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Any discussion about iconic brands in the bowhunting world has to include Mathews. What Matt McPherson built over the past 32 years is the stuff of legend.
Mathews bows have helped lead the way in the advancement of archery technology. No question. But there are several bow manufacturers who are in that same stable.
What makes Mathews different is that they’ve built a brand that’s bigger than the bows. Through a combination of building quality bows, saturating all forms of media with eye-catching marketing, and partnering with big names in the outdoors—Lee and Tiffany Lakosky, Levi Morgan, Mark and Terry Drury, to name a few—Mathews has molded its brand into a way of life. The brand has an almost cultish following, that’s always eager to see the latest and greatest offering.
And while Mathews typically doesn’t disappoint, it’s not like they never disappoint. I mean, has there ever been a Mathews grip that’s been universally loved?
Seriously. I want to know.
And if promised immunity, would anyone really admit liking the TX-5?
I’ve worked at Lancaster Archery Supply, one of the biggest archery-only retailers in the world, for the past decade. I know that every bow manufacturer has their loyal fans. But the Mathews crowd takes that loyalty to a different level.
When QAD first offered two versions of their wildly popular Ultrarest—one branded simply as QAD, and the other bearing the Mathews logo—we could hardly sell a Mathews bow without the Mathews rest, even though it was priced higher than the same rest without the Mathews logo on it. Functionally, it was the exact same. Didn’t matter.
“I want the Mathews one.”
As the Mathews-verse eagerly awaits the release of the 2024 hunting lineup, it seemed timely to take a look back at the company’s offerings from the past 15 years or so, to find the cream that rose to the top. Certainly, such a discussion will spark debate within the ravenous Mathews fan base. Everyone has reasons why the Z7 Xtreme is better than the No Cam HTX and vice versa.
Well, I’ve shot nearly every Mathews bow put out over the past 15 years. And so here are my top 5 favorite Mathews bows from that period. I didn’t rank them according to how I like them now. I ranked them based on how much I liked them when they hit the market. How much they blew me away once I started slinging arrows through them.
The Best Mathews Bows of Recent History
Beyond just taking a stroll with me down memory lane I hope you use my list if you’re searching for a bow on the used market. In good condition, any of these bows will still be plenty capable today.
Phase 4 33
The 2023 Phase 4 33 is the quietest, most stable and accurate Mathews hunting bow I’ve ever shot. The massive riser makes it hold like a dream. That’s why 3D pros including Jeff Hopkins and Levi Morgan shot it in competitions in 2023. It aims that good.
We’ve never seen anything like the rubber strips separating each of the eight limbs on the Phase 4 bows. Mathews calls it Resistance Phase Damping. I don’t care what they call it. This bow is almost silent.
I won’t take shots like this at game animals, but the Phase 4 33 is the first Mathews hunting bow I’ll shoot regularly at 100 yards on the practice range and fully expect to hit what I’m aiming at. The pin just sits there.
A whisper quiet hunting bow that shoots good enough for tournament use? Yeah. That’s why it’s my top pick. Without a doubt, it’s one of the best compound bows of 2023.
The 2010 Z7 just looked different than any other Mathews I’d ever shot. The honeycombed riser—Grid Lock, in Mathews-speak—and parallel limbs screamed “new and innovative.” Once I shot it, well, I loved it.
In the Mathews’ Solo Cam heyday, the Z7 was the apex predator. It had the smoothness of all the solo cam bows. But it also had speed and minimal hand shock. The riser was big, so it held nice, but with all those honeycombed cutouts, it was pretty light. With all that performance, the Mathews Z7 won Outdoor Life’s 2010 Bow Test.
Mathews knew they smacked a homerun with the Z7. That’s why they kept recirculating it for seven years afterward in various iterations – Z7 Xtreme, Z7 Xtreme Tactical, Z7 Magnum, eZ7, Z9, Z2, Z3.
The 2019 Traverse is the best Mathews bow you’ve never heard of (unless you’re a serious Mathews fan, then you know all about the Traverse). But when it was launched, it was the annoying little brother to the star athlete, favorite son Vertix, which got the lion’s share of the year’s marketing budget. Vertix launched the Mathews Switchweight mod system, which allows you to change the bow’s draw weight range by changing mods on the cam, as opposed to getting new limbs. The Traverse didn’t have that.
Meanwhile, bowhunters like me, who got their hands on the Traverse, were blown away by its performance. They’re still not easy to find for sale in the secondary market. Those who own them, typically don’t part with them.
The Traverse was the hunting bow Mathews built to appease those of us who loved the Halon, but thought, “Man, I wish it was just a little bit longer.” Essentially, it’s a 33-inch Halon 7.
READ NEXT: Best Compound Bows for the Money
I think I liked the 2014 Creed so much because it was like an updated Z7. It had that Grid Lock riser, single cam and parallel limbs just like the Z7. But the Creed was the first Mathews bow to feature something Mathews fans thought we’d never see in a Mathews bow—split limbs instead of solid limbs.
The efficiency gains afforded by the split limbs were apparent, and the Creed drew smoothly, held nicely at full draw, and cast virtually no hand shock or noise at the shot. It was one of the bows in the Mathews line that caused you to stop and say, “Wait a minute. This one’s different, in a good way.”
Every flagship bow Mathews has put out since the 2016 Halon 6, has the Halon DNA at its core (read next: Mathews V3X Review). The Halon introduced us to the Crosscentric cam system, to long, bridged risers and to short, wide limbs. All of these innovations generated a new level of power, comfort, and accuracy.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intimidated by the giant cams (at least they were considered giant at the time) powering the Halon when I first laid eyes on them. But once I drew the bow, and those big cams rolled over like butter, I was hooked. The Halon 6 was a quiet, screaming fast speed bow that didn’t draw or sound like the typical speed bow, which is to say that it was a pleasure to shoot.
Mathews Bows Q&A
Where are Mathews Bows made?
All Mathews bows are made in Sparta, Wisconsin.
When does Mathews release new bows?
For the past few years, Mathews has announced its lineup of new hunting bows in November.
Who owns Mathews bows?
Matt McPherson is the founder and CEO
Where Can I Buy Mathews Bows?
There are Mathews retailers located all over the world. Find the closest one to you right here.
Final Thoughts on Mathews Bows
So that’s it. That’s my list of the five best Mathews bows of the last 15 years. Some will agree. Some will disagree. The great thing about the Mathews-verse is there is no shortage of opinions on which Mathews is “the best.” I have no doubt the 2024 offering will have some new and cool and unique feature. Regardless, as long as it’s got a sticker that says “Mathews,” it’ll sell.