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Great budget bows: quiet, fast And less expensive, what's not to like?

With today's economy the way it is and the fact that there doesn't seem to be an end to rising fuel prices, the editors at BOWHUNTING decided to take a look into some of the quality bows on the market that may be flying under the radar. When discussing this article we decided not to put a price cap on the bows, instead opting to give every company an opportunity to feature a bow in their lineup that they thought was a great value.

When looking for a bow in the "budget" category, potential buyers should look for a few things like how well the cams line up, how well the bow feels in the hand, how well the bow tunes and most importantly, how it shoots. Rest assured, if you can't afford some of the high dollar bows on the market, don't worry about it. You'll tag just as many big whitetails and elk with a carefully chosen value-priced model.

Like I stated before, a bow has to do a few things well. First, the cams must line up with the string when you look at the bow before drawing it. This is something that you can check right in the archery shop without making a big deal of it. You can just sight down the string. If everything lines up, there is a good chance the side-to-side nock travel will be good.

Next is fit. A bow needs to make your draw length right on the nose. If it isn't quite right it is not a good value even if it is free. A bow that doesn't fit will hurt your accuracy. Everyone has that perfect draw length where they are most accurate. Once you have determined your best anchor point, don't be tempted by a low price tag to compromise in this area.

Finally, always shoot a bow before buying it. That may not play very well with the big mail order houses, but you need to actually watch the arrow (paper tune it if possible) to be sure that the bow you are interested in buying will spit straight flying shafts. If you go to a full service dealer, you have that luxury and it is worth the extra amount you will likely pay to buy the bow from a dealer. Otherwise, you may waste time and money sending a bow back to the mail order house if it isn't right.


