As a result of the popularity of crossbows, the crossbow industry is growing. As a result of a growing industry, crossbow technology is also growing more rapidly than ever before. In recent years, we have seen manufacturers experiment with new, state of the art materials, as well as thinking outside the box as to the way the basic mechanics of a crossbow work. One of the biggest advancements, and quickest to be adopted by manufacturers would be Reverse Draw Technology. So what is reverse draw technology, and what advantages does it offer to the crossbow hunter? Let’s take a look at how this technology works and why it is becoming so popular in todays crossbow market.
Traditional compound bow systems for crossbows have a riser mounted to the very front of the rail, two limbs mounted to the riser with the limbs angled back toward the rear of the crossbow, a set of wheels or cams mounted to the end of the limbs, and a string and two cables that tie the cams together. When drawn, the wheels or cams rotate, compressing the limbs to build up draw weight while also allowing string to role off the wheels or cams to the determined distance to reach the trigger/latching mechanism.
Reverse draw bow systems primarily work in the same fashion where there is a riser, two limbs, wheels or cams, and strings and cables however the main difference is that the riser of the reverse draw crossbow is mounted somewhere either halfway down the rail or even further back behind the trigger mechanism. Because of the location of the riser, the limbs point away towards the front of the crossbow. The draw cycle operates the same as a traditional draw bow system where the string is pulled, the cams rotate, the limbs are compressed to build poundage, and string roles off the cams to accommodate the power stroke, but with one major difference. Instead of the cams rolling outward with the string coming from outside of the bow, on a reverse draw bow, the cams roll inward towards the center of the bow and the string is pulled between the limbs.
So you might be thinking, each bow system is achieving the same result, how does the reverse draw bow have an advantage over the conventional draw bow? There are four main advantages when it comes to the reverse draw technology. Longer power stroke, lower draw weights, less vibration, and better balance. I’ll explain in more detail how each element is effected by having reverse draw technology.
The power stroke of a bow is the measurement of where the string crosses the rail when the bow is at rest, to the point where the string is behind the latch when fully cocked. It acts in the same fashion as draw length would on a vertical bow. To put it simply, the longer the power stroke, the more time the string will stay in contact with the arrow, which gives the bow more time to transfer more energy or momentum to the arrow. This translates to a faster arrow speed. Because a reverse draw crossbow has limbs that point toward the front of the bow, with the string being in front of the limbs, the string sits much further down the barrel and in some cases is almost at the end of the barrel. Compared to the traditional draw bow system, this gives a reverse draw bow a much longer power stroke. This longer stroke allows the reverse draw bow the advantage to accomplish one of two things. The first is be faster than any other traditional draw bow at the same draw weight, or the second is to maintain the same speeds as traditional draw bows but at a lower draw weight, which leads me to my next advantage.
The draw weight of a crossbow is the amount of force it takes, measured in pounds, to compress the limbs of the bow based on manufactures specifications. In other words, how hard it is to cock. Before reverse draw technology, there were two main ways to increase arrow speed. You could lengthen the power stroke of a bow by making the rail longer, which made crossbows feel more front heavy, or increase the draw weight of the bow itself, which made it harder to cock. Then came reverse draw technology. As described in the previous paragraph, reverse draw bows have longer power strokes. What was not mentioned is that they can achieve this without increasing the length of the crossbow. Because of the gained power stroke, a reverse draw bow can now compete with the fastest traditional draw bows but with lower draw weights. Lower draw weights mean crossbows that are easier to cock and bows that are less likely to have failures do to components having to burden less of a load. That’s a good thing when it comes to limbs staying together and the life of your strings and cables.
Because lighter draw poundage limbs create less energy, they also create less vibration. Most people who shoot a reverse draw crossbow for the first time tend to say the same thing after their first shot, “it’s smooth”. Reverse draw crossbows have a smooth feel which really means they have less recoil or vibration after the shot. Again, some of this is related to the lower draw weights, but more in the configuration of the limbs. Most reverse draw bows have long limbs that lay parallel to the rail. Most traditional crossbows have limbs that run horizontally to the rail. When a crossbow is fired the limbs of a traditional bow move forward and come to a sudden stop causing a forward momentum or recoil of the bow. The parallel limbs of reverse draw bows work against each other when fired. One goes out to the left the other to the right. Because of this, they almost cancel each other out when speaking of vibration and recoil. This softer recoil also translates into a quieter bow when fired.
The last advantage a reverse draw bow has over a traditional bow is balance. The bulk of a crossbows overall weight is in the bow assembly, especially the riser. Because reverse draw crossbows have a riser that is mounted more towards the center of the bow, the balance feels much better than having the riser at the very end of the rail. It eliminates the front heavy feel associated with crossbows. Now this doesn’t mean that the overall weight of the bow is lighter. Many times because of the size of a reverse draw riser the overall weight can be heavier, but the perceived weight feels less because the bow is much more balanced. The bulk of the weight is centered more over the grip, eliminating the front heavy feel. This really comes in handy when taking those offhand shots or when having to hold your bow in the upright position in the presence of game.
As you can see, there are some pretty nice advantages to reverse draw technology in how it relates to crossbows. While the idea may have been around for quite some time, only recently has it been put to use. One thing is certain, it looks as it is here to stay. At the time of this article there are four known manufacturers implementing reverse draw technology on current product lines.