Customers often ask us bow string material questions. They want to know what is best or what should be used on a certain make/model of bow.
It seems that there is an abundance of false information from ‘string gurus’ on various internet forums so we’ve decided to write a handy guide based on our firsthand knowledge from years of hand-building bow strings. With all the different bow string options out there, it can be mind boggling trying to decide what material you want your new bow string and cable set made from.
Breaking Down the Different Materials Used in Bow Strings
Each bow string material begins with looking at the various raw materials that give each type of string its own properties. I’m no scientist and could really care less about blended/non blended or what grade Dyneema, Vectran, Gore and so on that goes into each material. I will be referring to some of this info for comparison later on though.
I will start off with custom compound bow string options. This seems to be one of the most debated topics. There are a handful of bow string materials on the market today that work very well when it comes to producing a custom bow string that will be durable and stable while providing good arrow speed. These materials would include D97, 8125G, trophy, 8190, 452X and X.
BCY 452X has been around forever. It has proven itself time and time again. 452X is the material that all others are compared to. It is EXTREMELY stable and gives good arrow speed. It is available in solid and speckled colors which is very nice for giving virtually unlimited color options for your custom bow string. The one drawback to 452X is that it is prone to fuzzing. This was addressed when BCY introduced the trophy material.
Next up in our bow string material comparison list, Trophy is basically 452X with an added gore fiber to improve durability. While the added gore fiber definitely improved the durability, we did not care for the material. We found it to be inconsistent from color to color and batch to batch. We also experienced a loss in stability when we switched from 452x to trophy. I still don’t understand how adding a single fiber can hurt stability, but that was our experience. For that reason we quit using trophy after a short time and went back to 452X.
BCY 8125 is another material that has been around for quite a while. This is the fastest bow string material we’ve tested. Due to its makeup it is more prone to stretch in the heat. While some string builders have had success with this material, we do not use it for this reason. 8125 is a great material for modern recurve bow strings both traditional and Olympic due to its added speed with minimal vibration.
BCY D97 is a good all-around bow string that is generally used as an ‘economy’ material in today’s industry due to its cheaper price. D97 was once a major step up from fast flight bow string but has since been replaced by several other better materials. While no longer a top choice for a compound bow string, D97 is still very popular with crossbows and recurve bow strings. Its ‘sponginess’ helps to absorb the shock on these bows without damaging their limbs.
8190 has been around a few years now. Though it’s no longer part of our inventory, when doing a bow string material comparison with the 452X, it has improved durability and better speed. I do feel that 452X has the edge in stability though. I don’t want to give the misconception the 8190 will be stretching all over the place but we have had reports of some minor retiming issues needing to be done. While we prefer X over 8190 for compounds, we have found 8190 to be a top shelf material for crossbows and recurves.
BCY X99 is the newest BCY bow string option, with much of the same performance found in the original BCY X. In a nutshell, it's the best parts of 452X and 8190 wrapped into one material. The gore fiber has been removed (from 8190) and replaced with Vectran (from 452X). Vectran is fiber that gives 452X its stability. We have found the X99 material to give the best combination of speed, stability and durability all in one material. For this reason the BCY X99 is our bow string material of choice.
Other Materials for Bow Strings
Other materials used in bow strings include 652 (Fast Flight) and B55 (Dacron). These are both still widely used on older compound bows, crossbows and longbow and recurve bows. Dacron string works well on older tear drop style compound bows and crossbows. It is also the best material to be used on wooden traditional bows with non-reinforced limb tips. Fast Flight is mainly used on traditional bows with reinforced limb tips and older compound bows.
Finding Your Ideal String Material
I hope this little bow string material comparison guide has helped to answer some of the questions about bow string materials. If anyone has any bow string related questions or topics that you would like to discuss or even have us write about, feel free to contact us through our website.