World's fastest bows hunting: ten bow makers put their speedsters on the line--here's how they rated.
That was over 10 years ago. Yes, the guy's rig was fast, but at what price? I don't remember the exact figure, but he was pulling lots of poundage. Too much, really. Every time he rolled the bow to full draw he pointed it towards the ceiling. It made me and everyone else in the room nervous. The bow had a chronic brace height and radical, backbreaking twin cams. It was also equipped with a four-inch overdraw to allow it the use of shorter, lighter aluminum shafts. His short shafts looked more like crossbow bolts than arrows. When he released, it sounded like the crack of a .22 rifle. Sure, it was fast but it was noisy, obviously painful to draw and his accuracy was only mediocre at 20 yards. I can't imagine how he hunted with it.
Today's Faster Bows
Today, bows flirt with the 300 fps benchmark so often it barely gets noticed any more. Fortunately, it does not require the same extreme measures to generate a fast arrow that it once did. With lighter carbon arrows the radical overdraws once used to help crank speed are mostly a thing of the past. Well-designed, low profile broadheads of 75- to 100-grain weights are readily available to further reduce overall finished arrow weight and produce the proper front-of-center measure on lighter shafts. Mechanical broadheads also help achieve good broadhead flight even at sonic speeds. Numerous bows designed with a short to moderate brace height and either fast dual cams or single cams work in conjunction to drive faster arrows. The good news is today's better-built bows and light carbon shafts make higher rates of speed attainable without Herculestype draw weights. A plethora of sound dampening devices from names like Sims, NAP, Vibracheck and Doinker are available to help mute the sting of a light, potentially noisy arrow.
Still, to get the absolute fastest speeds on the planet there is something to be sacrificed. When rifle hunters use a magnum cartridge, their trade-off for flatter trajectory is increased recoil. Archers have a similar consequence for sonic-speed arrows. In the same respect that magnum rifles are not the best choice for every gun hunter, the very fastest bow designs are not always the best choice for every archer. Many of today's bows will generate better-than-average speed compared to designs of yesterday and still be very comfortable to shoot. I'm referring to rigs with brace heights of seven-inches plus and mild cams. However, the ultra-hot, fastest bows on the market, those designs labeled as true "speed bows," use aggressive eccentrics that not every man's shoulders can tolerate. Brace heights are short so the arrow stays on the string longer for more speed. Typically speaking, most speed bows have brace heights under seven inches.
Shorter brace heights are less forgiving than longer ones. Less forgiveness due to a shorter brace height means unless you have very good form, your accuracy might suffer. Bows with aggressive, sharp-drawing cams coupled with a short brace height are usually tagged as speed bows. Not the best option for entry level bow shooters. However, if you are fit and strong, your back muscles can handle sharp-drawing cams, you are an above-average shooter both in terms of good form and accuracy and speed is what you crave, then bows built for extreme velocity could definitely boost your shooting.
The benefits to a very fast bow, and fast arrow, are numerous. Increased speed can increase kinetic energy. Your sight pin gap will be tighter. Your arrow's trajectory is flatter. You can slightly misjudge distances to a target and still score a vital hit. Extra speed is always appreciated on open country game where shots tend to be long. I'm thinking of critters like pronghorns, mule deer and caribou where 40 yards is an average poke. Speed is also good when a rutting whitetail stops at 35 yards instead of the 25 yards you'd predicted.
In an effort to document this year's fastest bow designs I obtained 10 different bows from 10 different participating manufacturers. To each one I simply stated "Send me your fastest model and we'll shoot it through a chronograph." Some designs are brand new for this year while others represent the fastest model for that company's catalog. Once the bows were gathered, maintaining consistency and fairness were paramount to the test. Every bow was set up the same to IBO specifications.
Each bow was set at a 30-inch draw length. The draw weight was set at 70 pounds. The only thing added to the factory bowstring was a single, brass nocking point. (Generally speaking, anything added to the bowstring like a peep sight or string silencers will slow arrow speed). A 29-inch carbon arrow weighing 350.5 grains was used for testing. This arrow was equipped with a nock, insert and screw in field point, but no fletching.
For the sake of consistency it is easier to produce arrows that weigh exactly the same amount without adding fletching. If two arrows weigh the same, one 350 grains with fletching and one 350 grains without, they will both shoot the same speed through a chronograph. However, when fletched arrows are shot through the chronograph and they cluster together on the target butt, torn and shredded fletching becomes a problem.
This 350.5-grain shaft, the exact same one, was shot out of all 10 bows three times through the chronograph and the average speed was recorded. Arrows were shot using a release. A launcher-style arrow rest was used. Speeds could vary slightly in a batch of the exact same models of one bow design from the same manufacturer due to slight variations in brace height, axle length, string material, etc. Also, chronographs and bow scales could differ slightly. But if you set up any of these bow models at IBO specs, these numbers would be representative of what you could expect. Letoff will also affect arrow speed, sometimes considerably. A lower letoff like 50-percent will be faster than the exact same bow equipped with higher letoff modules.
To help me with testing bows my friends Howard Landry, owner of a local proshop in Amarillo, Texas, and Charlie Smith, shot bows through the chronograph and gave candid opinions on each one. Both of these shooters have many years of archery experience and they typically shoot bows closer to IBO specs than I do. They participated just for the chance to test new tackle. Oh yeah, and I promised them a free lunch after we finished!
Bowtech Black Knight
Wow! What a barnburner at 336 fps. Officially one of the fastest bows on the planet if not the fastest. This rig really spits an arrow out. The long riser seems to add stability. The bow is certainly a tack-driver in the right hands. Negative aspects include a harsh draw cycle that peaks late in the draw motion and a very short valley. The Black Knight also features a low letoff.
