The Mathews Z7 was a very popular bow for Mathews a while back featuring a compact design, decent speeds, and single cam technology. For 2016, Mathews has decided to bring the Z7 back with a newly designed riser for a remake of a classic, which comes with a new name - the Z3. The Z3 is a great bow for shooters wanting the best of the solocam technology smoothness and 80% let-off combined with speeds up to 330 feet per second and a forgiving 7-inch brace height. The 30-inch axel-to-axel measurement is a nice compact design as well, and really brings shooters a nice hunting bow option if a compact bow is desired. The riser is the most notable difference from the current Z3 and the former Z7, with the design moving away from the GridLock riser of old. A bare bow weight of 4.55-pounds may be a bit heavy for some shooters considering the overall compactness of the Z3, but it does not feel too heavy in hand to be a major complaint for most shooters. Perhaps the best part about the Z3 is the $749 MSRP. Although this bow is realistically a few years old, the new designed riser, solocam technology, and performance really do make it a great value despite it basically being a rebuild of a very popular bow several years ago.
The Z3 gets a fresh look from the Lost Camo Z7 in regards to its stock camo pattern as well. The newly designed Lost XD pattern looks really nice on the Z3 design, and helps add a high quality look since it is the pattern of choice on the flagship models for 2016 Mathews rigs as well. Shooters also have the ability to go straight black on the Z3 as well. Similar to other Mathews bows, there is a simple logo on the limbs, and one near the rest mounting holes in the riser displaying the iconic cursive Mathews name.
The Z7 had the Geogrid riser, which was popular with some shooters and not visually pleasing to others. The function was great, and the idea driving the engineering behind the design was sound, but the look it created was debated in regards to how pretty it looked. The Z3 features an entirely redesigned riser, but keeps similar specifications and functionality. For most shooters, the major difference is the look of the new cutouts and the removal of the grid design. The new design adds a little bit of weight to the overall bow with a bare bow weight of 4.55-pounds. For a 30-inch axel-to-axel model, that number seems a little high on paper, but in hand it does not feel too heavy to be a burden. With that being said, the riser is fairly lengthy for the compact design measuring 27.64-inches in overall length. Although the axel to axel is shorter, the riser is fairly long, which will help a great deal with the stability of the Z3 on target.Mathews take dampening very seriously with the riser design of the Z3. The riser integrates the Dead End String Stop system, a harmonic dampener lite, and a harmonic stabilizer lite insert. The combination of these three devices makes really keeps the hand shock vibration and noise down quite a bit. They can also add to the overall cool factor of the bow if shooters decide to accessorize and change out the factory installed black dampeners for some colored ones.
The Z3 comes with the Focus grip installed from the factory. Back in the Z7 day, the Focus grip was an option from Mathews, but the bow came from the factory with the Mathews walnut grip. The Focus grip has proven to be a more standard option for many shooters given the more streamlined and simple design. The rubber composite grip is flat backed and fairly narrow where is sits in the shooters hand. There is a centerline down the back of the grip allowing shooters the ability to see where the mid point of the grip and bow is in relation to the shooters hand placement on the bow. This is a great reference to start reinforcing proper hand placement, but may be less popular for shooters to reference after they get proper form built into their shot sequence. Overall, the grip is comfortable, and should help shooters more consistently hold their bow grip.
It was not long ago, Mathews was strictly a solid slim limb company. Then they started producing the Monster series with split limbs, which eventually carried over to their mainline hunting flagship models as well. The Z3 comes equipped again with solid limb technology. The limbs come in five different poundage configurations including maximum draw weights of 40, 50, 60, 65, and 70-pounds. The 65-pound offering is a great compromise for shooters wanting to max out their limbs, but not willing to draw the full 70-pounds. The solid limb constriction is not able to offer as much pre-stress as compared to the split limb designs, but the nostalgic look of the Z3 will make archers feel right at home with their choice.The limb pockets are fairly simplistic in their look, but the hold the limbs in place at the end of the limbs, and provide a pivoting point for the limbs to flex over toward the cams a bit, which is factored in to where the riser contacts the limbs.
At the time of its original production, Mathews claimed the Z7 cam was their smoothest single cam to date. Although Mathews has produced other cam systems since releasing the Z7 cam, many shooters will still argue how great the Z7 feels and performs. There is no difference with the release of the Z3 model, but it is worth reviewing some of the highlights regarding the Z7 cam system. The downside of Mathews solo cams has to do with draw length adjustments. The cams are designed to be draw length specific, which means they cannot be changed with rotating or replacement modules. This does keep the overall weight of the cam down a bit, which should make them a little faster than those with modules, but it is inconvenient if shooters need to change out the cams for any reason. The dealer has to have them in stock, and many shooters do not have the equipment necessary to completely tear down a bow and start from scratch putting it back together again. The draw length range is rather large though, and will accommodate shooters from 24.5-29.5-inches in half-inch increments. The cams also feature 80% let-off and an IBO rating up to 330 feet per second.
The draw cycle is characteristically smooth to those familiar with single cams bows. Believe it or not, the 330 feet per second IBO rating was actually pretty quick when the original Z7 was produced. By 2016 standards, the Z3 speed rating of 330 feet per second is pretty standard. It is not fast by 2016 standards, but is not necessarily considered to be a slow rig either. The 80% let-off is easy to get used to, and the fairly solid back wall feels really nice holding on the target downrange. There is a slight hump just before the draw rolls over into the let-off, but it is by no means unbearable or uncomfortable. The bow holds well on target for such a short model, and after the shot, the Z3 is extremely quite and shock free. The balance of the bow at rest feels a little bit top heavy, but why accessories are added, and the bow is at full draw, it balances very well vertically and horizontally. Shooters at the upper end of the draw length range, may notice they need to tilt their head into the string a bit for a proper anchor point with the string angle produced by the compact design, but others may not notice too much of a difference.
The Mathews Z3 is a hunting bow. Shooters will feel very comfortable shooting the Z3 competing with buddies at summer 3D shoots, but the purpose of the compact Z3 design is to be a hunting bow, and it meets those specifications very well.
Comparisons Mathews Z3 vs. Z7
The Z3 is a Z7 with a newly designed riser and the option for the new Lost Camo finish. Diehard Mathews' fans are sure to remember how great the Z7 shot and performed, but have likely upgraded since then. For shooters regretting ever selling their beloved Z7, the Z3 can be a great option, especially given the suggested price point of $749. It would be tough to find a Mathews Z7 in brand new condition, and the reproduced Z3 allows shooters the option to take a step back in time and own a high-quality hunting bow with a new riser.
Nothing about the Z3 says budget friendly bow other than the $749 MSRP tag. The rest of the bow is everything consumers have come to expect from Mathews in regards to craftsmanship, design, and shootability all wrapped in a perfect package of the beloved Z7 bow. Shooters regretting the decision to sell their Z7, or those wanting a sweet back up bow will be drawn to the Z3. Shooters just getting started in archery, but want the best equipment to learn on, will also love the idea of being able to purchase the Z3 bow at a great price of only $749. The Z3 is a bit heavy on paper, but it does not feel heavy in the shooters hand, and it may actually help shooters hold steadier down range. It is also a slight pain to have draw length specific cams in 2016 as well, but shooters will be properly set up leaving the pro shop with the bow that fits them the best. Overall, it is great to see Mathews throwing back a bit to offer a really nice shooting popular bow from their past. It will be a nice shooter for anyone interested in a compact hunting bow, or a good reason for guys to pick up a bow they wished they had kept.