Model Tomkat

Axle-To-Axle: 31.75 inches

Brace Height: 8.5 inches

Mass Weight: 3.7 pounds

IBO Speed: 307 to 315 fps

MSRP: $549 for kit



Model Avenger

Axle-To-Axle: 32 inches

Brace Height: 7 inches

Mass weight: 4 pounds

IBO Speed: 309 fps

MSRP: $599 to $649



Model S2

Axle-To-Axle: 33 inches

Brace Height: 7 inches

Mass Weight: 3.85 pounds

IBO Speed: 318 fps

MSRP: $759



Model Brute

Axle-To-Axle: 32 inches

Brace Height: 8 1/8 inches

Mass Weight: 4.1 pounds

IBO Speed: 300 to 308 fps

MSRP: $399



Model Game Over

Axle-To-Axle: 33 inches

Brace Height: 7 7/8 inches

Mass Weight: 3.9 pounds

IBO Speed: 301 to 305 fps

MSRP: $429



Model Stealth LX

Axle-To-Axle: 25 5/8 inches

Brace Height: 8 inches

Mass Weight: 3.6 pounds

IBO Speed: 300 fps

MSRP: $399



Model Bengal

Axle-To-Axle: 32 inches

Brace Height: 7 inches

Mass Weight: 4.5 pounds

IBO Speed: 310 fps

MSRP: $399



Model Frontier

Axle-To-Axle: 35 inches

Brace Height: 7.25 inches

Mass Weight: 3.5 pounds

IBO Speed: 300 fps

MSRP: $315



Model DeadZone DZ-32

Axle-To-Axle: 32 inches

Brace Height: 7.25 inches

Mass Weight: 4.2 pounds

IBO Speed: 320 to 330 fps

MSRP: $799



Model AS50

Axle-To-Axle: 31 3/8 inches

Brace Height: 7.5 inches

Mass Weight: 4.1 pounds

IBO Speed: 310 fps

MSRP: $549



Model QS 33

Axle-To-Axle: 33 inches

Brace Height: 7 inches

Mass Weight: 4.1 pounds

IBO Speed: 310 to 314 fps

MSRP: $649



Model Viper

Axle-To-Axle: 31.25 inches

Brace Height: 7 9/16 inches

Mass Weight: 4 pounds

IBO Speed: 318 fps

MSRP: $800



Model The Rock

Axle-To-Axle: 31.5 inches

Brace Height: 7 inches

Mass Weight: 3.6 pounds

IBO Speed: 310 to 318 fps

MSRP: $399



Model Strata

Axle-To-Axle: 31.5 inches

Brace Height: 7 7/16 inches

Mass Weight: 4.2 pounds

IBO Speed: 296 to 304 fps

MSRP: $329.99



Model Journey

Axle-To-Axle: 31 inches

Brace Height: 7.5 inches

Mass Weight: 4.25 pounds

IBO Speed: 315 fps

MSRP: $599


Model Charger

Axle-To-Axle: 34 inches

Brace Height: 6.25 inches

Mass Weight: 4.4 pounds

IBO Speed: 320fps

MSRP: $549



Model Ascent

Axle-To-Axle:30 inches

Brace Height: 7 inches

Mass Weight: 3.5 pounds

IBO Speed: 315 fps

MSPR: $470 to $499


Model TX-4

Axle-To-Axle: 34.25 inches

Brace Height: 6.25 inches

Mass Weight: 4.1 pounds

IBO Speed: 330 fps

MSRP: $599


Model Bullet X

Axle-To-Axle: 34.75 inches

Brace Height: 7.25 inches

Mass Weight: 4.3 pounds

IBO Speed: 315 fbs

MSRP: $769


Any bow with an IBO speed rating around 300 fps is fast enough for whitetail hunting where the average shot is 20 to 25 yards. However, if you are planning to use the bow for western game, such as mule deer and antelope, you will likely benefit from a faster bow with an IBO speed rating over 310 to 320 fps.

As you will see when comparing price tags, some companies have more affordable bows than others. The key to this article is the fact that all of the bows are good deals, even though their price tags may not fit into what we typically think of as budget. All IBO speeds are the numbers advertised by the manufacturers. We did not test IBO speed on these bows.


The Tomkat is a package bow complete with Bowtech quiver, Hostage arrow rest, bow sling, three-pin fiber optic sight, peep sight, VibraBlocks and Hush Kit. The last two items are part of Bowtech's custom bow silencing package.

The Tomkat itself is a sweet little bow with a 31.75-inch axle-to-axle length and a high 8.5-inch brace height. Because of the high brace height, the bow is forgiving despite its short length. It is not blazing fast with the Smooth Modules installed, but with the Speed Modules in the Binary Cam system, it is fast enough for anyone.

The package sells for $549 at most stores. I have a friend who shot a great 155-inch eight pointer with it last year. You couldn't pry it out of his hands for twice that much.

Concessions to price: None. There is nothing obvious to suggest that the Tomkat is a budget bow. It compares well to Bowtech's top-end bows. Nice machined riser, high-tech cam system.


Remember the Magna Tec? I used to hunt with one. Hoyt sold a bunch of them because it came at a good price and had the Hoyt name and technology

to back it up. The Avenger replaced the Magna Tec? as Hoyt's newest value bow. You will find features like RizerShox, XT 1000 limbs, the original Cam & 1/2 Performance System, Fuse custom string and harnesses and a Tec-series riser (not the same cast riser used on the Magna Tec). It is hard to go wrong with a package like that. While certainly not ultra-cheap, it is certainly cheaper than other adult, full-featured Hoyt bows.

Concessions to price: Missing are the StealthShot and Vector Cam system that you will find in top of the line Hoyt bows.


If you want a DXT but don't have quite enough money to outright buy one, ($859 versus $759 for the S2) the S2 is a great choice. This new bow has the same basic specs (four fps slower in IBO) as the DXT but has conventional width limbs and the V-Lock limb pocket.

It has the parallel limbs, fast singlecam, In-line grip, vibration dampeners, Barracuda string and harness system, roller cable guard, string suppressors--everything you could possibly want but at a lower price than you will pay for the top of the line bows.

Concessions to price: Lacks the narrow composite limbs and SphereLock limb pockets found on current Mathews top-end bows.


The Brute is a working class bow without the frills found in PSE's more costly bows, but it has the needed features such as parallel limbs, a full silencing kit, a long riser and open limb pockets. It is available only in the NI singlecam, which produces decent speed with a forgiving brace height. The NI also features an impressive six inches of draw length adjustment without the need for a bow press. One bow fits all. The Brute's grip is made out of medium soft Vibracheck rubber for a comfortable and warm hold on cold days.

My friends and I have shot this bow quite a bit and it is a very good solid performer and a great value. For a bow to sell under $400, usually something is missing-often many somethings. Not in this case.

Concessions to price: Available in only single-cam style while most other PSE bows also come with a hybrid cam option. One of the best values on the market.


The Game Over sheds the Dual Arc suppressors found on the Truth 2 and Done Deal in favor a single string suppressor below the grip (typical of what most bows on the market are carrying). It is also a bit slower due to its higher brace height. However, it retains the company's flared split limbs and the smooth, easy drawing single-cam.

I really like what Bear did with the grips on their new bows. All models, from top to bottom, carry the new Bear logo plastic wrap-around grips. The bow has a long riser and short, nearly parallel limbs.

Concessions to price: Compared to top line Bear bows, this one has only one string suppressor and lacks a custom string and harness. Riser has a bit less machining, but still an excellent bow for the money.


