matter how much a product is advertised, or how cleverly it is marketed,
it ultimately has to live up to customer expectations or it is destined
for the bargain bin. And when it came to their drop-away arrow
rests, it didn't take customers very long to figure out which designs
really worked, and which ones didn't. When the smoke from the
drop-away arrow rest wars began to clear, the battlefield was littered
with the fallen. Some designs retreated in obscurity, some
manufacturers flatlined into Chapter 11, and the bargain bins were full
of the casualties. Indeed, there were losers.
But there were winners, too. My Mother often said, "The cream always rises to the top." As a child, I thought this had something to do with butter. But what she really meant was that if you're the best, you'll eventually be recognized and rewarded, and you'll prevail. It's been a half decade since the drop-away wars. So who is the cream at the top today? Who is the king of Drop-Away Hill in 2009? Well, we have a pretty good idea.
Quality Archery Designs (QAD) Ultra Rest Series
The archery industry is a relatively small niche market, only $500M wide from Apple Bow Presses to Zebra Bow Strings. So outside of the major bow and arrow manufacturers, the archery market is chocked full of sub-$5M private manufacturing companies who don't eagerly share their sales data.
Nonetheless, our pro-shop has outfitted well over 10,000 compound bows since the drop-away wars, and our internal data shows an undeniable trend. The once-obscure QAD Ultra Rest Series arrow rests are steadily rising to the top. They may already be at the top. In 2008, the QAD rests represented 84.7% of all drop-away arrow rests purchased by our customers. So what's the deal? Are we somehow skewing the distribution in our store? Or are the QAD rests becoming one of those enduring designs, could they be the proverbial Whisker Biscuit of drop-away's? Absolutely maybe! So we decided to investigate.
What QAD has to say about it...
Knowing full well that asking a manufacturer for sales data is like asking a weathered mother of five for her age and weight, I decided to call Quality Archery Designs and shake the tree anyway. I explained to the receptionist that our company was writing an interest article on QAD, and was promptly patched-through to QAD's Director of Marketing and Sales, Mr. Kevin Fry.
While I'm sure Kevin and I have probably spoken before at trade shows, the nature of my unexpected cold-call demanded some basic courtesy protocol. So I introduced myself and explained the purpose of my call. Now, keep in mind that I would usually ask about the weather in situations like this, and try to get the person chatted-up a bit first. That usually works. But I was excited to get down to the nitty gritty. So I skipped the slick-talker weather bit, cleared my throat, and got right down to explaining how our internal data had shown a steady five-year march, ending with QAD's Ultra Rests in statistical domination at our store. Kevin warmly thanked me for being such a loyal QAD customer, for promoting their products, and went on to mention some of the highlights of their product line. But oddly, he didn't really seem surprised by my 84.7% statistic. And that was my big line! That was supposed to soften him up. Hmmm....
OK, I figured, no sense in beating around the bush. So I went ahead and dropped my CNBC financial question. I asked Kevin if our store's experience (data) is representative of QAD's actual share of the drop-away arrow rest market. As Kevin began to answer my question, I could only think one thing: "Dang it! I should have chatted him up about the weather first."
While he didn't offer any direct numbers and percentages, I must admit that I found Kevin Fry to be amazingly sincere. Kevin is a man who truly loves and believes in his company and his product line, yet he tempers that with a humble thankfulness - rather than the typical arrogance we encounter at most successful companies. Kevin went on to explain that QAD started as a hopeful, small operation, with little money for advertising. So much of their early marketing was simple word-of-mouth. But as time passed, their product line began to take roots, and over the last five years his company has been blessed by tremendous growth and success.
Kevin also explained that QAD products are designed and produced totally in-house (Madison Heights, VA). They make all of their parts right here in the USA so they can keep their quality high and their jobs at home. Most bowhunters and archery enthusiasts probably don't know this, but MANY of our best-known archery accessory manufacturers are now farming-out their production to China - an issue that has us all greatly concerned. But that's a topic for another article.
So.....talking to Kevin taught me that QAD is a strong and growing company. But it also taught me something else. I'm apparently not much of an investigative reporter. The question I totally forgot to ask was, "Are QAD rests number one in the market?" In my defense, I was a kind of touched by Kevin's sincerity - plus I'm very patriotic so that "jobs at home" thing really got to me. So I was distracted. But next time - he won't get away so easily - I'll give him the full Lou Dobbs press!
OK. So I probably won't. But are QAD Ultra Rests the best selling drop-away rests on the market today? Probably, yes. Sources inside the industry confirm our internal data, QAD clearly commands a lion's share of the drop-away arrow rest market. Perhaps we may never know the exact numbers. But it's pretty clear that something special is happening at Quality Archery Designs, and perhaps it's best to just leave it at that.
But the real question we haven't addressed ... WHY??? What makes the QAD rests better than any other drop-away? Why are they special? What's behind the success? Our Gear Review Board takes a closer look at that in a moment. But I suspect the answer has something to do with butter & cream.
Perspective from the Front Office
The QAD Ultra Rests are by far the best-selling drop-away rests in our shop, and they're one of the more common upgrade requests on packages that don’t already come equipped with one. Feedback from our customers indicates why: no fletching damage, simple installation, relatively foolproof operation, and virtually no operational failures -- out of the thousands of QADs we’ve sold in my time at Hunter’s Friend, I’ve seen exactly one come back due to product failure. The price doesn’t hurt, either: the base model, the QAD Ultra Rest Hunter is under FIFTY BUCKS. So the QAD Ultra Rest Hunter is among the least-expensive drop-away rests in our shop.
