Bow Shootout 2010

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When we look back at 2010 in the annals of archery history, the year ought to have an asterisk by it with a footnote. In my opinion, 2010 will forever be known as the year compound bow design took a quantum leap forward. It's incredible how much the category has improved in a year. The batch of newbies that we tested in February was loaded with innovation and technological advancements…a major step forward from the line-up we saw in 2009 (and those bows were pretty good). In recent years, top speeds have hit a plateau, as mechanical efficiencies have peaked. However, this year the average speed of the test bows was an astounding 324 fps, up from 318 fps last year. While speed was up, the average bow weight was down, to 4.16 pounds from 4.23 in 2009. After pounding the indoor range with hundreds of arrows, collecting literally tens of thousands of data points via state-of-the-art technology and thoroughly poking and prodding each bow, here's what we found. Photography by Outdoor Life Photo Editor Justin Appenzeller
The Test Team
Dr. Todd Kuhn: ( Left ) OL's Bowhunting Editor holds a doctorate in environmental engineering. He's been bowhunting for more than 40 years. Chad "Moose" Whitmoyer: ( Middle Top )Whitmoyer is the lead "Techxpert" at Lancaster Archery Supply, and is arguably the nation's top bow technician. Larry Kaye: ( Top Right ) An avid archer with more than 30 years of bowhunting and competitive archery to his credit. Gus Edwards: ( Middle Bottom ) Owns and operates Autumn Sky Outfitters in Street, Maryland. He is considered the top bow technician on the East Coast. Rob Kaufhold: ( Bottom Right ) The founder and president of Lancaster Archery Supply. Kaufhold has competed internationally on the U.S. and World teams and is a former All-American archer at James Madison University. Where We Tested
Lancaster Archery Supply is an industry-leading archery distributor and pro shop located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. LAS, opened in 1983, stocks literally hundreds of thousands of products. With more than 35,000 square feet, it's the world's largest archery retailer. LAS offers a technical hotline (800-829-7408) and e-mail support (, through which customers can communicate with one of LAS's "Techxperts" about any archery-equipment-related topic.
Nobody Tests Like We Do An inside look at what makes the Outdoor Life Bow Test the toughest, most scientific and most exhaustive test in the archery industry. Around the time of the annual Archery Trade Association show, when the year's new archery products are unveiled, we extend an invitation to every hunting compound bow manufacturer to submit a bow for the test that is both new and innovative. Once the bows are received, they are weighed on a certified scale and the weights are recorded. BowTech Octane Hostage Pro arrow rests are installed, as are nock loops. After the initial inspection and preparation, the bows are ready to be evaluated. Each bow is tested at 30-inch draw lengths and 70-pound draw weights, to meet International Bowhunting Organization standards. To eliminate any human interaction during our objective testing (for speed, vibration and noise), bows are shot from a Spot-Hogg Hooter Shooter mechanical shooting fixture with a Carter Insatiable release. The release is triggered using a shutter-style cable to eliminate human error. Vernier 25-g accelerometers mounted on a plate are installed via the riser sight mounting holes for bow-to-bow consistency. Once a bow is shot, the vibration data–measured along both vertical and horizontal axes–is downloaded to a vibration analysis computer program. Vibration data is then crunched and an average vibration "score" is displayed in meters per second squared (m/s2). The lower that number, the less total vibration caused by the bow. Each bow is scored from 60 to 100 in 10 categories, four based on empirical data and six based on the opinions of the expert testers. Objective criteria include: "Mass Weight," measured with a calibrated scale; "Speed," measured using a Pro Chrono chronograph and a 350-grain arrow; "Peak Noise," measured using a calibrated Vernier Sound Level Meter; and "Vibration," measured by Vernier 25-g accelerometers. Subjective criteria include: "Fit-and-Finish" (overall quality of construction); "Ergonomics" (overall balance and grip); "Solidness of Back Wall/Let-Off" (comfort at full-draw and back wall "crispness"); "Draw Cycle" (relative ease and smoothness of drawing the bow); "Overall Shootability" (perceived performance of the bow during draw and shot); and "Price/Value" (how much bang you get for your buck). In addition to the Editor's Choice and Great Buy awards, which are given to the bows with the highest Overall and Price/Value scores, respectively, we are introducing a third award with the 2010 Bow Test. The Innovator Award, bestowed upon the Hoyt Carbon Matrix in this test, will be given to products in future gear tests featuring innovations considered by test teams to be revolutionary within their category–real game-changers. You won't see an Innovator Award in every gear test going forward, but when you do, you'll know that the product that earned it has raised the bar within its industry and deserves special recognition.
