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Four Good Bows for Under $300

by Dave Hurteau

Remarkably in this rotten economy, a growing contingent of archers race to replace last year’s $900 top-end bow with this year’s $1,000 version. If you’re among them, fine and dandy. But if you’re not, I have a couple of secrets for you: (1) Bow companies actually make fantastically affordable bows that last for years. If you haven’t heard of these, it’s because the new, top-of-the-line models get all the hype. And (2) although you give up a little speed, from a practical hunting standpoint, there’s darned little you can do with a $1,000 bow that you can’t with some models costing a third as much. Proof came when New York bow-shop pro Tim Blodgett (saratogatackle.com) and I tested the four bows below, each available at major outlets or online for under $300:

A.) Bear Encounter
Specs: 301⁄2" axle-to-axle; 73⁄4" brace height; 3.7 lb.; 310 fps IBO
Accuracy and Forgiveness: Excellent (2.4" average group)
Draw Cycle: Very good
Feel and Balance: Good
Fit and Finish: Fair
Shock and Vibration: Excellent
Quietness: Excellent
Bargain Rating: Excellent
MSRP: $300
Comments: The 70-pound-draw-​weight Encounter was not made for looks. Who cares? Both Tim and I had the same reaction after the first shot: “Wow!” This was noticeably the quietest, ­smoothest-­shooting bow of the bunch. It also had the best back wall and was the most accurate and forgiving in our tests. The top cam wants to tip toward you after the shot, and the bow does not have as much adjustability as the others. Still, it’s astoundingly good for the price.

B.) Mission Craze 
Specs: 28" axle-to-axle; 71⁄2" brace height; 3.6 lb.; 306 fps IBO
Accuracy and Forgiveness: Good (3.6" average group)
Draw Cycle: Very good
Feel and Balance: Very good
Fit and Finish: Fair
Shock and Vibration: Very good
Quietness: Very good
Bargain Rating: Very good
MSRP: $300
Comments: This very short bow with very large cams does look a little crazy—or at least radical. But what’s really nuts—in a good way—is its 15- to 70-pound draw-weight and 19- to 30-inch draw-length adjustment range, which make it a killer beginner model. It has good feel and balance, little shock and vibration, and a smooth draw cycle—although the back wall is a touch soft. It was the second quietest. Bottom line: If you like short and light, this is a great grow-with-you bow.

C.) PSE Rally
Specs: 333⁄4" axle-to-axle; 71⁄2" brace height; 4.5 lb.; 308 fps IBO
Accuracy and Forgiveness: Very good (2.9" average group)
Draw Cycle: Good
Feel and Balance: Very good
Fit and Finish: Good
Shock and Vibration: Good
Quietness: Good
Bargain Rating: Very good
MSRP: $300
Comments: Except for a very small bump at the beginning, the Rally’s draw cycle is smooth; the back wall is a tad mushy. Although slightly louder than the Mission, it made up for this on the target range. It’s heavier and longer than the others, which we both liked, believing this contributes to its very good accuracy. With an incredible 18- to 31-inch draw-length and 20- to 70-pound draw-weight range, this is another fantastic youth or beginner bow, but one also well suited to adult or experienced archers.

D.) Parker Sidekick Extreme
Specs: 31" axle-to-axle; 75⁄8" brace height; 3.25 lb.; up to 270 fps at 60 lb.
Accuracy and Forgiveness: Good (3.7" average group)
Draw Cycle: Fair
Feel and Balance: Very good
Fit and Finish: Fair
Shock and Vibration: Fair
Quietness: Fair
Bargain Rating: Good
MSRP: $300
Comments: The Sidekick’s draw cycle is a little more challenging and rough, and it was the loudest bow with the most hand shock and vibration. It does point well and stays balanced through the shot. Designed as a youth or ladies’ bow and built on a slightly smaller frame, it is ultralight and features 20 pounds of draw-weight adjustability and an 18- to 28-inch draw-length range. It maxes out at 60 pounds, but it’s a pretty zippy 60.

 

From the July 2012 issue of Field & Stream magazine.

Comments (5)

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from Gabby Faith Wagner wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Just the article I needed. Have been looking at used bows for about the same price. Prefer new, with recommendation!

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from Chad Booher wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Im struggling to find a good starter bow for my daughter who is left handed. She is 17 and most starter bows are for young kids and right handed. Don't want to invest a lot of money for something she decides she doesn't like and I can't use!

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from claybustr wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Chad, check out the Hoyt Ruckus. Great little bow that will adjust between 20-50 pounds as long as she doesn't need more than a 28" draw. I have 2 for my kids (1-righty and 1-lefty). My 11 year old is shooting 37 pounds and should be able to hunt with this bow for years. They sell for about $300 new but it's a bow a kid won't outgrow in a year.

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from Eric Greene wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Great article a change from the $1000 bows. I shoot a Mission and they are all great bows.

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from BippityBoopityMate wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I got a great Martin Eagle Magnum bow from my dad for free!

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from claybustr wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Chad, check out the Hoyt Ruckus. Great little bow that will adjust between 20-50 pounds as long as she doesn't need more than a 28" draw. I have 2 for my kids (1-righty and 1-lefty). My 11 year old is shooting 37 pounds and should be able to hunt with this bow for years. They sell for about $300 new but it's a bow a kid won't outgrow in a year.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Eric Greene wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Great article a change from the $1000 bows. I shoot a Mission and they are all great bows.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gabby Faith Wagner wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Just the article I needed. Have been looking at used bows for about the same price. Prefer new, with recommendation!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Chad Booher wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Im struggling to find a good starter bow for my daughter who is left handed. She is 17 and most starter bows are for young kids and right handed. Don't want to invest a lot of money for something she decides she doesn't like and I can't use!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from BippityBoopityMate wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

I got a great Martin Eagle Magnum bow from my dad for free!

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