A couple of years ago, I did a review of the leading survival bows on the market. One of them was the Recon from Survival Archery Systems (SAS). It was a well-thought-out design, and it shot well. So, when American Survival Guide Editor Mike McCourt asked me if I were interested in doing a review of a new takedown bow from the same company, I quickly agreed.
That bow is the new Atmos Compact Modern Longbow.
Doug Shadwell, the director and owner of Survival Archery Systems, has been an archer and bowhunter for years. Starting in late 2015, after the success of his Recon folding survival bow, he began getting requests from customers to add holes for sights, bowfishing mounts and different types of arrow rests. Others asked him to make his bows center-shot to make it easier to tune and aim them.
Because this wasn’t feasible from a structural perspective, Shadwell decided to think outside the box: In 2017, he settled on building a new riser for a new bow. It would cater to the larger archery market so that compound and recurve shooters could have an option for a compact backpackable bow that felt more familiar to them than the folding bows he already offered. It would not only feel familiar, but also look similar. With those qualities integrated, he felt he had something that would garner the interest of many archers.
To achieve these goals, SAS defined the following design criteria for its new bow:
- Made in the U.S.A.
- 31-inch maximum draw
- Must not stack
- Fit into a standard 22-inch backpack
- Feel familiar to all archers
- Weigh between 2.4 and 2.8 pounds
- Must be durable
- Must be corrosion resistant and weatherproof
- Accept any type of accessory
- Able to be shot with fingers or a release
- Can be shot off the shelf or via a rest/whisker biscuit
- Has to shoot quietly
- Needs to look good and have great styling
The Atmos comes in a variety of colors, so you can show off when you are at the range or blend in when you are hunting in the backcountry. (Photo: Survival Archery Systems)
This table summarizes the characteristics of the final design:
Country of origin:
|IBO length:||60 inches|
|Disassembled length:||22 inches|
|Mass weight:||2.6 pounds|
|Draw weights:||30, 35, 40, 45, 50 and 55 pounds|
|Maximum draw:||31 inches|
|Brace height/Fistmele||7.5–8.5 inches|
|Cut past center:||0.53 inch|
|Handedness:||Right or left|
|Materials:||Riser: 6061 T6 aluminum|
|Limbs: High–tech composite fiber|
|Hardware: 316SS, MIL-SPEC and HTS steel|
|Takedown arrows: 7075 aluminum|
|String: B50 Dacron|
|Riser colors: Camo, Cerakote Cobalt, Cerakote, Burnt Bronze, Blue Cerakote, red and blue|
|Included in package:||Atmos Compact Modern Longbow|
|Six takedown arrows|
Like most modern takedown bows, the Atmos is easy to assemble. It is composed of the following parts
- Machined riser
- Two solid-fiberglass longbow limbs
- Two sets of limb bolts and washers, both in plastic bag
- Six-sided Allen wrench to tighten the limb bolts
- Bowstring with a nock set, both in plastic bag
To assemble the bow, you simply need to—
1. Remove the parts from the packaging or your pack.
2. Put each limb bolt in its washer, with the wide part of the washer against the limb.
3. Place a limb in the pocket at the end of the riser. Make sure the limb is positioned so that the gray string groove cut into the limb is facing toward the target. This will allow the string to lay naturally in the string groove. Make sure the limb fits flush with the limb pocket and isn’t resting on the side of the limb pocket.
4. Thread the limb bolt and washer through the hole in the limb and into the limb with your fingers. Then use the hex wrench to tighten it. Do not overtighten the limbs. Do not apply more pressure when you feel the hex wrench stop moving, because you might crack the composite limb material. You will be able to tighten it more—but don’t do it.
5. Put the bowstring over both limbs, placing one end in the bottom string groove. Then use a bow stringer to bend the limbs and move the upper end of the string into the other string groove.
6. Once you have your arrow rest in place, you can use a bow square to position the nock set to ensure you consistently place the arrow in the correct position on the string.
Add your accessories
When it comes to accessories for your Atmos, the first thing you need to decide is if you will be aiming it instinctively or with sights. Shooting instinctively takes time to build your skills and practice to keep your skills sharp. So, unless you really enjoy shooting a bow and will put in the work to be accurate out to 20 or more yards, you should probably go with sights.
If you are going to shoot instinctively, all you need to do is apply a stick-on arrow rest (such as a Bear Weather Rest) that will hold your arrow in place while you draw and shoot. You can also use strips of hook-and-loop material or thick felt to build up an arrow plate and arrow rest to shoot off of. Using a stick-on arrow rest will be easier and more effective for the less-experienced shooter.
If you want to use sights, first select an arrow rest from the dozens on the market. They all have their advantages and disadvantages, so try out a few on the compound bows at your local archery pro shop to see which style you prefer. With the industry standard holes machined into the Atmos’ riser, most, if not all, of them will fit.
The next accessory will be your sight. As with the arrow rest, there are dozens of these available, so pick the one that fits your preferences and budget. They range from simple pin sights with one or more pins, sights with fiber optics to illuminate the pins in low-light conditions to scopes that magnify the target for you and simplify aiming.
The sight, arrow rest, stabilizer and quiver I chose to use with the Atmos all came from TRUGLO and worked fine with the new riser.
