BOW CLASSES TO CONSIDER
KNOCK-OFFS TO AVOID AT ANY PRICE
NO PRICE IS TOO LOW: Before we talk about the bows you should consider, we should briefly discuss the ones you should not. We realize that everyone loves a bargain, and sometimes there just isn't a price that's too low. But there are a few bows lurking around out there that scare us to death. The United States isn't the only place where compound bows are made. There are a handful of other manufacturers throughout the world who specialize in modern archery - mostly high-end target bows made in Europe. And if you want to shell out $2,000 to import a German target bow, that's perfectly fine with us. That's not what we're talking about. We're talking about knockoffs - grossly substandard bows, imported from China, and dumped onto the U.S. market for a song.
TOO RISKY: We've managed to get our hands on a few of these bows over the years, and frankly, we believe they're dangerous (not to mention they perform like garbage). We simply won't sell them. The liability for failures and injuries is just too high. And to make matters worse, the "distributors" for these compound bows seem to come and go like the wind, often entering the market just long enough to dump the products and then disappear. So when there is a warranty claim or a problem down the road, we're all out of luck.
BETTER TO BUY USED THAN BUY JUNK: If you come across a deal that seems too good to be true, on a brand of compound bow you've never seen or heard about before - be extra cautious. Better yet, check the ATA Member Directory to see if they're a listed manufacturer. Otherwise, you're putting yourself at considerable risk. If your budget is particularly tight, please don't try to save a buck with a Chinese knock-off. You would be MUCH better off with a good used bow from a major brand name. There are literally thousands of used compound bows for sale on eBay at any given time. If you shop around, you can surely find a decent serviceable rig within your budget.
THE $299 BOW PHENOMENON
MINIMUM "GOOD BOW" STANDARDS: The adult compound bow really begins at the $299 retail mark. To be fair, a few manufacturers have tinkered with resurrecting cast magnesium risers and old cam designs in recent years, but it never gets much traction. Buyers see recycled bow designs as too cheap – too unpalatable. The modern parallel limb bow has a very specific profile. When buyers don’t see that shape, they know something is wrong. More to the point, parallel limb bows require a long stiff riser – and recycling a stubby little cast riser just won’t cut it. Adult bowhunters also universally reject painted camo jobs, wheel/twin cam systems, and any IBO speed under 300 fps. So if a bow manufacturer tries to really dig in the discount bin for customers, they’re sort-of wasting their time. To some degree, even the entry-level bowhunter knows enough to be an equipment snob.
ONLY SOME CAN PLAY AT $299: So $299 bows tend to better than you might think. In fact, there are a few $299 bows that will frankly blow your skirt up. If a basic compound bow meets the essential qualifications test (modern bow profile, single or hybrid cam system, film-dipped camo finish, an IBO speed of 300+ fps, and a decent aesthetic presentation) it’s practically guaranteed to be a huge seller. But this is a dangerous battlefield for bow manufacturers. Only the manufacturers with the best patent strategies and cost management techniques dare to sell products this close to their wholesale cost.
MARKET MOTIVES: Why sell a bow so cheap at all? Actually, there are two main reasons - both related to brand competition. First, manufacturing and distributing a $299 bow – even if the whole effort is for little or no profit – fouls up the competition by taking an otherwise profitable sale from them. So the $299 bow is sometimes used as a defensive strategy. On the other hand, the $299 bow is also considered an investment in brand loyalty. If you buy a manufacturer’s $299 bow and you have a good experience, the manufacturer hopes you’ll later buy one of their premier models as your next bow. So for the manufacturers who can afford to produce a $299 bow, it’s a win-win. Everybody loves the $299 bows – that is except for the manufacturers who don’t have one to sell.
WHAT TO EXPECT: First, don’t expect a big selection. There are only a handful of these bows on the market. We rarely miss an opportunity to stock these bows when they’re available, as they will surely be popular sellers in our store. But again, there will only be a few models to choose from. A $299 bow typically has a modern shape, a single cam, a film-dipped camo finish, a fairly tall brace height (7-8”), a moderate axle-to-axle length, and an IBO speed no more than 305-315 fps. $299 bows are not likely to have many premium features and amenities - but some have a few. However, since these bows are not particularly aggressive, they tend to be easy to shoot, reasonably quiet, and depending on the limb angle – low recoil. For most bowhunting missions, we think you’ll find the $299 bow easily gets the job done. In fact, today’s $299 bows probably outperform most of the flagship bows we celebrated as wicked and cutting-edge just ten years ago. If saving money is essential, the $299 rigs are almost no brainers.
