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HALAC COMPOUND BOWS

It's not a men's bow, or a ladies' bow, or a youth bow. It's a HALAC Bow.

BOW CLASSIFICATION

The idea of a one-size-fits-all compound bow seems rather strange and implausible to archery enthusiasts. Most of us have a pretty good understanding that compound bows are first classified (and sized) as youth bows, or ladies' bows, or men's bows - based largely on available draw length and draw weight ranges. Bows capable of adjusting to shorter draw lengths and lighter draw weights are for smaller people. Bows capable of adjusting for longer draw lengths and heavier draw weights are for larger people. Simple enough.

OPTIONS LIMITED

When you begin shopping for a compound bow, you begin by ruling out all the bows which don't fit - much like you would when shopping for clothes or shoes. Unfortunately, this sizing system limits your options considerably - especially if you're not a "standard" size person. For example, tall lanky teenagers can be particularly tough to fit, as they often require longer draw lengths but lighter draw weights. Typical youth bows are too short and men's bows are too heavy. We also find that most of the mainline bows, engineered primarily to fit men, won't quite fit women shooters. They get close, but they often do not adjust below 50# of draw weight or 26" of draw length - which is just out-of-range for most adult women. Most women have to choose from a very short-list of specialty "lady" bows - instead of just picking the bows they like best. And it gets worse ...

SPLITTING HAIRS

Even if you do find the right "class" of bow (kid's, youth, ladies', men's), you still have more hairs to split. Most compound bows are offered with a narrow 10 pound range of draw weight adjustment. If you buy a 60-70# bow, for example, you can adjust the bow's peak draw weight (by turning the limb bolts in or out) down to a minimum of 60# and up to a maximum of 70#. If you decide later that you want to adjust the bow down to 50#, you must purchase additional limbs (about $120-150 installed) to convert the bow to another range - not so convenient or economical. That's assuming that replacement limbs will still be available when you want them. The same mechanical limitation is true of cams (which control the draw length settings). A typical single or hybrid cam bow has roughly 3-6" of draw length adjustability. For men's bows, 26-30" is very common. For ladies' bows, 23-27" is similarly common. This can vary from bow to bow and cam to cam, but the same fundamental limitation exists. If you have a bow that only adjusts from 26-30" draw length, and you decide you want to hand the bow down to your son who needs a 24" draw length, you're out of luck. It won't fit. Be advised, changing draw lengths - even within a bow's mechanical range - may or may not be so easy. Some bows have draw length specific cams, so changing draw lengths means actually replacing the entire cam (another expensive conversion). There's even one brand of bow that requires changing both cams and installing different strings and cables when changing from one draw length to another.

MODULE MADNESS

Fortunately, most bows use an interchangeable cam "module," a little elliptical metal insert inside the cam, to control the draw lengths. Each module is a slightly different size and shape to make a given draw length on the bow. Modules are usually inexpensive and easy to change, but not always. On a few bows, changing modules is major surgery that must be done in a bow press. It just depends. To make matters worse, draw length modules aren't universal. They are almost always specific to a particular bow and type of cam. They don't interchange from brand to brand, and seldom interchange from model to model. Sometimes there are even different modules for RH and LH bows. Argh! Since cam designs are always being tweaked and reinvented from year to year, the cam modules constantly change too. If you decide you want to change the draw length on your 5 year-old bow, the draw modules will likely be out-of-production - and may be difficult to find. And if you can't find the correct module for your old bow, you can't change the draw length. We've been playing the cam module scramble for a decade - buying whole module sets - trading these modules for those modules - this size module for that size - trying to stay ahead of the changes.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. At the end of a module run, it seems we're always left holding a bag full. In our production office, we literally have thousands upon thousands of obsolete modules which we've collected over the years. I sometimes joke that when I retire, I'm going to remodel my bathroom entirely with cam modules and grout them all into the walls. Module mayhem aside, here's the unfortunate truth (for bows anyway). When you buy a new bow, you better make sure it fits you well. If you want to dramatically change the bow's draw length and draw weight settings later, it's probably going to be expensive, impractical, or impossible. You'll be more likely to just take the bow out of service, sell it on eBay, or make it the featured item at your next garage sale.

