Istvan Toth Mongolian Horse Bow 53" 35#@28"
Archery can be a very snobbish scene, here in the UK British bowyers rule the roost, in the US many bows produced outside of the US are looked on with a certain degree of suspicion and elsewhere home grown bows tend to be the fashion. The English longbow for example is de rigeur when one wants to remove the sights in the UK, especially on the target circuit where barebow is a real novelty, yet in Europe the bow is never seen and there is no class to cater for it unlike in the UK where every major archery association has something specific to cover it. However there is one type of bow that seems to be universally popular and is making in roads in to those traditional markets, the composite bow. You may not have heard the term before but I'm sure it is something many of you are already familiar with, many people are now enjoying the experience of shooting Hungarian, Mongolian and Turkish horse bows, they offer a huge punch for their short length and many can be shot at draw lengths which exceed the recommendations for more western bow styles. There is a growing popularity, especially in field archery circles for these bows which I'm sure is set to continue.
If Istvan Toth is not a name you have heard before then that situation is soon to be remedied, Aim Archery, who were kind enough to provide the bow for us to test, are importing the bows in to the UK and I'm sure it won't be long before we all hear the name again and again at shoots and archery events, as these bows are something very special indeed. In these times talking money is never a great thing but it's worth mentioning off the bat that these bows are stunning value, you tend to find that bows come in three broad price brackets, budget at £100 - £300, medium at £300 - £600 and then the premium custom brands which start at the £600 mark and then go on from there. This Mongolian Horse bow is firmly the budget range but this is by no means a budget bow, we here at Archers Review have the good fortune to shoot a lot of bows and let me tell you there really is a different between most of the bows in those three price brackets, however there are the odd exceptions and these Istvan Toth bows really are great value at around £210 and some even less.
Lets get on to the bow in question, a 53 1/2" 35# Mongolian Horse bow. The siyahs, limb tips to you and me, are made from ash, a hard wood which is strong but elastic which makes it an ideal wood for use in bow making. The very tips have a nice backward facing point, a small groove for the string and the sides are reinforced with horn detail. One feature of the Mongolian Horse bow is a bridge at the end of the siyah where the string rests, this gives the string a place to strike and giving the arrow a small increase in speed at the end of the stroke, although it does also introduce a little noise and vibration into the bow which may not be present with other composite style bows. Black twine covers the join between the siyah and the limbs themselves, this makes for the unique style of this type of bow, which is thin limb tips, but wide active limb sections. The limbs themselves are fibreglass, however they are wrapped in brown suede which is stitched on the belly. The limbs are then connected to the riser section with twine and the bow then thins so that when held in the hand the arrow is closer to the centre of the bow than it would have been had the limbs extended through that section of the bow. The riser section is also curved in a slight crescent shape which at first feels unusual but eventually you can settle in to a hand position which is similar to one which you would use on a straight bow with the pressure applied at the base of the thenar muscle attached to the thumb. There is a small wooden arrow guard on the left hand side as this is a right hand bow, but as there is no shelf the guard only serves to allow a clean pass and to stop wear on the suede covering, it could just as easily be shot left hand with the addition of a similar guard on the right hand side.
I gave the bow an initial test on our test range, starting at 10-15 yards and working back. The draw is supper smooth, one great thing about these bows is that there is power right through the draw range so they are idea for people with a shorter draw as there is action early on, however the power is not there in the first few inches but it the builds very smoothly and consistently afterwards. My draw is a tad over 28" and with most bows getting it there is fine but adding another 1 or 2 inches can be a real effort, with this bow I felt I could draw way past that with no issues and without that stacking you see on may bows rated at 28". On release the string moves off at some speed before hitting the grooves at the end on the siyahs where you do feel that extra little bump. There is no doubt that the arrow gets a little kick from this, but so does the bow with a little noise and a little vibration, however it is certainly not the kick of a donkey as you get with a powerful English longbow. Initially it's odd but you soon you get used to it and then it becomes a little signal the bow is giving you everything it has got, adding to the wonderful character the bow already has in the looks department. The wide limbs give make the bow feel a little ungainly when carrying but in the shot they work as two great stabilisers, helping you keep the bow upright .
As I mentioned hand position can take a while to get right but this bow likes to be held tight and once located, slightly lower than an initial grab suggests, fits nicely with the contour of your palm and thumb. Shooting off the top of your hand can feel a little strange for those that are not used to it, but it adds another dimension in that synergy of bow and archer. Personally I like to wear a glove in such circumstances as I had small cuts from fletchings in the past but a small increase in knocking point can make sure that this is avoided. It's also important to make sure that your arrows are cut to a length which will mean a small increase in draw length won't see the arrow slip off the back of your hand. This can happen on the longer shots which you unconsciously give it a little extra welly, or on an incline when your draw length can change by the odd in inch or two.
On the practice range this bow was great fun, but it was in the woods that this bow really got to work. The small size really was a great advantage, especially on those tight shots with bits for flora in the way. Like a car driver glancing in his mirror, I have a small tick when shooting, once the foot is on the peg a take a small glance up to make sure the shot is clear, then at the start of the draw I do the same, it's actually rather annoying now but I have hit enough solid branches to risk doing so again with an expensive bow. With this bow that simply wasn't necessary as the short stature meant if my eye line was clear then the bow was safe. One thing I dislike, but meet at least once on a competition is a need to kneel to take a shot, with a longer bow this means canting the bow at an angle and while I'm perfectly capable of doing it the instant I'm down on that knee I'm in the wrong frame of mind to take the shot. Not so with this bow, in a similar fashion to the clearance at the top there is also plenty at the other end and I can take the shot in just the same way as I would standing fully upright. The bows tradition is firmly routed in horse back and chariot usage, yet it has found it's niche as a fabulous bow for shooting in the wood which were once the domain of much longer it's European counter parts.
When you spend £200 on a bow it often shows, not here. I honestly can't find much if anything to fault this bow on, it's clear to see why the composite bow market is growing so fast, it's a fabulous alternative for those looking to have some fun or to move on to something different. Whether the various archery societies and organisations ever catch on and introduce specific classes for these bows I don't know but there is plenty to recommend them and this bow would be an excellent starting point for those looking to go down that route. This is just one of many Ivan Toth bow designs and if this one is anything to go by they should all be well worth the money.
Features & Design
A great looking bow, the horn limb tips as strength and something a little extra to an already striking bow.
Plenty of performance, the arrow is already going at a pace before the little extra kick at the end.
Value for Money
Well worth £400 of anybodies money, but it's not £400 it's half that at £200. There are a number of bows on the market at that price range and I don't think many are half as good as this one is. A budget bow but by no means budget quality or performance.
A great introduction to the world of composite bows and at a fantastic price, it fills so many needs for so many people it would seem that anybody with a bow collection would need one of these in it somewhere.