2018 Hunting Bow Shootout + Video
Lucas Cooney 09.20.18
This year we tested bows from Mathews, Hoyt, Bowtech, PSE, Obsession, Prime and APA for our 2018 Hunting Bow Shootout.
After shooting thousands of arrows out of seven flagship hunting bows over the past few months from Mathews, Hoyt, Bowtech, PSE, Obsession, Prime and APA, here is our 2018 Hunting Bow Shootout, done in partnership with out sister site ArcheryTalk.com.
The contenders this year, in the order I received them, are the Hoyt Carbon RX-1, Mathews Triax, APA Mamba 34TF, Obsession Fixation 6XP, Prime Logic, Bowtech Realm X and PSE Evolve 28.
There are, of course, some key manufacturers who are not represented in the 2018 Hunting Bow Shootout, but know that I reached out to several manufacturers who chose not to participate. I was also about at my limit for bows I could thoroughly test.
The Hoyt Carbon RX-1 has an axle-to-axle length of 32 inches, brace height of 6 inches, mass weight of 3.9 pounds and IBO rated speed of 340 feet per second.
The Mathews Triax has an axle-to-axle length of 28 inches, brace height of 6 inches, mass weight of 4.4 pounds and IBO rated speed of 343 feet per second.
The APA Mamba 34TF has an axle-to-axle length of 34 1/ inches, brace height of 6 1/8 inches, mass weight of 3.9 pounds and IBO rated speed of 355 feet per second.
The Obsession Fixation 6XP has an axle-to-axle length of 32 ¼ inches, brace height of 6 inches, mass weight of 4.5 pounds and IBO rated speed of 358 feet per second.
The Prime Logic has an axle-to-axle length of 31 inches, brace height of 7 inches, mass weight of 4.3 pounds and an IBO Rated speed of 330 feet per second.
The Bowtech Realm X has an axle-to-axle length of 33 ¼ inches, brace height of 6 ½ inches, mass weight of 4.3 pounds and IBO rated speed of 345 feet per second.
The PSE Evolve 28 has an axle-to-axle length of 28 inches, brace height of 7 inches, mass weight of 4.1 pounds and an IBO rated speed of 335 feet per second.
First place points in the Draw Cycle category of the 2018 Hunting Bow Shootout goes to the Mathews Triax. It has a slightly stiffer draw cycle that some bows on this list, but it is very smooth right into a back wall with just a bit of give to it. It is also the quietest and most vibration-free bow I’ve ever shot.
The Prime Logic finishes second for me with a really smooth draw cycle with just a small dip into the valley before a rock hard back wall.
The Obsession, Hoyt and PSE are all worthy of mention here as well. The PSE has the most generous valley I’ve ever experienced, the Obsession is remarkably easy to pull for a speed bow and the Hoyt has a smooth draw with a small dip into what is also a generous valley.
The grip for me is just about as important as draw cycle when choosing a bow and my favorite grip in the 2018 Hunting Bow Shootout is on the Bowtech Realm X. After finishing last in this category a year ago, Bowtech completely redesigned its grip and it is exactly what I was looking for – flat on front and moderately narrow.
The Prime Logic Grip and new X-Act grip on the Hoyt Carbon RX-1 are both excellent offerings, but I’d give the slightest edge to the Logic here. If it had a flatter front, it may have taken the top spot.
The APA Mamba is another solid grip and it fits my hand great. I’d rank it just a hair above the PSE Evolve 28. I like the Evolve grip, but would prefer it to be touch narrower.
The Obsession grip is fine but the side plates stick out too much for my liking. The grip on the Mathews Triax is not a favorite of mine, as I find it too wide – especially up at the throat.
Stability is a tough category, as I felt like I shot all seven bows in our 2018 Hunting Bow Shootout fairly consistently. But once I get to full draw, the bow I feel most confident and stable with in my hand is the Hoyt Carbon RX-1. If I had one shot I absolutely had to make, this is the bow I’d want in my hand. But it’s a ridiculously close category.
The Bowtech Realm X earns second place points from me. It has a short valley in Performance mode, so you have to stay aggressive at full draw, but that has led me to being stronger at the shot, leading to fewer mistakes.
Beyond this, it’s really tough to call. I’m really impressed with how stable the 28-inch Mathews Triax and PSE Evolve 28 are. The Prime Logic and Obsession Fixation have also held their own with any bow here. The APA is also solid, but this bow in most need of a stabilizer – at least for me.
