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Keeping an open mind is just the start of successfully tackling the many challenges of bowling.

UNDERSTANDING BALL MOTION can be quite complex and requires many years of bowling, many ball purchases and many frustrations to conquer. The quicker we ascertain where we should be standing and targeting, the higher we will score. Once we determine our line, we next need to guess which ball should be in our hand. The right guess gives us area and above-average pin carry; the wrong guess gives our spare ball a workout. We need to determine when we should use balls with a high hook rating and a quick response off friction, compared to a slower response to friction. When are we better off "shelling down" (using weaker covers) and playing closer to the track area? When should we use high or low-flaring layouts? When should we use strong covers with tame layouts? When should we simply change our hand position and not change equipment? These and many other dilemmas confuse the average league player as well as many upper-echelon players. Our game is far more challenging than most so-called experts think. Hitting the pocket is relatively easy on most house conditions; determining how to carry 70-plus percent is the real challenge.

Hopefully, these questions and many others will be answered as time transpires, and you and I better comprehend the intricacies of today's game and its variables. To better understand the game, bowlers should not only read and study BJI's ball reviews, but also explore other avenues of information to broaden their understanding of this complex game. Education and information from respected sources such as Brunswick's Rick Benoit, Storm's Chris Schlemer, Columbia Chad Murphy, Ebonite's Ed Gallagher and Ron Hickland, MoRich's Mo Pinel, and countless others will enlighten and help us all achieve the level of excellence we desire.

52.5 Hook; 14 Length; 15 Breakpoint Shape
Core Design: Mo's Vanguard asymmetric core delivers fast, continuous revs. The power plant boasts a fast-revving RG of 2.492 and a Diff of .053. The mass bias strength is .029, the highest of any ball yet produced. The flare rings in the oil were tightly spaced and measured 5' across with our 3.5 and 4.5 pin distance layouts.

Coverstock:The pearlized C4 cover is composed of a medium load particle. This polished cover is tri-colored in red, blue and yellow. This strong core and aggressive cover are matched perfectly for the intended reaction: Aggressive backend with length and control throughout lane oil transition.

Manufacturer's Intent:MoRich prides itself in manufacturing the strongest core in production. The covers are also very aggressive in nature. The recommended lane condition for most of its line is medium-to-heavier patterns. Evidently, Walter Ray Williams likes what he sees from the line since he recently inked an agreement with MoRich to use its products exclusively. MoRich products can definitely help players who have more speed dominance than a high rev rate.

Test Results:As with most particle covers, the response time off friction is slightly slower than that of many reactive-based covers. This generally provides more control off friction and reduces the effects of adverse oil transition changes, such as midlane burn and oil carrydown. The Awesome Revs performed flawlessly throughout our original two hours of testing on fresh to broken down conditions. On the fresh, we were able to play about five boards inside the oil line and simply feed the ball to the dry at our intended breakpoint spot. As the midlane deteriorated, we had our best carry by making parallel moves or steeper, and by keeping the ball in the oil pattern longer. This preserves energy for optimal pin carry, and is generally more effective than "swingin' it and bringin' it" as the pattern dries out, this is essential with many particle covers.

When to Use:As stated above, we had our best results keeping our angles slightly closed as the lanes dried out. The Awesome Revs did display some long and strong characteristics, but it also controlled the move off friction more so than most solid or pearl reactives. The strong core revs very easily and the tunablity range of the shell is rather wide. This adds to increased ball reaction flexibility if the factory finish doesn't quite match up to the lane condition you typically encounter. When we sanded the cover to 500, it surprisingly out-hooked the Awesome Hook (October BJI) by two boards, and when high-gloss polish was applied, we saw an additional 12' of length compared to the box finish. I recommend medium to heavier oil volumes for maximum performance.

54 Hook; 13 Length; 15.5 Breakpoint Shape
Core Design: The asymmetric core used in this remake of the very popular Nighthawk of 1998 fame is identical to the older ball in shape and motion characteristics. The Rg value is 2.52 and the Diff is .043. The mass bias strength is also very conservative at .002, almost nonexistent. We saw 5.5' of flare in the oil with a 3.5 pin. Our 5' layouts produced 4' of flare.

Coverstock:The matte black solid reactive is finished at 1000 grit, as was the original. The base reactive from BASF is called Super Flex. This cover can be tweaked easily from varying shades of dull to an extremely attractive high gloss. In 1998, the preferred finish was polished; in 2006, bowlers may opt for 1000 to 4000, depending on oil volume.

Manufacturer's Intent:Every once in a while, the ball manufacturers feel a need to reintroduce balls which were very popular in their day. Often times, these re-releases do not quite live up to their expectations. This is not the case with this 1998 Ball of the Year.