Parker Inferno Overall Rating: 2.5 stars REPORT CARD Performance: B Design: B Price / Value: B Weight: 3.75 lb. Speed: 320 fps Noise: 87.7 dBA Vibration: 84.16 m/s² Hits: An all-CNC-machined riser anchors the feathery 3.75-pound design (lightest in the test). At a short 30 3⁄8 inches, and given its weight, the Parker will be ideal for bowhunters who routinely spot-and-stalk over unruly terrain. The bow balanced well and is an easy hold, thanks to its seeming weightlessness. The crispness of the back wall, smoothness of the draw cycle and overall speed are surprising for a bow at this price. A tunable string damper adds to the appeal, as does the high-end roller cable guard and premium Stone Mountain string. Misses: At 87.7 dBA, it's rather loud. Bottom Line: Worth a hard look by those shopping for a high-performance entry-level bow. Price: $499; [ ]
Mission Maniac Overall Rating: 3 stars REPORT CARD
Performance: C-
Design: B
Price / Value: B Weight: 4.15 lb.
Speed: 292 fps
Noise: 81.5 dBA
Vibration: 48.31 m/s² Hits: The Maniac is outfitted with parallel limbs, a fully machined riser, string silencers, string suppressors and a Zebra Hybrid string. It's compact at 31 inches axle-to-axle, and has a wide 7 1⁄4-inch brace height. It's a versatile bow, well suited for a range of archers, from beginner to intermediate. The draw length is adjustable from 22 to 30 inches, draw weights range from 20 to 70 pounds, and the let-off is adjustable up to 77 percent. The Maniac was the quietest bow in the field, and its draw cycle is smooth and predictable, ideal characteristics for a beginner's bow. Misses: Heavy for smaller archers. Bottom Line: A good choice for growing hunters seeking high-end features in an econo-compound. Price: $449; [ ]
McPherson Monster 7.0 Overall Rating: 3.5 stars REPORT CARD
Performance: A
Design: C+
Price / Value: B+ Weight: 4.65 lb.
Speed: 336 fps
Noise: 84.6 dBA
Vibration: 74.22 m/s² Hits: The 33 1⁄2-inch-long Monster has a liberal 7-inch brace height coupled with an 80 percent let-off. Power is applied by the Advanced Vectoring System, billed as the most efficient dual-cam system in the world. We found the Monster a pleasure to shoot, and its cavernous brace height is very forgiving of user error. The Grid Lock riser design has eye appeal while adding rigidity with its cross-bracing effect. The bow is available in 25- to 30-inch draw lengths (including half-sizes) and 40- to 80-pound draw weights. Misses: This Monster snarls a bit, with 74.22 m/s2 of vibration. Bottom Line: Combines blazing speed and precise shootability into a highly refined and finely crafted machine. Price: $899; [ ]
Hoyt Carbon Matrix Overall Rating: 3 stars REPORT CARD Performance: B+ Design: B+ Price / Value: C Weight: 3.9 lb. Speed: 318 fps Noise: 82.2 dBA Vibration: 66.9 m/s² Hits: Many attempts have been made to build a carbon riser, but all have failed on a large commercial scale. Enter the O-Tech from Hoyt. Unlike molded carbon risers of the past, the O-Tech riser comprises three hollow carbon tubes that are "interwoven" into a riser. Despite a 35-inch axle-to-axle length, the Carbon Matrix weighs a half-pound less than one 30-inch competitor. The Matrix is equipped with relatively short parallel limbs and a simplified limb pocket system, which keeps the limbs aligned and the power on tap. Misses: Aside from the price tag? The cable guard/slide somehow got forgotten in the techno-upgrade. Bottom Line: A "must have" for discerning hunters. Price: $1,599; [ ]
G5 Quest Primal Overall Rating: 3 stars REPORT CARD
Performance: B
Design: B
Price / Value: A Weight: 4.1 lb.
Speed: 322 fps
Noise: 87 dBA
Vibration: 82.38 m/s² Hits: At 32 inches axle-to-axle, this is a tightly wrapped, no-nonsense performer with a module-based twin-cam system under the hood. The stark simplicity of the I-Glide cable guard will impress. Two glazed ceramic inserts replace the well-traveled cable wheels and plastic slides, in an effort to increase arrow speed and minimize cable wear. Two blue speed studs (30 grains apiece) are installed on the string for micro-tuning the peep sight. A giant 7 1⁄8-inch brace height elevates accuracy; the bow handles like it's on rails. Misses: A short valley abruptly transfers into the back wall. Bottom Line: This bow performs like a 1960s muscle car, yet handles like a European sports car. Price: $729; [ ]
Elite Judge Overall Rating: 3 stars REPORT CARD
Performance: B+
Design: C+
Price / Value: B Weight: 4.35 lb.
Speed: 328 fps
Noise: 87.3 dBA
Vibration: 79.13 m/s² Hits: Attention to detail is exhibited in every square inch of the Judge, and components fit with exacting tolerance. The two-piece side-plate grip is great, and the bow nestles precisely in hand. The back wall was by far the crispest any of our testers have ever felt. At 34 7⁄8 inches, the Judge is a relatively long bow. An abbreviated 6 1⁄8-inch brace height is to be expected, given the Judge's speed. A modular two-track cam system is standard equipment. It's straightforward and designed to optimize arrow speeds at any draw length. Misses: The draw cycle is quite stout. Bottom Line: An exceptional bow from a small manufacturer whom we should be hearing much more from in the future. Price: $869; [ ]
Diamond IceMan FLX Overall Rating: 3.5 stars REPORT CARD
Performance: B
Design: A
Price / Value: B Weight: 4.05 lb.
