So too have rumors of Browning Archery's demise been greatly exaggerated. True, there have been some recent and significant changes at Browning, but talk throughout the past year that the company is pulling out of the archery business appears to be as accurate as a recurve with a twisted limb.
Before I tell you what I saw on a recent trip to the Browning factory in Morgan, Utah, let's take a look at how the rumors of Browning's demise got their start.
Any time a major archery manufacturer makes significant changes it sends shock waves through the industry. A year ago last August, changes started taking place within the Browning Archery staff. The most visible of the changes included the company's parting with its Archery Division manager. About the same time, word got loose on the World Wide Web that the company was closing its doors on the archery division.
The Rumor Mill
The picture that emerged then and in the ensuing months has not been easy to overcome. Browning showed up at the AMO show in Columbus, Ohio, in January 1999, held a press conference to spotlight its archery products and seemed to be saying, "Hey look, we're still here." Still, the buzz persisted. It's amazing how rumors work. Once started, they seem to develop a sort of life of their own, as this rumor certainly did.
It's hard not to agree that Browning Archery had the look of a company about to move in a new direction that didn't include bows and accessories. But a look inside the company today should quiet any skeptics. Browning has reorganized its archery staff, retooled in the bow factory and is geared up to produce one of the most competitive compound lines on the market in the year 2000. I'm tempted to say Browning is back, but the truth is, they never left.
During the years when Browning was originally building its archery line (late '60s, early '70s), and refining the design of bows that would become as competitive as any in the industry, the brain trust behind those designs was a man named Marlow Larson. Marlow retired from archery development back in 1994. I remember well my first Browning bow, a wood riser compound I acquired in 1983 called the Xcellerator. In comparison to the designs of the day, that bow was smooth, fast and light, possessing many of the same qualities we expect in today's bows, but were seldom seen 17 years ago. As a matter of fact, at the time, that was one of the shortest bows the market had ever seen.
Browning doesn't build wood riser bows anymore. Nor is it trying to compete in the latest "who can build the shortest shootable bow" market. They have developed a solid line of new bows for 2000 and Marlow Larson is back in a consulting role, leading the charge along with product manager and Browning engineer Mike Selover.
The bows Browning engineers have developed to kick off the new century include 12 completely new models featuring eight new cams. These new bows represent a full 80 percent of the Browning bow line. I doubt if any other company can say its bow line is 80 percent new this year.
Browning's new bow line should make the company highly competitive. The bows and their new cam systems offer adjustability options (without a bow press) that will help both dealers and consumers more precisely match a bow to an individual archer's specifications. Browning has succeeded in lowering the price point on many models, passing unbelievable savings on to the consumer.
I've enjoyed the benefits of Browning bows for a number of years now, include one exceptional year when I posted my all-time highest 3-D score, then went on to shoot several good animals in the fall hunting season with the same Browning bow. You don't need to be competing, or doing anything except simply hunting out the back door, to enjoy the benefits of Browning.
Because I have a great interest in genuine improvements within the industry, the first bows that caught my eye on a visit to the Browning factory were the new Micro Class models for youth and smaller-framed archers. Browning was really thinking big when it designed these mini compound bows that look, feel and shoot like its bigger brethren.
The Micro Eclipse is a perfectly scaled one-cam, machined-riser bow that features a patented cam with five inches of adjustable draw length and adjustable draw weight. This is a bow that can grow with the small archer. Browning's Micro Adrenaline is a high-speed, two-cam performance model in a mini-package that offers five inches of adjustable draw length and adjustable draw weight. Again, the young archer won't need a new bow after his or her latest growth spurt; simply adjust draw and weight and move on to the next target.
The new Lady Impulse offers patented draw length and draw weight adjustability in a bow sized to fit a woman's stature, and a weight of only 2 lbs, 8 oz. At 278 feet per second, this "For Women Only" bow is the perfect diminutive hunting companion.
Among full-sized new bows, the largest Browning category comes in the one-cam models, with four new bows scheduled for 2000. Two of these bows utilize the company's new Tri-Tech string system, a patented coupling of the highest-tech string materials to make a one-cam string in three parts, rather than one long 100-plus-inch string. The result is a system that is almost impervious to string creep or stretch, a plus for maintaining consistent nock height. Watch for these new Eclipse FPS and the new Eclipse SL bow models. Both also enjoy the benefits of Browning's adjustable draw weight and length without a bow press.
A couple of other new Browning onecams include the Tornado and the Ambush. Both benefit from new riser technology. I particularly liked the feel of the wide brace height and smooth draw of the Tornado. And from what I understand, the price point of this bow should blow the competition out of the water.
Two-Cams For 2000
In the two-cam category, Browning offers four new models for the coming year that utilize innovative new cam designs to take performance to a new level. The new Adrenaline offers the same Browning patented draw length and weight adjustability without a bow press, as does the Stamina, another two-cam, high-performer that utilizes the now famous Whisper Flyte fully adjustable cams. Finally, the Endurance is Browning's third new two-cam to be seen in the coming year and definitely will be a high-performer that takes after its name.
There's no question that Browning's new bow line, with all the innovations, new patents and tooling to produce the bows themselves, reflects the company's commitment to the year 2000 and beyond. As Browning division manager Chris Oswald told me, "It makes no sense for Browning not to be in the archery industry." Besides that, Browning has a reputation for producing good equipment. I'm glad to see they'll be around when I need my next bow.