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Hoyt vs Mathews: What’s the Real Difference Between These Top Bow Makers?

March 15, 2024 - Blog

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When it comes to any good brand rivalry, fans of one are ruthless critics of the other. How many Chevy trucks have you seen bearing window stickers depicting that young man relieving himself onto the Ford logo—and vice versa?

If we were to search for an equivalent rivalry in the bowhunting world, Hoyt vs Mathews has to be it. Both companies have been building incredible compound bows for decades. But if you’re a Hoyt guy, odds are you don’t care for Mathews. And if you’re a Mathews guy, you probably don’t like Hoyts. The reason for this has as much to do with the brands’ marketing as it does with the bows themselves.

Just look at the websites for the two bow companies. Hoyt’s homepage is largely set on a white backdrop. Mathews’ is mostly black. Black and white. Day and night. Good and evil? That might be a bit much.

Mathews’ current brand callout is “Elevating the Archery Experience,” although they’re probably best known for “Catch Us if you Can,” which was their signature slogan through the 1990s and much of the 2000s. The words are different, but the message is the same. Mathews leads the way. Everyone else is eating their dust.

Hoyt’s current tagline is one they’ve had for many years, “Get Serious. Get Hoyt.” The implication, of course, is that you’re just an everyday, neophyte bowhunter until you pick up a Hoyt.

Where Hoyt and Mathews excel in their marketing is they create their own cultures. When you own a Mathews or Hoyt, you’re part of a team. You bleed black and gold. Or, you bleed red and white. Influencers and pros help drive that loyalty. Just as Patrick Mahomes is the reason millions are fans of the Kansas City Chiefs, Levi Morgan and Chris Bee bring fanbases to Team Mathews, while Cam Hanes and Jesse Broadwater inspire others to fly the Hoyt flag.

Spend a few days in a Pro Shop or at a local archery range and you’ll see the teeth each company’s pointed marketing campaign has. For example, the QAD Ultra Rest MX2 is one of the hottest arrow rests on the market for compound bows. You can buy the bow-neutral rest for $269.99 at Lancaster Archery Supply. Or you can pay $20 more for the exact same rest bearing a Mathews sticker, or $30 more for that exact same rest with a Hoyt sticker. 

The number of customers who will gladly shell out that extra coin for the Hoyt or Mathews sticker is mind-boggling. And would anyone put a Hoyt-branded rest on a Mathews bow, even though, functionally, the rests are identical? Call me if you find that person, but I’m not holding my breath.

PSE and Bowtech also have their own branded versions of the QAD MX2. But those who have PSE and Bowtech bows don’t seem as driven to brand-match their accessories to their bows as the Hoyt crowd or the Mathews crowd.

But what if we want to go beyond marketing? What are the real differences between the bows that these two companies make? Let’s dive into the weeds of the Hoyt vs Mathews debate.

Aesthetics and Riser Design

The author used a snow camo, 2014 Hoyt Carbon Spyder 34 to take a musk ox on a Spring hunt to Victoria Island in the Arctic. Photo by PJ Reilly

Mathews and Hoyts have never looked alike.

Take the 2024 Hoyt Alpha X 30 and the Mathews Lift 29.5. Hoyts for years have employed the TEC riser, which most noticeably features a bridge behind the grip for rigidity and to help minimize vibration. The riser is pretty well reflexed, which means the bow curves away from the archer toward the limb pockets. Mathews risers, on the other hand, are very long and mostly vertical, with comparatively less reflex. 

Generally, Mathews bows have a more blocky look. Hoyts are more rounded. Opposites once again. What do they say about the square peg and the round hole?

And then there’s the whole carbon factor. Hoyt has been a player in the carbon-bow game since launching the 2010 Carbon Matrix. The RX-8 is its 2024 carbon offering. Mathews, on the other hand, has never gotten into carbon-riser bows. 

Cam Design

Going back several years, Mathews was known for its single-cam bows, while Hoyts primarily were powered by cam-and-a-half systems. The two couldn’t have been more different.

The single-cam bows emphasized smooth drawing, and an effortless ability to hold at full draw for an extended period, if necessary. Cam-and-a-half was all about performance and speed.

