Unless you’re an industry gadfly or are over 45, you’re probably not too familiar with the Darton name. And even if you know Darton’s name, you probably haven’t heard much about the Bow Darton Spectra E.
And that’s a shame, because the Spectra-E is a soft-shooting compound bow that can hold its own with any of the new flagship hunting bows. It just doesn’t have name recognition.
Darton’s Archery History
Before we dive into the features and capabilities of the Darton Spectra E, let’s talk about the history of archery. If you shot compound hunting bows in the 1980s and 1990s, you’ll be familiar with the name Darton Archery. Darton was one of the most common brands on the shelf. Former owner Rex Darlington helped shape the compound bow as we know it today.
Every compound bow you see in pro shops across the country has either a Darlington patented part or a part inspired by a Darlington patent, especially in the cams. The three-track binary cam system that we see growing in popularity today was first patented by Darton in 2003.
And while Darlington helped fuel the speed craze of the early to mid-2000s with its engineering, Darton found itself caught on the wrong side of the marketing avalanche that spurred bow makers like Mathews and Hoyt. It might seem like the Darton bows are gone, but that’s not the case.
In 2020, Randy Kitts, who own Black Eagle Arrows and Conquest Stabilizers, decided to add a bow to its archery portfolio and acquired Darton from Darlington. Do not worry. Darlington still works for the company doing what he loves: tinkering with new designs. But Kitts is now breathing new life into the Darton brand in hopes of bringing it back to market relevance. There is no doubt about the engineering. What Darton needs now is the notoriety he had 30 years ago.
Darton Spectra E Specifications and Features
- Speed index: 330 to 335 fps
- Axle to axle: 32 inches
- Brace height: 6 7/16 inches
- Mass weight: 4.9 pounds
- Draw lengths: 25.5 to 31 inches
- Draw weight: 40, 50, 60, 70 pounds
- Clearance: 85%
The 2022 Spectra E is a revised version of a Darton bow of the same name built in 2021. I didn’t like the 2021 version because it had too much hand shock. Although they kept the same name, Kitts and Darlington revised the arc and came back with a new version for 2022.
The backbone of the Spectra E is the aluminum riser. It is made of a grade 7075 T-6511 rated aluminum. These numbers and letters are Greek to most of us, but they have one of the highest strength-to-weight and stiffness-to-weight ratios on the market. It is also prestressed and pre-stretched.
It all adds up to a riser that has very little flex. And that leads to consistency from shot to shot and minimal vibration – that hand bump that I didn’t like in the previous version.
Wide limb pockets and parallel limbs
In making the new Spectra E, Darton also built a wider limb pocket filled with wider limbs, and they flattened those limbs to make them more parallel. The more vertical the limbs are on a compound bow, the more hand shock the shooter feels.
Darton E system
What’s unique about the Spectra E – something you won’t see on any other compound – is Darton’s E system. It is a roller at the top end of the cables that takes a split yoke attached to each limb end and connects that cable to the cam between the yokes.
Normally when you see split yokes on a compound, the yokes come together under the top cam or above the bottom cam to form a single cable that attaches to the opposite cam. With the E system, the yokes form this single cable, but it is then returned through the roller to connect directly to the cam between these yokes. A cable is then connected to the other end of the roller, and this cable is attached to the opposite cam as usual.
Essentially, the E system equalizes the pressure on each axle. Instead of just having the two yokes pulling down on the outside of each limb, there is also a cable attached to the cam at the axle. So there are three points of contact pulling down on each axle, creating more stability and consistency.
On the cams, the Darton Spectra E offers two pull stops – a cable stopper and a limb stopper. The shooter decides to use one or the other, or both. The cable stop is somewhat unique among bows that have such stops. It is a flat pad, rather than a normal round post. And that flat pad creates a strong back wall at full draw that’s almost as strong as the limb stopper.
The back wall is essential for all archers, but I believe especially for bowhunters. When you’re aiming for a big buck, elk, or whatever else you’re hunting, it’s easy to get distracted from the shooting process. When you have a bow with a squishy back wall, it’s easy for your trigger arm to unknowingly move forward a bit. This can affect your point of impact when firing. When the back wall is solid, it’s easy to find it and totally hold it to the touch.
