Onyx Tactical Crossbow: Part 1

nyby Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Sen-X Crossbow
Onyx Tactical Crossbow.

This report covers:

  • Crossbow
  • The Onyx
  • Physical specifications and description
  • Who needs it?
  • So — who needs it?
  • Why you need it
  • Opening the box
  • Manual
  • The power source — for cocking
  • Why CO2?
  • Air source safety
  • The button
  • Final point
  • Summary

Today will be a completely different blog! This time old BB is the student. This is about a crossbow, which I do know a little about, but this crossbow operates differently than any other.

Crossbow

The Onyx Tactical Crossbow is a crossbow like all other premium crossbows, except for one thing. You cock this bow with the push of a button! Yes, this 225-pound draw-weight crossbow that is fully capable of taking big game is cocked with the push of a button. Let’s think about that for a moment.

Crossbows are to archers what rifles are to spear-throwers. They remove most of the skill required for the job and deliver powerful shots that are also accurate out to ranges that even experienced archers cannot achieve. It’s been that way for centuries, and for all of that time the longbow archers have insisted that crossbows are not true bows. I have to agree with them. A longbow is one thing — even when it has modern technology like sights and cams to reduce draw weight — things that weren’t around when this controversy started.

Crossbows are something different. They are more powerful than longbows and, if handled improperly, they can be more dangerous than longbows, though you have to handle both with caution.

The reason people lump them together is they both have bow in the name and they both shoot arrows — though technically the “arrow” fired by a crossbow is called a quarrel or bolt. Longbow arrows were also once called bolts, but the term arrow has taken a firm root with them. I’m not going to get into the history of the crossbow in this report (though that might be a fun one to do, sometime), but you do need to acknowledge their differences, because some of the crossbow operational quirks can maim and even kill you!

The Onyx

The Onyx is a conventional crossbow, except for the pushbutton cocking feature. It has a 225 lb. draw weight and can be cocked manually. To do that you either need to be Superman or to use an aftermarket cocking aid. For this bow I think a cocking windlass is required. Some are made to fit specific crossbows, while others are more universal and will fit a wide range of models.

cocking windlass
This is a universal cocking aid/windlass. It attaches to the butt of the crossbow and slowly pulls the bowstring back to the point that it is caught and held by the trigger mechanism (technically a part called the nut). I have no idea if this one fits the Onyx — I simply show it for information.

The Onyx cocks differently. You don’t draw the bowstring back to cock the bow. That was done before this point — the bowstring is already held back. The bowstring is not under much tension when the string is held back — unlike any other crossbow!

What the pneumatic mechanism on the Onyx does is push the bow’s limbs (the two springy arms on either side of the bow) forward to put tension on the bowstring! I remember at the Pyramyd Air Cup this year I became quite excited when a Pyramyd Air technician showing the bow to me put his hand in front of the arrow! It looked to me like the bow was cocked, but as I have just explained — it wasn’t.

Physical specifications and description

The online specs say the Onyx weighs 11 lbs. Without an air tank the test bow weighs 10 lbs. on my balance beam scale, so I think the specs are with the air tank attached. That means the Onyx is heavy for a crossbow.

The bow is 28.5 inches long and just under 11 inches wide when the limbs are collapsed. When the limbs are extended the width is about 34-inches.

The overall color is black, Most of the bow is aluminum and steel; the limbs are some sort of high-tech synthetic and the forearm grip, the pistol grip and the buttstock are synthetic.

The buttstock is an AR type that is adjustable to six positions of length. The pull length varies between 13-3/4-inches and 17-3/4-inches.

The pistol grip is also an AR A2 style. I have no idea whether it will interchange with actual AR grips, but economies of design would dictate that it should. It certainly looks like it would from the outside.

The forearm grip is designed to keep your off hand away from the flight deck and the bowstring. This feature is seen on many crossbows today, because that string can remove digits when the bow fires!

Who needs it?

You are probably asking right now who needs a $1,550 pushbutton crossbow? A good hunting crossbow can be purchased for $250-300. A premium hunting crossbow will cost $1,000 to $2,500. My Sub-1 from Mission Archery now sells for about $1,400, without a sight. I reported on that back in 2018. The Onyx is based on a premium crossbow, but the pneumatic technology they added to give it one-button cocking does increase the cost.

