Mathews' Solocam massively influenced the sport of archery in 1992. A single cam below a small "idler wheel" on top produced a bow that didn't have the synchronization issues possible in two-cam bows.
Despite Solocam's inherent smoothness and accuracy, rival companies claimed its "nock travel" could be detrimental to accuracy and that two cams are faster than one. (Nock travel refers to non-linear movement of the nock during the power stroke if both cams and/or wheels do not rotate in exact harmony.)
Seventeen years later, Mathews rolled out dual cam hunting bows to offer consumers more choices. In 2014, Mathews is attempting to influence the industry again with its NO CAM bow. Here's the scoop.
Most noticeable about this new bow is its namesake design; it has no cams, rather two 4.82-inch-diameter wheels centered on both upper and lower axles. Alone, they offer no camming action or mechanical advantage affording let-off and power, though they maintain uniformity and timing throughout the draw cycle.
The company says that because the bowstring stays in a single channel, or track, on each wheel that is aligned at all times with the opposite wheel, timing issues are mitigated. Also, it says that because the string remains at the same radius from the center of the wheels' rotation during the entire stroke, nock travel is straight and level.
Two smaller, 1.98-inch wheels are pinned to the axle alongside each major wheel. These AVS (Advanced Vectoring System) wheels are not centered on the axle and therefore provide the camming action necessary to leverage and load the limbs that grant the bow energy. They are responsible for the draw stroke that the shooter feels.
Unlike Mathews bows of the past, which use split buss cables that attach each cam or wheel to the opposite limb's axle, the NO CAM uses cables that slave each small wheel to the opposite let-off module that's affixed to each large wheel. Depending on the "Rock Mod" specified, let-off is 65, 75, or 85 percent and its integrated draw stop is responsible for the bow's solid back wall.
Mathews rates the NO CAM HTR (its 6…-inch brace height hunting bow) "up to 330 fps" IBO with the 65-percent module (as let-off percentage decreases, so does top-end speed). I'll get to the bow's speed later.
If you've seen a Mathews bow in the last five years, you're familiar with the company's long, machined aluminum "Geo Grid" riser that features a top half that appears longer than the bottom. In fact, it's not.
Because the arrow shelf is machined to look like the riser, and the grip is located under the shelf, it gives the illusion that the top half is longer when in reality, both upper and lower cam axles measure exactly 16 ¾ inches from the Berger button. Regardless, the NO CAM appears to be very long, despite measuring only 32 inches axle to axle.
The riser holds short, powerful composite quad limbs that build off the company's Monster and Chill bows to add speed without adding undue length.
In the past, Mathews' Roller Guard, combined with a single cam, made Mathews one of the smoothest-drawing bows out there. The NO CAM's draw is smooth, but to my hands it's not the company's smoothest in terms of draw cycle. It has a fairly abrupt "roll-over" into a short valley — but that is subjective and just my impression, others may feel differently.
A string stop eliminates string vibration after the shot. Proprietary Harmonic Stabilizers and Monkey Tails further deaden what little sound this bow makes, which makes it as quiet as modern bows get.
Mathews has done shooters a service by offering its minimalistic, rubber-coated "Focus Grip" that seasoned shooters tend to like over the form-fitting grips of old. I believe the less a shooter's bowhand touches the bow, the less it can impart torque and influence the shot. I love this grip.
The NO CAM is available in a variety of colors, including Stone Tactical, Lost Camo, and others. What's perhaps more significant, however, is that it offers the bow in four models: The HTR for hunters because it has more speed thanks to its 6 …-inch brace height and three TRG target models: the TRG 7, 8, and 9, with the numbers indicative of their respective brace heights.
My test HTR unit in 60-pound draw weight and 26 1„2-inch draw length proved supremely quiet and incredibly accurate. I shot 2.1-inch groups with it at 30 yards — excellent for me with a hunting setup.
I am a hunter, not a speed guy, so the NO CAMS's speed of 244.8 fps (376-grain arrow) is fine with me. (It should be noted that my test HTR has a short draw length, 85% let-off and is shooting heavier than IBO-standard weight arrows.)
Other companies might argue, however, that they could build a bow this accurate and quiet if they wanted to sacrifice speed. I wish they would. I commend Mathews for making a hunting bow with target-type accuracy rather than trying to push the speed envelope with every new model.
The NO CAM technology looks simple, but it's actually complex. Basically, engineers began with the goal to design a system that would minimize timing and nock travel issues first and then build adequate speed around it.
The single string track made possible by two concentric wheels seems to remedy the cam-lean problem by utilizing buss cables that slave the wheels to each other. The two smaller non-concentric wheels are actually doing the work.
At first I was skeptical of the NO CAM technology, but after weeks of shooting and talking to other experts, I am buying in.
Joe Marzullo is retired from manufacturing and engineering and is named on 37 U.S. patents. His passions are archery and, specifically, pushing the industry by developing his own testing devices and parameters.
"To date," said Marzullo, "the NO CAM is the best bow for lateral bow torque and nock travel that I have tested."
This is significant, coming from a man who is often tough on manufacturers' claims.
My data was gleaned from actually shooting the bow. Of course, plenty of bows, even those with straight line nock travel, can be very accurate as long as they are properly tuned. But the NO CAM was very accurate for me. Point is, Mathews may be onto something with the NO CAM — or at least the single string track concept.
We will see whether it influences the industry or merely shakes it up. For now, the NO CAM is an excellent all-around hunting bow that's as quiet as it is different.