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 PSE Stinger crossbow pistol
Length overall Prod width Weight  Projectiles Weight of Pull Action
13.5" 18.75" 29 oz 12.5" bolts - 3/8" balls 80 pounds Single shot, manual cock, 8" travel
The 2000 year old “exotic” weapon system.
        This is a PSE Stinger crossbow, manufactured in the mid 90's. It was produced during a brief interval where crossbow pistols were taken seriously, and is not one of those junky pistol crossbows you see selling everywhere for around $12 - $25. Please don’t confuse this with the current PSE Stinger, which is a compound bow. Also don’t confuse it with the current PSE crossbow pistol, which is called the Zombie Killer. The name pretty much says it all, as far as credibility.
        The Stinger is of substantial aluminum construction, milled from a solid billet. It features a braided steel string, which should last forever, rather than the synthetic cord found on most. It includes an adjustable sight, and even a push-pull safety.The prod (basically the bow part) is of fiberglass and is of compound construction. I picked this up at a gun show, along with some extra bolts, a bag full of steel balls, and a peep sight which I never installed.
        Cocking (as shown in the photo to the left) is accomplished by pivoting a steel stirrup from beneath the unit body, stepping into the stirrup, and using both hands to pull and lock the string. Most recently made crossbows now use a cocking lever. For what this is, the stirrup works fine, and its simplicity makes it one less thing that might be broken.
        This model was made for only one year, 1995. It was expensive, and did not sell well, because most consumers did not (and still do not) take crossbow pistols seriously, thinking of them as toys or novelty items. They thus balked at the comparatively high cost of the unit. This had the sad consequence of assuring that it is all but impossible to find a good quality short crossbow these days.
        The rail on this crossbow is 12" long, and completely encased in the aluminum body. The top strap is flat and drilled out for scope or sight mounting. While most pistol style crossbows use 6” bolts, the Stinger uses a 12.5” bolt. It also has a clip to allow for the use of steel or lead balls.
        This isn't a toy, yet isn't quite a firearm. The draw weight is 80 pounds, and even the steel balls can kill small game. Bolts can kill a man at close range, particularly if they use hunting points (razorheads). Crossbows are somewhat less efficient than regular bows, as far as velocity versus draw weight, and have a slower rate of fire; but they are easier to master, and can be more precisely aimed. In some jurisdictions this is treated like a firearm under the law.
        Trigger pull is an even 8 pounds, and the trigger is a simple flat aluminum stamping. Rather than pivoting on a pin, the trigger moves straight back to push the bowstring off of its catch. The bright yellow grip is sculpted for comfort and consistency. A series of three hollows milled into the forearm of the crossbow save a bit of weight, give multiple grip options, and are possible mounting points for accessories. Sights consist of the standard post up front, and a rear notch that is drift adjustable for windage, and slide adjustable for elevation. The rear sight can also be lowered completely off the sighting plane to allow for the mounting of optical or red dot units. The safety sits at the back of the unit, just below the rear sight.
        The standard projectile used in a crossbow is properly referred to as a bolt. At one time this had a more than academic meaning. An arrow, as used in a bow, was traditionally a wooden shaft, with fletching (feathers), and a hardened metal tip. A crossbow bolt was usually a triangular steel dart with no fletching, shorter and heavier than an arrow. There was a lot of overlap, and things change over the years. These days, bolts are quite similar to arrows, except for generally being a bit shorter, and having no knock (the “fingers” that notch onto the bowstring) on the end. They also tend to have longer and lower fletching, so that they don’t hang up on the crossbow rail. Most are now made of aluminum, fiberglass, or carbon fiber.
        The bolts for this unit are 12.5" long. The rail upon which they sit is 12" long, leaving a half inch protruding from the front of the weapon. This permits the use of broadheads (razorheads). The three field tip bolts originally included with the unit are long since broken and bent. Bolts of this size can be found, but are not standard. Most crossbow bolts measure between 16” and 20”, with the mini bolts for pistols averaging 6” in length.
        While it is possible to find the right size bolts, I generally make my own out of standard arrows, using a pipe cutter. The main reason for this is that virtually all of the shorter bolts available use permanently  mounted field points. My bolts all have 12.5" shafts, with an extra inch and a half of tip when using broadheads, giving a total length of 14". I also have a number of field point bolts created.
        These bolts started out as Allen Eliminator 400, standard arrows. I tip them with Barnett Gamecrusher broadheads. For those who like to run the numbers, the shafts weigh 9.6 grains per inch, and the tips weigh 125 grains. This makes for a total weight of 240 grains. The velocity on these is generally around 170 FPS.
