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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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