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One of the most exciting developments in modern bow-building is the movement toward versatility and adaptability. Sure, you can still buy a flat-out speed bow, or one designed for ultimate forgiveness, or the best hunting bow for beginners or a model touted as the top women’s compound. But these days, you can buy a bow that not only checks several boxes, but can grow with a young or beginning shooter as they advance in bow hunting or target shooting. The PSE Stinger Max is a perfect example of a highly versatile and adjustable bow suitable for archers of any skill level.
PSE Stinger Max Specs:
Speed: 304 fps
Axle-axle length: 30 inches
Brace height: 7-¼ inches
Weight: 3.8 pounds
Let-off: 85 percent
Draw weight range: 22-55 lbs., or 30-70 lbs.
Draw length range: 21-½ to 30 inches.
Price: $479.99 (package)
What Kind of Hunting Bow Is This?
The Stinger Max is a perfect entry-level compound bow, thanks to an incredible amount of adjustability. One of the huge challenges of buying the best compound bow for a new shooter is draw weight. Invariably a beginner does not have his or her shooting muscles developed, so starting with a low draw weight that not only makes shooting a pleasant experience, but ensures proper form throughout the shot, is difficult. But with even a few weeks of practice, that initial draw weight is child’s play, and it’s time to move up.
The ante is upped even further with a young shooter whose body is growing almost before your eyes. Starting draw lengths can increase by inches in no time, especially for a fast-growing kid. Only a quality bow that adapts to these rapid changes is a reasonable choice and the cam on the Stinger Max is up for the challenge, with plenty of adjustment capability in both draw length and weight. Even better, the Stinger Max cam offers a “performance” setting that adapts to a shooter with more advanced skills and desire for better speed. And there are two versions of this bow; one that peaks at 55 lbs. (23 lb. bottom weight) and another maxes out at 70 lbs (30 lb. bottom weight).
In short, this is a compound bow you can give to your kid, or an eager beginner, and watch them shoot well immediately. But there’s plenty of performance here for a shooter or hunter who becomes more serious.
How We Tested the PSE Stinger Max
I visited my good friends at Coyote Creek Gun & Archery, where bow techs assembled the accessory kit that comes with the Stinger Max package: full-capture “biscuit” style rest, five-pin sight, stabilizer, and tube-style peep. We did a quick paper-tune to ensure good arrow flight, and I purchased six Victory VForce Sport 400 arrows and a half-dozen 100-grain field points. Then it was out the door to do some more serious shooting.
Back home I set up my backyard 3-D course, which consists of two Block targets and three 3-D critters (a deer, polar bear, and velociraptor from Rinehart targets) that allowed me to shoot at ranges from 10 to 35 yards, as well as elevation (my deck, which offers a great tree-stand view). I spent a pair of pleasant, late-spring evenings putting the Stinger Max through its paces.
How the PSE Stinger Max Performed
It’s a given that a single-cam bow will never be the missile launcher that cam-and-a-half and double-cam models are, so I didn’t expect the Stinger Max zip darts—and it didn’t. While I didn’t shoot through a chronograph, I’d be shocked if the 400-grain arrows broke the 275 fps barrier. Still, the arrows were flying flat enough to be accurate to 30 yards and shoot through a deer if equipped with a sharp broadhead. Admitted personal bias here: I’ll take a bow I can shoot well over a flamethrower any day—and virtually every beginner- to intermediate archer will agree.
Single-cam bows practically guarantee a pleasant draw cycle, and the Stinger Max exhibits that quality and then some. I found the bow easy to pull, with a smooth valley and a solid back wall. I’ve always enjoyed a bow that “settles in” nicely and I was pleased by the comfort I felt as I held and aimed the Stinger Max.
Noise and Vibration
Controlling noise and vibration is usually easier when designing a bow with slower IBO speeds, so I wasn’t expecting any huge problems in this area with the Stinger Max. Still, I was pleasantly surprised with how quiet this bow shot. Vibration-damping spacers between the split limbs certainly helped reduce any felt vibration and sound, and the solid limb pocket design ensured stability. The kit also includes a stabilizer, which further reduced any racket or tingling.
Fit and Finish
Companies throw all their fancy stuff at the flagship bows to make them look nice, so I wasn’t surprised that the Stinger Max didn’t “pretty” me to death. But it’s as nice-looking as any budget bow out there, and this year’s version offers seven different camo patterns for shooters who are persnickety about that kind of thing. The limb pockets and other “fittings” are nicely machined and appear solid. PSE didn’t even attempt a grip on the Stinger Max; this doesn’t bother me, but some shooters like a little something to hold on to.
Balance and Handling
Weight can be a huge factor in how a bow “feels” to a shooter. Lightweight bows can be a joy to carry, but wobble and be difficult to control at full draw. Too heavy and the bow can be rock-solid at the draw…until you have to hold at full draw on a buck locked behind a tree forever. So it’s a balancing act, and at 3.8 pounds this bow just just felt right to me, with a nice balance, which combined with the solid back wall of the draw, made the bow settle in nicely. I also liked the slim grip, which made the Stinger Max easy to shoot accurately.
What This Compound Bow Does Best
The PSE Stinger Max has been around since 2008, and is one of the venerable company’s best compound bow models because it delivers exactly what it promises: solid shooting and hunting performance at an affordable price. And while this PSE compound bow has been around for a long time, the company has continued to nurture the model by adding even more adjustability. The redesigned cam and it’s “Grow With Me” and “Performance” settings are actually features you’d expect on a top-end model. If you’re looking for the best beginner compound bow that can grow with you as your interests and abilities increase, the only reason to look further is personal preference. Whether you’re an entry-level shooter or a bowhunter hoping to stay in the sport without spending a fortune, this bow delivers.
What This Compound Bow Does Worst
This is not a high-performance bow. There are scads of flatter-shooting bows out there, as well as ones that look prettier and can be tricked out with the latest accessories. If you’re shopping for a high-speed, fancy-looking bow with the absolute best components, you’re going to have to pay a lot more. This is a no-frills, budget bow meant to provide all the performance you need to get the job done at a nice price.
Does the PSE Stinger Deliver on Its Mission?
If you hate a pretender, you’ll love the PSE Stinger Max, because this compound bow knows its place. PSE annually cranks out some of the fastest-shooting, high-performance bows on the market, but this hunting bow offers a pleasing alternative. While the company can push the performance envelope as well as anyone, it seems committed to sticking to core principles with the Stinger Max; a bow that accomplished its mission at its introduction and continues to deliver the goods over a decade later.
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