An Interview with Brad Christian, Brand & Content Manager of Mathews Archery

www.mathewsinc.com

There are some companies that need no introduction, and unless you’ve never even looked at a bow in your life Mathews is one of those companies. In an age of apps, smartphones, and constant software updates, innovation has become a diluted term. In the majority of cases these innovations are at best incremental and rarely tangible.

But not at Mathews Inc. With a nearly unbelievable track record of inventions and innovations within the archery industry, Mathews is at the leading edge of bow and component design. The recent launch of the NO CAM is just one more example of the design team’s insatiable drive to think outside the box. They have consistently taken one of the most storied and important tools in the history of mankind to levels of accuracy, speed and forgiveness never imagined possible.

We interviewed Mathews Brand and Content Manager Brad Christian and learned just how committed CEO Matt McPherson and the entire Mathews team is to questioning and challenging the status quo. We cover the company’s history, the philosophy the company lives by and of course the latest in bows and hunting.

I don’t think anyone can possibly disagree, from one cam to NO CAM Mathews is a trail blazer through and through.
Blazing Trail - April 2015 - Feature Image Let’s hear the story behind Mathews from inception to industry leading status today. The company was founded in 1992 by Matt McPherson and has an almost inconceivable track record of innovation and technological disruption in the archery industry, this is quite a legacy!

Well, it’s a long story but in short, yeah, Mathews was founded in 1992 by Matt McPherson, and today, it’s still owned and led by Matt. And it was really founded on ground breaking technology, that technology being the Solocam bow. Prior to 1992, compound bows had two cams. So you can imagine, Matt really shook things up when he invented the Solocam. It was an idea that had never been seen. Today, we look at them like they’re commonplace but they weren’t always. At the time, there weren’t even strings long enough to fit a one cam bow because it hadn’t been conceived of yet. So everything Mathews was doing was really a first. And it didn’t stop there. Sometimes people have one idea and that’s their contribution but with Matt, it just continued with innovation after innovation.

Matt and his team are about solving problems and these guys are always thinking out of the box. And as a result there’s a long history of innovation from parallel limb design to the reverse assist roller guard, to perimeter weighted cams, and now this year, the No Cam bow. We see many of these technologies adopted by other bow companies, but the genesis of these ideas came from Matt. He believes that nothing is ever perfect and he’s been at the drawing board a long time. To go back even further, Matt has been tinkering around with bows since childhood and it was in woodshop – I believe it was in high school but I’d have to fact check that –his teacher allowed him to build a bow instead of taking on the standard project. Matt submitted photos of his work to bowhunting magazines and was even featured in a couple of them. Fast forward to 1998, when Matt was inducted into the Bowhunters Hall of Fame and that same woodshop teacher was his guest of honor. So it came full circle for sure.

Ironically, you would think a company that is so driven by innovation and engineering would be cold and calculated from a corporate culture standpoint, yet Mathews Inc. runs on the basis of “people before business”. Tell us more about this core value and how it’s implemented?

Yeah. Matt strives for perfection but at the same time, different than some people with that level of drive and success he doesn’t miss out on the one-on-one connections with individuals. Matt is the first person to give his time to those who need it—he puts people before business. And when you have a leader who believes that and who lives that, it’s contagious. Really, I’ve never seen a company culture anything like this. There’s not a dark hole in the company anywhere where that attitude isn’t present. It truly exists in every department – people put people first. And what starts on the inside is seen on the outside. So our team has strong relationships with our retailers and customers. It’s like a family, and that’s a great thing to be part of.

We’re certainly not perfect but I’ve seen some really bold decisions made in the name of people and it’s an honor to contribute to a company that serves with that kind of heart.
Blazing Trail - April 2015 - Post Image From the SoloCam to the NoCam, the R&D team at Mathews consistently challenges the status quo from an engineering standpoint while at the same time maintaining a clear commitment to the “creative” side of bow design from an aesthetic perspective. This must be a tough balance to maintain, walk us through the design process at Mathews.

That’s a great question… I too appreciate both form and function but at the core, Mathews is all about engineering. But I think good form happens as a result of function driven engineering. Our engineers are really clean in their designs. Matt will often refer to it as advanced simplicity. They obsess over every detail looking for ways to eliminate anything that isn’t essential to the function—they cut the fat. And as a result, we’re left with a really clean system.

It’s a function driven process though and sometimes that takes a little getting used to for some. Take the Geo Grid Riser for example – initially there were some who felt it looked like a waffle. Well, from an engineering standpoint it’s a function driven design. It’s incredibly strong and personally, I love the look of it and was drawn to it immediately. It caught on and has since been hugely popular but at first, sometimes it’s ‘hey, what is this thing?’ So we’re not afraid to put function first even when it looks different.

Mathews made headlines yet again with the launch of the NoCam in 2015. In many ways, the concept of a truly circular cam could not be any simpler but it required a total redesign of the entire bow platform. What drove Matt and the rest of the R&D team to literally go back to the drawing board despite arguably being at the top of their game?

