Bow Testing Methodology 2017

Also, for any hunters wondering why a particular model is missing from our test, keep in mind that our annual test (like our other gear tests) is an invitational. Stress and our team evaluated each submission for arrow speed, noise, and vibration. Speed was calculated by analyzing high-speed video footage. Here’s an overview of the categories: Draw cycle/back wall evaluates a compound’s overall feel throughout the draw curve. Each model’s back wall and valley were analyzed after letoff. Versatility reflects a crossbow’s applicability for various hunting and shooting scenarios. Shootability is a measure of how well each model points, holds on target, fires, and groups. This is where the treestand and ground blind performance of each bow is assessed. Tony Hansen is OL’s assistant editor, the bow test team captain, and a Michigan bowhunter. He served as bow tech for this test, mounting more sights, tuning more bows, and shooting more arrows than he cares to remember.

We dedicated long days and late nights to our most exhaustive bow test yet. Here’s a breakdown of how we arrived at our scores. Also, for any hunters wondering why a particular model is missing from our test, keep in mind that our annual test (like our other gear tests) is an invitational. Manufacturers were invited to submit one compound and/or one crossbow of their choice as long as it was new for 2017.

new compound bows on their boxes
The crop of compounds at the 2017 test, ready for shooting.

This year, we partnered with Stress Engineering Services, a versatile firm that tests everything from treestands to rifle recoil at its Ohio-based Outdoor Division. Stress and our team evaluated each submission for arrow speed, noise, and vibration. Data was collected as both compounds and crossbows were fired off a remotely triggered Hooter Shooter in a semi-anechoic (echo-free) chamber.

anechoic chamber for testing archery equipment
The semi-anechoic chamber at Stress Engineering’s Ohio-based Outdoor Division.
testing a crossbow in an anechoic chamber
Lab tech Ray Newman rigs a crossbow to the modified Hooter Shooter inside Stress Engineering’s semi-anechoic testing chamber.

Speed was calculated by analyzing high-speed video footage. Each model was recorded firing an arrow against a backing board covered in lines spaced at 1-inch intervals. Frame-by-frame analysis was used to calculate velocity at launch. Each compound was set at the IBO standard 30-inch draw length and 70-pound draw weight.

testing compound and crossbows indoors
The indoor range where we recorded arrow launches with a high-frame-rate camera to calculate velocity.

For the arrows, however, we deviated from our past use of the industry-standard IBO arrow (300 grains) to hunting-weight arrows (Victory Archery VAP Elite shafts at 423 grains) to evaluate more realistic field velocities. We measured crossbow speeds with various arrows (each crossbow required a specific nock type and shaft length), although they all weighed between 420 and 430 grains. Noise levels were recorded with microphones in the semi-anechoic chamber. Raw acoustic data was filtered to account for how the human ear perceives sound.

velocity data how we test
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