Centaur 2pc 62" 45@26"
It's not often we start a review with a definition of a word, but on this one and only occasion that's exactly what we are going to do...
1. The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way
2. Finding something you have been looking for, while not looking for it
A question a lot of people ask me is how long have I been shooting, the answer is generally 30 years or so, however I have flitted in and out of archery over the years. I got in to the traditional scene around 6-7 years ago and ever since then I have consumed as much as I can in the way of books, information and of course hands on experience shooting as many bows as I can get my hands on. Every time I go to a shoot I check out what other people are shooting and while it's a good mix decent bows can be a little hard to come by especially here in the UK. Every now and again I catch something out of the corner of my eye, but most of the time they tend to be a knock off of a more expensive model or one I haven't seen which turns out to be just a run of the mill mass produced bow (nothing wrong with those). But a few weeks ago I had a touch of serendipity, I was at a shoot, just coming in for lunch as it happened, and I was doing my usual look around at who and what else was there, then I caught a glimpse of something exceptionally special. At first I though "Ah a Centaur" and went back to my food, then I did the double take when the reality of the situation had sunk in.... "A CENTAUR".
I have owned a lot of bows, and I have shot even more. I'd never claim to have shot everything out there but I've given it a really good try. But one bow which has been particularly elusive is the Centaur, this was the first time I had ever seen one in the flesh, it was not for want of trying as I have been trying to convince people to send one to me for the last 2-3 years, but here I was looking at one. I went over to the owner and asked if I could have a look, the owner as it turned out was Andrew Leharne and he was as happy to show the bow off as I would have been had the situation been reversed. We had a chat for a few minutes and then the bomb shell, "you can borrow it for a few weeks if you like" My draw dropped and I spent the next few seconds processing the statement, Andrew is a regular reader of Archers Review and was keen to show off the Centaur as he knew we hadn't had the chance to review one as yet. To say I was pleased and thankful would be an understatement, we arranged to meet at a 3D shoot in a couple of weeks, Andrew went off to finish his shooting and I went off for what seemed like an eternity of waiting.
Just as I had to wait for the next part of the story, so will you as I explain why this was such a fantastic thing. There are bows and then there are BOWS, we often talk here of the leaders in the bowyer pack and we have been luck enough to get our paws on a fair few of them. But there are a few out there which are so special and so rare seeing one is a privilege reserved for the few and shooting them an even more exclusive club. The three that really stand out are the Habu Death Adder by Chris Cox, Salkui Bows by Lukas Novotny and of course the Centaur by Jim Neaves, all three have some key features in common, exceptional performance, master craftsmanship and a hell of a long wait if you want a new one. I say new one but these bows are held in such high regard that they are almost impossible to get hold of on the second hand market, I suppose if you have waited 18 months for one then you are bound to want to keep hold of it.
I met Andrew again at the Havering and Nalgo field shoot, we had a chat and the he gave me the centaur. It stayed in it's protective case and safely tucked away for a week while I resisted the temptation to get it out and shoot. I could have taken it in to the garden but I didn't want to spoil things and wanted to give it a real try out in the woods where it belongs. The weekend came and it was time to shoot a bow I had dreamed of shooting for some time.
The first thing to mention about this particular bow is that it is a take down 2pc bow, however it seems there are as many take down systems as there are bowyers and this bow featured a system I had bot seen before. The top limb has a hook and the bottom a area to place the hook, the limbs then fold back in to the classic bow shape and then once stung every things is naturally kept in place. There is a small section of the bow missing to accommodate this, however it is where the finger grooves are and therefore unnoticeable when being used. The systems real advantage is that there are no tools required for assembly so there is no need to keep a stock of allen keys around as I normally do.
The riser is made from Charcoal coloured action wood and is set off with some fantastic engraving and stippling, this not only looks great but means you have a sure grip when holding the bow. When ordering a Centaur you need to send a tracing of your hand so that Jim can tailor the grip to your hand size. The bow is cut to centre so arrow choice is wider than if it had not been and the cut in shelf also slopes in towards the bow, a neat feature which means the arrow doesn't tend to come off the rest. The shelf is also radial with the high point directly above the throat of the handle, which Jim claims reduces the effect of the handle being torqued.
