By Shane Chunning and Eric Christensen
The Sportsman’s News team spends hundreds of days in the field each year. Our team of experts has sought out the best new archery tackle to hit the shelves this year, and here are our reviews, just in time for archery season.
Bear Archery Arena 34
My first impression of the Bear Archery Arena 34 was more on the military side of things, feeling like it was ready for combat. With the powder coated sand colored finish and black limbs, it definitely has a tactical appearance and will catch attention when looking down the line of bows hanging up in your local Sportsman’s Warehouse. The powder coated finish seems very clean with no noticeable flaws. Overall balance is great and the grip is very nice when shooting off the riser. There are two options on grip; one being a bare riser with the very thin little side plates or the other, a rubber molded grip. My personal preference is shooting off the bare riser with the Bear Archery bows.
Bear Archery Arena 34 specs :
- Cam System: H15 Hybrid cam 7075 Aluminum
- Weight 4.0 pounds
- Brace Height 6.5”
- Axle to Axle 34.5”
- Let-off 75%
- Draw weights available 50#,60# and 70#
- Draw length range 26.5”-31”
- Reflexed Machined Riser
- Max Pre Loaded Quad Limbs
- BCY X Strings and Cables
My initial setup on the Arena 34 consists of a Trophy Taker Smackdown Pro rest, AXT 4 pin slider sight, Gold Tip Pro Hunter 300s with Blazer vanes and 100 grain fieldpoints. The end results with this setup yielded both bareshafts and fletched aligning perfectly at 20 yards. The final bow settings were, centershot 13/16”, top cam hitting 1/16” before the bottom at full draw, nock height was a hair nock high, pre lean with an arrow on the right side of the cam was nearly parallel with the aim string. These listed settings would be a very good starting point to start your tuning process and in some cases, you might just find these settings on the money for you as well. Each bow can vary slightly but should not be too far from what I have listed above.
The H13 cam that Bear Archery came out with a few years back was a huge leap in my opinion and the new H15 has surpassed that this year. They really are a true performer in every way. This particular bow was set up at 29” draw 72 pounds, with a 406 grain arrow coming in at 313 fps. This put the Bear Archery Arena 34 at a 344 IBO equivalent calculated speed rating, which is 4 fps over its 340 IBO rating. Kudos to Bear Archery in their speed rating for being conservative in the advertised numbers, it will lead to very pleased customers in the long run. The H15 cam is very smooth for the kind of speeds it produces and I am highly impressed with the performance, while still maintaining the ease of let down at full draw.
As fast as the Arena 34 is, it still maintains a very quiet, shock free shot. The fully adjustable string suppressors do their job of stopping string oscillation, while at the same time, reducing vibe and noise. There’s a lot packed into this powerhouse of a bow and it is appealing in so many ways.
The hinge guard system Bear uses is similar to what they used when it was first introduced but in my opinion they have really refined it, in what it is today. It has very smooth operation on the draw and helps relieve the torque on the overall system that is applied by the cables. One of the biggest things I continue to be impressed with, is how well this and the riser design work together to really even out the limb loads during the draw cycle. I give a big shout out to the engineering department at Bear Archery. Great job!
Strings are the BCY X material and are better built quality from years past and would easily last you a season or better. The newer designed speed nocks seem to stay put, which has been a problem for some of the aftermarket stuff available today. Most people don’t realize, but the speed nock locations can be critical from a tuning standpoint, so the last thing you want is your speed nocks moving on you over time; it can compromise your tune.
Overall, the Bear Archery Arena 34 is by far my favorite bow sold in any of the box stores today. I am so impressed with these bows and the direction that Bear Archery has taken over the last 5 years. In fact I am so impressed I would even put them in my top 3 bows from box stores to pro shops of all time. For those looking for a new bow, do yourself a favor and do not overlook the Bear Archery Arena 34. It’s a true performer, no matter how you slice it.
PSE Bow Madness 32
At first appearance, the Bow Madness 32 has a very clean camo finish with no major flaws. Generally PSE does well on their finishes and they hold up well in appearance for those who might be a little rough on their equipment. Overall balance is great and it felt good in your hand upon first impression. Grip is your typical slim design that makes it harder to induce unwanted torque in the wrong areas and promotes a repeatable grip, shot after shot. This paves the way to better and more consistent accuracy down range.
