Samick Sage Review: Part One (First Impressions)

Posted: December 31, 2011 in Archery, Articles, Videos

I’d been considering getting an inexpensive takedown recurve for a while, a “knockaround bow” as I was fond of saying. It is difficult to go very far in any search for a bow of this sort before one begins to hear about the Samick Sage. It is a very inexpensive bow, but one that appears to “fight above it’s weight class”, to use a boxing phrase.

More below the break!

Opening Salvo:

I had recently gotten a bow for my cousin, a Greatree Mohegan, and had been very pleased with its performance. Heartened (enabled?), I decided to go ahead and order a Sage from 3Rivers archery. I had done business with them in the past, and found them to be a good, reliable company. I elected to get the whole bow kit from them, because it seemed like a good deal, and extra accessories like shooting gloves, quivers, and the like are always handy to have around.

The quality of the bow itself, upon first examination, was clear. It is made from dense laminations of Dymondwood and hard maple, and the riser has a good, substantial feel to it. Not flimsy at all. It had all the various mounting hardware for stabilizers, bow quivers, sights, and the like. It has a Berger hole, in case you want to use a complex rest with a plunger. Is the bow a beauty queen, about to draw people away from their Bob Lees or Blacktails? No. There were a few minor dings in the bow, as delivered, and a few of the laminations were not quite as picturesque as a custom bow maker would want. That said, it looked nice, and appeared as if it would be perfectly functional. Just like a knockaround bow should.

As to the rest of the 3Rivers kit, I found that the Dura-glove and the leather arm guard were the nicest parts of that, but they were all quality pieces, and would do fine for a person starting out or wanting to have a whole new bow setup.

I found the stock string (dacron), to be a little longer than I prefer. I believe that they supply a 59″ string for a 62″ bow, which means that you have to take up a good inch or so of extra string length, right off the bat. Some twiddling, stretching, and shooting in transpired. I ended up having to put about 35 twists in the string to get it up to a brace height that seemed to work (7.25 inches). After additional shooting, the string stretched out to give me right on 7″, which continued to shoot with good manners. I left it there, as I plan, after a battery of tests, to use the stock string as a backup to a fast flight string I ordered. Thus, spending inordinate amounts of time getting it perfect doesn’t seem worthwhile.

I installed a Bear Hair rest and plate on the arrow shelf. I find these to work well, be easy, and generally do exactly what I want them to do. For the nocking point on the string, I used dental floss, which I have come to prefer for some reason over brass compression rings. I suspect that probably just stems from the fact that I do it myself, and it gives me a small sense of accomplishment. I also used nylon lineman’s twine to create string silencers. I essentially used the same methodology that I have seen used with yarn, but with the nylon, which I had on hand. It worked well, and should be impervious to the elements.

Once I had the bow within a reasonable state of tune, and the string had stretched all it would, I began to evaluate the performance of the bow.

Shooting Dynamics:

The Sage, at a rated 40#, draws very easily for me. I don’t notice any stacking, stiffness, or harshness as I draw back the bow and hold (though I tend not to be a guy who holds at anchor, I did try it for several seconds, just to see). Even undampened, there was very little vibration upon releasing the arrow. The density and heft of the riser, I think, pay dividends here. The noise, prior to putting on string silencers, was fairly typical of a recurve, with a “deernk” sound at the shot. With the sound deadening efforts mentioned above, the shot became quite quiet, especially so if I managed a smooth release.

I found that the Sage was somewhat more sensitive to the mechanics of the archer’s release than some of my other bows. If I got out of the way and let the bow do it’s thing without plucking the string or doing one of my many characteristic foibles, the arrow would fly right to target. If I didn’t I could induce a variety of interesting arrow flight anomalies, especially with the fairly light 378 grain arrows I had made up for this bow. I actually feared that I’d have to twiddle with point weight to get decent flight for a short time, but soon realized that all the gyrations were the fault of the bonehead behind the bow.

This bow is very easy and non-taxing to shoot. An all-day shooter, at least for me. I found that I could even shoot it a few dozen times without any kind of hand protection before it started to get less fun. Now, I understand that a bow that is rated at 40# is going to feel a certain way to a guy who makes a habit of ripping phone books, but seriously, this is a smooth bow. That’s exactly what I wanted, too. A smooth bow, but one with enough pop to still find it psychologically satisfying to shoot. The Sage delivers.

An element that is sometimes not talked about in the comfort quotient of a bow is the handle/riser/shelf matrix. The Sage takes the middle ground in this respect, neither going for the high wrist, deep groove handle of some recurves, nor giving you a longbow-like flat handle. No, it’s right in the middle, narrow enough for a person with small hands, but plenty big for my meathooks. I find that quite a few recurves end up putting the arrow shelf right against my thumb joint, which begins to suck on a long shoot, as your thumb sucks up all the vibes on each shot, and gets all red and unhappy. No such problems with the Sage. In fact, I really never found myself thinking about the grip, which is probably about right. If you’re thinking about it, it might be doing something wrong.

