A bow and arrow to many hunters is much more than a piece of equipment. The history of the brand that built it and the values and passion they instill into their bows is often just as, if not more, important than the bow’s performance itself. Today we will take a look at a few of the top names in compound bow making and see their stories and what they have brought to the compound bow industry.
History of Bow Manufacturers
The compound bow we know of today is believed to have been first constructed in 1966 by Holless Wilbur Allen Jr. The first compound bows were essentially just recurve bows that had additional pulleys added to the ends of each limb. The benefit of adding the newly called “cams” to a bow meant that a bow could provide and store much more power than traditional recurve bows, without as much strain caused by holding the bow in its drawn position.
After the first compound bow was built, a wave of innovations from manufacturers and hunters took off, which caused the increased popularity of compound bows among hunters all over. The additional power and easy draw hold meant that the new compound bows were perfect for hunting.
The added confidence and more forgiving design of compound bows continues to advance and revolutionize to this day. Bows are becoming much more accessible for newcomers, offering an easier entry to archery than ever before.
Brand 1: Bear
Founded in 1933, Bear Archery is one of the oldest names in archery and has a reputation that is clear from their long-standing dedication to archery. The company was founded by Fred Bear, who took the company from a small advertising firm to a full-scale bow manufacturer.
The man behind the name, Fred Bear, was widely known and respected throughout the hunting industry, as one of the most influential and well-travelled hunters of his time. Bear came from humble beginnings and found his love for hunting later in life. Bear wrote books, travelled, inspired songs, and even patented the composite archery bow. Years after Fred Bear’s passing, the company keeps his legacy alive by making some of the best hunting bows on the market.
Bear has changed ownership several times since Fred Bear sold the majority of his shares and they are now based out of Gainesville, Florida. Bear still innovates and sells high quantities of bows of all styles and price tags to maintain their spot among the best modern bow manufacturers.
Bear as a modern company releases many new bows each season and each one brings new technologies to the hunting industry. One of Bear’s staple innovations is their quad-limb design which can be seen across their entire range of bows. The quad-limb design uses four separate limbs on the bow, compared to the traditional two, in an effort to evenly distribute the weight throughout the bow for greater efficiency when shooting.
An area in which Bear puts a lot of attention is reducing noise and vibration in their bows. Some innovations, such as their SonicStops, which reduce strong vibrations and their shockwave limb dampeners are designed to reduce vibrations. These features help Bear make bows that have plenty of power without all of the vibrations and force that is traditionally associated with the additional force.
Recently, Bear has also entered into the crossbow market in an attempt to expand their reach. Their newer crossbow models utilize the same Bear design language and features as their compound bows and are already making positive impressions on many hunters.
Without question, the flagship bow of Bear Archery is their Legend Series Perception. This bow is easily the most expensive and innovative bow Bear has ever made and its price tag is fairly easy to justify.
What makes this bow so special is that it is in a class of its own. The Perception is what is known as a shoot-through compound bow, which means the arrow shoots through the main body of the bow. This design in itself is not a completely new idea, but one that shoots at the Perception’s 350 fps is unheard of.
The Perception was designed to literally change the perception of how we think of compound bows and Bear certainly delivered on their promise. With all of the technology seen on the other high-end Bear compound bows, as well as new innovations just for the Perception, Bear has created a new way to think about compound bows and has created a new way to shoot.
Brand 2: Mathews
Founded on the dreams of a young boy, Mathews Archery is one of the best examples of passion and dedication in any industry. The brand’s founder, Matt McPherson, discovered archery in his early teens and even built his own compound bow at the age of 13 because he could not afford to buy one at the store. It was when building his very first bow that a spark was ignited within Matt and Mathews Archery began to come to life.
Mathews Archery was officially founded in 1992 and has continued to produce bows to this day. Unlike some of the larger and more international brands, Mathews has always been dedicated to creating every aspect of their bows in-house, with only the best materials available. Mathews builds, tests, and sells their own bows so that they can ensure the quality meets the incredibly high standards shared by everyone working for the company.
