Martin Hunter 45#@28"
I just can't help myself, if I see a bow that I have not yet shot I just have to have it. Well that's not strictly true, some bows I couldn't care if I ever shot them or not. This Martin Hunter however is a bow I have been keeping my eye out for. I had an X-200 not so long ago which turned out to be a little cracker. In the States Martin Bows have quite a following, partly it's the "Made in America" thing and partly because they have had quite some time to build up a loyal fan base and this particular bow design is now in it's 51st year. For a single model to stand that sort of test of time there has to be more in it than just brand loyalty.
I don't know where I picked up the notion that Martin were a brand chosen by folks new to archery, I imagine it was through reading reviews on various forums written by folks who had chosen it as a first bow. Anyway, over this side of the pond we don't see too many Martins and I was intrigued by the fact that they seem to attract a premium amongst UK archers when one shows up. A $600 price tag is not really a budget bow and we are into the realms of custom bows, so how come this model has been around so long ?
As far as the design goes it's something of a classic from back in the day when everyone shot real bows rather than contraptions ( .. and before you write in to abuse me, I really haven't got an axe to grind with compound bows.. but you know what I mean) and if you sit back and admire the curves it positively screams 1960's 'n' 70's.
The truth is that in terms of performance and materials we haven't moved so far that a bow of this design has been left behind. The name says it all, it's a hunting bow and if it could take Deer back in '66 then it can take a Deer in 2013.
It is 62" and weights 2lb 3oz- the riser is Shedua and Bubinga and limbs of Eastern Hard Maple lams and black glass, limb tips are bubinga with black glass overlays. It's very easy on the eye, I suspect partly because it is a mirror of itself which gives it a very symmetrical and orderly look, to my eye it's that same orderliness that perhaps makes it look a little "square", I don't mean like a rectangle, I mean square in the conservative sense. Having just said that, here is a video that appears on the Martin website… it's this bow being made. I think it sums up why folk buy a bow that was designed half a century ago and are still buying it today.
I think it is important to acknowledge all of the above, I mean a bow that survives for 50 years with only a few updates and alterations through the decades is due a little respect – it's a testament to it's mass appeal and the numbers that have been sold that you can stick Damon Howatt hunter in the auction site and you will probably find several for sale – the name changed some while ago but the bows are still out there doing the business.
In some ways I am already feeling inspired and quite confident that this is a bow that will let me shoot it, it looks like it will have no vices, indeed if it had it probably wouldn't have lasted this long and perhaps that's why I can find only good things spoken about this bow on the net.
OK, I have doffed my cap and tugged me forelock…. respect paid… now I want to shoot it to see how it performs as a bow rather than an iconic antique and object of nostalgia.
It performs exactly as I hoped it would, it is quick… it isn't the fastest, it is smooth… it isn't the smoothest, it's sweet to draw and soft in the shot, there are no rough edges or vibrations, it feels solid in the shot and steady. It doesn't seem to excel in any particular department…. but… it's like the guy that always comes second in the decathlon – he can't win outright any particular event but you put all those achievements together and you have an all rounder that does everything well. One particular thing which does stand out however, is the superb… and I mean superb riser grip area, I found this possibly one of the most comfortable and natural feeling grips I have ever used, there is a wonderful little swell which locates right in the palm of my hand putting me in exactly the right wrist position for a relaxed, open handed shot, upon closer inspection you can see that the whole grip area is in fact a complicated series of curves and indents giving a truly "plump" feeling in the hand without being fat… I would have this shape on every bow I own if I could.
I must admit to being sceptical that the bow could be worth it's $600 price tag, but it is. I also see why so many people recommend it as a wonderful starting bow for those new to archery, you won't be fighting any stacking, getting shoulder pain from shock or having arrows doing wild contortions because your form is off – it will ride out the lumps in your form, smooth out any inconsistencies and even make allowances for less than perfect set up or kit.
I tried it at several brace heights and at no one point did it seem critical to get it just right.None of this limits it to just those starting out, this bow is a very nice shooter and that's why it has been around so long… there is nothing too radical about any part of this bow. Not too recurved at the tips, not too long or too short – it's a solid performer because it isn't being asked to shoot too fast. Having said that this bow shoots a 10gpp arrow at a more than respectable 170fps. For me the bow confirms that it has been designed first and foremost as a complete bow – the aim is to produce a rounded shooting experience. It is shown here next to a Border Black Douglas which is faster, shorter, more recurved at the tips and importantly much more expensive, none of which make it an intrinsically "better" bow.
I get great little groups which tallies with the info the chrono is giving me… consistent arrow speeds and a very predictable cast. This really is a wonderful little bow that is a joy to shoot because it won't be looking to get all clever with you and try to make you look silly, it will do exactly what you ask it to do with no hidden vices. The previous owner had this bow pretty much sorted, a little velcro on the limb tips and a nice 9 strand high performance string already in place… I didn't even bother to put any silencers on it, it doesn't need them. In any case I have only had it a few weeks and already I have people badgering me to sell it to them – Everyone who shoots it says the same " oh, it's really nice to shoot" and then " how much do you want for it".
Features & Design
A tried and trusted design that has need only a few careful tweaks over the last 50 years
For a 45# bow this little beauty spits them out fast and smooth
Value for Money
You know exactly what you will get here…. a steady, smooth, predictable and solid shooting bow, worth every cent, however with so many out there a second hand one is beyond no ones reach… they sell for such little money it would not stretch anyone to have one of these in the back of the car. Superb value.
Excellent little bow… when you see one for sale used, just snap it up… you won't regret it.