Today, both manufacturers employ their own versions of the binary cam system — two cams slaved together via cables. This system promotes level nock travel through the draw and release. Though the draw cycles of the Mathews Lifts and the Hoyt Alphas/RX-8 are a bit different, in my opinion, these bows feel more similar than they have in the past.

The 2024 Mathews Lift (left) and the Hoyt RX-8 (right). Photo by Natalie Krebs

Draw Length Adjustments

When it comes to dealing with draw length, Hoyt and Mathews once again take very different roads to get to the same destination. Mathews engineers are staunch believers in maximizing the performance of every bow at every draw length. That means draw-length-specific modules. 

Say you’ve got a Mathews Lift 29.5 set for a 29-inch draw length? If you want to see how it feels at 29.5 inches of draw length, you’ve got to get a different set of modules, which cost $60. Want to try 28.5 inches? That’ll be another $60, please.

Hoyt, on the other hand, builds some wiggle room into its bows. The HBX Xact cam that powers the 2024 RX-8 has three available modules. If you’re in the meaty part of the standard draw length curve, pulling 29 inches, you’ll go for the No. 3 module, and be able to adjust your draw length from 28.25 to 30 inches, in ¼-inch increments.

There’s likely to be some efficiency lost at 28.25 inches as compared to the 30-inch mod position, but the sacrifice is minimal compared to the benefit of giving the archer the ability to play with draw length. If you can’t experiment with draw length, you have no way of finding the length that’s perfect for you. It’s likely many archers could benefit from adjusting a ¼-inch or ½-inch one way or the other. 

With a Hoyt, that’s easy. With a Mathews, it’ll cost you.

Hoyt vs Mathews Bows, Head-to-Head 

With markedly different offerings and rabidly loyal fan bases, we’ve had some pretty epic Mathews vs Hoyt battles in the annual new-bow-launch cycle through the years. Let’s take a look at some of the best faceoffs over the past 15 years.

2010 Hoyt Matrix vs 2010 Mathews Z7

What an iconic year for both brands. In 2010, Hoyt took its first step into the carbon game with the Matrix, and it was a massive hit. Meanwhile, Mathews put out the Z7, which is argued by many to be the best Mathews of all time.

The Matrix measured 35-inches long, weighed 3.8 pounds, had a 7.25-inch brace height, with draw lengths available from 27 to 31 inches, and draw weights ranging from 40 to 80 pounds with 75 percent let-off. It boasted a speed rating of 318 fps.

The Matrix was a tack-driving shooter. Bowhunters were amazed by a 35-inch bow that weighed less than 4 pounds. Fourteen years later, Hoyt continues to refine the carbon design that was born with the Matrix.

The Mathews Z7 measured 30-inches axle to axle, weighed 3.97 pounds, had a 7-inch brace height, with draw length options from 25 to 30 inches, and draw weights ranging from 40 to 70 pounds with 80 percent let-off. It boasted a speed rating of 332 fps.

If you can find a Mathews shooter over 45, I’ll bet they had — or still have — a Z7. That bow just looked different in 2015, with all the cutouts in the Grid Lock riser and its sharply reflexed handle. It drew smooth and shot fast.

2015 Hoyt Nitrum 34 vs 2015 Mathews No Cam HTR

Talk about a year of opposites. Could these flagship offerings from Hoyt and Mathews have been any different? (I will admit to not taking sides in the Hoyt vs. Mathews feud this year, since I owned both of these bows.)

The Hoyt Nitrum 34 was a 34-inch bow weighing 4.2 pounds, with a 6.75-inch brace height, offering draw lengths from 25 to 31 inches, and draw weights from 30 to 80 pounds with 75 percent let-off. The bow’s speed rating was 330 fps.

What was unique about the Nitrum was the offset riser. That is, the two primary vertical struts forming the riser were not in line with one another. Looking at the bow head on, it looked like it was bent. The offset positioning made the riser super stiff — something I remember noticing in shooting this bow. It was super accurate, quiet, and a real pleasure to shoot.

