Reviewed By Steve , 14 June 2011
Christmas came early to the Nicholson household this year, 28th April in fact. Of course it wasn't really Christmas, but it felt like it, ever since I was a child I have loved receiving parcels, a knock on the door and new stuff is thrust in to your hands.
The pleasure of the whole experience is enhanced immeasurably when the item being delivered is something you have been looking forward to for a long time, in fact here at Archers Review we have been following this since 2009. the bow was unveiled in January and we have been working behind the scenes to get our filthy hands on one. The anticipation was still further piqued as we have been reading on the web anything we could find about this bow and there is no doubt it has generated a lot of interest, even folk who don't own one or have not shot one have been voicing opinions, we need to find out for ourselves and report back to you with some hard facts.
......and there it is...... the knock on the door and the parcel thrust into my hands, " sign here" and then we are off up the workshop to see what we have, I feel like Gollum as I scurry along with my precious..a moment of contemplation as I savour the prospect of an afternoon with a new bow.
The parcel itself is very light but it's contents are lighter still... and shiny, oh so shiny... I didn't need to put it together to know I liked the look of it, those decals on the slick limbs and the futuristic solid carbon riser had me thinking formula 1 as the three pieces were assembled.
Check out that carbon weave on the limbs ! There are 3 available lengths for this bow and ours is 62". It is marked at 51#@28". Once put together and at rest this bow shows the same R/D profile as on several other hybrid longbows, it's sleek, aggressive and an aura of potency. Putting it together is idiot proof, the top limb is pointed and the lower limb tip is flat, this isn't in case some numpty gets excited and puts the bow together wrong, it's for those bad bad archers who use the push pull method to string their bows - The lads at Alaska Bowhunting know more about you than you think ! When strung that impression is further enhanced. The all up weight including the string is just on 2 pounds, which is super light but it feels even less, an odd thing to say but I am not much used to picking up bows so light. A close inspection of the string left me confused, it was pretty big at 15 strands - I am a fan of skinny and I had somehow expected that the bow would sport something around the 10 strand mark to squeeze a little extra speed. Especially as this bow was aimed at the hunter and a hunters weight arrow. It wasn't only the number of strands that had me puzzled it was also the material, I make a lot of strings and use many different materials but this one escaped me, I had to hold up my hands and ask what it was and it turns out to be Astroflight. Astroflight is advertised as "no creep", it feels lubricious, slippery and slithery almost like it didn't need wax, it was a new material on me so it warranted further investigation. It is an Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene. It is made up of extremely long chains of polyethylene, which all align in the same direction. Its strength comes largely from the length of each individual molecule (chain). Bonds between the molecules are relatively weak for each atom of overlap between the molecules, but because the molecules are very long, large overlaps can exist, adding up to the ability to carry larger shear forces from molecule to molecule. Each chain is bonded to the others with so many bonds that the whole of the inter-molecule strength is high. In this way, large tensile loads are not limited as much by the comparative weakness of each bond.
Several things distinguish this bow from most other Trad bows that we shoot here at AR, firstly it's ALL carbon and foam.. no wood here, although I note that the grip is detachable so assume that if you are missing some Bubinga in your life you can probably get some woodgrips.
Next it has bushings for a pressure button, I was introduced only recently to the joy and delights of a plunger button, most trad bows offer a shelf or stick on rest. That wasn't quite the end of the story, as there are in fact 2 bushings, one above the other, so if you prefer to shoot off a rest you can still have the button - I have never seen that before.
Having the bow in my hand I was now able to make sense of some of the conversations I have had with Todd from Alaska Bowhunting. This bow is a backward bow, what I mean is that the bow was almost reverse engineered, instead of starting with a design and building and refining, which is how most bows come in to being this bow started life as a question... " how do I hurl a 650 grain arrow as hard as I can whilst maintaining stability and accuracy ?"
