Crossbow Critique by the Crossbow Tramp

By Daniel James HendricksOctober 19, 2015

Excalibur’s Matrix Cub

While at the ATA show studying the five new Excalibur bows for 2015 in an effort to determine which one I was going to have a fling with in the field, Ryan Hawking, Excal’s PR guy asked me if I would consider spending that private time with the Matrix Cub.  Although the Cub is targeted specifically for the youngsters and ladies, he suggested that I would be very impressed by its power and spunk.  Agreeing to give the Cub a whirl, we arranged for one to arrive at my door before the spring turkey season opened and so that I could see exactly what this compact crossbow was capable of.

The toms lined up shoulder to shoulder and then marched towards the jake decoy.

The toms lined up shoulder to shoulder and then marched towards the jake decoy.

When the Cub arrived, I opened the box with great anticipation, spreading the components out on my office round table.  Once I had checked the manual, I went to work assembling the bow, mounting the red dot scope and attaching the quiver.  Once the Cub was completely assembled I set it aside until the sight-in day arrived.

Since the Matrix Cub is specifically designed for youngsters and ladies, I decided to have some kids sight it in for me.  I had a seminar scheduled with the Douglas County 4-H Shooting Sports program and decided that this would be a perfect proving ground to see just how well the Cub did with a gang of thirty-some kids from 8-18 years old.

S-Matrix Cub B

The Matrix Cub is short in stature, but vigorous in performance with stability greatly enhanced by the pistol grip and the thumbhole stock.

My presentation went well, however when I held up the crossbow and asked who would like to shoot it, the crowd of youngsters burst into a wild out bursts of animation… that immediately informed me that the presentation had not been as interesting to the youngsters as the prospect of flinging some arrows with a crossbow.  Regardless of their opinions, we all headed outside in a rush for the kids to cash in on the opportunity to shoot a crossbow for the very first time in their lives.

It went well, each of the thirty-four kids got to take at least two shots and we even had a couple of the mothers ask to shoot at the end of the demo.  Regardless of age or size the kids nestled into the Cub like it was an old friend and their eyes lit up with excitement when they soundly drilled the target with arrows shot from that spunky little crossbow.  We had the dads taking turns cocking the while several of the older kids retrieved the arrows after each series of shots.  Once we hit our rhythm we moved through the entire group pretty quickly, everyone having a delightful time.

S-Matrix Cub C

The Red Dot scope is a perfect match for the Cub allowing plenty of adjust for the proper eye relief regardless of the users’ size.

The kids varied in size and the impact point for the crossbow varied with each shooter.  Each would shoot twice and their arrows grouped nicely, but the group’s impact point varied around the bullseye.  Some were shooting high, some low, some left and some right.  The lesson was clear… if you borrow a crossbow from a friend, make sure that you sight it in so that it is trained for your eye.  Don’t just automatically assume that if it is on for your friend, that it will be on for you.

That said, as my turkey season opener neared, I headed for the back yard range to tune the Matrix Cub in for my eye, making sure that it was on the money and delivering each shot consistently to the bullseye.  The design of the Cub includes a short stock which with the shortness of the red dot scope was easy to adjust to.  The bow’s fit was not the most comfortable, but I knew that was going to be the case when I agreed to test it in the field knowing full well that its structure was designed specifically for the little people of the hunting world.

Heidi Larson takes her turn at the table with the Matrix Cub during the sighting-in process with the Douglas County 4-H Shooting Program meeting.

Heidi Larson takes her turn at the table with the Matrix Cub during the sighting-in process with the Douglas County 4-H Shooting Program meeting.

It’s light weight and compact design made it extremely easy to handle and seem more like a toy rather than a serious, arrow-flinging killer, but observing the performance on the range I had little doubt that the Cub, when called upon to do battle with a wild creature would perform like a “Club”, dispensing whatever had to be dealt to bring about a satisfying conclusion to the challenge.

The arrow speed (285 fps) was just a bit faster than the speeds when I first started hunting with a crossbow back in 1995 and no one had a problem slaying whitetails then… I had no doubt that the Matrix Cub would stand the test, regardless of what she was asked to do.  The only concern I had was the 190 draw weight, which when drawn by me, seemed insignificant because of the short 11.5″ power stroke, the bow was cocked before you realized it.  And hopefully, if youngsters were using the crossbow, it would be under the supervision of a responsible adult who would be capable of cocking the Matrix Cub.

