Border Black Douglas 1 Pc 42#@28"
If there is one thing I have learned through running this website, it has to be that an open mind is a must. Because I am attempting to write reviews on all manner of archery kit I have to evaluate my preconceived notions, my immediate reaction upon first meeting a new bow or item of kit and my impression once having used it.
This throws up some interesting anomalies in my own archery psyche. Under normal circumstances I might find myself taking objection to a bow based purely on it's looks - if I had let my initial reaction dictate which bows I shot I would never have discovered one of the best bows I have ever used... the Hoyt Gamemaster 2. In truth had I allowed my own peculiar bow prejudices rule the roost I may never have even shot a recurve or used a pressure button.... come to that I would probably still be shooting an English Longbow.
Even knowing all this I still have to pull myself up on occasion and repeat out loud the Archers Review mantra... "Keep an open Mind"
Oddly enough it was whilst keeping my eye open for a GM2 that I happened upon this Black Douglas. I found a GM2 but it was a left handed riser, however the price was good and I posted it's details on our club forum in case anyone fancied it... Andy noticed the post and replied that there was a RH one on the NFAS forum and that I could have bought it had he not already done so... When I discovered how much he had paid I sat for the next half hour thinking about how he had really had a deal and that I would have paid that much in an instant.
It was the thought of spending the few quid that would have got me the GM2 that must have still been in my head when I saw this 1pc Border for sale. I was primed and prepped and looking to spend some money. No matter it was just 42# draw, or that I have never been a big fan of 1 pc bows and no matter that I would probably never use it in anger. I was so gutted that I had missed what I really wanted that I just needed to buy something !
The owner of this bow had been looking to sell for a couple of months. There had been no takers and the price had been reduced. In the end something is "worth" only what another is prepared to pay. I had the cash handy and the reality is that I paid a lot less than the valuation I would place on this bow.
I had not quite managed to keep an open mind but somehow fate had still managed to hook me up with this little recurve. Turns out it's old and pretty rare, I mailed Sid at Border and it turns out this bow was made in 1989- it's Rock Maple and black glass with Rosewood riser - the model itself was discontinued around 2000/1 or so.
When I picked it up the owner told me it was fast.... well really.. surprisingly almost every bow owner declares their bow to be "fast" so I took it with a pinch of salt, the arrow rest gave away the fact that this bow was almost antique,it was after all 24 years old, so how fast could it be ?
Before I can find that out I need a string, there wasn't one with it. Close inspection of the limb tips didn't give me too many clues, there are several layers of something in there and I only assume it will take a string from Dynaflight 10 - this might prove too much for an older bow but "what the hell ! I reach a compromise by making a 14 strand string and padding the loops out to 20 and I add some token wool silencers, they are very small and will only take the edge off any vibration, which I have to say I am expecting. It has all the hallmarks of a bow that will make noise.. it's short, it's old and it's 1pc. Despite it's age it is still very very shiny and even the few age related marks and the odd scratch don't detract from what is a beautiful piece of work.
The next question is the brace height, generally these shorter bows have a higher than normal brace and I am reminded of the sexy little Super Necedah that braced somewhere around 9". That sounds too high and once the string is made it measures up at a tad over 7" with a little room to go either way, having said that I am not expecting to go lower.
I am expecting finger pinch as this bow is only 58", but as I draw it up carefully a few times it feels tremendously smooth and tight right through the draw, it isn't stacking but does feel a little heavier than it's marked weight, that probably has more to do with it's shortness and the way the power comes in... it's instant. 42# isn't a weight I generally shoot, although of late I have been playing with bows ranging from 40# up to 55#.
The arrows I choose are Spruce and tapered, I have chosen 54# spine as these generally fly very well from bows in the 40-50# range, the 5" fletch is cut Pope and Young and they have quite a high profile that I like, they make a vicous whistle from fast 50# bows. This batch of spruce is quite nice and light and the all up arrow weight is between 430 and 435 grains, which brings me in at a tad over 10gpp.
The riser is a thing of beauty and the finger grooves pull my hand right into the very high recurve grip and I can feel the solid heel of the bow pressing into the plump pad under my thumb, my wrist comes up high and it feels like I am throttling a snake- in fact it feels so comfortable I wonder if it can be legal.
Border have a reputation for quality, having visited their workshops and spent a day with "the Sids" and the incredible guys that fashion these bows I must admit to being a little excited, despite its light weight the bow feels wonderful, the balance, the smooth, syrupy yet powerful draw and the overall finish are everything I would expect from a Border bow.