We’re never satisfied. While mankind has been working to improve the bow for ages, we believe it can be made better. And this patented No Cam string track technology is unchartered territory and we went there because we’re obsessed with accuracy. As a bowhunter, there’s nothing I care about more than hitting my mark and this technology is incredibly consistent. The concentric string tracks keep it in perfect sync and perfectly level nock travel creates a super tuneable system. Matt’s had this idea for quite some time and it’s been a process of refining it. I know our R&D team will tell you they’ve spent more time testing these prototypes than any other bow we’ve ever released and the results have been worth it.

When Matt first showed me this bow it was a head-trip. I’d never seen anything quite like it. It looked like two idler wheels and it just looked really symmetrical which really got me thinking. And when I got to shoot it, that’s when it all really clicked for me. It was honestly like nothing I’d ever experienced. Just the lack of post-shot vibration was really wild.

R&D kept telling me how well it was tuning and I wanted to see for myself. Like most passionate bowhunters, I’m obsessed with my gear and I’ll go to great lengths to ensure it’s dialled. So I brought the bow to my home workshop to see for myself and I just set my arrow level and let it rip on paper. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. The bullet holes were perfect and it was incredibly forgiving no matter what arrows I put through it. I think I split more arrows outside on our range that week than I did the entire previous year.
Blazing Trail - April 2015 - Post Image For years now, compound manufacturers have seemingly been in a never ending battle to produce the fastest bows ever seen, yet as we all know with many of these “speed bows” what is gained in FPS is lost in shootability and accuracy. Outside of its target bow line-up, Mathews has put less emphasis on these speed “wars” and stayed focused on technologies that improve accuracy and shootability, why is this?

Great question. Speed is certainly a consideration of every bow we design but it’s not something we necessarily view as the highest priority. Now, we do produce fast bows but they typically are not our flagship models. Our 2015 Wake shoots 352 feet per second and it’s doing it with 85% let off and a surprisingly smooth draw for that kind of speed.

So we absolutely build fast bows but you’re right, we’re not engaged in a speed war. We’re just hyper focused on building the best bows. And we tend to put more emphasis on accuracy, feel and forgiveness as those characteristics play a key role in the success of a bowhunt. If you can deliver an arrow under control with surgical accuracy, you’re going to be successful. My wife does it regularly with just 50 pounds of draw weight.

So back to speed, even when it comes to our more speed focused designs, we engineer them with the hunt in mind. Drawing an overly aggressive bow at close engagement distances is not conducive to being stealthy. So we design speed bows that are fast but won’t blow your cover, be unforgiving, or just plain unenjoyable to shoot regularly.

Just last September I had an elk surprise me. This bull walked right out of the timber and was on a path to run into me. I had no choice but to draw while he was facing me so I’d be ready as he passed me if he didn’t actually step on me. The draw cycle on my Chill series is so smooth that I was able to slowly slide my release hand directly away from the bull and come to full draw with minimal movement. That wouldn’t have been possible with an overly aggressive draw cycle.

Far from just a compound manufacturer, Mathews has invented and patented technologies in virtually every conceivable archery component as well. Taking the bows themselves out of the equation, what do you feel are the most under appreciated innovations the Mathews team has introduced to date? Or the most under appreciated features of the Mathews system?

I don’t know…it’s hard to pick one thing. Really the beauty of Mathews bows are how things work in harmony with one another. Our team really takes a holistic approach to design. But one example might be harmonic dampers and harmonic stabilizers – those are just the coolest little things. I don’t know if you’ve ever done this but if you take an old riser at your Mathews pro shop, if they have one laying around, and you take the harmonic dampers out of it and drop it on the ground, it’s loud, it rings, it vibrates, it does what you expect it to. When you put the harmonic dampers or stabilisers in it and you drop it on the floor, it’s insane how quiet it becomes. But harmonic stabilizers are also used as a strategic balancing component on the No Cam. So again, they work several ways as part of a complete system.

That’s one little piece that comes to mind but more than that, I feel that important characteristics like tuneability are maybe underappreciated. I know a lot of bowhunters who have never paper tuned their bow and I think if they did, they’d be surprised to learn what that arrow is doing. On the flip side, when you’ve got a bow with level nock travel and it’s tuned to send that arrow perfectly straight down range, your accuracy and confidence improve greatly. And it’s also about reliability. There’s no pro shop in the backcountry. I need to know that my bow is going to stay in tune out there.
Blazing Trail - April 2015 - Post Image What’s on the horizon for the company moving forward? After more than 20 years, where do you go from here?

That kind of goes into the category of I’d have to kill you if I told you!

OK! OK! Can’t fault us for trying! In today’s market, there are no shortage of options for both the aspiring and experienced archer. Why choose Mathews over any one of the other bow manufacturers?

