Border Black Douglas 64# 40@28"
It seems odd that a country such as the Great Britain which owes so much of it's history to the use of the bow that on an international stage there are so few recognisable names in the word of bowyery. As somebody who spends a fair amount of time on various international forums, British based bowyers hardly ever get a mention, this seems somewhat odd when you actually vist a field archery competition in Britain as a vast majority of people are shooting British made bows, yet for some reason they do not export well, either physically or by reputation. However there is one exception, Border bows, not only are these well known they also hold a very high reputation, up there with the very best American bows around. Perhaps this is due to a much larger operation than most other Britsh based bowyers, which allows Border to produce not only a large number of bows, but also a larger range than most.
Possibly the most popular bow of all, certainly in the numbers you see around is the Black Douglas, a takedown recurve which comes in a number of different configurations. Border produce both field and target bows and the Black Douglas is somewhat of a cross over classic, there is a choice of 3 different riser lengths, the standard Black Douglas at 21", the Black Douglas Swift at 19" and finally the Black Douglas Ultra at a more compact 17". There are also a number of limb options, XP10, HEX IV and HEX V, all with various different levels of performance and therefore price.
This review is of a Super Swift, the riser is a little more bulky than many bows, but comfortable to hold and feels nice if not a little heavy when compared to many other traditional bows. The riser is made from Cocobolo and Shedua and it looks absolutely stunning, the finish is second to none and as good as any bow I have ever seen. This bow has the HEX IV limbs, which border claim are twice as strong as conventional bow facings and are 40% lighter in mass. The ones we reviewed were brown which if I'm honest I don't think they looked as nice as the black ones which we have pictured, but each to their own when it comes to colours and the look of the bow which is something very personal to all of us.
We had two of these bows to test, one with 36# limbs and a second with 40# limbs, I normally shoot 45# so I decided to concentrate on the 40# limbs for the pruposes of revie, however the pictures are of the 36# bow hence the conflicting information in the pictures.
It is the limbs that set this bow apart, as you can see in the unstrung pictures the limb profile means the tips are at right angles to the riser and main part of the limbs. Even when strung the limbs still curve forward a great deal possibly as far forward as most ordinary limbs do unstrung. But this is no ordinary limb and draw feels unlike anything I have every felt. It's almost as when drawing there is an initial stage as the tips come back and then a second wave where the limb proper comes in to play.
Another feature of the bow is where the limbs are fitted to the riser, on some bows there can be a tendency to over tighten the bolts to make sure the limbs are secure and on some I have seen splits in the limbs develop because of this. Border have a solution for this which is both simple and rather obvious when you think about it, they have a layer of rubber on the riser which the limb sits on, therefore there is give in the riser before it becomes too tight that it would cause damage. It's just another little design feature that marks Border out from the rest.
When you are testing bows it's important to make sure you get the right set up as quickly as possible and so I checked the recommended bracing height range of 7.75" to 8.25" for these limbs, I started off at 7.75" and went to the shed to see how they felt. There was a slight twang to the limbs so I got about twisting the string to see if I could find a sweet spot which I did at a shade under 8". I was using my set of test arrows and with my limited space I was able to find a spine the seemed to fly well and go straight in to the target.
Shooting in the shed is one thing, but it is out in the woods where this thing really needed to be tested and that's where I set off on Saturday to give it a good run out. At just 40# which is lower than most of the bows we test I wasn't expecting massive performance, but I was of course wrong. HEX IV limbs are not cheap but for that price you expect and get great performance, it took just a few shots to get in the groove but there really was little in the way of adjustment needed even though I was dropping a number of pounds from the normal bows. The riser is physically large but not particularly heavy in the hand, the pistol grip is very comfortable and there is a place to rest your thumb so finding a decent hand position was never an issue. I'm very comfortable with this more recurve style grip and this was no exception, however the larger mass felt more comfortable with a proper grip rather than the more loose one I normally employ.
The bow felt fast, not just in terms of arrow speed, but the speed that the limbs returned to their strung position. Obviously the two are related but in this case even if you didn't look at the arrow you could tell this thing was spitting the arrows out at a fast rate.
Features & Design
Stunning to look at, Border bows are finished to a top standard.
Excellent performance especially for a 40# bow, I don't think I have shot many bows of a similar poundage that I felt were faster than this.
Value for Money
With the HEX limbs it's not cheap, something like £700+, it's a great bow and a real master piece when it comes to the craftsmanship, I suspect only you personally could justify the cost.
Well made, excellent performance and wonderful to look at.