Today is Mathews "Launch Day" — the day the bow maker unveils its 2017 flagship HALON 32 for the world to see. And while today's announcement will generate plenty of buzz and send people rushing to the Mathews website for a closer look, what bowhunters really want to know is how the HALON 32 performs in the field.
That's where I come in.
A couple weeks back — just before my annual Illinois rut hunt — Mathews sent a HALON 32 and encouraged me to take it along to the Land of Lincoln instead of my 2016 HALON. Although I'm certainly not in the habit of getting a new bow and hunting with it only days later, in this case the transition was seamless.
In fact, performance between the two models is so similar that I moved the sight from my HALON over to the HALON 32 and found that my windage (left/right) was dead on from the very first arrow. And after a couple minor adjustments to the elevation settings of my pins, I was piling tight arrow groups into the target.
Clearly, this dog would hunt! Before we get to that, however, let's a take look at some of the HALON 32's key features and how they impact bow performance.
Like the original HALON, the HALON 32 features Mathews' machined aluminum Dual-Bridged Riser, which features numerous cutouts throughout its structure and bridges at both the top and bottom to maximize strength.
The riser also features what Mathews calls a True Center Nocking Point, which places center shot in the very center of the system for perfectly horizontal nock travel and maximum accuracy. Finally, the riser features both front and rear stabilizer mounts so archers can balance the bow perfectly for their shooting style.
Although not the lightest riser on the market (the HALON 32 I tested has an advertised mass weight of 4.7 pounds, and tipped the scales at 6.1 pounds when fully accessorized), it is definitely stout.
Clearly, Mathews designed the HALON 32 to provide a very strong, stable shooting platform while handling whatever abuse America's bowhunters can dish out.
As the name implies, the HALON 32's riser is a bit longer than the original to increase the axle-to-axle length to 32 inches. As with bow weight, increased bow length creates a more stable, forgiving platform.
The added length also creates a less severe string angle at full draw, which is generally conducive to better shooting posture.
Like the original HALON, the HALON 32 is available in brace heights of 5, 6 or 7 inches, with speed on the 5-inch version of the HALON 32 topping out at an advertised 350 fps IBO — a mere 3 fps slower than the 5-inch brace-height version of the 30-inch axle-to-axle HALON.
As with the original HALON, the technological centerpiece of the HALON 32 is the CROSSCENTRIC cam system, which features a unique design that simultaneously enhances efficiency, power and accuracy.
The bowstring rides directly on the cams. Meanwhile, one cable is attached directly to the bottom cam and yoked at the top, while the other cable is attached directly to the top cam and yoked at the bottom. The yoked cable ends then attach to rotating wheels that ride to the left and right of the cams.
This design really pays dividends for the archer as the bow is drawn and the load is transferred from the string to the cables. In a more traditional cam system where the cables are attached directly to the cams, this force tends to yank the cams sideways, creating system torque.
This not only makes it difficult to maintain proper aim on target but also erodes accuracy because the cams introduce sideways oscillation to string. The CROSSCENTRIC system eliminates that torque by splitting the load on the cables evenly on the left and right sides of the top and bottom cams.
Another significant benefit of the yoke wheels in the CROSSCENTRIC system is that they employ advanced vectoring. Although this sounds complicated, it really just means that the wheels rotate at varying distances from the axles during the draw cycle in such a way as to maximize stored energy and system efficiency.
Finally, the draw cycle on the HALON 32 employs a partially concentric payout. Again, this sounds complicated, but it just means that the rounded portions of the cams mimic enough of the original NO CAM design to create a very smooth feel while still generating excellent speed.
With a 6-inch brace height, 29-inch draw length, 60-pound draw weight and 420-grain hunting arrow, my HALON 32 clocked in at 275 fps on my Easton Pro Chronograph, which translates to 70.55 foot-pounds of kinetic energy.
Those who don't shoot their hunting bows through chronographs on a regular basis might be surprised by that number, since it's so much lower than advertised IBO speeds.
However, you need to keep in mind that IBO specs call for a 30-inch draw length, 70-pound draw weight and a 350-grain arrow — on the light side for a hunting shaft. In my experience, any bow that reaches the 275 fps threshold when set to my specs falls within the upper end of the speed spectrum.
The HALON 32's split limbs feature a parallel configuration that offers inherent benefits in cancelling leftover shot noise and vibration.
They also have a notably wide stance, which Mathews says makes them more "torsionally rigid." In layman's terms, that means the limbs won't twist during the shot cycle and introduce cam lean.
The HALON 32 features the Mathews FlatBack grip, which strikes a nice middle ground in that it's neither too fat nor too skinny.
Although I personally prefer the Mathews Focus Grip, which concentrates hand pressure in the center, the FlatBack grip offers some additional substance without being obtrusive, and the flattened back promotes consistent hand placement at the base of the palm.
As you would expect from a Mathews rig, the HALON 32 features both a Harmonic Damper and Harmonic Stabilizer Lite mounted in the riser, along with a riser-mounted string stopper, all of which work together to quell post-shot noise and vibration.
The HALON 32 is a rock-solid, top-quality hunting bow that is a pleasure to shoot. The bow is very steady on target, generates excellent speeds and produces consistent groups even at longer ranges.
Bow balance is generally good, though some shooters may find benefit in the addition of a rear stabilizer to correct slight forward lean.
The HALON 32's draw cycle is smooth and consistent, with no harsh transitions, which makes it easy to pull back not only on the range but also in the treestand. The bow also has an ample valley and solid, if not rock hard, back wall via the dual, cam-mounted cable stops.
Shot noise from the HALON 32 is minimal, and any vibration and hand shock is so slight that I find I am not even aware of it while shooting. All in all, the HALON 32 is an impressive, all-around performer that's more than capable of getting the job done in the field.
So, how did my Illinois hunt turn out? Well, on the very first morning, I had a nice 8-pointer slip in behind my stand and offer a perfect angle at just 17 yards. I did my part and the HALON 32 certainly held up its end of the bargain with a perfectly placed arrow that passed clean through and put the buck down in seconds.
With results like that, maybe I should start getting a new bow before every hunt!