Why choose Mathews? We really offer the best bow on the market for every style of shooter. If you’re really about accuracy and you care about the way a bow feels and forgives, there’s not a better bow than the No Cam. You just have to spend some time shooting it to understand it. But if speed is your thing, check out the Wake. It is a gorgeous rig. I shot the heck out of that thing during testing and was surprised how smooth it was for 352 fps. I expected a harsh draw cycle and it was really very nice. It’s an expensive bow to produce though due to the machine time so if that is a barrier, the Chill R and Chill X deliver great speed as well and those Rock Mods produce an awesome wall. But you’ve gotta shoot them, that’s key. Go into your pro shop, and that’s the beauty of pro shops, set them up side by side and you’ll feel it. The accuracy and lack of post-shot vibration on the No Cam is amazing. And the smoothness of our Chill series relative to other speed bows is really remarkable.

That brings up an interesting point about the comparison. In a lot of cases you don’t know just how much post shot vibration you’re feeling until you, as you put it, feel it or in this case the lack of it. Because this has never been achieved before – the No Cam – it’s like the Pepsi taste challenge, you just have to go and try it.

Yeah, as we often say, you’ve got to shoot it to believe it. That’s truly the case with this bow. It’s not a clever marketing phrase, it’s an invitation to experience the promise. And when you do, spend some time with it. Shoot it twenty plus times. It’s a totally new feeling so give your muscle memory the chance to adapt, it will surprise you.

Alright, so as we always do to finish an interview let’s go through a couple “rapid fire” questions:

What’s your favourite species to hunt?

I’m probably torn between elk and blacktailed deer.

Really? That’s a unique combo?!

I lived in California for seven years and it was a total change of thinking. It was a totally new species, a totally new environment, and a very difficult deer to kill with a bow and so it was a journey. I’ll always have a soft spot for blacktails though as a result. But nothing beats walking through dark timber and hearing dinosaur like critters screaming. There’s just nothing like that. Elk are special.
Blazing Trail - April 2015 - Post ImageAnd bucket list hunt – what would be at the top of your list, or if there is a tie, by all means say so?

Archery sheep and I love moose. I’ve spent time around moose with my camera but not with my bow. I just think they’re incredible critters. Archery sheep is my top though.

Okay, what would be the most memorable hunt and you can answer this as the toughest hunt or most memorable one? Sometimes those are one and the same, just as many times they’re entirely different.

Most memorable hunt – one particular blacktail in California. I was having a terrible hunting season and in the last week got into some gnarly poison oak that spread to all the places you would most not want poison oak to spread so I was down for the count. On the second to last day of my season, I mustered up the courage to wash the ten bottles of pink calamine lotion off my body and go check my trail cameras one last time and while out, it started dumping rain unexpectedly. I had a bunch of gear laid outside of my truck and so I ran back and started throwing everything into my cab and I jumped in soaking wet. As I drove off, I realized my bow wasn’t in the truck which meant I’d just driven over the bow in my F150.

So at that point, I’m certifiably depressed, pull up to my house and check my SD cards only to find an absolute giant buck on my camera. But now I didn’t have a bow!

So with just one day left in my season to kill this buck, I drove to Nevada, got a new bow, drove back home, took a scent free shower, and headed back out to hang a stand around midnight. I hiked in wearing one set of clothes, changed into fresh clothes to walk into his critical zone, hung a stand wearing rubber gloves, and slipped back out. I then drove back home, sighted in just the first three pins on my new bow using my truck headlights, took another scent free shower, grabbed two new sets of camo from the dryer, drove back to my hunting area, repeated my same ridiculous clothing change, and slipped back into position well before first light.

I vividly remember sitting there in the dark thinking, ‘how crazy will it be if this actually works?’ If it didn’t work, I’d know it wasn’t on an account of a lack of effort.

So it was silent until about 10:45am or 11:00am when I looked up and caught a glimpse of him waving his head back and forth in the sun. After bedding down out of range and raising my blood pressure for fifteen minutes, he jumped out of his bed and ran right toward me through the oak brush. I grunted to stop him, grunted louder and then yelled right before he jumped the creek adjacent to my tree. He skid to a stop under my stand, looked back over his shoulder and started urinating. I released an arrow and he crashed near the base of my tree. He’s the biggest blacktail I’ve ever killed. My wife drove out to my stand in her jeep with my daughter, who was just born, and we loaded the buck together in the back next to the B.O.B. stroller!

Wow! Now, that’s a story!

 


 

From the Editors:

There aren’t many companies that truly eat, sleep and breathe innovation like Mathews. If you’re even remotely considering a new bow, we hope this interview gave you a behind the scenes look at just how committed Matt McPherson and the team at Mathews is to producing the most advanced bows the world has ever seen.

But don’t take out word for it, watch Feel the Future below to see just how advanced and utterly ground breaking the new NO CAM really is.

Posted by JOMH Editor