HAS WHISKER BISCUIT MET THEIR MATCH?
WHISKER BISCUIT HISTORY
Oddly enough, the Whisker Biscuit didn't come from some big corporate manufacturer. The Whisker Biscuit company (Carolina Archery Products) was originally founded by two out of work Semi-Conductor engineers. So it's something of an American dream story. Two guys with a great idea and a product with a funny name ended up changing the course of our industry - and they managed to make a few dollars along the way too. In 2006, Whisker Biscuit caught the attention of industry giant, Escalade Sports, and they were reportedly purchased for a whopping $12.6 Million.
So does the Whisker Biscuit deserve such high acclaim? When it comes to arrow containment, you bet it does! And arrow containment isn't the Whisker Biscuit's only technical merit. As it turns out, they actually shoot quite well too. As the arrow passes thru the biscuit, the whiskers make "equal contact" with the arrow fletching. Since the contact is equally distributed around the shaft, the fletching contact is effectively "cancelled out". So ironically, setting up a Whisker Biscuit means you don't really have "fletching contact" issues to resolve. As such, the Whisker Biscuit has a reputation for being user-friendly and particularly easy to tune.
Even so, the Whisker Biscuit remains a "love it or hate it" product. In spite of the obvious benefits, the Whisker Biscuit has always been accused of some misdeeds, specifically damaging fletching, creating noise, andreducing arrow velocity. And perhaps these are all fair criticisms. As the arrow zips thru the biscuit at 200mph, the arrow fletchings must "sift" their ways thru the layer of bristles. This creates some noise. It also causes rubber vanes to stretch. It causes feathers to eventually tatter. And the resulting friction burns up a little arrow speed. So using the Whisker Biscuit is often seen as something of a trade-off. To get the benefits, you have to tolerate some costs.
Obviously, arrow containment is a key benefit that bowhunters want. The real question is, can a containment style arrow rest be designed to perform as well as the Whisker Biscuit, but without the undesirable side-effects? Are there any designs that can incorporate all the positive elements of the Whisker Biscuit while avoiding the trade-offs? Many have tried over the last few years. Some designs just didn't work. Some didn't really catch-on. Some were too expensive. And others just seemed to have come and gone. So last season we began to wonder if anyone could really make a legitimate challenge at the Whisker Biscuit. But this season, we may have an answer.
NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
In late December of 2006, we received an email from a new manufacturer, Catawba Archery, based in Mount Holly, NC. They introduced themselves and sent us photos of their new product. Since we are always excited to see new design innovations, we quickly responded back to request samples for evaluation.
Upon receiving the sample rests, we were immediately encouraged. Much like the Whisker Biscuit, the Catawba rest incorporates a circular housing and sculpted bristles to support the arrow. But unlike the Whisker Biscuit, the patented Catawba design doesn't feature a continuous 360º ring of bristles. Rather, the bristles are grouped into blocks and spaced at 60º, 180º, and 300º around the circumference of the housing. This should allow the fletchings to pass thru the housing at 0º, 120º, and 240º without making any contact with the bristles.
Oddly enough, getting the rest installed and shooting properly wasn't really our goal. Given the initial look of the design, we rather expected the Catawba rest would be equivalent to the Whisker Biscuit in basic performance. What we really wanted to know was if the Catawba design was going to outperform the Whisker Biscuit, particularly in the three problem areas where the Whisker Biscuit struggles? So we focused on three essential tests.
- Will the Catawba Still Shot Rest cause fletching damage?
- Will the Catawba Still Shot Rest make less noise than the Whisker Biscuit?
- Will the Catawba Still Shot Rest have less effect on arrow velocity?
TESTING AND EVALUATION
FLETCHING DAMAGE TEST
By far, the #1 complaint from Whisker Biscuit owners is fletching damage. It's a pesky issue that Whisker Biscuit has addressed to limited success over the years. Whisker Biscuit owners often report that after repeated shooting, vanes begin to have a warped or wavy appearance. Of course, this isn't the end of the world. Arrows can always be refletched, and in many cases wavy vanes can be straightened back up with a little heat treatment. But it's a hassle most shooters would rather avoid all together. So any real improvement on the Whisker Biscuit design would begin with eliminating this disadvantage.
We then installed the new Catawba Still Shot arrow rest on a 2007 Fred Bear Truth (29"/63#) and stepped onto the shooting range. With the help of a runner, our staff shooter took exactly 50 shots with the same arrow. When the cycle was complete, we carefully labeled the arrow and set it aside.
After a little rest break, we removed the Catawba rest and installed a Deluxe Quikshot Whisker Biscuit and repeated the test with our second arrow. Again, our staff shooter took exactly 50 shots using the same arrow. When the cycle was complete we carefully labeled that arrow as well.
When all finished, we placed the two arrows side-by-side and photographed them. The photo below has been clipped to size, but is unedited. This is exactly how they appeared after our test.
PERSPECTIVE: Keep in mind that our test indicates a worst-case scenario (soft offset vanes, fast bow, brand new Whisker Biscuit, etc.). Also note that minor vane degradation doesn't automatically equal poor arrow flight. A small wave in a vane, as in the photo above, would have a negligible effect on performance. So in many cases, vane degradation from the Whisker Biscuit is more of a cosmetic irritant than an actual detriment to performance. Nonetheless, it drives some bowhunters nuts. If you want containment without the wrinkles, the no-contact design of the Catawba Still Shot may be for you.
