Bow Test 2012: Best New Compound Hunting Bows

Outdoor Life is known for running one of the toughest bow tests in the industry. Find out which compounds scored … Continued

This year's crop of compound bows lacks the radical innovations that have characterized the offerings of recent years. Research and development dollars have dried up as the economy continues to squeeze consumers and manufacturers alike. Instead, most bow makers have opted to tweak existing designs, producing solid, if frills-free, shooting platforms. In this year's test, we're introducing two new performance metrics that we feel are destined to become industry standards: AD/40, which predicts arrow drop at 40 yards, and KE/20, which provides a true measurement of kinetic energy at a realistic hunting distance, in this case 20 yards. These two new measurements, combined with our existing and unrivaled evaluation process, will help you decide how to spend your money at the bow shop as you prepare for hunting season. RATINGS KEY ★ ★ ★ ★ – Excellent ★ ★ ★ – Very Good ★ ★ – Good ★ – Fair See the 2012 crossbow test here. See our test of the Best Broadheads. Editor's Note: _In the original version of the 2012 Bow Test there were some errors with the KE/20 and AD/40 numbers. The good news is that the errors don't affect the Overall Scores of the bows or the bows' rankings within the test, because we did not factor the KE/20 or AD/40 numbers into the bows' Overall Score equations. Instead we let those stats stand alone as supplemental data. The bad news is that they_ are _mistakes, and there's no excuse for having gone to print with them. Without further ado, here's where we screwed up: KE/20 (ft.-lb.) Darton DS-3900 Published: 79.8 Actual: 87.5 PSE EVO 7 Published: 72.6 Actual: 83.5 Strother Wrath Published: 88.7 Actual: 72.6 AD/40 (in.) BowTech Insanity CPX Published: 14.5 Actual: 13.5 Darton DS-3900 Published: 14 Actual: 13.7 PSE EVO 7 Published: 17.3 Actual: 14.2 Strother Wrath Published: 15.3 Actual: 16.4 The product reviews you'll see in this gallery reflect these corrections. Again, we apologize a thousand times both to our loyal readers who recognize Outdoor Life's Bow Test as the most thorough evaluation of new compounds and crossbows in the industry, and to the manufacturers whose products' performances we did not correctly portray. We still think our new AD/40 and KE/20 metrics are pretty cool, and will help you make informed decisions the next time you buy a new bow. We promise in the future to get you the correct info on the first attempt. John Taranto Gear Editor_
Hoyt Vector 32 The Vector utilizes Hoyt’s time-tested cam-and-a-half power plant, producing an arrow speed of 326.8 fps, 79.8 foot-pounds of kinetic energy at 20 yards (KE/20), and 15.6 inches of arrow drop at 40 yards (AD/40). The minimal 84.6 dBA of shot noise was the least produced by any bow. At 32 inches, the Vector is compact, while a 6 ¾-inch brace height skates the fine line separating a speed bow from a pure shooter. The grip is classic Hoyt, earning unanimous praise from the testers for its simplicity and ergonomics. Pro Arc limbs are standard and promise no-fuss performance. At 19.17 meters per second squared (m/s2), this bow is ridiculously free of unwanted hand-shock and shot vibration. While no one would suggest that the Vector is an inexpensive bow, it is a good value in that it does everything well, without any shortcomings or compromises in its overall performance and design, making it worthy of our Editor’s Choice award. Test Result Overall: ★ ★ ★ ★ (Outdoor Life Editor’s Choice) Price: $950 Performance: A Design: A- Price/Value: A- Speed (FPS): 326.8 Weight (LB.): 4.3 Vibration (M/S2): 19.17 Noise (DBA): 84.6 AD/40 (IN.): 15.6 KE/20 (FT.-LB.): 79.8 Company: Hoyt See the Hoyt Vector 32 test video here.
