Forge Bow hits the bull’s eye

Last weekend, Wisconsin’s bow hunters took to the woods, stalking their first bucks of the season. And more than a few of them are probably carrying a Forge compound bow, made on the outskirts of a small industrial area in New Berlin.

Forge Bow Company Inc. is owned by Steve Pagel, who bought a bow manufacturing company named Forge Flight out of receivership in 1998. Pagel, who formerly worked in engineering and sales, was an avid bow hunter who wanted to own his own business.

“I wanted to get into business for myself,” he said. “I thought I could build a better mousetrap than what was out there.”

Today, Forge has six bows on the market – all of them designed and built by Pagel, the company’s owner and sole employee. He designs and engineers each bow from a basement in his home, then begins the manufacturing process in his company’s 4,000-square-foot assembly and testing area in New Berlin.

Forge Bows are primarily designed for bow hunting, and several models are capable of achieving speeds of more than 300 feet per second – speeds capable for not only deer hunting, but also elk, bear and other large game.

Forge Bow Company shares space with a contract manufacturer that builds its risers, the core of the bow, where its grip is located and sights are mounted. Unlike many other bows on the market today, Forge’s risers are machined from one solid piece of aluminum, which gives the bow higher strength and speed, Pagel said.

The contract manufacturer that makes the risers, which he declined to name, also builds the cams on Forge’s bows. The limbs for Forge’s bows are outsourced to Gordon Composites, a Colorado-based company.

In early 2009, Forge will introduce a new line of products based on bow fishing, including two specially designed bows for fishing. The Forge fishing bow looks much like models made for hunting, however it also features a reel mounted on the riser. In bow fishing, a line is attached to specially-designed arrows and is used to reel in fish that have been shot.

“We will also (come out with) industry-impacting performance arrows for the bow fisherman,” Pagel said.

Forge will carry two lines of specially designed arrows for bow fishing in early 2009. Both were designed by Pagel, and are being made specifically for Forge Bow. Both of the arrows are heavier and more shock resistant than typical bow hunting arrows, Pagel said, and are heavier as a result.

“One of the fishing arrows has three times the weight of a hunting arrow,” he said. “But it has to be able to track through a denser media (water).”

And based on recent field tests, the heavier arrows do just fine, he said.

“We were shooting fish six feet down in the water when we were field testing in the Gulf of Mexico,” Pagel said. “We were shooting stingrays and we got a few sharks off the coast of Alabama.”

Because Pagel is Forge Bow’s only employee, he has been able to keep his prices relatively low. Most of Forge’s bows sell for $500 to $649, while comparable high-end bows retail for $800 to $850, Pagel said.

“My attempt in the business is to provide high-quality at an affordable price,” he said. “I’ve done whatever it took to maintain that – I’ve eliminated my sales reps to maintain the integrity of the product and not (compromise on) price.”

Pagel does not employ sales representatives to help sell his products. Instead, he relies on word-of-mouth referrals and a network of 325 independent hunting supply stores to help sell Forge bows.

Forge Bow had more than 15 percent revenue growth in 2007 and more than 11 percent in 2006. The start of bow hunting season marks the company’s busy season, and Pagel said it is hard to predict revenue growth for 2008.

Pagel’s time as Forge Bow’s sole employee could be nearing an end, even with the frequent assistance of several friends.

“If the fishing bow takes off, I’ll have to hire more people,” he said. “(The company has) evolved into a lot more than I thought. I work a lot of long hours.”

Pagel is also looking for a new long-term location for his company, ideally a sizeable piece of land in rural Waukesha County where he could build both his home and business.

“I want something where I could go hunting out back,” he said. “It’d be very utopian.”

Forge Bow Company Inc.

Address: 2860 S. 171st St.,  New Berlin
Industry: Bows and arrows primarily for hunting
Revenue growth: More than 15 percent in 2007
Web site: 

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