Are Flagship Bows Really Worth the Money? We Tested Bowtech’s Revolt and the Diamond Edge 320 to Find Out
We shot a flagship and budget bow head-to-head to learn what shelling out for a top-end bow really buys you
I’ve shot piles of hunting bows, ranging from the fanciest, most expensive flagships to budget bows designed to perform without breaking the bank. I’ve tested bows for several companies and I’ve written independent bow reviews for various publications. So I can tell you, without hesitation, there are plenty of differences between flagship bows and budget bows. But here’s the real question: Are those differences dramatic enough to warrant the additional $500 to $600 you pay for flagship features? Let’s find out.
The Flagship: Bowtech Revolt
Bowtech never disappoints when it comes to fresh, purposeful technologies, and it’s new-for-2020 Revolt is a shining example. A compact 30-inch axle-to-axle killer, this rig boasts a branded IBO speed rating of 335 fps, a 7¼-inch brace height, and a bare-bow weight of 4.4 pounds.
Draw-length adjustable between 26 and 31 inches, the rig is fitted with Bowtech’s latest-and-greatest DeadLock Cams. The idea behind the cams is to make tuning quicker and easier than ever before. I was excited to test this, as I felt the manufacturer’s OverDrive Binary Cam System was already a win in the tuning arena. The DeadLock Cams actually feature Lock & Tune screws, which allow you to move the cams right or left along the axles without pressing the bow and twisting yokes. Other notable features of the rig include the DeadLock Pockets, DeadLock Cable Containment System and the Clutch Performance Grip. (More to come on these.)
When I pulled the Revolt from the box it arrived in, I immediately noticed the fit and finish were flawless. The Clutch Performance Grip felt warm and inviting from the get-go. Slim and flat-backed, the grip fits naturally into the palm-swell and isn’t overly deep in the throat.
Setup was breeze. First, I adjusted the upper and lower cam modules to 29 inches of draw length. This is easily accomplished by removing a trio of silver set screws and lining up the cam pins on the FlipDisc with your draw-length measurement on the cam. I did have to press the bow slightly to access two of the silver set screws—admittedly not ideal if you don’t have a bow press—but the process only took about four minutes. The cam is adjustable in ½-inch draw lengths, and the draw stop peg will also need adjusting if your draw length is different than the factory setting.
The bow arrived with the FlipDisc set in the Comfort setting, and for the sake of testing, I had no desire to change it to the Performance setting. The Performance setting will drop let-off to 85 percent and provide, on average, an extra 8 fps.
After measuring from the back of the Revolt’s riser to the arrow and then from the front of the riser to the arrow and making sure the distances were equal, I found center shot, and the setup process continued. I installed a D-loop, 3/16 peep, and a Quality Archery Designs MXT Rest. My sight of choice for the test was Spot-Hogg’s five-pin Hogg-It. Total package cost of this setup was $1,759.
After 100 shots to settle the strings and get arrow flight close, I fired a 28¾-inch, 408.2-grain Easton 5MM Axis arrow through paper. The shot produced a slight left tear, which was easily remedied by loosening the lock screw on the upper and lower cams and giving each a slight counter-clockwise turn, which moved the cam to the right. (This is opposite of the OverDrive system.) The next shot through paper, from a distance of six feet, was money. Bowtech bows have always been a breeze to tune, but the Revolt adds another level of ease that experienced archers will love. You don’t need a Bowtech tuning degree to accomplish this, either. All you need is to be able to read directions and know how to use a hex wrench. Any bowhunter can make these tune adjustments as there is no twisting of cables or yokes.
Tested on a digital draw scale, the Revolt’s draw weight measured 70.8 pounds when maxed out. I slightly turned the top and bottom limb screws to set the rig at exactly 70 pounds. A three-shot group through the chronograph, with the aforementioned arrow, produced an average speed of 283.6 fps. After crunching the numbers, the 70-pound Revolt promised 73.06-foot-pounds of kinetic energy with my Easton arrow.
