In 2014 Howard N. Wilson, the only surviving member of the “Wilson Brothers”, then 87 years old, reflected back on the Wilson family archery legacy. Howard was actually a nephew of the 3 “Wilson Boys”, but was like a brother to them. Howard noted that archery was a passion as well as a business for the four boys. They were good archers and won a number of state, regional and national championships. The entire Wilson family was involved in archery, including the wives. Since the brothers spent so much time with archery, it only seemed natural that they would also make it their livelihood, creating a full time archery manufacturing business with a line of Black Widow branded bows. The Brothers also developed the famous Wilson finger tab that was the choice of most serious target archers (Editor's note: I used a Wilson tab to win the 1969 Utah field championships in my class). The brothers were fortunate to enjoy relationships with other leading archery makers of the day, including Earl Hoyt, Fred Bear, Ben Pearson, and Doug Easton.
The "Wilson Boys" lived outside Springfield, Missouri. The brothers consisted of Norman, Jack, and Bob, and their nephew Howard. Brother Bob crafted his own bows, and other archers in the area began to ask Bob to make custom bows for them. Early Wilson Brothers bows included Osage low bows. Bob's success as a bowyer lead to the founding of the Wilson Brothers Manufacturing Company in Springfield in 1946. In 1957 they officially launched their line of “Black Widow” bows, and sold accessories along with their bows. Although 1960s and 1970s Black Widow bows incorporated modern designs and materials, the brothers continued to custom-make their recurves and longbows by hand. Most of their bows were crafted for the target archery market. Wilson was one of the few companies that offered their bows in a choice of standard, medium-high, or high grip. Sales grew until the coming of the compound, and in 1976, the family exited the business, but rather than closing the doors, they sold the company to an employee. Ken Beck is reported to have bought the company in 1982 and began to re-position Black Widow as a high-end custom product.
The 1967 Black Widow catalog featured the following models and price ranges, with the higher price being for a rosewood riser: X200 target bow ($135-$175), 101 ($125-$160), X99 ($100-$130), X300 ($125-$150), M58 hunting bow ($49.50), HS60 hunting bow (64.50-$74.50), H101 hunting bow ($89.50-$110), X85 target bow ($79.50-$99.50), and the entry-level M75 all purpose bow for $59.50. In 1969 Wilson added the T600 target bow for $169.50, and the H325 hunting bow for $110.
Perhaps more than any other brand, vintage Black Widow bows have increased in value over time. On sites like Ebay, a Black Widow target recurve will sell in the $300 to $800 range.
Serial Number History
Wilson Brothers - Black Widow Bows
Year Serial Numbers
Traditional Recurve Line Discontinued.
Metal Riser TD Line Started June 1971
Wilson Brothers ceased operations in Fall 1976
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Wilson Brothers Black Widow