I misjudged the distance to a buck in November of 2002 and cut hair off his brisket. Instead of bolting at the sound of the shot, the buck looked at the ground where the arrow had hit and then made a small circle straight toward me looking for the source of the bleat I had made to stop him.
He never even heard the first shot – nor the second for that matter. I didn’t miss the second time and he merely stumbled a few yards before falling just 25 yards from my tree. He was a solid trophy buck in the mid-140s and I can attribute his harvest to just one thing: a quiet bow.
That buck is all the reason I need to shoot only the quietest bows I can find and deck them with accessories that will make it even quieter. I’m cynical by nature when it comes to gear.
Not everything I have bought over the years has delivered on its promises, but the bow silencers on today’s market are not among that group. They really work. Here is the kind of difference they can make.
COMPARISONS TO KNOWN SOUNDS
In 2002, I flew out to Washington State to the Sims facility to test bows. My goal was to learn which of the many bows on the market that year was the quietest. I learned something else along the way: how much difference a full decking of silencing accessories could make in the overall sound level of a bow.
We recorded sound data curves on the computer and then I came up with a scientific formula to compute a relative noise level for all the testing.
The relative noise level took into account both maximum amplitude of the sound and its duration. The higher the relative noise level, the louder the perceived sound. Here are a few common sounds for comparison.
Finger snap: Relative Noise Level: 1.22. We conducted this average volume finger snap at the same distance from the microphone as the bows when we shot them.
Clapping hands: Relative Noise Level: 2.03. The maximum amplitude of a person lightly clapping their hands together from roughly two to three inches apart is comparable to a very quiet bow being fired.
However, the handclap doesn’t resonate for as long (the duration is less) so its overall noise level is less than all but the quietest bows carrying string silencers.
Quietest bows: The quietest bows right out of the box (70 pounds draw, 30-inch draw and a 487-grain arrow) with no accessories except a simple rest installed had a relative noise level of 5.31. (Remember this was 2002 so there have likely been some bows made since then that are quieter.)
Compare that to hands being clapped from a couple of inches apart and you see this is pretty quiet performance for a 70 pound bow.
Next, I wanted to see how much difference all the Sims accessories would make when installed on a loud bow.
THE SIMS SOLUTION
It is amazing what you can do with a loud bow when you dress it right. We took the loudest of the 16 bows we tested (it shall remain nameless) and added all the Sims noise reducing products and shot it again. We wanted to see how much of the noise we could remove with these aftermarket products. For the record, we added String Leeches, Modular Stabilizer system, Enhancer 2000, LimbSavers and Grip Wrap.
The Sims products removed 66% (2/3) of the noise present in the bow versus when we shot it right out of the box. That loud bow had a relative noise level of 9.84 right out of the box and only 3.40 with all the Sims products installed.
That’s an amazing reduction in noise and one of the main reasons I feel these products should be standard issue for every bowhunter.
The products reduced the initial amplitude of the noise slightly (the noise associated with the string and limbs bottoming), but where this gear really shined was in the reduction of time it took for the noise to die out.
The noise level of the fully rigged bow damped out in 31 milliseconds as opposed to the bow shot right out of the box that took 74 milliseconds to damp out.
Remember, what you hear (and what deer hear) is just as much a factor of the duration of the sound as it is a factor of the amplitude of the sound.
THE LATEST GEAR FROM SIMS VIBRATION LABORATORY
The Sims line contains a few new products, but that is not to diminish the market importance and continued popularity of their standard offerings.
The LimbSaver Ultra is their most recently introduced limb-mounted silencer and it replaced the original LimbSaver in 2004. Like the original, the Ultra works amazingly well and you can tell immediately when you put them on that a bow is quieter.
Super String Leeches: The standard String Leeches are still in the line, but now Sims also offers the Super String Leech string silencer. They designed it originally for use with crossbows, but they have been well received for use with hand-drawn bows also.
AlphaShox: Sims combined efforts with Hoyt to produce the AlphaShox, a pair of black or camouflage NAVCOM blocks that fit between the split limbs of Hoyt bows.
AlphaShox come standard on 2005 and 2006 Hoyt bows, but are an aftermarket addition that fits any of the recent models of Hoyt split limb bows.
Mini Xtremes: Many people liked the Sims Original Xtreme LimbSavers that mount at the limb bolt but they wanted something smaller.
The originals are still available, but now Sims also offers a smaller version called the Mini Xtreme. The Mini Xtreme eliminates the limb bolt washer and allows you to adjust the draw weight right through the unit.
S-Coil Stabilizer: The S-Coil features the Sims NAVCOM material for absorbing vibration and is flexible so it also works to reduce the shock of the release. You can purchase the S-Coil stabilizer right here at Bowhunting.com for the low price of $19.99. Click here to learn more.
Teflon Cable Guard Slide: This is an overlooked product that I think is one of the several items you can put on a bow to make it idiot-proof. I put one on every bow I set up.
There are two kinds of bow noise: the kind that occurs after you release the string and the kind that occurs before. This product helps to eliminate the noise of the draw.
Wet or frosty plastic cable guard slides are notorious for squeaking and screeching. That won’t happen with self-lubricating Teflon.
SILENCING ACCESSORIES FROM OTHER COMPANIES
Sims was the first, but they aren’t the only company making noise absorbing accessories. The following companies make either limb silencers, string silencers or both.