Speed: 314 fps
Noise: 83.4 dBA
Vibration: 46.1 m/s² Hits: This freshly massaged version of last year's Editor's Choice features the unique FLX-Guard cable guard, which helps manage torque (see sidebar, page 54). As the bow is drawn, the composite cable guard flexes inward to minimize the amount of torque transferred to the riser and ultimately to the arrow. The draw cycle is very smooth, in part because of the solo-cam design. The 7-inch brace height delivers tack-driving accuracy, while the 31 1⁄2-inch axle-to-axle length is compact and maneuverable. Misses: At 314 fps, it's somewhat lethargic; we'd like to see another 10 fps out of a bow with this price tag. Bottom Line: The IceMan FLX was a pure shooter right out of the box. Price: $849; [ ]
BowTech Destroyer 350 Overall Rating: 3.5 stars REPORT CARD
Performance: A+
Design: A
Price / Value: B Weight: 4.2 lb.
Speed: 342 fps
Noise: 86.6 dBA
Vibration: 42.88 m/s² Hits: New limbs are at the heart of BowTech's newest flagship. The high-modulus limbs have carbon cores, advertised as lighter than traditional limbs and with unique energy-storing capabilities. Aluminum inserts are said to stiffen the limb tips, and limit cam lean. The bow tapes 32 3⁄8 inches axle-to-axle, but shoots like a much longer bow. Its balance is just right, and the 6-inch brace height is manageable. This bow is scary fast, with a draw cycle that, while stiff, should please pure speed freaks. Misses: The limbs have sharp edges, and the injection-molded handle might get slick in cold weather. Bottom Line: The Destroyer is a turbo-charged, shock-free shooter. Price: $949; [ ]
PSE X-Force Axe 6 – 2010 Outdoor Life Great Buy Overall Rating: 3.5 stars REPORT CARD
Performance: A+
Design: C+
Price / Value: A Weight: 4.05 lb.
Speed: 343 fps
Noise: 83.7 dBA
Vibration: 85.51 m/s² Hits: The Axe 6 shares DNA with its predecessors built on the X-Force chassis. The highly adjustable Axe Inner Cam offers 6 inches of draw-length adjustment without a module change. Soft, almost malleable side grip plates are an ergonomic treat. Add the best balance of the test group, and you have as fine a precision shooting instrument as you'll find. Misses: The late-1980s-era cable guard and slide are in desperate need of a makeover. Bottom Line: The Axe 6 delivers more speed, smoothness and shootability than bows that cost $200 more. Price: $749; [ ]
Mathews Z7 – 2010 Outdoor Life Editor's Choice Overall Rating: 3.5 stars REPORT CARD Performance: B+ Design: B Price / Value: A Weight: 4.4 lb. Speed: 325 fps Noise: 83 dBA Vibration: 59.04 m/s² Hits: The Reverse Assist cable guard reduces friction during the draw cycle (see sidebar, page 54), and the limb pockets are the cleanest in the industry. Now in their second year, the SE4 Composite Limbs are lightweight and proven to be very durable. A plethora of accessories includes a Dead End String Stop, Harmonic Stabilizer, Monkey Tail silencers, Slim Fit grip and string suppressors. Misses: The most common complaint about otherwise outstanding bows is the grip, and that's the case with the big and bulky "Slim Fit" grip. Bottom Line: The Z7 deftly combines top-fuel ferocity with buttery smoothness. Price: $899; [ ]
Cutting-Edge Innovations
Four advancements in compound bow construction that will change the way new bows are made Hoyt O-Tech Carbon Riser: While manufacturers have tried to construct a dependable carbon riser for years, none have succeeded–until now. Representing a significant advance in engineering, strategically fashioned hollow carbon tubes yield new standards in design. At 35 inches axle-to-axle, this riser delivers all the stability of a longer bow, but with the weight of one much shorter.
FLX-Guard: Standard equipment on both the Iceman and Destroyer, this cable containment system addresses the tuning effects of extreme cable tension and inflexible cable guards. As the bow is drawn, the FLX-Guard flexes inward, absorbing cable-guard torque that would otherwise be transferred to the riser, significantly reducing lateral nock travel during the shot.
BowTech Hard Core Limbs: Hard Core Limbs store energy not only near the limbs' surfaces, but also inside the limbs, thereby reducing stress and producing exceptional durability. The carbon core is also significantly lighter than other limb materials available today.
Mathews Reverse Assist Cable Guard: Whereas traditional roller/cable guards are threaded under the top pulley and create friction when the bow is drawn, the Reverse Assist cable guard is threaded over the pulley, reducing friction and making the bow easier to draw.
Click to Enlarge and see the over all details of this test.