Friday, June 11, 2010

Martin Recurve Bow Review

Martin Recurve Bow Review
Sometimes a Bow & Arrow Quietly do the Job
(BONUS - How to Convert Your Take Down Recurve to a Tool-less Take Down bow)

About a 1000 years ago I started shooting a bow. My first bow was a fiberglass recurve from Sears or Kmart with about 15# of pull + 3 indestructible fiberglass arrows that could be shoot into brick and it was the most awesome thing a kid could have. Later I upgraded to Bear Classic compound bow that was adjustable from 40-75lbs of pull and shot arrows about a billion MPH... I grew into it. When I married, my wife gave me a great 30-35# recurve bow that again rejuvenated my love in bows. I lugged that bow to back and forth to the college archery range for four years and shot what I am sure were 1000s of arrows through it. I still have it today, but it's a long un-packable 5 foot long recurve and certainly not something you can
just have packed away in the truck.

Although I have historically enjoyed the potential energy of pulling back more than a few bow string, over the years I have leaned toward firearms and my bowmanship has suffered.

After seeing the movie "The Book of Eli" and realizing that in the post-apocalyptic world of "I ain' t got no ammo", the bow and re-useable arrow is a mighty handy survival tool and it was time once again I restart flinging arrows. Although Eli's bow was a mysteriously high power super easy bolt & tool-less take-down design, the idea of a packable recurve that could take harvest all manner of deer and smaller game seemed like a smart purchase... enter the 40# Martin Jaguar Recurve and a $20 off coupon form Cabelas.

Technically I don't "need" another bow, but having a powerful take down bow that is faster and powerful enough to take down deer all while keeping me out of the $20 per visit gun range seems like a good deal. Seriously don't you think it's a good idea to havesomething when ammo runs low and the zombies are loose?

The Martin Jaguar Recurve is a great deal in the scope of recurve bows. Sure the fit and finish is not premium, but it is good quality and it's power and accuracy will certainly provide more game harvesting abilities than my old recurve. I really like the idea that the bow broken down and will easily fit in my small backpack. The Martin Jaguar bow features a light aluminum riser with a nice rubber grip. The riser has all the potential fun fitment attachment points of a standard compound bow. That's right, all the compound bow goodies will fit and the wood and fiberglass laminate limbs are plenty tough.

I was a little disappointed on a couple fronts. First I was really expecting my Cabela's sourced bow to be the kit which includes bow, arrows, case, and a few other accessories. This was not Cabela's fault, however the never version, although more expensive, is a kit and I was hoping for the un-noted upgrade. Instead it was just the bow in a box with horribly written instructions that leaves you guessing which limb is top and bottom (FYI - it doesn't make any difference, just pick one, label it, and stick to it).

The second was that the camo riser comes with black limbs... seems a camo bow riser should come with camo limbs...right?.

Setup was simple with a bow square. I added a few optional accessories that made the bow fit my intended need. A No-Glove was added to the sting and nocked in place, a XL kisser was mounted above the top No-Glove finger bead to assure shot to shot accuracy.

Some may not like the No-Glove beads in favor of a release, but I actually intended to do both. The point of this setup was to have something simple and reliable when the shit is pressed through the fan. Later I added a TRU-NOCK metal loop for highly accurate release shooting, but if I loose the release, the No-GLove will always be ready.

Zombies and D-Day aside, I have used the No-Glove beads for a number of years and have found that I can deliver faster opportunistic shots than if I have to worry about screwing around with a release or slipping my three finger pad in place.

BowJax string silencers and LimbSaver Ultra-Quads limb silencers were added to quiet down the bow to a whisper. Wrist slings are love-em or hate-em accessories. I happened to have some extra parachute cord and braided up 9' into a short little wrist sling that gives me 9' of useable cord should the need arise and will definitely keep me from dropping the bow from some deer stand... again.