The reputation for excellence and innovation associated with the Mathews Archery name is due to the dedicated and passionate few who work at their production facilities. Each and every bow designed at Mathews endures a rigorous trial to ensure that it not only performs at the factory, but that it is the most capable bow at any hunting ground.
Mathews has been innovating their bows ever since their founding and show no signs of stopping. The people working on and designing the bows refuse to sell a bow that they themselves wouldn’t be happy and comfortable hunting with.
The newest bows are packed with innovations that are all centered around their new riser technologies. The extended bridge riser that Mathews has introduced is made of incredibly lightweight materials and is able to increase rigidity. Their new and adjustable cam modules allow for the ability to change draw length and weigh with simple changes, meaning that their newest bows are incredibly customizable.
To increase the comfort and hunting effectiveness of their bows, Mathews has also introduced many innovative solutions to noise and vibration reduction. Each new bow that is produced utilizes 3D dampening technology that is uniquely tuned to the harmonics of each bow, to ensure the maximum amount of vibration and noise reduction when shooting.
Mathews latest bows are all excellent and built to incredibly high standards, making it difficult to pick a true flagship. However, their new VXR line of bows stand out as the latest and greatest that Mathews has to offer.
To ensure their bows are more than just the specifications listed on the website and fancy range show pieces, Mathews tests their bows in the real world. Before full production began on the new VXR line, Mathews put the bow in the hands of several hunters to go and test and came back with an incredible 4,650 hours of testing across America in the hands of forty hunters claiming 52 successful kills. The overwhelming response by the hunters and first buyers of the bow praise its abilities in even the most difficult hunts and conditions.
Brand 3: Hoyt
Hoyt is one of the oldest names in archery and their dedication to making various bows that dominate in any category is clear from their first bow to their very latest. In 1931, Earl Hoyt Sr. started his archery company in a time when bows were essentially the same as they had been for hundreds of years prior. However, Hoyt knew that the times were changing and if he wanted to succeed in his industry, he had to innovate.
Hoyt senior and junior were both brought up hunting and knew that they could make an impact in the archery industry. The Hoyt family is credited with some of the earliest archery innovations, like dynamically balanced limbs and pistol grips, which have been refined over time and are still crucial to archery today.
With success in all types of archery, Hoyt has made a name for itself at the modern target range where their bows are used by some of the best archers in the world. Hoyt has the unique privilege to have more Olympic medals associated with their brand than every other bow manufacturer combined. With a pedigree for winning and innovation, Hoyt is at the very top of every archer’s wish list.
Ever since the inception of the company, Hoyt has been improving their bows and technology to keep archery evolving on all fronts. Being one of the earliest large-scale bow manufacturers, Hoyt created many innovations such as the balanced limb design and pistol grip style risers that changed the entire industry.
Hoyt is able to stay competitive in events like Olympic archery and hunting because they keep innovating and perfecting their bows for the best shot possible. One of the most prominent innovations Hoyt has introduced with their bows, is the use of numerous carbon components. Both their hunting and target bow lines all have several bows with carbon risers and limbs that allow for high strength and lightweight components.
Hoyt also leads the field in vibration reduction and noise suppression technology. The Hoyt Shock Pods absorb the initial vibrations that come from releasing an arrow. After the shot is made and the string is released, the Hoyt Stealth Shot technology takes over and suppresses the spring so that less noise and vibration is present after firing.
Hoyt has some incredible bows designed for competitive and Olympic archery, but their compound bows are equally impressive and stand out as some of the best in the industry. The implementation of carbon elements alongside their many innovative technologies means that the Hoyt Carbon Rx-4 Turbo hits fast and hard, while also being competitively lightweight.
