Lucky Caveman Gets To Shoot

Posted: June 13, 2011 in Archery

Up until last summer, I had never really shot a bow, and though it interested me, I don’t know if I would have readily picked one up. I already had a variety of implements that made a loud banging noise and created holes in paper, cans, and the like. My cousin saw fit to change that.

He had been shooting for many years, and had a bow that was a little too hairy-chested for him to draw anymore. After some consideration, he came to the conclusion that I had just about the right amount of chest hair, and that I’d probably quite like this shooting arrows business, if I were introduced to it under controlled conditions.

Thus, he brought me a princely gift, a Bowtech Black Knight 2. The BK2 is not a toy. It is not kind or easy. It is a fire breathing, uncompromising animal of a bow which, for several years, was the absolute fastest and most powerful bow in the universe. Now, I had understood bows to be bent sticks with a string, archaic items from a simpler era.

The modern compound bow is nothing like that. It is made from aluminum, carbon fiber, titanium, and possibly vapor-deposited turbonium. It has cams and pulleys. It has fiber optical sights. It has harmonic dampeners and fluid-filled stabilizers. It’s a laser gun, except for the laser. You don’t even hold the string, but rather clip a “release aid” onto said string and use a triggering mechanism to send the arrow downrange. And, yeah, there are those arrows, which are made from aircraft-grade aluminum or carbon fiber, or sometimes both! They exceed 200 miles per hour. Zoinks.

Anyhow, I started shooting the Black Knight 2, and found that it was a bad mamma-jamma. I didn’t usually care to shoot more than a dozen or two arrows at a time, because drawing it back was a feat of strength every time, but it was really accurate and, in the end, pretty easy to shoot well.

…But…I wanted something a little different. Harder. More art than science. I got into “traditional” archery. Recurves and longbows. No sights, no pulleys or cams or release aids. Just a bent stick and a string. Loved ’em. Right from the first, they were in my blood. Yeah, you have bad days sometimes, and can’t seem to get a string of good shots in a row, but every bull’s eye is YOU, not the machine. I’ve ended up with two recurves and a longbow, and love each one dearly.

My first recurve was a little plastic bow called the PSE Snake. It was 40 bucks. I spent more than that on the arrows. I shot that little bow every day. For hours. I would come home after 9 PM and would light the back yard with lanterns to shoot it some more. Thousands and thousands of shots. I read books about archery. I figured out what I was doing. I stayed away from things like chairs most of the summer. You can see the Snake in action on “Gone Shootin’ II”, as it’s still in perfect condition and none the worse for all the usage. I can’t say the same for some of my arrows, as they eventually degrade. Some of those original 6 arrows are still alive and kicking, though.

There came a time when I wanted more. More power, a prettier bow, something serious. I ended up buying another PSE product, the Blackhawk recurve. It was all wood. It was very, very beautiful. It was set up all wrong when I first started shooting it. A new string (shorter) ended up fixing any problems I was having. The little Blackhawk is a very efficient bow, with a smooth draw that belies its impressive speed and power. It can throw a 510 grain arrow at about 165 feet per second. This is from a light 45 pound draw. Admittedly, I have a long, long draw, which probably means I’m holding around 52 or 55 pounds at full draw, and that extra weight is also applied for a longer power stroke, but that’s still pretty impressive performance from an all wood bow of very modest price. Anyone who has seen it shoot will attest to the fact that the arrows arrive on target with some oomph and in good time.

After fully coming to grips with the Blackhawk, I began to hunger yet again. It was a longbow I wanted this time. It called to me. That simple, elongated “D” shape…I ended up going with PSE once more (yes, groan if you will, but they’re good bows), and bought a Sequoia.

Longbows are a little different, and they require a slightly different approach. Mine, at least, tends to react to things I don’t know I’m doing. On some days, and perhaps just some rounds of shooting, I will be Robin Hood, and can do no wrong. Other times, I’m spraying arrows all over the place like a blind person with a neurological ailment. It can be frustrating. It can result in a broken arrow or two. It’s generally my fault. All that said, there are many times when, if given the choice, I will pick the longbow. Why? It’s dead silent. Why? It has that special “something” that is communicated between the bow and my hand as the arrow is loosed. Why? Because it’s so darned pretty. Why? Because even more than the recurves, I know that I have to hold up my end to make good things happen.

In the past few weeks, I’ve had a chance to shoot every one of my bows, as well as four that my cousin Bobby brought down from Washington. He’s a compound bow guy, through and through. He’s an interested observer when I’m shooting my trad-bows, but he likes the wheels and sights and so on. Hey, under some conditions, I do, too. I’m all for technology, and am amazed at the “magic” that allows the modern compound bows to actually develop more kinetic energy than their draw weight. Think about that. A bow that delivers more foot-pounds of energy unto the arrow than the peak draw weight. I’m sure there’s a perfectly understandable mechanism for explaining that to me, but I’ll stick with magic, I think. It’s just cooler that way.

Bobby hurt his hand recently, and has been unable to shoot. Thus, he has tasked me with the truly awful duty of shooting his expensive, top-of-the-line, deluxe bows. I have, through much personal tribulation, seen to it that this task has been done. I mean, jeez, having to shoot bows, each of which equals my whole outlay on all my archery equipment combined. That’s tough stuff.

