It's a business formula Matt McPherson and Mathews Inc. have virtually perfected and ridden hard over the years to amazing levels of industry success. It goes like this: Roll out a ground-breaking, wildly popular bow design one year and follow it up the next with similar models designed to meet the varying needs of nearly any discriminating archer.
For 2011 the company's "Z family" of bows, born in 2010 with the heavily lauded Z7, has grown by four to include the 28-inch axle-to-axle Z7 Extreme ($899), the 32-inch, 6 3/8-inch brace height Z7 Magnum ($999), the super-easy-drawing, 32-inch eZ7 ($999), and the 30-inch Z9 ($899), touted as the ultimate bow for long-draw shooters (up to 32 inches) sporting a forgiving 8¾-inch brace height. And even the 2011 Z7 ($899) is all-new, with new limbs and cam system that their creator explains are just plain better. And when you’re talking about the Z7—which garnered accolades from retailers nationwide in 2010—that's saying a serious mouthful.
"Years ago, [specific] bow models would last three, four, five years," explained Mathews founder Matt McPherson. "When I got going with McPherson Archery, and then Mathews, I worked hard at making a 'brand-new' bow each year—but I knew that's what it would take to bring the necessary excitement to the sport. So I pushed the envelope.
"The  Z7 was another one of those milestones, where its Reverse Assist Roller Guard really wasn't logical until the limbs became so parallel that the angles would work. With the Z7 we went a little more parallel than on the Reezen. And the Z7's Grid Lock riser, it was kind of like having a new body style on an automobile. The Grid Lock was so visually different; it was fresh.
"We knew the Z7 was going to be strong. And so we decided to do a 'family' of Z bows for 2011," McPherson continued. "Much like we did previously with the Switchback and Switchback XT, the Drenalin and the DXT—we've kind of made 'families' with our new technology.
"The [new for 2011] Z7 Extreme is a little more compact; and it’s pretty close to the same performance [as the Z7] with a higher brace height," McPherson explained. "And the Z7 Magnum, it's a little bit longer, with a 63⁄8-inch brace height, and it brings speeds to 338-340 fps, in that category."
Within the Z Series of bows, the Z7 Extreme, Z7 Magnum, and 2011 Z7 all use the exact same cam. Why? "It's not so much for the consumer, but the retailer," McPherson said. "Now retailers have to carry just one cam for all three bows."
Was there any concern in changing the specs of the wildly popular 2010 Z7?
"Not really, in designing them, we’re always looking for ways to make life easier, to make things better. And it was a logical thing," McPherson explained. "The limbs are a little more high-efficiency, [all Z family bows] are now using the new SE5 limb; it's not preloaded as much, and we're actually getting a little more efficiency out of it. The 2011 Z7 limbs will not fit on a 2010 model [which has been discontinued]. When we found these increased efficiencies, it made sense to make the whole family with the same limb. The new limb is a little thicker, just slightly wider, and the limb turret is different.
"We're splitting hairs now, the increases were slight, but it made sense to make all the bows with the same limbs, the same cams. I guess the way we look at it, those parts are [simply] a running change in the line."
Testing has proven that the new 2011 Z7 is realizing a 1- to 4-foot-per-second speed increase over its predecessor, but McPherson was quick to point out increasing speed wasn't the primary goal.
"It would seem that the fastest car you could find would be the one to drive to work every day but it really isn't," McPherson explained.
"I’ve based my [bow-building] decisions on what I would like. And what I want typically is what most people want—a smooth, fast bow that’s enjoyable to shoot. I don't shoot the fastest bows because you've got to work for it. What we find, is that the younger people buy the speed bows because they haven't gotten to the place where [they're looking for the enjoyment of the shot]. But for speed guys, that's why we make the fastest 80-percent-letoff bows—the Monsters. And for all practical purposes, those bows pull smoother than our competitors, but you have to work harder for it. The biggest market is not the speed freak; the biggest market is the people who want their shooting experience to be enjoyable."
Looking for even more hot new 2011 innovation? Archery dealers everywhere need to check out Mathews' sister company Mission Archery. McPherson says the entire 2011 Mission line is the strongest it's ever been, hitting several popular price points, and a real standout is the Mission Craze. This amazing new two-cam, 28-inch axle-to-axle bow retails for just $299 yet offers a truly ground-breaking adjustment range—from 15 to 70 pounds, accommodating draws from 19 all the way to 30 inches!
"If I told you how we did it I'd have to kill you," McPherson chuckled. "But seriously, the Craze is the best 'camp' bow you could possibly have. If someone has a problem with their bow, it can be set very quickly to fit 99 percent of people, including women. Nobody can believe this thing can do it. And it's a very handsome bow. It draws nice, it shoots nice, and the dealers are very excited about it!"