Making the decision to get into archery is easy. Deciding which bow to get isn’t. As far as sports equipment goes, bows (especially compound bows) are serious investments. Bowtech and Bear are two of some of the most well-known brands in the archery community, but when it comes down to it, which is better?
The answer to that question is going to depend mostly on your preferences, but there are a few areas in which one brand, in particular, will shine through. This article will explore all those areas so you can be sure that you’re making the right decision for you.
Most History: Bear
A company’s origins can be indicative of their business practices and the quality of work that they put out.
Before we get into their merchandise, let’s take a moment to review the origin story of Bowtech and Bear respectively.
Relatively new to the archery scene, Bowtech was founded in 1999 by John Strasheim and Kevin Strother.
The two were avid archery fans who decided to pool their knowledge in an attempt to create the best bows on the market.
Despite their brief history, Bowtech quickly rose to the top of the charts after releasing their first bow model in 2000.
Their fresh perspective on bow manufacturing may be a credit to their name, but some seasoned archers could be skeptical of breaking from tradition.
Bear Archery is what some might call a veteran in the bow-making game.
In the throes of the Great Depression, Fred Bear built a successful company focused on providing people with the ability to feed themselves and their families.
A widely respected craftsman, Fred Bear was inspired to begin his journey when he saw a documentary on Art Young and his bowhunting adventures.
Fred remained involved in the bow-making process until 1988 when he died. The company continued to flourish in his wake.
The transition from necessity to recreation seems only to have bolstered Bear’s commitment to offering some of the best bows the modern age has to offer.
Best Innovations: Tie
Anyone familiar with Bowtech Archery knows that they specialize in compound bows.
In fact, they sell exclusively compound bows.
And the compound bow industry owes a lot to Bowtech for its contribution to the design and power of modern bows.
This is because of Bowtech’s innovative research and development director, Craig Yehle, who came up with the widely-preferred binary cam system for compound bows in 2005 and patented it in 2007.
Since being introduced to the market, the binary cam system has been one of the most popular options for compound bows.
Though there are still some who stick with the single, hybrid, or twin cam systems, binary cams are generally praised for having the best synchronization of any other system, not to mention their ability to increase speed and their ease of use.
The invention of binary cams was a monumental moment in the history of archery, and Bowtech has certainly seen the benefits of having such a creative and forward-thinking team.
Bear hasn’t been messing around all these years. They, too, have introduced some imperative design innovations to the archery community.
Namely, the takedown recurve bow design.
The creative idea to make the limbs of a recurve bow removable came from the brilliant mind of Fred Bear, who introduced it in 1969.
The takedown recurve bow is still an incredibly popular choice today for those who prefer the feel of a traditional bow but don’t want to sacrifice the convenience of modern bows.
Not only do the removable limbs make transportation and maintenance easier, but they also open up the door to complete creative control.
The Bear Archery website allows customers to choose either a left-hand or right-hand riser, along with a selection of fiberglass limbs in several finishes.
It’s no wonder that Fred Bear used this custom takedown bow for the remainder of his hunting days.
It’s clear that the archer community owes a lot to both Bowtech and Bear, which is why this category has no clear winner.
Best Price: Bear Archery
Bear is clearly the friend of bargain bow shoppers.
This isn’t to say that you won’t still need to save up to purchase a Bear bow, especially if you go with one from their Legend Series, the most expensive of which costs $1,499.99.
Aside from the pricey Perception, however, the majority of Bear Archery’s bows are less than $1,000, even those in the Legend Series.
The most you’re going to pay for a regular Bear Archery bow is $699.99, and that much will get you either the legendary Kodiak Recurve Bow or the new Divergent compound bow, which shoots at 338 feet per second.
To get Bowtech’s flagship bow, you’re going to be coughing up twice that amount.
Designed specifically for target shooting, Bowtech’s flashy Fanatic 3.0 with XL Cam System goes for $1,499 MSRP.
The Fanatic joins eight other Bowtech bows at the higher end of the price spectrum, all with price tags over $1000.
