Field Evaluation: 2011 Darton DS-3800

Darton is one of the quiet giants in the archery industry meaning they have a big impact on the sport without really getting too loud about it.  They have come through with some seriously fast bows throughout the years, patented the hybrid cam system and more. The company is run by Rex Darlington whose father Ralph started the business back in 1950 as a division of his container-making company. Container Specialties, Inc had leather working capabilities that allowed them to launch into the archery arena providing arm guards, finger tabs, quivers, etc. Rex joined the company around 1961 and soon after led the company down the bow manufacturing path that would make them a cornerstone in our sport. A statement on the bottom border of their 2011 catalog basically sums up what I think about when Darton comes to mind, “It’s not all about gadgets, frills and exaggerated claims. It’s about quality, solid engineering and performance!”

Darton’s 2011 DS-3800 is loaded with features and packs a serious punch with excellent IBO speeds. The DS-3800 features a set of Quad limbs, PTR Cable Guard rod, Dual Sync Cam system, String Stop, molded rubber grip, and a set of Limb Savers.

Darton DS-3800 for 2011

Synchronized Speed and Power:

The highlight of the DS-3800, and the engine that drives its speed, is the DualSync Cam system. Why is this system special or better than some others? Let’s start by looking at how it actually works, how it goes through its cycle during the draw and shot. Darton’s DualSync is built with an additional let-out groove on each cam that anchors the two legs of the power cable (cable side A) on the end that uses a y-harness to split the cable.

The other end (cable side B) of the same cable is anchored to a post on the opposite cam. As the bow is drawn “cable side A” lets out the exact amount of cable that “cable side B” takes up – they work in sync with one another. In fact, the design does not allow them to work any other way. They are coupled to one another and function as a slave to the action of the other. That leads us to the resulting performance – the benefit for the archer. Issues related to timing and synchronization are minimized meaning the cams can be out of optimum “tune” and still retain Shootability. Nock travel remains consistent and the revealing “double bump” felt when reaching full draw on a rig that has cams rolling over at different times will be eliminated. The effects of tuning that is not spot-on are basically neutralized.  According to Darton advertising, “…nock travel does not jump up or down. No matter how hard you pull against the draw stops or how far you are from optimum tune the nock travel and stored energy is smooth and predictable.” Another plus is produced from the split harness and double let out grooves, as they distribute the tension equally on either side of the cam to reduce torque and limb twist (cam lean).

The machined aluminum DualSync cam system is easily adjustable through its range of draw lengths, 25 to 31”, with a series of modules including those for half inch increments. A bow press is not required. Just remove three small screws and switch out the modules to the one that suits your needs. Cams ride on heat treated steel axles and stainless steel ball bearings producing a system letoff of 80%. Darton also offers an attachment, which connects to the draw stop and reduces letoff between 5 and 10 percent. One of my favorite features on this cam system is Darton’s patented Tuning Mark System. Each cam has two engraved lines on the outside rim that indicates the correct position of the power cable while the bow is at rest. A quick glance lets the shooter know if their cables either need lengthened or shortened to achieve top performance.

SO WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?

  • Incredible speed.
  • The Tuning Mark is fantastic – a favorite of mine. It doesn’t take a pro shop technician to determine if your bow is in tune – just make sure your cables are within the lines and you are ready to go.
  • A modular draw length system ensures a correct fit without the hassles of changing out cams.
  • An 80% letoff is easy on the shoulder. Not worried about your shoulder and want a lower letoff percentage – not a problem.
  • Hassle free shooting.

Center Stage:

The building block of the DS-3800 is the True Center Riser that is forged one piece CNC machined from a single block of 6061-T6 aluminum. The grip, limbs and bowstring are all aligned (True Center), which makes the bow easier to set up and tune and also less critical to shoot. This bow has a reflex riser geometry. What is a reflex geometry riser? A riser’s configuration is determined by the position of the grip’s deepest point as it relates to an imaginary line drawn through both limb pocket pivot points. If the deepest part of the grip is in front of this line then the riser is considered to be deflexed.

However, if the throat of the grip is behind the line (closer to the archer) the bow is considered to be reflex. Reflex versions increase what is known as the power stroke. Power stroke is the actual distance that the archer moves the string from its resting position to full draw and all else being equal a longer power stroke results in a faster bow. Traditionally a deflex riser has been considered to be significantly more stable and forgiving of poor shooting form but at the same time noticeably slower. Reflex risers are basically the opposite, however, over the past several years they have been the subjects of design improvements that make them less critical of form flaws and give them improved balance. Bows that are both fast and forgiving are the result.

When it comes to the grips chosen for their top rigs Darton has a reputation to consider. They have long been known for their super comfortable rubber grips and back in the late 90s the grip was one of the features that led me to purchase a Darton Maverick. The DS-3800 is outfitted with a Custom Molded VibraGrip, which consists of two contoured rubber side panels seated on a section of the handle that uses radiuses and chamfered edges to create a smooth interface for the shooter’s hand. While this version is not as soft as the older versions it is still comfortable and provides an insulating value. The harder rubber should also translate into a more consistent hand position and less opportunity for inducing torque. A second set of grips is shipped with each bow. The alternate grip set consists of two smaller, harder and smoother ABS material side plates.