Bow Madness specs are:
- 80% let-off
- 340 IBO
- Draw Length range 24”-30”
- Weight 4.1 pounds
- Axle to Axle is 32.38
- Available draw weights 50#,60# and 70#
- 6” brace height
- Hybrid cam
My initial set up for this bow consisted of Trophy Taker Smackdown Pro, AXT 4 pin slider sight and Gold Tip Pro Hunter 300s with blazer vanes and 100 grain fieldpoints. After fine tuning through bareshafts my centershot was sitting right between 3/4” and 13/16”, the nock point was sitting dead level and pre lean on the top cam if you were to put an arrow on the left side of the cam, projecting it down to your nocking point, the string would split your arrow dead center. These settings would be a very good point to start your tuning process. The settings I listed above yielded perfect bareshaft and fletched results at 20 yards.
The draw cycle was quite smooth for the speeds the Bow Madness 32 produced down range. For this particular setup at a 29 inch draw, 71.5 pounds of draw weight, with a 406 grain arrow, produced speeds at 314 fps. That would be equivalent to a 343 IBO speed rating calculation. Now it’s rated at a 340 IBO so it is nice to see the conservative speed rating by PSE. Nothing worse when buying a bow and not getting what is advertised in the speed department. I will add that the Bow Madness 32 does draw more like half an inch longer than the 29” setting. I did account for that when calculating speeds and it still produced above 340 IBO equivalent speed calculated numbers.
On setting up the Bow Madness 32 the strings were fair and lacked the tight center serving I would prefer. On the initial setup of the D-loop using the Viper pliers, it gave way to serving separation fairly easy. This can be frustrating over time and can change the nocking point, thus changing a tune over time. The strings also had some peep rotation at first, which was fixed by adding some twist to the aim string. Overall, they would last you a season with moderate use. For heavier use, I would recommend a custom set of strings.
The bow has low to moderate vibe and recoil that can be easily tamed by a good stabilizer. For me personally, I shoot with a very relaxed hand so the whole vibe and recoil thing might not effect me compared to others who have more of a grip on the bow. Either way you look at it, it was very low in the vibe and recoil category.
Overall, I would give the Bow Madness 32 a thumbs up for draw cycle, speeds, overall ease of tune, as well as overall appearance and balance. This would make for a great mid range bow for those looking into a new bow purchase.
Diamond Archery Infinity Edge Pro
Diamond Archery pulled out all the stops for the new Infinity Edge Pro. This bow has amazing adjustability that will well exceed the entry level archer’s needs. It is a bow that will meet the needs of the youth just starting out due to the extreme adjustability in draw weight as well as draw length. It literally has crazy adjustments in draw weight from 5 pounds to 70 pounds; not to mention the draw length adjustability from 13 inches to 31 inches. I sure wish this option was around when my daughters first started shooting. It’s a bow that will take the youth literally all through their years of schooling, to the point they would eventually buy their own after they graduate. With the 13 inch to 31 inch draw length adjustability you don’t have to worry if the bow will fit or not. Add to that the adjustability of draw length from 5 to 70 pounds and not worrying about having to switch limbs to get that range of adjustment is so appealing when thinking of a first bow purchase.
Diamond Archery Specs:
- Draw weight range 5-70 pounds
- Mass weight is 3.2 pounds
- Draw length range is 13”- 31”
- Axle to Axle is 31”
- IBO speed rating at 70# 30” draw is 310 fps
- Brace Height 7”
The Diamond Archery Infinity Edge Pro comes with a ready to shoot Boondocks Package, which includes an Apex Gear 3 pin sight, Octane 5 arrow quiver, D loop, peep, Octane Stabilizer and Octane Hostage rest.
For the price point of this” little gem of a do-all bow”, from youth to adulthood, I was really surprised by the overall quality. The Infinity Edge Pro really has a nice balance and feel to it. The draw cycle is very nice, even at the max draw weight of 70 pounds. The large flat surface on the draw length modules gives you a very firm backwall. They don’t cut corners either, even at this price range. The strings and cables seem to be well built and much better than other bows at even a higher price point than the Infinity Edge Pro. Speed nocks are even included to achieve peak speeds, something most bows at this price point leave out. The cable slide is very smooth with no chatter during the draw cycle. Initial set up from factory only needed a slight adjustment in cam synch to get everything perfect from a tuning standpoint. It is definitely a solid bow that I would not hesitate to purchase. Whether you are looking for a one bow purchase for your son or daughter to carry them through their years, or an entry level bow that will fit your needs when you’re not sure of proper draw length or draw weight, the Infinity Edge Pro will do it all.
