I was sitting around with a couple of other outdoorsmen the other day, talking about deer rifles, compound bows, and other stuff related to deer season. One of the guys was talking about getting a crossbow not only for himself, but to share with his wife and son, so they could experience the archery season. He asked if I knew of a crossbow that was solid, dependable, accurate, and “way under $800.”

My answer was swift, as I knew exactly what crossbow I’d recommend. I suggested he take a look at the Carbon Express Covert SLS. I’ve suggested Carbon Express (CX) crossbows before to friends and family and they’ve been pretty happy. In fact, my father-in-law, Brian, has been shooting one for a while now and loves it. He even skips firearm deer season to hunt with his crossbow.

So why do I like the CX SLS bow? Well, it kind of reminds me of a car I used to have. It’s not the sleekest or the fastest one out there, but it is well-built, dependable, and gets the job done. That may not sound like a glowing recommendation, but it is. Let me elaborate.

Since speed is a big issue with crossbow buyers these days, let’s start with that. The CX SLS flings bolts at a respectable 355 feet per second. That will vary some with arrow selection and weather and so on, but an average of 355 feet per second will kill anything you’re going to use a crossbow for, all from a 13-inch power stroke. What that translates to is 119 foot-pounds of energy—in other words, thumpability. I like things that thump, and the CX SLS thumps.

At only 17 inches wide uncocked, the SLS is very compact.
At only 17 inches wide uncocked, the SLS is very compact.

To get there, you need to draw the bow back, and that takes 185 pounds of draw weight. It’s pretty easy to do with the included cocking rope. There is a cocking winch available from CX, but I haven’t really used one. The one I did use broke. It was a buddy’s and CX replaced it right away.

Room to move

Now, I may have compared the CX crossbows to big cars earlier, but the SLS is more like a compact truck. The SLS is CX’s compact, 8.3-pound, bullpup-design crossbow setup and it works really well when hunting off the ground.

When not cocked, the bow is 17 inches wide and only 13.5 inches when cocked, locked, and ready to rock. It is 36 inches long and there are three different options for adjusting the length with one- and two-inch, pads for the butt of the stock. Standing, I was most comfortable with the mid-length, one-inch pad, but in the blind and sitting, I took off all of the pads for a shorter stock.

As I mentioned before in my article on crossbow evolution, CX added a folding foregrip, much like one you see on modern sporting rifles. It gives you very good control and lends an impressive degree of “pointability” to the SLS, and keeps your thumb and fingers below the whacking line. If that isn’t thumbs-up cool, I don’t know what is.

The foregrip mounts to a Picatinny rail that also serves as the mounting location for a bracket to mount the included quiver off to the side and inline with the shooting rail. I like this set up much more than other ways of mounting quivers on crossbows.

Other areas

The rear pistol-style grip works well and is comfortable. And the trigger is, well, adequate. I have to say something to crossbow manufacturers: it’s time to take a look at the firearms industry. There has been a trigger revolution in firearms that has lead to some great triggers being made in firearms everyone can afford. It’s time for crossbows to do that, too. I’m not saying the trigger is awful or anything, but as someone who has pulled a lot of triggers in his day, there is much room for improvement. CX isn’t alone in that boat, and I don’t want anyone to think I’m singling them out here. The trigger works and does what it is supposed to, but as a wise gunman once said to me, it all starts with the trigger. Making it smoother and lighter would make people shoot better.

The SLS is a solid crossbow at a really good price, compared to other bows in its class.
The SLS is a solid crossbow at a really good price, compared to other bows in its class.

And that is the rub, you see. The CX SLS is a very accurate crossbow. It isn’t too loud by crossbow standards and it shoots very straight.

The included 4×32 scope is very good—as long as you don’t use the illuminated part of it the wrong way. I had some trouble with the illuminated part of the scope making the rest of the scope cloudy. When I was using the green setting, it looked like a green cloud was in the sight window. The same went for the red settings. I had to be very careful how I used the illuminated part of the scope. Most of the time, I didn’t turn it on. It works well without it. There are crosshairs for different distances and I found it only took a dozen or so shots to get the scope dialed in. There is even a little note to the shooter etched in the glass when you look through the scope to remind you to keep your fingers away from the string.

