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Bear Archery Traditional Bows: A Chronological History

Bear Archery Traditional Bows: A Chronological History

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Bear Archery Traditional Bows: A Chronological History

Lunghezza:
414 pagine
3 ore
Pubblicato:
Jan 27, 2016
ISBN:
9781682890325
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

Book

To the Bear Archery traditional bow enthusiast and to the archery community at large, this book Bear Archery Traditional Bows: A Chronological History (1949–2015) represents a singular compilation of the chronological history of Bear Archery traditional bow production through the Bear Archery Company’s full timeline. This illustrated reference manual not only preserves the history and heritage of Bear Archery traditional bow production since 1949, it serves as a helpful reference to any and all archers interested in collecting and dating their vintage Bear Archery traditional bows. Each chapter covers a detailed chronology of factory production specifications for each specific bow model or group of related models. It includes photos of bow models for almost every year. The best part is this: at the end of each chapter, there is a table that allows readers to search out the characteristics of their bow by year, AMO length, riser material, medallion, limb glass colors, overlay colors, limb tip colors and where applicable, the two-digit serial number prefix.

Pubblicato:
Jan 27, 2016
ISBN:
9781682890325
Formato:
Libro

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Anteprima del libro

Bear Archery Traditional Bows - Jorge L. Coppen

lived.

Chapter 1

Al Reader, Hunter of Bows

Back in 1993, I was desperately looking for a left-handed Bear Kodiak Hunter for my building collection of bows. I spoke to some knowledgeable individuals, and one name came up at least twice: Al Reader. Of course, he did have one and sold it to me for $145. I used that bow to kill my first traditional deer. Thanks, Al!

Al Reader of North Haledon, New Jersey, was the man that set the foundation for many collectors to commence their study of Bear bow dating. He once stated that taking thirty years’ worth of Bear bows would take a book. He started collecting Bear Archery bows in 1958 at age thirteen with a 55# Kodiak. Quoting Al Reader, I’ve never stopped collecting them, and it seems I learn something new about them every week. No, I’m no expert in them and may never figure it all out, but I have had my share come and go. Al Reader used a combination of procedures to identify Grayling-made Bear bows and he drafted and expanded that list over time.

A benevolent and helpful man, Al Reader noted my budding interest in learning more about Bear recurve history. Without hesitation, he told me he would send me some files I could use to start putting the puzzle together myself. Al Reader sent me a spreadsheet of his bow inventory records showing detailed specifications and serial number prefixes for the Grayling Bear bows and a two-sided, 8½ by 11 sheet of paper describing information useful to identify the bows of the Bear Archery Co., Grayling, Michigan, 1947–78.

Years later in 2008, I would see Al Reader at the Sixteenth Annual Whittingham Traditional Archery Rendezvous in Sussex County, New Jersey. We talked about our respective and very similar-looking blond left-handed Type II Fred Bear take-down bows. He patiently allowed me to snap a photo of him standing next to a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Fred Bear holding a 1968 Super Kodiak that was used by retailers as an advertisement prop.

Al Reader the Stickbowman.

The winter before that, Al Reader had written an article for my Traditional Archers of New Jersey newsletter Off the Shelf entitled The Resurrection Bow, and I actually was able to put my hands on his personal Fred Bear takedown bow, and he shot left-handed like me (and Fred Bear) too. At the Whittingham shoot in 2008, I was fortunate to snap some photos of him and his Bear Archery bow collection. Most impressive were his collection of all the years of Grayling Kodiak and Super Kodiak models (1950 to 1976) and the incredible collection of Fred Bear wooden and magnesium takedown handles from 1969 to 1989, many of them autographed by Fred Bear himself.

Al Reader with his take-down handle collection.

Al Reader’s Bear Take-Down Handles (Resurrection Bow laying on top)

Al Reader’s displays included Number One, the first production phenolic 1967 1/2 Super Kodiak with serial number 7Z1. He also displayed a brand-new in-the-box 1957 Bear Kodiak with papers and the 90 lb. Bear Kodiak bow made by Fred Bear for Bill Negley that Bill would use to hunt elephant with in Africa in 1957.