One of the most interesting technologies in archery is called HyperSuspension. Whisper Creek suspends the axle in BowDamp, a dampening material, at the end of each limb. Though the website suggests that this technology is found on the Stealth LX, I have not found any sign of it on the bows I have located on the market.

Whisper Creek has also been developing coated idler wheels that increase the friction with the string to keep it from slipping independent of the string. The result is better string control. Called WhisperGrip, this technology is apparent on the Stealth LX. The new HyperForce Accel-Cam is a single-cam design that features easy draw length adjustment. The Stealth LX also comes with a custom 8125 string and 425X harness system. The riser has multiple sight and rest attachment holes. This is a super short bow, but when I shot it at the recent ATA Show, it was entirely enjoyable and quiet to shoot.

Concessions to price: It appears the Stealth LX either doesn't have the HyperSuspension system or a dramatically scaled down version.


The Bengal is the best value in a full-featured hunting bow in the Martin line. In fact, it is one of the best values in the entire marketplace. The main reason this bow is so affordable is its new riser design. It is built around a modular cast configuration that allows Martin to keep costs down while still producing a "machined look". It features the M-Pro single-cam, solid glass straight limbs and vibration dampening modules built into the riser. It is very portable and maneuverable and produces enough speed for any hunting situation.

Concessions to price: The bow has a cast riser, plastic grip, both are no big deal-feels and shoots like a top of the line bow. It is an excellent value.


The bow's best feature is its price. It is the least expensive bow in the roundup, beating out the Browning Strata by about $15. A good price is not its only feature, however. It has a lightweight machined aluminum riser and a smooth single-cam design. In fact, the Frontier is one of the lightest bows on the market. Frontiers leave Alpine with string and limb silencers installed.

Concession to price: Limbs are not parallel like others in the line. It is not overly fast owing to a smooth cam.


The LimbSavers people have made their own bow called the Dead Zone and it is definitely a sweet shooter with very limited recoil. It is also very quiet. This being their only model, it is also by default their budget bow. Granted, it is hard to call a bow with a suggested retail pushing $800 a budget bow, but we wanted to get them into the roundup and the Dead Zone is the only show (or bow) in town.

The bow is surprisingly fast given how quietly it shoots. I liked everything about this bow. Maybe it looks a little odd because of the innovative limb pocket system used, which allows the limb to flex over its entire length. This permits Steven Sims and company to make a parallel limb bow with a longer limb. They call the pocket the Rolling Fulcrum System.

The hybrid HEAT cam has a reasonably smooth draw and is kept in time by the stable Winner's Choice custom string and harnesses. The rest shelf has a built-in arrow holder for use with fall away rests. The DeadZone is a great first bow from Sims.

Concessions to price: None, this is a full featured bow.


Darton's Assault Series is a value-priced line with four bows in it. All four utilize a stripped down version of the CPS-G2 Hybrid Cam system. The cams are still a pair of fully slaved hybrids, but the harnesses do not span the cam to create the perfectly balanced limb tip possible with the G2. The AS300 was in the line last year, but for 2008, Darton added the 25, 50 and 100 models.

The AS25 is a good bow for beginning and budget-minded archers with a seven-inch brace height and a 34-inch axle-to-axle length. IBO speed of 302 fps. This is a solid setup with a suggested retail price slightly over $400. The AS50 is a little faster (310 fps) and a little shorter (31.5 inches). Suggested retail for the AS50 is $549. Though, I am profiling the AS50 here, both are worth noting if you are looking for an affordable bow.

Concessions to price: Very few. It has a plastic one-piece grip and the pared down 2 1/2 cam system and a riser with slightly less machine work-big deal. AS50 is a good bargain.


I have not shot the QS 33. G5 Outdoors came out with this bow after the ATA Show, where I had the chance to go to the demo lanes and shoot all of the bows that were then on the market. G5 outfitted this bow with a modular single-cam, two-piece wood grips, a machined riser and its proprietary custom Metrao Precision Bowstrings. Other features include an Alpine cable guard slide, a string suppressor and parallel limbs. It is hard to call this a budget bow when, in fact, it is a full-featured bow, but then G5 hasn't been making bows long enough to have a true budget model in their line.

Concessions to price: None, this is a top-line full-featured bow.


The Viper is not a true budget bow, but it is the one that the company offered up when we asked them to suggest the bow they felt was their best value. It gains this value through its innovative styling, impressive performance and a relatively high brace height considering the speed. And when compared to it's older brothers with price tags of $899, this bow carries the same quality craftsmanship and will take down just as much game.