So — who needs it?

Let’s make a list.

• Hunters with physical limitations (handicapped)
• Hunters who cannot cock a crossbow
• You

Wait a minute, BB. I’m young(ish). I’m strong. I don’t need no pushbutton crossbow!

Why you need it

Okay, imagine you are sitting in a tree stand waiting for that prize whitetail buck to come along. Suddenly you see him working his way through the treeline. You count at least 10 points on his antlers at this distance. This is the one you want. He is 90 yards away and walking toward you like an infantry scout on patrol, looking for boobytraps. Now tell me — did you climb up into that high seat this morning with your crossbow already cocked and loaded? And did you sit there with the bow cocked for 2-1/2-hours? Of course not. Your mom didn’t raise no fools!

Well, then, are you going to cock your crossbow now? Sure, you say. I just have to wait to turn the crank slowly and then detach the crank mechanism, load an arrow and get ready to shoot when the deer isn’t looking. Good luck with that! His eyes and ears are sharper than yours and he has lived by his wits all his life. If you had a firearm would you have waited until now to load it?

Or — you could just push the button on the Onyx and be ready silently in a second, because the arrow is already loaded.

Now you understand! This crossbow isn’t for hunting in your daydreams on the couch! This crossbow is for hunting in the real world! Sure it’s heavy, but how bad is that when you are sitting in a blind?

Opening the box

I first looked at the bow in the box it came in and carefully considered everything inside. Had this been a pellet rifle I would have had it out and shot by this time. But the Onyx is something I know very little about.

Sen-X Crossbow box
The Onyx crossbow collapses to less than 11-inches wide for transport.

Sen-X Crossbow pins
As the bow comes to you, the quick-release pins that allow the limbs to fold are held in place by a rubber band that also holds the loose bowstring. This picture is as much for me as for you, so I remember to do this after testing the bow. Because I’m keeping that rubber band!

The limbs move around when they aren’t pinned in position for firing. I think a small bungee cord around them at the rear would be handy.

Manual

The manual is well written in all English and is 37 pages long. I read it cover-to-cover before doing anything with the bow. I know how crossbows work, but this one is unique. Look at it! It doesn’t have cam wheels! The power is supplied directly by the energy stored in the limbs, without passing through a complex series of pulleys that reduce the cocking effort — because the Onyxdoesn’t need its cocking effort reduced!

I recommend that everyone who gets the Onyx reads the manual before they do anything. There are straightforward things you need to know, of course. Things like never putting your hands on the flight deck in the path of the bowstring when the bow is cocked. But there are also things you might never consider. Like the fact that leaks from the source of compressed air can cock the bow without your knowing it! Read the manual!

The power source — for cocking

Let’s understand that this bow launches arrows by means of the energy that is stored and released by its bow limbs. In that respect it is a conventional crossbow.

The unconventional thing is how the bow is cocked. The Onyx is designed to use compressed air, supplied by an Air Venturi 3000 psi 13 cubic-inch tank that is regulated down to 1100 psi. The manual says the bow was designed to be cocked with high pressure air, and if you own a compressor that is the thrifty way to do it. But it can also be cocked by an 88- or 90-gram CO2 tank.

Sen-X Crossbow tank
The Onyx is set up to use a regulated Air Venturi 13 cubic-inch tank as a power source for cocking.

The tank coupling on the bow comes to you as shown above. That would be the setup for a right-handed shooter. That coupling can be switched around to point the tank forward, which moves the weight balance of the bow forward. It can also be moved to the left side of the bow for left-handed shooters, though that involves more work than a simple switch. An 88-gram or 90-gram disposable CO2 cartridge can also go into the coupling in place of the air tank.

Why CO2?

Those 88-gram CO2 tanks are not cheap and since they only cock the bow a couple times (maybe once more in warmer weather), what good are they? Well, let’s say you are about to hunt caribou in Canada. Imagine all the problems trying to carry an air tank through the TSA here, plus the CATSA in Canada. How much easier it is to just buy a disposable CO2 tank when you get where you are going.

Air source safety

The manual tells you to disconnect the air source when it’s not in use. That prevents the possibility of an accident. There are also safety things to do with the button that I’ll cover now.