The Rx-4 Turbo builds on older Hoyt models and improves on the speed and effectiveness of its predecessors in almost every way. One area that the Rx-4 Turbo is king is in its adjustability. Not only can an archer adjust the bow’s cam for the perfect draw, but the grip of the bow can be adjusted left and right for the perfect line of sight when shooting. The Rx-4 Turbo also shoots with a smooth draw thanks to the roller cable guard and custom stings that reduce friction and resistance when lining up a fatal shot.
Brand 4: PSE
Similar to the other companies, PSE all started with one man who knew that the archery world could be so much better. For PSE, that one man was Pete Sheply. Pete had a love for archery in his earlier life and with support from his peers, he knew that he could revolutionize archery and bring it to where it is today.
In 1970, Pete founded Precision Shooting Equipment with a vision and goals. Pete started his work by tinkering with arrows and release aids to try and find ways to make shooting more efficient. Eventually, Pete realized that he had one true goal and that was to make the perfect compound bow. Years later, PSE is now the largest private archery equipment manufacturer in America.
Pete’s first bow was an instant hit and as orders came in, he knew he had struck gold. Pete created a massive entity that now produces some of the finest bows on the market and holds over 20 patents for bow design. PSE also began the movement of using machined aluminum to create the strong and lightweight risers that are now standard among all archers.
PSE has been innovating since day one and has since created many new technologies seen throughout the entire compound bow industry. PSE was one of the first five companies allowed to build compound bows, and is the only one currently still doing so today. With more that 200 patents today, it is no surprise that PSE has been and will continue to innovate into the future.
One of PSE’s more recent innovations that is highly praised among archers is the smoothness of the PSE draw. Many newer PSE bows are equipped with Evolve cam technology, which creates an incredibly smooth draw on a bow that has a lot of power behind it. The draw of PSE bows is unmatched in its ability to retain speed and comfort, without excessive amounts of vibration.
In addition to being one of the first to use milled aluminum in their early bows, PSE was also one of the first to introduce carbon into their bows for added performance. Their latest 2020 models utilize unidirectional carbon risers that increase the strength of the bow while also reducing the overall weight.
Boasting a minimal yet powerful design, the new Carbon Air Stealth Mach 1 shows that while PSE wrote the book for compound bows, they’re not done innovating. The new Mach 1 is built entirely in America and is made entirely out of carbon fiber. Out are the days of aluminum and in is the new wave of carbon bows that are lighter and more powerful.
The Mach 1 improves in many other areas, in addition to being a new carbon bow. The limbs and grip of the Mach 1 are designed for maximum comfort when aiming and shooting and have the added benefit of increasing the overall stability of the bow.
The Evolve cam technology that has been run through its paces in other PSE bows is perfect for the latest PSE bow, as the cams are able to give the bow a smoother draw than the competition, all while shooting arrows at blistering speeds.
Brand 5: Athens Archery
Athens archery is a brand built on the simple philosophy of “live your passion.” Athens wants to be proud of their fine craftsmanship and wants every customer to feel like part of a larger family when buying one of their bows. In the middle of a hunting trip in 2009 during a slow period for the auto industry, Jason and Amanda Hudkins realized that with their love for hunting and technical knowledge, they could make a real difference in the compound bow market.
Athens has been committed to providing the best in customer service quality and ease of use since day one. The team at Athens was recently purchased in 2018, but even under new ownership they are still striving to make the best bows possible for dedicated archers. Through their impressive milling process and history of well-built bows, Athens has been able to make a name for itself among even the biggest names in archery, through their passion and dedication for hunting.
Ever since their first aluminum pressed bows, Athens has had a reputation in the archery world for their well-built and well-rounded bows. The Athens craftsmanship is praised throughout the industry and their attention to detail in their bows is obvious when you hold one in your hands.
Some of the biggest innovations that Athens have brought to the industry have been regarding their build and general approach to bow sales. On their manufacturing side, Athens continues to use precision milled components on their bows, which allows for extreme rigidity and a platform that can take on any hunt. A unique innovation that Athens has also introduced is their ability to connect with customers in providing lifetime warranties and readily available assistance, to provide a sense of family with every bow they sell.
