This page is part of the official ARCHIVE COPY of the pioneering but abandoned Thrower website on knife throwing. Copyright and details

Review of the BPS Engineering

Dec, 1998

I met Bob Perkins of BPS Engineering over the Internet during the summer of 1998. He offered to sell me one of his atlatls and 3 darts wholesale thanks to my reputation as an impartial reviewer of all manner of things (he said with a smile).

In any event, I took him up on his proposition, still an expensive deal for me at $90 or so, and in exchange I promised him I would one day get around to doing a review. I have already reviewed Bob's atlatl on the throwing weapons mailing list, but this small page will stand as a more enduring expression of my experience with the BPS atlatl.

My previous atlatl experience consisted of nothing more than a few dozen throws with an atlatl simply made from a carved stick. The dart was a bamboo rod, about 4 feet long, and fairly stiff. It also sported turkey feather fletching tied with string. I was able, with this primitive tool, to throw the dart 20 or more yards (I couldn't really let loose, too close to a road or deep forest where the dart would surely have been lost). Often my throw would cause the dart's back end to slip out of alignment with its point. The dart would fly sideways, and never recover from this bad throw.

The BPS atlatl is obviously a different breed. It starts with a stick shaped to have flexibility in one axis (vertical), and remain stiff in the horizontal axis. It has a nice leather wrapped handle, velvet finger loops which are threaded through the handle wrap in such a was as to permit easy tightening or loosening of the loops to accomodate different sized fingers. The BPS atlatl has a weight balanced for the size and weight of the rest of the implement, but moveable, permitting a fine tuning of the atlatl's release point. The handle is also weighted to balance out the whole system, including the dart's weight. The whole is topped off with a glue and artificial-sinew tied ball or spur of real antler, durable and shaped to make contact with the knock (a hole in the back of the dart), for the longest possible time; conferring maximum power. All in all a nice piece of work.

The dart is something else again too. Essentially a modern aluminum arrow, but 5 feet long, it has considerable flexibility. This is a very important part of the whole atlatl/dart relationship. The dart has the virtue of being broken down for easy transport and storage. It is shipped with a target head exactly like that one would find on an archery arrow. I assume hunting heads can be afixed as well. Bob also sells what he calls an "authentic" dart which is made from river cane, but very thin Bob tells me. It is supposed to be flexible, just like the aluminum version.

I was reasonably consistent with the atlatl with my first dozen throws. I had to borrow a neighbor's property to really let loose with it. Pointing the dart up at a 45 deg. angle, I could hit 100+ yards in a short time, and I never seem to have that problem pushing the back of the dart to the side. Long range groups were on the order of 2-3 yards sometimes. Not too bad for the range. It was much harder to be accurate at shorter ranges when I tried to throw flatter trajectories into targets between 20 and 80 yards. After many throws, my accuracy at 20 yards is no better than 1.5 yard groups, and those not consistently by any means. That doesn't mean other's couldn't do better. I don't claim any particular skill at these things...

The whole process is a great deal of fun. I've ordered myself 5 more darts so I don't have to walk so often, and I will paint the back third or so of those darts a bright day-glow orange. I recommend this process if you throw in a grassy or otherwise over-grown area where green is a predominant color. It is very easy to loose dark green darts against a background of vegetation, especially when they land at low angles. My daughter discovered this to her, and my, dismay when she lost site of one she threw, and didn't see it again until she stepped on it! Another thing you can do is to tie a 2' streamer to the end of the dart. I found a streamer of old linen rag about 2" wide by 2' long worked very well to make the dart visible. It also added drag to the dart making it possible to throw forcefully even in places where I did not want the dart to travel more than 50 or 60 yards. I found a 3' drag kept the darts under 50 yards.

I am not competent to judge this technology in a hunting context. I surely am not accurate enough to hunt with it, and this after several hundred throws. It does not seem forcefull enough to hunt with to me. At 40 yards, a range at which you can achieve considerable force, it penetrates an archery target to much less depth then a arrow loosed from my 150lb crossbow which, in turn, is about equivalent to a 75lb hunting bow. I am prepared to believe that people can hunt with such atlatl/dart systems, but they will have a much more powerful arm than me.

I am also not sure of the price. I know only one other atlatl maker (Chuck Butorajac). He customizes the atlatl to the individual hand, and is more expensive than BPS, I believe. I have never handled a Butorajac atlatl, so I can not compare them to the BPS version.

My guess is that for an atlatl enthusiast the BPS price is not too high for a high-end example of the technology. On the other hand, there are few enough of us who have access to sufficient space to safely throw an atlatl dart, to fork over $70 for even a well engineered system of stick, weight, and ball. Mind you the labor lavished on the device is evident. It looks roughly comparable to what a throwing knife maker would spend on three or more throwing knives typically priced in the $35 range. Bob's asking price is by no means out of line from this point of view.

I can honestly say that I am glad Bob made me the wholesale offer and that I took him up on it. It just so happens that I do live in a rural area, and I can step outside into my own back yard and toss the darts up to 80 yards safely, and over 100 if I secure permission from a neighbor. Although the atlatl requires considerably more space, I find the throwing process to be as much fun as knife throwing and whip cracking, well complementing both.

Mail to mjr,
goto Survival,
Throwing Weapons,
Primitive Weapons,
or back to the Atlatl

This page is part of the official ARCHIVE COPY of the pioneering but abandoned Thrower website on knife throwing. Copyright and details