The button

Let’s look at this button that cocks the bow. It’s located in front of the forearm grip, where it is centered. Both right- and left-handed shooters will find it convenient. When the air source is connected push the button in to cock the bow. That part is almost silent and takes about a second in 60+ degree weather. Pull the button out to uncock the bow. That emits a long hiss as the air escapes and it takes a lot longer for the bow limbs to collapse back to their un-tensioned shape. And you may have caught the fact that with this system you don’t have to fire an arrow into the ground and risk damaging it.

But we have to make certain that button is in the uncocked position before we connect the air source. If the button is in the cocked position and we screw a tank into the coupling, the bow will cock instantly when the high-pressure air or CO2 enters the system.

Sen-X Crossbow button uncocked
Here the button is pulled out and the bow is uncocked. If the cocking safety was applied (at the arrow, and the cocking safety is off in this photo) it would be impossible to press the button in to cock the bow. This keeps you safe when loading.

Sen-X Crossbow button cocked
When the button is pushed forward like this, the bow will automatically cock. It takes a second and is very quiet.

Final point

It’s easy to get confused about this technology when you learn the bow uses high pressure air. Here is a quote from the manual:

“A Steambow (Onyx) is a combination of a conventional crossbow and a PCP air rifle.”

Yes, it is, but don’t get confused. The high-pressure air has nothing to do with launching the arrow. It is there to cock the bow, and that is all that it does.

Summary

That’s enough for this report. I hope you can appreciate that this bit of technology will change the world of crossbows. It will allow more people to use them, and will allow hunters to be safer with them.

There is a lot more to learn about the Onyx. I have only addressed one of the three safeties, plus I need to cover other things that are more conventional.

Am I going to test the bow? Yes, indeed. So there is a lot more coming.

59 thoughts on “Onyx Tactical Crossbow: Part 1

  1. Just a head’s up, the store page for the Sen-X Onyx notes it is subject to ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations). You might want to change the example from hunting in Canada to hunting in Alaska instead.

    I have to admit, this seems like an odd item to be subject to export controls.



      • Right. If you go to the Pyramyd Air store page and hover over the ITAR Product note at the top of the description tab, you’ll see that Pyramyd cannot ship the item out of the US.

        In Canada, if we want to order firearms or optics subject from the US that are subject to ITAR, it has to be done through an exporter with the requisite US permits.

        From what I’ve found, taking an item outside of the US is considered an ‘export’, so it should be something that US owners of the Sen-X should be aware of. Sadly, at this point, it looks like something that you may want to avoid taking to a different country if you want to stay on the right side of some rather serious regulations.


  2. Ok yes i also do the archery thing and use a recurve and very much traditional archery none of those pulleys for me may as well be shooting a gun or crossbow and bows shoot arrows and crossbows shoot bolts.

    Enough for the rant portion it looks quite cool and i have questions and i am sure they will all be answered in followups, how fast is the cocking and how quiet? I am sure you ave seen the little steambow pistol repeater hand crossbow, Chu-ko-nu or the un-butchered name.

    Aside from just not using a crossbow if i were to use one for hunting well it looks like we have a contender here. I have in the distant past shot very basic crossbows at an SCA practice. Just not my cup of tea and kidding aside whatever you like. I see with the air bolt user crowd where the connection is and the attraction. Me personally shooting the right tuned recurve with the right arrows is just my favorite thing and i am no expert i just find the attention to the process and getting it right a very satisfying thing. Another example of “an artless art” anyhow that’s not a foreign concept just a different way of referring to practicing technique until it becomes automatic.

    Oh well i look forward to the rest of the report and i also cant wait until you get one of the Diana PCP Mauser K98 for testing wonder if it has a Diana barrel or a Snowpeak [yuc].


  3. B.B.

    What a cool contraption. It should be in the next Bond film! This could be a 10 part series.
    How about a cross bow/cross bolt shoot off at 75 yards?
    Could the same little elves that came up with this also come up with a self-cocking 80 fpe springer?
    If this was around hundreds of years ago, history would be different.

