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Hunting Onyx Tactical Crossbow: Part 2

Onyx Tactical Crossbow: Part 2

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Sen-X Crossbow
Onyx Tactical Crossbow.

Part 1

This report covers:

  • Why a crossbow?
  • Smoothbore accuracy
  • Rifling
  • So — how accurate are smoothbores?
  • But what about smoothbore airguns?
  • Dumbbell projectiles and the Balle Blondeau
  • And now the crossbow
  • Setting up and cocking
  • Surely that’s not all?
  • Summary

Why a crossbow?

I’m glad you asked. Actually, nobody did. I used to get questions about remaining on topic from readers who threatened to walk if I wasn’t sticking to the topic of airguns, but they aren’t around anymore. You readers are easier on me for my forays off the topic of airguns.

So — why crossbows? Well here is an answer that only a few will get. Because when I mention obturation of the bore I do get questions. Huh? What I’m saying is the readership of this blog spans the spectrum of the shooting sports. Some are more knowledgeable than I am of nearly every topic I cover, and others just got into shooting and need to learn almost everything. So — does that answer the question of why I write about crossbows? Of course it doesn’t!

Well how about this? The Crosman 160 introduced a marvelous trigger to us that is inexpensive to manufacture and yet extremely light, crisp and positive.

Crosman 160 trigger

I showed you that trigger several times over the years, but nobody responded to the fact that it came from a crossbow from centuries past!

Crosman 160 trigger nut
From Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey’s book, “The Crossbow,” (published in 1903) this illustration of a 15th century crossbow nut shows how a great force can be overcome by a smaller one.

See? That is one reason I write about things that aren’t airguns — so we all can learn new things. But that isn’t the only reason. I also write to broaden your knowledge of the shooting sports, so when you relate it back to airgunning you can make comments that are backed with knowledge.

Smoothbore accuracy

Let’s take smoothbore guns, for example. If they are long and look like rifles, people call them rifles without thinking — or knowing the difference. It’s not a Red Ryder rifle — it’s a Red Ryder BB GUN.

So how accurate are smoothbore airguns? It’s best to first know how accurate smoothbore firearms are — and why they are the way that the are. The accuracy of smoothbore guns has been refined and studied by firearms enthusiasts since about the middle of the 19th century — around 1850, give or take. Can anyone tell me why that date was the point when people started to care about the accuracy of smoothbores? Well, the whole answer to just that question is a blog report by itself — if not an entire book! In fact my library has several books that are devoted to answering that question. But this is a daily blog that has to be brief, so I will give an abbreviated answer.


Rifling was “invented” (discovered, stumbled upon etc.) around 1600, according to one of my sources. Mankind played around with it for more than two centuries before it became popular enough that nearly everybody had a rifle. But during that same time everyone had a “serious” gun that was used for gathering food and for defense. That one was smoothbore. Why? For several reasons. It was cheaper, it did what they needed, it was faster to load, it didn’t require as much training to use/manage/care for. In short the smoothbore gun was to people what the breakbarrel springer is to airgunners today. And the rifle was the equivalent of the precharged pneumatic.

That changed when rifles became easier to use/manage/care for — just as PCPs are becoming more popular today for exactly the same reasons.

So — how accurate are smoothbores?

Well, a bunch of guys in the 1850s formed clubs to compete for accuracy with smoothbores — just to find out. This started in Ohio, according to one source I have read, but it was probably a thing that happened everywhere at the same time. I wish I had pictures to show the targets they shot, but I don’t. These guys are responsible for inventing the “smoothbore rifle” an oxymoronic term that describes a smoothbore gun that has rifle sights and is used for accuracy competitions.

So — can a smoothbore get a five-shot one-inch group at 100 yards. Yes and absolutely not! Yes if the stars align and chance smiles. And no, if you sit down and try to do it. What you will get after a lot of trying and learning is 5 balls in 2-inches (or so) at 50 yards and 5 in 8-10 inches at 100. To do that well requires a lot of things being done right that I am not going into here, but I will say that the fascination with the accuracy of smoothbores began when rifles came into common use.

But what about smoothbore airguns?

That I can answer from practical experimentation. You see, I have done some testing. Read my blog series about the Diana model 25 smoothbore. Part 5 is interesting, but Part 4 is also worth a look.

