PSE Carbon Air Review

PSE Carbon Air

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  • Comes standard with America's Best Platinum Strings and Cables
  • IBO rated speeds of 340 feet per second
  • A soft case is included with the Carbon Air bow
  • 6-inches of draw length adjustment with a rotating module


  • Some shooters claim a bit of handshock without accessories installed
  • MSRP of $1499

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Editors' review

With the advantages of a carbon riser becoming increasingly popular each year, PSE has decided to introduce an all carbon bow to the 2016 market. PSE engineers designed the Carbon Air to be the lightest all carbon bow in the industry tipping the scales at a light 3.2-pounds bare bow. This extremely lightweight shooter clocks in with the HD cams at 340 feet per second, with a 6 1/8 -inch brace height, 80% let-off, and a 32-inch axel to axel measurement. The Carbon Air is an enticing hunting bow for anyone, but especially for those packing a long way considering it is roughly a pound lighter than many other popular hunting bows on the market. Some shooters claim to have experienced some vibration after the shot without accessories, and the $1499 price tag makes it one of the most expensive rigs for 2016. However, if money is not an object, and carbon is a desired characteristic, the Carbon Air is one heck of a bow.


The PSE Carbon Air is offered in four separate finish options. Considering the Carbon Air's designed purpose as a hunting bow, each of the four finish options available work well for that style of archery. The red accent color added to the bow stand out with each offering, but is not overpowering and really does look nice visually. Shooters have the option to change the color scheme a bit with a PSE color kit if they are interested in a little different look. The color kits would change the dampeners and the cable slide color, but there is not a way to change the limb graphics and PSE badging.


The new Carbon Air riser design is different in regards to how it is manufactured as well as how simplistic it looks. PSE produced their first carbon riser in 1996, and although a great deal has changed in the archery industry has since then, it is reassuring to know the Carbon Air is not just a thrown together product. Carbon offers a great deal of superior qualities including the ability to align fibers for additional strength. A quick look at the 2016 PSE product brochure and you will notice the comparison of the Carbon Air to that of an F22 Raptor or a Lamborghini, since they all utilize carbon components to maximize performance. PSE chose to utilize what they call a true single carbon tube rather than fusing multiple tubes. PSE claims this ultimately increases rigidity and strength when compared to fused carbon tubes increasing the superior strength to weight qualities carbon already possesses. The end result is the lightest carbon bow on the market tipping the scales at only 3.2-pounds. The carbon tube is also filled with a PSE proprietary Structural Rigid Acoustic Core (S-RAC) technology. The S-RAC core assists with dampening vibration and reducing noise and aides in insolating the carbon for a warm feel even in the most extreme hunting conditions. Although shooters will notice other things about the newly designed carbon riser, these are perhaps the two largest advertised and hyped features for the Carbon Air.Within the simplistic riser design, shooters are sure to recognize the "Arch Bridge" look. PSE has not used a bridged design in recent offerings with their aluminum riser bows, but the engineered purpose of further strengthening the riser and reducing torque are undeniable. Instead of one portion of the riser taking the majority of the force, the bridged design allows for a more favorable distribution outward along the curved or "bridged" portion. Attached to the Arch Bridge, shooters will also notice a relatively short cable slide system, which does not allow much travel. When paired with the HD cam system, the cables do not require much movement, but the design change does stand out initially. The first production round of bows had an issue where the plastic seem was on the cable slide causing excessive wear on the cables. To remedy this, some shops chose to serve the cables where they slide through the guard. Although this helped with the wear issue a bit, it also made a bit of noise while the bow was drawn and could be felt. PSE has offered a fix to the slide, but it is worth noting that some shooters have experienced some issues. Is it enough of an issue to not purchase a Carbon Air? Perhaps not, but for the suggested retail price, there should be no issues regarding quality control.The Carbon Airs monocoque design requires the use of threaded machined aluminum inserts, customized stainless steel stabilizer bushings, and an integrated Backstop 4 string stop system to be added to the carbon. For most applications, this works well. However, if the string stop needs to be changed, for any reason, it will need to be taken to a dealer, and perhaps sent back to PSE to be fixed. Although a string stop breaking is not a normal occurrence, it could be a significant issue if it occurs during the peak of the rut and the bow needs to be sent back to PSE.


The PSE chosen grip for the Carbon Air is the B.E.S.T Raptor grip, which is integrated directly into the riser. Although PSE has done this with their aluminum risers in the past, the Carbon Air grip does not have rubber side plates. Instead, the grip is simply the carbon riser material with some PSE badging. For those comfortable with the B.E.S.T. grip from PSE in previous years, the B.E.S.T Raptor will be wider and thicker creating a little more space for the hand to fit on. Although the grip is a bit larger than other PSE offerings, the general shape is the same and the function of being a repeatable handle all continue with the Carbon Air. This is the grip used on several 2016 models including some great target and multipurpose bows including the Beast EXT, the Supra EXT, and the Decree HD for 2016 as well.