During those initial shooting sessions, the Revolt had a silky draw. With 87 percent let-off in the Comfort setting, the top and bottom cams roll over in unison until the draw stops contact the bow’s upward-moving cable. This creates a firm backwall, but also provides a just-right valley that isn’t at all spongy. I shoot a true hinge release, so being able to pull into this cable is a must for me. Let-off arrives gently, and the bow holds and points like a dream. The wide DeadLock Pockets tie the limbs to a rigid, caged riser that ensures maximum stability. This is a bow you need to shoot to fully appreciate.
At the shot, the bow sits in the hand nicely, staying in place like a well-trained Labrador. I noticed extremely minimal hand shock and noise. I credit this to the bow’s uniform design and the dual Orbit Vibration Dampeners on the riser’s lower half.
When it comes to accuracy, the Revolt delivers it in spades. When a bow is tuned to perfection, and the archer can execute, confidence-building accuracy typically follows. This is the type of bow that fills the shooter with confidence. I tested the bow at 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 yards with fixed-blade, mechanical, and field-point heads. My three-arrow groups were phenomenal, with my best three-arrow group from the maximum-tested distance of 60 yards fitting inside a two-inch orange dot. This group included a combination of a single field point and two mechanical heads. The bow’s performance is undeniable, and the 7¼-inch brace height adds an element of forgiveness I appreciate. Even when a shot felt off, it seemed to be on. The bow held well in the wind, allowing me to focus on the spot on the target I expected my arrow to impact and let my release fire the bow. It’s also important to note that the Revolt, at a mere 30-inches between the axles, feels longer. I credit this to the riser design and the wide and stable limb pockets.
Bowhunters who are willing to drop $1,199 and outfit the bow with quality accessories won’t be disappointed. I don’t have a negative thing to say about this model. My one gripe with Bowtech over the years has been limb stability, because I’ve cracked a few of them. But the manufacturer definitely appears to have cured this problem with the Deadock Pockets and wider limbs.
The Budget Bow: Diamond Edge 320
Coming in at $449, fully dressed with a stabilizer, quiver, rest, sight, wrist sling and peep sight, the Diamond Edge 320 is a true value. (Note: Diamond Archery is owned by Bowtech.) For those hunters who are seeking maximum accuracy, the sight and rest will need to be replaced. The sight is a lesser three-pin design with limited adjustability and no third-axis setting. The Octane rest will work, but the whiskers in the rest contact the arrow. When it comes to precision accuracy, this simply won’t do.
I exchanged the three-pin for the same Spot-Hogg five-pin Hogg-It model used on the Revolt, and I added a QAD MXT rest. This eliminated any sight and rest variances. I also added the same Fuse Stabilizer that I used on the Revolt. The total package cost, with the added accessories was $560. As good as any bow is, quality accessories will make it better. A fall-away rest eliminates arrow contact, and a built-like-a-tank sight provides durability in the woods. A solid sight, like those from Spot-Hogg also promises brightness as well as second- and third-axis adjustability. The stabilizer serves multiple purposes. First, it will soak up excess noise and vibration, add bow stability and, for those who truly take the time to tinker, achieve a just-right bow weight, which boosts overall balance and stability.
The bow was clean—no nicks, dings, or chips —and all accessories attached without problem. Fit and finish looked sound. The grip on this 7¼-inch brace height, 32-inch axle-to-axle bow is solid, but nothing to rave about. It’s a thin, flat-backed grip that flares slightly on each side. The grip’s throat was a little deeper than that of the Revolt, which, for me at least, didn’t feel as comfortable.
After establishing center shot and installing a 3/16 peep and D-loop, I adjusted the draw length. This is an area where the bow really shines. The Edge 320 arrives from the factory set at a 26-inch draw. Draw length is adjustable between 15 and 31 inches via easy-to-manipulate top and bottom draw mods, so setting the Edge at 29 inches took less than three minutes—no bow press required. A 3/32 hex wrench removes three module screws from the top and bottom mods, and number indexing marks on the module and cam makes adjusting the draw length super easy. Using the bow’s EZ Adjust System, which allows draw-weight adjustment between seven and 70 pounds, was a breeze. Insert a ¼-inch hex into the top and bottom limb bolt, and turn. Just be sure to make adjustments equally to the top and bottom, and note the 10 dots on the pocket that correspond with an indicator on the riser. This system helps you track your weight increase and reduction.
