Bow Test 2005

Year after year,the design criteria remain the same: Bow makers want their wares to bescorching fast, pin-drop quiet, helium light and vibration free. Each seasonmanufacturers push the engineering envelope in an attempt to build the perfectbeast. They design, manufacture, test and tweak. Cam efficiencies are modeled,power strokes plotted, risers miked and cable systems synched in order to findthe ideal combination of speed, accuracy, smoothness and consumer appeal.

Well, the '05sare here and along with them some innovations and refinements sure to raiseeyebrows. More bows than ever feature parallel limbs-a trend that seemsunlikely to reverse itself soon. Modular risers, which save on material andproduction costs, have hit the scene. Advanced cam designs now fire arrows atunheard-of speeds with little appreciable hand shock.

The hyper-shortaxle-to-axle craze has faded, giving way to longer, more forgiving bow lengths.The perimeter-weighted one-cam is passe. Consumer demand has insteadrejuvenated interest in twin and hybrid cam systems. And the biggest, and mostwelcome, news is that prices are finally within reach of the average archer. Infact, several of the top-performing bows retail for less than $500.

HOW WE TESTED

To level theplaying field, all bows were configured with 30-inch draw lengths and 70-pounddraw weights. We shot 350-grain arrows, conforming to the International BowOrganization standard, when testing for speed, noise and vibration. Likewise,each bow we tested sported a Carolina Archery Products Whisker Biscuit rest. Toeliminate human error during these tests, a Spott-Hogg shooting machine andremotely tripped mechanical release were used. We also took care to usecalibrated equipment for each test, including a certified postal scale tomeasure weight.

Our panel ofjudges also graded each bow on a series of subjective criteria. We looked atthe fit and finish of each bow, graded them on balance and in-hand feel, ratedthem on their draw cycle and back wall and, last, gave them a score for overallshootability. Here's how they fared.

APA TAIPAN

The Taipan isthis year's dark-horse bow-and something of an enigma as well. That's becausethe Taipan is hard to look at but a pleasure to shoot. This bow, the firsteffort by APA, scored perfect marks for mass weight, speed, noise andvibration.

It stumbled hardon looks, scoring the lowest grades in the field for fit and finish. Riseroddities such as a built-in carry handle and broadhead sharpener elicitedraised eyebrows from several panel members, though a couple of our testersfound them novel (see sidebar, this page). ($769; 866-353-737;apaarchery.com)

BOW TECHALLEGIANCE

This bow combinesmeticulous attention to manufacturing detail with blistering chronographreadings exceeding 315 feet per second. A 7-inch brace height makes thisspeedster forgiving, while the new Equalizer Binary Cam System strikes me asthe wave of the future (see sidebar, page 74).

The Allegiancelost points for having a noisy shot (93 dBA) and hand shock that needs taming,but other than that, this is an exceptional new bow. ($749; 888-689-1289;bowtecharchery.com)

BEN PEARSONBISHOP

This entrymeasured 39 inches axle to axle, making it the longest bow in the test. With a7.5-inch brace height, this is a pure shooter, whether in competition on a 3-Dcourse or pointed at a Pope and Young whitetail. The Bishop also impressed uswith its church mouse demeanor, registering the quietest shot at a mere 86.5dBA.

At 295.5 fps,this Bishop is certainly plenty fast for any game walking in North America, yetit remains manageable.

The bow is nicelydesigned and we loved the grip, but we hated its heavy weight. ($579;251-867-8475; benpearson.com)

HOYT V-Tec Final Score: 94.0

As one of ourtest team members put it, "This one's got it all." The V-Tec received top marksfor speed, fit and finish, grip, back wall and shootability. While fast, thisbow is also quiet; it awed us with its demure hand shock. The innovative riserdesign directs vibration away from the handle.

This smoothshooter, which earned our Editor's Choice award, is a pleasure to use. The onlydrawback evaluators found was its narrow grip, but grip is a matter of personalpreference. ($679; 801-363-2990; hoytusa.com)

REFLEX Super Slam

For the secondyear running, Reflex wins the OL Best Buy award. At 312 fps, this bow is fast,and though not light, it has great feel and balance. Add the solid back walland silky draw and it's easy to understand why we enjoyed shooting it somuch.

Updating the oldcamo pattern on the anodized limb pockets and redesigning the homelydeer-tracked riser would greatly improve the bow's aesthetics.

