Bowling Ball Reviews

For over 20 years, Bowling This Month has provided its readers with detailed and accurate bowling ball reviews of thousands of balls from most of bowling’s major manufacturers. This process started in 1995 when we were the first bowling publication to print lengthy, independent studies on how different bowling balls reacted on-lane. Our journey continues to this day as we constantly strive to help our readers make the most informed bowling ball purchasing decisions possible.

BTM’s ball review process is 20+ years in the making

Our bowling ball review process has evolved over the years, as has ball technology itself. It has been our constant goal to provide as much information as possible to our readers so that they can make the most informed choices possible. All of the changes involved in this evolution have one thing in common: they were made with you, the reader, in mind. Readers themselves have suggested many of the changes. Others were made because it became apparent to us that our readers were being deprived of information that we were capable of providing. Some came about because a method or idea was agreed upon by most or all of the ball manufacturers, enabling us to be as consistent with our rating systems as possible.

How we test and review bowling balls

In 2002, through a general consensus of bowlers, manufacturers, and pro shops, we implemented our current ball testing process of using three different testers and four different oil patterns. Our three testers have delivery styles that cover the spectrum from stroker to tweener to cranker. Our standard testing oil patterns consist of dry, medium, and oily house shots and also includes one Sport-compliant condition. We feel that this testing methodology is more comprehensive and reliable than simply having one bowler testing balls on one or two oil patterns.

Our newest bowling ball reviews are featured below. To find older reviews, please use the At-a-Glance Comparison Table or search for them using the site search box.

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"The biggest reason I started using Bowling This Month was due to their ball reviews. I needed something to help distinguish differences in balls within one manufacturer and across manufacturers. I've been a subscriber for many years now and along the way also discovered their articles could help my bowling techniques."

- David Sellers (bowler and Bowling This Month subscriber)

Newest Bowling Ball Reviews

Radical Ludicrous

The Ludicrous offers ludicrous response off the breakpoint in the Reliable line for Radical. This release uses a new asymmetrical weight block to give it an RG of 2.535", a...

Brunswick Method

With a new naming strategy and reconfiguration, Brunswick now has four lines of performance bowling balls this season. The Method joins the Magnitude 055 and Magnitude 035 Pearl in the...

brunswick-cutting-edge-solid

The Brunswick Cutting Edge Solid is the smoother box-surfaced ball of the two new Cutting Edge releases. Both of these bowling balls join the Advanced line for Brunswick, where the...

radical-intel-pearl

The Radical Intel Pearl uses the same symmetrical core that was used in the original Intel, which gives it a low RG of 2.483" and a low differential of 0.035"....

hammer-black-widow-black-gold

The Black Widow Black/Gold is the latest incarnation of the Black Widow. This ball uses Hammer's famed Gas Mask asymmetrical core and it is paired up with the polished Aggression...

Brunswick Quantum Bias

The Quantum Bias is the fourth entry into the revived Quantum line for Brunswick. This solid white ball features the new Quantum Mushroom High RG Asymmetric core shape, making it...

Ebonite Matrix Solid

The Ebonite Matrix Solid uses the same GB 12.7 Solid cover that was used on the Mission Unknown. This 500/2000 Abralon box-finished cover surrounds the asymmetrical Matrix Reload core shape...

Hammer Diesel Torque

The Hammer Diesel Torque uses the symmetrical Diesel core shape from the original Diesel remake and the Juiced Solid reactive cover. The last time we saw this cover in its...

Track Precision

The Track Precision uses a new cover and a new core design that results in a ball motion that is very clean through the front, with an enormous downlane reaction....

900 Global Eon

The 900 Global Eon introduces both a new coverstock and a new core shape into the Prime 800 Series collection. This ball uses the new Oloid Symmetric core, which has...

900 Global After Dark Pearl

The After Dark Pearl shares the Nightfall Symmetric core design with the After Dark Solid. Its S30 Pearl coverstock, which comes out of the box at the same 1500 grit...

AMF Sumo SE

The Sumo SE continues the recent AMF tradition of bringing back older nameplates and colors as updated remakes in their line. It features a very strong reactive solid F80 coverstock...

Radical Beyond Ridiculous Pearl

The Beyond Ridiculous Pearl is the pearlized follow-up to the Beyond Ridiculous. Both balls share the Symmetric with Scoop Technology weight block, as well as 500 SiaAir with Crown Factory...