The Mathews No Cam was a 32-inch bow weighing 4.14 pounds, with a 6 5/8-inch brace height, offering draw lengths from 24 to 30 inches, draw weights from 40 to 70 pounds with 65, 75 or 85 percent let-off. The published speed rating was 330 fps, but I specifically recall not being able to get anywhere close to that speed with my own 70-pound bow.

The No Cam featured two circular “string tracks.” You can’t call them cams if the bow’s name is “No Cam,” right? The No Cam’s unique, matching wheels made it balanced, synchronized, and smooth drawing. It was an incredibly accurate bow, but as I said, arrow speed was an issue.

2024 Hoyt RX-8 vs Mathews Lift 29.5

The Hoyt RX-8 and Mathews Lift 29.5 offer far different shooting experiences. Photo by Natalie Krebs

Decades of refined engineering culminated in these two offerings for 2024. It’s no stretch to suggest these are the most advanced bows Hoyt and Mathews have ever offered.

The Hoyt RX-8 is a 30.5-inch carbon bow weighing 4 pounds, with a 6.5-inch brace height, offering draw lengths from 25 to 30 inches, draw weights from 40 to 80 pounds, and adjustable let-off from 75 to 85 percent. The bow’s speed rating is 342 fps.

The RX-8 is Hoyt’s latest carbon iteration, featuring the one-piece carbon riser introduced in 2023, as opposed to the three-piece riser it relied on for years. Gone is what I called the “Hoyt hand shock” of the early carbon bows. It’s such a pleasure to shoot this bow, the RX-8 actually ranked highest in the 5-foot test at Outdoor Life’s annual bow test, where all bows are shot at 5 feet to simply evaluate draw cycle, back-wall stability, and post-shot feel, among other features. What’s more, I shot my best 50-yard group – .57 inches — with the RX-8 out of all nine bows we tested. It averaged a respectable 3.23-inch group at 50 yards over two days of shooting by three different archers. And it chronographed at 278 fps at a 29-inch draw, 60 pound of draw weight, and a 406-grain arrow.

The Mathews Lift 29.5 is a 29.5-inch bow weighing 3.9 pounds with a 6-inch brace height, offering draw lengths from 24.5 to 30 inches, draw weights from 55 to 80 pounds, with let-off of 80 or 95 percent. The bow’s speed rating is 348 fps.

The Lift 29.5 is the lightest and fastest bow Mathews has offered in several years. A sub-4-pound aluminum bow with super-wide, split limbs is insane. It’s lighter than the carbon Hoyt RX-8. Ever the innovators, one of the ways Mathews shaved weight from this bow was by putting the axles on top of the limbs, rather than having them run through the limbs, as usual. That enabled Mathews to make the limbs shorter and thinner. 

The Lift’s draw cycle has some archers whining, because it is stiffer than what we’ve seen in the past. But man, is it blazing fast. It was the fastest bow in the Outdoor Life bow test by 2 fps at 283 fps (60 pounds, 29-inch draw, 406-grain arrow). It was also the second most accurate in the test averaging a 2.55-inch, three-shot group at 50 yards from three shooters over two days.

Final Thoughts on Hoyt vs Mathews

The author shot his heaviest whitetail ever – 271 pounds on the hoof – in Illinois with the 2024 Mathews Lift 29.5 on launch day for that bow. Photo by PJ Reilly

If you’re a veteran of the Hoyt vs Mathews feud, you’ve already got your mind made up, but hopefully this story has provided a little context for the rivalry. If you’re looking to join the Hoyt vs Mathews battle for the first time (by choosing one of their bows this year) then here’s my advice: Go to a Pro Shop that carries both brands and shoot the Mathews Lift 29.5 and the Hoyt RX-8 side by side. Both bows are shooters. It’s up to you to see which one feels right in your hands. 

Legendary Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski once said, “Great rivalries don’t have to be built on hatred. They’re built on respect — a respect for excellence.”

As the Hoyt-Mathews rivalry continues on into the future, it is the bowhunting world that benefits. As these legends in the game continue to push one another year after year, bowhunters will carry the best equipment imaginable into the woods, regardless of whether you prefer the black and gold or the red and white.

The post Hoyt vs Mathews: What’s the Real Difference Between These Top Bow Makers? appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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