Fuse StringShox: StringShox appeared in the Fuse line severarl years ago. They came standard on some Hoyt bows, but you can buy them separately through Fuse.
They look like little black rubber footballs that you sandwich between your string strands the same way you attach Sims String Leeches. They have ridges that absorb string oscillation and vibration.
CSS Tuner-Z: Besides making bows, CSS (now owned by Horton) makes a noise silencing product line called TunerZ.
Their Bow TunerZ have stretch-straps that wrap around a bow limb, riser or even a sight frame to absorb vibration during the shot.
Bow Jax Inc.: Bow Jax makes products that attach to the bow to silence noise and reduce vibration. Jax have the shape of an equal-sided cross with flexible arms to move easily and soak up vibration.
New Archery Products ThunderBlox: NAP’s testing shows that their new ThunderBlox reduce shot noise by as much as 75% and remove 30% of the vibration from the bow limbs.
NAP offers three styles: solid limb, split limb and double split limb models. They mount easily on any bow and have a lifetime guarantee.
NAP BlackJack Stabilizer: Utilizing energy fins to dissipate noise and vibration, the BlackJack can reduce noise by up to 75%. You can purchase this great stabilizer in the Bowhunting.com store by clicking here.
PSE String Chubs: String Chubs are PSE’s version of the rubber-like string silencer. Chubs are shaped like the capital letter H and sandwich between the strands of the string.
Actually, String Chubs are part of PSE’s Top Gun line of products. They come standard on many PSE, Browning and AR bows and you can buy them separately to add to any bow on the market.
Tarantula string silencers: Tarantula is an old name in the string silencer market. Their original Tarantula String Silencers still show up on many bows each fall.
Their latest product is String Bats, rubberized diamond-shaped units that sandwich between the string strands.
BOW-MOUNTED STRING SUPPRESSORS
A number of companies make string suppressors that mount right to the bow and cradle the string when it returns to its undrawn position during the shot. Some make the bow quieter and some do not.
I have removed them from some of the bows I own. However, there is no disadvantage in having them installed, because you always take them off and experiment to see which way the bow is quietest.
OTHER BOW MOUNTED NOISE SILENCERS
The innovations in this category are specific to the manufacturer’s bows. In some cases, they can also be made to work on others bows, but they aren’t really marketed that way.
Alpine: Alpine supplies ridged silicone fillers in the gaps between the split limbs. The ridged silicone absorbs vibration at the limb pockets. The company also supplies a riser dampener with these bows (as well as with the Yukon).
On many of the other bows in the line, silicone string dampeners, cable guard dampeners and Universal Limb Tamers come standard.
Alpine also sells those products, as well as their Universal Sight and Quiver Dampener as aftermarket products for any bow on the market.
Browning ImpacStop: Browning bows have long featured an elastomeric filler in the limb pocket that dampened out the transfer of vibration from the limbs to the riser. It is called ImpacStop.
I have shot many Browning bows over the years and as a whole, they have been very quiet shooters. The ImpacStop module (and other aspects of the design) have been successful in their goal.
Martin: Martin’s version of the riser-mounted vibration dampener is called the VEM, short for Vibration Escape Module. The latest version of the VEM is called the Omega VEM or Omega V, for short.
There is a weight suspended in the Omega V that is free to move in any direction against the resistance of the thermoplastic to absorb and burn up vibration energy.
There are two Omega Vs on the riser, one adjacent to each limb pocket.
Pearson/McPherson VibX: The VibX system acts as an isolation layer that separates the stabilizer attachment bushing from the rest of the riser.
The result is a more active stabilizer (the entire stabilizer is thereby flexibly mounted to the riser) and less shock and vibration during the shot. Less vibration means less noise.
Mathews: Mathews was one of the first companies to put a vibration absorbing system right in the riser. That was back in 2000 when they introduced their Harmonic Damping System.
Since then the system has been in nearly every bow they have made. The system is comprised of a weight suspended in the middle of a spoke pattern of rubber fingers that allow the weight to move in any direction to absorb vibration.
Mathews also began using String Suppressors in 2002. When the string returns to its undrawn position during the shot, it snubs down on the rubber cradles of the suppressors (one cantilevered off the end of each limb) to eliminate bowstring vibration.
Most, but not all, current bows offer this feature.
THE ROLE OF STABILIZERS
There are many stabilizer companies on the market and their performance is another subject in itself.
However, without going into a lot of detail, I can at least say that testing I have supervised using vibration analysis equipment shows that a good stabilizer will reduce overall vibration near the grip area by 10 to 15%.
Solid stabilizers don’t absorb vibration, they merely balance the bow. In order to absorb vibration, the stabilizer has to have moving elements that are flexibly coupled to the bow (or have moving weights or gel materials inside) so the stabilizer (or something within it) can move independently of the bow.
That is how you eliminate shock and vibration. You can’t do it if nothing moves.
With the elimination of 10 to 15 % of the bow’s vibration, you will notice a slight reduction in noise, but this is not nearly as significant as the reduction you will notice with limb-mounted dampeners and string-mounted silencers.
There is no question that a quiet bow will produce more kills for your customers over the long haul. It worked for me and it will make a difference for anyone with a couple of twenty-dollar bills in their pockets.
Selling bow-silencing accessories is very gratifying because your customers can immediately sense the value from the very first shot. With today’s aftermarket bow silencing accessories, you can finally sell a fast and quiet bow.