April 06, 2015
By Jon E. Silks
Bear Archery is all about strength, durability and performance. Bear focuses on making hunting bows that will withstand brutal weather conditions and hard hunting while living up to the reputation of company namesake Fred Bear. It is serious business at Bear as the company works to match the intensity of its customers.
A product of that focus is the 2015 Arena 34, which is a longer axle-to-axle bow with notable speed. A new H15 Hybrid cam system drives the Arena, while a set of Max Pre-Loaded Quad Limbs use a beyond-parallel position to reduce shock and vibration. Also featured on the new Bear rig is the company's Hinge Cable Guard, Bi-Dimensionally Adjustable String Suppressors, a long, machined, reflex riser and more.
Long, Lean & Loaded
The Arena is built on a long, sleek riser that uses spacious bridging to bolster strength in high-stress points and eliminate material where possible to reduce overall mass weight. It begins with a forging of aircraft-grade aluminum and is finished with a full machining process. Bear offers the Arena in standard Realtree Xtra Green along with optional Shadow Black, Olive, Sand and Snow camo.
Bear's signature, dual-position Bi-Dimensionally Adjustable String Suppressors give you the ability to change the proximity, relative up and down position and even the contact point and angle of the suppressors in relation to the string. The connecting fixture is offset away from mounted accessories to balance the bow, and the rubber dampening blocks that actually contact the string are offset from the mounting bar to soften the cushioning effect. The end goal is to quickly stop string oscillation and thereby reduce vibration and noise.
In 2014, Bear introduced the Hinge Guard, which uses a full-capture cable containment block, hinged off angle, to control the motion and position of the cables during the draw and shot cycles. The end result is less overall torque, which translates into improved arrow flight and consistency.
The Arena comes with two grips — the outer Bear-Logo Overmold grip and a set of side-panel inserts recessed in cutouts. The handle area of the riser is contoured and fully machined to comfortably complement the side-panel option.
Generating IBO arrow speeds of 340 fps on a 6€‰1„2-inch brace height and 75 percent system letoff takes significant power and efficiency. That job falls to the H15 Hybrid cam system featured on the Arena. In addition to raw speed, Bear was also looking to make the shooting experience enjoyable with a smooth draw cycle.
This is, of course, a balancing act between the abrupt, squared-off draw cycle common to speed bows and the bell curve-like flowing transitions of older round-wheel bows. Many iterations of cam geometry were entertained before the 7075 aluminum H15 was finalized.
Draw-length selections from 26€‰1„2-31 inches, including half sizes, are available on a single rotating module that does not require a bow press to adjust. Cable draw stops on both cams are located in holes that match up with the draw length. There are also optional draw stops on each cam that contact the limb for an extra solid backwall feel.
Bear outfits the Arena with its Max Pre-Load Quad limbs that are fully machined from fiberglass material and then matched into sets based on deflection values. Advanced computer modeling software is used to pinpoint the exact configuration that allows the limbs to bend further and store more energy.
Limbs are available in 50-, 60- and 70-pound peak draw weight options. Limbs are precisely aligned to the riser through the Zero Tolerance limb pockets.
My first impression was that this bow weighed under 4 pounds, but the scale revealed a 4.1-pound mass weight. My point is that the Arena 34 feels lighter than it is. I was either feeling particularly Thor-like while testing, or Bear did a great job with weight distribution.
I'm going with the latter. The cams get you to peak weight quickly, which gives the Arena an aggressive feel up front, but the draw cycle slopes off to the valley for an easy transition.
It has a quick kick followed by some low-level vibration at the shot — nothing major. The Arena is a quiet shooter and without a doubt one of my favorite Bear bows to date.
Manufacturer: Bear Archery, 800-694-9494
Model: Arena 34
Cam System: H15 Hybrid
Weight: 4 pounds (advertised); 4.1 pounds (tested)
Brace Height: 6€‰1„2 inches
Axle-To-Axle length: 34€‰1„2 inches
Letoff: 75 percent
Draw Weights: 50, 60 and 70 pounds peak
Draw Lengths: 26€‰1„2-31 inches, in half-inch increments
Riser: Reflex, machined aluminum
Limbs: Max Pre-Loaded Quad Limbs
String: Contraband, BCY X, 62.5 inches
Cables: Contraband, BCY X, 37.6 and 35.8 inches
Grip: Bear overmold grip, one-piece or side panels
Finish: Realtree Xtra Green standard, with many other options available
Advertised IBO Speed: 340 fps
Suggested Retail Price: $899.99
Comments: Well balanced and fast.