The ShootTech Systems Raptor Advance is an interesting concept in archery: it is a tool designed to function both as a compound bow (for hunting large game) and as an advanced sort of sling shot (for hunting small game). It achieves this by including a dual string, on which is mounted both a nock point for traditional arrows, and a magnetic “nock” that holds and fires .38 caliber steel ball bearings.
Some advertised statistics from the ShootTech website for the bow are as follows:
· FPS 410 – 485 ( Depends on diff ammo )
· Draw Weight 40 – 80lbs ( Adjustable )
· Let – Off 60-80% ( Adjustable )
· Axle-To-Axle Length 32 ”
· Mass weight 4.8 lbs
· Brace height 7 ”
I first encountered this bow on a camping trip with some friends, including Tim Stetzer, who is Executive Editor of the Monkey. After firing a few rounds of ammo down range and giving the other campers a few archery pointers, Tim asked me if I would write a review of the device for the site. I was more than happy to do so, as new archery technology is always an exciting prospect. He let me take the bow, and after a few weeks of trying it out and practicing along with my father, Howard Vey, a bow hunter of more than 40 years, I now present the review of the ShootTech Systems Raptor Advance.
The bow was set with a 32-inch draw length and at fifty pounds. We believe it had approximately an eighty percent letoff, but for reasons that will be detailed later could not confirm this. The bow did not come with an integral arrow-rest—upon receipt it was set up only for shooting ball bearing ammo, and fairly extensive testing was undertaken with steel .38 caliber balls. To expedite testing I simply ordered one from Ebay. The rest I ordered, the Octane Hostage XL, is a whisper-style rest that is not top-of-the-line but garners good enough reviews to function as a test subject for the bow. We tested the bow using Beeman ICS 400 gram carbon hunters, two with 100 grain field tips and one with a 100 grain Thundercap broadhead. The sight is the STS mini-3D sight that comes on the bow. Twenty- to twenty-five groupings were fired over two test sessions, and the bow was leveled and center-shot at 20 yards. We did not, unfortunately, have access to an accelerometer or chronograph to test the FPS rate as advertised on the website.
Overall, the device is an absolute joy to shoot. It has a butter-smooth draw, a whisper quiet release, and the wrist shock was all but nil without the use of a stabilizer. It also shot consistent three- to six-inch groups at twenty yards. After shooting nearly twenty flights of arrows, the strain on my arm was next to nothing, and I was still hitting consistent kill-zone groups, which is a very impressive feat. The balance is good and despite a slightly heavy weight the bow feels natural to hold, is easy to aim, and targeting is fast. The STS sight is easy to adjust for finding the center point and it didn’t take us long to bulls-eye the bow. It is also very bright, which makes sighting in very simple and smooth.
At our camping trip we had fun all day long throwing ball bearings down range, and they seemed to make a good impact. Upon formal testing, arrows were getting better than a twelve-inch penetration on a broadhead gel target and while I doubt this bow would achieve any pass-through results, it certainly at fifty pounds won’t have an issue bringing one down in the field.
Indeed, the bow is such fun to shoot, I kept finding myself saying, “let’s do one more flight, just to be sure,” while testing, and this was simply because I was having such a good time putting arrows down range.
Unfortunately, not all is roses in the land of ShootTech. We had a few concerns that the company should address before mass-marketing the bow.
Firstly, we are of the opinion that the company may wish to abandon the “sling shot” functionality and focus solely on the archery. This is for several reasons. Firstly, while at about ten yards the device functioned fine, it’s difficult at best to gain any consistent accuracy with the ball bearings outside of ten or fifteen yards. The reason for this is similar to why smooth-bore muskets were eventually replaced by rifled barrels. No matter how fast you shoot the ball bearing, there’s little to no spin to ensure a straight trajectory. Indeed, on testing we had several ball bearing shots go completely wild.
Secondly, as slingshots for small game go, this device is much heavier and more cumbersome than your standard wrist rocket or high-end sling shot. This means it’s also more difficult to carry on a hike in the woods. Finally, switching back and forth between ball bearings and arrows is a tedious process once an arrow rest is in place—the arrow rest (at least if one uses a whisper style like the Hostage XL or the Quicktune 360 pictured on the website) will be directly in the path of ball bearings fired, which isn’t simply inconvenient—it’s dangerous. Since leveling and sighting in an arrow rest is not a fast or easy prospect, it’s unlikely that once an arrow rest is in place, the shooter will be willing to remove it to go back to firing ball bearings.
Finally, if one wishes to use a bow to hunt small game, there are many options on the market to do so, mostly in the form of small game hunting tips for arrows. There are tips made for turkeys, rabbits, and just about any other type of small game one can imagine. In short, the sling-shot functionality of this is fun, but not practical.
Issues about the device itself include mostly unanswered questions and not complaints, many of which arise from the untested technology. The Power Rubber system used to set the draw weight and as the core of the bow’s functionality is a source of concern. Since the bands are constructed of latex rubber, there is concern about how long of a life they will have. There’s also the very real possibility of the rubber being punctured or cut while walking through the woods.
Along a similar line, the wheel cables are quite thin, leading to concern of excessive wear; they would be easy to cut or break and might be prone to stretching. In the case of both the rubber and the wheel cables, however, long-term testing would be required to determine if these concerns are actual issues.
Replacement parts for the bow are another source of concern. Since this uses a (presumably) proprietary system, it is a safe assumption that parts would be available only from ShootTech. The bow string itself springs to mind immediately as something that would be difficult to replace—it’s a dual string with the arrow nock comprised of a smaller wrapped bow string stretched between the two, and the ball bearing magnet integral as well. It also appears that the bow would have to be practically disassembled to achieve string replacement. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, ShootTech is still working on documentation for the bow, so we cannot confirm this.
Compared to other modern compound bows, the Raptor Advance is rather heavy, though as I said earlier, it’s well-balanced, so the weight might become a minor issue when carting it through the woods all day, but I see this as being a rather minor issue. Of more concern is the fact that at 50 pounds the bow doesn’t seem to gain as much power or penetration as many single cam compound bows on the market. This issue could potentially be solved or lessened by reducing the let off which, given the way this bow functions, might serve to store more kinetic energy. Again, however, with no documentation we were unable to determine how to do so.
Finally, as nice as the sight was to use, it has drawbacks compared to a more traditional multi-pin sight. The idea for the integrated sight is to use pointers to mark different elevation and windage settings, and then physically move the sight to these different settings as needed. While the movement is smooth and not difficult to do, I foresee in a hunting situation it taking too long—certainly loosening a caliper, moving the sight, and re-tightening is slower by its very nature than simply having three pins set and switching your eye between the three. Thus, I would have to conclude that a traditional multi-pin sight would be a superior accessory. Still, for an integrated inclusion, the 3D sight is very functional and doesn’t seem to be cheap or an afterthought. It’s quite usable.
As a follow-up, after shooting probably several hundred shots in practice since my initial draft of this article, the Power Rubber bands are showing visible stretch marks and wear. Upon receiving a pack of replacement Power Rubber, I noted in the instructions that one is expected to smear silicone grease on the Power Rubber to prolong life (the grease is included with the new Power Rubber). This information was not given with the prototype originally.
Here I’ll talk about issues that have little to do with the functionality of the device itself—its aesthetics, the company behind it, etc.
Physically the bow looks sharp. It’s sleek and it looks like something out of a science fiction movie. While more traditionally-minded archers might turn their noses up at the design, I found it to be an exceptionally handsome aesthetic. A friend, upon watching me shoot it, described it as a “ninja bow.” On that end, if you’re into aesthetics in your armory, you really can’t go wrong with this device. It just looks cool.
A separate mounting bracket for a bow-mounted quiver would be an appreciated add-on in the final product, as for now I find I will have to use a shoulder quiver—the hefty weight and the fact that the sight is pre-mounted made me loathe to attempt to put a quiver on, particularly since this would mean removing the existing sight and then having to completely re-sight the bow.
I had some concerns about what the price point of this device would be—a great many of the concerns above come into play specifically if this bow is going to be very expensive. I can see a lot of maintenance needing to be done with the wheel cables, the rubber bands, and such, and if the initial price point is high, particularly given the weight and penetration, that could be a major issue.
Unfortunately ShootTech’s website merely says “Contact us for a quote,” and doesn’t list an MSRP. Initial repeated attempts to contact the company for documentation, pricing information, and instructions on how to change the draw length and how to change the let off went largely unanswered. We did receive instructions on changing the power rubber. Unfortunately, the instructions for the Power Rubber simply explain the process for replacing; they do not tell how to use the rubber for increasing draw weight; how much a single pair of bands on each limb will add, what the “S” and “L” markings on the bands mean, or other such useful information. Experimentation will be required.
Eventually, the company did get back to us with apologies for taking so long, but did not answer any questions regarding MSRP or making adjustments such as draw length, and merely told us that they were working on documentation, which they offered to send when it is complete. This was appreciated, and I look forward to the full set of instructions for the bow.
