Reviewed By Steve , 8 May 2012
About 2 years ago we managed to get our hands on a Black Swan Hybrid, although Andy did the review we both shot the bow and we each came to the same conclusion... a very natural shooting experience with heaps of performance. Rather stupidly we let someone else shoot it and he, having sharp wits and a pocket full of cash persuaded us to let the bow go. Almost instantly we felt we had made a terrible mistake, despite our pleadings the now new owner would not sell.. in fact he owns and shoots it to this day. Every time I see the bow I rue the day it was sold.
In the intervening 2 years I have shot many of the best bows available to archers, sometimes they are bought, sometimes they are loaned and I find myself in the fortunate position where Archers Review opens the door for me to get hold of a lot more kit to test than I would if I were not editing an on-line review site. Quite often we are approached to offer our two bobs worth when an item of new kit is being brought to the market.
An E mail from Arvid Danielson, the man behind Black Swan, with an offer to test his very latest bow is not only a coup but something which immediately brought back memories of "the one that got away". It's been some while since I looked over the Black Swan website and while I awaited delivery of the bow I did some rooting about to find a little more about the marque and the man behind it. The website is slick, it's easy on the eye, sophisticated, stylish with a monochrome colour scheme, it's been put together by someone who knows exactly what his bows stand for and how he wants them to be represented, there is no clutter, no extraneous stuff you don't need to know.... just some pictures and the pure facts... I very much like the website and it made me feel that I was about to receive something very special, the lack of sales speak, hard sell and clutter made me think that if the website had been put together with such single-minded focus then the bow itself would probably be as forthright in its purpose.
Turn up the volume and listen to this......
Any archer who is awaiting a new bow will know the feeling of wanting to read stuff about it and see more pictures. Strangely there is very little on the web to be seen, the few odd posts on a couple of forums which mostly are asking for more info. Nothing for sale on any of the classified listings, the impression you get from the little available is that the bows are a little left field for many archers, the use of high performance materials perhaps puts off the dyed in the wool traditionalists, which is odd because fibreglass isn't traditional anyway, perhaps it's because there is no wood or wood patters in the bow... either way what little there was only served to intrigue me more.
Rather than hunt on the web any more for 2nd hand gossip there is only 1 place to get a proper background check and that's from the Horses' mouth himself.. I had a bunch of questions to ask Arvid and he promptly replied...
I started building bows in the 1950’s after repeated problems on hot days on the archery range with my Bear Kodiak recurve bow. It seems that Bear was using Para-glass a uni-directional glass in a polyester resin suspension (polyester resin was state of the art at the time), that’s what is used in boats or car bodies today. We use polymer (a.k.a. epoxy resin) for class and other fiber suspensions. It’s not nearly as sensitive to extreme temperatures. The person who first taught me about bow building was Tim Meg, a well-known custom bow builder in northern California. Later Tom Jennings had an influence on my bow building. My father was a great help to me in my efforts to build a better bow. He was an engineer and designer with 27 patents to his credit in the 1970’s while an employee of Hewlett-Packard. I had the opportunity to use some of the most advanced analytical equipment available anywhere. In addition a number of my college’s were engineers and scientists and were archery enthusiasts, who were eager to be a part of my research. We developed a complex C.A.D. program specifically for designing high-performance traditional bows.
The bow I developed and built at this time set a number of records both national and worldwide. Also at this time we hit on the idea that carbon, boron, and other high tech fibers might be the way to go. We discovered that fibers like carbon have completely different tension and compression characteristics from that of fibreglass. That required us to rethink traditional bow designs. We found in researching the technical specifications and confirmed by our own research that carbon’s recovery rate is 10 times faster than that of fibreglass and stiffness is 3 times greater. If a bow is built using carbon on a conventional limb design it will not significantly increase performance. In other words, the use of carbon requires complete redesign of the limb.
I have had great success using my C.A.D. program and my years of practical experience. Norb Mullaney of the A.M.O. has tested the bow and stated,
“I cannot recall testing a bow of any type that could match that level of efficiency”. I have been very successful in designing my line of high-performance bows but I’m not stopping there. I continue to push the envelope. I have continued my R&D, changing, and testing, and evolving. My latest evolution is a carbon ceramic blend. It retains the fast recovery and stiffness of carbon and increases the compression or crush strength.
Where we go from here I don’t know yet but I can assure you that I will continue the R&D and someday all of my research will be made available to the archery industry.