Diamond Archery Provider RAK Package Bow
The first thing I noticed with the Diamond Provider was the bow’s mass weight. This bow comes in at a very light 3.2-3.3 pounds and it’s definitely something you will notice on this entry level bow. The fit and finish was average with a few small spots that were random throughout the camo finish. The finish as a whole was fairly clean with crisp images throughout. Also at an entry level price point, this is a very worthy bow to take a look at.
Diamond Archery Provider specs are:
- Range of draw weight adjustability 20-70#
- Draw length range 25.5”- 31”
- Weight 3.2-3.3 (one of the lightest available bows on the market today)
- Let-off 80%
- Axle to Axle 31”
- IBO speed 310 fps
- Brace Height 7.5”
This Diamond Provider RAK package comes ready to shoot, with a 3 pin Apex sight, Octane Stab, D loop, peep and Octane arrow rest.
Upon initial set up, I found this bow to be very close right out of the gate straight from the factory. Centershot, I did not have to change, coming in at 15/16”, and the nock height I adjusted a touch to make it nock level, cleaning up the vertical nock travel. When tuning, I generally bareshaft tune everything that goes through my hands, but in this case, with the Hostage arrow rest, it can be trying to say the least with this style of rest. I decided I would give it a go and got equal results with bareshaft and fletched but it did take much longer in doing so. Normally I would not recommend this style of tuning with that style of rest. Shooting through paper would be a great starting point when using them. Pre lean in the top cam was very minimal. Placing an arrow on the left side of the top idler wheel, the arrow comes and just starts to intersect the aim string at the nocking point.
The specs on this particular bow are 28.5” draw; peak draw weight coming in at 70 pounds. With a Gold Tip Pro Hunter 300 weighing in at 406 grains, speeds came in right at 283 fps. This bow is advertised at a 310 fps IBO but I am seeing it closer to a 323 equivalent IBO calculated speed rating when at 70# . The draw cycle is nice and smooth with a pretty good backwall.
If you are looking for your first bow at an entry level price point this bow is worth considering. The adjustability makes this bow very appealing for those looking for a bow to grow with and not break the bank doing it. They come very close for a tune right out of the gate so the entry level shooters will be ready to go in no time.
Overall, this is a solid choice for those entry level bows. I sure wish I had choices like this one years ago.
G5 Quest AMP
The very first impression that comes to mind with G5 bows is the toughest and best finish in the business. Their The DURAFUSE FINISH is incredibly tough and image quality is second to none. The very next thing I noticed is the Hybrid cam. It seems like others are jumping in on their own hybrid cam modifications since the hybrid cam patents have expired. The first mental note was the addition of limb stops that added to the more widely noted cable stops. Hybrid cams are known for their cable stops and are still widely used in that fashion today. There are a couple of companies that have added limb stops to the Hybrid cam system but I am still not sold on this added feature.
G5 Quest AMP specs:
- Axle to Axle 32”
- Brace Height 7”
- Weight 3.9 pounds
- Draw length range 26.5”- 31”
- Draw weight range 40#, 50#, 60#, 70#
- Standard finishes Realtree Xtra/Black
- BCY 452X strings and cables
- RAD (Rotating Adjustable Cam)
- New Stabilite Riser
The G5 Quest AMP I set up had a Trophy Taker Smackdown Pro rest, AXT 4 pin Slider sight, Gold Tip Pro Hunter 300s with Blazer vanes and 100 grain fieldpoints. This particular setup resulted in perfect bareshaft and fletched flight but was a little finicky; I will discuss this a little more. The specs were 29” draw, 70 pounds peak weight, with a 406 grain arrow at 303 fps; putting this particular bow at a 338 IBO speed equivalent calculation. The G5 Quest AMP is advertised at a 340 IBO, so it is right there, give or take a couple feet per second.
The first thing you will notice is the smooth drawing cam with a very solid backwall, due to the limb stop verses the more traditional cable stops. Now when it comes to tuning these Hybrid cam limb stop bows, which are fairly new to the market, I have noticed they can be tricky. This is probably due to throwing one more thing into the mix. When you incorporate a limb stop you are also adding uneven loads on the limbs at full draw to a Hybrid Cam System that is not traditionally known for additional loads in those specific locations. This being the case, along with the location of the limb stops when using a limb tip style press, can be a little more time consuming when attempting to fine tune your setup. My end goal was still accomplished when my bareshafts were flying the same as fletched at 20 yards.
The settings that yielded the best results were, nock height level, centershot 13/16”. The dots on cams were a very close reference for cam synch, pre lean when putting an arrow on the left side of the top cam projected down to nocking point was just starting to intersect the aim string at nocking point. These settings are a very good starting point to begin your tuning process and should put you very close out of the gate.
