by Lou Milanesi
An upsurge in the popularity of traditional archery coupled with more effective mediums of advertising has led to a dramatic increase in the availability of traditional archery equipment, especially bows. However, during the more sparse years of the previous decades, many major manufacturers turned to foreign production to keep bows affordable for the small number of buyers still interested in traditional equipment.
New bowyers with eye-catching designs found a ready market in consumers who were dissatisfied with this ever-increasing trend. As many new bowyers rush to reinvent the traditional "[no] wheel," it may be an opportune time to seek out the wisdom of those few small companies and master bowyers that survived the long post-compound drought. This report focuses on one of the best of those early brands, one that still produces top quality bows for the traditionalist.
Harold Groves, just after WW II, founded Groves Spitfire Bows. His work as a toolmaker at Los Alamos allowed him to meet scientists Robert Oppenhiemer and Dick Beacham who were working on the trigger for the hydrogen bomb. The two researchers took an interest in Harold's bow building and contributed their renowned expertise to the design of the power stroke for the Groves recurve. From this opportune beginning, Harold Groves contributed much to the sport of archery and bow hunting. For example, he pioneered New Mexico's first archery hunting season. He also developed the arrow straightener used today and patented the unique joint used on his takedown bows. Most importantly, he developed and patented the process that allows most laminated wood and glass limbs achieve speed, flexibility and durability. This limb design made his bows famous and much sought after in the days before the compound revolution.
The same limb design and joints are used in the Groves Spitfire Bows produced today. Although Harold Groves is gone, his son Dick continues the family tradition. Groves Master Bowyer James Elrod still creates the same bows that were so popular when he went to work for Harold Groves in 1959. I've admired the Groves bow since I first saw one almost 30 years ago; therefore I welcomed the opportunity to do this review.
Characteristics of the Bow Design
The handles of the Groves line of bows are constructed primarily from Shedua (although other woods may be ordered if available). Inlays of maple and other lighter hardwoods compliment the rich dark grain. The handle section of the 62-inch test bow measured approximately 22 inches. The sight window measures 6 1/2 inches and is inset approximately 1 3/16 inches from the outside plane of the handle. Groves bows are inset an additional 1/4 inch to achieve a true centershot with the plane of the bowstring. This allows the use of a broader range of arrow spines with the bow, as over-spined shafts do not have to flex as to clear the handle. The ample arc of the 3/4 inch arrow shelf contributes additional forgiveness to the design.
The number of sections to the bows differentiates the Magnum series hunting recurves. The Magnum I is the one-piece non-takedown version, the Magnum II is a two-piece takedown and the Magnum III is a three-piece takedown (the company also offers longbows in one, two and three-piece models). The Magnum I and II bows are available 56, 60 and 62-inch lengths. The Magnum III is available in these and additional longer lengths. The grip on the bows can be shaped to small, medium and large sizes to suit the customer, however the joint design on the Magnum II does not allow for very small grips on heavier draw bows. Other available options include a broadhead cutout and/or overdraw. The 56-inch bow was Harold Groves' personal hunting favorite
The takedown joints on Groves bows are extremely strong while not detracting from the beauty of the bows. On the Magnum II the diagonal takedown joint runs through the lower half of the bow handle. Two substantial 5/16-inch alignment pins prevent torque between the bow sections, and the junction is secured with a single 3/8 16 NC bolt that is concealed in a recess just below the grip. The joint is trimmed with brown and white spacers and appears to be another of the decorative inlays on the bow.
Limbs and String
No special modifications or improvements were made to the bow before testing. Tests were made "off-the-shelf," so a Bear hair rest and side pad were fitted to the bow. All nocking point adjustments were made using a single metal nock. The bow was tested at standard A.M.O. conditions of 60-pound peak draw weight and 30 inches draw length (28 1/4 inches from the pivot or low point of the grip).
Two arrows of recommended spine were used in the testing. The heavier arrow was the 540-grain standard required by A.M.O. test procedures (9 grains per pound of draw). The lighter, 300-grain arrow was used to compare performance at I.B.O. minimum weight restrictions (5 grains per pound of draw). All arrows were fired across the center of the chronograph sensors at a constant height of 5 inches.
The Magnum II produced a mean velocity of 211.4 feet per second over the ten shots with the 540-grain arrow, and yielded a mean velocity of 249.4 feet per second for ten shots with the 300-grain arrow.
Measured velocities varied only 2 feet per second for the 540-grain arrow and 1 foot per second with the 300-grain arrow during the two tests. The maximum speed recorded for the 300-grain arrow was 250 feet per second. These chronograph means must be adjusted for recurves due to the increase in draw weight achieved between 28 inches (factory peak measure point) and 30 inches of draw length (A.M.O. test point). The adjustment factor used for this test was 60/65 (or 0.92). Therefore, the adjusted means velocities were 194.5 feet per second for the 540-grain arrow and 229.5 feet per second for the 300-grain arrow.
The bow was fun to shoot, well balanced and incredibly
fast for a traditional piece. The medium-large grip on the bow was comfortable
and I quickly adjusted to it. The draw was remarkably smooth; thus the
bow seemed very consistent and forgiving. I've seen some velocity figures
thrown in ads for some new
Note Sheet - Groves
Bows, Magnum II:
If you are at all interested in a traditional archery you should test a Groves Spitfire Bow. These bows were ahead of their time when the company was at its zenith and they remain at the head of the pack today. I used the test bow during a regional traditional shoot. Several longtime traditional archers quickly noticed and recognized the bow. Their testimonies would make Harold Groves proud that his legacy lives on for those of us who still play with sticks and strings.
Groves Spitfire Bows can be viewed on-line at www.grovesbows.com and dealer inquiries can be e-mailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org for a quick reply. Or, you can call James Elrod at (505) 345-3015 to get a Groves Spitfire made especially for you.
Lou Milanesi tests bows and equipment while preparing reviews for 3-D TIMES Magazine. He teaches undergraduate and graduate level courses in research and evaluation at the University of Wisconsin – Stout. His interest in archery dates back to 1965, when at age 14 he constructed his first crude bow from native Osage. He now enjoys many forms of competition archery, bow hunting and evaluating new products. Some of his other product evaluations can be found here.
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