Last but not least, and of very minor concern, is that the release loop would be better if it were constructed of metal or plastic, rather than cable. While trigger-operated caliper-based releases are the current standard, “snap on” thumb releases are still plentiful and inexpensive, and the cable-based loop makes it near impossible to use one of these.
It is my understanding that the version of the STS Raptor Advance we received for testing is an advanced prototype model, and as such I think this is an outstanding start for a new style of compound bow. As with any item in its testing phase there are still issues to be worked out, not the least of which is the company’s need to be more on top of communications, but the device is an absolute joy to shoot; even target shooting with this is loads of fun.
I would recommend Shoot Tech not put much more R&D into the sling shot functionality, as it seems to me that this gimmick, while fun, has little practical use in the field over traditional sling shots or small-game archery accessories such as special arrow heads. I would also likely replace the integrated sight with a traditional multi-pin, multi-aim-point variety.
The release is smooth and quiet, the bow (at least when shooting arrows) is accurate, and the draw is as smooth as you could hope for. Add to that the relative lack of “snap” resulting in next to no wrist shock, and you’ve got the beginnings of an ace project. Despite the potential issues with the rubber and the thin wheel cables, I am more than willing to take this into the field for use with big game and indeed, I intend to do just that in a few weeks when archery season opens up in PA.
I turned this bow over to Jason for review as he has dramatically more archery experience than I do and has keyed in many factors that I probably would not have even noticed both positive and negative. The main area I would differ with his opinion is on the area of the utility of the bow as a slingshot. That’s the whole point of the bow!
There are a ton of great bows out there and while the Raptor does bring some unique aspects to the table, the most unique thing is that it’s a slingshot, and a darn powerful one at that. I’m a slingshot buff and that’s what attracted me to the bow in the first place. I’m always looking for a more powerful approach to slinging stones and ball bearings and this was certainly an intriguing one. I’ve been keeping an eye out for a modern version or even reproduction of the old stonebow crossbows from the Middle Ages and the Raptor was right along those lines, albeit in bow not crossbow form.
To answer Jason’s question of “why a slingshot over an arrow shooting bow?” the answer is in the ammo itself and the intended purpose of the bow. For traditional hunting he’s absolutely correct, you can do more with an arrow, and in this case more accurately. However the whole point of the Raptor is to provide a different option. It works well with arrows, which is fantastic, but I’d encourage Shoot Tech to keep working with the sling bow concept. First off, it’s a different option for hunting. Is it better? Maybe not, but it’s nice to have some options and fun to do things in a different way sometimes.
Second, the big advantage I see to steel shot over arrows is in the space you save carrying them and the price. Admittedly that isn’t an issue on a typical hunt, but as tool in the survival arsenal I think it well worth considering. Steel ball bearing ammo is cheap and plentiful. We found it readily available at local box stores and if you have source for ball bearings that’s probably better still. You can do an awful lot of practice for not very much cash shooting ball bearings. You can carry a huge amount of ammo in a jacket pocket or a simple pouch too. For storage purposes a .50 Caliber ammo can loaded up with ball bearings would give you thousands upon thousands of rounds stored. It doesn’t take up much space and it doesn’t go bad. I like having lots of ammo. And I like cheap ammo. I like the idea of having a quiet small game getter around and I think the Raptor has a lot of potential in that role.
As to the comparison to a standard slingshot, there certainly are differences between the two. We shot the Raptor alongside three conventional slingshots. Shooting the same ammo I have to say that the range and penetration of the Raptor is worlds above a standard slingshot. We used an hollow core door as a target backing at one point in our shooting. It was an older model and fairly stout despite the hollow center. The Raptor blew through both sides of the door and kept going seemingly undeterred by the barrier. We tested the conventional slingshots as well and even the strongest model only put a slight dent in the front panel of the door. The difference was impressive. Yes, it is a lot bigger than a wrist rocket, but you are definitely gaining something with that increase in size.
I’d like to argue the accuracy point with Jason but that’s one where I can’t counter him. He is correct, we shot fairly large groups with the bow with ball bearings and results were at times inconsistent. We had a half a dozen shooters try it out too over the course of testing so it wasn’t just one of us who had an issue. Rather than abandoning the process though, I’d encourage Shoot Tech to keep tweaking the design. They’ve got a truly unique product to offer the market and one that I personally think is worth continuing to develop. And if they ever decide to do a crossbow incarnation of the Raptor I’d be in for one of those as well! – Tim Stetzer
“Like” the Monkey on Facebook while you’re at it too!
Check out more discussions on the Woodsmonkey Forum: