Mathews Switchback XT Frankenbow – Improving An All Time Great

Mathews Switchback XT

The 2005 Mathews Switchback XT is routinely listed as one of the best bows of all time. Everyone’s favorite. The bow you wished you hadn’t sold.

Sound familiar? 20 years later many people are still using them bowhunting the whitetail woods.

I was one of those people. And then a week before deer season, I blew mine up.

Tragic. A season ruining experience.

But legends never die. And the Mathews Switchback XT is legendary.

We are putting this bow back together but with some slight modifications. And we plan to make it better than before.

Follow along with our rebuild process to find out how we took a great hunting bow and made it better.

Inspect The Damage

After dry firing the Switchback XT on the 3D archery course, the first step was to break the bow down and assess the damage.

Some was obvious right from the start. Others, not so obvious.

When the shot went off, the string de-railed from the cam. It also sent one of the string suppressors flying behind me. I looked but couldn’t find it. Gone forever but easy to replace.

The string was absolutely toast. Reusing a string from a dry-fired bow is a recipe for disaster.

Mathews Switchback String

As you can see, the serving broke in three spots revealing strands of kiwi and buckskin 452x beneath it.

To take the bow apart, we put it in our EZ Green bow press. From there, we took the string and cables off the bow.

Afterwards, we pulled the limbs off the riser. Removing the axle bolts from the limbs allowed us to remove the Switchback XT cam and idler wheel.

Once the Switchback XT cam was off the bow and on the workbench, it was easy to see it too was ruined.

The cam bent from the dryfire. No way to fix that. After nearly 20 years of service, she was done for.

Switchback XT Cam
You have to look closely but the Switchback Cam is no longer straight. Easy to see when sitting on a flat work bench.

Thankfully, Mathews Archery has parts available for every bow they have produced.

That means if I wanted to order a new Switchback XT cam, a bow shop can get me one.

The energy from a dry fire can cause damage to many parts of the bow. Next up are the limbs.

The solid limbs on the Switchback XT are thicker than modern split limb compound bows. Did the more robust design hold up to the energy release of a dry fire?

Aside from visually looking for cracks or splits, the most common way to check limbs for damage is by using a cotton ball.

Slowly run a cotton ball along the limbs. The loose cotton will catch any small fractures or damaged fragments in the carbon limbs.

After a thorough examination I determined that the limbs survived. But to be honest, I have no idea how.

Damaged Parts List:

  • Cam
  • String

New Cam

So here’s what we discovered. A new cam and new string would get the Switchback XT shooting arrows again.

But that’s too easy. Why not make things a little complicated. Try something different.

Instead of ordering a new Switchback XT cam, we used this opportunity to make something new.

Switchback XT Frankenbow

The Mathews Z7 is another great Mathews Solocam with an equally impressive following. It was available from 2010 – 2011.

The IBO speed rating of the Mathews Z7 is 333 feet per second. This gives it an 18 fps boost over the Switchback XT.

On paper the two bows are very similar. To make a Z7 cam fit your draw length you need to order one two inches shorter.

We purchased a 26 inch Z7 cam that would give us a 28 inch draw on the Mathews Switchback XT.

But that’s not all. A Mathews Z7 cam is slightly wider than a Switchback XT cam.

Switchback XT Frankenbow
We needed a 26 inch Mathews Z7 cam to make our Switchback XT frankenbow a 28 inch draw.

To make the new cam fit our bow, we first have to modify the limbs. This may be too much for some. We are about to intentionally remove material from our bow limbs.

Reducing structural integrity could compromise and potentially weaken them. Warranty is out the window. Proceed at your own risk.

Modify Limbs

The Mathews Z7 cam is slightly wider than the Switchback XT. So how do we make it fit?

The Switchback XT uses a solid limbs, unlike new bows with two split limbs on top and bottom.

Each limb has a fork to fit the cam and idler wheel. The lower limb needs to have the fork slightly widened to fit the Z7 cam.

Luckily, you only need to remove a fraction of an inch from both sides of the fork to fit the Z7 cam.

Mathews Switchback Limbs
Slowly removing material from the Switchback limbs to fit the Z7 cam.

This can be done two ways – a dremel tool or a table saw. Crazy? Maybe.

Two quick passes on the table saw will make the cam fit. High risk, high reward.

Instead, I opted to use the dremel. I’m more familiar with it and felt I had better control.

I can slowly work until enough material has been removed to fit the Z7 cam. I felt this greatly reduced my chances of error.

It took me about an hour to grind and shape the Switchback limbs to accept the new cam.

Mathews Switchback Limbs
You have to look close to notice the bow is modified.

Switchback XT String Specs

To build your Switchback XT frankenbow you’ll need a custom set of strings. Just using the stock string lengths won’t get you into spec.

Here’s what you need to order:

String: 89″
Cable: 33.5″

I ordered mine in Black and Bronze to accentuate the Realtree Hardwoods camo on the Mathews riser.

Mathews Switchback XT

Reassembling The Switchback XT

At this point, putting the bow back together is fairly routine. Once the cam and idler wheel are back on the limbs, bolt the limbs back onto the riser.

Place your bow into the bow press and install the new set of strings. From here, its time to put the accessories back on and begin tuning.

We bolted on our bow site and arrow rest and quickly tied a d loop.

There are lots of good options for arrow rests. The primary use for this bow will be chasing whitetails during the West Virginia bow season.

Typical shots are 25 yards or less. In that scenario, it’s hard to beat a whisker biscuit. A fairly basic choice for a less than basic build.

We even found an old school Carolina Archery Products whisker biscuit on for a nostalgic, period correct feel.

The final consideration is the lower string stop. It will contact the Z7 cam when drawing the bow.

Because of this, we removed it with no negative effects. This worked out well since the rubber suppressor was lost during the dry fire. Now I don’t even need to order a new one.

Mathews Switchback XT

Final Thoughts

The Switchback XT truly is one of Mathews best compound bows. I would have been quite content rebuilding it in its original form.

The damage was far less than I expected. I didn’t even have to order a new set of limbs.

However, since I nearly destroyed it and had to start over, this was an opportunity to try something new.

Having the tools to work on my own bows certainly helped influence my decision.

But also, I enjoy trying different bows. Over time, I have found myself liking ones that most people don’t.

After reassmbling the Switchback XT, I have a hard time believing that anyone would disagree with my decision.

West Virginia Whitetails beware. We took a great bow and made it even better. We added 20 feet per second all while maintaining the smooth draw the bow is known for.

Hard to ask for anything more, even with so many good bows available today.

Remember, modifying your bow incorrectly can lead to disastrous events. We are not bow manufacturers or engineers. Do this at your own risk. We advise that you use your bow as intended in its original configuration.

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