Mathews Heli-M As its name implies, the Heli-M is incredibly light, weighing in at a feathery 3.7 pounds. It was the lightest bow in the field, and delivered arrows at a respectable 326.4 fps and a thumping 81 ft.-lb. KE/20. The abbreviated 30-inch axle-to-axle length makes for a compact shooting machine, while the 7 inches of brace height made the Heli-M easy to manage. Our test panel appreciated the half-inch incremental draw length adjustments (from 26 ½ to 29 ½ inches), too. Given the bow’s slight weight, the Heli-M shudders at 37.48 m/s2, and at 91.6 dBA it was the loudest bow in the field. However, for those in the market for a condensed shooting platform, the Heli-M is certainly worth a test drive. Test Result Overall: ★ ★ ★ ½ Price: $959 Performance: B- Design: A- Price/Value: A- Speed (FPS): 326.4 Weight (LB.): 3.7 Vibration (M/S2): 37.48 Noise (DBA): 91.6 AD/40 (IN.): 15.6 KE/20 (FT.-LB.): 81 Company: Mathews See the Mathews Heli-M test video here.
Strother Wrath The Wrath has a very smooth draw cycle that drew accolades from all testers. At 31.74 m/s2 and 86.8 dBA, the bow shoots almost shock-free and with little noise. The 8-inch brace height, the tallest of all the bows in the test, was pleasant to shoot and should make the Wrath a very accurate bow. The pre-loaded split limbs are clean; however, they sent arrows downrange at a tepid 311.4 fps and produced a KE/20 reading of 72.6. The machined riser has smooth, clean lines and the grip nestles nicely in hand. We liked the innovative dual cable slide, which mounts rigidly to the cable rod, allowing the cables to slide within the stationary unit, thereby reducing slide friction. All in all, the Wrath was a pleasant surprise. Test Result Overall: ★ ★ ★ ½ Price: $839 Performance: B Design: B Price/Value: B+ Speed (FPS): 311.4 Weight (LB.): 4.3 Vibration (M/S2): 31.74 Noise (DBA): 86.8 AD/40 (IN.): 16.4 KE/20 (FT.-LB.): 72.6 Company: Strother See the Strother Wrath test video here.
PSE EVO 7 The EVO 7, with its dramatically reflexed riser, is an attention-grabbing compound, and its dramatic styling is matched with outstanding performance. The 331.9 fps arrow speed reading is sufficiently fast, and given its 7-inch brace height, this EVO is a pure shooter. The limb pockets are works of engineering art: Minimal material is used, yet the limbs nestle snugly inside. The split pre-loaded limbs are thin and contoured along sexy lines, and the bow’s red-and-black motif is pure eye candy. At 33.8 m/s2 and 88.7 dBA, the EVO 7 produces little hand shock or noise, and the draw length easily adjusts from 26 to 31 inches to accommodate multiple archers or one who’s still growing. Test Result Overall: ★ ★ ★ ½ Price: $849 Performance: B+ Design: C+ Price/Value: A Speed (FPS): 331.9 Weight (LB.): 4.8 Vibration (M/S2): 33.8 Noise (DBA): 88.7 AD/40 (IN.): 14.2 KE/20 (FT.-LB.): 83.5 Company: PSE See the PSE EVO 7 test video here.
Bowtech Insanity CPX The Insanity CPX–with its pre-loaded limbs–is a fast bow, firing arrows at 341.6 fps, and producing impressive KE/20 and AD/40 readings of 88 ft.-lb. and 13 ½ in., respectively. At 32 inches cam-to-cam, it’s a short bow and has an abbreviated brace height of 6 inches. While the latter should make the Insanity somewhat difficult to manage, we found the opposite to be true. The arrow gets off the string quickly, minimizing shooter error. An 80-pound-draw model is available for knuckle draggers who relish bows with ridiculous draw weights. The Insanity’s 80 percent let-off is great and the 4.5-pound overall weight is quite manageable. At 43.15 m/s2 of vibration, the CPX trembles some, but that’s expected given its sizzling speed. Test Result Overall: ★ ★ ★ ½ Price: $999 Performance: B+ Design: C+ Price/Value: A- Speed (FPS): 341.6 Weight (LB.): 4.5 Vibration (M/S2): 43.15 Noise (DBA): 89.8 AD/40 (IN.): 13.5 KE/20 (FT.-LB.): 88 Company: Bowtech See the Bowtech Insanity CPX test video here.