HALAC BOW CHALLENGE

Why can't we make bows that adjust to fit most anybody? Why does the engineering have to be so cumbersome and inconvenient? If we can put a man on the moon, surely we can make a bow that adjusts properly, right? One small step for man? I digress. It's not quite that simple. There are a few obstacles to overcome when designing a one-size-fits-all bow, chiefly: limb pocket design, overcoming the stereotype of dual/twin cams, and retail economics. So let's start at the top. The bow's limbs control the bow's draw weight. The stiffer the limbs, the more draw weight you get, and the more preload (prebend) the limbs have, the stiffer they will act. The bow's limb bolts hold the limbs to the handle (riser) section of the bow. Fortunately, these limbs bolts aren't just a fixed fastener that stays torqued down. The limb bolts function as the bow's draw weight adjuster. When a bow's limb bolts are cranked all the way down, the limbs are under maximum (at brace) preload. If you loosen the limb bolts, the limbs begin to straighten out, reducing the preload. As the preload is relieved, the draw weight of the bow is reduced. It's simple righty-tighty lefty-loosey. Easy enough.

LIMITED MOTION

With the old cup-style limb pocket designs, you could only loosen the bolts so far (about 4 turns) before the edges of the limbs began to lift up and out of the limb pockets. Without the limb pockets to keep the edges of the limbs aligned, the limbs would start to swivel on their pivot points - making the entire bow seem to come "unhinged." If the limb bolts were loosened even more, the limb assembly could literally separate from the riser - sometimes explosively. So if you were trying to get a 60-70# bow down to 50#, you were playing with fire. To keep the limbs seated in their pockets and to discourage customers from trying to adjust bows beyond their specified ranges, bow manufacturers offered stiff warnings against turning limb bolts more than 3-4 turns from their bottomed-down positions. This meant that 8-10# of adjustability was the absolute safe maximum adjustment for any given bow. If you wanted another draw weight range, you needed different (lighter/heavier) limbs installed on the bow. Albeit good or bad, this was the system we all knew and worked with.

RAZOR EDGE REDEFINES YOUTH BOW MARKET

That started to change in 2009 when Bowtech/Diamond challenged the status quo with the introduction of their new Razor Edge youth bow. While the bow looked pretty normal otherwise, its limb pockets were enormous. They were like limb buckets - with triple the depth of a regular limb pocket. The bow also came with extra-long limb bolts. This meant you could turn the limb bolts out a full 12 turns. The result was a youth bow that adjusted from 30-60# of draw weight, without a limb change. Bow buyers went berserk, and within a year the Razor Edge had practically annihilated every other youth bow on the market. Buyers made no bones about it, the Razor Edge's adjustability was the feature they wanted most. The Razor Edge design was, and still is, a darling of the industry. But the deep-dish limb pocket idea had some limitations. As you loosened the limb bolts and the limbs lifted higher in the pocket, the edge of the limbs moved slightly forward, eventually making contact with the lip of the pocket. So even on the Razor Edge, at some point you just couldn't reasonably go any lower (usually 32-33# in our experience). Although 30-60# was a fantastic range of adjustment, it still didn't cover all shooters. In fact, to this day the Razor Edge is also offered in a 15-29# version to hit those other draw weights. Of course, you must pick one or the other when you buy the bow. One bow doesn't do-all. But for a fee the factory offers a limb exchange program to convert the 15-29# bows to the 30-60# range later. While not ideal, compared to the old ten-pound system, the Razor Edge system is still a better choice. Clearly the Razor Edge has been a big step in the right direction, but it's not quite a HALAC bow.

(LIMB) PIVOTAL MOMENT

To get more adjustment, you simply need a limb pocket with more range of motion. As it turns out, there was already a solution in every bow manufacturer's tool bag - the pivoting limb pocket. Many of today's top performance bows already feature limbs which don't pivot up and down inside the limb pocket. Instead, the limbs stay fixed in the limb pocket, and the entire limb pocket assembly hinges on the riser. If the bolts are long enough to allow the full range of motion, this kind of system gives limbs all the room they need to fully relax. Theoretically, a pivoting limb pocket bow could go from 0-70# with the right hardware. So the stage was set. All the bow manufacturers needed to do was connect the dots ... install a pivoting limb pocket and an extra long limb bolt. Then practically any bow could be adjusted from full peak weight down to full relaxation. The HALAC ['hā-lak] bow was about to be born. Of course, we still had to contend with draw length adjustability. The old module and cam swap system had to be changed. A HALAC bow has to be easy and free to adjust - all the way from top to bottom - no games allowed. But the only cam systems which can mechanically achieve 10-15" of draw length adjustment are twin cams. Singles and hybrids just don't have the geometry to muster it, but twin cams do. Yet, this presents an awkward perception pickle. Everybody knows that single and hybrid cams are better than twin cams. Twin cams are old-school ... yesterday's technology. Right?

