Decabow Klassic 72" 48#@28"
It seems that sometimes the march for progress means we often ignore everything we learnt in the past, archery as a sport became popular during it's eighteenth century revival and bows have become progressively more complicated during the last 100 years. The evidence suggests bows for hunting have been around for approximately 10,000 years and it wouldn't have taken too long to see that they were rather useful for conflict resolution and it wasn't long before we saw wars and military campaigns won and lost on the strength of an archers arm. From the Battle of the Standard in 1138 all the way until a skirmish in Bridgnorth in 1642 the longbow was the weapon of choice for English military and in that time, some 504 years, the bow change very little. One argument for it's enduring appeal would be that the technological advancements were not there to change the bow, however the more likely explanation for me is that by 1138 the bows had become so effective that little needed to change. It was only the arrival of gun powder and subsequently hand held guns that the advantages of the long bow eroded and it was replaced by something entirely different and never replaced by another bow of different design. That's not to say there were never alternatives and across the eastern known world at the time much shorter bows were used to a similarly devastating effect.
It seems inconceivable that 500 years of bow production could not have developed something a little different and one thing mankind knows to it's devastating cost is that war and a military arms race is where technology is driven forward at a fast pace than anything else. I can only conclude therefore that the bowyers of the classic longbow had something right all along.
A longbow is a wonderful thing to shoot, the long limbs give a wonderful feeling to the draw, you can feel the raw power as you extend the bow up to and maybe beyond your normal draw before releasing the arrow where you once again get a feeling of the natural materials power as the arrow is launched in to the air. Launch is the right word here as with other bows the shooting is in the pin point accuracy, with the longbow it's great military power was it's devastating range, that's not to say of course that a longbow cannot be shot at short range and I have shot with some of the greatest longbow archers in the land and come out a distant second on a field course.
You may be wondering why I had just spent the opening section of this review talking about longbows when what's up for review, the Decabow Klassic, is essentially a flatbow (or American longbow depending which side of the Atlantic you are). The Decabow is 72" long and makes no apologies for taking it's inspiration from those classic English longbows. I came across the longbow via a friend and it wasn't long before Steve and I were working on getting some shipped over from Austria, Willi Schneider was especially keen to get the bow over to us so we could see how good this bow was for ourselves.
The bow is very sleek, neither wide in the handle or limbs, the belly and back of the limb are flat so not the classic D shape of a longbow, but that is not where it is drawing it's inspiration, the 72" length is where that comes in and it's immediately obvious when you hold this bow that it is different from most other flat bows out there. The longer length adds an element of in-built stabilisation to the bow and it naturally stays still in the hand when held up or in the draw. The throat of the bow is narrow and is certainly what you would call a low grip, the shelf is built back so there is a definitive hand position there in terms of the vertical alignment. The shelf itself is rather narrow, but that didn't cause me any issue with the arrow coming off during the draw at all, it also means it will fit in to most flatbow classes at tournament shoots as it is not cut past centre point. The limbs are black and this is countered by a rather striking contrasting brown and white riser which is wood and looks very nice as you can see in the pictures, I'm also a sucker for a medallion and that sets the looks of nicely in my opinion.
The limbs, as I said are black and in terms of construction are made from UD (Uni directional) Carbon on both back and belly. Unstrung there does seem to be a little reflex at the limb tips but strung the limbs form a wonderful one directional curve. The limb tips are very small and again lend themselves to the longbow tradition by featuring a longer than normal mouth to accept both the string and a stringer, this makes the bow easy to string with the supplied stringer, I had a little trouble at first but once you get the correct method is works very well. I checked with Willi at Decabow about the inclusion of a small ridge to stop the stringer moving down the limb when stringing, they had already considered this but decided against it as they wanted to keep the overall mass on the limb tips to a minimum.
So what's it like to shoot, well rather good actually. The long limbs make for a wonderful draw, I find short limb bows rather harsh, especially early on in the draw with all the bow straight there, with the Decabow it's smooth all the way back to anchor and it never really feels it's 48# until you are ready to go. When you do release there is tons of power in those carbon limbs and the arrow flies off at a tremendous pace and a nice hard thud at the other end. Hand position is critical with this bow and for me it required a fairly firm grip and straight hand to get the best of it, but it's well worth putting in the effort to find that hand position as it pays you back in spades with consistent placement of arrows at the target end.
I shoot a number of different aiming methods depending on the circumstances, shooting purely instinctively this bow gave excellent results and with little to no effort I was getting small tight groups on the boss the first time I shot it. You need to put the work in but the bow will do it's part and was very consistent. As is the way with these reviews we often don't get the time to fully tune the bows so we don't always see the bows at their best, however the bow had little to no after shock in the shot and I'm sure with some experimentation I could have made it ever sweeter. I shot the bow for a couple of hours on the practice boss before I took it in to the woods for a try on a field course, this is where the longer limbs might be a problem as moving around the woods the bow could hinder progress, however there are a number of longbow archers in the UK shooting similar length bows with little or no problem, you need to be a more aware of objects around you such as a low hanging branch or a tree stump but that is something you would get used to pretty quickly.
The Decabow does a great job of taking the core concepts of the English longbow and pulling them in to the 21st century, it's well made with great performance and a sweet shooting experience. It would definitely be the bow I would recommend for long term longbow shooters wishing to trade up to something much faster and with greater accuracy. This is far from scientific, but I would imagine you could almost half your traditional longbow draw weight and still get the same results from the Decabow. But that's not to say the Decabow is not for everybody, it would be as equally well suited to other archers wishing to try something different.
Features & Design
The long sleek limbs are offset by a nice wooden riser and the limb tips allow for the bow to be easily strung.
Excellent performance from the UD Carbon limbs, feels like a classic longbow but performance is up there with the best of the modern carbon based bows.
Value for Money
Priced in the mid range which given the amount of carbon offers excellent value, might be better priced for the European market than the US/UK given recent exchange rates.
Stands up to the test on it's own merits but the nod to the past makes this bow something you should certainly consider if you come from a longbow background, but there is still plenty there for everybody else.