For a man who has been building bows and involved in archery for over 60 years that is an incredibly modest summation, for me the courier cannot come fast enough.
When I finally open the box and put the bow together it is just as I knew it would be, the stunning website told me all I needed to know about how this bow would look.... sophisticated and stylish in an understated way, this is a bow that was designed to take advantage of the Carbon Ceramic matrix from which the limbs are constructed, inevitably something that is so "right" in terms of design from that point of view will be beautiful, I am not suggesting that Arvid has discovered the archery equivalent of the Double Helix but in the same way that once seen you appreciate the perfection of the design, this bows form most definitely follows function. The limbs, which is where all the action takes place are almost unremarkable, until they are attached to the striking riser, this is the 17" version.
Once again seen on its own you might start thinking Battle star Galactica, put the limbs on and string her up and it all comes together..
Plenty of people buy a bow based on its looks and if we are honest it is the look that first attracts us to bows and I know plenty of folk who enjoy shooting a beautiful bow, I actually have a few that I don't shoot my best with but just love to own. From a purely aesthetic point of view there is enough here for me to want and desire this bow, like I said the fact that the whole concept is the pursuit of archery perfection in terms of performance lends the bow an air of beauty and menace. Having said that though, performance is not the only criteria, The website told me as much with its pleasing design.
I haven't even shot it yet but this bow has me thinking, if I were to be in a position to "wish" my perfect bow into existence, what would my criteria be ?
Quite often you didn't know you wanted something until it is delivered to you and you have that light bulb moment as you realise what has been missing, I have shot enough wonderful bows to have experienced that several times, it also gives me an insight into how I would want my ideal bow to shoot. Puting that in some sort of order of preference would be difficult.
Most times a bow will have to be a compromise, either in terms of performance or design, here Arvid has brought those two together so that each delivers the other.... but I get ahead of myself...
So to the riser, at first glance it is angular and when handled feels small and narrow, much narrower in fact than most risers I have shot, with the limbs on and strung the balance is good, of course the limbs are light and the weight feels like it is in the cast and machined Aluminium riser with its silver vane powder coating. The whole bow weighs 2 1/2#. It's interesting to note that when I showed the bow around and folk had achance to grip it, the comment that was repeated by many was " hmmmm.. risers too thin". Let me tell you, an intial grasp of the bow isn't going to tell the whole story. You need to shoot it a bit to realise how "right" that little skinny riser is and how well it works.
There are 2 plunger holes so you can shoot off the shelf or off a rest. In my opinion not enough bows offer this and once you have tried it you will be converted just as I was, I rarely shoot of a rest but it's there if I want it. The Grip isn't longbow neither is it full on recurve, the funny thing was I found it so comfortable I forgot to look and it didn't jump out at me that it was either one thing or another, I simply didn't notice it at all. That simple fact was to recur throughout my shooting of this bow, when I started to shoot it I stopped noticing things...
The Carbon Ceramic limbs offer a recovery rate 10 times that of fibreglass and are 3 times stiffer. This makes the bow faster because of the stiffness of the Carbon. The core needed is less than half as thick as a fibreglass powered bow to achieve the same draw weight, this means there is less weight in the limbs.. ergo less handshock. In terms of performance that is all good, however there is a potential downside, with so little core it is easy to twist a limb and you will need to take great care when stringing and unstringing this bow. Small twists are easy to resolve but be sure to check the limbs every time you string them. What you are dealing with here is a high performance, formula 1 built to exact tolerances... it must be treated as such.
The bow was pretty much set up for me with a 10 strand 452x string and a nock point right where I like it. The recommended brace is 5 1/2" to 6 1/2" measured from between the limb bolts which is just about the same when measured from the lowest point on the riser grip, after a few shots I could tell that my form wasn't good enough to take advantage of such a low brace as I was experiencing a little bit of noise also some "noise" in the riser, not handshock, nowhere near that and less even that something you might term vibration, just a sensation of noise. I started to increase the brace and at 7 1/4" I found what I was looking for "deadness", both audibly and in the hand.
It was at this point I started to realise that this bow was deadly accurate, dead straight where you looked, unlike some bows I have that need to be upright as they are so far past centre, this bow shot on the cant as well as it did when upright. A plunger button is a beautiful thing ...... An instinctive archers dream. I had known it was coming and had made up a dozen and a half tapered pine arrows in an appropriate spine. I had to make virtually no adjustment to the button and the arrows were coming out of the bow steady, straight and with an un-nerving accuracy that had my heart pumping. I usually shoot around 48# for 3D and the additional 3# was not noticed. When I stopped to think about the draw I realised it was as smooth as any draw I had ever experienced, With a lot of high performance bows the arrows seem to come out shooting high, I had always put that down to the bow being so fast, with this bow however the arrows were certainly coming out fast but I didn't shoot one high arrow at all.