A couple disappointing items. The first is that the arrow rest basically sucks. Why Martin didn't include a standard flipper is a little surprising. Sure you could live with it and I am sure it would last, but the slick plastic moves back and forth in the rest slot and constantly has be fiddled with. It's a critical piece of accuracy that needs replacing. I am planning on adding an upgraded arrow rest to assure I can stay on target.

The other annoying ankle biting item is that it's a take down bow... you know, designed so it can be easily broken down for storage or packing. So why do most Martin and most other take down bows require you to use an Allen wrench that you are going to loose out in the middle of nowhere.

Fortunately converting the Martin Jaguar it to a tool-less take-down bow is an $5 easy conversion. I picked up a couple 3" long 5/16"-18 all-thread/grub screws and cut them to 2-1/4" long. These were screwed back into the cross bolt with some Red permanent Lock-Tite. After that it was as simple as screwing on the threaded knob. This setup gives me a couple advantages. First it locks in place the very looseable cross bolts, and second I can assemble/disassemble the entire bow down by hand is less than a minute without tools.

Before the tool-less take-down conversion, assembly entailed inserting the cross bolt in the riser, spin it to align so that the main bolts will thread, dropping it three of four times, repeating the process, find you hex wrench, hold the limb in placed while attempting to get the thread started for assembly, and then finally start spinning the bolt with the hex wrench. Try all that that in a low light condition in tall grass. Post-conversion, the first couple steps are omitted; simply place the limbs on the bolt, add the two washers and spin on and hand tighten the threaded knob... simple.

The knobs were ere all rubbed down with scotch-brite pads to give them a nice dull finish that matched the flat black limbs. The conversion turned out great and knobs don't stick out too much, but I will keep an eye out for some lower profile versions to lower the profile a bit. A 20 minutes of work well worth the $5.

Overall the Martin Jaguar is fun to shoot and has proven to be extremely accurate. The arrow rest is driving me nuts and will be remedied soon, but still a pretty accurate bow. The limbs provide a lot of very smooth draw and showed no signs of loading when over drawing.

This bow is really interesting and should appeal to a lot of folks. The hard core compound bow enthusiast will load this down with all their typical sights, nock release loop, peep sight, silencers, and front stabilizers and enjoy something different that feels just like their compound bow. The traditional guys will keep with something closer to an out of box configuration. The beginners will enjoy a great bow at a great price that they can shoot and hunt with for a lifetime. For the nuts like me who believe a powerful, smooth shooting take down recurve might be a key to higher tag filling limits and post apocalyptic survival, the Martin bow is the perfect fit.

You know how it is, all the stuff that drives you nuts about something you just bought begins to keep you up at night. With a few upgrade I am happy as a clam.

Bodoodle TimberDoodle Arrow Rest - The POS (as in piece of shit) arrow rest was one component that that was driving me nuts... moving around every third shot. Argh. Behold a Bodoodle TimberDoodle arrow rest for $25 bucks. I have no idea why my local archery shop had one since it was designed for finger shooting and they were a compound bow only shop, but I do know it was the only one and was 50% off it's original $50 price. For the quality it seemed a great deal and was bolted on right in the shop. Though I knew the distinctive design was for finger shooters, I didn't know it was a such as nice little rest until I got home to Google what I bought. Apparently my little clearance arrow rest with a goofy name is one of the most durable riser mounted finger shooter rests available and also one of the few even made. Finger shooters are far and few between and even fewer are finger shooters with a metal riser'ed bow... anyway glad they made it because this thing will last into the next millennium. It features a billet aluminum design with two fully adjustable stainless prongs, a spring loaded shoot though drop away design with all the standard tuning adjustments. Overall I couldn't have designed a better more durable or accurate finger or release shootable rest. This is a rest that has zero maintenance and will never wear out... perfect for a bow that was designed to work under the worst conditions.