G5 Prime Centroid LR At 34¼ inches axle-to-axle, the Centroid was one of the longest bows in the test. That, combined with the 7-inch brace height and 80 percent let-off, helps make it a forgiving and comfortable bow to shoot. A vibration reading of 41.6 m/s2 shows the Centroid has some bump during the shot, and its audible report was loud at 91.4 dBA. At 314.9 fps, we expected more speed from a premium-priced offering. That said, the Centroid’s drop-forged aluminum riser is the strongest in the industry. The parallel cams are trick and feature a dual string wrap to mitigate cam lean. The flexible titanium cable guard with ceramic insert is great, as are the GORE fiber string and cables. Test Result Overall: ★ ★ ★ Price: $999 Performance: C+ Design: C+ Price/Value: B+ Speed (FPS): 314.9 Weight (LB.): 4.6 Vibration (M/S2): 41.6 Noise (DBA): 91.4 AD/40 (IN.): 17.4 KE/20 (FT.-LB.): 73.8 Company: G5 Prime See the G5 Prime Centroid LR test video here.****
Darton DS-3900 The DS-3900 has a distinctive look that sets it apart from most modern bows. While other companies continue to see how low they can go with “parallel limbs,” this bow takes a step back with its pronounced vertically oriented limbs. With a minimal brace height of 5 inches, the compact DS-3900’s long power stroke generates an impressive top speed of 342.7 fps. It also had the least amount of arrow drop at 40 yards, registering a 13.7-inch reading. At 37.12 m/s2, the bow generates minimal vibration, no small feat considering its relatively light 4.2-pound weight. The contoured cable guard rod reduces bow torque by moving the cables toward the bow’s midline as it’s drawn. Test Result Overall: ★ ★ ★ Price: $949 Performance: B Design: B- Price/Value: C- Speed (FPS): 342.7 Weight (LB.): 4.2 Vibration (M/S2): 37.12 Noise (DBA): 88.2 AD/40 (IN.): 13.7 KE/20 (FT.-LB.): 87.5 Company: Darton See the Darton DS-3900 test video here.
Ross Crave DRT Taping 33 ½ inches axle-to-axle, the DRT was one of the longer bows we tested. The 6 ½-inch brace height is manageable, as the bow drew nicely and shot with little punch (35.44 m/s2 of vibration). Our 4.4-pound DRT had a flat-black finish with faux-carbon-dipped limbs. It propelled arrows at a somewhat meager 319.9 fps (with a disappointing 17.3 inches of arrow drop at 40 yards). As far as amenities, we appreciated the top-of-the-line Winner’s Choice string and cables, and the 80 percent let-off made holding at full draw comfortable. The adaptable Crave is available in 27- to 31-inch draw lengths and 50-, 60-, and 70-pound draw weights. A lifetime warranty rounds out this new offering. Test Result Overall: ★ ★ ★ Price: $749 Performance: C+ Design: C+ Price/Value: B Speed (FPS): 319.9 Weight (LB.):4.4 Vibration (M/S2): 35.44 Noise (DBA): 91.4 AD/40 (IN.): 17.3 KE/20 (FT.-LB.): 75.6 Company: Ross See the Ross Crave DRT test video here.
Mission Riot The Riot blends high-end features with recession-proof pricing. Its adjustability is admirable: The draw weight can be set from 15 to 70 pounds, while the draw length stretches from 19 to 30 inches. This bow’s adjustability is perfect for families of growing bowhunters who can hand down the bow from one young archer to the next. The 7-inch brace height is ideal for those whose form might not yet be perfected. The Riot, clad in an attractive Lost camouflage wrap, shoots 301.3 fps–not fast, but not unexpected for a bow in this price range. With 47.31 m/s2 of vibration, the Riot does shake; however, it’s quiet at 87.6 dBA. At 4.5 pounds and 32 inches axle-to-axle, the bow handles surprisingly well. Test Result Overall: ★ ★ ½ (Outdoor Life Great Buy) Price: $399 Performance: C+ Design: C- Price/Value: A Speed (FPS): 301.3 Weight (LB.): 4.5 Vibration (M/S2): 47.31 Noise (DBA): 87.6 AD/40 (IN.): 19.1 KE/20 (FT.-LB.): 67.7 Company: Mission See the Mission Riot test video here.