Al Reader’s #1, 1967 1/2 Super Kodiak,

a 1957 Kodiak and Bill Negley’s bow.

But there was more. He exhibited cases and cases of Bear Archery memorabilia he brought out too. Everything from an oversized Bear Razorhead model on a base to Grousehaven patches, decals, Fred Bear name tags, Fred Bear business cards, watches, belt buckles, arrows, sheathed knife and file sets, etc.

Al Reader was the king of bow collecting and knowledge. Any Bear bow collectors living today likely followed his guidance early on as they expanded their horizons of knowledge in an attempt to piece together the grand puzzle.

Al Reader of North Haledon, New Jersey, was a founding charter member of the Traditional Archers of New Jersey, established May 21, 1992. He was a true traditional archery icon and was well-known as an expert archery historian and collector. Sadly, Al Reader was taken from us in 2009. In the fall 2009 issue of the Traditional Archers of New Jersey newsletter, I created a three-page tribute section to Al Reader. In his memory, the Traditional Archers of New Jersey (TANJ) established the TANJ Al Reader Archery for our Youth Program to commemorate his contributions to our beloved sport. Al Reader, the Stickbowman made contributions to traditional archery history primarily through his knowledge of Bear Archery history. The funds raised are used to promote archery to New Jersey’s and America’s youths. It is a fine legacy that I am certain Al Reader would be proud of. It is an honor to have been mentored by Al Reader, and I am but one of many that learned from his guidance as we continued to learn how to piece it all together. For that, we are all grateful to him.

As Fred Bear would say, Happy hunting, Al Reader.

Chapter 2

Setting the Foundation

Introduction

At peak production, Bear Archery turned out over three hundred thousand bows per year. Hence, there are many Bear bows out there and a constant stream of such now vintage bows flood the auction sites. To date, the most popular vintage bows on the secondary market are Bear Archery straight, semi-recurve, and recurve bows. Many of these bows, even going back to the 1950s models, may still be very useable today depending on how they were stored and treated. Those who are bitten by the romance of the vintage bow want to know when their Bear Archery vintage bow was made. I cannot count the number of times I have read a request on the traditional archery blogs along the lines of Can someone help me find out when this Bear bow was made? Often, those who search out such information on the online blogs remain as stumped as those responding to their queries. Many times, the responses are simple guesses or uncertain recollections, and often they are incorrect or close but not quite. Much of the information about when a Bear Archery bow was made is contained in this reference publication.

In an article entitled A Shot from the Past in the August/September 1994 issue of Traditional Bowhunter Magazine® Joe St. Charles wrote about Grayling Bear bows and suggested that actually a book should be written on the subject of Bear bows because there is so much demand for this information. I have attempted to do so. This publication is not intended as an exhaustive recount of every specific detail of changes through time for every single bow model, but it comes close.

This reference manual covers Bear traditional bows made since 1949 when Fred Bear commenced mass production of bows at his new Bear Archery factory in Grayling, Michigan. In other words, I cover only Grayling- and Gainesville-made traditional bows. Beyond mass-produced Bear Archery wooden and magnesium traditional recurve bows and longbows, I cover wooden (not fiberglass) youth bows and straight bows that eventually were redesigned as semi-recurves or full working recurves. I do not cover models of the Bear Products Company (made before 1949), early model Grayling-made static recurve bows (1947–48, including the Deerslayer, Bush Bow) early Grayling-made longbows (1947–48, including the Hunter, Field, Rover, and Ranger), nor bows manufactured by Bear Archery for retail stores (i.e., Sears and Roebuck Co. or Montgomery Ward [e.g., Bruin II, Hawk, Raven, Stag Hunter, Flicker, Supreme, Black Panther, Black Panther Hunter]). What it does offer, beyond some interesting trivia regarding historic Bear bow model changes, is a discussion of the diagnostic features to allow one to date a Bear bow in some cases to the year it was made, in other instances at least to a narrow range of years. I intended this reference publication to be concise, readable, and easy to use. In some instances I point out that a specific bow model could be ordered camouflage-painted for an additional nominal fee. This option was offered for several bows that could be used for hunting throughout production years.