Athens only produces four bows in their current line-up, which all have something unique to offer an archer. However, their 2019 Summit bow offers all of the best elements of an Athens bow in one compact package.
The Summit is able to perform with other high-end bows without the cumbersome size and weight. Thanks to the previously mentioned milled riser, the construction of the Summit is incredibly sturdy and allows for precision and accuracy with every shot.
Brand 6: Bowtech
Bowtech was founded by two men in the late 90s hoping to make a lasting impact on the archery world, but what the company has become today is something much bigger. If you know archery, then the name Bowtech has probably been on your radar before due to their dedication to producing and testing high-quality bows with an American-made pride in every bow.
Their first bow was released back in 2000 and Bowtech has been producing excellent bows ever since. The company has a commitment to providing the best bows possible and every bow they sell is run through its paces like a fine sports car. Each bow is fired, stress tested, and checked over many times before leaving the production facility to ensure that every customer is receiving a bow that is ready for anything.
In 2007, Bowtech was bought by the larger Savage Sports Corporation who were able to give more funds to the Bowtech team for innovations and have been keeping the same quality and message alive ever since.
One of the most impressive and unique parts about Bowtech is the sheer amount of development and research they put into their bows. From the cam system to the strings, each Bowtech bow is packed with technology for the perfect shot.
The newer deadlock system was added to newer cam systems that allow for hunters to get their bows tuned and lock them in place for an entire season without having to worry. With a set of cams utilizing the impressive powerdisc technology, all it takes is a few turns of an Allen wrench to take your bow from the hard-hitting performance mode into its much smooth and reserved comfort mode.
To combine their latest and greatest tech into one, well-rounded package, Bowtech released the new Revolt that hopes to create a bow that an archer only needs to tune once and is able to use consistently any time after.
Using the innovative deadlock system, the Revolt can be tuned to perfection once and never have to be adjusted again. The sliding cam system also makes for easy adjustments to distribute power and force from left to right to any hunter’s preference.
The riser, cams, and even cable containment are all equipped with the deadlock technology that means every shot will not only be as accurate as the first, but each shot will be silent and create as little vibration as possible.
Brand 7: Elite Archery
One of the newer companies to enter the compound bow market, Elite archery has solidified their place among even the oldest brands as one of the top names in archery. The recognized start of Elite archery was in 2005, but the company did not become what it is today until 2009.
So many numbers and figures are thrown around in the bow industry, but Elite only wants to make one thing clear and that is that they make the most shootable bows on the market. Elite is able to achieve this by making bows that are incredibly customizable and built to perform. With steady draws and just a few adjustments needed to be hitting consistent shots, the Elite bows are chosen time and time again for their ability to just work.
As previously mentioned, Elite strives to make bows that are able stand up to anything and work without any fuss. This is mostly because of their revolutionary S.E.T. system. The Simplified Exact Tuning technology allows one of Elite’s bows to be micro-adjusted on its cams and limbs to ensure that their bows are shooting just as the archer wants them to.
To increase the balance of their bows, Elite has decided to upgrade their cam systems with the ASYM Tri-track cams system. The new cam system creates a holistically balanced package that allows for a stable riser, as well as a stable cam setup. Paired alongside their Vibe X limb dampeners, the newest bows offered by Elite will be as silent as they are stable for every shot.
For 2020, Elite has completely overhauled their bow line up and is offering some of their most competitive bows yet. Leading this new wave of bows is their capable and sleek KURE series of bows. The message Elite wants to send with the KURE line is that no matter the equipment you are using, the KURE will adapt to you and your shooting.
Equipped with the Elite S.E.T cam system, minute and perfectly aligned adjustments can be made to the limbs and cams to ensure perfect arrow flight. This bow doesn’t look like some of the older models that Elite has produced, but once an archer takes a few shots with the bow they’ll know exactly who made it.
