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40 Y/O Grizzly

PostPosted: Fri May 07, 2010 10:36 am
A friend of mine knew I had been lookin for a good deal on an older model Bear recurve bow. Well he broght me one yesterday and made me an offer I couldn't refuse. The bow is between a 70 and 72 model and only has a few minor scratches and scuffs. The finish looks to be origional and is probably as glossy any new bow. The bow is 58" and is marked 50X#, which I was told ment in excess of 50# at 28". I am lookin forward to gettin some practicing done with this bow and trying to get my first deer with a traditional bow..

Re: 40 Y/O Grizzly

PostPosted: Fri May 07, 2010 1:21 pm
by Stringwacker
Nice bow....

If I'm not mistaken the "x" after the bow weight adds 1 pound so you have a 51 pound bow. X's before the bow weight is a reduction by the same formula.

Re: 40 Y/O Grizzly

PostPosted: Fri May 07, 2010 2:04 pm
That sounds right. I think he told me 51 or 52 lbs. Thanks for the info. :)

Re: 40 Y/O Grizzly

PostPosted: Fri May 07, 2010 10:44 pm
by FireCloud
I believe I have seen an official statement about the # sign in relationship to draw weights printed on Bear recurve bows but at the moment I cannot put my hands on that information. However, my recollection is there is NO TRUTH to the idea that Bear uses one or more X marks either before or after the draw weight printed on the bow to signify a higher or lower draw weight by one pound increments. Here is why.

The recurves manufactured at that time were "hand lettered" on the riser with the serial number, length, and draw weight. This lettering was done before the final coats of finish were applied. Data sources such as the "Traditional Bowyers Encyclopedia" describe the manufacturing process for this era of Bear recurve bows in great detail. (Lots of fascinating reading material in that book!)

Generally, bows were manufactured in several standard draw weights for most recurve models. The encyclopedia even lists the tables of available draw weights for some models. No efforts were made to test each and every bow to determine its specific draw weight, as that would be a cumbersome process requiring stringing each bow, setting brace height to specs, establishing a nocking point, and then testing each bow with standardized equipment to determine whether it was a pound or two more or less in draw weight. Then the entire process would have to be reversed so the bow could be packed unstrung with an unopened new string, etc. before being wrapped for sale. By using extremely good manufacturing techniques such as cutting wood for both sides of the limbs in pairs from the same piece of hardwood, Bear Archery made bows that were within the tolerances set by the AMO standards of that day without having to test each and every bow to determine its individual draw weight.

There was another reasons why bows were not individually tested beyond the extra manufacturing time consumed to do so while making the bow. That is because the draw weight on a recurve bow varies by the length of the draw!! In general, for each inch of draw an archer has which is greater or less than the standard 28" draw length the draw weight either increases or decreases by 2 to 3 pounds. So, a bow that is precisely 50# at 28" would shoot 52# or 53# at 29 inches and 48# or 47# at 27 inches of draw. No manufacturer can know what draw length the end user will have so it is simply not worth making an excessive effort in mass production bow manufacturing to test and state the draw weight with extreme precision.

That said, custom archery shops can and will build a bow that will shoot a specific draw weight for any given archer. Thus if a smaller archer draws only 26 1/2" inches but wants to shoot a 50# recurve bow, any good custom archery shop can construct such a bow matched for that shooter.

One final thing that also easily proves the rumor of X before or X after the draw weight in precise one pound increments is false is the obvious application of "common sense." If Bear Archery did test each bow to determine its actual draw weight, since they "hand lettered" all the information on each bow, why would they not just write the correct draw weight, if known, directly on the bow? It makes no common sense to write X50 on a 48 pound bow when you could MORE easily simply write "48" if you actually know the exact draw weight.

Like most stuff, I believe that is just folklore that has circulated since the day about 41 years ago when I first bought my Bear Kodiak Magnum recurve. I am confident Bear Archery simply did not intend for the X to mean one pound. So a 50X labeled bow does not necessarily mean it has a 51 pound draw weight. The X probably DOES however signify that Bear believes the bow has MORE than a 50 pound draw weight, but they are not making any claim of exactly how much more.