When I put the Atmos together for the first time, I was impressed by the ease of assembly and the fit of the component pieces. It felt good in my hand, had a narrow grip like that found on most compound bows and was well balanced. The riser and the limbs are all the same length—around 21.5 to 22.0 inches—and the location of the arrow rest is halfway between the two limb tips (which is something that other bowmakers don’t always get right).
In addition to the fit and feel, the Atmos is also very obviously designed to be durable. While spinning it around in my hand to evaluate its balance, it reminded me of my martial arts days and working with a bow staff. The limbs are stiff enough so that when they are attached to the riser, you have a defensive tool to block and thrust with when it is not strung. I think Little John and Robin Hood would have been very comfortable with the Atmos!
I was also very pleased by the performance of the Atmos on the range. Using the 50-pound limbs it came with, and shooting a 665-grain takedown arrow, it sent the arrow downrange at 135 feet per second and produced what I always look for in an arrow—a very satisfying thunk when it hit the target.
You can debate all you want about arrow speed and kinetic energy, but I want my rig to shoot a relatively heavy arrow that will absorb the energy the bow can deliver and hold onto it all the way to the target. That is how you get good momentum for deep penetration. The recommendation for an effective hunting arrow with traditional tackle is at least 9 to 10 grains per pound of draw weight (gpp). This combination had 13.3 gpp.
While I am not a competitive archer, I was able to produce 2- to 3-inch groups with three arrows at 20 yards using a sight. They all flew off the arrow rest smoothly and hit the target at right angles with no loss of energy due to bad arrow flight.
The Atmos fit well in my hand, and I was pleased to see that it did not produce any hand shock or vibrations. This might be due in part to the heavy arrow, but it was a pleasure to shoot. It was also very quiet at the shot, so I don’t think anyone who hunts with one at close range will have to worry about noise. And this was without any string silencers on the bowstring.
Why a Takedown Bow is a Good Idea
Now that we have seen why the Atmos is a good addition to the ranks of takedown bows, let’s take a look at why having a takedown bow is a good idea for a prepper or backcountry hunter:
- They are fun to shoot and practice with.
- They are quiet, so you won’t be heard when you are using them.
- They are versatile; you can use them for sport, defense or hunting.
- They are simple to use and maintain.
- They weigh much less than a gun.
- You can use the same ammunition over and over again.
- They are not regulated as firearms are.
- They are not as expensive as firearms.
- With different heads/points, your arrows are easily adaptable for different purposes.
- Archery and bowhunting are useful skills as an individual or as a member of a survival group.
With its fast assembly, especially if you are shooting instinctively, this is a good addition for anyone who wants to add a bow and arrow to their bug-out bag or backpacking gear. The 50-pound limbs I evaluated are suitable for hunting anything from small game up to whitetail deer. With the heavier limbs SAS offers, you can use this bow for any game animal in North America. It is a durable and well-crafted piece of tackle … and, like all bows, it is fun to shoot!
Accessories to Enhance Your Effectiveness
While much can be said regarding the instinctive style of shooting used by traditional bowhunters being the best shooting style for hunting, the use of some key accessories on modern bows can go a long way to making your shots more accurate, especially if you are just getting into using a bow for hunting.
Arrow rests: The arrow rest is what the arrow rests on as you are shooting. It can be as simple as some hook-and-loop strips on the riser or a stick-on rest with a movable arm. More-sophisticated rests are fully adjustable and drop out of the way when you shoot.
Sights: Sights are used if you do not want to, or cannot, shoot instinctively. Like an arrow rest, they screw onto the riser and have adjustments for windage and elevation.
Quivers: Quivers can be attached to the bow with screwed-on brackets; alternatively, they can be strapped on at the top of the riser. They hold anywhere from three to seven (or more) arrows and come in a variety of designs.
Stabilizers: Stabilizers screw into the front of the riser and help balance the bow in your hand. They also absorb any energy left in the bow so that it doesn’t turn into noise or hand shock.
Arrows: The right arrow is vital to your shooting success. You must pick arrows that are stiff enough at your draw length to fly well off your bow. They should have enough mass to absorb as much of the energy possible from your bow and keep it while they fly to the target. The energy the arrow retains until it gets to the target defines how much momentum it has for penetration; the heavier it is, the more energy it will absorb and retain during its flight and transfer to the target upon impact.
Different Points for Different Purposes
Just as you use different lures for different types of fish and different bullets for different kinds of game, there are different kinds of heads for your arrows, depending on what you are shooting at.
Field or practice points: These are the most basic heads to put on your arrow—simple, pointed pieces of metal used for target practice or stump shooting. You can use them for small game, but a dedicated small-game head will serve you better.
Small game heads: These are used to kill small game. They come in two common types. Blunts and spring leg designs, like JUDO heads, kill by shock and breaking the small bones in squirrels, birds and rabbits. Cutting designs also use shock but include small cutting blades to cut tissue and blood vessels.
Broadheads: These are used for hunting big game the size of turkey, deer and hogs. They have razor-sharp cutting blades designed to cut through tissue and blood vessels, causing the animal to die quickly from loss of blood.
Bowfishing heads: These heads are designed to punch through the scales of gamefish such as carp and tarpon. The heads have a pivoting head or blades that keep it in the fish so that you can reel it in.
Survival Archery Systems
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the January 2019 print issue of American Survival Guide.