($499;801-363-2990; reflexbow.com)

BROWNING MIRAGE1.5

This bow was thesecond lightest (4.08 pounds) and had a delightfully crisp back wall.Evaluators were split on its fit and finish, some giving it a thumbs up whileothers balked. Everyone liked the bow's agility but we were unimpressed withthe harsh draw cycle. Nevertheless, the Mirage is a good value, with fewshortcomings and a great price. ($459; 800-644-0245; browning.com)

CUSTOM SHOOTINGSYSTEMS (CSS) ENCORE

Popular in theEuropean target market, this new hunting model should get some attention in theU.S. It is light and nimble but a shade on the slow side at 290.5 fps. The bowreceived good marks for low hand shock with little shot noise. We weren't fondof its harsh draw cycle and less-than-stellar back wall, however. ($615;304-525-5436; cssarchery.com)

DIAMONDTRIUMPH

The first thingyou'll notice about the Diamond Triumph is that it's short (31.5 inches) andhas a big 7 â¿¿-inch brace height and slightly reflexed riser. At 301 fps, it'sfast and nearly free of hand shock (bested only by the Mathews Switchback). TheTriumph wasn't the lightest bow in the field (4.12 pounds), but it hasfantastic balance and feel. What really impressed us was the small price tagfor a bow with high-end features and performance; it could easily retail forseveral hundred dollars more. Our one complaint was that the black rubber gripmade it difficult to settle in for the shot. ($499; 877-269-2775;diamondarchery.com)

MATHEWSSWITCHBACK

There's a lot ofmarketing hype about "shock free" bows. Every manufacturer makes wild claimsabout its bows' ability to control vibration. In reality, however, few can backup their boasts.

The Switchback isas close to shock free as you'll find and is seriously fast, too, airmailingarrows at 314 fps. In fact, this bow has so little vibration it seems slow,because there isn't any recoil. Evaluators raved about the fit and finish,grip, back wall, draw cycle and shootability. The only drawback was the bow'sweight, but this was a minor point in an otherwise exceptional design. ($699;608-269-2728; mathewsinc.com)

McPHERSONPRIDE

Bows from thissmall company based in Brewton, Ala., have advanced light years in the pastcouple of seasons. This 32-inch axle-to-axle model will find favor withbowhunters searching for a fast shooter (305 fps) that's maneuverable in theconfines of a tree stand or ground blind.

Outstandingattention to fit and finish can be seen in the grip (burled rosewood) andfilm-dipped concealment treatment. The bow's only fault is that it could use adiet. At 5.3 pounds it's a chore to heft. ($579; 800-441-6734;mcphersonarchery.com)

PSE VENGEANCE

PSE has made somesignificant engineering inroads with this new offering. At 34.5 inches axle toaxle and with a forgiving 7 â¿¿-inch brace height, this short yet easy-to-shootbow will appeal to many bowhunters.

High marks weregranted for a smooth draw cycle that launched arrows quietly (87.6 dBA). Whileenjoyable to shoot, the Vengeance lost points for being disappointingly slow(283.5 fps). ($699; 800-477-7789; pse-archery.com)

RENEGADE TX-5

We liked theRenegade's light mass weight (3.68 pounds), relatively good speed (297.5 fps),low noise, good fit and finish, pleasing grip and excellent balance.

What we didn'tcare for was the sharp hand shock. In its defense, however, our sample bow wasthe only model we tested that didn't have vibration dampers on it from thefactory. We're confident that aftermarket dampers would tame some of the shock.And with the bow's low price, you'll easily be able to afford them. ($499;715-568-2730; renegadebows.com)

WHISPER CREEKINNOVATOR

What do you getwhen you cross a compound bow with a Klingon on steroids? The Innovator. Thisis a bow you'll either fall in love with or laugh at. Dramatic styling setsthis bow apart from every other model in the field. The Innovator also receivedhigh scores for its top-notch fit and finish. On the downside, however, the bowis both heavy and slow.

The panel wasconfident, however, that with a few refinements it should be a top performer in'06. ($589; 800-499-5529; whispercreekarchery.com)