TRU-Nock Metal Nock - I knew that if I wanted ultimate flexibility and the best accuracy a release is always preferable over a finger release. The $15 Tru Nock slipped right in between my No-Glove beads and provided a durable attachment point for my Fletcher release. It mounted up easy and leaves nothing to wear our of come loose. A couple nice design points are it replaces your nocks, provides perfect string alignment from shot to shot, and because there is no string twist, your arrow stays on the rest during draw.

Fletcher Archery .44 Caliper - Get it .44 Caliper instead of caliber... took me a couple reads of the package as well. What you get in this feature packed sub-$40 release is quiet, light weight, adjustable trigger, with interlocking machined aluminum jaws. The length strap adjustment wasn't as easy as the screw type to fit, but I do like that the flexible strap allows the head to be tucked in my sleeve relatively out of the way. I nice little release that doesn't break the bank.

Timberline No-Peep - Sadly you need to get this gadget while you can, because Timberline Archery Products appears to be out of business. This no-peep gadget is designed to eliminate the string mounted peep sight. The idea is simple, align the center circle in the middle of the outer circle which is fiber optic illuminated... kind of a align the solar eclipse. Once you do you are in perfect sight alignment and you can just shoot off the sights. My idea was a little different to use the No-Peep as a sight. Hey, if you can use it for alignment then you can use it to sight. I now have it set up to eclipse/align at the point of impact and it works as well as any sight and can be shot with both eyes open for real point and shoot capability. Best of all because it mounts on the inside of the bow, it is more compact and about 100% more durable and smaller than any sight made. Not a bad deal for $10 in the bargain bin at Cabelas.

Cabelas AR Case 35" - I needed a case for easy transport of both this bow and my Ruger 10/22 with folding stock. The $30 Cabelas AR Case fit the bill and allows my bow disassembled, guard, release, and a dozen arrows to be all carried in a case that is only the length of my 28" arrows. Perfect case for lugging to range and for bumping around in the trunk.

Cabelas 55-70 Carbon Fiber Hunter Arrows - The 50-100 original twenty plus year old hollow fiberglass arrows that I saved from the trash bin when my old University switched to carbon fiber arrows have served me well for some time. Today though they are a very sad lot of a dozen arrows in about 6 various lengths with five different fletches... it was time for a new set of arrows.

I walked into Cabelas with bow in hand to assure my arrows were cut to the proper length. Like most retailers, if you buy the arrows there they will cut them and glue them at no charge. What I was pleasantly surprised by was the 30 minutes the Cabelas dude took to have be try out a number of different arrows sets and how each shot and grouped for me. I was encouraged to just hang out and shoot until I found what was comfortable to shoot. He watched to see which arrows flexed and stabilized the best in flight, which were quieter. We tested fletch, spine weight and point weight. The feathered arrows shot the quietest, but for durability and more compatibility with broad heads, I chose the short Blazer fletched 55-70 arrows with 100gr tips. What surprised both of us was how well the short Blazer fletched arrows shot from my non-compound, non-blistering speed bow all while still producing a the tightest tested arrows with 3" groups at 15 yards. Another thing that really surprised us was testing the same arrows in 55-70 and 65-80 spine strengths. The 65-80 produced groups twice as large as the same arrow with a 55-70 spine. All reasons you should really go into a place and shoot a bunch of different arrows to find what shoot best with you and your bow vs. just grabbing something off the shelf.

The arrows I settled on were the Cabelas brand Carbon Hunter series. They are all weight matched, tough C2 carbon construction with microsmooth surface and a straightness of +-.006". Definitely not the most expensive arrows at $60 for a dozen, there is just no way I would dump $100 for those super premium six arrows. Though I hope they last a while, I won't cringe when the envitable breakage occurs and I have lost a $5 arrow vs. a $20 version.

My first coupe times out... let's just say I was trying hard just to keep the arrows in the two foot target at 15 yards. After a lot more practice, and installation of the upgrades my best groups have shrank to 2 " at 15 yards. Obviously I hope to drop those groups down to my once arrow stacking accuracy abilities at 25 yards.