For those who are interested in traditional archery, here is a good link to a page that gives a lot of useful details regarding dating an early Bear bow.

Bows like mine which were manufactured in the 1964-1969 era can be dated to the year of manufacture by looking at the first digit of the serial number. The "8" on my bow indicates it is a 1968 model. Bows like your newly acquired one should start with the letter "K" if they were manufactured in the 1970's. There are some other things that help date bows such as the "coin medallions" on the bows or the materials used in the bow construction.

Congratulations on getting a fine bow!! I know you will enjoy it greatly.

PS> I cannot be sure from the photos alone, but it looks like the Bear medallion on the riser is the nickle-silver one used on Bear bows manufactured in 1971 and for a portion of 1972. Your bow is not a 1970 model, as the Bear medallions were brass that year. Likewise it was not made in late 1972, as Bear started using plastic medallions that were above the bow surface.

The serial number is a "K" series which is consistent with the 1971-72 period of manufacture. And the riser appears from the photos to be the "impregnated maple" used in that period, also known as "future wood." The limbs are fiberglas laminated.

Your bow looks to be in great shape, but you will find that a Bear bow of this age and type are extremely durable and rugged. With sensible use and care, it may well last the remainder of your life. Maintenance is minimal to these bows and they are impervious to any and all normal weather conditions but extreme cold and heat can affect them.

Do be careful how you string and unstring this bow. I never use a "step through" method nor any stringer aid. Those methods make it easier to warp a limb accidentally. Once warped, getting one back to shape may not be easy to do.

I string my bow using the "pull up riser, push string into notch" method. To accomplish this, (if right handed) grip the bow riser with your right hand with the face of the riser pointing up. Put the lower tip of the bow under the insole of your right foot. Be sure it is seated well under your foot and hold your foot steady. Avoid stepping on the tip; just hook it under your instep to hold it in place. The upward pressure on the bow as it is strung will pull that tip into your insole.

Slide your left hand just below the loop of the bowstring on the upper limb and push the string up as you pull the riser straight up with your right hand. You will also be pushing down on the upper limb with the palm of your left hand as your fingers slide the string up. It will require you to be able to exert a considerable amount of force as will need to achieve about 8 to 9 inches of bend in the limbs in order to seat the bowstring in the upper notch. Check carefully to be sure the bowstring is well seated in both the upper and lower notches before drawing the bow. If not, reseat the bowstring properly.

To unstring, simply reverse the process. This method puts equal pressure on both limbs but avoids the limb "twisting" that can sometimes occur with step through string methods or using some string aids. With this method, there is never any sideways pressure exerted on the limbs so they cannot be accidentally twisted. This is an "old school" method not normally used by most people today but it really is the best way to string any recurve.

Re: 40 Y/O Grizzly

PostPosted: Sat May 08, 2010 8:38 pm
by Stringwacker
I know that the actual bow weights of many of the Bear bows can be found by looking under the side strike plate. While it's just a guess on my part, I suppose this was done after the sanding process (but before finishing) where the bow could be correctly coded for the bow poundage (by whatever method was employed). Even this process must have had it's faults as I remember that I had a Kodiak Magnum that was labed 50# that had a 56 under the strike plate. That probably explains why I always thought the bow felt like it pulled more than 50#:)

As far as the X thing goes, you probably are right though there is a belief by many that this is the way it worked. Finding the X's on the Bear Products was somewhat rare though Ben Pearson used the X system with great regularity on their bows...and I truly believe that is what it meant. I have a couple of Ben Gamester recurves one marked 45XX and the other 50XX. I used to have a Pearson Mustang that was X45 and it was my sons first stickbow that he was shooting by 11.

There is so much history in all those vintage bows. I suspect that in the time those bows were built (which was long before machined mass production), there was quite a few different systems employed by the manufacturers of the time.