The G5 Quest AMP is fairly quiet and has very minimal vibe. I did notice the buss cable starting to get serving separation within the first 100 shots. Just something to look for that might create some cosmetic or possible wear issues down the road. The other issue I had was the cable slide roller chattering a little during the draw cycle, and I could actually feel it as well.
Overall impression was top notch finish, the best in the business; smooth draw; and firm backwall. On the downside, was the limb stops and their location which can make for a more time consuming process when fine tuning due to the limb stops position when pressing the bow. With that said, if you are in the market for a mid range price bow, this is one to consider.
The market is full of archery sights that advertise easy set-up and adjustments. I have found this to be somewhat misleading if you are not a seasoned archer. I just tested out a new sight from TRUGLO, one of the industry leaders in bow sights. The Range Rover is a single-pin sight, with a ZERO-IN adjustment dial. Its build is very clean and is designed to last through years of service. The single pin is extremely bright, even in noon-day sunshine. The sight housing has an easy-to-see shooters ring that I like to use when lining my peep up with the target. Its design helps cut out unnecessary weight that other adjustable single-pin sights seem to have too much of.
It features tool-less yardage lock and pin adjustments. Sight adjustments are done on an ultra-smooth ZERO-IN dial that really does move very smoothly and effortlessly. The dial has a quick yardage lock that feels solid and never comes loose. I was able to lock and unlock the dial with one turn of my wrist, which I really appreciate when having to make a quick adjustment in the field. I sighted my test model out at 20 yards and then moved to forty. This wasn’t as effective for my longer yard marks; distances past 70 yards. I found sighting in at 20 yards and then moving to 70 yards more effective to match my bow to a specific yardage tape. I do recommend that you mark the secondary distance with a pen or marker to match your pre- marked tape. The Range Rover comes with 40-pre-marked yardage tapes and should accommodate all types of bows and setups. I’m not recommending this procedure for sighting in the Range Rover, but I found it more precise for my shooting setup.
The yardage dial comes with built-in yardage stops that can be set to the longest distances from which you feel comfortable shooting. The yardage tapes range from 20-100 yards in distance. The pin-protective housing also includes a must-have level to prevent excessive cantering of the bow. The sight housing will accommodate a quiver bracket that can mount to the site without interfering with its operation. One thing to consider when looking at 1-pin adjustable sights, is having the ability to quickly adjust your pin to the correct distance. If you are considering shooting your bow further than the traditional 5-pin sights will allow, I would definitely look at getting yourself a Range Rover from TRUGLO. The Range Rover sight is the easiest and fastest 1-pin sight to adjust that I have had the chance to test out this spring.
Rinehart Self-Healing 3D Target
Choosing a 3D archery target is another reason to make a trip to your local Sportsman’s Warehouse. But, one of the questions many archers ask this time of the year is, “which target do I choose and why”? Well, I’ve had the opportunity to shoot many 3D targets in my archery career and I think Rinehart Targets are one of the best on the market. Go to any 3D archery shooting tournament and you will most likely be shooting daggers at their targets. John Rinehart was the first to design “self-healing” foam, giving longer life to their targets. Rinehart also has a vast line-up of all kinds of 3D targets to choose from.
Our test model was the Giant Mule Deer. Why buy a 3D target for your practice session? First off, how many 2-ft. square block animals have you killed on a hunt recently? By shooting at 3 dimensional, life-sized target, you develop necessary skills that are carried into the field. Getting used to arrow placement can absolutely get you a hero picture vs. long stories of a missed shot. I recently shot at a 3D event in Ely, Nevada. It was unmarked yardages, an event that can frustrate even the most seasoned archer. Having the opportunity to estimate distance and be comfortable with an animal-sized target, will no doubt help your skill when actually hunting. I could have never done it without my practice on full bodied targets.
One piece of advice I would pass on when shooting 3D targets is the choice of practice tips. Use a bullet tip that is slightly larger than the shaft of your arrow and you will experience less teeth gritting when pulling arrows out. The Giant Mule Deer target has a replaceable core that is basically a rough dimension of vital organs. Being able to see where the arrow must be placed time and time again will be beneficial when sizing up your target. Because of this, the repetition will be more natural when you draw back on a trophy buck in the fall. The target did not allow deep penetration and pulled nicely for a new set to be shot. As your hunt nears, you can also sight in your broad heads with this target, with both fixed and expandables.