TWIN CAM STIGMA

Well, hold on there, not necessarily. Much of the twin cam prejudice has faded away in recent years - for two reasons. Twin cams got a dirty name, not because they were so bad, but because early single cams got so much press as a step forward. In the 90's, bows like High Country's Machine Supreme were dominating the market and kicking butt on the ranges, but owners struggled to keep those hot little twin cams in-synch. So when single cam bows really hit their stride just before the turn of the century, twin cams became the anti-cams. Archers in-the-know shot single cams. Twin cams were out.

SHUT UP AND SHOOT

Of course, it didn't take long until the success of emerging hybrid and binary cam technologies (and the persistence of the single cam nock-travel issue) made many of us rethink the wisdom of a single cam deity. So the debate raged for years. From 2002-2006, bow manufacturers just couldn't shut-up about their cams - each spouting how their designs were superior to the other. Some consumers were simply confused. Others copied and pasted force draw charts and technical drawings into the forums to make their case. Was it best to have one cam, or a cam & 1/2, or maybe two cams and 5/8th? Ridiculous. Fortunately, the sound of reality eventually drowned out the my cam is better than your cam yammer. What we all came to realize is that in spite of all the hyperbole and marketing gibberish, most of the modern cam systems perform similarly. Which type of cams a bow manufacturer uses today is more about patents and royalties than anything else. When engineered properly, any of them shoot brilliantly ... including the once disavowed twin cams. It turns out that twin cam designs weren't so second-rate at all. The problem was poor quality string materials that stretched unevenly causing the tuning headaches - a problem that's largely extinct today thanks to modern Dyneema and Vectran string fibers.

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE AGAIN?

The other reason twin cams have returned from eccentric purgatory is just general confusion with Bowtech's symmetrical Binary™ cam system, which many consumers celebrated as a technological leap forward often without clearly understanding the technical difference from conventional twin cams. So some of the twin cam stigma simply washed out in the contrails of another technology. Either way, today twin cams are enjoying a return of market acceptance, even among some of the old single cam aristocrats. Best of all, since twin cams are simple two-track eccentrics, there's plenty of room for large rotating modules. This means no more module exchanges. No extra parts to buy. One rotating module does it all - the entire draw length range. A couple of socket head cap screws hold them in place, and the user can set them to any draw length in a matter of seconds. When you combine a hyper-adjustable draw weight system (via a pivoting limb pocket and an extra long limb bolt) with a hyper-adjustable cam system (via a rotating module twin setup), you get the birth of a HALAC Bow (Hyper Adjustable Limbs and Cams). Simple. Let's do it!

TOO SIMPLE FOR A COMPLICATED MARKET

HALAC bows are the do-it-all bows we've been hoping to see. There's just one final problem - economics. They're too simple. A typical men's compound bow will have at least six SKUs: RH/60-70, RH/50-60, RH/40-50, LH/60-70, LH/50-60, and LH/40-50. That's a lot of bows to keep in stock if you're a small retailer - and that's just for one model. We all know that customers like having more choices, but for an archery shop to stock all available sizes of 10 or 20 different bow models is a huge financial investment. We suspect bow companies count on that. With a HALAC bow, it can be as simple as two simple SKU's: RH and LH. A dealer can buy two bows and fit 98% of the customers that walk through the door. There are no modules or cams to buy separately - no limb sets to exchange or sell. And better still, HALAC bows are relatively cheap. Since the HALAC bow penetrates into the youth market, they simply won't fetch classic men's bow prices.