Re: 40 Y/O Grizzly

PostPosted: Sat May 08, 2010 11:24 pm
by FireCloud
Stringwacker wrote:
There is so much history in all those vintage bows. I suspect that in the time those bows were built (which was long before machined mass production), there was quite a few different systems employed by the manufacturers of the time.

I am not trying to be confrontational nor to "burst anyone's bubble" but instead am trying to share some factual knowledge for those interested in traditional archery. Unfortunately, the above quoted statement is completely inaccurate. The bow shown in this thread (a 1971 or 1972 model) was not built long before bows were machined mass produced by Bear Archery. The facts about Bear Archery's bow making history are well recorded and can be found from a number of sources, chiefly the Bear Archery business itself which is still operating today. I will share a few of them with everyone.

Fred Bear first began making bows in Detroit in 1933, as part of his advertising and silk screen printing business oriented toward the auto industry. Bow making at that point and for the next 15 years was indeed a one at a time custom bow making operation. There was no mass production of bows by Bear until the company built a brand new factory in Grayling, Michigan in 1947. This factory ushered in the Grayling era of the company's history and permitted the company to begin machine mass production of bows in 1948.

Fred Bear's chief bow maker, Nels Grumley, was largely responsible for the making of most Bear bows in the pre-Grayling time period and bows he made are marked with inscriptions such as "Bear Archery by Grumley." But Grumley felt bows should NOT be mass produced so when Fred Bear opened the factory in Grayling to begin churning out bows by machine on a huge volume basis, Nels left the company.

Here is a brief description of those events taken from the website which contains an abundance of historical information about Bear Archery's history.

The Grayling Era bows of Bear Archery

Beginning in 1947, Bear Archery moved into a new plant in Grayling, Michigan. Bow sales were now beginning to soar as new archers and bowhunters entered the sport in record numbers due in large part to the successful promotions of Fred Bear.

Fred realized that he could not meet the demand which would come from these new recruits by making bows one at a time like Bear had been doing since it's inception almost 15 years earlier. So he came up with a new method of mass producing bows, finally allowing his company to meet this demand. But Nels Grumley would not accept that quality bows could be made by any other manner than one-at-a-time, so Nels left the company to go out on his own.

Demand for Bear Archery bows skyrocketed due to Fred's marketing programs and bows were mass produced at the Grayling factory by the thousands. The above website also notes:

"Without a doubt, Bear Archery Company has produced more traditional bows than all the other traditional bow companies combined. In fact, in one year alone (1975), Bear Archery made over 360,000 bows."

Thus, as you can see, it is completely inaccurate to believe that bows were not being mass produced in huge quantities in those "early days" of traditional archery. The Bear Archery company story is really the story of changing the production of bows from custom made one at a time bow making to assembly line mass production. While Bear Archery did still take custom bow orders after it began mass production, virtually its entire production from 1948 on is nothing but mass produced bows on a factory assembly line.

Therefore, the bow pictured in this post is one of many hundred thousand bows produced in 1971 or 1972 when this bow was built. It was most definitely mass produced. But that is NOT to say this is not a very high quality, well made bow! Mass production at Bear Archery DOES involve a lot of critical attention to quality on each and every bow built. In fact, Chapter 6 of the Traditional Bowyers Encyclopedia has a photo of Neil Bryce, considered the #1 bowyer at Bear Archery, manufacturing a bow. Neil has worked at Bear making bows since 1967, and may well have made my 1968 bow and the bow shown in this thread. He is still making bows at Bear today.

Much of factory mass production at Bear involves bowyers doing "hands on" detailed craftsmanship work. With the involvement of people like Fred Bear himself who worked there until age 86 and Neil Bryce, the level of craftsmanship and attention to detail given ever bow made is a "step above" anything that one would ordinarily consider possible with mass production. It is really hand craftsmanship using high tech machines and equipment but in the end is still a primarily a large scale "woodworking shop" operation involving considerable hand labor and direct supervison of the tasks rather than just a robot machine building a bow. In fact, per the Bowyers Encyclopedia, the notches for the strings are still hand cut by the bowyers at Bear using a rat tail file.