Brand 8: Obsession Bows
If you like small-town brands with family values, then Obsession is a company that will certainly resonate with you. Obsession was founded only a few years ago by Dennis and Angela Lewis out of a small town in Georgia. Since their inception, Obsession bows has been providing high quality bows to archers of all skills and abilities across America.
In 2014, they were acquired by Arcus Hunting, who bought the brand from its original owners. Now that the owners have new funds and time to innovate, Obsessions’ line of bows has only improved in quality and performance since the purchase. Obsession has been awarded many awards and is recognized frequently by Outdoor Life for their outstanding performance and dedication to their customers.
Even as a small-town company with humble values, obsession is constantly innovating and trying to find ways to improve their bows. One area they have invested heavily in recently is their cam technology. The latest TRAX system is built out of aluminum and is designed to need no adjustment on their bows so that archers can just go out and shoot smooth. Each Obsession bow comes with a specialized cam that was designed with that bow’s target archer in mind.
On top of their exciting cam options, Obsession also took the time to innovate the rest of their bows. A new and adjustable string suppressor means that archers can adjust the positioning of their shots without having to worry about vibration, and the 1-piece limb pocket improves the overall bow alignment for the best accuracy possible.
For 2020, Obsession has stepped their game up and introduced an entire new series of bows that improves on every bow they have built before. The Evolution line is their latest and greatest bow and comes in several configurations that make it great for a very diverse range of archers.
Just the looks of this bow alone send a message of innovation that the rest of the design is able to deliver on. Once you get into the finer details of the bow, you will notice it has the 4-track cam system that is able to deliver superior arrow flight, alongside the ease of tuning. With all of the innovative tech and new features, the only choice left is to choose how to customize the bow with so many options.
Brand 9: Prime Archery
To stay competitive in an industry like compound bow manufacturing, a small company that wants to stand out needs to do something truly spectacular to make their name known. From the very inception of Prime Archery, the Grace family knew that in order to stand out and be the best, they had to make innovations and take chances that other companies were too afraid to try.
Prime Archery seeks to innovate the compound bow industry and show that you don’t need millions of dollars of funding to make an excellent bow. Prime designs a bow for every type of archer and at their core they want to design bows that they themselves would want to use. Prime uses an entirely in-house manufacturing process so they can know that each bow is being crafted and handled with the care of one of their own personal bows.
By continuously innovating their products, Prime Archery can compete with the big dogs by offering technology that no other manufacturer has tried to create. Starting at the core of their bows, Prime uses their Centergy technology to ensure that every bow they sell is perfectly balanced and helps the archer that wields it to feel comfortable and balanced with every shot.
When it comes to cams, the patented parallel cam technology on most Prime bows is truly unique in that their design eliminates cam lean by using two cams instead of just one so that they don’t have to worry about an imbalance ruining their shots. Prime has also introduced several other innovations that seek to reduce shock and vibration throughout their bows. For example, their compression axel technology and riser swerve are designed specifically to make shooting their bows feel sturdy and confident for any archer.
For their newest introduction to the archery market, Prime has unveiled their new Black series of bows. Coming in several sizes and power levels, each black series bow is able to provide a unique experience to whoever is shooting it. Using a custom aluminum compound to construct the body of their new bow, Prime was able to create a bow that feels incredibly sturdy in the hands without any additional weight.
Prime wants to ensure their new bow is the king, so they put it in the hands of hunters to an overwhelming amount of praise and support for what they created.
Brand 10: Martin Archery
Just as many archery companies came from humble beginnings to great success, the story of Martin Archery has a much different history. In 1951, before most other archery companies even existed, Gail Martin and his wife Eva were making archery components in their home and knew they could build something bigger.
In 1975, Martin Archery broke new ground as the first company to create a one-cam bow and ushered in the new era of compound bows that we know today. Martin bows weren’t just household names among hunters, but the Martin name and ideals are known worldwide. Martin bows lit the Olympic torch, are used by celebrities, and have even been featured in movies like The Hunger Games.
