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Field Evaluation - Elite Archery 'Judge'
By Keith Dunlap - Field Evaluator
Feb 9, 2010 - 12:35:04 PM

Company History:  Elite Archery was established in 2005 in the state of Washington. After changing ownership in 2007, Elite Archery was then sold to Elite Outdoors in January of 2009 and moved to Upstate New York. Elite Outdoors, LLC is lead by Peter Crawford as president of the company. Peter has worked in the archery industry for nearly a decade. Garret Armstrong heads up the marketing department as the Vice President of Sales and Marketing and Mike Derus is the company's lead design engineer.  The folks at Elite Outdoors have been hunting and shooting archery collectively for more than 100 years.  I've heard good things about Elite Archery products, so I was pleased to learn that I would be evaluating one of their new bows. (On the web at Elite Archery)

Elite Archery has announced their release of the new "Judge" compound bow for 2010.  The Judge has a 34 7/8 axle-to-axle length, 6? brace height, mass weight of 4.3 lbs, and is rated for 343-347 fps IBO.  The cams make use of a modular system for quick changing of draw lengths from 26-30 inches.  In this field evaluation, we will take a closer look at the Elite Judge and all that it has to offer today's demanding bowhunter.

The "Judge" from Elite Archery (shown in Ninja black).
Judge Basics:
Riser:  The riser on the Judge is forged and then CNC machined from 6061-T6 aluminum.  The finishing process on the Judge riser is either powder coated or DuraFuse™ decorated, depending on the finish/pattern of the bow.  In case you're not familiar with the DuraFuse finish, it is a new process that delivers sharp, crisp camo detail and a finish that is advertised to be more durable than dipped or painted bows.  In addition to improved durability, the DuraFuse process allows for different designs that are new to the archery industry.  The Judge is available in several finishes, including: Realtree AP, Realtree MAX-1, Black or Anthracite Metallic (Target Color). The Judge has thin two-piece laminated wood grips with a low-wrist position on the riser.  Low-wrist positioning is the preferred grip position for many shooters today as it provides a more repeatable grip with less chance for error.  The low-wrist grip, combined with a tilted hand, aligns the grip in the 'pocket' of your palm, and if you've got the grip of the bow in this 'pocket,' bow torque should not be an issue because this is a very neutral way to hold the bow (there are great articles online that further explain bow high, middle, and low-grip positions).

Comfortable laminated wood grips (thin two-piece).
One piece pivoting limb pockets.

Limbs/Limb Pockets: Elite is using Barnsdale Laminated Gordon Composite 13" solid straight limbs on the new Judge.  In case you've never heard of Barnsdale limbs, they have a reputation for being some of the toughest limbs available on the market.  Barnsdale limbs can take the stress of modern compound bows producing speeds over 340 fps.  Like the riser on the Judge, the limbs are either powder coated or DuraFuse decorated depending on the finish of the bow.  The limb pockets are a one piece pivoting and locking and made with CNC machined 6061-T6 aluminum.

Eccentric System: Elite has equipped the Judge with their two track binary Revolution Cam (Rev Cam).  The cams rotate on stainless steel axles and sealed ball bearings.  The new Rev Cam system uses modular draw length adjustments in ½" increments from 26" to 30".  The Judge's eccentric system let-off is 80%.  The Rev Cam features a fully adjustable double draw stop (top and bottom cam) for an extremely hard wall. The main unique feature of their cam is that it only has two tracks…one for the string and one for the cables. The let out and take up cables share the same track. This allows Elite to place the cable track very close to the center of the axle which places the load in the center of the limb forks, eliminating cam lean (limb twisting).  Elite boasts that their cams typically feel 3-6 lbs. lighter than actual peak weight, and that the draw cycle on the Judge is very smooth considering the amount of speed and energy that this bow generates.

Silencing System: The Judge has two solid LimbSaver Ultra Quads and a string suppression system for noise and vibration reduction.

