Ravin Crossbows of Superior, Wis., forever changed popular perceptions about crossbow design and performance with last year’s introductions of the R15 and R9. For 2018, the company replaced those two models with three new, improved offerings: the R10, the R20 and the R20 Sniper Package. The latter is reviewed here.
Ravin advertises rifle-like accuracy out to 100 yds. with its ultra-compact crossbows—one reason we chose to review such a non-firearm in the “Dope Bag.” While that claim is bold, it proved true in our tests and is credited to the company’s Helicoil technology. When drawn, the cables are coiled away from the cams in helical grooves, thereby maintaining cam levelness and balance for increased accuracy and reduced vibration (and thus noise) when shot. The design also enables the cams to rotate 340 degrees. This is important because high speed—430 f.p.s. with a 400-gr. bolt—is possible without a long power stroke (it’s 13") or unwieldy axle-to-axle (ATA) width; in fact, the at-rest ATA width is 10.5" and, when cocked, that number decreases to 6". That makes the R20 ideal for use in tree stands and blinds.
Cams and cables alone aren’t enough to achieve such an impressive level of accuracy—consistent string alignment is needed, too. Ravin addresses that with its unique Trac-Trigger Firing System which, when slid forward, attaches to the center of the string. Contained within an aluminum track with minimal side-to-side play, the design retracts the string in a repeatable, uniform manner, providing straight-line nock travel.
The Trac-Trigger also features a bilateral, two-position, paddle-style safety and anti-dry-fire system. Both are automatically engaged upon the Trac-Trigger clasping the string at the archway bracket. The system engages the trigger when fully withdrawn, and, according to a digital trigger pull gauge, the skeletonized, single-stage, anodized aluminum unit broke at 2 lbs., 9 ozs., with no discernible creep or overtravel.
The R20 measures just 10.5" wide uncocked. Its safety and anti-dry-fire system engage automatically as the mechanism clasps the string (inset).
The innovative Versa-Draw Cocking System makes cocking the R20 simple and easy. Once the rear grip is adjusted (for left-hand shooters), the head of the cocking handle is inserted into the recessed hole on either side of the stock. A magnet holds it in place. Next, tension is released on the cocking system and the handle is removed. Then the spool thumb release button is pressed, freeing the Trac-Trigger to slide forward and clutch the string, at which point an audible click is heard. Afterward, the cocking handle is reinserted and rotated clockwise until the Trac-Trigger is fully rearward. The draw force needed to cock the R20 is a paltry 12 lbs. It can be easily de-cocked, too.
Unlike established designs, in which the bolt traverses the top of the barrel (or rail) during firing, the Ravin R20 employs the Frictionless Flight System. Essentially, the bolt is touching the crossbow in only two places—on the string and on the dual rollers of the rest. Benefits of the design are improved accuracy and increased string and cable life.
Although all Ravin crossbows feature a rail onto which an optic can be mounted, only the R20 Sniper Package includes the Jack Plate Adjustable Elevation Mount. Secured to the standard rail by two bolts, the included Vortex Strike Eagle 1-8X 24 mm scope—also exclusive to the R20 Sniper Package—attaches directly to the plate. On the rear of the Jack Plate is an aluminum/steel dial onto which range-marking tape is added for making shots at distance. The left side has a rotating lever to silence movements, make them audible and lock the dial.
Crafted from two halves bolted together, the skeletonized polymer stock has an ergonomically shaped pistol grip with finger grooves and texturing to enhance purchase. Similar texturing is on the extra-wide fore-end, and a series of finger grooves are found on each side, too. The top of the fore-end flares outward 19⁄16" from each side to prevent fingers from reaching the flight path of the string. Forward of the fore-end and integral to the lower unit is a 4¼" section of rail with a screw hole onto which the mounting bracket is secured for holding the included three-bolt quiver and cocking handle. Measuring approximately 1¾" wide and topped with soft, textured rubber, the comb ensures perfect eye-to-scope alignment, while a bubble level on the archway bracket helps the shooter avoid canting. Lastly, the R20 lacks a traditional foot stirrup; instead, it has limb bumpers that are placed against the ground when cocking.
The R20 Sniper Package we received for evaluation was an early unit displayed at the 2018 Archery Trade Association (ATA) Show. There were only subtle differences between it and those now available to consumers, and all the alterations involved the Jack Plate Adjustable Elevation Mount. Our crossbow had substituted mounting screws and a mocked-up tape. We opted to forgo the plate and mounted the scope directly to the rail.
Breaking with American Rifleman protocol, for accuracy testing we opted to follow archery standards and shoot three consecutive, three-shot groups from a sandbag rest at distances ranging from 30 yds. to 50 yds. The accuracy achieved by the R20 impressed even the most ardent crossbow testers and hunters among our staff. The averages at 30, 40 and 50 yds. were 0.47", 1.13" and 0.95", respectively. The tightest group measured a scant 0.28" (at 30 yds.), while one at 50 yds. was 0.78". We’ve yet to test (or see) a crossbow with such potential. Without the Jack Plate we were unable to shoot out to 100 yds.; however, it’s obvious that the R20 is plenty accurate for such shots.
Chronographing the R20 with a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital at 5 ft. revealed that, using the supplied Ravin 400-gr. bolts by Black Eagle Arrows with 100-gr. field points, the crossbow achieved 428 f.p.s. with a standard deviation of 0. That’s right, all five consecutive shots were exactly the same velocity, which translates to 163 ft.-lbs. of energy. With the right broadhead, the R20 should be capable of taking most game animals. A substantial target is required to stop a bolt from the R20—even at 30 yds. it would occasionally completely penetrate a newer crossbow-specific target.
When shouldered, the R20 feels like a well-balanced rifle; in no way does it give the impression of being a crossbow. Its trigger stands out among those in the crossbow world, even besting the triggers of many fine firearms. We found the R20 to be exceptionally user-friendly as well. After reading the manual, novices and experts alike will be able to safely use the crossbow.
Quality is the R20’s hallmark, but it comes at a price. However, those with the funds will find the Ravin R20 Sniper Package to be a crossbow that rivals the accuracy of many modern firearms at close distances. It’s a lot of fun to shoot, as well.