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Barnett Thunderbolt crossbow.

Crossbows have always had a mystique about them that is just short of captivating to many firearms enthusiasts; it must be a basic fascination with projectile-firing, trigger-actuated mechanisms.

Like bats and snakes, crossbows have been pretty much maligned, misunderstood and feared down through the ages. Due to ignorance of the subject, they've also, until recently, been severely regulated by law in almost every state of the Union.

Because of the high interest in crossbows among gun people (marketing figures indicate gun people to be the largest purchasing segment of crossbows), including our own G&A staff, we decided to satisfy our curiosity about "arrow guns."

A call to Barnett International, Inc., P.O. Box 934, Dept. GA, Odessa, FL 33556, put one of their new Thunderbolt crossbows in our mailbox for evaluation.

The Thunderbolt is an unusual high-tech design resembling a movie prop from the new breed of futuristic-adventure flicks cranked out by Hollywood recently. And that high-tech look seems to add even more to the mystique.

Actually, this skeleton-stocked model is the result of some high-tech tinkering on a three-dimensional computer. Combining a balance of space-age materials and the performance of a compound bow of 125 pounds, Barnett's Thunderbolt is indeed impressive.

Included in the package is the assembly and instruction manual, which is straightforward, easily understood and chock-full of instructive photos. Two practice bolts (arrows) are included in the deal. I would like to add a suggestion in assembling the crossbow: Because of the stresses contained within the crossbow's structure when cocked, and their instantaneous release upon firing, Loc-Tite all nuts, screws and bolts to prevent loosening from vibration.

Pony Express Sport Shop in Sepulveda, California, has an archery division that is second to none and so seemed the logical place to bone-up on crossbow theory. While instrucing me, Scott Abeyta fabricated six extra bolts from Easton 2018 Gamegetter aluminum shafts. Unless you've shot a crossbow before and are familiar with the rainbow trajectory of the bolt, better have some extra bolts during sight-in!

Initial testing began at 30 yards to establish a sight zero. Progressing to 50 yards required significant elevation adjustment to the Thunderbolt's fully-adjustable rear sight, which is mounted on an almost full-length "sight bar." While on the subject of sights, the front sight leaves a bit to be desired. Included were two ball-ended conventional bow sights. These are intended to be mounted in the front sight housing as a bow sight would be mounted--that is, horizontally. This might be just fine if you're an archer and familiar with the resultant sight picture, but for a gun person, it's inadequate. As the front sight enters the rear sight notch from the side, horizontal dispersion of the group was evidenced.

Replacement of this system with a long screw entering the front sight housing from the bottom (through the existing mounting screw hole), produced the more familiar and far superior Patridge-type sight picture. With this combination, 3-inch, three-shot groups were possible at 50 yards.

Bolt drop at 50 yards was considerable and increased to a whopping 4-plus feet at 100 yards! Because of this rapid drop, accurate range estimation within a few feet would be absolutely necessary for hunting even larger game, such as deer, and even elk, beyond 50 yards.

Getting the Thunderbolt into action is very simple. An optional T-bar cocking stirrup--the projection ahead of the bow which resembles a bipod (I used it as such), extends forward as a foot brace to ease cocking.

Drawing the bowstring fully back into the trigger mechanism automatically actuates the safety. In placing the bolt into position, care must be taken that the bolt be seated against the bowstring. A fletch (vane)--the odd-colored one--should ride in the flight groove.

We found the trigger pull to be very long, which is typical of crossbows, according to several observers at the local archery range. Squeezing the trigger carefully in a rifle-like manner sent bolts "over the river and through the woods." I was glad we had spares! Then recalling the theory session at Pony Express, Scott specifically said to pull the trigger like a shotgun. Strange as it seems, groups shrunk dramatically when this method was applied.

More and more game management people are realizing that crossbows do not possess mythical powers which make them ultra-deadly in game fields. As a result, a growing number of states allow the use of crossbows for harvesting big-game animals. If this aspect of the sport appeals to you, check with your state game commission on the legality of crossbows in your local area.

Barnett has quite an array of crossbows with various features, finishes, stock designs and prices to suit the average budget. Our sample wears a suggested price tag marked $331; however, prices may vary somewhat if you purchase a Barnett through a dealer.

A full-color catalog is available from Barnett International for a mere $2. Drop 'em a line; I think you'll really like these "arrow guns"!
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Title Annotation:evaluation
Author:Renner, Roger
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Article Type:Product/Service Evaluation
Date:Nov 1, 1985
Words:827
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