What you will learn in those reports is that diabolo pellets (wasp-waisted and hollow-tailed) stabilize themselves in flight and are more accurate than round balls, when both are shot from the same smoothbore airgun. Both projectiles do far better at 10 meters than they do at 25 yards. So smoothbore accuracy falls off fast as the distance increases.

Dumbbell projectiles and the Balle Blondeau

I was so pleased when reader GunFun1 happened to mention the dumbbell projectile that he remembered doing well for accuracy in a big bore smoothbore I wrote about years ago. You can read about it here.

And now the crossbow

I guess I fooled you by the title of today’s report. Or I fooled me. It reads more like one of those rants I sometimes go on than a report about the Onyx Tactical Crossbow. Well, let’s switch gears right now.

Setting up and cocking

I talked about setting up the bow for shooting in Part 1. Today I would like to show that to you. I would also like to show you how the bow is cocked, since many of you marveled at the idea.

Surely that’s not all?

That’s all there is today. And don’t call me Shirley!

author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

39 thoughts on “Onyx Tactical Crossbow: Part 2”

  1. B.B.,

    How can we point out that the Crosman 160 trigger is derived from a crossbow trigger of you already point it out to us everytime you mention it?

    Don425 is right. The videos aren’t working.


  2. BB,

    Airguns that fire arrows are not far off crossbows powered by limbs n strings! You’re right about general interest in shooting sports. I enjoy air guns, but I also like shooting clays with shotguns (sadly, it’s something I’ve done very little of). On the other hand, archery is something that I’ve done a lot of: Olympic style recurve, traditional longbows and flatbows. Love them all! I’ve only ever shot a crossbow once, but it was fun. I also agree with you that crossbow triggers are super interesting. The designers were constrained in the materials and fabrication methods, but still managed to come up with reliable systems. Most amazing to me was the discovery of a complete crossbow in the Chinese terra cotta army archeology dig. Well over 2000 years old! Very interesting to compare that to the less sophisticated but really powerful English longbows found on the Mary Rose ship that sank only about 500y ago.

    Do a post on hand catapults – the ones with stretchy rubber and pockets for the ball ammo! Slingshots I think you call them in the US. I’d love to hear the chrono results and accuracy report!


  3. A great report B.B. Interesting as I like anything that shoots a projectile.

    I suspect that putting rifling in a bore to improve accuracy is a deliberate attempt to copy the spin you can (easily) see on an arrow. Arrows (properly) helically fletched with natural feathers from the same wing (left or right) will spin on axis and fly much better than one with mismatched or straight feathers.

    Crossbow triggers to airgun triggers are a natural progression as well. I’ve made a number of crossbows using the trigger design that you show in your report and can attest that it works great even on very heavy draw weight crossbows.

    For those airgunners who haven’t tried archery, arrows and bolts are very consistent in flight and great accuracy is possible. My Excalibur Exocet Crossbow is scoped and will shoot very small groups at 25 yards – small enough that I don’t shoot more than one arrow at an aimpoint to avoid damaging them. After you have shot a couple of “Robin Hoods” it becomes more expensive than entertaining LOL!

    If crossbows on an airgun blog are fair then it would be fun to see you review a couple of slingshots. Truth be said, with a bit of practice a slingshot is more accurate than a Co2 pistol, has a greater effective range and is way more powerful.

    Having reverted back to my childhood, I have started making slingshots again. Fun and relaxing to do. Attached is a picture of a basic slingshot like I used as a kid and a more ornate one which fits better to my hand.

    Joerg Sprave is a guy who really enjoys his slingshots and arrow weapons – it is worth while viewing some of his videos.


      • B.B.

        You don’t “need” to do it but I think that you might enjoy the experience – if even just for the parallels you can draw to airguns.

        Shooting slingshots and bows is not really that far removed from shooting rifles in fact I use them as a “prerequisite” before I will show someone how to shoot a gun.

        With a slingshot or a bow the shooter is the gun and the importance of consistent stance, hold, smooth release and solid follow through become quickly apparent. The low velocity and easily visible ball/arrow help dramatize trajectories so those are more easily accepted/understood when shooting all but invisible pellets at higher speeds.

        Found that spending an hour or so shooting these muscle-powered weapons with a new shooter saves a lot of time later when working with holding and shooting a rifle.

