A&H ACS 12" Short Riser 62" 47#@28"
Most people own just the one bow, some people own a couple and fewer still change bows more often than they change their car, I on the other had get a new bow every couple of months or so. When I say new, more often than not it's just new to me rather than new from the factory but this constant stream of bows means I get to try a lot of bows. Most of these bows are sent to me for review, some are ones I have wanted to try for a while and only just been able to get my hands on and then there is the rare beast that is a bow built just for me. Of the 50+ bows that have passed through my hands in the last 3 years or so there has been one constant, the ACS. Over the course of those 3 years I have owned about 10 in one form or another, I'm a little unclear on the exact number as often I have swapped, purchased different combinations of limbs and risers so some of them were never shot as a single bow and another time a riser or set of limbs has stuck around for a while.
You might now be asking why I needed two let alone 10 of the same bow, well one of the appeals of the A&H ACS is the fact that they produce a range of limb lengths and risers, once I had convinced myself that the ACS CX limb design was, if not the best, one of the best shooting limbs around it then took another couple of years to try the different riser combinations to find the best match for me. For me that was a 64" 45 limb on an RC riser, an awesome bow which I had shot solidly for the last 12 months in competition and without wanting to sound boastfull had delivered a number of medals and titles. Then of course the inevitable happened, A&H announced an all new bow and it wasn't 10 minutes before I was on the phone to Dan at A&H getting more details and seeing if we could get a couple to try out.
Normally as a general rule we take each bow on it's merits and have a general policy not to compare bows regardless of the fact they are a similar price or use similar materials to others. However I'm sure that many people reading this review will be doing so with half an eye on comparing this with their current ACS bow and what the new shorter version might offer. So please forgive me if at times this review drifts off in to comparisons as in this case it's a little more justified and we wouldn't really be doing the full job if we didn't give at least some indication of the differences.
The prime driver for this bow is that it is short but performs just as well as the current longer bows, the new designs come in 2 groups 56"/58", and 60"/62" overall lengths, I say two groups because the limbs are only usable on a specific riser. The riser has a different degree angle where the limbs connect and therefore limbs from a 56" bow will not fit on to a 60" riser, this also gives the two bows a different strung profile, the short ones looking a little more straight and longbow like, while the longer ones have the more distinct hybrid look. The riser in both cases is 12" long somewhat shorter than the current offerings, however the sight window is the same size as the original 14" riser, it's short and stubby but it fits like a glove and if you had a blindfold on you wouldn't be able to tell it was so short. It is a handful however, rather like the current RC and fits definitely in the recurve style pistol grip category, for me this fells very natural indeed and is possibly my favourite grip I have ever tried. It is however still distinctly ACS in shape and is still cut past centre to give you the best chance to tune your arrows to the bow. The one on test here is predominantly Cocobolo and is wonderful to look at. The other difference between this and the other ACS risers is that it has the bolt socket and just a single retainer, rather than the two, while there are other reasons this would be the main reason the limbs are not interchangeable with the other bows.
The limbs are actionboo sandwiched between two strips of carbon. The coating is the familiar black non-gloss finish seen on the other A&H bows, this again adds to the overall look. The limbs are however a little wider than the standard ACS limbs and also have a rounded end where they connect to the riser. The tips are small in comparison to most bows and taper to a small point which makes them fit snugly in to a tip to tip stringer, which for me is the only way to string a bow you have invested significant money in to. With a shorter riser the 62" overall length means more limb, however the performance advantage also comes from a longer active limb as the area on the riser on which the limb connects is shorter than on the standard or RC bows, this in part is the reason for the single retaining pin.
I took delivery of the bows (one left hand and one right) a few days before I was due to shoot in a European 3D tournament in France, as much as the temptation was there I decided that it would be best to wait until I returned to shoot the bow. Once back I spent the week tuning the bow as best I could, setting the nocking point and brace height, the following weekend I was due to shoot in another 2 day archery shoot. It took me a while to get a feel for the bow and the arrows I used were showing weakness, this was a surprise as I had been using them on my main competition bow, a 47# RC ACS for the last year. I carried on for the rest of the day trying to compensate, but arrows that go where you point are in my opinion a must, so as soon as I was home after the first days shooting I pushed some figures into to Stu Miller's spine calculator and found they were a little too weak. I could have lowered the point weight but I prefer to shoot 100grn as a minimum so went for the more drastic option of cutting them down by an inch. I did this to three arrows as I didn't want to cut them all down to find it had not worked, but the next day on the practice range I could see it was an improvement, if not the final solution. Another days shooting and I was starting to really like the bow as I have improved my score on the first day by 50+ points.
The following week presented another chance to shoot the bow, this time I went to practice area early so I could really see how things were, I was a little closer than the week before and was shooting at a spot about 3" in diameter, again the arrows were showing weak, although less so than before. This however is where the ACS excels as it is cut past centre, so I was able to tune the bow to the arrows, it was close but the addition of a small twig stuck behind the shelf protection pushed the arrows over the 2-3 inches at the target end and they were now going exactly where I wanted them to.
A few weeks later and I was presented with the ultimate test ground for the bow, the South West Challenge an 8 day archery tournament. The bow had proved itself in the previous few weeks and I had no concerns about using the bow, however I took my normal competition bow as a back up just in case.
Now, given the amount I had already shot the bow, it would be a good time to tell you what it's like. It is silky smooth in the draw and while being on the short side feels great. On releases the arrow leaves the bow very quickly and there is of course no hand shock at all. The riser is fairly full in the hand but I like that and means that a consistent hand position can be found easily. There is some weight which again I like but it is still light when compared to most take down bows, especially those which have a longer riser. I'm not sure if it was down to the size or the very slightly different grip position but I have found the bow to be more stable and I'm less prone to the odd twitch in the shot.
So back to the South West Challenge, the bow was awesome and shooting it all week I was able to really gel with the bow. I managed 3 silver medals and 1 gold from the four tournaments and second overall, this was in a class which is for full recurve bows, but the ACS was more than a match for them. ACS have a policy to only produce a bow if it is better than what is already on offer and this bow delivers. For me it is as good as the 64" RC bow I have shot over the last two years but presents it in a smaller more compact package which for me is a little more stable. If you already own an ACS I'm not sure it presents enough of a increase in performance, if there is one at all, however if you were looking at a first or new ACS then unless you were sure you wanted a longer bow, for me this would be the one to go for.
Features & Design
The same but different. It is instantly recognisable as an ACS bow however when compared to the longer risers it does look rather different. One thing I have always liked about the ACS is the blend of traditional and modern, both in the look and the performance.
Excellent performance, the ACS limb design is well known and this bow maintains the high speed standard. Bows don't perform much better than this.
Value for Money
This is a top of the range bow and therefore sells for top money. But you will not outgrow this bow, there are so few bows that can match this in terms of performance, let alone beat it, that once you have shot one it's unlikely you will buy another bow, certainly not to replace it.
Presents an increase in performance for those looking for a shorter ACS, well worth considering if you don't currently own an ACS but possibly not enough there to justify an upgrade or replacement if you do.