There are days when it all goes right, when you feel on top of your game and even tough shots are a cert even before you draw the bow, there was no doubt I was having one of those days... what really stopped me in my tracks was that the same thing happened the next day when I went to shoot it again. This is a stunningly stable and accurate bow
Once again the fact crept up on me that the bow did not seem to be exhibiting any specific character traits, if anything it was conforming to my style, I was able to shoot in exactly the way I wanted to at any given point and get just the result I wanted... a bow with no discernible vices ?
I like smoothness and shootability and accuracy but I also like speed, I think I value shootability over speed although if you had asked me last year it might have been the other way around. I knew this bow was fast as my arrows were "singing" down range something that only happens at over 180fps usually. despite my knowing it was fast I was staggered at the readings I was getting... 12 shots off fingers at my draw of 28", discard the 2 highest and 2 lowest and the rest averaged437 grain arrow shooting at 204fps515 Grain arrow shooting at 188fps
NOTE.. this is at the 7 1/4" brace... if you take it down to the recommended range you could expect at least a several feet per second improvement... completely MENTAL... Arrows used were wood with a large 5" pope & Young fletch... if you are a speed freak you could use lighter arrows with a smaller fletch, with such incredible speeds on offer you will want to invest in a chrono just to see those massive numbers coming up ....This is no power for powers sake affair, this power is all use-able, if you have an open mind regarding materials and design and have no hang ups regarding what constitutes a trad bow this bow will be a shooting sensation you have quite likely never experienced before... I have shot a LOT of top line bows and this bow is sublime.... it demands no compromise from you the archer and every time I shoot it I fall more in love with it... Thinking back to my question regarding what I wanted from a bow and the order I would want them, in reality I would want a bow that is "easy" to shoot, one that shoots really fast, is deadly accurate, totally predictable and consistent, a bow that I forget is there and becomes an extension of myself so much so that it becomes a part of me... This bow is the closest I have come to experiencing that dream and is the "easiest" bow to shoot well that I have yet encountered.
This limb forms part of a new modular system designed by Arvid to offer several possible combinations of riser and limb set up, with 2 risers, this 17" version and a 13" model. Each will deliver exactly the same performance with the same limb. The limbs are available in Longbow, Hybrid and Recurve configuration, judging by the combination we tested I have no doubt the others will perform equally as impressively.
I have to mention the price at this point rather than in the summing up box because despite delivering more performance than any bow in this category and despite shooting clean, quiet and straight this bow is only $950, which for me puts it in a very special category, it joins just one other bow in being the best value for money I have come come across ( the other bow is the Vaampyre from Supernatural it's new to the market and at under £70 blows the socks off every other beginner bow currently available.. we have one on test right now.. it's a review you won't want to miss)... if this bow were $1200, $1400 or $1600 it would still be worth every cent...
|Features & Design|
Designed by a guy with 60 years of archery bow building knowledge using a CAD package on a state of the art computer... it sounds like it could be a dangerous combination.. I for one find the bow stunningly beautiful.
|This bow is delivering me an archery high the like of which I have not had since my first few mind-blowing shots I ever had with a bow. |
|Value for Money|
|You get the equivalent of the very latest hi tech concept bow that actually delivers and is available NOW for $950 .. |
|I have tried to do the bow justice in this review and failed... it really is that good..|
Steve Nicholson and Andy Gilfrin, are real archers interested in the best archery suppliers have to offer. In our search for the very best bow, arrows and equipment we have shot, used and worn pretty much everything on offer.
Contact Steve .. email@example.com
Contact Andy .. firstname.lastname@example.org
We are now offering the opportunity for suppliers, manufacturers and bowyers to get involved. Check out the sponsors page for more information.
Black Swan Recurve part of the Black Swan Modular system
We take a tour the length and breadth of the British mainland to visit Scotland with Border Bows, Yorkshire with Aidy Hayes, the Wirral with Jason from thelongbowshop.com, down South with the Company of Canterbury Longbowman, and Geoff is in Spain.
A list of other Bow ReviewsNick Toy Classic Longbow 64#@30"