        For those not familiar with crossbows, or with archery, a broadhead is a tip with a very sharp point, and razors angled out from the tip. Nasty - particularly when you consider that the bolt is spinning. The more traditional pointed arrow tip is called a field point. Originally a crossbow fired a heavy steel dart without any fletching. A field point is just a plain sharp point. Most good quality arrows will have threaded inserts at their tips, so that the archer can screw in a variety of points.  Practice arrows will usually have a field point permanently  installed. A comparison of a field tip (actually a practice arrow tip) is shown in the photo to the left, next to a razorhead. This particular style of razorhead will open up upon contact. This gives a truer flight, deeper entry, and a very large wound cavity. Like I said - nasty. Energy on these is about 15.5 FP, though this is not as good an indicator of stopping power as it is with a standard firearm, due to the incredible damage the broadhead blades can inflict. Recall that in addition to the razor sharp heads, the arrow is moving fast, and spinning, so that it buzzsaws its way into the target.
        At the other end of the spectrum, this unit is also capable of firing 3/8" steel or lead balls.  This is basically the same as a 36/38 caliber black powder lead ball, or a standard 3/8" steel ball bearing. A steel ball of this size weighs 54 grains, and will exit the bow at around 230fps - for around 6.5 FP of energy. A lead ball will weigh 79 grains, and leave the bow at around 220 FPS - for about 8.5 fp of energy.  The balls are great fun, but hardly for serious use.
        Daisy, and other sporting goods suppliers, sell steel balls for use as slingshot ammunition. They aren't particularly expensive, with a box of 70 going for around $4 or $5. The crossbow will impart a lot more energy than any slingshot, is easier to aim, and quite a bit of fun. It is also no joke. These little balls can kill small game, injure humans, break windows, nick furniture, and punch holes in plaster. Outdoor use only.
        The balls are loaded onto the same rail as the arrows, and then fasten into a small spring clip. The bow must be cocked first, and the safety engaged.
        Crossbows have been around a long time, several thousand years at least, and have the virtues of being silent, creating no flash, and emitting no smoke. Their shortcomings are a limited range, and a slow rate of fire – at least by today’s standards.
        When the modern crossbow was invented, back around the fifth century B.C. It was quite a simple device, little more than a bow mounted on a plank, with a groove for the bolt. Eventually the Romans developed it into the Ballista, a crew served weapon which fired six foot long iron rods at ships, fortifications, and massed troops. By the middle ages, it had been developed into a personal weapon of the foot soldier. It was considered so terrible, for its time, that the Pope banned it for use against Christians.
        Today, despite its antiquated design, the crossbow has become something of a cult weapon. In the military it is considered a specialty weapon - an exotic. Typically a crossbow will be used for sentry removal, silencing of guard dogs, and occasionally assassination. Such tasks are well served by the crossbow's virtues of silence and lack of muzzle flash. Though there are firearm silencers, they are not really as quiet as their name suggests, and most permit a distinct pop or crack. The faint twang of a crossbow is soundless by comparison.
        The disadvantages of a crossbow are obvious. Range is limited to a realistic 30 - 60 yards. A very good shot, with a modern scope, full sized crossbow, and a lot of luck might make a 100 - 180 yard shot; but this isn't realistic for most people. Most archery ranges will be set up for 20 - 30 yards. Judging from my own experience, this pistol is probably accurate enough out to perhaps 50 feet. A crossbow is quite deadly, more so when bolts are tipped with broadheads.
        As far as the shorter crossbow, its uses are very limited. Bolt (or arrow) velocity is dependent on pull weight, and draw length. The high weight of pull on most crossbows is designed to counteract the low draw length of the design. On little crossbows, like the Stinger, The standard is considered to be 30", with an average of 10 FPS deducted for each missing inch. For weight, the standard is 70 pounds. The rule of thumb is that each additional three pounds (beyond 70) will increase velocity by roughly 1 FPS. Archery experts will probably bemoan these numbers, but they are merely rules of thumb. The only real way to determine what a given bow will do it so shoot and measure.
        Regarding the use of such a weapon for survival, defense, or hunting, I can only say - any weapon is better than none. Yet I do not consider this, deadly as it may be, as a practical for much outside of pure recreation. There are some great full sized bows and crossbows out there, that are as capable (after making allowances for rate of fire, and range) as any modern weapon. For many years, wars were fought with such weapons, and meat was put on the table. I enjoy my little Stinger, have made a number of custom bolts for it, and shoot it regularly. If I had to use it in a defense or survival setting I would do so - but there are better choices.