Bowtech’s cheapest model on their website is the Convergence, which is $599. That’s the lowest that Bowtech will go, while at Bear, $599 is more like the middle to high end of the price spectrum.
Bear Archery won this category on the assumption that first-time archers aren’t willing to take out a second mortgage on their house to pay for their first bow.
However, if this isn’t your first bow or you’re sure that you’re going to stick with the sport, going with the higher-end Bowtech model may be the better decision in the long run.
Best Variety: Bear Archery
One quick look at Bear’s website confirms that they haven’t lost touch with their roots.
The intelligent people behind Bear have made sure that there are plenty of compound bows for modern, power-seeking bowhunters to choose from, but they also offer traditional bows.
Some bow companies offer a few recurve options to satisfy their more traditionally-inclined customers, but Bear really has the best selection when it comes to traditional bows, including longbows.
But the variety doesn’t end there.
Bear has thought of every faction of archers and created a bow for them.
Most notable is their collection of bows for kids, which is nearly as extensive as their adult bow selection.
Those looking for kids’ and beginner-friendly bows from Bowtech will be sorely disappointed.
Not only do they not make any models for kids, but they have also limited themselves to exclusively compound bows.
This may translate to higher quality design for those specific bows, but it also narrows their audience quite a bit, if it wasn’t already narrowed enough by their hefty prices.
If you are just looking for a compound bow to go hunting with or to do some target shooting with, Bowtech has you covered.
But if you’d prefer to look at every kind of bow there is, only Bear will be able to do that for you.
Most Awards: Bowtech
When attempting to choose any product, it can be helpful to see what the critics have to say.
Bows are no exception, and fortunately, there are many professionals who have taken the time to rank the best bows on the market for us.
Since Bowtech doesn’t offer traditional bows, we’ll look exclusively at awards given for compound bows.
Bowtech wastes no time in letting visitors to the website know that they have manufactured an award-winning bow.
Namely, the Realm SR6.
This new compound bow with overdrive binary cams was named Editor’s Choice by Outdoor Life, who said that it topped their ranking easily by acing nearly every category they use to test the year’s best compound bows.
Another model of Bowtech’s that comes with an award is the Carbon Icon.
The Carbon Icon was also given special acclaim by Outdoor Life and was branded a “Great Buy” by their editors.
Bear has also been mentioned in some of the top compound bow rankings for 2019, but they are nearly always at the bottom of the list, whereas Bowtech’s Realm SR6 and SS consistently appear at the very top of the list.
In fact, Bear’s Perception model, which is one of their most popular for the year, barely performed well enough to make it onto Outdoor Life’s list of top picks.
Besides the “Excellent” rating the perception was awarded for the speed category, their best rating was “Good,” which they received for noise, handling, and fit and finish.
It was only rated “Fair” for accuracy and forgiveness while receiving “Poor” marks for draw cycle, vibration, and value.
This is perhaps why Bear has continued to include traditional bows in their line up because their compound bows are just clearly not competing with other compound-heavy brands like Mathews and PSE, let alone Bowtech.
Best Design: Tie
Bows are primarily practical devices, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t look good.
If you’re looking for a bow with a sleek look, you can probably turn to either Bowtech or Bear and find something you like.
For example, if you’re going for a very minimalist look, Bear’s Kuma model fits the bill with a very slender, sophisticated design.
Bowtech can also deliver on a sleek look and minimal add-ons with their Fanatic 3.0 models.
Conversely, if you’re more interested in a bulky build, Bowtech offers the Carbon Icon DLX, which comes with a Black Gold 5-pin Rush sight, a RipCord “ACE” Rest, and a TightSpot 5-arrow quiver.
With all those accessories, the Carbon Icon DLX may look even buffer than the archer wielding it.
To that same end, Bear’s Approach HC compound bow, part of their Legend Series, also brings a hefty look with its included Trophy Ridge 4-pin sight, Trophy Ridge Whisker Biscuit, Trophy Ridge 5-spot quiver, Trophy Ridge Static 6″ stabilizer with wrist sling, peep sight, and nock loop.
Additionally, both companies offer multiple color and pattern options on almost every model they offer.