I do, however, want to make a correction of a misstatement in my earlier post. I made the point that mass production on a scale where several hundred thousand bows are produced each year does not really allow for individual testing of the draw weight for each bow. I did some additional research and did uncover a detailed description of the process Bear Archery uses to test its bows during the manufacturing process. Bear does, in fact, test each bow for its draw weight at 28". This testing is done using a steel cable however and not an actual bow string for safety reasons. I did not find any information stating whether or not the test results from using a steel cable duplicate those achieved if a normal bowstring is used.

I also did not find any information indicating that Bear uses the "X" system to mark on each bow the exact draw weight measured using the steel cable. My general belief is that Bear is not trying to precisely indicate the exact draw weights for each bow produced but only to essentially certify that a bow at least meets the stated draw weight. This would assure the consumer that he is not paying for a bow that would not achieve the actual draw weight stated under the prescribed test conditions. So I still believe a bow marked 50X does not necessisarily draw exactly 51 pounds. Some bows marked that way might draw 51 pounds, 52 pounds, or even a higher draw weight.

That is not to say OTHER manufacturers have not used the X system. Stringwacker may be right about that. If anyone has any information from a reliable source that does show Bear used the X system in this way, as an afficionado of traditional archery I would enjoy learning about it. Please share it with me if any of you do find a source that confirms this system was used.

Re: 40 Y/O Grizzly

PostPosted: Sat May 08, 2010 11:48 pm
Thanks Firecloud for the very informative post. With just a few minutes of research I had narrowed down the year of the bow to 1970-72 (the fellow I bought it from thought it was a late 60's model). If I remember correctly the K series serial numbers didn't start until 1970 and the U.S. paton date under the large standing bear ended in 1972 and that is as far as I got. I don't know very much about bows, compound or traditional other than I like to shoot them and I want to learn as much as a I can at least about my own stuff if that makes any sense. I look forward to picking a few brains for info on this site if yall will allow it.. :)

Re: 40 Y/O Grizzly

PostPosted: Sun May 09, 2010 7:18 am
by Stringwacker
That bows were mass produced in this time period is without dispute. In 1976, Bear Archery had it's best year producing 360,000 bows (of which 40% were estimated to be compounds). Yet that being said, recurve production in the 60's and early 70's wasn't the machined automated assembly process that is associated with compounds today.

In Dick Lattimer's (Marketing Director for Bear Archery) book "I Remember Papa Bear" he describing how Bear Archery was able to survive the UAW strike in Grayling. He said " Up until 1974, 100% of the bows we made were recurves. They required a great deal of hand workmanship and skills in forming and tillering them for maximum performance. It was really an art. But by the early 70's the compound bow came along. These bows were generally made out of cast metal handles, fiberglass or composite limbs, pulleys and cables. They were mechanical contraptions, as opposed to our traditional handcrafted products. They required assembly skills, not neccesarily the old fashioned woodcrafter's skills"

Lattimer went on to explain that had not the compound bow with it's easier to build (half the labor required) characteristics came long, Bear Archery may not have weathered the UAW storm and faced severe financial difficulty due to the loss of skilled labor that producing the recurves required.

I had this thought in mind when I talked about 'machined mass production' and how the manufacturers of the era (Pearson, Bear, etc) often employed different systems in their production of handcrafted products. I wasn't implying that bows were built without the use of machinery or just one at a time. No doubt I didn't provide enough explanation to what I was trying to convey.

Back to history aspects of Bear Archery...

How many know that that one of the 6 sites discussed as Bear Archery's new home (with it's relocation from Grayling Michigan).... was Indianola Ms? Obviously, Indianola was passed over for Gainesville Florida but it's an interesting disclosure in Lattimer's book.

Re: 40 Y/O Grizzly

PostPosted: Sun May 09, 2010 9:15 am
by Stringwacker
Back to the "X" thing...

