow number three may always land to the left of arrows one and two, but it may also always go to the same place. If you know that you can compensate when you aim and get it to hit where the others hit. That is one of the secrets behind the one-inch group.

Summary

So far this experience has been a good one. I think the Sub-1 is the TX200 Mark III of the crossbow world. Through sheer luck I started at the top of the food chain. It will be hard for me now to work with anything less than a Sub-1. My personal Barnett RC 150 that I have never shot will now look like a poor cousin.

Will I buy the bow I’m testing? Even with a writer’s discount, it is not inexpensive. But having used it I find that I want to continue using it. It’s like eating peanuts. Drive a Cadillac for a day and you won’t want anything less.

I can now shoot in my backyard and nobody is the wiser. Decisions, decisions!