Therefore, this category does not have a clear winner because you are likely to be able to find a good-looking bow with either company.
Best Quality: Tie
As with so many things, the archery community cannot seem to agree on this one.
To many, it would seem that the more expensive option is always going to be the best one because all that money has to be paying for some superior materials or processes, right?
Some attest that this is true and that the quality of Bowtech cannot be beat.
However, it seems that just as many insist vehemently that the inflated price tag of Bowtech bows do not reflect their actual level of quality.
If we’re looking at the number of awards that each company has accumulated, it would seem that Bowtech is obviously doing something right.
But can we be sure that we aren’t simply reading the biased opinions of those that dropped over $1,000 on their new Bowtech Realm SR6?
After all, no one wants to admit that they overpaid for a bow that easily could have costs hundreds of dollars less than what they paid.
My advice: don’t take others’ word for it.
Go to your local pro shop or archery range and test out a Bowtech and a Bear for yourself to decide what feels best to you.
Maybe ask the employees at your pro shop how often they see Bowtech and Bear bows coming in for repair.
The word “quality” means something different to every archer, and you will have to decide for yourself what it means before you unknowingly spend a huge chunk of cash on a Bowtech when a Bear would have served you just as well.
Fastest Bow: Bowtech
Because the speed of compound bows is tested according to a strict set of rules, the advertised speed you’ll see for most bows is only at a 30-inch draw length.
This can sometimes be misleading because many compound bows can extend their draw length past 30 inches.
For this reason, you’ll see that Bear Archery has ranked over Bowtech for speed, but this isn’t quite correct.
On their website, Bear advertises their fastest bow, the Perception, as being able to reach 350 feet per second, which is quite fast.
However, this speed is only achievable at its maximum draw length of 30 inches.
At the same draw length, Bowtech’s BT Mag X can only reach 323 feet per second.
But unlike the Perception, the BT Mag X can extend its draw length to up to 34 inches, at which point it can reach 360 feet per second.
So, if you’re looking for the fastest compound bow at an exact draw length of 30 inches, Bear is the winner.
But if you’re looking for the bow with the fastest possible speed, Bowtech has Bear beat.
Best Customer Service/Warranty: Bear
Over the years, Bear has perfected their customer service techniques.
With an easy-to-use account system, you can quickly contact Bear about any issues you’re having with your bow through their website without having to be on hold with a far-away call center for hours.
Additionally, they have a 5-year warranty for full coverage and 50% cost coverage after five years on all limbs.
Risers and cams are covered under a lifetime warranty.
Bowtech, by comparison, has a lifetime warranty that only covers bows bought from certified Bowtech dealers, meaning that no bows bought over the internet are covered by the warranty.
Considering that so many of their bows are available over the internet, this doesn’t seem right.
Historically, their customer service has also been lacking. Those who were unaware that their bow did not come with the lifetime warranty find themselves on their own with no help from Bowtech’s team.
If you’re looking for a bow that will help you bag all kinds of game, you’re going to need one with low weight, conducive to walking around in the woods for hours.
Between the two companies, Bear offers the lightest compound bow with the Cruzer Lite at 2.9 pounds.
Bowtech’s lightest bow, the Carbon Icon DLX, comes close behind at 3.2 pounds.
It may not seem like that big of a difference, but those few increments can make the difference between a wobbly-armed miss and a steady bullseye.
Best Accessories: Bear
You can’t borrow your friends’ stabilizers and sights forever.
Sooner or later, you’ll need to purchase some accessories for your shooting activities, and when you do, Bear will be the place to go.
Compared with the accessories offered by Bear, the Bowtech selection is absolutely pitiful.
Bear has everything from release aids to targets, while Bowtech only offers a few quivers, a bow case, some grips, one dampener, and one rest.
You could get a nice Bowtech bow and go shopping around for accessories all over town, or you could get in all in one stop at Bear Archery.
Buying a bow is an important decision. Make sure that whatever you pick isn’t just the most popular choice, but what’s the best choice for you.
If you are considering a Bowtech bow, you might want to check out our other comparison posts: