Throughout my fifteen years in the hunting industry, I have been blessed with being part of designing, field testing, and reviewing many innovative hunting products. I always find myself intrigued by unique designs and products that have never been seen before.
While working at a fall hunting classic at Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, MO, I vividly recall my first encounter with a Ravin Crossbow. A father and son duo had purchased two and walked past my booth while on their way out. I had heard the buzz about Ravin and its advanced designs. From that day forward, I have wanted to hunt with a Ravin. So, when the opportunity arose for me to review a wildly unique-looking crossbow, and it being the NEW Raven R18, I jumped at the chance to finish my hunting season off with a bang, or maybe a thwack!
With only a few weeks of the Missouri archery season left, I advocated for the review request to ship out quickly to have one last shot at getting a deer down. To do it with such a unique crossbow would be icing on the cake.
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Any archery hunting enthusiast would have the same first impression when seeing the Ravin R18 Crossbow for the first time. The limbs are vertical, not horizontal, like most crossbows. My mind was boggled at the design and how vertically positioned limbs on such a small-bodied crossbow could produce the power and speed that Ravin has been notorious for manufacturing for years.
The VeriCoil Cam System is positioned beneath the limb tips and snug against the stock. The small cams rotate 720 degrees through the draw cycle, coiling the bowstring and cables around the cam and the axle. This is how Ravin was able to design a crossbow that measures a shockingly small 4.75” overall width. Remember, that is, cocked or de-cocked because of the vertical limb design. With the R18 only measuring 25” overall and 4.75” overall width, maneuverability is hands down the most significant feature.
The Frictionless Flight System is another unique feature that is easily recognizable moments before taking the first shot with the R18. Unlike conventional crossbows, the string of the R18 free floats above the rail instead of always staying in contact. This feature is Ravin’s way of improving accuracy by having no contact deflect accurate movement. Plus, less contact means the string will last much longer as well.
Although the Ravin R18 is small, it is surprisingly mighty. With a 400-grain arrow, the R18 has reached speeds up to 330 FPS, keeping the tradition alive for Ravin being able to produce hard-hitting and fast crossbows.
Ravin R18 Specs:
- Speed (400 grain) 330 FPS
- Kinetic Energy – 85 FT-LBS
- Weight – 6 LBS
- Length – 25”
- Draw Force – 12 LBS
- Powered By – Verticoil Cam System
- Limbs – Fiberglass
- Riser – Aluminum CNC
- Stock Style – Removable
- Stock – Nylon Fiber
Within ten minutes of the Ravin R18 being delivered to my doorstep, a friend and I had already set up a bag-style target inside a large shop outside my house. The anticipation to shoot the first arrow was like two kids wanting to play with a new toy on Christmas morning. After quickly attaching the included 3 Dot Reflex Sight, we took my rangefinder for an accurate ten-yard shot. We elected to shoot close range because we took the first shot indoors. Surprisingly, my first shot was a twelve-ring.
“Surely, we will have to adjust the sight a bit at twenty,” I told my friend. He used the included handle and cocked the bow for another shot. This time, we moved back to twenty. The same result: the arrow hit its mark on the first attempt. We shot several arrows at 10, 20, and 30 yards with incredible accuracy.
Asking for a rush on the delivery of the R18 crossbow was initially due to the archery season winding down in my home state of Missouri. After shooting the crossbow at the bag targets, I was itching to get in a treestand and try to harvest a deer before time ran out. That is precisely what I did.
I had not been to this treestand since mid-November when I was rifle hunting. It was the first week in January, and no leaf was left on the surrounding trees near my stand. Where my stand was once well hidden, it was now dangerously open. I knew my movements would have to be minimal to get a deer into close range. The ladder stand I was hunting featured a fold-down shooting rail that I chose to keep down since I used a crossbow. An extra rest never hurt, anyway.
After a couple of hours into my afternoon hunt, I saw my first deer, a doe, making her way across the trail, slightly out of archery range. Moments after she passed by, another deer popped above the sloping hillside and then began walking directly to my stand. The way she traveled, I would typically not have been able to move my compound bow or any other crossbow without getting pegged in the open timber. However, with the compact R18 measuring 25” overall, I maneuvered the bow into a shooting position with little effort. With two minor adjustments, I had the crossbow pointed toward the approaching animal. Soon, the mature doe had strolled in at a mere 9 yards away. With my head already down and looking through the 3 Dot Reflex Sight, to avoid being seen, I held my finger on the trigger and waited for her to turn broadside for the shot. When she turned, I released an arrow, hitting slightly behind the front shoulder. Because she was slightly quartering away, my 16” arrow remained a mere inch away from a complete pass-through.
After waiting 25 to 30 minutes, I detached myself from the tree and descended to the ground to begin following what I hoped would be a highly visible blood trail. My wish was granted as I followed my favorite color, red, to the end of the rainbow, where my pot of gold awaited. I enjoy the high dose of adrenaline and excitement when bowhunting, even when the harvest is antler-free, and it puts food on the table for my family and me.
When I first opened the box to the Ravin R18, I was immediately impressed with the size of this compact yet unique-shaped crossbow. Throughout my hunt, I kept experiencing the benefits of a tiny, designed bow for a bowhunter.
When traveling to my stand sight from my vehicle, I used an electric bike to aid in my journey. The Ravin R18 strapped quickly to the handlebar rack until I arrived at the timber edge, where I would walk the remaining distance to my stand. From the parked bike to the stand, I quickly strapped the bow to my backpack, leaving it attached until arriving at the top of my stand, when I attached the strap to my safety vest to the tree. As the hunt progressed, the size of the crossbow continued to blow my mind. The compactness allowed me to do more than I would have been able to do if I had used another type of weapon or bow.
Even though I hunted from a treestand, the Ravin R18 would be the ideal crossbow for hunting in a ground or elevated-style blind. First, the vertical limb design allows the hunter to rest on the side of a blind window, tree, or other surface without deflecting the shot or damaging the bow. This feature keeps the hunter more concealed and allows more shot opportunities. The included pic rail on the R18 also allows for a bipod such as the Swagger Bipods to be used in the blind or when seated.
Pros & Cons
By now, I was most impressed with the size of the R18. Even though it is my favorite feature, along with accuracy and ease of use, the size could always fall into the cons category in some hunting situations. For example, when hunting near my home in southern Missouri in early January, I faced the challenge of staying concealed in open timber. Although, the R18 was easy to maneuver into the proper shooting position. At different times, the hand placement of my non-trigger finger seemed very awkward. There is a slight grip on the bottom side of the vertical limbs. Yet, because the bow is only 25” overall, and most of that is the trigger area and stock, there is not much room left for stable hand placement.
Using a bipod or attachable shooting rest would be recommended to remain accurate. However, after getting familiar with the compact design, the hunter learns when and where to hold the grip, allowing them to enjoy the accurate maneuverability this crossbow so boldly allows.
Do not let the design of the R18 deter you from thinking it cannot perform at the speed and accuracy that other Ravin Crossbows have consistently offered. The pros outweigh the minor cons, resulting in one of the most enjoyable crossbows I have shot and one of the most exciting deer hunts I have had, in which the equipment was the highlight of the hunt instead of the size of the animal I was hunting. These moments are when a hunter can discover their genuine passion for hunting, transcending the mere act of the harvest.