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Gearhead Archery X16.

Gearhead Archery is a relatively new face in the archery neighborhood, but the company has wasted no time making its presence known. Outdoor personalities such as Dave Watson, who hosts The Journey on Outdoor Channel, and Roger Raglin, who hosts Roger Raglin Outdoors on Outdoor Channel, count Gearhead as their bow manufacturer of choice. Gearhead has a team of engineers, designers, fabricators, machinists and assemblers who love to hunt and have a professional background in producing highly automated, robotic equipment The company that brings us vertical bows ranging from 181/2-301/2 inches between the axles now enters the crossbow arena with its X16 rigs--one carbon and one aluminum.

The X16 Aluminum (the subject of this test) is built on a unique unibody made with two machined aluminum plates sandwiched with a boss and pocket connecting structure in between. An adjustable butt plate, integrated trigger housing, pistol grip, trigger guard, foldable foregrip, rail, cable slide and rest are all either built in or attached to the body. The "bow" portion of the X16 is made with Gearhead's side-plate design and utilizes Gordon Composites split limbs with LimbShield and a set of two-track dual cams.

See-Through Integration

You will not mistake Gearhead's crossbows with any other brands on the market thanks to their unique, "see-through" design. There is more air than material in these radically skeletonized bodies. Other than the pistol grip, which is home to two wood side plates, there isn't a place from one end of the unibody to the other where Gearhead didn't machine cutouts. The unibody and riser side plates are CNC machined from 6061 aluminum and sandwiched with a boss and pocket internal structure. This creates a gap of approximately .85-inch over most of the unit's length until it gradually flares to a gap slightly more than 4 inches where it meets the bow riser. Vibration dampeners, trigger, linkage and a part of the trigger housing fit into, and are completely visible in, the narrow gap while the arrow rest mounting fixture and cable slide are found in the wider gap. An optional, adjustable butt plate adds approximately a half inch in thickness to the rear of the bow and adjusts another 2.5 inches on two rods.

The trigger housing is outfitted with an anti-dry fire mechanism, which is a physical stop that is pushed out of the way when an arrow is loaded. There is also a block safety on the internal latch trigger, which is automatically engaged when the XI6 is cocked. Trigger pull weight is advertised at 2.9 pounds. A Picatinny-style rail is mounted on top of the trigger housing and serves as a scope mount.

A tactical-style foregrip is mounted under the unibody about halfway between the pistol grip and bow. Gearhead's Model 15 ambidextrous grip features a push button adjustment that offers five positions for customization. A generously sized finger guard, intended to keep the shooter's thumb and fingers below the path of the string, is mounted between the foregrip and unibody.

T18 Performance

Gearhead says the new XI6 crossbow matches the company's T18 compound "pound for pound of pull and power stroke." This rig is advertised to generate arrow (uses typical arrows with regular nocks, although Gearhead recommends short nocks) speeds of 350 feet per second shooting a 325-grain arrow while setup with 125-pound draw-weight limbs. X16 cams are built with a dual-track system, with one track handling the string and the other track managing both cables. This narrow profile helps keep the cams straight and aligned for better efficiency and performance. The 13-inch split limbs are made from Gordon Composites material and protected with LimbShield. The riser, like the unibody, is built with two plates and a boss and pocket internal structure, which is advertised to remain stiff, handle high loads and demonstrates notable strength. A compact foot stirrup is attached to the end of the riser and adds less than an inch to overall length. A Whisker Biscuit arrow rest and cable-slide system are mounted inside the unibody.

What's in the Box?

The X16 is available in two packages. Package 1 includes a Hawke scope, rope cocker, quiver and six arrows. Package 2 adds the adjustable butt plate. All XI6 crossbows come sighted in and ready to go.


The X16 is unique in appearance and operation, with its wide-open side plates and use of standard arrows and nocks rather than shorter crossbow bolts. The test unit's performance fell right in line with advertised speeds and proved quiet, as promised. I agree with Gearhead's recommendation to use shorter nocks on your standard arrows, as we experienced some variation in speed with longer nocks and also found the trigger safety would not disengage easily when a longer nock was used.

If I could change one thing about the XI6, it would be the pistol grip; I found it too wide and squared-off for my hand. The foregrip and finger guards, along with the depth of the unibody, do a good job of keeping the shooter's fingers and thumb safe from the flight deck. The X16 also has impressive fit and finish--a testament to Gearhead's focus on quality.


Manufacturer: Gearhead Archery, 608-370-8016;

Model: X16

Safety Features: Anti-dry fire mechanism, foregrip safety wings

Riser: Two-sided aluminum plate, boss and pocket super structure

Cam System: Two-track dual cam

String: BCY, 42 inches

Cables (x2): BCY, 22.5 inches

Limbs: Split, Gordon Composite

Draw Weights: 75,90 and 125 pounds

Power Stroke: 16 inches

Stock/Forearm: Model 15 ambidextrous foldable grip

Grip: Pistol grip

Overall Advertised Length: 35 inches

Weight (crossbow only): 5.5 pounds (advertised); 5.8 pounds (as tested)

Finish: Desert Tan, Carbon Fiber or Predator Camo

Advertised Speed: 350 fps with 325-grain arrow

Suggested Retail Price: $1,499 (aluminum) or $1,999 (carbon)

Comments: A high-quality rig with unique design and a tactical feel.

Caption: Gearhead's X16 crossbow is a unique rig in both looks and configuration. Its see-through, side-plate design not only reduces mass weight but contributes to the bow's visual deception (camouflage). A pistol grip with wood side plates and tactical-style, five-position foregrip offer enhanced control and comfort while assisting the finger guard in keeping thumb and fingers below the flight deck. Gordon Composites split limbs and a set of two-track dual cams are advertised to generate speeds reaching 350 feet per second with a 325-grain arrow. A pre-mounted Whisker Biscuit arrow rest and Hawke scope are also included.

                      BOLT       KINETIC
                     SPEED        ENERGY

325-GRAIN BOLT      348 fps        87.4
(GEARHEAD)                      foot-pounds
420-GRAIN BOLT      308 fps        88.5
500-GRAIN BOLT      284 fps        89.5

BOWHUNTING Test Measurements:

Maximum Width: 22 % inches (at rest);
18 5/8 inches (cocked)

Maximum Length: 34% inches
Mass Weight: 5.8 pounds (hare);
8.05 pounds (with all accessories)

Average Trigger Pull: 3.8 pounds

Length of Pull: 14% inches bare; optional butt plate
adds 1/2 inch, plus 2 1/2 inches of of adjustability

Maximum Shot Deviation at 35 Yards: 75-inch
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Author:Silks, Jon E.
Publication:Petersen's Bowhunting
Date:Nov 1, 2017
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