Of all the bows at the show, this one surprised and impressed me most. This company debuted only a few years ago—yet another up-and-comer spearheaded by the wildly talented Kevin Strother. The 2014 ATA show was Obsession’s coming out party, and the pretty young thing, all dressed up for the occasion, is their flagship bow, the Evolution. I’ll stress again that the show floor is not a place to evaluate bows, but based only on the half a dozen shots I took, I’m not sure I’ve ever shot a bow this fast that was this pleasant to shoot. I can’t wait to shoot it for real.
What always stands out with Elite bows in general is how pleasant they are to shoot. We absolutely gushed about last year’s Hunter in this regard. But it was slow. Too slow to rank it among the very top bows. The Energy is significantly faster at 335. The company had to update the cams and strengthen the riser to pull it off, but, based on the little bit of shooting one is able to do at ATA, pull it off they have.
Last year, Bowtech throttled back in the IBO race to produce the smooth-shooting and very accurate (for me, at least) Experience, which won our 2013 Best of the Best Award for bows. So it was time to jump back onto the gas pedal. The RPM 360 is a speed bow with several major new technologies, the most apparent of which is the trapezoidal I-beam riser, designed to handle lots of energy with minimal torque.
Last year Bear surprised us with their first pure speed bow, the 350-IBO Motive 6, which did well in our Best-of-the-Best testing—and I (as just one of four testers) thought it should have done a little better than it did. Well, the Agenda is basically the Motive with a new riser and improved cable guard and string suppressors.
1.8” single-pin slider; swappable .010 or .019 pin, 8.5 oz.; First, second and third axis with illuminated levels.
With the new Covert single-pin slider, Apex packed every single feature you’d want in a high-end hunting bow sight, and priced it under $150. At 8.5 oz. it’s among the lightest sliders out there. Only the Archer Xtreme Driver, so far as I know, is lighter, but that was achieved with a good bit of plastic on the housing. The Convert is solid aluminum construction throughout. Only the pin itself is plastic, much like Black Gold sights, but with the Apex you can swap in and out a .010 or .019 pin. The pin itself is clear and slides backward and forward on a small track, letting the user select a green, red or amber pin color. It’s a neat feature and may be helpful for colorblind guys needing an off-the-shelf option.
Here’s what I said last year about Prime’s 2013 flagship, the Impact: “This would be one hell of a bow if it wasn’t such a club.” Well, the Alloy, which shoots very much like the Impact but is a little shorter and significantly lighter, is not a club. As so therefore, it is a hell of bow. Of course, the other companies have stepped up their game, too. But this is a major improvement in my opinion.
Last year’s aluminum Spyder Turbo took third place overall in our Best of the Best testing, and it was the top-ranking speed bow. (You may think that a 340-IBO bow doesn’t quite deserve the “speed bow” tag, but that rating was conservative; it lit up the chronograph.) This year’s version, the Faktor Turbo, has the same (probably conservative) IBO rating and yet a new cam designed for a smoother draw. Is it smoother? As I say in the vid, that’s pretty much impossible to evaluate at the show. Basically, it feels a lot like last year’s Spyder Turbo, which we really liked, except it’s 1 inch shorter and .4 pounds lighter.
Like most of Strother’s recent offerings, the Vital strikes me as a heck of good all-around hunting bow. This year’s flagship has a new limb pocket designed to add strength and integrity and a new cam system. But from what I could tell, it shoots much like last year’s flagship, which a good thing. This is also a sharp-looking bow. The riser is simple and classy with a nice fit and finish.
This, as I say in the video, is the fastest hunting bow ever made. So while the DNA SP (see below) is PSE’s new flagship intended for the majority of shooters, the Full Throttle generated a lot more buzz at the show. Like all the X-Force bows since the original model began the latest round of speeds wars, this is an impressive machine—precisely engineered, solidly built, and I suspect, very accurate. It all boils down to this: Can you handle it?
The ATA show might be the worst place in the world to test bows. I hate to start with such a caveat, but there it is. The show floor is loud, clanging with distractions, and all the bows are set up differently, most notably with varying draw weights, somewhere between 50 and 60 so anyone can shoot them. It’s a mess.
And yet, there is much to glean. I just returned from show, held in Nashville earlier this week, and had a chance to look at and shoot pretty much all the new bows in one place. And while there was no way for me to fairly compare or rank the various models here, I was able to get a solid first impression. What’s more, having thoroughly tested all the flagship bows from last year, I could quickly see if and how each company stepped up their game for 2014.
And now, with that sweeping qualification aside, here are my first impressions of this year’s new compound bows.