Other nice touches include three CX Maxima crossbow bolts that are very good. I have always liked CX arrows and their Maxima line is among the best you can get. I shot and shot the included bolts and they still look new, even after repeatedly touching each other as I shot group after group. Notice what I just said—three-shot groups at 25 yards that touched repeatedly? Yeah, did I mention how accurate the CX SLS is?

And there you have it, an accurate, reliable crossbow that is fast enough to kill anything you’d use it for, all for a price point of $600. Yeah, the scope and trigger are a little wonky, but you’d get that on crossbows costing twice what this one does. If you’re looking for in a crossbow, try the CX SLS. You’ll be totally sold on it too.

Images courtesy Derrek Sigler

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11 thoughts on “Carbon Express Covert SLS Crossbow

  1. Sounds like a good choice for a start up crossbow. I bought my crossbow about 3 years ago. Ky. use to have a very short CB season and it wasn’t worth buying one. I learned that if you are disabled you can get a doctor’s form signed a hunt all of bow season. Sept-Jan.

  2. Ass one who worked very hard to get bow and muzzle loader special seasons, am not happy with this (CB’S) or inline scoped, sabot’s etc ML’s. What is needed is ANOTHER special season(s) set up for these type of hunting tools. Many worked very hard to get special seasons for more “primitive” hunting gear, not what mfg;’s pushed upon us. Sorry but this stuff destroys the meaning and spirit of what we worked for and got. Let’s get special seasons for the CB’s, inlines etc.NOT saying do not use them, just saying, get your own season. NOTE have hunted both real bow and real ML seasons so do know the difference as to sportsmanship behind each..

    1. I can totally appreciate your point of view. However, I am all for any legal type of tool that allows more people to hunt. I think instead of working against each other, we should maybe consider just doing our own thing and rest assured that others are able to enjoy the sport that we all love so dearly. Thanks!

  3. Primitive!? “reality check” try hunting with a spear if your into “Real” primitive hunting tools. The crossbow is older than the muzzleloader.

  4. I have the SLS and having trouble citing it in what do I set my top or bottom Pin at please could someone email me details please could someone email me details

    1. Your top 20 yards your bottom 50 yards. You take your first shot at 20 yards adjust the scope windage and elevation till you hit dead center then you should be set. All you should need to do is use the scope dots 20,30,40,50. My scope was problematic from the get go so I got a different one. Hope this helps

      1. I thought I’d also mention too that some guys had to sight in a 25yards so your dot’s would be 25,35,45,55. which ever puts you in the bullseye 20 yards or 25 yards but if you go 25 you have to do 35,45,55. Just thought I would mention that to you.

  5. I used Parker Crossbows and Barnett which had many problems I just purchased the sls carbon express and very happy I just shot a deer hit behind shoulder at 34yards accurate and deadly this is a great bow for the price I will get my daughter one now thanks carbon express for a great crossbow back to hunting in newago michigan

  6. It’s a great crossbow but the scope is junk. Mine never worked properly from day one and I feel with illuminaton that there will always be problems with those types of scopes. It’s like anything that has some electronics in it they never seem to last in the long run sure they look nice but not dependable when you need it the most. I feel a lot of crossbow manufactures throw on a cheapy so you’ll buy a better quality scope through the same company that you bought your crossbow from, so it’s a double sale. When you spend that type of money on something it better have a damn good scope. The real attraction for me with the SLS was the foregrip the way it was designed to save fingers is what sold it for me other than that I don’t think I would ever buy from the company again. I had questions and written email’s and they never did get back to me too big for there britches I guess that’s not very good customer service. There website shows videos of compitition shooters and tournys which doesn’t help the consumer any they should have videos on how to put their crossbows together and safety videos along with string replacement you know useful stuff for first time crossbow owners but all they care about is posting garbage videos that doesn’t help the consumers in anyway unlike Henry Firearms that’s has those type of videos.

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