PLEASE SPEND MORE

Remember, the bread-n-butter of bow manufacturing is the high-end bow - typically the en-vogue men's models selling for $749 and up. Bow manufacturers would greatly prefer you ignore the value-priced bows and buy up the scale, but youth and ladies' bows seldom command more than $499 in the market. Twin cam bows don't command premium cash either. So a HALAC bow, regardless of how great the bow might be, is destined for entry/mid level pricing. This leaves bow manufacturers with a tough decision. If the lesson of the Razor Edge is any indication of how buyers will respond, a HALAC bow is sure to gobble sales from higher-dollar units and render other bows in their line-ups irrelevant. Shooting one's own foot with a broadhead comes to mind, yet it's hard to ignore obvious consumer demand. Why would someone buy their kid a conventional 30-40# youth bow (which will only fit for a few seasons) when a HALAC bow will fit the same kid until he's a grown man?

AN END TO CLASS BOWFARE

The HALAC bow fills all the gaps between the bow classes and lays waste to the concept of youth, ladies', and men's bows. A well designed HALAC bow can be used as a primary hunting bow, a youth trainer, a back-up bow, a bow to share, a bow to pass down, and they're immensely useful for camps or clubs where people share equipment. What other men's bow does that? To put it simply, HALAC bows are going to change the bow market. 2012 is just the beginning. We're thrilled to see HALAC bows emerging. Let's face it, bow prices are getting out of hand with premium models now commonly tickling the $1,000 mark. We can't help but worry about the future of our sport - the future of our industry. When people can no longer afford to participate in the sport, our industry will surely decline - and that's bad business. We hate to whine, but archery shouldn't be an elitist sport and setting up the equipment shouldn't be a constant headache. We heard this sport is supposed to be fun. That's why we think HALAC bows are going to put the fun back into family archery and ultimately turn the market on its ear.

ANYONE? ANYONE?

Are we ready? Which bow manufacturer is brave enough to go first? Step right up! Among the bow lines we carry here at Hunter's Friend, we already have some takers for 2012: PSE's Rally and Bear's Outbreak. But there are already others (mainly the Mission Riot & Craze which are also true HALAC bows). Our first shipments of Rallys and Outbreaks arrived only a few short weeks ago, and almost overnight they became the hottest selling bows in the store. 2012 Bear Outbreak $299 Bare Bow, $499 Ready-to-Hunt 2012 PSE Rally $299 Bare Bow, $499 Ready-to-Hunt OUTBREAK: New for 2012, the Outbreak has a classic D-shaped riser and limb configuration (short riser with longer limbs), almost reminiscent of the famous Buckmaster G2. We asked why the Outbreak didn't get the standard parallel-limb treatment like most other Bear Bows. The answer was simple ... weight. Bear wanted to keep the bow extra strong and rugged, but without the added bulk of long riser setups.

The Outbreak tips the scales at a very svelte 3.5 lbs, so it's easy for smaller shooters to handle. Of course, a light physical weight is a bonus for bowhunters too.

OUTBREAK BOW SPECIFICATIONS

  • IBO SPEED: 308 FPS
  • A2A LENGTH: 29.25"
  • BRACE HEIGHT: 7.25"
  • DRAW WEIGHTS: 15-70#
  • DRAW LENGTHS: 16-30"
  • BOW MASS: 3.5 LBS.
  • BOW FINISH: REALTREE APG
  • ECCENTRICS: TWIN CAMS
  • LET-OFF: 80%
  • WARRANTY: LIFETIME

PROGRESSIVE SIZING

The Outbreak can be adjusted from a full 30"@70# down to just 16"@15#. That covers practically anyone from 3'6" to about 6'3" tall. But it's not quite as simple as just selecting two numbers. The draw weights and draw lengths are interdependent. So as you select a longer draw length on the cam module, the bow's peak weight increases. Fortunately, the progressive sizing is engineered with some thoughtful biometrics in mind. For example, when set for 23" draw length, the Outbreak has a peak draw weight of 56# and a minimum draw weight of 35# (limb bolts turned 8 full turns out). But if you change the module setting to make a 28" draw length to fit a taller/bigger person, the peak draw weight goes up to 68# and the minimum draw weight goes up to 47#. So chances are, the draw weights available at any given draw length will be appropriate to your physical strength (see chart). If you're considering the Outbreak for a growing young shooter, this is a fantastic advantage.