900 Global Tactical Ops

The Tactical Ops rolls into 900 Global’s Preferred 600 Series as one of this season's new summer releases. It is powered by the Break Asymmetric core that has been seen...

track-kinetic-amethyst

The Kinetic Amethyst is the newest addition to Track's Mid Performance line. This ball joins the asymmetrical Kinetic Ruby and Kinetic Emerald in this line, along with the symmetrical Ultra...

900-global-after-dark-solid

The two After Darks are the introductory bowling balls in 900 Global’s new Function 400 Series. In design, the Nightfall Symmetric core offers a higher RG and lower differential than...

Columbia 300 Saber Pearl

The Saber Pearl joins the original Saber as the only two current products in the Columbia 300 Orange Line. This ball uses the same New-Dynamix core shape as the original...

Ebonite Choice

The Choice is the newest addition to Ebonite's high performance lineup. This ball pairs the GSV-1 Hybrid coverstock with the Mod-1 asymmetrical weight block. The Mod-1 is the result of...

900-global-continuum

The Continuum is the first of a series of new nameplates for 900 Global this summer. This ball will be in their Tour Engineered 900 Series line, joining the Inception...

radical-katana-dragon

The latest release into Radical's high performance Top Shelf line is the Katana Dragon. This ball reuses the Katana Asymmetric core from the original Katana and the Katana Slash, but...

Bowling Ball Reviews by Brand

Bowling This Month tests and reviews equipment from most of bowling's major brands. Click the links below to see the latest reviews from each brand.

BrandReviewsNewest
900 Global77Eon
AMF31Sumo SE
Brunswick68Method
Columbia 30058Saber Pearl
DV850Turmoil Solid
Ebonite50Matrix Solid
Hammer71Black Widow Black/Gold
Lane Masters7Terminator Rage
Lord Field5Knight
Motiv63Hydra
Moxy3Strife
Radical50Ludicrous
Roto Grip57Idol
Storm78Intense Fire
Track56Precision

A detailed overview of our bowling ball testing process

We follow a standard testing procedure to ensure that our test results and ball reviews are consistent and accurate for all balls from one month to the next. We use standard oil patterns that are freshly-applied using a state-of-the-art Kegel oiling machine, we have standard testers, and we use standard layouts on each test ball. Additional details about the testing process are provided below.

Testing environment

All ball testing is performed on Brunswick AnviLane synthetic lanes. The lanes are double-stripped and then freshly oiled using a state-of-the-art Kegel lane machine. Four Kegel oil patterns are used for all bowling ball reviews:

  • Oily: Kegel High Street (44 feet in length)
  • Medium: Kegel Main Street (41 feet in length)
  • Dry: Kegel Easy Street (38 feet in length)
  • Sport: Kegel Winding Road (39 feet in length)

Please visit Kegel’s pattern library website for more information on these and other Kegel oil patterns.

Each ball is thrown on at least three of the four oil patterns. The reason we don’t always test on all four patterns is because we will sometimes omit the testing on the pattern that a given ball was obviously not designed for. For example, we might skip testing a low-performance urethane ball on our oily pattern, as it would obviously perform very poorly for all bowlers since this isn’t the type of pattern a low performance urethane ball is best suited for. We double-strip and then freshly oil for all testing.

Our bowling ball testers

Each ball is tested by the same three testers. The testers all have different styles and they are referred to in the reviews as Stroker, Tweener, and Cranker. Understanding which tester’s style is most similar to yours will allow you to get the most out of our reviews and help you in making more informed choices when purchasing a ball. The three testers’ styles are summarized below.

All of the bowler parameter values shown above were obtained at or near the release point. When comparing the testers’ styles to your own, please keep in mind that ball speeds displayed on automatic scoring systems are measured near the pins and are typically 2-3 mph lower than release ball speeds due to the ball slowing down from friction as it travels down the lane.

Our standard drilling layouts

Each of the three testers has a standard layout that is used on each test ball. These layouts are summarized below.

The above images show the approximate locations of the pin, CG, and mass bias locators relative to each tester’s specific PAP. Please remember that these layouts might look different for you due to differences in PAP. Make sure that you always work with a qualified pro shop professional to layout your equipment with respect to your PAP.

Understanding our bowling ball reviews

If you are new to Bowling This Month, you might naturally have some questions about the various terms and ratings found in our bowling ball reviews. If this sounds like you, you’re in the right place. This article will walk through each of the elements of a BTM bowling ball review, explaining the terminology as we go.

Bowler ratings table

Our bowling ball reviews begin with a summary table of the testers’ ratings on each of our four test patterns. An example tester ratings table is shown below.