Darton outfits the DS-3800 with their patent pending Progressive Torque Reduction (PTR) cable guard rod. This system places the cables for maximum clearance when the bow is at rest – this is also where the cable slide will be as the shot moves the string forward to propel the arrow. Of course this is where you need the most clearance for vanes, feathers, etc. This is not unlike other cable rods. Where this design is different is at full draw. As you approach full draw the cable slide moves into a curved section of the rod that brings the cables closer to the centerline of the bow. This reduces the pressure on the cables and torque on the system in general – torque is the enemy of accuracy and consistency.

Rounding out the DS-3800 package is a threaded metal stabilizer insert, adjustable low-mount string suppression system featuring a pliable rubber stop on the end of a machined aluminum rod. The entire rig is then decked out in one of two finishes – Realtree APG, or Shadow Black.

SO WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?

  • True Center design = easier set up, tuning. Less critical shooting
  • A reflex geometry increases speed.
  • A choice in grip – options are good.
  • Curved cable rod = less torque = more accurate and consistency

MACH I Quad Limbs:

Darton is in its second year using Quad (split) limbs. Each limb unit is made up of a Gordon Composite E-Glass core and laminated E-Glass skins. Darton machines the Gordon material core to exacting tolerances in length, width and thickness, which are then coupled with the skins. Skins are placed on the compression and tension sides of the limb. A known amount of force is applied to each completed limb unit and deflection numbers are recorded and marked on the limb. Limbs are then organized into like deflection numbers and limb sets are pulled from lots with matching deflection results. Limbs are grouped this way to ensure consistency and harmonized performance. Darton is also manufacturing their limbs with a heavy pre-load to take advantage of the inherent characteristics of a semi upright limb pocket angle coupled with past parallel limb position at full draw. The semi upright limb pocket angle offers stability while the past parallel limb tips at full draw are known to have a drastic impact on vibration, kick and noise. Limbs that reach a parallel position at full draw distribute the force from release in equal and opposite directions (acting in opposition to one another) essentially canceling out the unwanted energy left over after sending the arrow on its way. The heavy pre-load applied to the Mach I limbs is made possible through complex computer programming that allows Darton to “see” and eliminate stress hot spots in the design. The result is a uniform distribution of stress across the entire 12 ¾” limb.

Limb sets are available in 40, 50, 60 and 70 pound peak draw weight options. The limbs are either film dipped in Realtree’s APG camo pattern or finished in black to match the Shadow Black option. Each of the Quad limbs is decorated with the Darton Logo and “Mach I”.

The CNC machined aluminum DS-3800 limb pockets pivot on a machined boss at each end of the riser as the limb bolt is turned. This preserves the limb-to-limb pocket alignment throughout the weight adjustment process. A pivoting pocket, rather than a pivoting limb more precisely controls the movement and tolerances at this critical riser-to-limb interface. The pockets also include a locking tab to secure the adjustment once made.

Each pocket is attached to the side of the riser on a surface that is qualified during the machining process. A qualified surface is one that is tested and found to be within tolerances. As used on the DS-3800 this assures that the limbs are in line with the true center of the bow. Pockets are fully machined at all mounting surfaces including the portion that actually cradles the limb to preserve precision and consistency at this critical connection point. The overall pocket has two individual slots/receptacles that cradle each of the fours quad limb pieces for a tightly controlled fit.

SO WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?

  • Parallel limbs = less shock, vibration and noise at the shot.
  • Gordon materials have earned an excellent reputation in the industry for consistent and reliable performance and have been proven year after year and shot after shot on Darton bows.
  • Quad/Split limbs eliminate the stress points found on a typical solid limb – increased durability.
  • Pivoting limb pockets create a superior limb-to-riser interface

Testing:

Since my last Bowhunting.Net bow report I have started to standardize my testing across many of my writing “outlets” (magazines, websites, etc). To bring Bowhunting.Net into line with that effort testing will be as follows:

All test bows will be initially set up with a single brass nock and a QuikTune 3000 arrow rest. If there are any accessories or string loops on test bows I receive they will be removed for testing. All other aspects of the bow will remain in the “As shipped” condition meaning that any factory standard string silencers, riser vibration dampers, etc will not be touched.

Each bow will be tested at a 30” draw length, 70-pound draw weight, shooting a properly spined 350 grain arrow, which has become the industry standard for rating a bow’s speed. This rating is also known as the IBO rating. I.B.O. (International Bowhunting Organization) publishes a set of rules that regulate the parameters of a bow setup which archers are permitted to use while participating in one of their sanctioned events. The IBO rating method, however, is not a standard and assumes some variability. With that in mind I have coupled the commonly accepted IBO ratings with the testing methods of ATA, which defines how you measure a bow’s draw length, speed, etc and also defines the minimum and maximum deviations allowed in measurements. What this all comes down to is a hybrid test method which combines the accountability of a defined standard with the modern industry accepted rating method.

