After two days of walking the floor at the annual Archery Trade Association (ATA) trade show in Indianapolis, Ind., and shooting new compound bows from virtually all the major manufacturers, I can safely say that 2011 is a year in which bowhunters shopping for a new compound will have the biggest array of smooth-shooting, quiet and fast bows ever offered.
My assignment here was to choose the best bow from each manufacturer and give you a brief alphabetical overview. Here's part 1 of our exclusive 2-part series.
Alpine Archery F1 Fireball: Alpine comes right out and says-in today's and whistles. Enter the 34-inch axle-to-axle F1 Fireball. The bow is centered around Alpine's Velocitec hybrid cam with "Dynamic Load Balancing Technology" (patent pending), a unique design that moves the cable harnesses to the side during the draw stroke, which reduces cam lean and torque. The bow also has a forged riser and parallel limb construction, 6 1/8-inch brace height and an IBO speed rating of 337 fps. It draws smoothly, holds solidly and releases cleanly. The suggested retail price is just $580.
APA Innovations Viper V7: Based in Biggar, Saskatchewan, APA manufactures very interesting hunting compound bows. Example? It is the only company that builds a nock wrench, broadhead wrench and carbide sharpener right into the bow's riser, and their "Fang Riser" features a small hook on the top portion of the riser designed to allow the bow to be hung directly from a tree limb. But perhaps more interesting is the Cam Lock system that allows you to change out the bowstring and cables without the use of a bow press. The 31 ½-inch single-cam Viper V7 features 7-inch brace height, APA's new High Efficiency (HE) 3 stage limbs and an IBO speed rating of 332 fps. The suggested retail price is TBA.
Bear Carnage: One of the fastest bows available this year comes from one of the country's oldest bow makers. Bear's new 32-inch, single-cam Carnage boasts an IBO speed rating of 345 fps, and the 7 ¼-inch brace height helps make it simple enough to shoot well. Perhaps the coolest feature it has is the Skeleton Cam and Idler Wheel, both of which have been machined from 7075 aluminum and have a Tungsten Carbide perimeter weight for balance and a smooth draw cycle. It also has Max Pre-Load Quad Limbs, Bear 4x4 Roller Guard, Dual Arc Offset String Suppressors and a mass weight of 4 pounds. The suggested retail price is $849.99.
BowTech Assassin: BowTech has established a reputation as an innovative bow maker, and with the Assassin, it offers what it calls a R.A.K. (Ready, Aim, Kill) bow. It comes complete with an assortment of high-quality accessories, including 4-pin TruGlo Apex bow sight, one-piece 5-arrow bow quiver, Octane Hostage XL arrow rest, 4-inch stabilizer, Alloy Peep sight and Fura-Fix string dampening components. Also included are other BowTech innovations, including the company's signature Binary Cam System with rotating draw length modules. It has a 7-inch brace height and IBO speed rating of 333 fps. Best of all, the entire thing carries a suggested retail price of $649.
Darton Archery DS 3800: DS stands for DualSync, a unique Darton cam design that includes a second let-out groove on each cam that anchors the opposite end of each power cable instead of anchoring it to the axle. This year's model also has slightly deepened grooves on the cams as well as a fresh design on the Progressive Torque Reduction (PTR) cable guard. The PTR is a curved rod that brings the cables back to the centerline of the bow during the draw cycle, which helps greatly to reduce limb torque-making the bow more "shootable." You can adjust the draw length between 25-31 inches without a bow press. The bow is 34-inches axle-to-axle, and has a 6-inch brace height. IBO speed rating is 345 fps. The suggested retail price is $829.99.
Elite Archery Pulse: Elite Archery's 34 ½-inch axle-to-axle Pulse weighs 4.3 pounds, and it was one of the most stable bows I shot at this year's show. It is also quick, with an IBO speed rating of 340 fps. It has the very smooth EFX cam, with modules from 26-30 inches in ½-inch increments, and a very deep valley, which means the draw is super smooth. The suggested retail price is $699.
G5 Prime Series: G5 is best known for its Montec broadheads, but their bows are also quite good. The Prime attacked a problem that many in archery have been discussing for some time- cam lean, which describes cams that lean slightly one way or the other when the bow is drawn and is something that can affect both consistency and accuracy. G5's Parallel Cam Technology balances the load equally on both sides of the cam, which both eliminates this issue and reduces horizontal nock travel. Also featured are forged 7000 T6 aluminum risers, C-1 Laminated Limbs, a TI-Glide Titanium Flexing Cable Guard System and Gore Fiber String & Cables. Two models are available, the 30-inch Shift and 34-inch Centroid. I like medium-length bows, so the Centroid is the one I gravitated towards. It has a 7-inch brace height and an IBO speed rating of 332 fps. Both models carry a suggested retail price tag of approximately $1,000.