Bowling Ball Tester Ratings Table

The Bowler Ratings table shows each tester’s ratings of the ball on our four test oil patterns. Ratings are from 1 to 10.

These ratings represent each tester’s general opinion of their ball reaction on our test patterns. If any of the oil patterns have ratings of “NA”, this means that we chose not to test the ball on that particular pattern. As mentioned above, we do this in situations where a ball is obviously not suited for a particular pattern.

General info table

Immediately after the tester ratings table is a table showing general information about the bowling ball. We split the general information into two sections: coverstock and core.

Coverstock specs

Name: This is simply the manufacturer-supplied name of the ball’s coverstock. If the coverstock doesn’t have a name, we’ll typically print “NA”.

Type: This is the high-level classification of the coverstock’s composition. The most common coverstock types are reactive solid, reactive pearl, reactive hybrid, particle, and urethane.

Box finish: The surface finish of the ball when it comes out of the box. While we do often alter the surface of the balls during testing, all of our ratings are based on balls thrown at the box finish.

Color: The color or color combination of the coverstock, as provided by the manufacturer.

Core specs

Name: The manufacturer-supplied name of the ball’s core. If a core doesn’t have a name, we’ll print “NA”.

Type: The high-level classification of the ball’s core geometry. All cores are broadly classified as either symmetrical or asymmetrical.

RG: RG stands for radius of gyration and the value shown is always the ball’s minimum radius of gyration. RG is a measure of a ball’s resistance to changes in rotational speed. Technically, radius of gyration is equal to the square root of the ball’s mass moment of inertia divided by its mass. In practice, radius of gyration is measured experimentally using an RG swing, but it can also be calculated from a ball’s CAD model. RG is typically expressed in units of inches and the current USBC limits for RG are 2.460″ and 2.800″.

To a bowler, a low RG ball will be easier to “rev up” and it will rev faster because more of its mass is distributed closer to the center of the ball. Medium RG balls are harder to spin, so most bowlers will see a slight “loping” action through the heads. High RG balls are the hardest to spin since more of their mass is located farther from the center of the ball. Therefore, bowlers will usually see longer loping and later revving action when throwing a high RG ball.

Total diff.: Total differential is the difference between the ball’s maximum and minimum RGs. Total differential is a strong indicator of a core’s overall strength and track flare potential. Flare is created as the ball migrates from its release axis. Large flare can noticeably reduce the length potential of the ball. Larger flare is generally considered an asset for playing oilier lanes, because the ball is presenting a fresh, dry surface on all successive revolutions. When the ball crosses from the oilier boards to the drier boards, the ball surface bonds with the drier lane to increase the coefficient of friction, which causes earlier hook and greater total hook. That is, earlier and greater hook when compared to a smaller flaring ball. Smaller flaring balls give the bowler better length and later hook.

The maximum allowable total differential per USBC rules is 0.060″.

Int. diff.: Intermediate differential is the difference between the ball’s maximum and intermediate RGs. Symmetrical balls have an intermediate differential of 0.000″. Intermediate differential is also an indicator of a core’s overall strength and track flare potential, but generally to a lesser extent than total differential.

Balls with higher intermediate differentials generally have more versatility in how they can be drilled for the bowler. This can be both good or bad, depending on the skill level of the ball driller.

RG, total differential, and intermediate differential are the three parameters that allow us to accurately classify the potential dynamic strength of a bowling ball’s core. The other factor that can influence the core’s dynamic strength is its actual geometric shape, which can have an effect on how significantly the ball’s mass properties change when they are drilled. Some balls are designed so that a skilled ball driller can dramatically change the as-drilled RGs and differentials using different layout techniques, while other balls are designed so that the undrilled mass properties are maintained as much as possible after the holes have been drilled. These are simply two opposite approaches to core design; one is not inherently better than the other.

Comments / testing notes

The main body of our ball reviews are comprised of our testing notes for the ball. Generally speaking, we try to discuss the reactions seen by each tester on each of the test oil patterns, along with any subjective observations from the testers. Also, this is where we discuss the various surface adjustments that were made to the test balls to achieve the best reaction on each of the patterns.

Performance ratings

Each ball is rated in each of four performance categories: torque, length, back end, and total hook. These four ratings provide a unified “measuring stick” for comparing balls across all of the different manufacturers. For many years, these performance ratings have been based on our Tweener tester’s ball reaction on our medium oil pattern.

Torque (rated from 1 to 10): This refers to the smoothness or flippiness of the ball from the breakpoint to the pins. A high torque ball will flip the most; a low torque ball will have the most even break. Players who generate more torque through their release generally like balls with less torque. Bowlers who are “roll” bowlers generally have more success with higher torque balls. Remember, this category does not measure the amount of hook, only the shape of it.

