The annual Archery Trade Association show is the not-quite-official launch for the year’s bow models. Truth be told, there is no real standard launch cycle among bow manufacturers, and we’ve been seeing new model releases trickling out since late summer. But the ATA show is the best opportunity to see all those models under one roof and to spend a few moments shooting them. Here’s what the 2020 crop looks like.
The 2019 Vertix from Mathews was one of the most vibration-free bows we’ve ever ran through the paces of our annual Bow Test. The VXR seems poised to set a new standard for vibration-free performance at this year’s test thanks to a melding of the Vertix’s top vibration-killing features with a totally new riser design that Mathews claims increases overall bow stability while further reducing vibration. The bow is also lighter thanks to a reconfigured riser design. It’s not a huge reduction in weight (last year’s Vertix weighed in at 4.7 pounds while the VXR 28 scales 4.44 pounds) but it is noticeable. The VXR is also smartly available in two lengths – 28 and 31.5 inches. The 28-inch model will certainly be more popular but the 31.5 is a long-range shooting machine. Advertised speeds are 344 fps for the 28 and 343 for 31.5.
The VXR 28 lists for $999 while the VXR 31.5 sells for $1,099.
BEAR STATUS EKO
Bear has made a habit of releasing a plethora of models each year that run the gamut of feature sets and price-points, which is a refreshing change of pace in the world of bow-building. The Status EKO is their top dog for 2020 and it’s a looker. It measures 33” in length and has a 6-inch brace height. The EKO Cam system is quick with advertised speeds up to 344 fps. It has four let-off options…75-, 80-, 85- and 90-percent. It weighs in at 4.3 pounds.
A cool new feature is the Align Lok leveling system that aids in setting perfect second- and third-axis adjustments of a sight. It retails for $999.
HOYT ALPHA, TURBO AND ULTRA SERIES
Hoyt deviated a bit from the standard “here’s a new flagship bow” model by unveiling six bow models arranged in three categories: Alpha, Ultra, and Turbo. The Alpha line is directed at whitetail hunters and features short, nimble versions of two new models: the carbon Redwrx RX-4 Alpha and the aluminum Axius Alpha. The Ultra line was built with Western hunters in mind and features the RX-4 and Axius in Ultra configurations with longer axle-to-axle lengths and brace heights. The Turbo models, as one would expect, are speed setups. The RX-4 Turbo and the aluminum Helix Turbo (the Axius is not available in a Turbo setup) have advertised speeds of 350 fps. All the models are available in an impressive array of finishes including the uber-popular camo patterns such as Kuiu Verde 2.0, Gore Optifade Subalpine and Elevated II and Under Armour Forest.
PSE CARBON AIR, EVO LINE
PSE sets the bar in terms of total number of new models for 2020 with a whopping 10 offerings. We’ll focus on the Pro series here which includes the Carbon Stealth and EVO lines, which account for seven new-for-2020 models. Let’s start with the carbon bows. The Carbon Air Stealth line is feather-light, weighing about 3.5 pounds and is available in Mach 1 (31 1/8”, 332 fps, 3.5 pounds), EC (33”, 342 fps, 3.3 pounds) and EM (34” in length with short draw-length options) configurations. The EVO NXT line features aluminum risers and laid-back limb configurations along with a redesigned grip system and a lowered stabilizer mount improved pendulum effect after the shot. The NXT 33 is 33 inches in length with a brace height of 7 inches and speeds up to 322 fps. The NXT spans 35 inches, has a 6 7/8” brace height and speeds up to 328 fps. It’s also available in a long-draw version with draw lengths up to 32 inches. The NXT 21 is, you guessed it, 31 inches in length. It has a 6 1/2” brace height and speeds up to 329 fps.
OBSESSION EVOLUTION XS
With its flowing, highly reflexed/deflexed riser setup, an Obsession bow strikes a unique profile. It’s also a pretty solid shooting platform. The 2020 Evolution XS figures to be another in that line. And, once again, this is a bow with built-in tuning features. The XS uses Obsession’s new OB Adjustable 4-track cam system that allows for hyper-tuning of the cam system for perfect arrow flight. The bow weighs in at 4.4 pounds, measures 31.5” in length and offers 90-percent letoff. It boasts an advertised speed rating of 338 fps. You can custom color this rig to your heart’s delight with 29 riser colors, 16 limb colors, nine string colors and three cam colors.
I spent the 2019 season toting a Bowtech Realm SR6. It’s proven to be one of the most accurate bows I’ve used but…I did have to do a fair amount of tuning to get it dialed in. Not a big deal, as that’s part of the game. Well, it was part of the game before Bowtech unveiled its new-for-2020 lineup which features the Deadlock cam system that allows you to adjust the cams left and right within the axle. This means you can direct the string to align perfectly behind the arrow and this should greatly reduce time spent tuning a bow for perfect arrow flight, and because you can lock the cam into place, it should equate to repeatable, consistent performance. The Deadlock system is featured on several new Bowtech models and the Revolt including the flagship Revolt. It measures 30 inches in length, boasts IBO speeds of 335 fps and weighs 4.4 pounds. It’ll sell for about $1,200. The bow is available in 13 finishes including a sweet old-school woodland pattern.
It seems to be the year of the tune. Like Bowtech, Elite’s newest model boasts built-in tuning that’s unique from anything previously available. The KURE features Elite’s new Simplified Exact Tuning (SET) system which allows for micro-adjusting of the limb pockets to the cams for precise string alignment and arrow flight. The bow also utilizes Elite’s new ASYM Tri-Track Cams with Versa Mod System that allows the user to adjust draw length, cable stops and limb stops. The KURE weighs in at 4.6 pounds, measures 31 inches in length and sells for about $1,100.
No one can ever claim Gearhead to be a follower. The company has developed some of the most innovative bows we’ve seen and the Disrupter is another in the line. This is a customizer’s dream bow. You can choose from a plethora of grip options, adjust the brace height, draw length and handle torque. And you can select from the uber-short 20-inch model, the still-super-short 24-inch model or the more modest 30-inch model. These bows look wildly different than traditional compounds but they shoot surprisingly well and have garnered a loyal fanbase who use them for everything from reaping turkeys behind a decoy to run-and-gun whitetail hunts. They sell for about $750.
XPEDITION ARCHERY MX-15
Speed. That’s exactly what the MX-15 delivers, to the tune of 362 fps. The MX-15 features Hybrid Duel Stop cams that absolutely scream arrows down-range and the draw cycle is surprisingly smooth despite that raw power. At 4.2 pounds and 33 inches in length, the bow has excellent balance and offers five inches of draw length adjustment, in 1/2-inch increments without the use of a bow press. For smaller shooters, the bow is offered in a 40-pound model in addition to the standard, 50-, 60- and 70-pound setups. It sells for about $1,100.
PRIME BLACK SERIES
Like several others, Prime didn’t release a single flagship model for 2020, instead opting to release the Black Series which includes the Black 1, Black 3, Black 5 and Black 9 models. Each number represents the length of the bow (the Black 1 measures 31 inches; the Black 9 measures 39 inches). Each is available in peak draw weights from 40 to 80 pounds and an array of finishes including seven solid hunting colors, six camo patterns and five target color options. Each bow in the Black series features Prime’s center-grip sytem and dual-track cams. Prime bows are known for their rigidity (derived from the use of top-end aluminum and components) and repeatable accuracy. It’s not blazing fast with speeds in the mid- to upper-330s but it is a sharp-looking, tight-shooting series. It’ll sell for about $1,200.