If you’ve been paying attention to the crossbow market of late, you know that the magic benchmark in terms of velocity is 400 fps. Crossbows delivering arrow speeds at or above the 400-fps threshold are certified members of the “in crowd.” With that membership, though, comes a price many of us have a tough time justifying. Most quality crossbows in this class run in the $1,200 to $2,000-plus range.
An outlier to that rule is the new RDX 400 from Wicked Ridge. Introduced earlier this year and rated at 400 fps (talk about just making the cut!), the RDX 400 carries a budget-friendly MSRP of $759.99.
We think that the upper-threshold speed and the relatively low price point of the RDX 400 is justification enough for serious crossbow hunters to give this model a hard look, but there’s a lot more going on here that makes the price-to-performance ratio even more surprising.
In addition to 400-plus fps being the new frontier for crossbows, so, too, are shrinking dimensions. In other words, thin is in and it’s here to stay. The RDX 400 isn’t the slimmest model at the party, but with an axle-to-axle cocked width of only nine inches, it’s no brush banger.
We recently spent some time with the RDX 400 on a Florida hog hunt — an environment thick with gnarly scrub, saw palmettos and all manner of vegetation to impede the hunter. With its light, 7.1-pound weight (without accessories) and narrow cocked width, the RDX 400 easily needles it way through the heavy stuff. While that’s a bonus for hunting southern porkers, it’s also a huge benefit for whitetail hunters like us who enjoy taking advantage of a crossbow platform for still hunting — especially at this time of year.
With the rut engaged throughout most of the country over the next several weeks, whitetail patterns and predictability are generally tossed to the curb. Sure, does will continue to target their favored food sources with almost clockwork precision, but the bucks we seek … not so much. They’ll be after the does, of course, but where their hunt for love takes them is the unpredictable factor.
For hunters who like to poke around their territory and actively engage in the hunt rather than sit in a blind or tree stand all day, the crossbow offers a new adventure.
During the early season, most bowhunters concentrate on travel routes between steady food sources and bedding areas, or maybe scrape lines that are seeing fresh activity. That is as it should be if you want to increase your chances of success. Once the rut starts to kick in, though, bucks can be found in the most unexpected places as they move from one doe group to the next in search of a breedable female.
In our area, those places could be anything from flat ridgelines with little understory (where respectable bucks rarely show up during daylight hours) to dense thickets that provide shortcuts between bedding and feeding areas (places we tend to avoid during the pre-season because hunting with a vertical bow in that mess is quite challenging).
Now, however, a light, narrow, and fast crossbow offers us much-welcome liberation and a chance to be an on-the-move predator rather than a sitter. With the RDX 400’s velocity, we can stalk along those big timber ridgelines the bucks are cruising with confidence that 40- or 50-yard shots are manageable. For slipping through the dense stuff, the narrow RDX 400 is perfect for ad hoc stands.
A favorite strategy is getting on a trail in the heavy cover and backing into a brush pile (with a favorable wind) that offers a short-range ambush on passing deer. Again, this is something that’s difficult to do with a vertical bow but is ideally suited for a short-axle-width crossbow.
If you choose to take the still hunt/stalking challenge with the crossbow, always remember — never walk with an arrow seated in the crossbow! It’s the same rule you follow when hunting with a vertical bow. Nock or seat an arrow only when you are safely positioned on a stand or when you are ready to take the shot. The RDX 400, like all Wicked Ridge crossbows, comes with a quick-detach quiver as part of the package. You’ll have plenty of time to transfer an arrow from that quiver to the flight rail when it’s time to shoot.
Of course, you most certainly can walk with your crossbow in the cocked position. The RDX 400 comes with TenPoint‘s Dry-Fire Inhibitor as part of the firing mechanism, which prevents the cocked crossbow from firing unless an arrow is properly seated in the trigger assembly. We had first-hand experience with this system a few days prior to this writing when a rock rolled out from under us, dumping us mercilessly onto the ground. Our crossbow fell out of our hands and onto the rocks, upside down. It was a violent drop, but the Dry-Fire Inhibitor did its job and the string held in the cocked position.
This illustrates why it is important to never walk with an arrow seated in a crossbow or a vertical bow — you never know when a stumble and fall can happen. There is plenty of time to seat an arrow, so it’s not worth the risk.
Another aspect of the RDX 400 that makes it ideal for still hunting is its exceptional balance. This comes courtesy of the reverse-draw limb setup and lightweight Fusion RX stock. By locating the aluminum riser to the center of the stock (rather than the front, as with conventional-draw crossbows), the center of balance shifts back toward the shooter.
As those of you who still hunt know, it’s not always possible to get into a comfortable or solid-rest position because you can encounter deer at any moment. That means there’s not always time to take a rest or get into the optimal shooting position. With crossbows that have the bulk of their weight forward of the center, shouldering the crossbow and waiting for the shot can be torturous. We found the RDX 400’s balance such that it is easier to keep the crossbow steadily shouldered for much longer than we can with a conventional-draw crossbow.
Even if you prefer to hunt from a tree stand or blind during the rut, the RDX 400 scores high marks. The short axle-to-axle width and overall 33.25-inch length makes this model highly maneuverable in the tight confines of a ground blind or when sharp-angled shots are required from a tree stand.
As with all crossbows coming out of the TenPoint camp (Wicked Ridge is a brand line of TenPoint), the RDX 400 is ready to hunt out of the box with everything you need, except for broadheads. The included TenPoint Multi-Line Scope is pre-mounted and bore-sighted at the factory, so it only takes two or three shots to achieve zero at 20 yards plus a few more shots at 30 and 40 yards to refine that zero across the crossbow’s effective hunting range. The base model RDX 400 comes with a Rope Sled cocking device while the optional ACUdraw system is available for an extra $100. Both work great, but our recommendation is to go with the ACUdraw if you have room in your budget.
Also included are three aluminum arrows, field points, a quick-detach quiver and a pre-installed string stop system that really helps with noise dampening.
The early rut/rut phase is the most exciting time for bowhunters to be in the woods. With bucks on the move during daylight hours and following no particular pattern in their heated search for estrous does, being mobile and exploring areas typically not on the map earlier in the year can reap dividends for the still hunter. A lightweight, agile, and fast-shooting crossbow such as the Wicked Ridge RDX 400 seems almost custom-made for plying the brush and big timber this time of year, and this crossbow lets you do both without breaking the bank.
Wicked Ridge RDX 400 Specification
Length: 33.25 inches
Width (axle-to-axle; uncocked/cocked): 15 inches/9 inches
Power Stroke: 15.5 inches
Weight in Pounds (w/o accessories): 7.1 pounds
Draw Weight: 175 pounds
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