When I first put my eyes on the new Judge bow from Elite Archery, I was impressed with the smooth lines and overall style and appearance of this bow.  Despite my eagerness to shoot the bow, my evaluation began with a thorough visual examination of the Judge for any workmanship quality issues or defects.  After a thorough inspection, I found no visible defects.  The eccentrics moved freely when pressure was removed from the strings and cables.  All parts fit together perfectly, nothing was loose, and the bow was mechanically sound in all aspects.

Cam modules provide adjustable draw lengths.

Initial Setup:
Items added to the bow for my evaluation included: Hostage Pro capture arrow rest; generic fiber optic site, and a string loop.  I selected 350-grain Carbon Express Maxima 350 arrows for my evaluation.  I performed my usual initial setup to ensure that the nocking point and rest were properly adjusted and I tuned the center shot using my Easy Eye Laser Eze-Center Gauge.  I paper tuned the Judge and was ready to put it to the test.

Shootability: Starting with the grip design, the two-piece laminated wood grip on the Judge rested very comfortably in my hand.  As I've mentioned in other bow evaluations, I like the feel of a thin grip and it's my opinion that thinner grips can reduce the possibility of hand torque during the shot.  The grips on this bow are a big plus for me.

It should be noted that I shot the Judge with sets of 30 arrows each day for five days to evaluate overall comfort (shootability), draw-cycle, shot vibration, noise and torque.  Additionally, I shot four other bows I had on hand for comparative purposes throughout the evaluation.  After shooting the Judge, it became apparent that Elite has developed a super fast bow that provides a quiet shot while giving the shooter a very smooth draw cycle.  In my opinion, the Judge sets a new standard when it comes to comfort and "shootability" for a bow with this kind of speed.  The draw cycle is very smooth and consistent throughout the draw…with a definitive draw stop, which makes the Judge easy to hold at full draw.  Some bows that generate the kind of speed that the Judge generates will have a difficult draw cycle, but not so with the Judge.  The draw cycle on the Judge is as smooth as butter and this bow generates plenty of arrow speed.

The next area of my evaluation was to concentrate on the amount of hand shock or vibration felt during each shot.  This one is tough to measure other than the amount of "jump" felt in the bow upon releasing the string.  In order to evaluate a bow for this, you need to compare the bow you are evaluating to other bows on the market.  A visit to the local archery shop should provide you with a good comparison.  After shooting the Judge for a week and comparing it with the other bows in the shop, the Judge measures very high on the scale with respect to hand shock and vibration (lack thereof).  Shock felt during the shots was minimal and when compared to four other bows from major competitors, the Judge adequately held its own.

String suppression system on the Judge.

Speed: the Judge that I evaluated had a measured peak draw weight of 71.5 lbs and a measured draw length of 29 inches.  Speed was measured on a Pro Chrono chronograph.  I measured 18 shots and averaged the results.  The average speed of the 350-grain Carbon Express Maxima arrows shot from the Judge was 338 fps.  Under the I.B.O. (International Bowhunter's Organization) standard, speed is measured using a bow with a draw weight of 70 lbs, a draw length of 30 inches, and the arrow should have a grain weight of 350 (or 5 grains of arrow weight per pound of bow weight).  The Judge arrow-speed measurement of 338 fps, with the 350-grain arrow and the shorter draw length of 29 inches, is within range of the advertised IBO speed of 343-347 fps if the draw length were increased to 30 inches.  Additionally, my Judge bow had a brass nock and two LimbSavers installed…these items alone can reduce arrow speed by 2 to 8 fps.  I've included a chart below indicating typical speed loss resulting from string accessories added to your bow.
Maneuverability: I evaluated maneuverability by shooting the Judge from various positions within a ground blind and from a tree stand.  I took several shots while seated, kneeling, and standing from within the ground blind and from my climbing tree stand.  I had no problems shooting from various hunting situations and positions using the Judge with its 34 7/8 inch axle-to-axle length.