Our other test target was a Rinehart 18-1. This target promises to be the longest lasting that Rinehart has ever offered. If you can manage to shoot out all 18 sides of the target, you can bring it back in to your authorized dealer for a no-hassle replacement 1 year from date-of-sale. This target is extremely mobile and can be set-up for practice in a matter of a few seconds. It’s size and weight make it ideal for transporting to hunting camp for a few shots before setting out on your hunt. The bright green dots and the black foam show-up brightly in a noon-day sun. It is easy to pull arrows out of, and after two months of daily shooting still shows only minimal wear.
TenPoint Turbo XLT
TenPoint has been a leader among crossbow manufacturers for several years, and they continue to develop and enhance their crossbow line. We tested the Turbo XLT II and were very impressed with the overall function of it. The Turbo XLT II has been upgraded from the original XLT with faster operations and a lighter frame.
The Turbo XLT II differs from its predecessor in several ways. While it still features a radically compact bow assembly, spanning 13.5-inches from axle-to-axle when cocked, its 11-inch IsoTaper Limbs are now double laminated for improved strength and durability. The bow assembly, fitted with D-75 string and yoked tunable cables powered by NEW MR cams, is mounted on a 7/8” longer barrel that increases the power stroke to 12.875-inches. This new combination produces a sleek and maneuverable 180-pound crossbow that shoots 345 fps with TenPoint’s NEW Pro Lit carbon arrow.
Our test model performed up to par with all the tests we put the crossbow through. In our testing, we were only able to achieve 325 fps with the scope mounted, but our three arrows were touching at 30 yards. We then tested the Turbo XLT II out to 75 yards. The groups were around 4-6 inches, which was mostly a result of human error. I felt totally confident in making a shot out to that distance. The bow felt smooth, with a precise trigger pull. The rope cocking device really made cocking the bow easy.
The Turbo XLT II is also equipped with TenPoint’s NEW Fusion Lite stock, which weighs five ounces less than the original fusion stock. The weight reduction is achieved by a new aesthetic cutout above the trigger guard, a cored-out fore-grip to stabilize the stock dimensions by evenly distributing the composite material during molding, and ventilation holes in the butt stock to help the camo pattern adhere better to the stock. We also found the thumbhole stock complimented the grip very well. The safety switch is right above your shooting hand and is easy to get to when you are ready to shoot down range.
The Turbo XLT II comes standard with TenPoint’s 3x Pro-View 2 Scope and, like all TenPoint crossbows, features their patented DF (dry-fire-inhibitor) and 3.5-pound PowerTouch trigger. Available with or without one of TenPoint’s two patented cocking units, the ACUdraw or ACUdraw 50, the Turbo XLT II is decorated in Realtree APG.
Trophy Ridge React Pro
The archery arena is inundated with five-pin sights. How do you choose one that is right for you? I like to look at sight manufacturers who are constantly improving, and care about their sights performing on the target range and in the field. Trophy Ridge has developed a series of sights that are hard to beat in performance and affordability. The React Pro is a 5 pin sight that can literally be sighted in and ready for use in about 10 minutes.
It only requires three steps to dial your yardage pins out to 60 yards; sight in the 20 yard pin using the tool-less micro adjustments and then move back to 30 yards. Once you have sighted in these two distances, the rest of the longer yardage pins will automatically be set. The React Pro is built upon Trophy Ridge’s development of the REACT system. By turning the master yardage adjustment knob, the REACT system will move all 5 pins at the exact same time. No more shooting and wrenching one individual pin at a time, which can drive you senseless.
I was able to sight in my test model with no problems in less than 10 minutes after installation. I shot the 20-yard pin first and then I actually moved back to 40 and adjusted the sight from there. Most modern compound bows shoot so fast that 20 and 30 yard pins are very close together. I felt it would be advantageous to skip 30 and move to 40. I shot all 5 pin distances and found the React adjustment system to perform as advertised. I really enjoyed the innovation and hassle free adjustments the sight offers users. The peep sight glow-ring is easy to see in bright noon day sun, and lights up in the dusk. The fiber optics are fully protected from the elements in a durable plastic shell; another step that Trophy Ridge incorporates to add longevity for the React Pro.
The React Pro is constructed of a solid 6061 aluminum frame. The aluminum bracket has 5 different mounting set-ups for a variety of pin gap choices. The entire operation of the sight adjustments are tool-less, which is a feature I really appreciate for making quick changes. The windage and elevation have a micro adjustment lock when you get your sight dead on. The micro adjustments are smooth and efficient to adapt the sight to your shooting style. The sight ring has a precision installed leveling bubble, which is large for a sight, but I really liked it and it was very easy to see and adjust my cantering.