The Lancehead F1 Torsion Limb may redefine crossbow technology.
In the archery world, few technologies have evolved as rapidly as crossbows. Manufacturers continue to make them lighter, faster and more reliable with each new release. There has also been a reduction in the profile of these bows with the trend moving towards more compact reverse limb bows in recent years.
Now there's a company making a crossbow with an entirely new limb system that makes for a slimmer package than ever before.
Introducing the Lancehead F1 torsion limb crossbow. We interviewed Lancehead Founder and CEO Jon Polanich to get the lowdown on this fascinating new design.
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The idea for a new kind of crossbow
"I'm first and foremost a hunter, it's my passion," Polanich said. "It's a thing I've been doing since I was 12 years old."
As an adult, Polanich found himself wanting more out of his hunting experience. There had to be a way to build a better crossbow.
"I kind of came to the realization that what I wanted was to enjoy my hunt better," Polanich told me.
The way to do that was to eliminate some of the more frustrating problems faced by modern crossbows. Things like expensive and difficult maintenance, improving safety, avoiding snags in brushy areas and getting more shot angles when confined to a small treestand or ground blind.
"When you're hunting public land, you've got to get into brushy, tight spaces," Polanich said.
He wrote all his ideas down on paper and then headed into his garage and got to work to make what he terms a "hunting grade" crossbow. After months of work, he finally had a prototype. The F1 is unlike any crossbow we've seen before. It's only 3.9 inches wide whether the bow is at full draw or not. Most hunters can immediately see the benefit of that.
"The confines of a treestand or blind, you just don't have a lot of real estate. So, you make something fit into the environment you want to be in," Polanich said. "It's not going to get hung up, tangled or interfered."
Instead of standard or reverse limbs, the F1 uses a coiled micro limb system to store power and release it to the string. These limbs are made from coated carbon steel for durability. The bow uses a lower, 170-pound draw weight that uses a 24-inch power stroke. The result is a crossbow that delivers more energy and accuracy to the bolt. The company says the bow can reach 370 to 360 feet per second speeds, more than enough for most hunting applications. The cams also have an interesting design that just adds to overall slim nature of this bow.
"Because they're round, they eliminate timing issues," Polanich said. "The cam system allows it to redirect the energy and be very, very compact."
It's also what allows the company to put the limbs and cams under a protective cover. This is both a performance and safety feature.
"When you can reduce movement and put those under covers, then there's less interference," he said. "If you're in a treestand, you think about the degrees of travel around a tree, it increases your shot angle."
It also allows hunters to adjust better on the fly. Because that big buck you monitored all summer on trail camera likely isn't going to step perfectly into the spot you've picked out for it.
"You're not going to have a limb hitting a tree," Polanich said. "It erases that doubt from your head in terms of being able to both safely and ethically take a shot."
Speaking of safety, this bow also has an anti-dry fire system for additional peace of mind when cocking and loading a bolt. In another bid to make this bow as versatile as possible, Lancehead is including what they're calling "CamoSwap" technology. This allows hunters to replace the stock and side covers to an appropriate pattern for the season or terrain simply by removing a few bolts that don't interfere with the shooting mechanisms.
As another nice bonus, Lancehead includes a latching hard-shell case with every order.
"It's great, it's a travel-rated case, so you could take it anywhere you want to go," Polanich said.
Performance on big game
The Lancehead F1 is still new, but Polanich harvested the first two big game animals with it in 2019. A nice-sized Texas whitetail buck and a 200-pound feral hog. Both were taken from ground blind setups. The benefit of his new limbless design was immediately apparent the first time he headed out.
"I was very pleased with the ability to maneuver with another person in the ground blind," he said.
On the whitetail, the bolt went through both shoulders at 20 yards and took the buck's heart out. The animal expired within site of the blind, making for an easy recovery. The hog was shot at roughly the same distance. However, the animal didn't go anywhere at all after being hit.
"It pretty much locked up and dropped in its tracks," Polanich said.
He said the shot may have been partially luck, but he was still pleased with the job it did while utilizing Rage Hypodermic expandable broadheads.
"I can't claim that I could do that shot again," Polanich said. "But I certainly would be able to ethically put an arrow in an area where an animal's not going to suffer and you're not going to have a tracking job and you're going to be able to get the meat, take care of it and enjoy it."
So far, he has hundreds of shots through the F1 he used on those hunts and hasn't noticed any performance issues. He noted it doesn't seem to make a difference on whether your preference is mechanical or fixed head broadheads, the F1 shoots both well. Another interesting thing about this bow is that Polanich says you're ready to hunt straight out of the box. After a little practice of course.
"You could cock it, knock it and schlock it," he said with a laugh. "It's ready right out of the case."
He says they are currently waiting to see how the bows perform in the spring turkey season and he says some other customers will be using it on more hog hunts soon. He's looking forward to hearing more feedback from his early customers.
With any new archery technology there are questions on legality. In recent years, many states have had to adjust regulations for new hunting weapon technologies like high-powered air rifles and CO2-powered air bows. Polanich said that under most state's definitions of a legal crossbow, the Lancehead F1 clearly meets the requirements.
"This bow, by definition, has risers and limbs inside those housings that aren't real obvious when you look at it on first glance," he said. "Once we explain that to regulators, they understand. We haven't seen too many issues."
Right now, they are recommending every hunter check their state's regulations to make sure the F1 will be legal under each state's definitions. Polanich acknowledges there will likely be some more discussion about the bow's new technology and state regulations regarding crossbow definitions and use.
"When you're a first mover in creating a category, the onus falls on us to help people understand things," he said.
Getting people afield and keeping them there
Polanich recognizes the problems of the hunting tradition losing numbers. Whether that be hunters dropping out of the sport or new ones just not taking to the outdoor sports. For the former it's usually due to the difficulties presented by going afield while older. For the latter, it's often other interests and hunting's high learning curve. He's hoping this new bow design will help change that.
"We're really trying to keep people in longer and start them in earlier," he told me. "Especially with younger kids."
That's why he's put so much focus on making a fast and accurate crossbow, but one that is also safe and easy for anyone to operate.
"That's certainly been a lot of my focus and lot of my drive," Polanich said. "Just to make safety a real priority and make sure that those experiences are really, really positive, safe and enjoyable so we start future hunters off right and keep them in the market and hunting arena for decades to come."
For now, the Lancehead F1 is sold direct to customers through their website.