The Carbon Air features the highly pre-stressed split limb X-Force technology they are known for. Titanium limb and pocket hardware reduces the overall weight of the Carbon Air by 2.5 ounces compared to the standard equipment used on some other PSE models. Maximum draw weights for the Carbon Air are available in 50, 60, 65, and 70-pounds and can be turned down roughly 10-pounds below that. The Shock Modz limb dampeners fit between the limbs to create a place for noise and vibration caused by the shot to go.

Eccentric System

The Carbon Air comes with a decently performing Hyperdrive or HD cam clocking in at 340 feet per second. The HD cam is a familiar one in the PSE lineup as a carryover from last year, and offered on four separate pro series models in 2016. The HD cam has been a popular cam because if its offered adjustment from 24.5-30.5-inches with a rotating module, 80% let off cams, and an optional limb stop post for a customized back wall feel.

Draw Cycle/Shootability

The HD cams are smooth drawing and hard hitting, which has proven to be a great combination for archers on the market for a hunting bow. With the ability to be adjusted in half-inch increments without new cams or modules, the Carbon Air is able to fit a large range of archers. The cams take a little to get started at the beginning, and then build up rather quickly. The roll over into the 80% let-off and back wall is also a smooth transition and the hold on target is easy. The HD cams have the ability to be shot with string stops or an optional limb stop, so the back wall can have a different feel depending on what shooters actually want. The feel at the back wall is becoming a topic of discussion in regards to what feels best for each shooter, and the ability to choose which feel is best is a nice thing for PSE to incorporate. The first thing shooters will notice about the new Carbon Air is the weight of the bow. 3.2-pounds feels more like a youth bow instead of a high performance hunting machine, but there is a market for lightweight equipment. The benefits of a lightweight bow vary a bit depending on the use. For some shooters, a lightweight platform allows for added accessory weight to be placed on the bow for a more desired feel or balance. For other shooters, a lightweight bow is easier to pack around on long excursions. For a typical tree stand hunter, the lightweight benefits may not be as significant as those putting legitimate miles on packing through the mountains, so everything is relative to what the shooter needs. Regardless of which camp shooters are in, the overall mass of the bow will be identified quickly. From there, shooters will have an opportunity to feel the grip, which is a bit thicker than some of the previous flagship models, but perhaps more favorable for shooters switching over to PSE. As the bow settles in on target, the pin float is not as bad as one would think for a 3.2-pound bow. With the great feeling back wall, the bow does remain on target and it balances pretty well before adding accessories. After the shot, there is a little vibration felt in the hand when shooting the bow and a rest. As mentioned earlier, a benefit of a lightweight bow is the ability to add weight where shooters want it. However, if a shooter wants a lightweight bow simply because it is easier to carry around, adding weight to tame a little vibration may not be desired. After a sight and an 8-inch stabilizer were added to the set-up, any vibration felt as a bare bow was significantly dampened if not eliminated. Overall, the Carbon Air feels great in hand, draws well, and is a solid performer. A light weight bow is not desirable for every shooter, but those interested in a high performance carbon bow owe it to themselves to give this one a few test shots.

Usage Scenarios

The Carbon Air is a hunting bow by design. The specifications are ideal for many shooters wanting a hunting rig in regards to a 32-inch axel to axel length, 340 feet per second, 80% let-off, lightweight, and warm to the touch in the most extreme weather conditions. Those packing miles of terrain each day through the wilderness and mountains will surely notice the 3.2-pound bare bow weight, but those walking a few hundred yards to their favorite field edge may not fully appreciate the overall mass. The specifications of the Carbon Air are not the standard numbers for serious 3D shooters or paper punchers, but the accuracy and feel of the HD cams would make multitasking with the Carbon Air a viable option.

Carbon Air Package

The Carbon Air is the highest priced bow offered in the PSE Pro Series lineup and should be a popular offering for those wanting what the Carbon Air has to offer. With the premium price also comes a few factory upgrades to perhaps help justify some of the cost. The Carbon Air comes with a nice soft shell case from PSE with the brand logo and the Carbon Air badging. The bow also comes from the factory with America's Best Platinum Strings and Cables and titanium limb bolts and packet components.


The Carbon Air is not the first carbon bow from PSE, but it is the most recent, and probably the only known carbon bow from PSE. Many shooters on the market today would have no recollection of the 1996 PSE carbon design, but it is fair to mention PSE is not just joining the party in regards to the benefits. The HD cams are a very popular system for PSE, and the 340 feet per second speed rating is a good performance point to be in the carbon riser market. Forum members are begging PSE for a carbon bow that is even faster or having a longer axel to axel, but for a new carbon bow, the Carbon Air is a great compromise of all specifications. It is worth noting again $1499 is a steep price for many shooters, but the Carbon Air shoots well enough, and is marketed toward enough shooters it will do very well in the premium hunting bow market. Although some testers will notice a slight vibration if shooting the Carbon Air without any accessories, try the rig fully set up in order to give it a fair shot.

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