The Viper has a cool riser with a support arm in the front that doubles as a carrying handle. It also has a broadhead wrench, carbide knife or broadhead sharpener and nock turning tool built into the webbing of the riser. I guess you could say the Viper is a multi-purpose tool. It is short and has a very narrow, small grip section that makes it comfortable to shoot and reduces hand torque.

Concessions to price: Just a little speed when compared to some of the other APA's but nonetheless, a smoking fast bow. The Viper is still one of APA's top of the line bows.


The Rock is a short bow that makes short draw lengths (25 to 30 inches) with style. Many short draw bows suffer from a lack of arrow speed because they are merely scaled down versions of other bows. The Rock started out from scratch with the goal of being a seven-inch brace height short draw performance wonder. It has a nice machined riser and comes with an optional Backwoods Package for even greater value. The bow alone sells for $399 at most stores and outlets.

Concessions to price: Compared to Diamond's full-featured bows, this one doesn't have the same parallel limbs. It has a plastic grip, but I like plastic grips. Excellent bow for the money.


For the price, the Browning Strata has a lot going for it. It features the Mini Trance single-cam and a Vibracheck rubber grip. This bow is typical of the performance we were happy to achieve five or six years ago. Granted, it is not the fastest on the list, but look at the price.

The smooth, easy drawing Mini Trance Cam has an inner module that you can swap out for additional draw length options at the lower end of the spectrum. With it, you can achieve draw lengths of 25 to 28 inches. With the included module, you can achieve draw lengths from 27 to 30 inches.

Concessions to price: Not as fast as some bows, but still fast enough for most hunting situations. It doesn't have parallel limbs. It is one of the most affordable bows I profiled.


Mission is a line of dealer-only bows made by Mathews consisting of five bows; four are economically priced versus full-line Mathews bows and the fifth is comparable. These bows benefit from Mathews technology and quality control, but don't have all the Mathews features. These "almost Mathews" bows sell for a much lower price.

The Journey looks more like a full-line Mathews bow than other Mission models. For example, the Journey has parallel limbs for a recoil-free shot whereas the X3, X4 and X5 have limbs that are closer to vertical. It also has a different set of specs. The Journey is faster, shorter and has a higher brace height. Its riser also spent more time in the milling machine, so it looks more refined. The only Mission bow with more features is the Buckmasters.

Concessions to price: Riser not quite as extensively machined as full-line Mathews bows or as that found on the Mission Buckmasters.


The Reflex line is designed and built by Hoyt as a way to access the budget bow market. So, in essence, the entire Reflex line is made up of budget bows. The new Reflex Charger is a speed burner with a low brace height and an aggressive hybrid cam system. The Charger uses the modular Reflex FX Cam & 1/2 system to produce very good speeds.

The Charger has a long, lean riser with short parallel limbs for a soft shot. Reflex outfitted the Charger with a string suppressor to cradle and silence the Fuse custom string on release. Fuse is another division of Hoyt.

Concessions to price: Compared to other bows on the Reflex line, there is no concession. Compared to Hoyt bows, it doesn't have a Tec riser or laminated limbs but at 320 IBO it's definitely fast!


If you remember the CSS bows, then you have a pretty good feel for the Horton line of vertical bows. There are five bows in the line and the one I am profiling here is the Ascent. It offers very good bang for the buck. Look at the spec box-it's all right there, everything you need for a solid hunting bow. The spec box fails to reveal the bow's finer points such as the unique pebble-pattern grip, string suppressor, installed TunerZ limb and string silencers, custom string and harness system and high performance hybrid cam system.

Concessions to price: Less machine work on riser, plastic grip and limbs that are not as parallel when compared to the top of the line Horton Vista bow.


This bow is among several new models on the market with very low brace heights. It is conventional wisdom that low braced bows are best suited for archers who practice regularly and have good shooting form. That is still good advice. But with today's improved bow designs, these low brace heights are producing accuracy for a wider range of archers than at any time in history. So if you want fast, give it a try.

The TX-4 features the Z7 single-cam, reinforced limb tips and the lighter, faster customer Xcelerator string. The bow features Pearson's comfortable Angel Wing grip and a machined riser speckled with cool deer hoof cutouts.

Concession to price: None, this is a full featured bow.


Martin makes Rytera bows as an outlet for high-end models. So it is with no surprise that we find that the Bullet X is not exactly a budget bow in the true sense of the word but compared to Rytera's Triad, it does qualify. It comes with Omega V vibration absorbing modules near both limb pockets and your choice of Vipro single-cam and Nitrous two-cam. It is one of the few two-cam bows available on the market.

Concessions to price: None, full featured bow.
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Author:Bill Winke
Publication:Petersen's Bowhunting
Date:Oct 1, 2008
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