A customer from New England wanted to shoot right helical feathers without giving up the containment feature of his capture rest. Thanks to the QAD Hunter, he’s now doing that. One hunter from Colorado, who was just getting started in archery, opted for a QAD because he wanted to shoot a drop-away from the beginning of his time in archery; when he called back a few months later to order more arrows, he said the QAD Ultra Rest was one of the best things about his bow. A gentleman from the Southwest told me about the novel way in which a QAD Hunter has turned him into a better bowhunter: Since he put one on his girlfriend’s bow, she now outshoots him up to 40 yards -- and she has turned that improved accuracy into greater success in the field, putting more meat in the freezer. Now, he’s putting in more practice time to catch up to her!
It's really not hard to understand
QAD's popularity. The QAD Ultra Rests have a unique advantage
over most drop-away rests. With the QAD Ultra Rests,
bowhunters don’t have to trade the arrow containment of a capture
rest for the advantages of a drop-away. Just nock your arrow, flip
the lever on the thumb wheel and you’re set; with the integrated
capture bar, the arrow can’t fall off the rest. Did that trophy buck
just step behind a big beech tree or quarter away while you’re at
full draw? No problem -- thanks to QAD’s Velocity Drop-Away
technology, the launcher won’t fall until the bow is fired, so you
can let your bow down slowly without disengaging the launcher. (If
you want to disengage the launcher without firing the bow, just
quickly flick the lever with your thumb; that’ll kick the launcher
back to its pre-cocked position.)
Perspective from an Experienced
Arrow rests have come a long way over the last couple decades. The road from a piece of feather glued above the shelf to today’s high-speed drop-away designs has been a long one. Year after year companies and archery enthusiasts have worked hard to raise the bar on arrow flight, versatility, and ease of tuning. In this reviewer’s opinion a few years ago one such company called Quality Archery Designs really hit the nail on the head.
Installation really is a snap. You start by installing the felt on the launcher and containment bar then bolting the rest on the bow nice and square. On the Hunter model, you adjust the “Drum” portion of the arrow rest until the launcher arm is straight up and down in the fully raised position and doesn’t quite touch the shelf in the lowered position. Next raise the rest and roughly square up your arrow a touch nock high and centered in windage. Install your string loop and/or nocking point, saving the act of doing a final tight crimp for post-tuning.
Now you have the choice of either putting the bow in a press and running the QAD activation cord between the bundles of the down cable to serve-in later, or using the included string clamp. Next draw the bow and see where you’re at. The tail is long so you’ll probably need to pull it through a good bit more to get the rest all the way up. Keep pulling it through and re-checking, a little bit at a time, until your rest is all the way up at full draw. Now you can either finalize the clamping and trim the tail or serve the activation cord in. Pull down your paper for tuning and proceed as normal, reading the hole and adjusting accordingly. That’s really all there is to it!
The simplicity and ease of using the QAD Ultra Rest doesn’t stop in the shop either. Once you get ready to shoot just nock an arrow and raise the rest into its locked position via the conveniently located thumb lever. Your arrow is contained in any position, even upside down. If you want to drop your arrow without shooting just give the thumb lever a quick flick and the rest falls away just as if you’d shot. In the event something terrible happens, such as a severed actuation cord, the QAD Hunter will still safely drop away from your arrow without serious consequences - other than noticeably compromised arrow flight. If you’re like me and prefer a 4” feather with a slight right helical, or you’re tired of wrinkled and damaged vanes, the QAD is just what the doctor ordered.
I’ve used the QAD Hunter in conditions from fair to icy, in open fields and thick woods, and have yet to experience a failure of any kind with it over thousands of shots. You get robin-hood consistency, deep mountains dependability, all for little as 50 bucks. I haven’t had to re-fletch any arrows other than those damaged from shooting at the same spot twice in months! QAD Rest get a big thumbs up.
Criticisms from the Crowd
If you scan the forums and chat boards, you'll be sure to find the classic criticism of drop-away rests. No matter the brand or model, some amateur bowyers seem intent on claiming that their drop-away arrow rests don't drop fast enough. While this conclusion is almost always completely wrong, we understand why this common amateur misdiagnosis exists.
When you fire your bow, the launcher of a drop-away arrow rest should move out of the way before the fletchings arrive, so the arrow leaves the bow with zero fletching contact. Easy enough! So once you bolt-on your new drop-away arrow rest, all your fletching contact issues should be gone - instantly and forever, right? Wrong! It's not quite that simple.
First, you must realize that a drop-away arrow rest doesn't solve issues
with improper tuning, incorrect arrow spines, excessive cam lean, poor
cam synchronization & nock travel, or inadequate cable clearances - nor will a
drop-away arrow rest correct glitches in your shooting form, such as
heavy hand torque. If your bow setup has
unresolved technical issues that exist before the installation of your
new drop-away arrow rest, those issues will still exist
after your drop-away arrow
rest is installed - resulting in
poor arrow flight and fletching clearance issues . The drop-away arrow rest doesn't
cure a poorly functioning bow setup.
A Better Idea
The engineers at QAD listened to the shooting public and delivered with no shortcuts. From the affordable QAD Ultra Rest Hunter to the Pro-Series HD model in full camo, the QAD series drop-away arrow rests allow shooters to enjoy the total arrow containment and shoot any fletching configuration they desire. The QAD drop-aways are easy to use, extremely consistent, and above all else, reliable.
If you're looking for the benefits of a drop-away rest but not quite ready to abandon the security of your trusty capture rest, the QAD Ultra-Rest might be just what you’re looking for. Quality Archery Designs has taken the best features of drop-away rests -- less arrow-to-rest contact, increased arrow speeds, elimination of fletching contact -- and improved on them all.
For more information on Quality Archery Design Products:
Quality Archery Designs