How the Bows Rate PRICE OVERALL RATING PERFORMANCE DESIGN NOISE PRICE/VALUE SPEED(fps) WEIGHT(lb.) COMMENTS
Hoyt V-Tec 801-363-2990; hoytusa.com $679 F G VG E EXCELLENT (90-100) EXCELLENT (90-100) EXCELLENT (90-100) EXCELLENT (90-100) 306 4.99 EDITOR'S CHOICE Feels light in hand and is steady ontarget. Has one of the smoothest draw cycles. Wish it were a bit faster.
Bow Tech Allegiance 888-689-1289; bowtecharchery.com $749 F G VG E EXCELLENT (90-100) EXCELLENT (90-100) FAIR (60-69) EXCELLENT (90-100) 315.5 4.12 New cam system is very smooth. Balances nicely inhand. Has super-solid back wall. Exudes quality. Very attractive design.
Mathews Switchback 608-269-2728; mathewsinc.com $699 F G VG E EXCELLENT (90-100) EXCELLENT (90-100) EXCELLENT (90-100) VERY GOOD (80-89) 314 4.93 A great shooter. So shock free that you feel nothingwhen you trigger your release. Draw seems to stack up before it breaksover.
APA Taipan 866-353-737; apaarchery.com $769 F G VG E VERY GOOD (80-89) FAIR (60-69) EXCELLENT (90-100) VERY GOOD (80-89) 309.5 4.11 Not a bad shooter but needs to improve overall look.Camo finish is very poor. Balances quite well in hand.
Reflex Super Slam 801-363-2990; reflexbow.com $499 F G VG E EXCELLENT (90-100) EXCELLENT (90-100) FAIR (60-69) EXCELLENT (90-100) 312 4.12 GREAT BUY A hunting bow with top-notch features thatmake it an outstanding value. Lost points on noise.
Diamond Triumph 877-269-2775; diamondarchery.com $499 F G VG E VERY GOOD (80-89) VERY GOOD (80-89) EXCELLENT (90-100) EXCELLENT (90-100) 301 4.12 Great bow for the price. An all-around smooth shooterthat lost fit-and-finish points for a rubber grip that kept coming loose.
PSE Vengeance 800-477-7789; pse-archery.com $699 F G VG E VERY GOOD (80-89) VERY GOOD (80-89) VERY GOOD (80-89) VERY GOOD (80-89) 283.5 4.12 A solid performer that is graced with good-lookingcamo. Feels heavy in hand and delivers substantial hand shock.
Ben Pearson Bishop 251-867-8475; benpearson.com $579 F G VG E GOOD (70-79) EXCELLENT (90-100) VERY GOOD (80-89) VERY GOOD (80-89) 295.5 5.12 Would make a great hunting bow, especially if itweighed just a bit less. Very nice looks. Has a gorgeous grip and is wellfinished.
Renegade TX-5 715-568-2730; renegadebows.com $469 F G VG E FAIR (60-69) VERY GOOD (80-89) FAIR (60-69) VERY GOOD (80-89) 297.5 3.68 This light bow feels great in hand except for the handshock and vibration. Just needs some dampeners. A very good value.
McPherson Pride 800-441-6734; mcphersonarchery.com $579 F G VG E FAIR (60-69) EXCELLENT (90-100) EXCELLENT (90-100) VERY GOOD (80-89) 305 5.30 Sharp edges on the grip made it uncomfortable duringdraw. A good choice for tree-stand hunters. Mushy back wall. Too heavy.
Browning Mirage 1.5 800-644-0245; browning.com $459 F G VG E GOOD (70-79) GOOD (70-79) FAIR (60-69) GOOD (70-79) 293.5 4.08 A good value in a bow. Does the Browning name proud.Shoots well though it seems to stack up quickly just before breaking over.
Custom Shooting Systems Encore 304-525-5436; cssarchery.com $615 F G VG E FAIR (60-69) FAIR (60-69) VERY GOOD (80-89) GOOD (70-79) 290.5 4.10 A good shooter that balances nicely in hand. Notsmooth on the draw. Lots of hand shock. Plain looks neither excite noroffend.
Whisper Creek Innovator 800-499-5529; whispercreekarchery.com $589 F G VG E GOOD (70-79) VERY GOOD (80-89) GOOD (70-79) GOOD (70-79) 279.5 5.55 Wild design will appeal to those in search of adifferent look. Very heavy. Smooth draw cycle but has a mushy back wall.

Ratings Guide(Out of a possible 100) FAIR (60-69) GOOD (70-79) VERY GOOD (80-89) EXCELLENT(90-100)

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BEST NEW INNOVATIONS

APA's riser has a couple of features that areimmediately noticeable. The Taipan has a machined carrying handle, broadheadwrench, nock wrench and broadhead sharpener. While these may look a bit sillyto the hard-core bowhunter, some sportsmen will find them convenient.

BEST NEW INNOVATIONS

Alpine's unique modula riser reportedly saves costduring manufacture. With the trend toward parallel limb designs, risers must belonger to get adequate axle-to-axle lengths.

Long risers require a tremendous amount of rawaluminum and machining time. Both are costly. Modular construction permits thebuilding of parallel-limb bows at a considerable savings. Modular designs alsoreduce the possibility of the warping that occurs when long risers areheat-treated.

Bow Tech's Equalizer Binary Cam System anchors thecams to each other, and not to the limbs, as on traditional bows. This systemallows the cams to function in unison, reducing timing issues that are commonlyfound in traditional two-cam designs.

The Panel

From Left: Colin Moore is OL's Executive Editor andbrings considerable bowhunting experience to this year's test team. Dr. DanielWoodard works at the Kennedy Space Center as a flight surgeon and researchengineer and has six engineering degrees to his credit. He oversaw thetechnical testing aspects. Ed Schlimme is one of the nation's top archerytechnicians and works with countless professional archers. He has been involvedin the field for more than 25 years. Dr. Todd Kuhn is OL's Bowhuntingcolumnist, has a doctorate in environmental engineering and has been shooting abow for more than 35 years. Deputy Editor John Snow is an avid archer andbowhunter with many years behind a bowstring.

BEST NEW INNOVATIONS

Whisper Creek's idler wheel is rubber-coated to reducevibration transfer during the shot. The patent-pending innovation (called BowDamp) seems to help. The Innovator had the sixth lowest amount of vibration inour test. This technology may help bow components such as risers and limbs tominimize vibration and noise transmission.