That is in fact an over simplification, when you get Todd started he will put Keats to shame with his prose - what I get from him when we talk is that he was looking for a bow which not only performed all the physical criteria required of a hunting bow, it had also to satisfy the spiritual side of archery, that oneness with the bow we all experience when we execute what feels like a perfect shot - Todd defines it as Harmony, for me it's the symmetry of the parabola of the arrow and the opportunity to be part of that elemental mix that allows us to take our place with the primeval hunter .... if that can be captured in a bow then ABH have bottled the essence of archery...
I am itching to shoot it, especially as this bow is guaranteed for life, not just the life of my ownership, it is actually transferable... you would have to be pretty confident of your kit to offer that sort of guarantee. They are ! this bow was dry loosed around the clock for 7 DAYS with no failure - just hearing a bow dry loosed once will send shivers down an archers back - imagine 7 days of it..
So the ingredients are Alaska Bowhuntings' desire to create an archers bow, the input from OL Adcock with regard to the limb design, Jim Belcher on the riser and the necromancy of Win & Win with the foam core and carbon technology, with a recipe like that whatever comes out the end will be interesting to say the least.... can bear it no longer this bow just has to be shot... generally I have a play about and then take some Chrono reading. The Velcro that was supplied was soon in place and the plunger button installed.
The draw is smooth, elastic, no harsh spots and the power builds quickly. The loose is clean swift and to my surprise shock-less, light weight bows can have the tendency to be unstable and shocky. As I loose it's almost as if for that instant the riser gains mass to absorb the shot, it feels rock steady in my hand after the shot - an impressive start. The riser is cut way past centre and I had guestimated the position of the plunger, I was off a little and my first 3 shots all went right, a little tweak and within 6 more arrows I had it shooting bang on, I had set the brace at 7 1/4" and nock point at 3/10ths - within minutes I had tuned the bow to the arrows. I have a huge selection of arrows as I have many bows and am always shooting or testing something different, I was able to take almost any arrow and retune the bow in minutes. At close range the groups were so tight I was in danger of de-nocking myself so out to the range to shoot some 3D's. It should also be noted that the plunger button is fully adjustable, you can move it in and out but also change the spring tension inside it. I shot and shot, even using my 4 fletch 60/120, as you can see from the above shot of the riser and the worn velcro shelf.. as we say in England " I shot the granny out of it !" - the Chrono was forgotten and I was lost in the archery....
Today was a big testing day as Andy and I had several bows at our disposal and I have to say I found it impossible to stop shooting this bow... at Archers Review we have a policy, we don't do reviews which trash a product so you won't find a review of a "bad" bow - instead we return products or bows to manufacturers with our suggestions as to how it might be improved, we only review top kit on this site, however, this leaves us with a quandary - everything can't be excellent, A1 and 5 stars, so we are careful with our superlatives and each review will be straightforward and honest, a good product will be called good and when we say an item is very good it means just that. I am not going to say this bow is the final word in Traditional archery.... but this is right up there with the very best in terms of stability, speed and that all important factor... shootability.
Whilst I was shooting this bow I wasn't really concerned with the speed - it is fast, no doubt about that, it is shock free, it is smooth and it feels very good in the hand, and it wasn't just because I was getting really tight groups at all distances, what had captivated me was the actual shooting, it did give me a feeling of Harmony - I wasn't just shooting the bow, perhaps it was the very lightness and the easy point-ability but it felt more like pointing my finger at targets than performing a routine to hit them, I could feel my form becoming less textbook yet still the arrows arrived with certainty - It wasn't long before Andy noticed me having "fun" when I should be working. Grudgingly I let him have a go, a big big mistake - I didn't get it back that day. Andy is shooting hot right now and in his hands the bow was absolutely devastating. Nothing was safe, we use target pins in the pro kill of the 3D's as an aide to practice and it wasn't long before they had all gone - he will give you his own review. So, at a spiritual level this is one of the nicest bows I have ever shot, it's fun, it's easy to shoot, easy to tune and I love the showroom finish ( if you prefer your hunting bow less glossy then buy the limb skins ).