I had never really thought too much about it until Fireclouds comments. He brings up a good point on why Bear (or any company for that matter) would use a "X" symbol for poundage variation instead of just writing it on the bow? I went to Ebay and looked at the old Bear recurves and I didn't see any with the bow weight "X" in the pictures...and some were even labled 46# etc which is off the 5 pound standard system. I would guess that some years they did it one way...maybe some years another? I don't know. I would think from a retail marketing concept, it would make sense to label weights in 5 pound lots. Let's say Howard Brothers (a defunct retail center) wanted 25 recurve bows in 1970. It was easy for the chain to order (10) 45 pound bows, (10) 50 pound bows, and (5) 55 pound bows. Maybe in this case the "X" system was used as some sort of 'truth in marketing' idea because obviuosly bows don't hit those weights exactly. The addition or deletion of bow weight could be covered by a minimum of two "X"'s and still not cause confusion on the order. It's just wild speculation on my part with no basis of fact. Still, everyone once in a while you get exposed to something new that you haven't thought about so I'll give Firecloud where credit is due.

In a quest to understand this better, I posted the question on another national website to what Bear Collectors or others might say. It's an interesting read, but no one can provide any written reference material that might clear this up. ... CATEGORY=3

Re: 40 Y/O Grizzly

PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2010 6:17 pm
by jv
Looks a lot like one of the Bear recurves i favorite recurve was a Ben Pearson

Re: 40 Y/O Grizzly

PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2010 8:29 pm
by FireCloud
When writing, it is often very difficult to convey a thought exactly as you intend to a reader. I have that problem all the time. Stringwacker, I did misinterpret what you were trying to say in your post. I got the idea you were thinking recurve bows were not being mass produced in the early 70's when, in fact, you were saying essentially the same thing I have said...recurves were being made in factories using modern manufacturing equipment, but still requiring considerable hand labor and skill to do so. So there is no fundamental difference in our thinking here and I agree with all you have said in your second post.

If you do find out something definative about the X system being in use at Bear Archery from some who respond to your post, I would love to know about it. And thanks for the info about Indianola being a possible site for the Bear factory. I have not read that book but probably will do so just to see what other neat tidbits I can learn about Bear Archery.

I think your speculation is right on target about the "stock" bows being marketed and sold in certain easy to order poundage categories. That is why I think the X simply indicated the bow exceeded the stated category, as in 50X meant "more than 50 pounds" and not necessarily 51 pounds. I could be wrong however.

Many people do not understand that a recurve has a variable draw weight which relates to the distance of the draw. You can, in effect, easily achieve a greater poundage of force by "overdrawing" a recurve. To do this you only need either a longer arrow (if using a broadhead) or an overdraw arrow rest (if using a field point) and to change your anchor point to a location further back.

For instance, I anchor my right thumb at the corner of my mouth but if I simply moved my anchor point back to, say, under my ear lobe, the draw weight would be increased by 2 or 3 more pounds because of the extra inch or so of pull. It is not possible to change the draw weight of a compound bow merely by altering the anchor point and draw length in this manner.

For beginning traditional archers (and maybe for anyone) tinkering around with your anchor point can be VERY disasterous to your accuracy if you are also instinctively shooting. I don't use any sights, but it should be readily possible to reset sight pins at any new anchor point and still achieve decent accuracy with a recurve.

Overall, I would recommend finding a comfortable anchor point that works well for you then shooting from that same anchor point for the remainder of your life. You want coming to anchor to be as automatic as breathing so that you never have to think about it and always hit the exact same anchor point. Consistency is everything when instinctively shooting. It is like acheiving a stable, repeatable golf swing or getting in the groove with your bowling form.

Re: 40 Y/O Grizzly

PostPosted: Sat Jul 10, 2010 5:57 am
by dublelung
I don't know a thing about the x's on the Bear Bows but I do know the book " I Remember Papa Bear" is a great read for anyone interested in archery. I've read it a few times and thoroughly enjoy it.