Despite all of the success and innovation, Gail Martin passed away in 2013 and everything went downhill. After Martin’s passing, the company faced many financial setbacks and even a fire that destroyed the company’s primary manufacturing site. However, Martin’s legacy was too strong to go down in flames and Martin Archery is back on its feet, making new and incredible bows that are praised my many.
Gail Martin started his company to innovate and improve the archery industry, and even after his passing Martin Archery is still living up to his standards. In the beginning, Martin created the first single cam system bow at a time when recurves were the only option. The revolution that followed and created the modern compound bow can all be traced back to Martin and his drive for innovation.
Today, Martin Archery still creates new and exciting bows that are changing archery years after Martin’s first bow. The newer bows in the Martin lineup are equipped with the TRI LOC system, which reinforces the limbs of the bow and makes sure that any fine tuning or adjustment is kept in place so that every shot can be accurate.
The ADIX line that has been recently released by Martin is a true technical marvel and something Gail would be proud to have his name on. The ADIX line is able to eliminate the pesky issue of cam lean by implementing the Hybryx groove on their cams that prevents an uneven load distribution across the bow. A short and compact frame packed with technology is just what any hunter needs, and if anyone knows how to innovate to craft that package, it’s Martin.
Brand 11: Mission Archery
To introduce a new line of products for a younger audience, Mission Archery set out to design a series of bows that were affordable in price and would provide immense value to the learning archer. Owned and run by the parent company Mathews, Mission Archery is a smaller branch of the excellent professional company that has the same standards and work ethics aimed at a different audience.
Mission has the same values as Mathews, which want to get people together to share a common love for the outdoors and archery. For the younger hunter, Mission wants to make sure they have a bow built with care and growth in mind.
Catering to a unique and specific audience like learning children is difficult, but Mission found a way. In order to ensure the most value to their customers, Mission has created a new type of bow that is designed to be flexible and get better with age. The Fast-Fit technology on some of Mission’s new bows allows them to be adjustable to a wide set of skill and strength levels.
By creating bows that are so adjustable and customizable, Mission has created one bow that can be given to a child and grow with them as they get better and stronger.
For the growing archer, the Mission Switch is certainly the bow to get. Coming in at a lower price than any of the competition for its build quality and performance, the Switch is completely customizable and will be the perfect platform for an archer to learn on.
Brand 12: Diamond Archery
Just as Mathews created their line for the growing archer, Bowtech knew that they had the potential to reach all new demographics when they introduced their new brand, Diamond Archery.
Diamond Archery comes from a company with a background in producing high quality and even at their lower price tag that quality is still present. Diamond shook up the industry when they released their Knockout line of bows that was built in collaboration with female archers to build a bow that they felt would help get other women into archery.
The movement towards getting younger archers and women involved in the compound world defines the values of Diamond and keeps them moving forward.
Diamond knew that in order to help young archers grow with one bow, they would really need something special to help them. When they created the EZ Adjust Pocket, they did just that. The EZ adjust system allows for an incredible adjustment of a 7-pound draw weight to a 70-pound draw weight with only one tool.
By creating a bow that can adjust that substantially, the newer lines of Diamond bows will be able to be given to a young child and last them well into their teenage years. Alongside the adjustability of their bows, the Diamond Archery Binary cam system is borrowed from the much more expensive older brothers that come from Mathews. This advanced cam system in a bow for beginners is a serious advantage and leads to smooth shooting and beginner speeds.
With other companies, picking a flagship bow was an easy choice, but Diamond offers two unique offerings that both deserve recognition. For the growing archer, the Diamond Edge 320 is able to be put in the hands of a beginner or advanced archer and feel right at home. This bow will grow with a young archer and is affordable enough to justify the investment.
For the female archers, the Carbon Knockout was built by women, for women and that philosophy is clear in the bows lower weight and design, specially built for the female hunter.