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BHW Field Test: Carbon Arrows

Easton FlatLine Surgical ($140)

Pick up a FlatLine Surgical arrow and you can see—and feel—that it’s built to be as ultralight as possible. Most obvious is the tiny MicroLite Super Nock that weighs just 7.5 grains; its 10-grain MicroLite Insert is half the weight of a standard insert. Check out our chart and you’ll see lighter means faster; the FlatLine Surgical was the second-fastest arrow tested and to my mind a great, flat-shooting choice when you’re expecting shots of more than 35 yards. More to love about the Surgical is its touted precision; at +/- .001-inch, the Surgical improves on the +/- .003-inch straightness of the otherwise similar FlatLine shaft (which remains in the lineup) introduced last year. Both shafts are available in three sizes: 340, 400, and 500. (801-539-0139; www.eastonarchery.com) — Mark Melotik

Carbon Express Mayhem ($119 Mayhem/$129 Mayhem Hunter)

Your first impression picking up one of these is: “There’s a lot going on with this arrow!” The Mayhem is built with a weaving process of the carbon fibers that leaves a visible woven pattern on the shaft. The nock fits into a metal “bulldog collar” that adds strength and durability to the arrow and, along with the bold graphics, gives the arrow its distinctive appearance.

My test arrows were of the 350 size (9.8 gpi), which is a fairly heavy shaft to shoot from my 65-pound Mathews. But I personally prefer the heavy arrows—the added energy absorption and delivery—and loved the way these felt as I shot them. Very solid.

Mayhem shafts are available with Blazer or Fusion Vanes: straightness +/- .0035, weight tolerance of +/- 1.0 grain, and a spine selection tolerance of +/-.0025. Available is the Mayhem ($119) or the Mayhem Hunter ($129) with built-in weight forward.

My Blazer-fletched Mayhems flew well with broadheads and pulled easily from foam targets. I will definitely hunt with these this fall. (800-241-4833; www.carbonexpressarrows.com) —Mike Strandlund

3Rivers Traditional Only Carbon Arrows ($63/6; $110/doz.)

When the mood hits during practice sessions I admit to enjoying the simple pleasures of shooting my favorite recurve and longbow with finely crafted wood arrows. But when it’s time to go hunting my trad quiver is full of dependably straight and ultra-consistent carbon arrows like the Traditional Only. I like many things about these quality shafts, which offer a good-looking PhotoFusion wood grain finish and come assembled with a vinyl crest wrap and three 5-inch Shield Cut feathers. Also impressive is the fact they’re made by Easton, and offer some nice mass weight for increased durability and penetration (model 340 weighs 10 grains per inch; five sizes are available). Even better is that traditional gear specialist 3Rivers offers some very smart (and affordable) “aftermarket” arrow accessories that I’d recommend to all trad bowhunters using this shaft. They include heavy brass inserts (available in 50 or 100 grains, $14/doz.), and plastic weight tubes (available in 3, 5, and 8 gpi, $12/doz.)—both products aimed at further increasing penetration in hunting situations. This past fall I used these arrows and accessories on several hunts, winding up with a sweet-shooting arrow that—including the 150-grain broadhead—weighed an impressive 730 grains. For treestanders seeking whitetails or black bears, that’s one deadly, heavy-hitting combo. www.3riversarchery.com) —Mark Melotik

Victory Vforce ($115 V1 Series)

The VForce is Victory’s essential hunting arrow, a multi-layer fiber-wrapped arrow. I tested the V1 series (the straightest, with a tolerance of .001) in size 350, shafts that weigh 8.8 grains per inch (gpi).

This model is available with either 4-inch Duravane or 2-inch Bohning Blazer fletching. I shot the Blazers.

