One of the things I enjoy about attending the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show when it comes to town is meeting hunting and recreational shooting enthusiasts from across the country and around the globe. Not to mention the chance to see new and innovative products.
When the curtain went up on the 2020 edition of the SHOT Show Tuesday at the Sands Expo and Convention Center, I made my way down to the first floor. Not because that is where you find the big names of the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry, but because that is the place to find new offerings from small and often obscure companies.
There I met Gerald Missbach of Austria, a former attorney who left the world of product liability to focus on development of inventions he had sketched out while going through an engineering program prior to attending law school. Among them is a product he calls the Steambow.
That’s a name that conjures images of smokestacks and steam spraying from pressure relief valves, probably much like those associated with steam-powered trains from back in the day. And the small tank mounted alongside the buttstock did little to dispel that image.
I looked for the smokestack but couldn’t find one. Perhaps it was the perplexed look on my face that got his attention, but thankfully Missbach came to my aid.
The Steambow, he explained, might be described as a hybrid between an air rifle and a crossbow. Something he sees as providing the best of both worlds.
While it doesn’t actually use steam, the Steambow does use the power of compressed air to cock the bow. The compressed air actuates pistons that put tension on the crossbow’s relaxed limbs rather than using muscle strength. When the limbs are put under tension, you have a 280-pound crossbow that can send an arrow at speeds up to 400 feet per second.
A shooter begins by locking the string in the “drawn” position, but it remains loose because the limbs are relaxed. Then you place an arrow in the flight groove or arrow track, but the crossbow still cannot fire. Not until you charge the pistons and put the limbs under tension, and all that takes is the push of a button.
But what if you choose not to fire the crossbow? You can de-cock the crossbow at any time by pulling on the same button you pushed to activate the pistons. Do that and you can hear the air being released from the pistons and watch the limbs relax.
The air tank is the same one used in paintball guns, so they are easy to use and have proven dependable. Not to mention easy to find and recharge. I should point out that all the compressed air does is put tension on the limbs. It is energy transferred from the limbs through the string that propels the arrow.
What if you run out of air? You can lock the limbs forward with the push of a button and the Steambow cocks and shoots like any other crossbow. Since its limbs remain relaxed until the pistons are charged with air, you can collapse them against the stock for ease of transport.
When Missbach first brought the Steambow to market in Germany, he was amazed at how fast they sold. So he did a little research and found that the people were purchasing them for self-defense because firearm ownership is so restrictive. He said with practice a shooter can accurately shoot five arrows per minute. A member of his staff can shoot 10 per minute, but Missbach points out that he really has to hustle to do that.
The Onyx model has a manufacturer suggested retail price of $1,599. You can buy the power unit for upgrading a traditional crossbow for $999.
The SHOT Show is the largest event held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center and the fifth largest trade show held in Las Vegas, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, owner and sponsor of the show. Total exhibit space for the 2020 show, which ends on Friday, is expected to be more than 692,000 net square feet— equivalent to nearly 16 acres. Some 60,000 people are expected to attend.
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at email@example.com