An easy-to-tune 33-inch tack driver loaded with new features like PSE’s EZ.220 Snap Space System, Traxion Tech Grip, and more, the Fortis 33 is ready to be your next assassin.
by Zach Bowhay
I have been obsessed with bows my entire life, but PSE bows consumed my early years. My dad owned a small archery shop, which he ran out of our home for most of my youth, and the only bows he sold were those from PSE Archery. I vividly remember anxiously awaiting the new bow models each season. My dad agreed to buy me my first PSE, a USA Spirit Jr. Any flagship bows, however, would have to be purchased by me.
Most years, I pinched my pennies and bought myself a new model. This cycle went on for years into my late twenties. This was about when PSE started chasing the speed craze, and I wasn’t a fan of their direction, and over the next decade, I started shooting other brands.
Four years ago, though, while doing a batch of bow reviews for a magazine I was writing for, I was tasked with a review of one of the newer PSE bows, and I was pleasantly surprised with how much I liked it. The following year, I decided I wanted to buy and shoot one of the new models — the EVO EVL — and fell in love with the bow. In 2022, I again got a new PSE bow, the EVO XF 33. For this model, I decided to go with the new E2 cam instead of the EC cam I loved so much on the previous model. Although I liked the E2 cam fine, and the speed and performance were great, I just liked the pull and feel of the EC cam better.
Taking what I learned from the last two bows I had owned, I decided to get my hands on the new-for-2023 PSE Fortis 33 with the EC2 cam, the newer version of the EC. The bow is available in three cam options. The E2 has draw length adjustments from 28.5″ to 32.5″ and a speed rating of 340. The S2 cam adjusts from 26″ to 30″ and has a 340-speed rating and the EC2 cam 26″ to 31.5″ with a speed rating of 334 fps. Although far from a speed guy, I was hesitant to give up the 6 fps but knew how much more I liked the draw and hold of the original EC cam, so I went for it.
I was as excited as a little kid on Christmas to get this new bow in the vintage Mossy Oak Bottomland Camo. The finish was excellent on the new Fortis, the bow is smooth to the touch, and the camo finish is flawless with no blemishes. The look of the Fortis and the basic overall riser and design is like the past years’ bows from the manufacturer.
There are, however, some new bells and whistles, like the new Traxion Tech Grip. My last two PSE bows had an over-mold grip that I had to remove to get the thin, flat-back feel I desire when shooting a bow. This worked fine for me, but a bare riser can sometimes be cold. This new grip is inset into the riser, providing the desired feeling I was looking for, and will help keep my hands warmer on cold mornings.
PSE also redesigned the limb dampers, and the bow includes the new Kill-Shok riser-mounted damper that can be mounted in the lower stabilizer hole.
Accessory Mounting Heaven
One of my favorite things about new bows is the push for better accessory attachment systems, and PSE is definitely on board with this idea. The Fortis has a machined dovetail plate to fit the QAD Integrate Rest perfectly and has mounting holes on the back of the riser so the Hamskea Epsilon Rest can be mounted via the C.O.R Mounting bracket. There are also two Berger holes for those who wish to mount a traditional rest.
For mounting sights, there is an included Picatinny rail that allows for mounting of sights with a pic mount option. The mounting area for the rail has a couple of options, so you can adjust the rail up or down. Like past PSE models, the Fortis has standard sight mounting holes, so traditional sights have extra vertical adjustment as well.
Build and Tune
Due to needing to have my C.O.R. mounting bracket for my Hamskea Epsilon rest, I had to mount my rest with the standard Berger hole. I set the rest to a 13/16″ center shot to start and attached the cord through the hole PSE has in the cable yoke. I am concerned with cable stretch in this location. It may be problematic, and I might end up tying to my lower limb down the road, but for now, I will see how this goes, and it’s nice to have another option. I set the arrow rest height with the arrow right through the center of the Berger hole.
When I went to the paper tune station, it was the first time I was excited that a perfect bullet hole wasn’t the result. The reason is, I wanted to give the new EZ.220 Spacer System a go. Each bow has multiple spacers, a tool, and detailed instructions. The bow must be pressed to use this system, but it’s straightforward and user-friendly. I popped the bow in my Last Chance Archery EZ Press, and due to my slight left tear, I followed the chart and adjusted my top and bottom cams accordingly. After ensuring the spacers were in correctly, I let the pressure off the press and returned to the paper tuner. The next arrow through the press was a near bullet hole, and I used a single click (micro-click) on my rest, and a perfect bullet hole was achieved with the next arrow.
Before setting pins, it was time to shoot the bow through my chronograph to see what the speeds were going to be. As I mentioned earlier, I went with the EC2 cam, which has an advertised speed of 6 fps slower than the other two cams. Not only is the cam different, but the EC2 cam has a 7-1/8-inch brace height compared to the S2 with a 6-3/4-inch brace height and the E2 with a 7-inch brace height.
Maxed out to exactly 70 pounds and at a 29-inch draw, my 478-grain Black Eagle X-Impact shot 265 fps. In comparison, the Fortis shot a 395-grain arrow at 291 fps. I found it interesting that after shooting these same two arrows through Prime’s Revex 4 and the PSE Fortis that the Prime shot the 475-grain arrow at 275 fps and the Fortis pushed the arrow at 265 fps. However, when I shot the lighter 395-gain arrow, the Revex 4 posted a speed of 290, and the Fortis trumped it at 291 fps. I can’t explain this, but after double-checking speeds on both, it was the case. I prefer another 5-10 fps faster with this bow, but with my heavy elk arrows, 265 fps will be plenty.
To the Range
After the bow was tuned, sight-in went quickly. I cut the 265 fps sight tape out of my book of sight tapes and set the top pin on the Black Gold Ascent Verdict to 30 yards. After dialing the following two pins to 40 and 50 yards, I could check distances beyond with the slider sight.
Like the original EC cam, the EC2 cam draws nicely without the hump that the E2 cam has in the draw cycle. It’s not that the hump is drastic, but I prefer the even pull of the EC2 cam. Cable stops on both the top and bottom cams provide a solid back wall; the valley is nice and doesn’t feel ready to jump out of your hand.
At the shot, the Fortis 33 is quiet and dead in hand. It isn’t quite as hushed as the new Mathews Phase 4, but it still is hushed and shock free. I like the Kill-Shok Riser mounted damper in the lower stabilizer hole. Many of the top bow builders are making a real effort to boost dampening on areas of their bows, and it helps take the shock out of the bows. This damper can be removed, though, giving you a lower stabilizer hole if you want to try other balancing options for your setup.
The new Fortis 33 is a pleasure to shoot. Shooting a bow always brings me a smile and shooting a well-tuned bow is all the better. PSE has gone to great lengths to ensure the Fortis Series bows have multiple options for mounting accessories and have made the tuning process better with their new shim system. On top of that, they put all these features on a platform similar to what has been wowing shooters for the past several years. Although slower than last year’s model, the Fortis also checks some boxes that I wanted over those models. All things come at a cost; for me, the payoff was worth losing a small amount of speed.
I look forward to spending the summer getting to know my Fortis 33 much better before my fall hunts kick off.