No matter what you talk about in bowling, you can’t discount the bowler’s release, the surface of the ball, or the condition on which the ball is rolling. Bowlers who release the ball with leverage will see more flip than bowlers who either miss the shot or just roll the ball off their hand. A shiny ball will generally be more flippy than a dull ball. An oily lane will create more flip than a dry lane. If your ball is hitting flat, you might want to change to something with a higher torque rating.

Here, Tweener, once lined up on the pocket, repeats strike shots over and over, and observations are only made on the angularity of the ball reaction. Nothing else matters here. Judgements are not made on the amount of hook or results. Only the shape of the hook from the breakpoint to the pins.

Length (rated from 1 to 25): Years ago, BTM rated balls in the length section according to how long they went after leaving the oil and contacting dry. Prior to that, technology was such that it was thought that all balls skidded in oil. However, due to the rapidly advancing aggressiveness of today’s coverstocks, this assumption is no longer true. All balls do not skid in oil…at least they don’t all skid on playable quantities of oil. Some balls now will stop skidding and actually hook in quantities of oil that were previously impenetrable. That said, we wanted a lane condition that would show a wide range of separation between the longest balls and the shortest balls and would show varying amounts of ball skid in between.

For the length testing, we put down two loads of lane dressing from 0-10 feet.We buff to 38 feet on a completely dry lane and apply no oil on the return trip. This pattern gives us 48 feet of skid with a plastic ball and 23 feet of skid with our most aggressive particle ball. That 25 feet of separation is what we base our length ratings on. Remember, the numerical rating will be measuring the amount of skid on our “special” lane pattern only. Obviously, you would get much longer skid figures if you tested a ball on your league or tournament shot. But, this way, we can compare balls to each other in a more objective, technical way than previously. Other characteristics or observations about length might be mentioned within the text part of the length rating section.

Back end (rated from 1 to 20): Back end is the amount of hook from the breakpoint to the pocket. This does not reflect the sharpness or smoothness of the hook (which is torque potential). So, a flippy ball that breaks later and an even-rolling ball that breaks earlier could have a similar backend rating, even though their angles to the pocket and carry potential may differ. Back end only evaluates the ball’s performance based on the number of boards that it crosses relative to the other balls tested. Basically, it measures the number of boards from the breakpoint to the pins. Back end is observational and testing is done in a commercial center, not in a completely controlled environment. Therefore, there is a margin of error. Like with length, this error should not be great, but it does exist.

Also, as with length, the bowler’s style, level of ability, lane condition, ball surface, and other factors contribute to the actual back end that each bowler sees. These variables may cause balls to be different for different individuals.

Total hook (rated from 1 to 100): This is probably the least relevant part of our bowling ball ratings. Unless you are on either end of the power spectrum, this rarely contributes anything useful. Straighter players may prefer the extra movement of a bigger hooking ball since this will give them more area to play. Larger hook players may have more success with a ball that covers fewer boards, since this will let them reduce the number of boards crossed and reduce front end burnout. We now use a 1-100 rating scale for total hook.

Summary info

At the bottom of our reviews, we present a brief summary of information for the reader who can’t wait to get to the pro shop and buy the ball.

Strengths: A general summary of which particular positive characteristics evidenced themselves during the tests.

Weaknesses: A general summary of which ball characteristics might give some bowlers problems. Some ball characteristics may only affect particular styles, strictly subjective of course. They would be noted here.

Overall Summary: Again, a subjective synopsis of the testers general impressions after the ball testing is completed. A subjective synopsis of any differences between the bowlers would be stated in this section.

Our overall philosophy

We try to give each and every ball a chance to shine, but if we cannot get a good reaction, then we feel duty-bound to report that to you. Conversely, if we get an outstanding reaction, then we are obligated to let you in on our enthusiasm. We try to keep the ball reviews light and fun as well as informative.

It is important to remember however, that no matter how favorable or unfavorable the review goes, it is still a subjective opinion. Balls that we give an overall good review to may remind you of a boat anchor. Balls that we pan may result in records and award scores for you. We can assure you that they are done as fairly, as consistently, as objectively and as honestly as is possible by human hands.

Editor’s note:  Some portions of this article were taken from former BTM editor Jim King’s excellent Crash Course in Ball Talk article published in the May 2009 issue of Bowling This Month. Special thanks to Jim for writing such a well thought-out and practical guide to interpreting our bowling ball reviews.