By Aaron Carter, American Hunter
A crossbow is the quintessential picture of compromise; change one critical attribute and it must be accounted for elsewhere, otherwise performance will assuredly be diminished. For this reason, creating a compact, yet still potent, crossbow is especially challenging for engineers; however, that’s exactly what Canadian manufacturer Excalibur Crossbow accomplished with its new Micro 335, a recurve-style crossbow with minimalist physical dimensions.
Measuring 32.5” in length (from butt to stirrup) and 25” from limb tip to tip, the Micro 335 is—by far—the smallest recurve-style crossbow available that exudes the muscle needed for hunting big-game animals; it’s rated as propelling a 16.5”, 350-gr. Easton “Quill” bolt to 335 f.p.s, thereby producing 87 ft.-lbs. of energy. Moreover, it does so with the industry’s shortest power stroke—a paltry 9.5” (Note: some states have minimum power stroke length requirements that will preclude the Micro 335’s use). But, because power stroke is instrumental element in attaining speed, shortening it mandated that the petite limbs be “beefed up,” which increased the draw weight to 270 lbs. More than 100 lbs. heavier than many cam-driven compound crossbows, when using the supplied Excalibur rope cocking aid there’s minimal difficulty attaining quick, consistent draws. The company also sells the C2 Crank Cocking Aid for individuals who cannot draw such high-poundage crossbows.
Unlike previous Excalibur crossbows, the Micro 335’s limb assembly comes pre-strung from the box; as such, it’s quickly and easily attached—via a single bolt—to the barrel. Still, it permits easy decocking and string replacement, which are the hallmarks of the recurve-style crossbow design. The non-camouflage riser is CNC machined from aluminum, to which the beefy Gen 2 CRT limbs are attached. To reduce vibration, shock, and noise, projecting rearward from the riser are two Limbsaver Recoil Energy Dissipation System (R.E.D.S.) dampeners. Having shot Excalibur crossbows for years, I can attest that the Micro 335 is the quietest that I’ve tested to-date, and it’s easily comparable noise-wise to other manufacturers’ models, too.
As with the riser, the barrel is CNC machined from aluminum and is devoid of a camouflage finish. A sling swivel stud found near the stirrup end of the barrel—combined with the one molded integral into the butt—enable slinging the 5.2-lb. Micro 335 for easy transport. Behind the limb assembly-retention bolt is where two others secure the base for the provided, removable four-bolt quiver. The Micro 335’s aluminum barrel is affixed to a well-designed stock; specifically, on both sides the fore-end has rubber panels with raised ribs to enhance purchase in moist conditions and, more importantly, at the top it flares 5/8” to mitigate the chances that the thumb is positioned in the track of the forward-moving string, which would assuredly cause damage to the member. Moreover, from the top of the flares to where the string traverses there’s a 1¼” increase in height; given these features, one would have to make a gross mistake in hold (or judgment) for his or her finger to be struck. Still, attentiveness prevents accidents.
Continuing rearward, the Micro 335’s Realtree Xtra-clad synthetic bilateral stock is notably skeletonized to save weight. As with the fore-end, there are rubber panel inset into the pistol grip for improved purchase, and there’s a reversible—for height—cheek piece to accommodate both left- and right-handed users. The length of pull is 14”. As for the single-stage trigger, it’s among the best that I’ve encountered on a crossbow; there is minimal creep and overtravel and it broke at an average of 3 lbs., 2.1 ozs.
At the butt end of the barrel is found the safety. It must be noted that the Micro 335 doesn’t have an automatic safety, as is common on most crossbows nowadays; instead, Excalibur utilizes a two-position manual safety. Although many crossbow users decry anything but an automatic safety, a manual safety is no different than that found on a firearm; you mustalways engage the safety after loading. Doing so also forces the user to visually check to ensure that the safety is engaged. As with the other Excalibur crossbows, the up position represents “fire” position and exposes a red dot, while the downward position is “safe.”
The Micro 335 also features the Guardian Anti-Dry-Fire system, which, as its name suggests, prevents dry firing the crossbow. Essentially a downward-projecting, spring-loaded tab, it only moves upward (and out of the way of the string) when there’s a bolt beneath it. It’s a simple, but important, design feature. Atop of said housing is an aluminum block with integral scope base to which the user mounts the provided Octane/Dead Zone scope using the included aluminum rings. Doing so is both quick and simple. The scope is calibrated for crossbow velocities ranging from 280 to 390 f.p.s. and has aiming points in 10-yds. increments. To use, simply select the bow’s actual velocity—preferably confirmed with a chronograph—on the magnification band and sight-in at 20 yds. using the crosshair. Next, check that the aiming points at subsequent distances are correct, too; if not, make the necessary adjustments on the scope’s dials.
Having evaluated and hunted with several Excalibur crossbows in the past, I can attest that I have yet to encounter an inaccurate one, so I had high expectations for the Micro 335. I wasn’t disappointed. Using the provided “Quill” bolts (albeit with the provided 150-gr. field points replaced by 125-gr. versions), from a sandbag rest, at 30 yds. the Micro 335 averaged 0.94” for three, three-shot groups. At 40 yds., it was 1.78”—despite an unpredictable, strong wind. Using a Competition Electronics chronograph revealed that, at 5 ft., it averaged 328 f.p.s. for five shots using the 125-gr. field points (370.7 grs. total weight). With the 150-gr. heads in place (for a total weight of 397.7 grs.) it attained 311 f.p.s. With a true 350-gr. bolt, the Micro 335 would easily achieve 335 f.p.s.
As mentioned elsewhere, the Micro 335 requires considerable, though not Herculean, force to cock; it’s simply the tradeoff associated with a super-short power stroke combined with recurve-style limbs with a minute tip-to-tip width. Using the provided rope cocking aid, though, retracting the string wasn’t onerous—even having had back surgery—and it’s well worth the tradeoff of a compact, easily maneuvered crossbow that’d excel in tight spaces, such as the treestands and ground blinds, or wherever one hunts that demands traversing tricky terrain or thick, tangled spaces and long treks. Indeed, with the Micro 335 has changed the crossbow landscape and redefined what the accurate, user-friendly, recurve-style crossbow can do.
Velocity: 335 f.p.s.
Draw Weight: 270 lbs.
Power Stroke: 9.5”
Trigger: single-stage; 3-lb., 2.1-oz. pull
Riser (of limb assembly): aluminum
Safety: two-position manual
Sights: none; Octane/Dead Zone scope and rings included
Finish: Realtree Xtra
Stock: featherlite; length of pull, 14”
Weight: 5.2 lbs.
Accessories: owner’s manual, DVD, four Easton “Quill” bolts with 150-gr. field points, four-bolt quiver, Octane/Dead Zone scope, aluminum rings, R.E.D.S. suppressors, cheekpiece
Source: American Rifleman – click here to visit them online.