Admittedly, I’m a bit of a bowhunting gear fanatic. I’m the guy who scours the Internet looking for new product information and counts the days until I can get my hands on the latest and greatest new toys. The forthcoming ATA Show is roughly the equivalent of just about every holiday rolled into one for me. I suppose part of this fascination stems back to my childhood, of which a good time was spent in my dad’s archery shop. So when I was invited up to the Mathews corporate facility in Sparta, Wisconsin to test drive the new Heli-M bow, needless to say I was pretty excited.
Before evening picking up this great new bow, the first thing I noticed was the impeccable appearance. From the new riser design to the gunstock grade walnut grip, the Heli-M is without a doubt one of the best looking bows that’s ever hit the market. Now I know there are a few people out there who don’t care for the looks of the Grid Lock riser, but I’m not one of them. I personally think it looks incredible.
Of course my first question after seeing the bow was about the specs. How does it measure up? Well, the Heli-M measures 30” axle-to-axle, weighs a mere 3.5 pounds, has a brace height of 7 inches and shoots speeds up to 332 feet per second. The Heli-M is available in draw lengths from 26″ to 30″ in 1/2″ increments, and draw weights of 40-50-60-65-70 pounds. It is available both in Lost Camo as well as the popular Tactical finish. Not too shabby, eh?
Upon picking up the bow the first thing you notice is the light weight. At just 3.5 pounds this is one of the lightest high-end bows on the market right now. In fact, the Heli-m is lighter than all of the carbon fiber bows in Hoyt’s lineup, which I find remarkable. Especially when you consider the Heli-m retails for nearly $400 less. While the ½ pound difference between this year’s Heli-M and last year’s z7 Xtreme may not seem like much on paper, the real value of this weight loss is felt when you pick up the bow. It’s one of those things that has to be felt to truly be appreciated. Rest assured that despite its similar specs, the Heli-M is not just a lighter Z7.
A close-up view of the Geo Grid Lock riser shows off how the grid pattern curves with the shape of the riser.
Several people I’ve talked to have questioned how remarkable it really is to make a bow that weighs 3.5 pounds. After all, there were bows that weighed that much nearly 20 years ago. What these people don’t understand is that bows of the past had extremely short risers compared to bows of today. The vast majority of any bow’s weight comes from the metal riser, so as risers have gotten longer and limbs shorter, the weight of today’s bows has increased. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see many bare bows weighing in at over 4.5 pounds. To make a parallel limb bow with a long riser that is strong and stable and weighs just 3.5 pounds is a lot more remarkable than many people give it credit for.
In order to trim off half a pound of weight without sacrificing the strength or integrity of the bow, Matt McPherson and his team had to literally re-engineer just about every component on this bow. Of course the first place they started was with the riser. The Geo Grid Lock design, which is new for 2012, allows for more material to be removed from the riser without giving up any strength. At the same time, the lines of the grid pattern follow the outside lines of the riser which account for the sharp look of the Heli-m.
Outside of the riser, many other components have been redesigned as well. The new Heli-Cam is made from a new lighter-weight material than previous cams, while both the roller guard and string stop have been redesigned as well. I’ve read comments on a few websites that people feel the old roller guard and strip stop brackets were better, but I have to disagree with them. I personally like the slimmer, cleaner look of these new accessories. The support rods are made from carbon fiber so they are just as strong, if not stronger, than the machined aluminum brackets used previously.
The grip of the Heli-M is made from gunstock-grade walnut, which not only looks good but feels great in your hand.
The other light-weight accessory on the Heli-M that’s new for this year is the Harmonic Stabilizer Lite. This innovative little device is mounted directly into the bottom of the riser and helps to eliminate noise and vibration upon release of the string. The new “Lite” version is only 1/3 the weight of previous models, yet just as effective at eliminating vibrations. For those of you who doubt this, grab a Mathews bow with the Harmonic Stabilizer and give the riser a tap. Then remove the Stabilizer and do the same thing. The difference will amaze you.
When it comes to performance, the Heli-m is no slouch. The Heli-cam generates speeds up to 332 fps, which is on par with all of today’s high performance bows. Are there bows out there that are faster? Of course there are. If speed is the name of your game, you should check out the McPherson Monster line-up.
So the question now becomes, how does it shoot? I’m here to tell you, pretty well! Having shot my z7 Xtreme for nearly a year now I can tell you that I honestly prefer the Heli-M in just about every way. The draw cycle is silky smooth and when the cam rolls over into the valley it’s almost unnoticeable. You don’t feel that “thud” you get with many of today’s bows. Yes, the valley is pretty short and doesn’t offer much room for slacking off; however I personally prefer that quality in my bows. With the new positive draw-stop peg on the Heli-M you can really pull against the rock solid back way for an ultra-consistent release.
The Heli-M is one of the finest bows I’ve had the pleasure of shooting. I can’t wait to get mine and start putting it to work.
When it comes to noise, hand shock and vibration it’s virtually non-existent. Between the Dead End string stop, Monkey Tails, String Grub, Harmonic Balancer and Harmonic Stabilizer Lite the Heli-M has enough sound and vibration dampening for 3 bows.
All in all, I am extremely impressed with the Heli-M. This bow is seemingly the ultimate balance of speed, light weight, shootability and shock free shooting. The quality, fit and finish of all Mathews bows is top notch, but the Heli-M truly is a cut above the rest. I’ve already got mine on order and you can be sure I’m looking forward to getting it set up and ready for Spring turkey season.
If you have questions or comments please post them below. I’d love to hear what everyone thinks about this great new bow.