The belly of the bow is decked out in carbon weave and looks very space aged indeed, the back is a plain black lamination. They are exceptionally thin, but solid looking at the same time. The tips are made from 1/8 of an inch of a special material Jim has developed which is both strong but light weight, it's something many people do not consider but adding a mass of weight to the tips can really reduce the effectiveness of the limbs, imagine for a second if you stuck a bowling ball to the end of both tips, on release most of the energy would go in to moving the bowling balls and not the arrow. Yes that's an extreme and contrived example but it does demonstrate that energy in the limbs is sapped by the presence of big chunky limb tips, no such problem here. The sting grooves are also wider than you will see on many bows, this aids in clearance when being drawn and also points to the thought Jim has clearly put in to every element of the Centaur. Put simply the bow looks fantastic.
We were reviewing a number of bows on the same day and had a chronograph set up to see how the compared. While not the very fastest bow there that day in terms of raw numbers it was within 1-2 fps of it. We don't use a machine to shoot the bows over the chronograph, this means one of two things. Getting a consistent reading is more difficult as you have to account for variation in form (although Steve has fantastic form and we can get a pretty decent reading), but these figures are ones we feel we can really put our weight behind, shooting using a machine shows what the bow is technically capable of but when you are out in the field you won't be using a machine, you will be shooting off your fingers, so what better way to test speed than in that same manner. One thing I should say at this point is that the bow had some silencers and a fairly large string, we were convinced with a little bit of work we could have tuned the bow a touch and added some more fps, but of course this was not our bow so we tested as was.
As always we tested with a number of arrow weights producing the following figures.445gn 9.46gn/# 182 fps500gn 10.63gn/# 170 fps530gn 11.27gn/# 164 fps565gn 12.02gn/# 162 fps
We also had some bow scales handy so tested the real draw weight against the claimed 45#@26". We measured to 26 first and it came in just short of the marked 45# at 44.6#, then we drew it to a standard 28" this time it was 47#.
With all the technical stuff out of the way it was off in to the woods to give the bow a test where and how it was meant to be shot. The draw is silky smooth and it really doesn't feel the 45# or so I was drawing. The grip is especially nice, I have rather small hands for such a tall person and it was very comfortable indeed, this was helped by the finger grooves and the stippling. It is in no way heavy in the hand, however for what is essentially a 1pc bow (in spirit at least) there was something there, rather than a problem this was just what I wanted as I prefer at least something in the hand. This I assume was coming predominantly from the 2pc takedown system but this for me was a good thing.
There was no hand shock obviously but there was a little zing after the shot, nothing serious and I'm sure with small amount of tuning this would be gone, but as it wasn't my bow I had no intention of messing with the set up. Having said that there was feedback from the bow, one thing I have found with 1pc bows is they can be a little too dead, if such a thing is possible, however here the bow was giving me little pointers as to hand position and where I might have gone wrong as per my release.
The bow performed brilliantly, often it's more about what the bow doesn't do than about what it is doing, it becomes a natural extension of the archer and so it was with the Centaur. It didn't feel forced or unnatural and I had no problem hitting the kill on pretty much anything from any distance. We spent an hour or two testing a number of bows that day and it was the Centaur that I returned to time and again. The next day I had another opportunity to try the bow, this time on it's own. I stood 20 yards from a standard target face and just shot and shot for an hour or more. Every single time there as a excellent group in the middle as much down to the consistency of the bow than anything I might be doing. I was meeting Andrew again the next day so reluctantly I packed the bow away already thinking how I could raise the deposit for one of my own.
I'd waited about 4 years to shoot a centaur, I hope it's nothing like that before I get to shoot another as they are something rather special. Anybody can make a skinny limbed bow with layers of carbon with a nice grip, but only a special bowyer can do so with the care and attention to detail Jim Neaves does with the centaur to produce something very special indeed.
Features & Design
A fantastic grip, which is enhanced but the addition of some nice craftsmanship complement the modern looking limbs. Comes in an excellent array of lengths.
Excellent performance, up there with all the top bows we have tested. It's easy to get carried away with numbers but this bow can shoot hard and fast with the best of them.
Value for Money
An absolute steal for the price, at $700 for the base model and only $800 for the Carbon Elite it's ultra competitive on price. The only downside is the long waiting list.
Even if it was twice the price this bow would be worth every penny. You don't see many on the second hand market and that should tell you everything you need to know.