A kid cannot outgrow the Outbreak. The bigger and stronger he gets, the longer and heavier the Outbreak can go. This one bow will take a kid to adulthood. Learn More/Purchase a Bear Outbreak RALLY: New for 2012, the Rally features a new X-Force styled riser which serves triple duty on the Rally, Stinger 3G, and Brute X. This gives the bow a very attractive modern profile and exceptionally good shooting manners. Considering the amount machine work in this bow, we're amazed it's priced at only $299. Although the Rally can adjust to fit very small shooters, there's simply nothing "youth like" about this bow. It's full scale, with no plastic parts or short-cuts. This is a fully-machined parallel limb performer. The only thing PSE didn't include standard was a string-stop.

RALLY BOW SPECIFICATIONS:

  • IBO SPEED: 308 FPS
  • A2A LENGTH: 33.75"
  • BRACE HEIGHT: 7.50"
  • DRAW WEIGHTS: 18-70#
  • DRAW LENGTHS: 18-31"
  • BOW MASS: 4.5 LBS.
  • BOW FINISH: MOSSY OAK INFINITY
  • ECCENTRICS: TWIN CAMS
  • LET-OFF: 70%
  • WARRANTY: LIFETIME

WE ADMIT, IT'S COMPLICATED

The Rally adjusts via a combination of module settings, limb bolt adjustments, and an optional cable boss routing. It's not rocket science, but we suggest you read the manual on the Rally - as the system isn't exactly self-explanatory. If you're the engineering techy type, you're going to love this. Check out the PSE technical bulletin on the Rally. The 70# Rally can muster a huge range of settings, all the way from 31"@70#, down to 18.5"@21#. The adjustments are independent on the fixed-peak setting, and progressive when the cables are routed behind the bosses. So you can get almost any combination of draw weight and draw length. To hit some of the even smaller/lighter settings, the bow is available as a 50# or 60# peak, but that seems a bit redundant to us. The standard 70# peak Rally is going to cover virtually any shooter from about 4' tall up to a big burly dude of 6'4". Since the Rally can hit the full 70# peak weight at almost every draw length, it's an outstanding choice for stocky kids and short stature men as well. The Rally does it all. Whatever kind of bow you want it to be - whatever the mission - the Rally can do it.

WHY DIDN'T THEY THINK OF THIS SOONER?

They did, but market conditions weren't right for this kind of bow. Why make an inexpensive bow with universal appeal when buyers are willing to pay top-dollar for the status quo? You don't ... unless the status quo changes. Over the past few seasons, a few smart bow manufacturers have actually noticed that our economy is struggling. Many families simply don't have as much disposable income for recreation. So when folks do make a purchase, it needs to be for a product that will last. We hate to say it, but buying a new bow every year or two just isn't smart. That's why HALAC bows are getting so much attention. It's the classic example of getting more for your money.

LIMB EFFICIENCY HOKUM

For years we've all been fed the same engineering hokum about limb efficiencies being compromised near the bow's minimum draw weight. We've been told that a 60-70# bow set for 60# will underperform compared to a 50-60# bow set for its peak draw weight. Technically that's absolutely true. As a matter of obtaining optimal performance, more limb preload is better. But to what degree? Over the past 10 years, we've chronographed over 23,000 bows - at every imaginable setting. If we sort the data for any particular bow model and compare the maxed vs. minimized scores, it's clear that limbs at peak perform better than limbs partially unloaded - but the difference is almost negligible (1-2%). So a men's 60-70# bow set for 60# might shoot 3-6 fps slower than the same bow as a maxed-out 50-60#.

For the men's market, that may be a hair worth splitting. For the youth market, it's generally not. The idea of buying youth bows in the classic sizes (10-20#, 20-30#, 30-40#, 40-50#) for the purposes of maintaining the best limb efficiencies is just silly. Whether a youth bow shoots 200 fps or 205 fps is really inconsequential. However, the need to keep replacing perfectly good bows is consequential - because it's expensive and wasteful. Fortunately, those days are over. With the new HALAC bows, you buy one bow and you're done. Whatever is lost to limb preloading, you'll surely make up for in long term utility and enjoyment of the sport.

Questions or comments about this article can be directed to mike@huntersfriend.com

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