The Loss of a Legend — Gail Martin

Gail Martin — if you have ever shot a bow, it is likely that Gail Martin had a hand in its design. Perhaps directly, more likely at least an influence, but a hand in your equipment’s design nonetheless. Gail was a man who loved archery with such a passion, that he retained an active role in Martin Archery until very recently. Unfortunately, the archery industry lost an icon on July 21, 2013 when Gail passed at the age of 93.

In September of 2012, Gail, alongside his wife Eva and son Dan, received the long overdue honor of being inducted into the Archery Hall of Fame for “Excellence in Design and Manufacture of Archery Equipment.” I am proud to say I am a voting member of that organization and to have played a very small part.

Gail Martin’s Story

The archery bug bit Gail Martin back in 1937 at the promising age of 14. His brother Glenn lent Gail his hickory longbow and the path was set. The year was 1937 and the world was an uncertain place. World events delayed Gail’s pursuit of his passion. He served three tours in Europe in World War II before returning in 1946 and marrying his sweetheart, Eva.

Upon his return, Gail borrowed another bow from another brother (Clint), and was introduced to the sport of bowhunting. Like any good hunter, Gail believed in practice and joined a local archery club, Blue Mountain Archers in 1947. He remained a member and supporter of the club until his death.

Martin Archery acquired Damon Howatt archery several years ago, which was not much of a surprise. Gail was once recalled that a Damon Howatt was the first new bow he ever purchased and provided a lifetime of experiences, stories, successes and wonderful memories.

Gail and Eva fell in love with the sport of archery and along with a single fletching jig and the desire to produce custom arrows began a home business in 1948. In 1951 the Martins marked the launch of Martin Archery in Walla Walla Washington and have operated the business ever since. Although the Martin’s saw their share of hard times and setbacks, a love for the sport and desire to provide high-quality archery equipment spawned one of the great archery stories of all time.

“The superior wooden arrows crafted by Gail and Eva eventually gained a faithful following among area archers. The couple became a familiar sight at archery gatherings, selling custom shafts and various accessories. Although money was tight, the Martins made do and worked hard at establishing themselves as suppliers of quality archery products.

“Arrows and accessories continued to account for the bulk of sales, but in time bowstrings became the product that proved most profitable. Really, it was the string-making machine Gail developed that solved the stretching and unraveling problems so common with stick bow-era bowstrings…A sample Gail sent to Fred Bear landed a long-term contract supplying Bear Archery with bowstrings in the 1960s and 1970s. During this same period Martin also built strings for Browning, Wing, Jennings and Allen bows, producing more than 7,000 bowstrings daily during peak production periods.

“In the early 1970s, working with his sons Terry and Dan, Gail focused on creating the first Martin compound bow. In 1975 Martin unveiled the industry’s first one-cam bow featuring a full string system and draw stop. A year later Gail purchased Damon Howatt Archery and expanded its compound and recurve bow designs.”

Gail Martin’s Accomplishments:

  • Founded Martin Archery in 1951 and maintained the position of President until early 2013.
  • Was personally involved with the design and development of archery equipment since founding Martin Archery.
  • Holder of 24 patents.
  • Received U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Person of the Year
  • Award for the Inland Empire in 1984.
  • Awarded the Kore T. Duryee Lifetime Achievement Award from the Washington State Bowhunters in 2003.
  • Awarded the Safari Club International Hall of Honor Award in 1998.
  • Inducted into the National Bowhunter Hall of Fame in 1995.
  • Harvested numerous big game animals with both recurve and compound bows, including deer, elk, moose, bear, caribou, antelope, javelina, gemsbok, warthog, kudu, and many others.
  • Appointed to the Washington Generals, a goodwill ambassador and trade association.
  • Senior Member of Pope and Young Club
  • Official Measurer for both Pope and Young and Boone and Crocket clubs.
  • Past AMO (ATA) Board Member
  • Inducted into Archery Hall of Fame, September 2012

– J.R. Absher While we should all mourn the loss of an icon, we should also celebrate a life well spent and know that as archers, we are all a little better off thanks to the lifetime of achievements Gail accomplished.

My first bow was a Martin Lynx Magnum. What’s your Martin Archery story? Tell us in the comment section.

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Comments (3)

  1. I was researching Martin archery today and came across this article. It’s so sad that Gail is no longer with us but the company is in good hands and so his legacy lives on! I have a Saber which is one of my favorites to shoot at my local range here in Canda.

  2. Watching Gail’s amazing feats with a recurve bow on the Outdoor Channel was always fun. He was to the sport of archery as Jerry Miculek is to the shooting sports. You could see the passion in his face when he drew back and focused on that target. Owning a Martin bow was like a owning a Martin guitar…you are privileged and lucky to have one. Gail will be greatly missed.

  3. Sad to hear about Gail Martin passing on. He was a real leader in the archery world and a true icon. My family has been a longtime fan of Martin Archery and will continue using longbows, recurves, and compounds with the name Martin on them .

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