Overall, this feels like a bow that was designed by someone who knew what they were doing. It DOES fight above its weight.

Performance:

With the stock string, all duded up with my “custom” string silencers, here are the observed performance specs:

Observed Draw Weight: 44# to my Draw Length

Speed: 

378 grain arrow: 165 fps average (high 169) 8.6 grains per pound

423 grain arrow: 153 fps average 9.6 grains per pound

511 grain arrow: 145 fps average 11.6 grains per pound (edited 1/2/12)

Energy for each arrow calculated to around 23 KE, with the heaviest arrow being the most efficient, and the lightest just a tad behind. The 423 grain arrow was much too stiff, and that may have accounted for a slight loss of energy. (May have been sunspots, too.)

I believe that these are good, real world numbers. Provided that the archer has a fairly long draw, and that he elects to dampen the string with one of the many products on the market (or of his own devising), this is performance that should prove out for these bows.  Considering that this is a very inexpensive bow, and that it is using a string material known to give up something in terms of absolute performance, I’m very satisfied with these results. I will be retesting the bow in the future, using a fast flight string. I am interested to discover what sort of performance improvements I will realize with the new low-stretch materials. I will also be intrigued to find out how much it will effect the tuning and character of the bow. I will provide these results when I have them compiled. For now, however, I will assure the readers that, even with a dacron string, the Sage should provide you with decent arrow speed at 8-9 grains per pound of arrow weight.

Side Note: Easton Carbon Storm Arrows:

I ordered a few dozen arrows from a site called Hunter’s Friend as I was preparing my cousin’s bow for the Christmas hand-over. I used the necessity of getting him some arrows to, of course, get some for myself. In looking around, I found that these Eastons were about the cheapest carbon arrows that could be had. What the heck? They’t be practice arrows, and they’d be shot out of low-poundage bows for the most part. I thought that I’d go for it.

I was pleased with their simple, classy looks when they arrived. They all weighed within one grain of each other, and they appeared to have a very uniform carbon grain. I fletched them up with three 4″ parabolic right wing feathers (also from Hunter’s Friend, who has a screaming deal on Gateway feathers at the moment).

After shooting the arrows for a fairly short time, I have to say that my initial opinion of them is very positive. They’re inexpensive (for carbon fiber arrows, in any case), they seem to fly straight, and they look nice. One has been lost to a Robin Hood event (go Mike!), but the rest have been trouble free and easy to work with, just like the technology should be. Also, they’re made here in the U.S.A., which still counts for something in my book. More than a few carbon arrows have moved their production to other countries, and I would not have been surprised if these had been made in some far-off land. It’s cool that a company based in my town actually makes the arrows I shoot…somewhere nearby.

I believe that the “Carbon Storm” arrow is essentially the same arrow as the Easton “Powerflight” and the Beman “ICS Bowhunter”. It’s just a labeling game, in reality. If my surmise is correct, whichever of these brands you find, it’s a pretty darned nice arrow for a very reasonable price.

Final Thoughts:

Would I recommend the Samick Sage to my friends? Heck, yeah. It’s a nice bow, shoots very well, and is within the financial reach of anyone who’s the least bit serious about trying traditional archery. Right now, my PSE Blackhawk is on notice. The Sage is lighter by several pounds of draw weight, a takedown, and has fast flight capability, and is only a few pounds of KE behind the Blackhawk in power. That might well be erased by the addition of a fast flight string. Oh, and the Sage is more comfortable, because it doesn’t ding up my thumb joint. Not to mention, the Blackhawk has been pushed back in the rotation by my recent acquisition of the Damon Howatt Super Diablo, which is just…well, I’d better not start of on that tangent.

In any case, all my tests of the Sage to this point have indicated that it is a quality bow with more than adequate speed, good comfort and ergonomics, and would do well for a variety of people. Because it is available from some retailers in weights as low as 30# (I’ve heard mention of 25#, but have no corroboration on that), the Sage is a great one for the beginning or smaller-stature individual. At the same time, it seems to be a reasonably efficient design, and is available in weights up to 60#. This means that a stronger archer or hunter could outfit the bow with limbs suitable for taking large game, or just for making the game of hitting the target a little more macho. If all continues to go well with the bow, I may pick up a pair of 60# limbs myself in the spring.

For now, all’s been told. Hope it finds you well, and Happy New Year,

Patrick

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Comments
  1. Bob Tracy says:

    Really nice video! The shots from the target POV are super.

