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SD Bows

My name is Jim Baker and I am consumed by all things archery in San Diego.

I was born in Indiana, and shortly thereafter, my parents moved to Dayton Ohio where we lived until I was 12. A job change for my father led us to Amherst Virginia, where I learned to love the Blue Ridge Mountains, hunting and nature. At 18, I joined the US Navy and was assigned to the USS Portsmouth SSN 707, being built in the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics in Groton, Connecticut. After the Portsmouth was completed, she was relocated to sunny San Diego, where I met one of those California girls the Beach Boys sang about and for some reason decided to stay here.

Fast forward to 2013, one of my best friends told me he would like to purchase his first bow, and asked if I would help him pick one. Nearly 35 years earlier, my father had given me his 1963 Browning Safari recurve. I had carried it into the woods a few times in my youth, but otherwise, it had spent most of that time wrapped up in an old bed sheet between the rafters of my home.  I drug it down from the attic and started shooting it with my friend and his new bow. It was from this moment, that I was hooked.

I began to wonder about the origins of my old Browning and discovered it had been made within a half mile of my home. I learned that Browning Arms had purchased the facility of another San Diego bow manufacturer, Gordon Plastics Inc (GPI). Run by two brothers,  GPI had invented the most successful archery fiberglass on the market called Bow-Tuff. Not only did they produce and sell their fiberglass, to every major bow producer in the US, they also manufactured their own very successful bow line. The Royal Line, as it was known, featured such bows as the King, Queen, Prince, Jester, Squire and Royal Monarch, just to name a few. However, GPI had a difficult time keeping up with the demands of fiberglass production and a successful bow line, so GPI decided to sell their bow making operations to Browning in 1962/63. This allowed them to focus their attention on supplying their customers, instead of competing against them.

It wasn't long until I discovered a Gordon Plastics recurve up for sale, and I knew I had to have it. This started my "San Diego" collection of bows and the discovery that San Diego was the epicenter of modern archery advancements and inventions from the 1940's through the 1970's. During this period, San Diego had no less than 9 bow manufacturers, 8 archery ranges, a 5 time NFAA Freestyle Champion, several flight archery record holders, multiple sport changing inventions, and one of the worlds largest primitive archery and weapons collections in the world. Not to mention that one of those archery ranges is located inside the nations largest urban park, Balboa Park.

Here are some of the archery businesses and names that make up archery history in San Diego.

San Diego Archery Manufactures

  • Custom by Abernethy (San Diego)
  • Browning (San Diego)
  • Custom Bow Co. (La Mesa)
  • Drake Bows (Lakeside)
  • Eicholtz Archery (Lakeside)
  • Fasco (San Diego)
  • Gelco (San Diego)
  • Gordon Plastics Inc.
  • Wilson White Archery (Lakeside)

San Diego Archery Names

  • Joseph Jessop (Donated his Primitive archery & weapons collection to Balboa Park in return for an archery range - located in Gold Gulch)


  • Frank Eicholtz (An inductee into the Archery Hall of Fame, Frank was the first to laminate a bow with fiberglass, he invented the fiberglass arrow, he was flight bow record holder, he invented the first center-shot take-down longbow, he invented the Bow-Lock archery release and the endless loop style bowstring)


  • Harry Drake (An inductee into the Archery Hall of Fame, Harry Drake was an early pioneer in the designing and building of the modern "composite" bow. Although Harry's bow won many State and National tournaments he will perhaps be best remembered for the development of flight bows, both foot and hand held. For 29 straight years, since 1947, a Drake bow held the Men's National Flight record. He built the first bow to cast an arrow over 600 yards since the days of the ancient Turks. (May 31, 1947, Southern California Archery Association tournament - 603 yards). Bows built by Harry, while he lived in California, have established more flight records than any other bowyer since man has recorded such things. A Drake bow designed in 1964 shot a record of 1,077 yard and on October 24, 1971 at Ivanpah Dry Lake in the high desert of California during the Official N.A.A. Flight Championships, from an unlimited footbow, he conceived, designed and built, Harry Drake shot an arrow 268 yards over a mile, (2,028 yards). The Guineas Book of World Records recognizes this feat as the greatest distance any man has cast a missile by means of muscle power alone.


  • Rube Powell (An inductee into the Archery Hall of Fame and the San Diego Hall of Champions, Rube took up archery in 1947 while serving in U. S. Navy, he won National Field Archery Association Championships, 1951 thru 1956, held National Records in Field, Hunter, Broadhead, Animal, and aggregate tournament competition, he was AAU “Athlete of the Year” in 1955, and life member of the NFAA, San Diego Archers, Chula Vista Archers, he contributed much to California archery, promoting the sport, creating ranges, and assisting clubs)


  • Roy Dill (An inductee into the Archery Hall of Fame, Roy and his family moved to San Diego in 1928. In 1938 Roy bought his first lemon-wood bow for $6.00. starting an involvement with archery that lasted over 34 years. Roy joined the San Diego Field Archers in 1944, shooting competitively until graduation from high school, where upon he joined the army. From 1947 through 1951 Roy was a formidable competitor throughout the state of California, winning many local tournaments as well as several State and National Championships. In 1947 he won the San Diego City Championship, 2nd Place California State Field Championship, 2nd Place NFAA Field Championship. In 1948 he won the San Diego City Championship, California State Field Championship, NFAA Field Championship, California Clout Championship, 2nd Place California Target Championship. In 1949 he set a new California State Broad-head Record with a score of 930. Roy won the first Professional Archery Championship in Pasadena and shot the first 900 Round ever in NFAA competition. In 1950 Roy placed 3rd at the NFAA Field Championship, 1st place at the California State Field Championship shooting a newly recognized style of Archery, Freestyle. After an absence of over 30 years from major tournament archery, Roy came back to competition, recording the 3rd highest overall score at the 1981 California State Field Championship Tournament, held at Fresno, California, using a 46 pound recurve bow.)


  • Jerry Amster (1952 National Indoor Champion, Former SDFA's president, Operated a shop called "The Archers Den" near Balboa Park. Jerry played a key role in establishing the current location of the SDA's range in Balboa Park. Worked as a designer and sales rep. for every major bow manufacturer in San Diego including Browning. Invented the "Amster Training Bow" manufactured and sold by Ben Pearson. In 1951 Jerry was featured for 26 weeks on the TV show "Goodyear Playhouse" shooting arrows into the new Goodyear "Puncture Proof Tire". Organized the first "San Diego Open". Jerry spent many years performing for school children and events such as the Boy Scout Jamboree held in Balboa Stadium before 36,000 people and hosted by Lorne Greene of the TV shows Bonanza and Battle Star Galactica.)

There are more names worth mentioning here, but I think you get the picture. Maybe I will add more at a later time. I'll sign off with a photo of the winners at the San Diego Field Archers Trophy Shoot, posing with their trophies in 1950.




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Nicely done.

Linked to this post on the SDA History page, https://sandiegoarchers.com/faqs/history

Here's the bow that started my interest in San Diego's​ archery history.


Made in October 1957 it's a recurve produced by the company Gordon Plastics Inc., or GPI.

GPI produced the Royal Line of Bows and the different models were given names such as Queen, King, Jester or Monarch. GPI sometimes marked their bows with the Gordon Plastics Inc. logo, and Clan Gordon other times.

The bow pictured here was ordered as a custom and was not given a mode name. It's 60 inch long an 49#@28".

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