        All that practical stuff aside these “primitive” weapons are just plain fun and you can make your own. With some practice, both slingshots and bows are effective hunting weapons – still remember the first deer I got with my homemade bow very fondly.

        Hope that you get a chance to try one out and write a report.


        • Hank,

          I have shot slingshots before. I had a Wamo wood one and also some variation of a Wrist Rocket. I got up to mediocre when I tried to hit things.

          I’m pretty good with a longbow, but the slingshot is more two-dimensional than an arrow, I think. The arrow helps with the aiming where the slingshot can go anywhere inside the plane at which it is aimed, until you learn how to control it.


          • B.B.

            Agreed. A slingshot is less “controlled” and more variable so it needs more practice to become proficient.

            I see it as an order of progression of things… hitting a rabbit 10 yards away with a had thrown rock is difficult; easier with a slingshot, easier still with a bow and a “gimme” with a scoped PCP.

            One way or the other the rabbit is not going to get away with at least a good scare or maybe an invitation to dinner if I see it LOL!

            Have to admit that shooting a bow has an even stronger attraction for me than airguns – I shoot instinctively and there is something about the live power of a wooden bow and an arrow arcing to the target that is real special – never tire of it. Guess it is a Zen thing.


    • To All,
      You can buy a “modern” slinghot at your local big box store.
      Or, you can do as I did, and trade Hank some airgun parts to make you a real, old school, slingshot.
      Personally, I think the latter is the way to go; you’ll be much happier. =>
      Plus, you will have pride-of-ownership for having something really cool and unique.

  4. My parents received recurve target bows as a wedding gifts from my Grandparents.
    Whoever made them used fibreglass in addition to different types of laminated wood,
    and signed the draw weight in cursive handwriting. Hers was less draw weight less than his. They would ‘shoot’
    them on the unused football fields at G.U. when there was no practice. I’m sure folks don’t do that anymore!
    The new Netflix film about Henry V and the battle of Agincourt shows what happens when you mix mud and heavy armour, ego, English longbows. Awesome flic.

  5. B.B.

    While I have an interest in almost anything that shoots, I’d also read your reviews of almost anything else. I just like your style. Thanks for giving us all these peeks into your prodigiously interesting mind. I really like the history and your connecting of things, similar to James Burke.

    Thanks for both teaching and entertaining with such skill.
    Merry Christmas to all!


  6. B.B.,
    On the crossbow: Those are some great videos; the second one, showing how quiet it was to cock, was amazing!
    On everything else: I love airguns…and bows…and crossbows…and slingshots…and blackpowder rifles…and moder firearms…I love pretty much everything to do with shooting, and the history of it as well. Hence, I love these little forays you make into other aspects of the shooting world…”keep ’em coming!,” I say.
    Thank you,

  7. BB
    Maybe one day someone will make those dumbbell projectiles for the small bore air guns. Then who knows. Maybe we just might have a hidden jewel we never knew about literally right under our nose.

    Can you guess? The 760. And thanks for saying about me mentioning the dumbells.

    Also just watched the videos and they did work. Cocking the gun is fast and pretty quiet from what I can tell in the video. It seems like decocking is on the noisy side and takes longer to degass. Don’t think the noise from degassing would be a problem though. That is probably happening if the game moved out of range and your making the gun safe waiting for the next operatunity.

  8. B.B.,

    Thank you for the live cocking video. Nice and quiet. For some reason, I pictured the arms coming back as well as the string coming back. Instead, the arms are pushed/bent from the center. Quite interesting and looking forwards the accuracy testing phase.

    You are getting pretty good at the videos by the way. 🙂 I am sure that after any learning curves,.. that you will see less work on your part and also more information delivered,… in a more concise and clear manner.



  9. B.B.,
    MORE RANTS please! I always enjoy them.
    Hopefully you won’t start getting complaints about the short written blogs. The videos are really a way to write less while showing us more, thank you! Nice weather for your demos in Texas but I like the 10° and 54″ base this early in the season. The sky was about the same color of blue with a fabulous Alpenglow show at dusk.
    I have a question you will probably be answering in the next part but does the crossbow decock after the shot? or do you get multiple cockings out of one push on the Got It button? Makes sense it would decock but what do I know!


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