  2. Buck13 says:

    I got one at 25# from Twig Archery. If I ever get so good that I can hit nickles at 10 yards, I’ll get heavier limbs!

    http://www.twigarchery.com/samick-sage-t-d-recurve/

    GREAT customer service! We talked on the phone for at least 45′ about the bow and arrow specs for it and the bow my spousal critter had ordered elsewhere. I ordered at about 1 PM their time, 18 arrows built up and shipped out that day, with some sort of evening shipping action since someone crucial to the shipping was going to be gone the next day (Friday). If the owner of the local shop was 1/10th as interested in talking to newbies, maybe I wouldn’t have ordered a bow from three time zones away!

    I’m a virtual newbie (infrequent shooting throughout life, without developing any real skills) so I can’t judge it other than to say it’s pretty nice looking and is easy to set up and break down.

  3. Buck13 says:

    Oops, forgot to add: Twig package included pre-installed fuzzy velcro shelf and sideplate padding, and brass nockpoint and black rubber-strand string silencers on string. Mine was $10 off as a cosmetic blem (my choice). It has a small dent on the belly of the riser caused during shipping from the factory by the take-down knob on another riser in the box.

    A great deal and literally ready to shoot out of the box after mounting the limbs and stringing.

  4. minnie says:

    enjoyed your video, thanks. you were shooting the sage well.
    my 30# sage arrived early december.
    i bought online from samick sports in korea after trying one at the australian 3d nationals. very happy with my sage

  5. Jessica Le says:

    I’m a novice archer and unfamiliar with the vocabulary of archery, so I was wondering if anyone could explain “limbs”, “60# limb”, “fps”, KE, and anything else I, as a new archer, should know about? Thanks so much!

    • Jessica, here’s a quick rundown of the terms you asked about. I apologize if any of this is too basic, but I’m not assuming anything here. The non-bending element in the middle of the bow, where the handle is, is called a riser. The limbs are the flexible portions of the bow that allow you to draw it back and shoot an arrow. When you see a number followed by a # sign, that indicates the number of pounds of resistance the bow offers at a given length of draw (usually 28″). FPS is feet per second, a measure of the arrow’s velocity. KE is kinetic energy, which is derived by a formula that multiplies the weight of the arrow by the square of its velocity (there’s more math than that, but that’s the idea). It indicates how much force the arrow carries as it leaves the bow.

      There’s a great deal to learn about archery. My suggestion is to visit your local library and see what books they have on the subject. They will be in the 600s in the Dewey Decimal system, I believe. If you find nothing there, perhaps doing a quick Internet search may uncover some good information. There are a variety of sites around. A book that is well-lauded is “Shooting the Stickbow” by Anthony Camera. It’s available for about $20, and is a great resource.

      Hope that helps,

      Patrick

  6. CT says:

    As a beginning archer I found your review extremely informative and helpful. Thanks!

  7. Bill says:

    Patrick – Just now setting up my Samick Sage 40 lb and puzzling over arrow setup as I’m moving from my heavier compound. Your article convinced me to stick with my 500 spine PSE carbon 200, 350 gr. arrows, at least for now. Most of what I’ve read recommends a 250 spine for this weight & FPS, but I like my arrows, so hopefully they’ll work ok. Thanks for this article… it continues to inform!

  8. Bill says:

    Update: that “250” was for shaft diameter, not spine. 500 spine is right. My PSE arrows are .290, so a little fat, so we’ll see.

  9. John says:

    Is your super d new or vintage? I have sage in 60# limbs (fast flight string) and my father’s SD bought when they first came out (long time ago) in 50# (Flemish string) and I swear the SD shoots faster shooting with the same arrows.

    Maybe it’s my imagination…. I love both bows. I take the sage camping and such since it’s not fancy which I think adds to the fun of shooting it and not freaking out about dinging it up. But the super Diabolo is just a really fun bow too.

    • John, my Super D is a vintage, non fast flight model. My vague estimates are that it’s 40-some years old. It isn’t pristine – it’s a shooter that I bought cheap at a local shop. I wouldn’t say that it’s blazingly fast, but it’s respectable, especially considering it’s shooting on Dacron string. I have seen speeds in the low 160 fps range from a 412 grain carbon arrow, which is performance on par with a lot of newer bows. It’s a very smooth bow, and one that I can count on to ALWAYS enjoy, every time out. I’ve never had a bad outing with the Super D.

      I had my shed broken into, and lost my sage to some hoodlum (along with a few guitars, my beloved Peavey bass amp, etc.), but I still think about it with fondness. They are a lot of bow for the money, and would be one of my first choices if I needed a “knock around” bow again.

      Thanks for your comment, and happy shooting.

      Patrick

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