“Blade” Crossbows with Faulty Safety Recalled by Carbon Express

Michael GrossmanDecember 29, 2016 5 minutes

A popular model of crossbow has recently been recalled by its manufacturer after a consumer experienced injury from a misfire.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the manufacturer has issued a voluntary recall after receiving reports that a faulty safety still permits the crossbow to fire when engaged. Obviously this poses a major hazard to anyone unlucky enough to be on the business end of the crossbow, but a misfire can also involve a high-tension bowstring snapping forward across the wielder's hand. The reported adverse event that prompted the recall deeply lacerated the crossbow owner's thumb, but depending on the poundage of the bow's draw, that snapping string can break or even sever fingers or thumbs in its path.

Who Makes This Product?

The crossbows affected by this recall are imported from Taiwan by Eastman Outdoors, Inc., doing business as Carbon Express.

Which Products Are Affected?

This recall involves two "Blade"-model crossbows. The product comes in black (model #20292) and camouflage (model #20240). They have a number of identifiable features for those uncertain whether they own one of the affected products:

  • Both models have "Blade" printed on the sides of the bows.
  • The bows have die-cast risers and half-aluminum rails.
  • All models have a black pistol grip with a black butt stock. The Blade model weighs about 6.5 pounds.
  • Blade crossbows shoot 320 feet per second (fps) and have a 13 inch power stroke (the length between when the string is at rest, uncocked, and when it has been fully drawn back and locked).
  • The crossbow's model number is printed on a metallic sticker on its bottom left limb.
Recalled Blade Crossbows
Pictured: both the black and camo models of the Blade crossbow.

Carbon Express issued its recall voluntarily and is cooperating with the CPSC in spreading the word about the faulty safety.

How Widespread is the Problem?

The nationwide recall encompasses roughly 3,800 Blade crossbows. According to the details supplied by the company, a single incident of injury prompted the recall. "Laceration" can imply a pretty wide variety of injuries, but virtually all of them are still better than "amputation," which is also a risk with a wayward drawstring.

The Blade models were sold at several hunting and sporting goods stores nationwide, as well as online, from July 2016 through October 2016. Fortunately, that's a pretty narrow sales window. One might hope that a significant number are still warehoused or on store shelves, but I'm sure a goodly number ended up in buyers' homes.

It helps that this product isn't really a ubiquitous consumer good; Herbert Hoover promised "A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage," but didn't say anything about crossbows. Aside from hunting and target sports (and the novelty of using a weapon that was around long before Christ was born), it's doubtful they see a lot of circulation in the general populace. More hunters buy guns than crossbows, as do people concerned with self- and home defense. However, almost 4,000 crossbows in only four months is still nothing to sneer at.

What Can Be Done About It?

The terms of the recall strongly encourage owners of these products to discontinue their use immediately. It is further suggested that owners return the crossbows to Carbon Express for a free repair. Carbon Express can be contacted via phone at 800-211-5982 from 8 a.m. to 5p.m. ET M-F, or online at carbonexpresscrossbow.com. The CPSC instructs owners to then click on "Resource/Blade Recall" for further information, but using those instructions I was unable to locate any information beyond a copy of what's available on the CPSC website.

In the meantime, if you suffer an injury from this crossbow, you may be entitled to compensation from Eastman Outdoors. By releasing a consumer product to the market without adequate quality testing, they have created circumstances that can cause damages. Keep in mind that the drawn string of a full-size hunting crossbow like the Blade is sitting on 200(ish) pounds of draw weight. When its trigger is pulled, it snaps forward with enough momentum to launch an arrow at over 300 feet per second, which is more than enough to bring down an adult moose (provided it hits something important). If your poor thumb is in the path of that snapping string's trajectory, it can mean anything from a mean bruise to the literal loss of that digit.

By issuing this recall, Carbon Express is acknowledging the flaw in the crossbow's assembly. They are also acutely aware of how this flaw can lead to personal injury, which is a recognizable violation of their inherent agreement with consumers. By releasing an unsafe product under its label, Eastman Outdoors has failed to exercise an appropriate standard of care with respect to buyers' safety. Moreover, one of the principal theories of products liability is failure to warn, which appears to apply in these circumstances. For four months, the Blade crossbow was sold as an ideal heavy-crossbow hunting companion. In that time, thousands of units were sold to interested consumers, all of whom were under the impression that the Blade had a functioning safety that would prevent injury. The company's ignorance of a critical flaw in its own product is not an indication of blamelessness; quite to the contrary, it should have known and taken action long before someone's thumb was painfully clipped.

A skilled products liability attorney would be able to prove that Carbon Express (and by extension, Eastman Outdoors) owed a duty to its paying customers to provide a product free of harmful defects. In events where some risk is possible, it is to be expected that the manufacturer and vendor will be aware of these risks and will issue suitable warnings to help minimize the risk of adverse events. By failing to warn customers of the faulty safety, Carbon Express breached its duty to protect them from harm. From there, it would not be difficult to show that the safety failure was the proximate (direct) cause of the plaintiff's injuries, be they lacerated thumbs or wounds from an errant arrow. Damages would not be difficult to illustrate under such circumstances, but some of those damages would transcend the physical: people injured by the crossbow's malfunction are likely to require medical attention, and that doesn't come cheap. They may also miss work, and the loss of wages would require redress by the defendant.

What This Means

Carbon Express maintains that your preferred lethal anachronism is fixable. Carbon Express has some answering to do for vending a product that can misfire, certainly, but inherent risks can be minimized by exercising a measure of personal caution:

  1. Treat crossbows as if they are always loaded. Granted, you can visually confirm there's no ammunition in a crossbow much more easily than you can in a firearm, but an overabundance of caution with a weapon is probably not a bad thing.
  2. Never point the crossbow at anything you are not willing to destroy. It's just a good point of principle not to wave a weapon around carelessly. If you want something to remain alive, a good first step is not to aim at it with an engine of death.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target and you have made the decision to shoot. Trigger discipline is just as helpful with a crossbow as it is with a gun. We may not be talking about the exact same speed dynamics, but an arrow flying at 320 fps closes a gap very quickly. Given that the Blade's safety may not prevent the weapon from firing, it's even more important to keep a finger off the trigger until the time is right.
  4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it. An arrow has less piercing power than a bullet, but if anything important is behind the actual target and you miss it, disaster could still strike. Situational and environmental awareness are very important.

The crossbow is a serious weapon and used to great effect by capable hunters and sportsmen. When injuries run the gamut from a slashed-up thumb to accidentally pincushioning a friend on a hunting trip, it is certainly something to be concerned about.