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Recurve Bows, Brands and Models

During a recent email conversation with a new archer who is shopping for archery equipment, I recommended the Samick Sage because of its reliability and the many excellent reviews it has received in recent years. But I also mentioned that I could "recommend a variety of other brands / models if you want to see a wider range of companies and styles."

To which he responded: "Good I asked you, it would be definitely interesting to see other brands / models, more importantly it would be nice to know the difference."

Hence why I am now writing the post you see below, to showcase some of the other brands and models that are available when it comes to recurve bows designed for beginners (adults). Note - If anyone wants to see a similar list of Youth / Children's bows, post a comment at the bottom and I shall make another list in the future just for you.

The Samick Sage is a bit like the Ford F-150. It is economical and has everything you expect to see in a recurve bow made for a beginner. All the normal bells and whistles for a sum of $150 CDN.

Samick Sage Recurve Bow
But Samick is not the only manufacturer out there. They are just one of many. A recurve bow is a recurve bow is a recurve bow. They are all more or less similar, with slight differences in materials, shapes, lengths, level of quality, and prices.

PRICES LISTED BELOW MAY VARY ON WHERE YOU ARE PURCHASING.
Since many manufacturers list equipment in USD prices, the
exchange rate can cause prices in CDN to vary dramatically.

The PSE Razorback and the Jandao Recuve

If these two bows look similar it is because they are both made in the same factory and look exactly the same. Just different brand names on them. Both cost about $100 USD. They are nothing special and are basically a very cheap introductory recurve bow. I am not even going to bother showing a photo of one. The Samick Polaris falls into the same category of cheap beginner bows, with very similar looks to the Razorback/Jandao.

The PSE Blackhawk, Ghost, Mustang, and Talon

Unlike the Razorback mentioned above, these bows are worth showing. They're all pretty bows and have histories of receiving excellent reviews, the Blackhawk ($260 USD) most of all. The Mustang is $220 USD, the Ghost is $250 USD, and the Talon is $235 USD. I think the Ghost is the prettiest of the bunch, but the Blackhawk has some impressive pedigree/reviews so it is difficult to ignore.

Above: PSE Blackhawk
Above: PSE Ghost

Above: PSE Mustang
Above: PSE Talon

The Martin Poplar, Martin Willow and Martin Cypress

The following are three takedown wooden recurve bows, all made by Martin Archery: Poplar, $130 USD; Willow, $200 USD, + the Martin Cypress, $250 USD. Of the three the Cypress is nicest and prettiest, shown below. Design and features wise, the Cypress is Similar to the Samick Red Stag (shown further below).

Above: Martin Cypress

The Samick Red Stag

If the Samick Sage doesn't interest you, there are also other bows made by Samick which might interest you instead. The Samick Red Stag is one such bow, or rather, three. There is the takedown recurve, the one-piece recurve, and a longbow version (prices for all three versions vary between $200 USD to $300 USD). There is a downside to the Red Stag however, it is not drilled for any kind of accessories. It is meant for traditional fur rests only. It is also a bit noisy, so you will want to consider getting dampeners / string silencers.

Samick also offers a variety of similar bows, like the Lightning Nighthawk, Squall, Phantom, Phoenix II, Leopard II, Volcano, Stingray, and similar models which are designed more for looks.


The Martin Jaguar, Martin Sabre and Martin Panther

The following are three non-traditional takedown bow models, all made by Martin, which some similar design features. The Martin Jaguar is the most basic model at $200 USD, the Martin Sabre is a more advanced model at $250 USD, and the Martin Panther is $300 USD. (There has also been sales in the past for $150, $200 and $250 respectively.) As recurve bows go they fill a niche market of people who are less attracted to wood and want something that is either camouflage or "Darth Vader Black".

In recent years they have also come out with Jaguar Elite (weighing 2.6 lbs) and the Jaguar BF (blue for bowfishing).

Martin Jaguar

Martin Jaguar BF

The Bear Grizzly

The photo below doesn't just show any Bear Grizzly. That is my Bear Grizzly, which I got years ago and even named it "Seahawk". At $380 USD the Grizzly has decorated the shelves of many archers' homes for decades now. The basic design hasn't changed much since the 1950s and these days they are made with "FutureWood", a wood polymer blend that makes the wood tougher and protects from water damage.

