SA Sports Empire Recon Review – Compound Crossbow

ModelDraw WeightStrokeVelocitySuggested Arrow LengthCrossbow ATA / Weight
SA Sports Empire Recon

SA Sports Empire Recon

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175 lbs.11.5"260 FPS

How to sight a crossbow?
16 - 20"26.5" / 4 lbs. 8 ozs.
- Light weight
- Accurate
- Adjustable stock
- Very inexpensive
- Full-barrel Picatinny rail

- No let off when cocking
- No safety wings on front grip
Small Game Hunting?yes2
Deer, Elk Hunting?No
Moose, Bear Hunting?No
Target Shooting?yes2
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Also Recommended:Best SA Sports Crossbows

SA Sports Empire Recon Package Contents

SA Sports has brought a simple yet effective offering with the Empire Recon. The package arrives with marginally just about everything you will need to get started for a day at the range. Ours arrived with:

  • The Empire Recon crossbow
  • A 4×32 multi-reticle scope
  • An instant release quiver
  • Two 16” aluminum crossbow arrows
  • A rope-cocking device
  • A vertical fore grip

We would have liked to have received more than just two arrows, but given the entry level price point, it would be difficult to complain about that as these arrows are not very expensive to purchase more.

First Impressions: Design, Safety, Comfort and Accuracy

SA Sports Empire ReconThe Empire Recon is a very straight forward recurve crossbow. It has solid limbs and is equipped with brass string roller seats. It was very light compared to most crossbows and had a solid feel to it.

The adjustable stock is fairly narrow but does make it nice to be able to customize the LOP to your individual needs. The Recon also enjoys a full length Picatinny rail under the barrel where you can attach the vertical fore grip. It is important to note that you will want to use the vertical foregrip only as there are no safety wings or features to keep your thumbs or fingers out of the string path.
The inclusion of an auto-engaging safety was a smart move by SA Sports as the Recon is likely to be purchased for many shooters as a starter crossbow.

Kinetic Energy of the Empire Recon

The Empire Recon is certainly not a super-fast crossbow, but it will still have enough power to take down an average white tail. Shooting a 360 grain arrow at 260 fps means the Recon will have around 54 FPKE at the muzzle. This will drop to around 50 FPKE at 30 yards, so you will want to make sure you practice to ensure a good shot.

Use our arrow ballistics calculator for more valuable information.

Ballistic Data For The SA Sports Empire Recon

Your actual results will vary slightly depending on weather, and significantly with arrow weight change. See our Crossbow Ballistics Guides section for a complete understanding of how we conducted our tests and why this data matters.

Hunting with the Empire Recon

The SA Sports Empire Recon is light and easy to carry into the field. The detachable quiver mounts across the underside of the barrel, so you might consider a different quiver configuration for hunting purposes. While the Recon does have enough power to take down a white tailed deer, this is not a crossbow you are going to want to be shooting farther then 40 yards as the kinetic energy will just fall off too much.
Another feature we really like was the vertical fore grip, but for different reasons than what you might be thinking. While it is easier to fire off hand with the vertical grip, we liked the fact that when you go to rest the crossbow on a support to make the shot, the vertical fore grip actually raises the crossbow a bit higher than a traditional grip, making the shot much more comfortable. Using the vertical foregrip will also help ensure your fingers and thumbs stay clear of the string path.

How Quiet is the Empire Recon

The Empire Recon is not the loudest, nor certainly not the quietest crossbow out of the box. There are no integrated silencing components, so you will want to budget for a good dampening kit for the string and for the foot stirrup. This isn’t a very fast crossbow, so getting it as quiet as you can will make for a more successful hunt.

Cocking the Empire Recon

Given that the Empire Recon is a recurve crossbow, which automatically means there is no let off when cocking, it was surprisingly easy to cock. Given the draw weight of 175 lbs., you are certainly going to need to use the rope cocking device. What makes things much easier is the short 11.5” power stroke meaning you will not have to lift as high to fully engage the string.

Quality of the Optics

The included 4×32 scope will do the job, but don’t expect it to be the last scope you plan to mount. It is a multi-reticle scope that has a good feel, but if you plan to hunt with the Recon in any type of low light situation, you are going to want to look at upgrading to an illuminated scope. As with many multi-reticle scopes, we recommend you spend enough time in the field with your specific arrow configuration to know what distance each reticle is going to be for your individual setup.

See our detailed guide on how to sight-in your crossbow

What Arrows to use with the SA Sports Empire Recon

The Empire Recon comes standard with two 16” aluminum arrows. In field trials we actually found that 18” or even 20” arrows actually worked better. However, that longer length also means increased weight which is going to slow your shot down. We would recommend that you look into a lighter weight carbon arrow to give you a bit more length while helping to keep your weight down.

You can also learn more about crossbow arrows and take a look at our broadhead recommendations

Overall Thoughts

The SA Sports Empire Recon is overall a very nice crossbow, especially when you consider its entry-level price point. For the money, it has a host of features normally found on a much more expensive crossbow. The adjustable rear stock is going to help a new shooter be more accurate and the auto safety is going to help ensure they learn proper weapon safety.

Given this is likely to be a starter crossbow, we would have really liked to have seen some type of safety wings to keep young fingers and thumbs out of the string path. We would also have liked to see a bit more power, but given this is a simple recurve with a realistic draw weight, we really can’t complain. Overall, we would recommend this to someone just starting out or for someone on a very tight budget. Make sure to check today's price on this crossbow on the SA Sports Empire Recon if you’re interested.


Add a Comment
  1. Please excuse the spelling. My bow is a SA Empire Recon crossbow. I just can’t get it to cock. Could the auto safety feature be affecting it’s ability to retain the string?

  2. Steveo answer to your is question, Yes.
    I would recommend that you set your selector to fire before you try cocking your bow. I had the same issue and it handled by this step. BE SURE TO PLACE THE SELECTOR ON SAFE AFTER YOU COCK.
    I hope you have good luck and happy shooting

  3. Try not cocking it but insert a bolt and take the safety off then remove the bolt and cock the crossbow.

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