While the Whisker Biscuit certainly isn't a "noisy" rest compared to most, it is often criticized for the "ssshhhrrrip" noise the vanes make as they penetrate the biscuit (at the shot). So to see if the Catawba rest would generate less noise, we fired-up our Center322 Sound Level Meter for a quick test.
In order to make our test results reflect the sound of the actual arrow rests, rather then overall noise of the bow or the sound of the arrow impacting the target, we decided to conduct our test by positioning the dB meter's microphone just 1 inch from the arrow rest, held at 90º from the vertical axis of the bow. This allowed us to isolate the sound of the arrow penetrating/clearing the rest.
Distance from Source = 1 Inch
Our dB readings (weighted dBA actually) indicate the amount of noise you would perceive if you held your ear 1 inch from the arrow rest when the bow fires (don't try that at home). With the Deluxe Whisker Biscuit still installed from our previous test, we captured a peak dBA reading from it first.
We then removed the Deluxe Whisker Biscuit and installed the Catawba Still Shot back on our Fred Bear Truth. No other adjustments were made to any of the bow's settings, the environment, the shooter, etc. All variables except the arrow rest remained the same.
With our remaining 5 arrows, we repeated the test for the Catawba Still Shot. As you can see from the software screen shot, the peak noise level for the Catawba rest was only 91.7 dBA (median of the 5 attempts).
PERSPECTIVE: Keep in mind that our test was conducted with a very close proximity to the source, so the results are a little deceptive. A 90+ dB sound is generally considered very loud (lawn mower, kitchen blender, heavy truck, etc.) but that's at distances from source of about 1 meter. Our measurements were taken at just 1 inch from the source. So be advised that we're not suggesting any arrow rest makes as much noise as a lawn mower. Sound intensity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance away from the source (more). So give or take, the measured sound level would drop six decibels with each doubling of the distance from the source. Therefore, if we measured our arrow rest noises at the standard distance of 1 meter instead of 1 inch, the readings would be in the 60's rather than the 90's. However, at a distance of 1 meter, our device would detect the overall noise of the entire bow rather than an isolated sound of one component (arrow rest). So a close proximity measurement was more appropriate for this particular test.
The final test is a simple arrow speed test. Critics of the Whisker Biscuit often claim that it wastes some arrow speed. We tested this claim years ago and found it to be true, but usually only to the tune of about 2-3 fps - not exactly a deal breaker. Of course, given the design of the Whisker Biscuit bristles, some loss of speed due to friction is to be expected. But will the Catawba rest do better? If the Catawba Still Shot can provide the same arrow containment without the arrow speed reduction, that only makes it more appealing. After all, when it comes to arrow speed, every little bit helps.
|CHRONOGRAPH TEST||Shot 1||Shot 2||Shot 3||Shot 4||Shot 5||Average|
|Catawba Still Shot||283.6||283.8||283.6||283.5||283.8||
|Deluxe Whisker Biscuit||280.2||280.5||279.8||280.5||280.5||
RESULTS: The Catawba rest tested an average of 3.4 fps faster than the Whisker Biscuit. Obviously the lack of fletching contact on the Catawba rest means less friction and loss of arrow velocity.
PERSPECTIVE: Unlike the quirky dB scale, velocity ratings are pretty simple and linear. So the 3.4 fps average represents only a 1% improvement in arrow velocity. And if we convert that to more familiar mph units, we can say that using our test bow, the arrow cleared the rest going 2.3 mph faster with the Catawba rest compared to the Whisker Biscuit. Will that make the critical difference on your next big hunt? Probably not. But the Catawba rest does not seem to have the same negative effect on arrow velocity as the Whisker Biscuit. In fact, we repeated this same test with a simple QuikTune prong rest (out of pure curiosity) and got about the same average (283.9) as with the Catawba rest.
MATERIALS AND CONSTRUCTION
The brush blocks are also identical, so they're interchangeable to any of the 3 positions around the housing. And it doesn't matter if they're installed facing in our out. So changing them, should you ever actually wear-out the brushes, is a snap. According to tech folks at Catawba, the brush sets are good for about 10,000 shots (about 5 years for the average hunter or recreational shooter). Replacement brush sets are available for around $18.
SIDE BY SIDE COMPARISON
|Catawba Still Shot||DLX Quikshot Whisker Biscuit|
|So how do our two rests compare side by side? Here are the highlights.|
Ease of Tuning/Install:
Ease of Loading:
|Quiet Upon Release:||Good||Fair|
|Arrow Speed Loss:||Excellent||Fair|
|Total Windage Adjustment:||0.75"||0.63"|
|Total Elevation Adjustment:||0.31"||0.31"|
|Arrow Rest Total Weight:||679 grains||1392 grains|
|Arrow Rest Price Range:||$49.95-$59.95||$49.95-$59.95|
We think this newcomer has a lot of potential. But will that be enough? Defeating the reining champion often requires more than just raw talent. Nonetheless, we give Catawba a solid puncher's chance. And we'll all be watching to find out if Catawba can use their strengths to challenge the supremacy of the mighty Whisker Biscuit, or if they'll ultimately join the long list of battered contenders who have come before - tried - and failed. Someone please ring the bell!