Sssssssssmack ! the first arrow from my garden into my workshop punches through my straw target with the venom I would expect from a larger bow, I have a short range for the odd idle moment and despite it being only 14 yards you get used to the speed and impact sound of an arrow at that distance. This feels all wrong, I know it is only 42# but it's hitting with serious force, a few more shots and I need a chrono.
At 28" off fingers with a 430 grain arrow if I saw something around 170-175 fps I would be properly impressed as that would put it right up there # for # with just about any of the high performance top Johnny bows out there, the first number I see is 184 fps, next up 183.7 fps - 3rd arrow shows 184 fps.
Those are insane figures and somewhat hard to believe, I spend a fair amount of time with a chrono when I am tuning or testing a bow and quite often I hear folk chuntering on about a their bow that shoots ridiculous speeds... to be honest if I heard someone say that their 42# bow shoots at 184 fps, I would smile indulgently and just offer " how nice for you" ... because 42# bows don't shoot at 184 fps. Except this one does.
Almost as soon as I had wandered off to shoot some 3D's I started to disbelieve what I had just seen with my own eyes and I resolved to give it another test at a later point with new batteries on a sunnier day.
Shooting the bow for real was no less stunning. It is utterly predictable, the little light arrows are clumping up in the targets at all distances, the speed is staggering and I am point on at 55 yards - I shoot split finger and have a standard draw of 28". With heavy arrows weighing 535-540 grains the speed drops quite significantly, well it would, it is after all only 42# and those arrows are the equivalent of just under 13gpp - which is a very heavy arrow, but the stability is now in the realms of archery perfection, the bow sucks up the arrow weight, is totally solid in the shot with that beautiful riser distributing the weight away into my bow arm back and body, there is no noise apart from a satisfying dull thud as the arrow leaves and finds it way unerringly to the target.
Shoot it straight up or shoot it on a cant, the bow delivers the arrow where you look, so far I am shooting off an elevated rest, in fact it looks like the rest itself is something of an antique. The shelf is radiused so it would be no problem to fit some leather or hair and shoot right above the knuckle. It looks to be cut about 1/8" past which makes it very easy to tune.
This for me rates as one of the most extraordinary bows I have ever shot. Here it is shown with a Martin Hunter, itself a very handsome bow, but when compared side by side the Border really shows off its curves, its finish and its acutely recurved limb tips. I just love the air of menace that emanates from its' lustrous finish and I rate it as a thing of great beauty.
I asked Sid why it was discontinued. The answer of course is simple, you don't discontinue a winning formula.... you improve it if you can, you tweak it, you perfect it as materials and research allow. It seems that back in 2000 the bow evolved into the Rob Roy and the Reiver range - the development continued and today there are 3 Border 1 pc recurve bows, the Khan,the Highlander and the Reiver Super CX - the black glass has come of age and is now Carbon. The design of the limbs is called Hex 5 and Hex 6 which sounds terrific even though I don't know what it means. Regardless of that Sid assures me that the limbs have improved torsional stiffness which is altogether a good thing, it sounds like I am being flippant. In fact I am not, this little bow is a truly great bow, Sid at Border bows tells me that they have developed and improved the design and that you can expect increased performance and a better all round shooting experience with their current 1pc bows which are a direct descendent of this design. I am looking forward at some point to reviewing the Border Reiver 1pc.
All of that of course is for next time... right now we need to re chrono the bow. 12 shots off fingers at my 28" draw, top two and bottom two discarded and the rest averaged:
425gn 10.12gn/# 182fps
525gn 12.74gn/# 165fps
Even having just shot the bow myself I would have a hard job believing these figures if someone told me this little bow shot that hard..As ever though I have to mention that it isn't all about speed, the bow shoots sweetly, consistently and is beautiful to look at. My only gripe would be.... I wish this had been 48-50#. If you have one, or know where one is I will buy it. Unlike many bows that come across the Archers Review radar, this bow will not be for sale and will be staying firmly in my hands. What I would really love to do is keep it in my collection but this is far too good a bow to never get shot, instead I will be carting it about and using it for what it was intended.
Features & Design
It's short by design, I usually shy away from 58" bows although in truth I have never shot a bad one.. however this bow exhibits all the looks, style and panache that just take my breath away.
For its' weight this bow punches in the very top league, despite being over 24 years old it holds performance statistics that will make any of it's modern competitors very envious.
Value for Money
Quite simply "priceless" they are not making this model any more.... however I am led to believe the bows that currently sport the Border 1pc logo are it's direct descendants
If you find one of these snap it up, if you have one of these in 48-50# I will buy it from you.