$399 BOWS - BEST BUY CLASS
WORKHORSE BOWS: Most every bow manufacturer is in the game at $399. This class of bows more accurately represents the “entry-level” bows on the market. But due to the competition from the $299 bows, and the fact that some manufacturers want to make a good impression against them, the $399 bows tend to be market sweethearts. $399 probably won’t get you a hot speed bow or one of the pro-shop only aristocrats, but many of the $399 bows are excellent hunters, with integrated dampening gadgets, high limb angles, good limb pre-loads, and forgiving characteristics. Expect the typical $399 bow to have a 7” brace height, a 31-34” axle-to-axle length, and an IBO speed of about 310-320 fps. This class of bows will surely outperform the typical $299 bow, and for many bowhunters, the extra $100 feels well spent, if for no other reason than you didn’t buy the cheapest thing. In addition to better self-esteem, moving up to the $399 bows will also give you a MUCH broader selection – lots of $399 bows out there. This is truly the workhorse class of compound bows.
$499 PRICE PURGATORY BOWS
A STRANGE ZONE: At $499, most bow manufacturers aren’t quite ready to put in their varsity players. As a result, $499 bows never seem to be purposefully built. More often, the $499 bows seem to either be upgraded/modified versions of existing entry-level bows or deliberately stripped-down versions of high-end bows. We’ve actually seen bow manufacturers take their $399 bow and simply install a little shorter limb to make a $499 bow. A shorter limb reduces the brace height and increases the IBO speed. Presto! A new “upgraded” bow is born. Its production cost is identical to the $399 bow, but the faster IBO speed means it can command a higher retail price. We’ve also seen $499 bows that are just the company’s flagship bow with a softer cam and most of the add-ons removed. It’s a very strange zone of bow purgatory. Of course, we’re not suggesting that you avoid $499 bows. There are certainly some fine bows in that price range. But just so you know – we are very cautious about the number of $499 bows we select and stock each season. They tend to be slow sellers and get lukewarm customer response. Since the $499 bow could literally be anything, we can’t tell you what specs are typical. Sorry.
$599-$699 SPECIALISTS AND HOT-RODS
ALMOST TOP OF THE LINE: At $599 or $699, bow manufacturers are starting to spread their tail feathers. These bows are likely to represent the first major performance step-ups, usually into the 330's. This price range is also likely to be home to some specialist bows (very short treestand bows, bows with extra long draw lengths, bows with heavyweight limb options, etc.). This is also the price point where bells and whistles are expected. A Plain Jane $599 bow will always be a dud here in our store. If customers are going to drop six or seven bills, they expect a pretty sharp rig with upgraded cams, crisp aesthetics, custom strings, roller guards, pivoting pockets, etc. A bow has NO business in this price range without a reasonable spread of amenities and a solid technical report card. Incidentally, we sell a LOT of bows from the $599 and $699 price points. Savvy buyers find this price range has some smart picks, since the Specialists and Hot-Rods are still cheaper than the flagships, yet they often share many of the key features and technologies found on the flagships. And in some cases, the flagship bows are almost identical to the $599/$699 bows, except the flagships have shorter brace heights and faster IBO speeds - which some shooters don't really want anyway. If you want to buy something really nice, without spending a ridiculous fortune, this is a good class to shop.
$799 AND UP TO WHATEVER YOU WILL PAY
GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR? OK. FINE: Above the $799 mark, there really is no pricing logic - no cost based justification. Prices seem to jump around - often with no discernible reason. Of course, there are buyers out there who firmly believe in the "you get what you pay for" mantra (bless their wonderful little hearts). Some buyers really believe that more expensive automatically equals better - and that's the end of the discussion. If you want to buy an absolute top of the line rig with no regard for price ... great! Come right in. We have a few bows we would love to show you.
CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENT PREMIUM: But if you're not so anxious to have your Visa card slaughtered unnecessarily, we strongly suggest you compare these flagship bows dollar for dollar - point for point - feature for feature. There are a few bow manufacturers who simply believe their bows are worth more than everyone else's - and they aren't afraid to price their name (and the cost of all those celebrity endorsements) into their bows. If you're going to pay more, make sure you're actually getting more. It's very easy to get hypnotized in this industry ... Look at my finger. You're getting very sleepy now.