Border Black Douglas Hex 6 and Hex 6.5
This review has been a long time coming, not because I have been too busy to shoot one, in fact quite the opposite, the Black Douglas has been my "go to" bow in various forms for several years, it is a matter of embarrassment that I have yet to complete the review. The first one I shot in earnest was an older XP10. Instantly I had developed a rapport with it. Perhaps I should say that the XP10 was able to iron out my inconsistencies in form and still allow my arrows to hit the target. At a mere 44# I was blown away by the power from such a small bow, to the point where I was able to indulge my passion for very heavy arrows. Over the years I have blown back and forth on arrow weight, similar to the waltz I have been performing with string strand count- my brief affair with skinny and superskinny strings fizzled out due to the difficulty in making a string with a low strand count that wouldn't creep. Heavy arrows on the other hand are something I always come back to- there is something more than satisfying about shooting arrows in the 500 grain plus weight, especially from bows where the grains per # are over 12 or 13 grains/# - with a large fletch I find them super stable and very accurate. A bow like the Border Black Douglas just sucks up that arrow weight and almost effortlessly spits them out. So impressive was the XP10 that by the evening I was trawling bow sales sites and the auction site looking for a later model. Funnily enough they can be tricky beasts to track down yet within days a set of Hex 6 wood core limbs and a full Hex 6 bow Hyperflex core with a super swift 19" riser appeared - couldn't decide so had them both. This produced an interesting situation, I owned already a 21" riser of some vintage, a fairly recent 17" Ultra riser and now a 19" swift. Couple that with the XP10 limbs at 45#, the Wood core limbs at 43# and the BB2's at 44# and I had managed to procure a mix and match Black Douglas multiple choice combination that actually covered over 10# in draw weight. It quickly became apparent that the heavier combinations of riser and limbs would not be required, even at more modest draw weights the Hex 6 is a phenomenal bow. Just looking at a bow so recurved is fun, in its relaxed state the limbs look so outrageously curved that you imagine it will be nigh on impossible to string it - however, its low brace height is its secret, at just a tad under 7" it looks a little dubious for a brace height but this does mean that every ounce of stored energy is going in to your arrows. I shoot this bow with no bracer which is a testament to its lateral stiffness. One of my favourite things to do is pass the bow to someone and let them shoot it...I watch as the early draw weight on the incredibly recurved limbs becomes apparent. As the draw lengthens to almost full draw there is a slight lessening of weight build up and then the moment of surprise as there appears to be a "let off" at the end - it's always the same as folk grin wildly and declare that it suddenly gets easier just at the moment of full draw - around the 28" mark.. I have always loved early weight bows as, in that first 7 or 8 inches of pull you feel the menace locked into the limbs - the Black Douglas takes that early power right to the limit and then the limb tips appear to roll over and produce the effect of almost having created a cam. The whole drawing experience is super smooth, no harsh spots, no stacking, just a silky powerful action - there isn't an inch wasted, you can feel that - every inch you draw it is increasing its power in a controlled way. At full draw the bow is deliciously balanced and with the 21" riser I find myself feeling totally at ease, stress free, my hand in the perfect position to "point" at the target. If the drawing, let off and hold are wondrous to be part of then the release and shooting are no less astounding, there is no shock - none - none at all. The bow is so stable, not just because of the sleek riser but due to the rigidity in the limbs - that's torsional stiffness to you and I - The folks at Border rave about it. No wonder.. it really does add solidity to your shooting. My older 21" riser is cut maybe 3/16" past but the newer Black Douglas risers are cut a jaw dropping 5/16" past centre - the tuning possibilities are endless and if you want bushings for a berger button then Border are happy to oblige, despite my respect for buttons and the ease with which a bow can be tuned using one, I still like a simple uncluttered riser with no holes in it ! Fast doesn't get you close to what it feels like to shoot the Black Douglas Hex 6. Over the years I have reduced my "normal" draw weight from mid/low 60#'s to high 40#'s but all of a sudden I am getting big bow feel and power from a mid 40# bow. Arrows are punching out to the target with velocity, venom and penetration that only big arrows can carry. So, wood core or Hyperflex synthetic core ? The synthetic limbs are faster, it isn't much maybe only 1 or 2 fps but they also have a sharper feel, you would never really notice the speed in the real world, only if you happen to carry around a chrono. It's the same with the feel, that ever so slightly more spirited finish of the synthetic limbs makes the bow feel just a tad more eager. Having said that the wood core limbs instil a confidence that has to be worth the small price of 1 or 2 fps - and when it comes down to it the Hex series of limbs are not lacking for speed. Such is the experience of shooting Hex 6 limbs that it's almost an archery crime that everyone cannot enjoy the feeling, the accuracy and the confidence that shooting one bestows, at least that was why I felt the need for a pal of mine to borrow one of the bows for the South West challenge last year - he fell in love with it instantly as I had.... oh.... and he also fell over a boulder and landed..... bow first onto another. This resulted in an almighty dink in the side of the top limb and the suggestion of a crack across the face of the limb - upon inspection Border pronounced the limb to be " knackered" and irreparable.. There are several lessons here none of which should be laboured. Happily I am a fellow blessed with good friends - I didn't ask for new limbs but dear old Geoff felt obliged to get me some new ones and at Christmas he ordered a set of the very latest wood cored carbon matrix Hex 6.5 - a whole HALF better than the ones I had before. Maybe I am old fashioned, or maybe my form just isn't up to the smaller risers, but once again the limbs felt best on the 21" riser. I don't have an exceptional draw, it's a mere 28". But I have always enjoyed a longer, rather than shorter bow. This set of limbs are wood core, despite the crispness of the synthetic core I prefer the wood core. The initial shooting of the limbs indicates they are even faster than the previous ones despite being at least 1# lighter - it's only an impression thus far. The consistency is quite breathtaking and I am piling up arrows exactly where I want them - I tend to shoot 3 at a time whilst practicing and that has to change almost immediately as nocks are being split.. The bow is a masterpiece, I can't recall ever feeling so comfortable in the shot, or so confident that the arrows will be shooting so accurately - on the first outing, a club shoot I have no concerns shooting through the tightest of gaps, I am positively tuning in on those pro kills with a parabola so flat and consistent I have forgotten entirely that this is just a 42# bow. With so much speed at my disposal I decide to spend a little of it in pursuit of the ultimate whisper quiet, soft shooting and stable archery experience. 16 strand strings are not something I generally use, for me 14 strands is good 'n' fat - in my new huge cord I install some 20 strand wool silencers - it isn't that this bow is noisy - far from it, but I just want to see how silent I can make this bow. With the string finished I take to the range..as arrow after arrow rain down on my targets the hush of the wood is unbroken, barely the dullest of low frequency thuds upon release - I imagine I may just have spent a few fps of speed but I can't tell as I am entranced by the whole shooting experience. It's as if my arrows are on rails, the bow was so easy to tune with my tapered 50/55# spine arrows weighing in at 485grns and as I watch them zip down range with just a nock and spinning feathers visible I can tell that this bow has no hidden vices - this is a thoroughbred bow with a prestigious pedigree. Very often folk try to improve something which is already superb and end up screwing it up - there is some merit to the old adage " if it ain't broke don't fix it "...however, here Border have managed to create yet another stupendous shooting sensation by building on the incredible bows that have gone before - it seems improbable that there is anywhere to take the Hex series after this...... but then I think I said that when I shot the Hex 6. I generally don't shoot anything other than wood arrows, however I have always loved the idea of lighted nocks and so have several sets of carbon arrows with lighted nock installed - Green are the best for me, I thought the red would be the better colour but green shines out even in verdant woodland. These are Gold Tip Ted Nugent Zebra equipped with Carbon Express precision launchpad lighted nocks... at 357grns they are only 8.5grns /# and they come out like tracer rounds cutting through the gloom of an overcast day at speeds that have me giggling like a child.. So exactly how fast is this bow ? With my fat string, my big silencers and my abundantly fletched beefy arrows I get 11.55grns/# 183fps With the Ted Nugent Zebra tracer munitions.... 8.5grns/# 198fps When I switch my string down to 12 strands with small whisper wool puffs ... there it is.... 200fps - highly unbelievable but true none the less..