    -Yogi


    • Yogi,

      Air cocked or self cocked,… a 80fpe springer would be a real mule. You do raise an interesting point though,… what makes this (you could argue,.. leaf spring) powered item that lunches something much heavier (the bolt), easier to shoot as opposed to a mega springer? It would come down to how that energy is released, the way it launches the projectile and the effects on the gun/shooter during the firing process.

      Chris


    • Yogi,

      A self-cocking springer has been in existence for 20 years. Made by Rutten, it has been unsuccessfully marketed as a Browning Airstar. It uses an electric motor to cock the rifle and sounds like someone changing a tire with an impact wrench!

      A system like this would add 2 pounds and a lot of bulk to the air rifle.

      B.B.




          • B.B.,
            Yogi’s question does bring to mind a similar question I have:
            “Has anyone ever made a pneumatic air rifle with an on-board electric pump?”
            The concept of operation would be a single-shot hunting gun, similar to the old reliable Sheridan, but with no pumping. You fire one shot, dumping all your air; then you hit the button (like on this crossbow) and your small electric pump refills your rifle, cutting off when it reaches the set PSI; then you are ready for your next shot. Each shot will be at the same velocity and power, just as if you have pumped your Sheridan 8 pumps (except, like me, you are too old to want to pump 8 pumps into your gun =>). You would kind of have a PCP, in that it is charged prior to shooting, but you wouldn’t need any spare tanks. You would just keep an extra Lithium-ion battery in the pocket of your hunting jacket in case the battery on the pump in your rifle died. Has anyone ever tried such a thing? Or are there no pumps small enough to fit into a reasonable size and weight of a rifle and have it put out something like 12 to 20 fpe? *shrugs*
            It’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you for some time, but Yogi’s question prompted me to ask it now. Thank you.
            Looking forward to the rest of the report on this crossbow,
            dave



            • Dave,

              Depending how handy you are,… The small DC car tire pumps might provide a launch point. Most do 300 psi. I have had several. They work. At least that would test your theory. (you ARE looking to get Co2 pressures/multi pump pressures,… and not PCP pressures, right?)

              As for a test subject,… I am not sure. GF1 might have some suggestions.

              Sure,… you have a car battery, a DC tire pump and the gun (with a Foster fitting/adapter?)

              As for PCP pressures,..3-4000,… that takes a 3 stage (3 pistons, all progressively smaller or single stroke, 3 stage. I do not see that being done in a quick/automatic/expedient manner with an on-board battery.

              What pressure does the valve see when pumped with a multi pump? 880 for example. THAT would need to be reached. I am not sure.

              At any rate,… just throwing out some thoughts,………. Chris


              • Chris,
                Yes, as you stated, I was thinking multi-pump pressures, not PCP pressures.
                I read online (so it MUST be true, right? hahaha!) that 1250 psi is the pressure of a fully-pumped Crosman 1377 (that sounds a bit high to me).
                I was just figuring that someone has already tried this. *shrugs*
                Might be something to add to “cool things to mess with when I retire” ( 3 more years =>).
                Thank you,
                dave


                • Dave,

                  1250 might not be high. I would consider that an average multi-pump to have a mid-sized piston. Add some leverage,….? Still, an average 12V car tire pump capable of doing 300 psi might (not) be a good option.

                  Chris


            • Thedavemyster,

              It might only take a cylinder and piston with a solenoid/electromagnet to get you the pressure (800-1300PSI) and even the activation of the dump valve. The big issue is how much it might all wind up weighing; to include spare battery. Also be careful with LithiumIon batteries in your pockets shorting on keys, change, and Swiss Army Knives …unless you like really Hot Pockets (not the food kind) Dave!

              shootski


              • “The big issue is how much it might all wind up weighing…”
                Exactly, Shootski; I think it would be easy to do a bench top prototype, a “proof of concept,” but it might weigh 50 pounds…to do it in a rifle you could carry in the woods might not be so easy….especially the batteries! As you said, I don’t need to light myself on fire, hahaha!
                Thanks,
                dave



  4. BB
    About the Diana Mauser K98 PCP
    The problem I had with my K98 involved the trigger safety / lock failing to work. I passed the information on to the powers that be over at P/A and others and evidently a determination was made to stop shipments until some research was conducted. One up for them.
    They requested I return mine for investigation, however it was extremely easy to fix and I did so. Basically involved removing and properly installing the trigger guard, two screws.
    It was prevented from properly seating in the stock by the trigger pivot pin sliding sideways a bit and blocking it from sitting flush in the stock. the trigger and guard were cocked over a bit.