As regards the out and out performance, it is not lacking, when I eventually prised the bow from Andy ( and only then after promising he could use it at the next competition) I managed to put our normal test set through the Chrono. Todd is at pains to explain that this bow was designed to be fast, it has to be in order to send big old hunting arrows in to the quarry. But...the bow is to complement the Grizzly Stik arrow shaft and to do that the limb must be efficient, every ounce of muscle power you put into the string needs to be converted to arrow momentum rather than being lost in the bow - when you shoot it you know that it's all gone into the arrow because you can feel it ( or rather you can't... no shock, no vibration )- this bow is not an attempt to produce the fatsest bow or break records,it is, first and foremost a hunters bow.... having said all that this is THE FASTEST hybrid bow that we have yet shot at Archers Review - that alone will not qualify it as a bow to be highly sought after, but if you combine it with the properties already described what you have is a potent brew that pushes the boundaries of traditional archery to the limits of performance available today from state of the art materials combined with the knowledge and experience of some of the worlds top archers and engineers..
The test figures are with my draw of 28", off fingers, 12 shots with each weight with the top 2 and bottom 2 readings eliminated and the rest averaged.445gn 9.08gn/# 188 fps
Normally when I get hold of a bow I start trying to squeeze a few more FPS by using a skinny string and playing with the brace Height, something which would be really easy to do with this bow on account of the pressure button, however the bow does not lack for speed and to be honest it shoots so nice I don't want to mess with it.
Of course being a bow designed primarily for heavy hunting arrows it would be rude not to see exactly how it handles a heavy arrow. With a 690 grain arrow we chrono'd 160 fps..... that is some serious stopping power.Finally, the bow was marked at 51# but on my scales showed just 49# - here is the thing though, when I first drew the bow I said " this isn't anywhere near 51#"... when the scales showed 49# I went and got new batteries because I didn't believe it, even with the new batteries I had to grab a couple of bows I already knew the real weight of. After all this when the scales had been proven to be correct the bow didn't feel 49# and it put me in mind of my favourite self Yew English longbow which feels much lighter than it's weight but shoots as if it is heavier. It brings traditional archery into the 21st century-it is modern alright but maybe we should say contemporary Traditional .... you will of course be wondering when I will mention the reassuringly expensive price tag of $1500, especially our European readers who will be interested to note that it cost us an additional £230 in tax and duties to get the bow through UK customs................ the price is the price and if you have the finance available this bow will not leave you wondering if you did the right thing, it is difficult to put a label on the value for money thing, but let me put it this way....... I did say I would be careful with the superlatives but right now when I next go to shoot it is this bow I want to be shooting, Andy and I get on well but we have both become very covetous of this bow, strange given that between us we have access to over a dozen bows at this time...... " Q_A_R_B_O_N"... now that spells trouble !
Reviewed By Andy, 14th June 2011
When looking for a new bow there are a myriad to choose from, most of which have been around, in various forms for many years. Many bows new to the market are just updated forms of something which has been around for some time and they themselves were based on even older bows. Sure there have been upgrades in materials, a bowyer will often add carbon to an already existing limb design to radically change the speed but the characteristics of the bow remain much the same. So to have the chance to shoot a bow which has been designed from the ground up is a serious privilege.
I won't spend too long on what the bow looks like as Steve has done an excellent job on that front, however while they look stunning the pictures do not do the bow justice. The limbs look absolutely fantastic and added touch of the carbon weave fading out really gives this bow a top notch look. I have changed grips a number of times over the years and recently been shooting something a little fuller, but the Nano's small grip fits great and forces you in to an open hand position which to be honest is what I should be using.
From the moment I picked the bow up, with a set of arrows Steve had tuned the bow to, I was hitting really tiny groups. Much smaller than I would normally expect for the first few dozen shots and almost with no effort. That for me is the key feature of this bow, it is effortless to shoot, no fuss, draw release and it's where it needs to be.