Bear Archery also sells a variety of other recurve bows and longbows worth looking at, but the Grizzly is the model that I personally fell in love with.



The Martin Independence

It used to be that Martin had a wide range of recurve bows with a variety of different designs. They made very pretty bows like the Martin Dream Catcher, the Gail Martin, the X-150 / X-200, and so forth. Just Google "Martin Dream Catcher" and see how pretty that bow is and you will understand why some of the older models are arguably better when it came looks.

But all of those models have been discontinued, leaving only the more popular models like the Martin Hunter and Martin Mamba, for which they have jacked the prices up to $630 USD for the Hunter and $600 for the Mamba...

Now keeping in mind the Martin Mamba and Martin Hunter are widely regarded to be two very good bows for their price range, which might explain why Martin has been jacking up their prices in recent years. If they cannot meet the demand because it is so popular, it is time to raise prices.

The Martin Independence (shown on the right) however is basically one of the cheaper models now available, for $400 USD, and it is a very pretty bow.

Stylistically it is similar to a Martin Mamba, but without certain design features that make the Mamba more time consuming and expensive to make.

That was the whole principle behind the old X-200 and X-150 models. They were faster and cheaper to make because the designs were simpler.

However $400 seems like a steep price to pay for the bow, especially when you can go on eBay and buy an older X-150 or X-200 for considerably less. Remember my comments up above about the Ford F-150? Well the Martin X-150 / X-200 was basically Martin's answer to what archers needed: An inexpensive recurve bow that was well made and lasts a long time.

Yesterday I met up with two people who both had X-200s and I joked that I should buy one too and we could start a X-200 Owners Club. Ha!

Browsing eBay can be an excellent way to get a nice quality bow for significantly less than what you would pay for a brand new one. However there are downsides. Finding the poundage you want will be much trickier, the bow may not be in mint condition and have problems, and lastly other people be bidding against you - which can inflate the price and you could end up in a bidding war. So buyer beware.



Note - Now this is not a complete list of manufacturers available. Bear, Martin, PSE, Samick are just a handful of the more popular companies available out there. They are the Fords, GMCs, and Chryslers of the archery world. I haven't even touched on European manufacturers like Ragim, Border Archery, etc. I also limited myself mostly to the so-called traditional style recurves, the ones that are more ideal for beginners due to their price range. I ignored the proverbial Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini type companies, because frankly those are out of the price range of most people (see the brief mention of Blacktail Bows below).



CONCLUSIONS: A recurve bow is a recurve bow is a recurve bow...

There are obvious huge price differences mentioned above, from the $150 CDN Samick Sage, to the $630 USD Martin Hunter. The sky is the limit when it comes to how much a person is willing to spend on a bow.

A quick tour of blacktailbows.com for example will make your jaw drop at the artistry of some truly exquisite and beautifully decorated bows. Their bows don't sell for mere hundreds, they are thousands of dollars each. See the image on the right to see what I mean.

And then there are antique bows or rare bows that belong in a museum, in which case they can become well nigh priceless.

But if the sky is the limit, how do you know which bow is right for you?

Honestly, you don't. It is like going to the dog pound and trying to pick out a puppy. You don't know which puppy is the right puppy for you, you just pick one based on its size, shape and demeanor and hope it falls in love with you just as much as you fall with it.

Having a really beautiful bow like a Blacktail doesn't mean you are going to be more accurate with it. It is just as likely that the bow will end up decorating a wall and collecting dust, because your favourite bow will end up being the one you are most comfortable shooting with and you get the most enjoyment out of shooting.

Thus you won't necessarily know you've fallen in love with a particular bow until after you've shot it many times, perhaps even given it a name, and gotten very used to shooting it. If someone sees the bow, likes the looks of it and offers to buy it off you would you sell the bow that you love so much? Probably not.

It would be like selling man's best friend. You love that little guy. You take him everywhere with you. And when you find that bow you will never want to let it go. You may buy and collect other bows over time (I am up to 27 bows currently...), but the bows you love you will never sell.

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