Bow Report: Darton DS 3900

October 2, 2012

Darton billed its attention-getting 3800 Pro, introduced in 2010, as a “muscle bow with manners.” Having tested that bow extensively on the range and in the field, and having found that billing to be dead-on, I was eager to get my hands on the new DS-3900, described by Darton as a more compact, even faster version of the 3800. At 327⁄8 inches axle to axle, it is a little shorter than its predecessor and slightly lighter. The most obvious difference is the brace height, shrunk from a modestly generous 6 inches to an undeniably skinny 5 inches. How do you take a bow with the same cams and overall basic design and make it more compact while slimming down the brace height? One way is to make the limbs slightly less than parallel, which appears to be the case with the DS-3900.

Apart from the skinnier brace height and less-parallel limb design, the cams are oriented a little differently, possibly contributing to the more aggressive draw stroke. Darton’s Dual Sync cam system is at the heart of all Darton’s bows with the exception of some youth and dedicated bowfishing bows. Essentially, the power cable of each cam is connected to a let-out groove on the other cam to couple the cams, thus controlling timing and nock travel. It was introduced on the original 3800 Pro, though the DS designation wasn’t used until the next generation. (Despite some minor tweaks on the DS-3800, such as deeper string grooves, the basic design of the cam remained unchanged.) Other features of the 3900 remain the same, including the E.E.T. laminated split limbs, Scorpion string, rotating limb pockets, and dual string suppressors. The P.T.R. cable rod, which curves inward to move the cables toward centershot of the bow at full draw to reduce torque, was not present on the original 3800 Pro, but was incorporated in last year’s DS-3800.

Darton DS 3900A third draw stop module comes with the bow and allows the shooter to adjust letoff from 80 percent down to as low as 65 percent, for those who prefer less letoff. Draw length is changed, but only minimally. Draw length is determined by modules in half-inch increments. It should not be necessary to retune the bow after adjusting draw length. Draw weight is adjusted in the traditional fashion by turning limb bolts (be sure to loosen set screws first, and tighten afterwards); it may be necessary to adjust the cable guard after reducing draw weight to insure proper clearance. String suppressors may also need to be adjusted to keep them close to or just touching the strings.

Darton’s DS cam bows share several user-friendly features, beginning with optional grips. Bows are shipped with a checkered rubber grip (in the form of sideplates); my own preference is for the optional plastic sideplates, which are slick and a little narrower. Hash marks on the cams reveal cam orientation at a glance. The ability to adjust draw length by changing modules without pressing the bow is a nice feature, as well. For reasons that could be a separate story in itself, an individual shooter’s perfect draw length may not be identical from one bow to another, so the ability to easily make adjustments is a plus. (Tweaking the draw length to less than half-inch measures by twisting or untwisting cables will require a press. On the other hand, making these minute adjustments by changing the release or the length of a D-loop will achieve the same end more easily.)

I tested the Shadow Black finish, which looks good with sharply contrasting red and white logos on the split limbs and a red and black Scorpion String. The matte black color was silky-smooth with no visible cosmetic defects. As with the other bow tested this month, I’d like to see a longer, more comprehensive, less generic owner’s manual for the DS-3900. More detailed information is available in tech bulletins on Darton’s website. The trend toward more information on-line and in video formats might explain the decreasing information available in many bow manuals, but a good printed manual is a real convenience.

Shooting The Bow

Like its predecessor 3800 models, I found the DS-3900 to be accurately described. While the 3800 models were very pleasant to shoot and forgiving with very little compromise in the speed department, the 3900 is a nod in the direction of the bowhunter who insists on owning the fastest, flattest-shooting bows available. Not surprisingly, given that the cams are the same, the feel on the draw is similar to that of the 3800, if a little more aggressive. Still, there is no significant stacking, nor are there any harsh breakovers or arm-wrenching slams at the back end, and any shooter who isn’t overbowed will find the draw cycle very smooth. The back wall is more than adequately firm, and the valley is not wide but is sufficiently wide to eliminate concerns about creeping. The bow is well-balanced and, at the shot, moves forward in the hand with the kind of slight vibration that many bowhunters will not notice. As with the 3800, inherent torque is a non-issue. It is slightly louder than the 3800, but not problematically so. This is not a bow for every bowhunter, but it isn’t designed to be. It rounds out Darton’s line-up nicely as a bow developed for the experienced bowhunter seeking maximum speeds.

Darton DS 3900

Darton DS-3900 Specs

Letoff......................................... 80%

Brace Height.......................... 5 inches

Weight....................................... 3.9 pounds

Axle-To-Axle Length........... 327⁄8 inches

Draw Length........................... 24 to 30 inches

Draw Weight.......................... 40, 50, 60, 70 pounds

Speed.......................................... 350 to 355 fps (IBO)

Options...................................... Grips. Colors/Camo in Next Vista,  Shadow Black, and Limited Edition.

Suggested Retail Price...... $950

Our Objective Tests

Peak Draw Weight:............................... 70*

Full-Draw Hold Weight:.................... 14*

Performance, 30-Inch Draw:

Arrow Weight........................................ 385 grains........ 500 grains

Arrow Speed @70 Pounds.................. 327 fps............. 290 fps

Arrow Speed @60 Pounds.................. 301 fps............. 265 fps

K.E. @70 Pounds (Foot-Pounds)....... 91.43................ 93.39

K.E. @60 Pounds (Foot-Pounds)....... 77.47................ 77.99

Sound Level @60 Pounds (dBA)........ 66.5.................. 58.3

 

*Rounded to nearest half-pound.