Hoyt Contender Review
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Editors' reviewThe Hoyt Contender and the Contender Elite are two high quality top end bows released in 2010. Molded from the tried and true Ultra Elite and Pro Elite from years past but given a few new upgrades to aid in the improvement of shootability and accuracy. Both the Contender and the Contender Elite are very similar with only a few things setting them apart.
Riser-Contender Elite vs. ContenderWith out a doubt as you look at these two bows you will be able to tell them apart just by taking a quick glance at the risers. The Contender Elite uses a shoot-through riser, which is the one of the most stable designs of riser that is made. A shoot-through riser makes for a very stiff riser; which is good for tournament shooters that use a back tension release because pulling against the wall through the shot will not cause much lateral riser deflection. Another good point to the shoot-through riser is that it seems to be a bit easier to balance from left to right at full draw.
The Contender, instead of using a shoot-through riser, uses a bridged riser with an open shelf. Not quite as stiff of a riser as a shoot-through, but still a very strong riser. Bridged riser are also good for shooters using back tension releases because the bridge fights against the torque of pulling through a shot against the back wall.
It is hard to say that one is better than the other because the drive behind the shoot-through and the bridged is for a common goal of fighting riser torque. The Elite though will aid in balancing laterally at full draw so some would say that in and of itself is reason enough to spend the extra $300.
GripThe Contender Series uses a integrated grip that is common on a lot of target or competition bows. There is practically no difference except the Contender Elite is a little bit more rounded off at the top off the grip to aid with hand placement. The Contender is rounded off at the top of the grip but it is a little bit more noticeable on the Elite version. The integrated grip is great for aiding form by reducing the amount of hand torque that a shooter would put on the riser. The down side is there is no protection against the elements; slick when wet and cold as ice when the weather gets frigid.
Color OptionsThe Contender series is offered in numerous colors; fusion, red fusion, green, orange, colbalt blue and jet black are the target colors which usually runs around $100 more than the camo pattern bows. The hunting patterns are Realtree AP, Black out, Half and Half(camo limbs and blacked out riser) and Max-1 camo.
Limbs and Limb PocketsHoyt uses either XT2000 or XT3000 limbs on the Contender Series bow. These limbs are a 5 layer laminated limb that uses Uniform Stress Distribution meaning not just a couple of areas endure the punishment of the draw cycle. The design of the limb allows for energy to be stored along the entire length of limb which reduces stress and creates more speed. Hoyt builds their limbs to withstand 1000 dry-fires which is an incredible number that no one should try to accomplish at home.
The option of the XT2000 or XT3000 has a direct affect on the axle to axle and brace height on these two bows. The XT2000 creates a shorter brace height and axle to axle than the XT 3000. Therefore, the XT3000 is just slightly longer than the XT2000 which is what creates the difference in brace height and axle to axle. On both the XT2000 and 3000 there is the Alpha Shox vibration dampener which is very good at taking residual vibration out of the shot before it even makes it into the riser before it can get to the hand of the shooter.
Hoyt puts a lot of emphasis on the limb pockets of the Contender series. They use a ProLock Pocket which is a very secure connection from riser to limb. The ProLock provides 6 locking points between the riser and limb which equals a very accurate bow overall. When the limbs are very securely fastened to the riser durability and accuracy follow suit. This system is so strong it practically eliminates limb shift, they will hold up from the baggage line at the airport to a harsh wagon ride out to your first target.
Eccentric SystemThe eccentric system on the Contender series is probably one of the most customizable systems that you can find. There are three different cam choices that all change the brace height, axle to axle and the speed. On top of that there are two different limb choices to go with these cams which again change the three main attributes of the bow.
- Spiral X Cams - The fastest option cam that the series has to offer. An advertised 315 fps which is fast enough to make this a target bow that would work well for 3-D archery as well. The Spiral Cams are draw length specific so make sure you know your draw before you order. It is available in draw lengths from 24-31.5" with the shorter XT2000 and along with these limbs with this cam the brace height will be at its shortest at 6 5/8" and 38 1/2" axle to axle. So this cam/limb set up will be the fastest but the most unforgiving. There is also the XT3000 limb/spiral cam combo which is slightly slower at 310fps, but a little more forgiving. The brace height is noticeably longer at 7 3/8" and a 3" longer axle to axle of 41 3/4".