There are several expert collectors out there that may fill in blanks more judiciously and present more detail about the chronological history and nuances of a particular bow model for which they have attained expertise and knowledge. However, most collectors have such knowledge and expertise with only a few Bear Archery bow models at best. As you might expect, the most collectible bows have the largest following in the collector world. But no matter what Bear recurve bow model interests us, there was no one reference to research the chronological history of each straight, semi-recurve, or full-recurve bow model made from 1949 to the present time, until now.

Setting the Foundation

For me, as a life-long collector/enthusiast/admirer of Bear recurves, it really gained momentum when Al Reader handed me a two-sided, 8 ½ by 11 sheet of paper which contains the following foundational bow dating information to identify the bows of the Bear Archery Co., Grayling Michigan 1947–78:

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Shooting And Collecting Older Bear Archery Bows

By Al Reader (The Stickbowman)

The current resurgence in traditional archery has brought many new shooters and collectors into the search for some of the old longbows and recurves.

In the 50s through the 70s companies like Wing, Hoyt, Damon Howatt, Ben Pearson, and Bear all made beautiful and useable bows which are excellent shooting bows today. Unless a bow was stored a long time in the hot attic, trunk of car, or on the deer feet over the fireplace, chances are the bow has many more years of good shooting left.

Bear Archery had made more bows during this time than most of the other companies combined. This has made them popular to collect and shoot because they are east to find. How do you identify the age of your old bow? A large book could be written on the history of Bear bows, but for the sake of space, I’ve listed a few tips used in identifying these bows, plus a chart showing dates of manufacture of the most popular bear models.

First off, every bear bow made from 1953 to 1972 has the 1953 Canadian patent for the working recurve on the lower limb. This is a patent date only, not the year of the bow.

All model Bear bows have leather wrapped grips from the 30s up to 1959. The 1959 Kodiak Special was the first bow model to drop the leather grip. The Kodiak in 1961 and the Grizzly lost it in 1964.

The first year for the Coin medallion (flush with the bow surface) was 1959. It was copper metal that year, 1960–61 was aluminum, 1962 pewter, 1963–70 brass, 1971–72 nickel silver.

Late 1972 started what was called the button medallion. It was positioned high up in the handle and was raised above the surface of the bow. It came in both gold and chrome covered plastic. It is still in use today.

The Grayling bows stopped in 1978 after a plant strike and the Company moved to Florida.

Only the catalogs ran form Jan. 1st to Jan. 1st. Bow design changes came about at any time and often overlapped. Two versions of the same bow model were made at the same time until orders for existing models were satisfied. The famous wood handle take-down started production in August 1969 but did not appear in the Company catalog until 1970.

Sometimes two or three variations of a model would be made in one year, usually changes in material or color. The 52" Kodiak Magnum was made for 17 years, yet I have 23 different variations of the bow!

Some of the Company catalogs showed a model using the same picture for 2 or 3 years, yet the laminations or material and glass color may have changed each year.

Although discontinued in 1972, a few A and B wood risers were assembled in 1973 and 1974. These will have the white serial numbers.

In the 50s and early 60s the serial numbers were started over every month making most years up to 1964 very difficult to identify. From 1965 to 1969 the first single digit is the year of the bow. (Example: 8Z1254 = 1968) The K series serial numbers started in 1970. KZ, KU, KT, etc.

The Bear logo and model names were placed on bows with stick on decals. These were used from 1948 until late 1955. These decals often fell off as they were placed in the working area of the limb. In late 1955 the decals were discontinued in favor of the silk screen method of applying the identification on the bows. This was under the bow’s finish and was permanent and appeared on all models by mid 1956.

By 1973, all Bear model bows were made of futurewood (impregnated maple). Some models as early as 1970.