Noise level: the proper method to evaluate noise level would be to use a decibel meter capable of measuring low noise levels.  I don't have access to one and they can be expensive to purchase, so in order to evaluate the noise level of the Judge bow, I blindfolded (to prevent brand favoritism) three of my bowhunting buddies and had them stand next to me and evaluate noise level while I shot various bows in our indoor shooting range.  It should be noted that in order to complete this part of my evaluation, I removed all accessories that I had previously added to the bow except for the arrow rest, in order to replicate "out-of-the-box" bow conditions. 

I shot one arrow from each of five bows in their "out-of-the-box" condition, including the Judge, and recorded the opinions of each person in succession.  I repeated this test five times and I averaged the results.  The Judge was voted the quietest bow that I shot according to each person helping me with this test.  This is a subjective test at best, but I can say that I believe the Judge to be one of the more quiet bows I've shot.  I found no need to install additional noise elimination accessories on this bow.

Conclusion: The Elite Judge is an awesome new bow!  This bow is smooth on the draw and easy on the hand during the shot, and the accuracy and shootability are exceptional.  In my opinion, the Judge can successfully compete among the best bows on the market today.

Rating Chart:
This rating chart is intended to help you investigate a single bow by reviewing its key features, and also compare it to other models you may be interested in. A rating system of 1 through 10, in ½ point increments, will be used with 1 being the lowest and 10 the highest or best.

Following is a list of the bow properties that will be covered and their definitions.

1.    Grip:  This item will be rated on its "feel" and shape in regard to the effect it has on torque and the overall enjoyment of shooting.
2.    Maneuverability:  This rating is self-explanatory and will be determined through various field tests, including ground blinds and treestands.  Mass weight will also be a factor.
3.    Speed:  The rating for this category will be based on the design and intended purpose of the bow.
4.    Quality/Workmanship:  This item will be based on attention to detail in the areas of machining, finish, and general mechanics.
5.    Shock and Vibration:  Ratings will be based on the amount of "jump" felt upon release.
6.    Noise Level:  Noise will be rated as sold by the manufacturer without any additional noise dampening devices installed.  This will allow the test to be based solely on the bow's out-of-the-box performance.
7.    Draw Cycle: The perceived smoothness of drawing the bow and holding it on target.
8.    Shootability:  Many factors come into play here, including axle-to-axle length, brace height, and eccentrics.
9.    Advantage: What features makes this bow special as compared to its competitors?
10.    Value: Pricing vs. competition given features and specs

Category - Rating - Comments:
  •     Grip - 10
  •     Maneuverability - 10
  •     Speed  - 10
  •     Quality/Workmanship - 10
  •     Shock/Vibration  - 10
  •     Noise Level  - 9.5
  •     Draw Cycle "feel" - 10
  •     Shootability - 9.5
  •     Advantage - 9
  •     Value -   9
  •     Total Score - 97 out of possible 100

Pros:    Fast, quiet, comfortable grip, low-shock
Cons:    Shorter brace height

Spec Sheet:
  •     Draw weights: 50-90 pounds peak  (71.5 lbs. as tested)
  •     Draw Lengths: 26-30 inches
  •     Axle-to-axle length:  34 7/8 inches
  •     Brace Height: 6 inches
  •     Mass Weight: 4.3 lbs
  •     Let-off:  80%
  •     Grip: two-piece thin wood
  •     Eccentric System:  Revolution Cams
  •     Advertised IBO speed:  343-347 fps (70 lbs, 30" draw, 350 grain arrow)
  •     Finish: RealTree AP (others available)
  •     Cable: 39 ½"
  •     String: 58 7/16"
  •     Silencing System: solid LimbSaver Ultra Quads, string suppressor
  •     Warranty:  improved Limited Lifetime (transferable)
  •     Elite's warranty is one of the best I've seen… they provide a loaner bow if your bow breaks during an expensive hunt

For more information on this and other Elite Archery products visit their website: Elite Archery 

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