For the most part, I didn’t have a lot of trouble tuning any of the bows in the 2018 Hunting Bow Shootout, but the Bowtech Realm X stands ahead of the crowd. I was slapping bareshaft arrows with fletched arrows within minutes of setting up this bow, but with yokes top and bottom, making small changes is a snap with the Realm X.
Any of the Mathews Triax, Prime Logic, Obsession Fixation and PSE Evolve 28 are worthy of high points in this category as well. The Hoyt took a bit more time and I’m finding it likes a bit of cam lean with fixed blade broadheads on my arrows. The APA gave me some headaches early. It came out of the box shooting great, but as the string got worked in the timing got a bit wonky.
There was no category in the 2018 Hunting Bow Shootout easier to decide on than speed, as I let the chronograph do all the work.
I set up each bow at 70 pounds of draw weight and shot a 350-grain Gold Tip Platinum Pierce arrow through the chronograph. I used the 29 ½ settings on all of the bows, but the Mathews and PSE each ended up at around 30 inches.
With that in mind, the Bowtech Realm X was the clear winner with an average of 338 feet per second, despite having the third fastest IBO rating. The Obsession Fixation finished second at 334 feet per second, followed by the Mathews Triax at 332, the APA Mamba 34TF at 329, the PSE Evolve 28 at 327, the Hoyt Carbon RX-1 at 325 and the Prime Logic at 315.
Fit and Finish
Since we are dealing with flagship bows, fit and finish should be excellent and for the most part it was.
I’m giving top marks to the Prime Logic here. This is my favorite looking bow of the year dressed in ghost green with Optifade Subalpine limbs.
The Hoyt Carbon RX-1 gets second place marks thanks to the usual Hoyt fit and finish and a great looking riser. You could put the Obsession, PSE and Bowtech in any order you like – all showed no visible flaws.
The APA has a great looking finish on the riser, but the string stretching gave me some problems.
Finally, the Mathews Triax struggled here because of some junk in the riser cutouts during the machining process. Of all the Mathews bows I’ve had, this was the first that wasn’t flawless. The Triax string has also stretched, causing some peep rotation.
Price and Value
As all of the bows in our 2018 Hunting Bow Shootout are flagship-level, prices are high all around, but a couple of bows offer some hidden value.
I’m going to give top marks here to the APA Mamba. At $988, this is the among the cheapest bows here, but the value comes in some extras not seen on any other bows. A bow hanger is built right into the riser – perfect for hooking onto a branch. It also has a carrying handle, broadhead sharpener and broadhead wrench – also built into the riser. But the best feature for me is the Cam Lock System. Using the little cam lock pin, you can work on your bow or even change out the string and cables without the need of a bow press. It works remarkably well and could save your hunt if you happen to damage your string when you are out of town. Just bring an extra string set and you can repair pretty much anything in the field.
At $1,100, the Prime Logic is among the most expensive bows, but it gets second place points for offering free replacement strings every two years for as long as you own your bow. Prime bows also come with both limb and cable stop options, so you can pick which one you like and change any time.
The Bowtech is also $1,100, but gets points for offering two different profiles with its Flip Disc technology. I’m shooting the Realm X in Performance mode, but if you want an easier draw with a more generous valley, just flip the discs to Comfort mode.
The Obsession Fixation 6XP at $999 gets value not from anything specific on the bow, but the ability to create a truly unique bow before you buy thanks to 14 different riser colors, 6 string colors and 3 cam colors to choose from.
The Hoyt finishes at the bottom here, just due to the price difference. At $1,549, it is $450 more than any other bow we’ve tested. However, if you are willing to forgo the carbon riser, the Hoyt Hyper Force has the same specs but retails for $1,100.
Now it’s time for the final verdict, but choosing between flagship-level bows is tough. This is the best the industry has to offer and they all truly do shoot great.
With all this in mind, the winner of our 2018 Hunting Bow Shootout is the Bowtech Realm X. Bowtech finally has an awesome grip, the bow shoots great and it’s sneaky fast.
The Mathews Triax finishes second for me and might have earned the top spot were it not for the finish issues on my riser. This bow is just plain easy to shoot and is a new level of quiet after the shot.
After this any of the other bows would be worthy. I was most confident with the Hoyt Carbon RX-1, though price hurt it here. The Prime Logic and Obsession Fixation are really fun to shoot, the PSE Evolve 28 is surprisingly fast and stable for a short bow and the APA’s unique features really set it apart.
The bottom line is these are all excellent bows, as expected. I would be happy to take any of them in the woods with me next year.