Below is a basic chart of yearly production of the most popular Grayling made Bear bows:

Wood Handle Take-down 1969–1972

Wood C-riser Victor Custom 1973–1975

Magnesium Handles, A – B – C 1971–1978

Kodiak Static Recurve 1950–1953

Kodiak Recurve 1954–1966

Super Kodiak 1967–1976

Grizzly Static Recurve 1949–1957

Grizzly Recurve 1958–1978

Super magnum 48" 1966–1976

Kodiak Magnum 52" 1961–1977

Kodiak Hunter 58 and 60 1967–1977

Tamerlane 1962–1967

Tamerlane HC-30 1965–1967

Tamerlane HC-300 1968–1972

Kodiak Special 1955–1967

Temujin 1968–1970

Tartar 1967–1972

Victor Patriot 1973–1977

Victor 1972

Polar Recurve 1957–1970

Alaskan (Leather Grip) Semi-recurve 1959–1961

Alaskan Recurve 1966–1970

Tigercat 1964–1978

Bearcat 1964–1971

Little Bear 1965–1978

That’s all for now. Good shooting, Al Reader

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Al Reader’s life of research also established important factoids that aid in the dating of bows as follows:

To start with, if a Bear bow is all-wood (no laminations), then it was constructed prior to 1949 when assembly line production began. If these all-wood bows have a stamp that reads Bear Products in some form, it would have been made before the early- to mid-1940s. All-wood bows stamped Bear Archery were constructed after the early-to mid-1940s but before 1949. Early top model Grayling-made bows (1947–48) were static recurves called the Deerslayer, Bush Bow, and Hunter. Contemporaneously, Bear also turned out three longbows called the Field, Rover, and Ranger. These handcrafted models evolved from the artistry of Nels Grumley, Fred Bear’s first bowyer. Wooden bows with the Running Bear decal can be dated to as early as 1948. All early model Bear bows had leather-wrapped grips from the late 1930s up to 1959. Over a series of years, model by model, the leather grip was abandoned.

Decals

In the early years, the Bear logo and model names applied to the bow limb consisted of stick on decals. From 1949–1953, the smaller running bear logo decal was 7/16 tall and read Bear, Grayling, Mich."

In mid-1953, this decal was replaced with a larger 3/4 tall standing bear logo with the inscription Bear, Glass Powered Bow, Grayling, Mich." This second Bear decal was used until mid-1955 when the bow limbs were now marked with a silk-screening process. Also all model Bear Bows have leather wrapped grips from the late 1930s up to 1959. The 1959 Kodiak Special was the first bow model to drop the leather grip. Then the Kodiak in 1961 and the Grizzly lost it in 1964.

1953-55 Decal

1949-53 Decal

A Pat. Applied For decal was applied to the lower limb on early (1949-to-mid-1953) bows. A US patent/Canada Pat. Applied for decal came about (~mid-1953). And soon after that, they carried decals exhibiting both US and Canadian patents (mid-1953). At this point, the 1953 Canadian patent was being silkscreen onto the limb. The switch to silk-screening was gradual until early-1956 when all models featured silk-screen logo and US and Canadian patents. In 1973, only a US patent is applied to belly side of the lower limb. Recent models of the new millennium feature no patent number under the bear silkscreen logo.

1949-53 Pat. Decal

1953-1955 Pat. Decal

In 1949 and 1950, Bear Archery was applying a bidirectional fiberglass backing on their bows, which has the appearance of a basket weave pattern. Then in 1951, Bear began using a new unidirectional fiberglass in which the glass fibers all ran lengthwise on the bow limbs. This change in glass is useful to differentiate between 1949–50 models and, of course, later models.

In 1949, the first Bear Archery bow to receive a model name was the Grizzly model. The Kodiak and Polar appear in 1950. The Ranger had a slightly longer run but all of the original models from the late 1940s vanished into history. The Cub replaced the Ranger in late 1951. The Grizzly, Kodiak, and Polar straight bow all featured an aluminum limb lamination from 1949 to 1951. We will cover this item in the bow model chapters to follow which contained this aluminum laminate.

It should be noted that while Bear Archery catalogs ran on a calendar year basis, actual bow design changes occurred within and between years and often overlapped. Al Reader noted that bow model changes typically ran from September to September but acknowledged that often, factory production changes came about at any time of year. So we

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