Parker Velocity This 30 ¼-inch bow has a comfortable grip and surprising balance, though it produced an arrow speed of just 305.4 fps and the worst KE/20 and AD/40 numbers of any bow (64.8 ft.-lb. and 20.4 in.). The single-cam eccentric system draws smoothly, with an 80 percent let-off to help settle shooters into the back wall. At 3.9 pounds, the Velocity is a great carry, and it offers a wide brace height of 7 ¼ inches. The split limbs are top shelf, as is the roller cable guard. A premium Stone Mountain string and cables promise long life. The Velocity’s draw length adjusts from 26 to 31 inches, and the draw weight can be changed from 50 to 70 pounds without the need of a bow press. Test Result Overall: ★ ★ ½ Price: $399 Performance: C Design: C+ Price/Value: A- Speed (FPS): 305.4 Weight (LB.): 3.9 Vibration (M/S2): 48.03 Noise (DBA): 90.2 AD/40 (IN.): 20.4 KE/20 (FT.-LB.): 64.8 Company: Parker See the Parker Velocity test video here.
Bear Anarchy Long known for producing good-quality bows at entry- to mid-level prices, Bear’s new Anarchy is the bowmaker’s first venture into the premium compound market. A lengthy single-cam chassis (35 ¼ inches axle-to-axle) and long brace height (7 ¼ inches) make this bow tolerant of shooter-induced errors, and the widely adjustable draw length (from 25 to 31 ½ inches) is excellent. Our Anarchy mustered a 315.4 fps speed reading on the 20-yard range. At 46.41 m/s2 of vibration, this Bear has some bite, but its 
87.5 dBA of noise is rather tame. The Realtree APG HD finish is tight, and the 80 percent let-off makes holding the Anarchy at full-draw a cinch. Test Result Overall: ★ ★ ½ Price: $899 Performance: B- Design: C Price/Value: C Speed (FPS): 315.4 Weight (LB.): 4.5 Vibration (M/S2): 46.41 Noise (DBA): 87.5 AD/40 (IN.): 17.4 KE/20 (FT.-LB.): 73.9 Company: Bear See the Bear Anarchy test video here.
OL's Protocol Explained The bows are weighed on a certified scale, and draw lengths and draw weights are checked and adjusted as needed. Each bow is tested at a 30-inch draw length and a 70-pound draw weight to meet IBO standards. Octane Hostage arrow rests are installed, as are knock loops. To eliminate human interaction during the tests for speed, vibration, and noise, bows are shot from a Spot-Hogg Hooter Shooter with a Carter Insatiable release, which is triggered using a shutter-style cable. Vernier 25-g accelerometers are installed on the riser. Once a bow is shot, vibration data is downloaded to vibration analysis software. An average vibration "score" is displayed in meters per second squared 
(m/s2). The lower the number, the less vibration. Peak noise in dBA is measured by a calibrated Vernier Sound Level Meter. Again, the lower the number, the better. Each bow receives a score from 60 to 100 in 10 categories. Objective categories include weight, speed (shooting a 350-grain arrow), peak noise, and vibration. Subjective categories include fit and finish, ergonomics, solidness of the back wall, smoothness of the draw cycle, overall shootability, and Price/Value. Scores in these subcategories are combined to determine Performance and Design scores (with the exception of Price/Value, which stands alone). The bow with the best Price/Value score is given our Great Buy award, and the bow with the highest Overall score receives our Editor's Choice award.

Outdoor Life is known for running one of the toughest bow tests in the industry. Find out which compounds scored the highest in our annual bow test.