    I do not believe there is any defect with the rifle and mine may have been the only one affected but they want to be safe for sure till they determine the cause. I believe someone was simply not paying attention during assembly of mine or something interrupted the assembly procedure. It is not all that easy to notice without looking for it or trying to pull the trigger with the safety on… unloaded of course!

    We are corresponding and I have supplied pictures and specific information about it. The weekend interrupted things. I really do not wish to return it. It was slightly damaged in shipping already and I fixed it already.
    No real damage involved in both situations. But if they insist, I will ship it back. I just can’t justify the need to for now after I already identified, verified and solved the problem with mine. Not much to see and once the pivot pin is in place both ends of the pin are prevented from moving at all by the trigger guard frame seated into the stock and over the trigger housing assembly. It covers both ends of the pin.

    Unless they decide to re-engineer the trigger assembly I don’t see a big delay. If the trigger guard is flush in the stock there should be no problem. Just try the trigger with the lock on UNLOADED and pointed in a safe direction.
    Bob M

    PS: I’ll wait for the semi-auto crossbow 🙂



      • RR
        Noticed one online that looked like a Gatling Gun. Home made. Select fire? Converted Airsoft?
        A fun project anyway.
        I remember a bazooka looking PVC air gun that could fire a bolt through 1/2″ plywood using a foam sabot to carry it. A smaller pipe held 100PSI air and a 9 volt lawn sprinkler water valve transferred the air with the push of a button, as in right now! Not your average street toy for sure. It was sold at gun shows and in magazine adds.


    • Bob M,

      So the rifle left the factory and the distributor (not really their job) without a functional safety check!
      Not a good business plan once you see the lawyers, judges, and settlement since it will probably never get to trial.

      shootski


      • Shootski
        The more I think about it, the more likely it is I have a one off. But until the exact reason why it happened is found it could happen again I suppose.
        The simple act of laying the rifle down on its side a little too hard may have let the pin slide out of the trigger assembly and prevented the trigger guard from seating properly when it was installed later. Who knows? Me thinks someone needs to slow down and pay attention on the assembly line.
        Better I received it than a novice air gunner.

        This K98 PCP is what we all wanted and they delivered it in spades. Deep bluing would have been nice.




  5. I shot a recurve bow growing up, and later a compound bow for hunting.
    Later I shot 3d archery competition for a few years.

    I have only fired 1 crossbow a couple of shots, a Barnett back in the late 80’s.

    I put it in the same boat with a flintlock, there are a lot of things happening very fast, right close to your face….

    Ian


  6. Can you put a spool on it and get marine animals? Expensive venison,
    but cool technology! Very quiet I bet. Handicapped folks snowshoeing in the backcountry
    hauling a dead deer.. I want to see more about dressing the game down. I’m gittn’ hungry.
    Best
    Rob



  7. B.B.,
    My wife always wanted a crossbow, to shoot in the backyard, for fun. I got her a nice 90-pound target crossbow from Excalibur (great company). It had an outstanding trigger, better than many firearms, and it was accurate and fun to shoot. She used one of those string aids to cock it (it cut the cocking effort to 45 pounds), but I was able to cock it unaided at 90 pounds. However, I would never even TRY to cock a 225-pound hunting crossbow by hand! Hence, I think this is a pretty cool piece of technology (even though I am a longbow shooter by preference), and I look forward to the rest of your report.
    Take care & God bless,
    dave


  8. Update……. Yesterday I posted about my HW50S that developed a drastic drop in velocity since I shot it last month. The comments I received from people on the blog said it sounded like a broken main spring. This morning as I moved the rifle back to my gun rack I heard a bumping sound from inside the compression cylinder area. I think it confirms a broken spring that has twisted together on itself and created a gap in the spring tube. Looks like I’ll be going inside this rifle over the winter. I need to do some research on where to get a good replacement spring/guide/piston seal.