I was pleased with the consistent shooting of these shafts. Their semi-smooth finish made them fairly easy to remove from targets. The nocks are simple plastic insert nocks but seem very consistent, and they promote accuracy. I like that the nocks are indexed. (866-934-6565; www.victoryarchery.com) —Mike Strandlund

Gold Tip Pro Hunter 55/75 ($120)

Considering how this test quickly adopted an “extreme speed” theme, we were hoping to include Gold Tip’s new, ultralight Velocity series arrows. Alas, they were not available at press time. But then a strange thing happened. We tested Gold Tip’s proven Pro Hunter—an arrow that’s been around for 12 years—and saw it claim an impressive third place in our speed test. It shows Gold Tip has known about the advantages of increased speed for quite some time; even more impressive is that all-carbon Gold Tip arrows are respected for their durability, a quality to which I can attest. Most any company can shave grains from a carbon shaft to make it lighter; the trick is ensuring it remains tough enough for hunting. Pro Hunters certainly are. They’re also the straightest arrow Gold Tip makes, with a tolerance of +/- .001 inch.

For those who prefer slightly heavier arrows Gold Tip offers one of the best systems in the industry; their optional “Gold Tip Weight System” allows you to add weight to both the insert or nock—to fine-tune accuracy-enhancing Front of Center (FOC) balance as well as increase kinetic energy—using a series of simple screw-in weights. (800-551-0541; www.goldtip.com) —Mark Melotik

Trophy Ridge Blast ($110)

The Blast is a narrow, woven, seamless carbon shaft from Trophy Ridge with several interesting features. The shafts are among the smoothest around and are treated with a substance called Silent Slide that makes them draw quieter, penetrate deeper, and pull from targets easier. I found them to perform in all three areas.

My test shafts were 9-gpi 350s ($110) equipped with Blazer vanes and two types of point inserts: the durable metal Armor Tough insert (actually an outsert) and the new, more streamlined In-Line insert just recently introduced. Both shot well and with no discernible difference. Despite the shafts being rated a little heavy for my 65-pound test bow, I shot good groups with the Blast and found its penetration to be superior. (800-694-9494; www.trophyridge.com) —Mike Strandlund

Beman MFX Bone Collector Edition ($106)

Continuing the “lighter is better” theme from arrow makers in 2010 is the new Bone Collector, which weighs in a tad lighter and replaces the similar (discontinued) MFX Realtree arrow (size 340 for the Realtree was 10.4 grains per inch, the 340 Bone Collector is 9.5 gpi). Another weight-saving change? The Bone Collector comes with a plain X Nock (9 grains); the previous MFX Realtree shaft included 15-grain Vibrake X Nocks (still available separately, $16/doz.). The distinctive Bone Collector continues to feature the same straightness (.003-inch) as its predecessor, as well as proven MFX micro-diameter carbon construction that’s designed to increase penetration. But, maybe its most-distinctive trait is the Patented Hidden Insert Technology that’s designed to automatically align broadheads for easy set up and tighter groups. As we’ve stated several times in these pages, seating these unique inserts yourself does take a bit more care than is required by “standard” inserts—but if you take your time and use the included specialized tool you’ll be fine. (801-539-1400; www.beman.com) —Mark Melotik

Carbon Tech Cougar ($70)

I am a long-time fan of the thinking behind Carbon Tech arrows, with a selection of models designed to match the performance preferences of different bowhunters. CT arrows most notably emphasize speed or energy. The 45/70 Cougars I got to try are a mid-range arrow at a very reasonable price.

The matte finish on Cougar shafts does not glare like the smoothest shafts, something a hunter can appreciate. The fletching on the arrows I tried were three, 4-inch plastic vanes (sporting the CT logo) in a virtually straight orientation. I was concerned how that might handle broadheads, but the 100-grain Muzzys I tried flew fine.

I shot fine groups with the standard Cougars (at .005 straightness; there are also super-straight .0015 XP models available for $120). They are a fine arrow and an excellent value. (765-287-8670; www.carbontecharrows.com) —Mike Strandlund

Carbon Impact Hunter+XLT ($82)

Newly released in March, Carbon Impact’s new Hunter+XLT shaft is a variation on the previous Fat Shaft XLT model. Like its predecessor, the arrow features the XLT construction technology that is uniform and seamless as well as a weight-forward design. It comes in three grades and three spines. The main difference is a new finish; the Hunter has a lighter, but smooth and glare-free finish.

The Hunter is so new we were unable to obtain them in time for testing, but we used the Fat Shaft for comparison purposes. I shot a 28-inch 6500 at 8.3 gpi. We were impressed with its speed and consistency. (213-929-8152; www.carbonimpact.com) —Mike Strandlund

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