I shoot a lot, if it's not reviewing a bow, I'm out at a 3D competition somewhere but I will never shoot a bow I'm reviewing at a competition. I'm not the best out there but I have my fair share of medals and titles and so I take competition very seriously, so seriously that I almost never shoot a bow I'm unfamiliar with when there is something at stake. With the Nano I threw that out of the window, so confident was I that this bow had that little bit of magic I decided to shoot it competitively. I spent some time in the garden the week prior to a shoot setting up the bow for my competition spec arrows, this was easy as the bow has a button. I decided to shoot off the shelf as I normally do and messed around with the button moving it in and out to get the best from the bow and arrows. The bow is super light but there was plenty of feedback and when I was doing this correctly the bow gave a pleasing twing on release sending the arrow down range and landing right where I was looking. It didn't take long to get the arrows right and I was super confident that this bow was going to really do the business.
As luck would have it I had two competitions coming up in the following weeks, the first at Excalibur a fantastic shoot where the order of the day is accuracy at the shorter distances, the second at Fleet Ibex which for me is one of the best shoots in the UK. I took the bow to Excalibur and before I had even taken a shot there was a huge amount of interest in the bow, I'm well know for having new bows all the time but most of them do not pass comment, however with the Nano there were lots of people coming up and asking me about the bow. The real proof however was in the shooting and we were soon off for a 40 target course using NFAS big game scoring (more on that in a second).
It took a while to adjust to the speed of the bow, it is fast and I could really tell the difference shooting it in a competition as I shoot a semi-instinctive style and the first few shots were high. But I got in to the flow and started to really rack up the inner and outer kill shots. I won't bore you with the details but with NFAS big game scoring a good score is 500+, there are a group of guys me included that regularly push into the 600's but with the Nano I blew that score out of the water, that day I came in with 720 which for me is a new personal best. The bow was simply awesome, there could be a debate about the score being me or the bow but one thing is clear to pull out a personal best with a bow I'd only shot a few arrows through was simply stunning, the bow clearly played a part.
The next weekend was the Fleet Ibex shoot,a stunning course with some fantastic 3D target, but they have a lot more room than Excalibur and it shows with the shot distance. This was another experience all together and 700+ was going to be pushing it, my personal best here was 642 so the bow was going to have to work miracles to push me up there. Needless to say it did as I came in with 662, which might not sound as good as the personal best but I can assure you it was every bit as satisfying and pushed me in to the medals once again, only missing out on gold to Mike List who for those that don't know is a former national champion and one of the best archers in the UK.
The following week was the National 3D championships, I was seriously tempted to shoot the bow there for the 2 days but with inclement weather and a tough hilly course I decided the bow was a little too special and a little too new to risk damaging it, as I sit here typing this there is a little voice telling me I should have gone for it. I have little doubt that somebody will be taking plenty of trophies with this bow. So with a personal best, two course best scores and 2 medals from two shoots I reluctantly packed up the Nano and sent it back to Steve.
This bow is everything it promised to be and it's not often I find myself saying that.
|Features & Design|
Starting from scratch rather than from an existing design means you can build the bow to do the exact job you need it to do.Primarily designed as a hunting bow to shoot heavy arrows and complement the Grizzly stik arrow shaft. Be that as it may, every archer no matter what he uses the bow for will find it enhances the archery experience.
|Out and out hard core performance without compromising the shoot-ability and handling, in fact like many high end quality driven products this looks good, performs superbly and feels right. |
|Value for Money|
|I can go down the road and buy a bow for £200 that will do the job, I can also go to my local car dealer and buy a budget Ford that will get me from A to B quite adequately, however I lust after an Aston Martin and no one is screaming that Aston Martins are not worth the money... the real point is that I could ( in theory) afford the Aston Martin of the bow world and If the cash is there why deny yourself !!! |
|In conversation with Garrett of Alaska Bowhunting he tells me that over the last 2 years there were several points when it would have been easier to give up than carry on with the project... all I can say is that anything wonderful usually requires some sacrifice, stress and pain... and I have no doubt that the end result has proved to be well worth going the extra mile...|
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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.
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Qarbon Nano Grizzly Stik 51#@28"
Sleek and beautiful
Even at Rest this bow looks threatening
For me the riser is everything it should be
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.
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