Here are the bows I’ve test-shot and my thoughts about them. All bows are 2010 models, so far as I am aware. All the bows were set to around 65 pounds of draw, and were either 29 or 30 inches in draw length. The 29s were a little cramped for me, while the 30s fit me much better. If a bow were set up just for me, I believe that I’d probably like a 30 or a 30.5 draw length, depending on the release aid I was using.

The PSE Omen: I may have goated Bobby into buying this one. I kept talking about it last summer. It’s the fastest bow in the universe (that we know of) at a maximum of 366 feet per second arrow speed. That would lead one to believe that it would be really tough to shoot. The only way to get that last little scintilla of speed is to make some design choices that make the bow a little more difficult to shoot. Looking at the Omen, one would have to imagine that this had been the case, as it has cams the size of softballs, and a really low brace height (the string sits very near the bow at rest). That said, at least with this fairly low draw weight, it was a pussycat. At 80 lbs…whoo, it would be just like the BK2, a really challenging SOB that you’d only want to shoot a few arrows at a time with.

The cool thing about a bow so efficient is that, even at a modest draw weight, the Omen still produces tons of power and speed. It’s also very easy to be consistent with. Even with Bobby’s tune on the bow, which would have to be tinkered with more than a little to get the bow fit for me, I was able to put arrows right next to each other on my first outing. That’s with having to essentially use guesswork and offset the sights to where I think will correct for their error. The Omen is also dead quiet and has no hand shock. A loud car was going by while I shot it, and it was enough to totally drown out the sound of the bow.

I love the Omen. I’d have two if money grew on trees, one with a nice practice weight and one for shooting enemy spacecraft down. Alas…

The G5 Quest Primal: This is a sweet little bow, the prettiest and most petite bow Bobby brought down. It has the G-Fade camo paint job, that fades to black in the middle. I’m not a big camo fan, but that’s a sweet looking bow. It has a very smooth draw and is very easy to use. It’s a bit too cramped for me at the 29″ draw setting, so it is difficult to make a direct comparison to a bow that fits me better, but it is a neat little machine.

The Primal is a little louder upon release, and has a slight vibration through the handle, but that’s really being picky. Especially since it’s a good bit cheaper than the other bows. Light, pretty, and friendly, I think that the Primal would be a great choice for a lot of people. I suspect it would fit a person of more modest proportions better than it fits me, however.

The Limbsaver Speedzone: I have this to say first, and that is that all of these bows were set up for another person, and were not tuned to me in any way. Also, the Speedzone was a 29″ draw, and was thus not ideal for my size, being a little cramped.

Now, I just did not take a liking to the Speedzone. I felt that it was a harsh draw cycle that felt heavier than all the other bows and more laborious to shoot, given that they were all tuned to about the same weight. I didn’t click with the bow at any time, and I was just as happy to stop shooting it.

As to looks, I had neither good nor bad feelings in that regard. It looked like a parallel-limb compound bow. At 65 pounds of draw, I expect any bow to be quite friendly. I’m very strong, and no bow of that weight should feel harsh or difficult. The Speedzone did. Your results may vary, but it was not the bow for me.

The Prime Centroid: Prime is made by the same people that make the Quest bows, G5. It’s their top bow in their “Pro” line. It’s the most expensive bow Bobby brought down (just a bit more pricey than the Omen). At first, it struck me as rather big and rather heavy. This is a long riser bow, with a lot of space between the axles. That makes it a little smoother, and a little easier to shoot. This is what they say.

Comparatively, the Centroid is maybe the slowest bow Bobby has with him. Not that it’s slow, by any means. It’s still capable of 330 feet per second and more. It’s just dialed a little bit away from the far edge of tuning, so that it’s easier to shoot and friendlier.

And it is. Oh, ever so friendly. And accurate like it has a damn sattelite tracking system installed. I loved this bow. LOVED it. I stood there all afternoon shooting it, much to Bob’s delight. The Prime has some really neat features, the most dramatic of those being a cam system where the cams have two outer grooves for the string side of the movement, and the cable side moves in the middle of the works (it’s all very complicated, and the rationales are esoteric, but it’s supposed to keep the bow from trying to twist the cams to the side when the string is drawn back).

All I know is that the Centriod is a pleasure to shoot, and deserves pride of place in G5s stable. Too rich for my blood, but it is clearly worth it, if you don’t mind paying something like a thousand dollars for a bow, then decking it out with a few hundred more dollars in goodies. The targets and animals you might shoot at won’t change with the model year, but I can’t imagine that they’ll soon come up with a bow that’ll make the Centroid obsolete.

If I had to rank the bows, I would probably have to say that the Centroid was my favorite, with the Omen being a close second. It isn’t entirely fair, as the other two bows would need to be set to my draw length to have a fair shake. The Quest Primal is a fine little bow, and it shouldn’t be taken as a slam that it follows two of the hottest, most awesome machines in the world in the rankings. Only the Speedzone left me unmoved, but again, a professional tuning job could make all the difference in the world for that one.

All that said, I’m still the most accurate with the BK2, and even after many years and many innovations have been made, it still holds its own very well with the best bows of today. Is it as friendly? How can it be, with 15 pounds more draw weight? Still, for a bow designed for hunting, you really just need that one shot. For that one shot, the BK2 will put an arrow where I want it, and it’ll put it there with the power of a locomotive.

All right, that’s my rumination on bows and arrows for today. Hope you enjoyed it.

Happy Shooting!

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