    Any suggestions ?
    Randy


  9. I had a cross bow when I was a kid.

    It had a steel loop you but your foot in. Then wrapped a string around the bow string to cock it. That’s about as much as I remember other than it had open steel sights on it.

    And don’t know about you all. We’re get’n some snow here today. About a week to soon is all I can say. I bet we don’t have a white Christmas here this year again. It was almost gaurenteed we would see snow at Christmas when I was a kid. Not so much anymore. Although the last few years the snow has been picking up.

    Anyway off to do some snow plinking. My whole back yard is a target now. 🙂


  10. B.B.,

    Great report. The cocking of the limbs is completely new to me. I know of another crossbow using CO2 for cocking/decocking, but it draws the string same as other crossbows (and has a compound prod).

    Now, without further ado, I offer my last news about buying a PCP. I now have both the .177 and the .25 Marauders.
    They are both Gen2, synthetic stock.
    Jerry and Gail get my deepest thank you for helping me get started. They have both become seriously involved with Air Rifle Benchrest competition and have rifles that can compete. My first shots were from a rifle shooting rest, which is completely new to me.

    As for the boss, she said, “you had better be taking this sport seriously” and offered reluctant blessing.

    For now, I have a hand pump. This means I am good for two magazines before needing to ad air, and a day to be ready and able to shoot again.

    I will make no changes in either rifle for several months, at least, unless required for some reason and even then only with a lot of information and the right tools for the job. Otherwise, I hope to just enjoy having and shooting them.

    ~ken


    • Ken
      Happy you got (both) Marauder’s.

      If I was to have one. It would be one of the calibers you got.

      From experiance I’m pretty positive you will be happy you got them (both). Notice I keep saying (both).

      And sorry for ya. But your going to be doing a lot of pumping. Your gonna see. 🙂


      • Gunfun1,

        Well, the .25 will get shot less than the .177, but I will definitely enjoy it. I am pleased to have both; I could not settle on one or the other. Who knows, perhaps my incentive to use the hand pump will do something good for me.

        ~ken


        • Ken
          A pcp will help you get in shape. Seriously. And seriously they are fun to shoot.

          And I’m with you. I have .25, .22 and .177 caliber pcp’s. My .25 does get shot the least. Not cause I don’t like it. But it’s kind of my long range serious shooter. I shoot the other calibers long distance too. But the .25 caliber pcp is the hard hitter of the bunch. It’s no joke. And it’s accurate.

          Anyway I’ll be waiting to hear what yours are about. Again glad you got them. I’m sure you will be happy.


  11. Kansas Heat ,

    Pyramyd Air has the parts . If You have a old style gun with a threaded end cap You need , BNP-9002 ( spring) , BNP-9070 piston seal , breech seal is BNP-9065 .. If You have a new style gun that is 26mm with the R9 type end cap You need BNP-2531b ( spring ) and BNP-9076 (piston seal) same breech seal as the old variant .


  12. BB,

    Since this uses Co2 as a cocking power,…. and,… since a Co2 gun uses (up) it’s air by propelling a pellet down the barrel,….. how does this use up air? Is any expelled? It must be. If,… it must be,.. then there must be some noise/sound,… no?

    On that,…. is this accomplished with some sort of air driven motor in conjunction with gear reduction?

    I am still trying to get my head wrapped around the actual mechanism that does the actual cocking/work.

    Chris

    Not sure if I made that clear in the least,… but if it has any merit,… give it a go. 😉



  13. I am probably late to the party but today I saw a LCS airgun. It is very impressive, not my cup of tea. It comes in .22 and .25 caliber and is selective fire semiautomatic or full automatic. It is built on an Air Arms platform.

    http://www.lcsairarms.com

    I only saw it dry fired. It uses a lot of air, especially on full auto. It looks to be high quality with a 19 shot rotary magazine.

    Don


    • Don
      Already checked them out. I’m finding that by design air guns aren’t very reliable in full auto or semi-auto. Pellet firing air guns anyway. From the ones I have had anyway. Maybe this one will be different. It’s a awful lot of money if don’t work out right.


  14. I was looking at the product discription for this and noticed that ordering it with the air tank is a hundred dollars more. If you order the A/V air tank as a seperate item it is eighty dollars. The savings is half the price of more bolts.
    Gerald



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