APA Black Mamba
Number two in our test at 330 fps. A unique design with a radical, reflexed riser that shortens the brace height. A very different design at a time when so many bows look the same. Mild recoil. However, very short valley at full draw and low letoff made its' speed tough to tame.
The TurboTec ranked number three in our testing at 328 fps. The best features on this rig we all agreed was a good valley. We did not have to worry about creeping the string and having the bow take the arrow away. The TurboTec also exhibited very little vibration. Of the top three this one seemed the most shootable and forgiving. Considering the blazing speed, the draw cycle was manageable.
Mathews Black Max 2
This speedster from Mathews was very fast, number four in the test at 326 fps and equipped with the Black MaxCam, 65-percent letoff. With the 50-percent letoff Turbo MaxCam it probably would have shot a tad faster. The grip was comfortable, mass weight was very light at 3.5 pounds and we felt no hand vibration. The downside was the short brace height, 5.25 inches and the shortest of any of the bows, led to the bowstring slapping our forearms more than once.
The zippy Slayr registered a speed of 315 fps. The cushy rubber grip was nice. The Long axle-to-axle length helped the shootability of this rig. We liked the installed rubber dampers, but there was some felt recoil and vibration at the shot. The short valley made string creeping a concern.
PSE Mach 12
This rig posted a speed of 311 fps. There's a reason the Mach series of bows has lasted 20 years at PSE. We all agreed this was the smoothest drawing bow in the test and very fast considering the comfort level. The long riser and long overall axle length added both stability and forgiveness.
Darton Tempest Extreme
Hybrid cams are tearing off the shelves of proshops all across the country and as the originator of Hybrid cams, we have the minds at Darton to thank for that. However, as probably the most underrated bow on the market today, Darton still remains off the radar to many archers. The Tempest Extreme with the smooth drawing C/P/S Extreme Hybrid Cam System and short, efficient, parallel limbs shot a respectable 310 fps. This ranks the Tempest Extreme as the fastest of the bows tested with a brace of seven inches or more.
The Alpine shot 305 fps. Despite two radically shaped hatchet cams this bow was relatively smooth to draw. Split limbs keep the overall weight down and a narrow throat on the grip aided in consistent hand placement. We thought the axle length felt a little too short.
Ben Pearson Pride
The Pride came in at 304 fps. Top features on this design included a slim, angled riser with a unique BioGrip, and a Vib-X Dampening chamber of polymer gel built right into the riser at the stabilizer hole. Little to no recoil or vibration was felt at the shot. Ample brace height and high letoff helps this bow's shootability. The cam rollover was a little harsh and axle length was very short.
Speed for the Renegade was 302 fps. The best features of the Renegade included a comfortable draw cycle with a solid wall. Also, a good valley so you are not scared the string will get taken away. The wood grip is a bit bulky, but overall a solid performer especially for the price.
Even before I started putting this article together I knew it would be a hot topic both for readers and manufacturers. Would bows really shoot as fast as the bow companies claimed they would at IBO specs? For these reasons it was imperative to do the testing accurately. Of course there are many variables that could affect how fast these bows shot. Chronographs have a margin of error, bow scales could vary slightly, and even grain scales used to weigh arrows could differ from one to the next. But the point is that on this day, with every bow set up as close to the same as possible and tested with the same equipment, the factors that could be controlled were controlled and these were our results.
Contacts for Fast Bows
Ben Pearson Archery
RELATED ARTICLE: Fastest Bows for 2005
All bows* were shot at IBO specs meaning 70-pound draw weight and 30-inch draw length. Five grains per pound of arrow weight was achieved with a 29-inch PSE Carbon Force size 400 carbon arrow weighing 350.5 grains. A single brass nocking point was the only addition to each bowstring. Speeds listed are the average of three shots fired through the chronograph. Speeds are listed in feet per second (fps). Bow models are listed with the actual true brace height and axle length of the exact bow used for this test.
Bow Make and Model Arrow Speed BowTech Black Knight 336 Axle length: 36.25 inches Brace height: 5 5/8 inches APA Black Mamba 330 Axle length: 35.25 inches Brace height: 6 5/8 inches Hoyt TurboTec 328 Axle length: 35 inches Brace height: 5.75 inches Mathews Black Max 2 326 Axle length: 35 5/8 inches Brace height: 5.25 inches Martin Slayr 315 Axle length: 38 inches Brace height: 6.75 inches PSE Mach 12 311 Axle length: 38 5/8 inches Brace height: 6 5/8 inches Darton Tempest Extreme 310 Axle length: 36 inches Brace height: 7 inches Alpine RVX 305 Axle length: 35 inches Brace height: 6 5/8 inches Pearson Pride 304 Axle length: 32.25 inches Brace height: 7.75 inches Renegade TR-4 302 Axle length: 35.75 inches Brace height: 7.25 inches
* Ten bows tested from 10 different manufacturers. Rankings reflect only those bows tested. Not all bow companies participated in the test.
RELATED ARTICLE: More than Speed
Speed is certainly a nice feature of any bow, but what good is high speed if the bow is difficult to shoot? I asked my friends that helped with this test which bow of these 10 they felt had the smoothest draw cycle. Howard and Charlie both picked the PSE Mach 12 as the most comfortable to draw. The Mach 12 also had one of the highest letoffs, which made it comfortable to hold at full draw. Generally speaking, the bows with the higher letoff were easier to hold steady at full draw, aim and fire a sure shot. Other relatively mild-drawing speed rigs included the Darton Tempest Extreme, Alpine RVX, Renegade TR-4 and Hoyt TurboTec. My friends also agreed that a longer axle length, like that on the Martin Slayr (38 inches) and PSE Mach 12 (38 5/8 inches), added stability and helped control the speed compared to those shorter designs.