The 100-arrow shoot-in process was very pleasant. Set at exactly 70-pounds, the draw cycle is generally smooth with no humps or valleys, and the transition to a let-off of 85 percent was gentle. Draw-stop arms on the upper and lower Binary Cams contact the downward cable and create a backwall that feels very similar to the Revolt. This means a not-too-spongy valley that allows me to pull through my hinge and execute clean shots. (Note: A hinge release is activated by tension that is created by pushing into the riser and pulling into the string. Limb stops create zero valley, and the hinge shooter can’t feel the push-and-pull motion nearly as well.)
The riser on the Edge 320 is solid but thin, as are the limbs and limb pockets. Though the platform is two inches longer than the Revolt, the bow didn’t feel nearly as stable at full draw. With that noted, it wasn’t tipsy or wanting to lean left or right, either. It simply didn’t provide the same rock-solid balance as the Revolt.
Tuning was pleasant. The OverDrive Binary Cams (originally a Bowtech flagship design that’s now available in its budget Diamond line) allowed a quick clean-up of a right tear. Closer examination of the paper also showed the Easton 5MM Axis was a tad nock-high, so I slightly raised the QAD rest. After four arrows through paper, the Diamond Edge 320 was shooting darts.
Average three-arrow group speed was 274.9 fps with those same 408.2-grain Eastons, which resulted in a kinetic energy rating of 68.5-foot-pounds. Where the bow faltered a bit and really screamed “budget bow” was post-shot. There was noticeable hand vibration and bow noise. Besides the spongy string stop, which does soak up some noise and vibration the Edge 320 doesn’t have any additional noise-dampening devices.
But before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, let me note I’ve shot flagships models that shook and rattled more than the Edge 320. The vibration isn’t terrible, and neither is the noise. It’s simply important to note that both exist, and you should expect them if you purchase this bow.
The Edge 320 shines when it comes to accuracy. The rig’s lower speed does create increased pin gapping, but the bow will hit its mark with proper shot execution. Like the Revolt, I tested the Edge 320 with broadheads and field points at distances of 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 yards. My best three-arrow group—from 60 yards with fixed-blade heads—cut fletchings off a pair of shafts and damaged the back of a broadhead. My best three-arrow field-point group came at 50 yards, when I stacked three shafts in a two-inch orange dot. The Edge proved every bit as accurate as the Revolt in most situations.
The main accuracy difference occurred when the bows were shot head-to-head in less-than-calm conditions. The balance and pointability of the Revolt was much better than the Edge 320. Due to its lower mass weight (3.6 pounds) and overall design, the Edge 320 felt tipsy when shooting in the wind. I didn’t feel nearly as stable, and wasn’t able to let my pin float as well while pushing and pulling.
So, Is the Flagship Worth the Cost?
You now know what the differences are, not just in price, but in performance. What you do with that knowledge is entirely up to you. Is the Revolt a better bow than the Diamond Edge? Yes. It’s fitted with better technology, and overall, it’s a quick, quiet, stable, and a very accurate shooter you can trust for years to come. You’re paying for the quietness, the simplified tuning, and handling that simply isn’t available with the Diamond Edge 320.
The Edge 320 is, however, still worth its salt. Will it kill a deer and other big game? Absolutely. Will it provide years of shooting enjoyment with limited issues other than an occasional string-and-cable change? You bet. Is going to outperform most flagships when it comes to speed, overall smoothness, and hush? No.
After shooting these bows head-to-head for over a month, I tell you with confidence I would would happily hunt with either of them. If you’re a bowhunter looking for the best bow money can buy (and you want to know your coin is actually gaining you something), the Revolt is the clear choice. If you’re a new shooter, the Edge 320 is about as good of an introductory bow as you’re going to find. It’s loaded with purposeful Bowtech technologies, and you simply can’t beat the OverDrive Binary Cam System. The bow is easily adjustable and was designed to shoot. In addition, if you’re a parent or mentor looking to get a youth or newbie into a bow, the Edge 320 is a great choice. Due to its adjustability, it very well may be the last bow a person will ever need.