This pretty little gal and I were destined to spend some quality time together in the field in an attempt to bag a turkey, but circumstances prevented me from venturing out into the field for the first few days.  The first morning in the field began excitedly as the night was being dissolved by the growing strength of the dawn.  The Cub and I settled into the ground blind after positioning the decoys and emitting just enough yelps to learn that there were toms within hearing range.

Mitchell Floding was one of the first in line to launch arrows at the 20 yard target.

Mitchell Floding was one of the first in line to launch arrows at the 20 yard target.

Shortly after 6:00 a.m. there came a very loud and confusing noise from the west.  It was surely a gobble, but the distortion and sheer volume of it confused me.  Eventually the confusion was resolved when five mature toms filtered out of the woods a hundred yards up the trail, all five gobbling in response to my hen yelps. The five gobbles were mutating into one long, very distorted gobble and all five of the birds had hit the ground from their roosts obviously full of p & v and ready to start their day with a little action.

They spread out into a line, side by side, and began marching towards my arrangement of rubber turkeys… it was easy to tell that the Jake decoy was their target and that unless I did something quickly, it was going to take a serious beating.  When I saw how long the beards were on the birds, I dropped the camera I had been using to take photos and picked up the Matrix Cub, confident that this would make a much greater impression on the birds than the camera did.

Bringing the Cub to my shoulder, I peered into red dot scope to discover that in the time it had taken me to switch weapons the birds had advanced so close that the Jake decoy was covering the chest of the two center birds… the two biggest ones.  They were all mature toms so I moved the bright red dot at the top of my three-dot stack to the center of the chest of the bird on the far left.  I flipped up the safety to the fire position and slowly squeezed the trigger of the little wee little crossbow that was nestled so sweetly in my arms.

The deep forestock and the thick, wide flange just below the rail provides lots of dependable insurance to keep little fingers out of harm's way when launching arrows with the Cub.

The deep forestock and the thick, wide flange just below the rail provides lots of dependable insurance to keep little fingers out of harm’s way when launching arrows with the Cub.

The Cub woofed and sent the arrow speeding towards and then into the chest of the startled tom.  A cloud of feathers burst into the air as the flock exploded into a din of noisy gobbles and thundering wings as they beat a hasty retreat from scene of the ambush.  A puff of turkey feathers slowly drifted to the ground in a graceful to and fro decent, while in the background, the fleeing birds noisily ran back and forth in a panicked retreat, not sure whether to head south or

Cocking the Cub and loading another arrow as the birds came back out into the open on top of the ridge far to the west, I only saw two at first… but then they all came together along the edge of the swamp that was forcing them to come closer to the blind.  There were only four toms in the group, which seemed to be good news for me, bad news for the missing bird.

Waiting until I was sure that the birds had scurried well away from the ambush site, I exited the blind and moved in the direction the birds had first fled.  Carrying the Matrix Cub at the ready, I followed a trail of scattered feathers just a short distance before spying the carcass of my lifeless quarry.  My hunt was over.

The next hour was spent setting up the photo session that documented our happy little group of boy, bow and bird with the help of my tripod and handheld remote.  It had been a good morning… short, but very, very good.

The Matrix Cub is a compact crossbow designed for easy and comfortable use by little folks, but it is capable of dispatching big bucks as quickly as any of its bigger sisters.  It is durable, robust and solidly constructed for decades of dependable use.  And all of this for just under $500 makes the Matrix Cub a grand addition to the family arsenal.  For more information about this unique little crossbow visit the Excalibur website at: www.excaliburcrossbow.com.

Author with handsome tom taken with the Matrix Cub the very first day in the field.

Author with handsome tom taken with the Matrix Cub the very first day in the field.

Matrix Cub Specifications:

  • Velocity: 285 FPS
  • Draw Weight: 190 lbs
  • Power Stroke: 11.5″
  • Mass Weight: 5.3 lbs
  • Overall Length: 32.2″
  • Arrow Length: 18″
  • Arrow Weight: 350 Grains
  • Stock Type: Thumbhole
  • Finish:  Textured Black Tactical

Arrow speeds obtained using arrows with a total weight of 350 grains, which includes the arrow and tip.

Daniel James Hendricks
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