Border HEX-5 43# Medium Limbs
There is a growing trend here in the UK when it comes to shooting target based bows in field competition. There have always been the free style classes which are essentially recurve target bows with sights and stabilisers however Hunting Tackle which allows recurve bows with no sights has generally been the catch all for traditional bows, normally recurve but also the latest generation of reflex/deflex longbows. But the requirements for Hunting Tackle allow for elevated rests and there are no restrictions on materials so pretty much anything goes bow wise if you leave the sights off. This opens up a world of possibilities, particularly the ability to use ILF risers and limbs.
Normally ILF limbs are the preserve of the large archery manufacturers, the likes of Win & Win, KAP or Hoyte, although there are a number of other brands either of limited volume or in the lower end of the market from a price perspective. Border archery are somewhere in the middle, their facility in Berwickshire in Scotland isn't a huge mega factory with limbs rolling off the production line at the rate of thousands per minute, but they have an impressive output in terms of numbers, but more significantly in terms of performance. As a company they have never been ones to shy away from challenging the larger manufacturers and they have an extremely good reputation in the archery world.
Border have a long and impressive list of ILF limbs along which you can track the evolution of their limbs and also the cutting edge of limb design and manufacture, always pushing the materials and limb profiles to their limits to make smooth shooting and ultra fast limbs to suit the target and hunting markets.
Border offer a large range of limbs which come in two main choices, limb profile and limb construction. With regards to profile currently on offer are CX, Hex 5 and Hex 6 with Hex 7 on the very close horizon. Limb construction is either wood or synthetic carbon construction. The focus of this review is on the Hex5-H, the H denotes the limbs are Hyper Core.
The limbs are constructed of layers of CXC carbon laminates with a Carbon hyper core. This core has less density than wood cores and therefore less overall mass for the limb, this means a performance increase over a wood core of around 2-3 feet per second. In addition the core is also stable at a temperature range of -10c to +50c and so is ideal for almost all shooting conditions. The limbs also offer exceptional torsional stiffness which benefits the archer by reducing left and right spread due to a reduction in paradox induced by plucking the string. This means the limbs are in theory more forgiving of release mistakes.
The limbs themselves are pretty standard in terms of dimensions for an ILF fit limb, where they do differ from most is the increased curve of the limb towards the tips. This is noticeable when unstrung, however it looks rather radical when strung compared to most limbs.
After all the technical discussion it's off to the woods for a shoot, it was a crisp Sunday morning in February and I had the place to myself. I was using a very short riser, it's what I prefer and makes for a nice easy to handle bow when out among the bushes and trees, the limbs were medium and so making a rather short bow. However as luck would have it the HEX 5 limbs have been designed with this riser in mind and so any concerns about over stressing the limbs is gone. The limbs clipped in to the riser nicely, although not overly tight as I have had with other limb combinations on this riser, however the groove at the end of the limbs was a little deep and so didn't sit as snugly as some others. This is in no way a problem but it does look a little odd when the limbs are attached. Removing the limbs was just as easy, popping out with no fuss at all.
Personally I'm not a fan of the border style, it's a little too traditional for me and while it possibly appeals more to the traditional and hunting markets I think there could be a little more done to update the look of the limbs. Some of the newer limbs do have a more updated look and in all honesty it's a rather moot point as that has nothing to do with the shooting characteristics which is what's important.
As already mentioned the limb profile is rather pronounced and my immediate thought was that it would be difficult to string, however this is one of the base points for Border when they design the next generation of their limbs, specifically is it easy to string. Obviously I would never advise anybody to string or unstring a bow, especially a recurve, without a proper stringer and that would definitely be the case here, however with the right stringer it was no problem getting the string on and off the end of the top limb although you might need a little practice on where best to place the pad. A tip to tip stringer would not be a good idea here, I personally wouldn't advise it on any recurve bow but the limb profile of the Hex 5 mean twisting in the hand is a real possibility.
The limbs unsurprisingly have as different a shape strung as they do when unstrung and look great. When drawing the weight is immediately there, once it settles in it's really smooth back to anchor and then when you hit the sweet spot it's almost like an early compound. There is of course no let off however the last few inches feel nice and it doesn't seem to have the same last charge of weight as many recurves do, given that the power has been there from the off.
I had done some research and gone for a nice high brace height of 8", however on the first few shots it was clear that wasn't really going to be right, there was a lot of vibration in the tips on release so I unstrung and went up to 8 1/2" and everything started to fall in to place. The vibration was gone and there was no noise at all using my standard 50/55# wooden arrows, when I switched to carbons a little later there was a bit more going on vibration and noise wise, however that is to be expected when decreasing the weight of your arrows dramatically.
The limbs are fast, very fast in fact and even though I shoot a little heavier personally the 43# was more than enough for me to shoot most of the course I was using with minimal adjustment in terms of aiming points etc. Even when things got a little stretched the arrows were getting to the targets with no problems at all. I continued shooting for a few hours and by the end of it I was totally hooked on these limbs and so I decided I would use them again when shooting with friends later that week.
It's always nice to revisit limbs, I always try and shoot a bow or set of limbs 3 or 4 times before really coming to any conclusions and so it was great to give them another try in the woods with friends. Field courses change often and so it's almost impossible to compare scores in the way you would with a target set up, however you do get a feel for how well you are shooting especially when shooting with people you know well. These limbs are right up there with the best I have ever shot, when you normally shoot complete bows made as a matching riser and limb set you get used to inconsistencies in the set up due to the compromise of using a package, however when using the best of breed in terms of riser and limbs you can really see the difference a top set of limbs makes to your shooting.
My form is usually pretty solid, however on occasion and given the right, or most cases the wrong bow, I do get some lateral spread. With the Hex limbs it was almost impossible to make a bad shot, everything was straight on the money and I was able to hit pretty much anything I wanted.
These really are excellent limbs, extremely well made and as fast as anything else currently on the market. The radical look makes them all the more appealing to me and they are as at home on an olympic recurve as they are on a hunting or field set up. If you are in the market for a top of the line set of limbs then these must be on the list to try.
Features & Design
A rather radical recurve tells you that a lot of thought has gone in to the Hex 5 limbs, these are clearly attempting to drag recurve limbs in to the next phase of evolution rather than following the pack.
Top level performance, fast and extremely stable.
Value for Money
At around £420 a set they are at the very top end of the market in terms of price despite claims from Border that they offer top performance under budget constraints. But if you want the best then you need to pay for it, so no complaints about the price.
These are great limbs which are up there with the top level Hoyt and Win and Win competition limbs.