- Cam 1/2 Plus - With the XT2000 limbs this cam system allows for the draw length to be adjusted from 24-32.5" and is the slowest of the cam systems offered, coming in at 308fps. The axle to axle doesn't change much; about half an inch longer at 38 1/8", so it may be noticeably more forgiving and stable when combined with the half inch longer 7 1/8" brace height. The XT3000 limb/cam & 1/2 combo adds some more length to the axle to axle and brace height. The brace height measures at a very forgiving 7 3/4" and the brace height is a whopping 41 1/4" but is a little bit slower at 301fps which is the slowest combination offered for the series.
- GTX Cam & 1/2 - New for 2011 is the GTX cam which is kind of a combination between the two older cam systems. It has the speed of the Spiral Cam and the smoothness of the Cam & 1/2. It is also offered with both the XT2000 and the XT3000 limbs. When combined with the XT2000 the draw length is adjustable from 24.5-31" and slings arrows at 313 fps. The 7 1/8" brace height and the 38 5/8" axle to axle makes this a really good choice for a 3D bow because it is easy to draw, shoots fast and is pretty forgiving. The XT3000 combo is a little bit slower again at 303fps; it too has an adjustable draw length from 26-32.5". The GTX/XT3000 system has a 7 3/4" brace height and a 41 5/8" axle to axle
Draw CycleAs you've read earlier, these two bows have a lot of choices and those choices have a big effect on the draw cycle and the shootability of both of them. The limbs don't seem to have a big change on the draw itself which is a good thing. The cam systems however have a very noticeable effect on the draw cycle.
- Spiral X - This is the roughest drawing cam offered in the series although it is the fastest. The roll over is a little on the abrupt side, but it does roll into a rock solid back wall. It also has a very narrow valley, it is narrow enough that you really need to take some time getting used to it before you pull out the back tension release. Vibration on the spiral cams can be kept to a minimum if the cams are kept in time, although some shooters having timing issues keeping the cams in sync
- Cam & 1/2 Plus - This system is a touch more comfortable to draw; it seems quite a bit smoother without the big hump in the cycle compared to the Spiral. This is an all around softer cam which includes the back wall; it is a little spongy. The valley on this cam though is noticeably longer than the Spiral. Timing is still key in keeping this bow from vibrating out of your hand when you shoot it; keeping this cam in time will help the draw cycle and the efficiency of the shot as well.
- GTX Cam & 1/2 - The GTX cam is Hoyts meet in the middle cam. It shares attributes from each cam to make what some call the best choice. The GTX cam is smooth to draw and shoot all while keeping up on speed. The valley on this cam is pretty good, nowhere near as short as the Spirals and the back wall is much more solid than the cam & 1/2. This is the cam that would look like the logical choice for shooters but the Spiral Cam is the system that people keep turning to time after time.
Best UsageHoyt had the competition archer in mind when they started building the Contender series. The risers alone are perfect for target shooting; seeing that the risers are bridged they naturally deal with the rigors of using a back tension release which goes hand in hand with competition archery. Although, with the XT2000 limbs some people that don't mind hunting with a slightly longer axle to axle would really enjoy this bow; even though these bows are fighting to get over 300fps. The Contender Elite especially looks to be a target/descent 3D bow because of the shoot-through riser. Lateral balance will make a great difference for field shooting out at long distances, but some people will have no problem strapping on some broadheads and looking for whitetail with either of these two bows.
Contender Series vs. Ultra Elite/Pro Elite
The Contender series came about by years of tried and true practices from Hoyts bows of old. The Pro and Ultra series are predecessors of the Contenders. The Ultra Elites and Pro Elites had shoot through risers and the Ultra Tec and Pro Tec bows had a standard open shelf riser. These older bows were limited to the Cam & 1/2 and the Spiral Cams before the GTX Cam was developed for the 2011 lineup Hoyts. The Pro Elite although, being mostly the same as the Contender and Ultra series , was slightly faster while staying smooth and forgiving. While the Contender Series bows have a price ranging from $979-$1379 you will be able to find many of the older bows for much less. The one thing that most shooters will say set the Contender series bows apart are their limb pockets; and most will say that it is absolutely worth the extra money. The ProLock limb pocket is far superior to the Dual locking pockets of old seeing that they provide the limb with a much more secure lock to the riser which increases accuracy and durability.