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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

5 Things about Crossbows

It will help a prospective purchaser of a crossbow make a decision when they understand what a manufacturer’s intentions are. At Kodabow, the objective is to make a dependable, accurate crossbow that is safe and will perform well in the most challenging hunting conditions. Similar to the “laws of physics”, we discovered a few “rules” or "laws" that seem to always apply and shape our actions. We base these five rules on our own development experience, observing our crossbow and other brands shoot alongside one another,  and many, many conversations and experiences with crossbow shooters.  They are not absolute but they have stood the test of time. 

Sam, our Brown Labrador Retriever , (back left)  relaxing in the Kodabow booth
before the opening of the Springfield, MA Outdoor Show. 
Rule #1 – Reduce the moving parts and then make all remaining parts very precise.  When more moving things are placed on a crossbow, the opportunity for unexpected events can increase. If a component is not absolutely secured to a crossbow, it WILL  eventually come off. A crossbow is a very unforgiving machine. There is a lot of stored energy and minor imperfections can quickly escalate into major failures.  A bowstring catching a burr on a cam or on a rail as it propels an arrow downrange will eventually come apart. There are huge forces at work. It is why we hold our tolerances extremely tight. When we learn that a brand of crossbow didn't fit together when the new owner undertakes assembly or the string breaks after the 10th shot, the evil gremlin of a "small imperfection" has surfaced and has done his work. We avoid that gremlin. 

Rule #2 – Speed and Reliability can have an inverse relationship. We like speed.  Everyone does. We also like to hunt. We choose to stay within very conservative limits when building bows but far exceed what it takes to efficiently kill a game animal. We hope you never feel as if you need a bow mechanic to join you on your hunting trip. As crossbow manufacturers push speed for a marketing edge and tell you all about it, they don’t serve the hunter well when that speed is not managed properly. The acute string angle into the trigger group that comes with narrower limb widths places high pressure on a center string serving which can cause premature string failure.  Candid conversations at this year’s Archery Show with dealers indicated that they can see 60 to 150 shots on some competitor crossbows before the string is frayed or suspect and requires replacement. Consumers we speak with back that up. Good for dealer repair parts business – not so good if you like to hunt. On a Koda-Express, we say expect 500 shots on a string but you will likely see 900 if the string is waxed and maintained. We would rather see a hunter in the woods with 310 fps than on the phone with a customer service department trying to get a  375 fps bow working again. When we were back in school, the F-150 truck always ran ….. while a buddy had a fancy sports car. We would pick him up at the garage with our truck when he was dropping off his speedster for repairs. Remember, it’s about hunting.

Rule #3 – What you think you want – might not be what you really need!  At a recent trade show, a gent visits and tells us he had a bad back and neck and needed a really light crossbow. We think he should do some research. Lighter bows can jump around a bit at the shot during the energy release and transmit vibration back towards the shooter versus a heavier crossbow. It will hold steady and shoot more smoothly and deliver a more favorable experience. It is why one of our Pro Staff shooters hunting from a wheelchair found his way to Kodabow. While we know a few folks will only look at the “bow to bow” comparison spec charts and base their decision on a few metrics, we think there are at least 34 elements that need to all work together for a favorable hunting experience. While our Kodabow weighs in at over 8 lbs, you will never see in a spec chart that it has a perfect midpoint balance so that many Kodabow shooters say --- “wow, this crossbow handles well.”  And when it comes to marketing pizazz, many manufacturers push the envelope. A company recently introduced a “super compact” crossbow. When we looked closely, we found that the difference between our existing Kodabow line (all Kodabow crossbows measure 27” when cocked) was just over an inch. Not exactly a breathtaking event. At Kodabow, we are not standing still saying there is only one crossbow solution.  We continue to develop and make innovative products while exhibiting leadership with credibility.

Rule #4 – Every manufacturer can have a product issue. No secret there. We are human beings and at times, despite the best materials and work, there can be a defect. If cheaper materials are substituted or quality is not maintained, expect a problem 100% of the time when talking crossbows. At Kodabow, we expect you will have fewer issues because of our conservative approach. We want to keep you hunting. Three of us were headed on a long 10 hour ride to Ohio for a Fall deer hunting trip.  Halfway there, we all looked at each other and remarked that we each had a single Kodabow crossbow – not a backup bow in the truck.  That’s real world confidence. You may never know that we may pay 3 or 4 times for a part that we know will never break versus a cheaper knockoff that will let you down. Our vertical grip is a great example. It is expensive but it will not break. A dealer recently related that across all his different crossbow brands, he experiences a 30% - 40% mechanical problem rate requiring a shooter to return the bow for a dealer repair or factory fix. (We always wondered when calling on new dealers why some asked about how quick we supply repair parts. Now we understand.)  Test the theory yourself. Find 3 crossbow shooters and it is likely that one shooter in the group has experienced problems with a crossbow. We ask this question all the time and learn from it. This underscores the complexity of the making a crossbow. At the far extreme end, we have actually met shooters who have been flat out frustrated with  a crossbow choice. They were on their 4th factory replacement crossbow from a manufacturer. We could not believe it either. At Kodabow, our objective is to keep you hunting and not go beyond what we know will work or tell you something just to sell a crossbow.

Rule #5 – Most people are not crossbow manufacturing experts. Don’t take offense. There are plenty of great hunters or shooters but when it comes to making crossbows, we strongly recommend that if you plan on taking apart crossbow triggers or limbs with the belief that you can do better than the folks who make these products for a living --- you are headed for disaster. Yes....get ready for real big problems. A crossbow is a mechanical device that is perfectly suited to quickly finding any weakness in design and it doesn't react well to tinkering. Don’t fool around with these devices thinking you can do better --- they are complex instruments. We shoot every crossbow we make and then mount the scope correctly so you should be able to shoot accurately out of the box.  It is all about hunting and we make dependable crossbows that do that well.