Darton Spectra E review
I borrowed one E-spectrum from the Lancaster Archery Supply Pro Shop for my test. It was set with a draw length of 29.5 inches and a draw weight of 70 pounds. With these specs my bow fired a 475 grain arrow at 284 feet per second through the LAS chronograph. It’s not the fastest compound bow, but it’s a respectable speed for the quality of the bow.
The bow shot beautifully. I just looked at my center shot to set it up, and it produced a perfect bullet hole through the paper on my first shot.
The draw cycle is nice, although it feels a bit different from other bows. The initial pull is easy, then there is a slight bump just before the cam turns around. This is where the greatest effort is required of the shooter. Like I said, it’s not a difficult cycle. It’s just different from most other flagship compounds.
The rollers used by the E system are smooth as glass. I say this because I didn’t notice that they were part of the draw cycle. I thought I felt a stutter as the cables moved through the rollers, but it doesn’t. I didn’t feel anything to indicate that anything different had happened with the cables when the cams flipped, as is the case on every compound bow.
The handle of the Spectra E is a nice feature. When I looked at the handle I thought it looked lumpy. When I carried the bow by the hilt, it felt like a block. However, when I put the handle in my hand to pull the bow, the grip was soft. It settled perfectly in my hand and it felt super stable throughout the shooting process.
It was an important reminder that looks aren’t everything. Performance is what matters in my book.
The Spectra E is rather heavy when it comes to 32-inch-long hunting compounds. It weighs 4.9 pounds. In comparison, the Mathews V3X 33 weighs 4.6 pounds, the Hoyt Ventum Pro 33 weighs 4.7 pounds, and the Bowtech SR 350 weighs 4.4 pounds. And all of those bows are an inch longer than the Darton Spectr-E.
If bow weight is an issue, this could be a problem. I am primarily a white tail tree hunter, and I always add weight to my bows by putting front and rear outriggers. A few extra ounces in bow weight just means I can leave some on my stabilizers. So the weight of the Spectra E didn’t bother me.
The best part of the Spectra E is that it absolutely drives tacks. The accuracy I was able to get from this bow amazed me. I broke nocks and ripped vanes multiple times on arrows planted in the target which I then hit with subsequent shots. This is proof of the regularity of the shots.
Nothing is more frustrating than having one arrow hit one spot and the next 3 inches away while aiming at the same spot and executing another good shot. The sound of arrows breaking through the center of a target is the sound of victory.
The valley and the back wall of this arc are exceptional. With a deep valley and 85% release, the Spectra E is one of those bows that feels like you have to push the string forward at full draw to be able to drop. I could stand at full draw against that back wall for days.
And I had the arc set just so the cable stop made contact at full draw. The flat paddle on the stop was nice and I didn’t see the need for the limb stop.
Where the Darton Spectra E falls short
Name recognition. There is simply no way around it. If a pro shop carries Darton, Hoyt, Mathews and other well-known brands, most customers will follow the marketing. The E system gives this bow a different look, which may put off some customers. Not everyone will appreciate the engineering behind it. They’ll pass it on just because it doesn’t look like a Mathews, Hoyt or Bowtech. And it is heavier than other bows. Some bowhunters will pick it up and say, “It’s heavy. Also, the Spectra E’s finish and graphics aren’t as polished and modern as other flagships. In other words, it just doesn’t look as trendy as the knots that Mathews or Hoyt are rolling out.
Where the Darton Spectra E excels
The shooting experience is as good as anything on the market. And the bow is deadly accurate. From what the folks at Darton have told me, I have to think that a super-stiff riser plays a big part in both. There is virtually no vibration and the shot-to-shot consistency is easy to see when hitting arrows into the target.
Plus, the bow is forgiving. I consider myself a fairly precise but very aware archer. In other words, I don’t always produce the best shots from shot to shot. But I am very aware when I make a mistake in my form. I could make mistakes with this bow, but the arrows still hit where I wanted. It’s a great feature.
With bows like the E-spectrum, there’s no reason Darton shouldn’t be a product-relevant bow maker. Now it’s up to the company to develop a marketing strategy that will make its arcs known to the world.