There’s always that one thing at the ATA Show that emerges and gets archery retailers and show attendees buzzing. The product usually enters the show as a dark horse, and the booth is often smallish compared to the show-floor real estate of other, more established companies.
Several years ago, that dark-horse company was Obsession Bows. Something about Obsession lit the shooting lane up and you could see a ground swell on Day 1 of the Show. By Day 3, that ground swell spilled over and left an impression.
There was magic around those bows then. And it remains today.
So now the question is, “why?”
Law of diminishing returns
Fast bows can be hell to shoot and smooth bows are often ultra-slow, like the Lincoln Continental everyone’s passed on the interstate at one time or another: a smooth ride for the geriatric crowd, creeping along on what appears to be a long (albeit comfortable) journey.
So, how does a bow company leverage the upside of both speed and smoothness without sacrificing the inherent downsides of each critical feature?
Grand View Outdoors sat down with Jon Lené, the vice president of sales for Obsession Bows’ parent company Arcus Hunting, to talk about how modern engineering and innovative bow design can marry two critical attributes — speed and comfort — effectively.
Q&A with Obsession Bows Jon Lené
Grand View Outdoors (GVO): Is it fair to say the idea for you guys is to hand over a 70-lb bow and obliterate the expectation that the draw curve is gonna be a bumpy ride?
Jon Lene: I think that finding that perfect blend of comfort and performance can be challenging. The shooter experiences the draw of the bow before they see the performance. We want the draw and feel to be a pleasure for the shooter and then for them to be shocked when they see the performance they are getting.
GVO: So, without giving away your secret sauce, can you explain how Obsession has achieved a balance between speed and smoothness?
JL: It boils down to superior cam geometry and the two-track cable system that Obsession engineer Kevin Strother is able to create. He’s one of the industry’s best designers and he’s great at striking that optimal balance.
GVO: In some of the reviews I read prepping for this interview, Obsession was praised for its solid backwall. Why is that feature important to the overall performance of the bow?
JL: A spongy backwall is very hard to be consistent with. The final anchor and release point don’t stay the same depending on how hard you pull into the shot. When you have a hard backwall and the draw length is set correctly, you can pull hard into the shot and keep your anchor point consistent. This should help you execute a consistent shot repeatedly.
GVO: OK, back to speed. What if I’m a speed dude, and I don’t care about a smooth, pleasurable experience?
JL: The good news is you are going to find that speed and efficiency you are looking for in Obsession, and the “pleasurable experience” you aren’t concerned with will be thrown in as well. You will get the best of both. The Def-Con M6Z is a perfect example. It’s a comfortable, easy-to-shoot bow pushing close to 360 FPS. That’s right up there with the fastest bows made.
GVO: So, there is a point of diminishing return when it comes to speed?
JL I think we have hit somewhat of a plateau in the industry when it comes to speed. I believe more speed is achievable, but it is going to be enjoyable to shoot and what else are you giving up? The consumer must want to shoot it and enjoy shooting it. I always say there is no free energy when it comes to archery. To achieve top level speed, you are going to make some sacrifices.
Obsession’s backstory and why intangibles matter
Obsession Bows has an unusual origin story that starts with two crushed legs and the company’s founder bleeding out, lying on his back deep in the Georgia woods. In hindsight, crushed legs and the magic of being in the right place at the right time may have factored into the quality of Obsession’s product.
In 2011, Dennis Lewis went hunting. After hunting for a while — nothing doing — Obsession’s founder started to climb down, but a buckle on his stick ladder gave way, and Lewis fell 20 feet to the ground. His wife is there with him, but she’s in the stand — trapped — because now there’s no ladder, and she’s looking down at a dying husband. The cell phone – despite spotty service – came through in the end, and Lewis was lifted out of the woods on a helicopter.
One year confined to a wheelchair followed and that period of physical dormancy gave life to one year of start-up fruitfulness. Here’s how Macon, Georgia’s The Telegraph reported Obsession Bows “moment.”
An important thing happened during his recovery. Master bow designer Kevin Strother heard about Lewis’ accident and wanted to help. He sent Lewis a design for a bow, and using that, Lewis has built what had been mostly a hobby into a multi-million-dollar business.
At the time of the report, in September 2014, Obsession Bows had recently won Outdoor Life’s Editor’s Choice and the manufacturer had nearly 1,000 bows on back order.
Obsession Bows was born as a passion project and the bows themselves have captured the attention of the industry — not in spite of its origin story, but because of it. It’s a story of a man who put a product on the market that was first designed — in earnest — to sustain his own well-being as both an archer and a survivor on the road to recovery.
This kind of origin allows a company to avoid the noise. There was one goal: to build a great performing bow. Ideas, design and engineering weren’t clouded by staying true to a brand story or what feature might give the company a marketing edge. Lewis and Strother just built a bow they’d want to shoot themselves.
Feature and Bow Specs
Obsession prides itself on staying true to its advertised bow speeds. The company also paper tunes every bow before it’s shipped to archery retailers.
Get specs and a list of features for each of the new Obsession Bows released this year by clicking here.