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Solid Reactive vs. Pearl Reactive Bowling Balls, Originally Posted: 3/25/2011; Updated: 9/18/2023

Understanding the differences between solid reactive vs. pearl reactive bowling balls will help virtually everyone choose which type of coverstock options are available in the bowling ball purchase process. The difference in solid reactive vs. pearl reactive bowling balls are key to matching the right coverstock for you on the various lane conditions you encounter during competition. A little knowledge about your options in coverstocks can go a long way in choosing the right bowling ball.

Over the past several decades, a number of coverstocks have been developed by manufacturers ranging from rubber material, to plastic or polyester material, to the first urethane materials, to reactive resin, to sub-categories of reactive resin, to particle materials, and even a brief introduction of epoxy material coverstocks. In most every case with bowlers choosing equipment with good hook potential ratings, reactive bowling balls have become staple items in virtual everyone's arsenal. Let's examine the differences in these two important reactive coverstocks.

First, in general terms, reactive bowling balls triggered the movement to highly aggressive coverstocks. Reactive coverstocks were initially designed to react a certain way on oily portions of the lane surface and another way on the dry back ends of the lanes. Reactive coverstocks are composed of similar materials used in regular urethane formations, however, they are blended with different additives. The net effect is that reactive coverstocks with resin additives cause the ball to skip or hydroplane over the oil portions of the lanes and thereby provide useful and controllable skid distances in the front ends of the lanes. Reactive balls also provide the "tacky" feeling which translates into additional traction and usually a strong back end reaction on the lane. Sub-categories of reactive coverstocks we are targeting in this article are the solid coverstock and the pearl coverstock bowling balls.

Solid reactive coverstocks have the greatest amount of microscopic reactive pores on the ball surface compared to other reactive coverstocks. The solid coverstock comes in a polished finish, sanded finishes, and with a rubbing compound buffed finish so the degree of surface friction can be controlled within the sub-category of solid reactive bowling balls.

Solid reactive coverstocks typically provide a higher coefficient of friction than pearl coverstocks. Because of more surface friction, solid reactive balls tend to hook sooner than pearl reactive balls and also experience a reduction of energy as they travel down the lane compared to pearl reactive coverstock balls. As a solid reactive ball leaves the oil pattern on the back third of the lane surface, it tends to hook less sharply at the break point to the pocket than does a pearl reactive ball.

Recent releases of reactive solid or Matte finished coverstock balls are the Crux Prime and the Web Tour Edition bowling balls, both of which are very aggressive coverstocks and usually are selected for use in heavy or medium-heavy oil conditions.

Pearl reactive coverstocks emerging in the early 1990's were manufactured with the addition of resin or mica particles and materials blended into the reactive coverstock material. The inclusion of these additives roughens out the microscopic pores causing the ball reaction on dry lanes to be extended in length on the front ends of the lanes. With the ability to skid decisively on the front end of the lanes and store energy, pearl reactive balls produce stronger hooking ability on the back ends of the lanes than do solid reactive coverstock balls.

The coefficient of friction in pearl reactive balls is lower than in solid reactive balls which generally results in less loss of stored energy as the ball travels down the lane and a sharper reaction from the break point to the pocket compared to solid reactive balls. In short, the pearl reactive balls have the ability to react quickly to high friction portions of the lane. Examples of pearl reactive bowling balls are the Black Widow Pink and the Turmoil 2 Pearl, both popular choices in bowling balls with pearl reactive coverstocks.

Entry level bowlers seeking a useful bowling ball should discuss their needs with a pro shop operator or a certified bowling instructor before making a purchase. The goal is to match the coverstock to the lane conditions where entry level players bowl most often. Experienced bowlers averaging between 130-180 should strongly consider owning both a solid reactive ball and a pearl reactive ball to use during competition and to match to the amount of oil most frequently encountered in league or perhaps tournament play. Switching to a pearl reactive ball when lanes dry up during given sessions on the lanes is an important adjustment to maintain the ability to score well, another good reason to own both solid and pearl reactive bowling balls. Players more skilled and averaging 180-200 should most definitely invest in multiple bowling balls including solid and pearl reactive coverstock balls. Making changes in equipment at the right time is one reason highly skilled players are successful.

All players, however, should learn as much as possible about the ball surface adjustment processes used in providing the right amount of friction on a given ball surface to match with the modern oil patterns found in bowling centers across America. By use of Abralon or Siaair screening pads, it is now possible to choose as an aggressive of surface texture as desired without the cheese grater finish on the ball surface. Abralon pads use silicon carbide particles which are precision sifted to consistent grain sizes, then bonded evenly on a fabric face pad providing very even scratch patterns on the ball surface.

Not only are these pads capable of leaving the ball surface cosmetically appealing to the eye, they are available in a variety of abrasive textures. Abralon pads can be found generally with very textured patterns such as 180 grit for the deepest scratches, 360 for deep scratches, 500 for medium scratches, 1000 and 1500 to return balls to most factory sanded finishes, 2000 for a mild luster underneath the texture, and 4000 for a high luster with the smoothest texture of all pad options.

Every serious bowler should own a solid and pearl reactive bowling ball at the very least and become adept at understanding surface preparation strategies with use of Abralon pads which are available in pro shops everywhere. Remember, it is permitted by USBC standards to alter the ball surface during practice before competition begins in order to make fine tune adjustments affecting skid control or for carrying the corner pins. Certain cleaners and polishes are available at which are cleared for use during USBC competition and should be accessory items in everyone's bowling bag.

Manufacturers have spent endless resources over many years time in developing sophisticated coverstocks so the variety of classifications from all manufacturers combined offer bowler's choices in versatile coverstocks which can be altered or modified to control length and hook potential on a variety of oil conditions. highly recommends you also familiarize yourself with our Perfect Scale® rating feature at our site which is useful in providing comparisons of the latest bowling balls in today’s market against our sophisticated rating scale system. The Perfect Scale® can be easily accessed from our home page by clicking on the button and then browsing the information provided at the Perfect Scale®. Our goal is to simply make it easier for you to compare products and feel confident in your purchase selection process.

While you are visiting our site today, please check out the vast menu of bowling consumer products we offer at great prices, with no shipping charges, with free insurance, with no hidden handling fees and with delivery right to your doorstep! Ordering is an easy process by following simple online instructions available 24 hours a day, every day of the year! Thanks for visiting

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