With that said, we will set the test bow’s draw length to 30” and draw weight to 70 pounds as defined ATA standards. We will then use a 350-grain arrow to rate the bow’s speed. Test methods will also be taken from ATA, as we will use the proper tools set at specified parameters. This involves a shooting machine, mechanical release, and a chronograph meeting specs. A minimum of 5 shots will be averaged to come up with the final velocity. A force draw curve will be plotted for each test bow and the following testing results will be reported:

  • Kinetic energy will be calculated using the following formula: Tested speed x tested speed = result (1). Result (1) x 350 = result (2). Result (2) / 450,240 = final result expressed in foot-pounds.
  • Stored energy will be calculated using the following formula: Add up all the readings under the draw force curve = result (1). Result (1) /the number of points used to calculate result (1) = result (2). Result (2) x power stroke in feet = final result expressed in foot-pounds.
  • Efficiency will be calculated using the following formula: Kinetic energy/stored energy = final result expressed in %.

I will also provide my personal comments about each test bow in the “This is how I see it” section of Bowhunting.Net bow reports.

Test results (350-grain arrow):

Tested Speed – 345 fps IBO

Kinetic energy – 92.53 ft lbs

Stored energy – 109.55 ft lbs

Efficiency – 84.46 %

This is how I see it:

The DS-3800 is a solid, hard working, high performance hunting rig. That is what I think of when considering this bow. It just simply gets the job done and it gets it done well. The speed is blazing fast and it meets Darton’s advertised specs right out of the box, which is something that I encourage all manufacturers to shoot for. We don’t want to know what the manufacturer got when they used a string nock, reduced letoff, un-fletched arrows, etc – just set it up like the average Joe would set it up and give us real numbers!  Good job Darton.

Shot noise is good (quiet) and made even better with the addition of string silencers. I just use common rubber bands to see if a string based silencer will make a difference. They don’t last very long but they work wonders as a temporary fill-in. You will feel a noticeable “kick” in the handle at the shot with only a hint of vibration to follow. Of course, when I talk about kick and vibration any and all of either is reported. In practicality we should all keep in mind where we have come from – we are light-years ahead of where we were 10 years ago and a good poke from where we were only 5 years ago. In other words, this bow may have some kick but it is minimal when kept in perspective.

Speed bows necessarily have an aggressive force draw curve. They get to peak quickly and hold it for as long as possible. It is what they do with the transitions between climbing and peak and then peak to the valley. While the aggressive nature of the draw cycle is evident the two transition areas mentioned above are rounded fairly well on the DS-3800 giving the bow a steady and consistent feeling.

Handling the DS-3800 is comfortable with the well-sized, semi-soft grip. The mass weight is average at 4.1 pounds and the axle-to-axle length is right there with the 31-34” range that I prefer.

Spec Sheet

  • Manufacturer: Darton
  • Model: DS-3800
  • Draw weights: 40, 50, 60, and 70# peak
  • Draw Lengths: 25 to 31” in .5” increments – modular
  • Axle-to-axle length: 33-13/16″
  • Brace Height: 6”
  • Mass Weight: 4.1 pounds
  • Let-off option: 80% adjustable with module attachments
  • Eccentrics: DualSync
  • Strings and cables: Scorpion Premium, BCY 452
  • Advertised IBO speed: 345-350
  • Riser: CNC machined aluminum – reflex
  • Grip: Two-piece molded rubber
  • Cable Guard: Progressive Torque Reduction (PTR) curved cable rod
  • Limb pockets: CNC machined aluminum – Pivoting
  • Limbs: Gordon Core – Laminated Skins
  • Warranty: Limited Lifetime
  • MSRP: $829.99
  • Available hunting finish: Realtree APG or Shadow Black

For more go to: Darton Archery or shop Amazon below!

4 Responses to "Field Evaluation: 2011 Darton DS-3800"

  1. John   2010/12/08 at 4:53 pm

    Nice review as always Jon! I see the Darton line up as winner bows BUT the problem is getting your hands on them. I know in my area there is no dealers and I have been trying to test drive the DS-3800 and 2800 and can’t get anywhere so I see Darton losing sales as I’ve seen many other people saying the same thing. Darton has to get a better way to get their bows in customers’ hands.
    Jon, what was the mass weight of the bow you tested?

    • tom baber   2010/12/08 at 9:16 pm

      i live in waterford no one around me is a dealer K D say they are but go look in there store nothing new somtimes no dartons at all

  2. will   2011/03/30 at 5:49 pm

    you need to check online for dealers around your area…took me awhile but i got my hands on the ds3800 and it is unbelievable…

  3. Jack Mibeck   2012/01/30 at 10:40 am

    I just got an old Darton 300wx to see if it’s something I wanna try. Since I’m a geek, also, I went online and used the ‘find dealer’ button, and there IS a guy a few hundred miles away that deals Darton bows. I’ll probably go there once I can either get my back strength up to the 70# level, or try the 60# one instead. We may be way ahead of 10 years ago, but I need something newer than the 1990 bow I use now. lol