Test Results:My test staff and I looked at the cover and thought this ball would hook at our feet due to its dull-textured surface. Well, this ball flat out hooks, but luckily, not as early as one would think. We were all impressed with its motion-shape as well as how well it carried from all angles. The core picked up revs more in the midlane than in the fronts. We saw no quit throughout the breakpoint range, and the core was not overly sensitive to slight miscues on our part. In our opinion, the core and cover are matched perfectly, which means this ball should work well for a variety of players as well as on a wide spectrum of lane conditions.

When to Use:We had the greatest success on our fresh and heavier patterns on either wood or synthetic. Throughout the transition phases, we were able to continue use as long as we migrated into the pattern accordingly. We could either bump the dry, or keep it in the pattern and retain excellent carry and an impressive look. On lighter patterns, we simply smoothed the surface with 2000 and 4000 abralon, and we retained the shape we had with the dull surface on the heavier stuff. After applying our high gloss Neo Tac Renew it polish, our shape changed from the hard arc to a hockey-stick configuration. That brought back lots of satisfying memories as this ball was one of my personal favorites years back. In fact, I remember the older version gave me the right look only when highly polished, but due to the heavier viscosity oils of this century, I feel I can use this version successfully with a myriad of altered surfaces. This is a major plus in today's ever-changing transitional environment.

53 Hook; 13.5 Length; 15.5 Breakpoint Shape
Core Design:Brunswick prefers using a very strong and proven symmetric core in its entire Inferno line. They leave the asymmetric cores for the Zone line. The Total Inferno core has a low RG value of 2.45 with a hefty Diff reading of .050. This core revs easily and quickly, and provides an easy 6' of track flare with both 3.5' and 4.5' pins. The Diff rating remains consistent throughout the weight ranges of 12 through 16 pounds.

Coverstock:Brunswick calls this cover Octane Gription, and it contains a new pearl additive. This additive appears to enhance stability in oil while adding a modicum of length. The coloring is easy to distinguish ' it's a mixture of orange, purple and red. The medium used for sanding is from 3M and is similar to abralon. The polish used is called Rough Buff; it produces a satin sheen and is quite bowler friendly.

Manufacturer's Intent:Billy Orlikowski of Brunswick's design team calls this an Absolute Inferno on steroids. Its tests confirmed they could play six-and-three deeper into the pattern on Sport conditions, compared to where they would play using a new Absolute Inferno. On house patterns, they could stand three-and-one deeper.

Test Results:Our findings were very similar to that of Brunswick. We didn't have the squirt in the oil we saw with the polished Radical, and we definitely saw a more aggressive response off friction compared to a relatively new Absolute with the exact same layout and surface. The rev pattern is impressive , this ball really kicks into high gear at around 35', and continues 'til off the pin deck. As with most aggressive reactives, one needs to be assertive with speed and not be afraid to chase the oil in as the shot dries out. Pin carry was vintage Brunswick, as was readability throughout the oil transitional phases.

When to Use:We could use this ball all day long on our medium and heavier patterns from all angles. We all enjoyed the surefootedness in the oil and the control off the dry. This ball is not designed to be quick and strong off friction, but to provide more of a strong, continuous arc with attitude. High polishing naturally enhances the ball's skid/flip nature, for those looking for such a reaction. We all preferred it just the way it was.

52 Hook; 14 Length; 15 Breakpoint Shape
Core Design: The Helios core has also been used in the Horizon pearl. It is symmetric in nature with an RG of 2.47 and a Diff of .052. This core revs quickly, and produces 5' of track flare with 3.5, 4.5 and 5' pin distances.

Coverstock:The base resin is Ultimate Grip, colored in black and crimson. The surface is finished dull at an 800-matte grit. This cover loves oil, yet can easily be polished for lighter patterns.

Manufacturer's Intent: The success of the Horizon Pearl was the breeding ground for this new venture. The Helios core is the heart of all ball motion, and this is one great core in this upper medium-priced entry. Roto Grip prides itself on offering more bang for your buck within all of its price categories.

Test Results:One common thread throughout our testing was the commitment we saw when this ball encounters friction. The dull surface allows for moderate length with some traction in oil, yet we still saw a firm commitment off dry boards. The move was quick, almost like what bowlers see from asymmetric cores. Yet we liked the continuation throughout the breakpoint range. My lefty power tester was enamored with the rev pattern created by the core/shell, the logo engraving and his hand action. This ball was a blur from lane contact to pin cushion. Polishing created some sensitivity, so we returned it to factory dullness and felt the love it was giving us earlier once again.

When to Use:Best results will be on longer patterns with medium and heavier volumes. Pin carry was excellent from all angles, provided we had oil in the mids and friction somewhere. This is a benchmark ball for those looking for controlled power with an impressive roll pattern. Those looking for sideways motion at the spot should use the Horizon Pearl. In fact, we left a few solid 7-9s (right-handed) with the Pearl. Those looking for more traction in oil with a firm commitment off dry will love the Horizon solid. We only left solid 9s with the solid.

49 Hook; 15 Length; 15.5 Breakpoint Shape
Core Design: The symmetric core has a low Rg rating of 2.48 and a Diff of .054. We saw 4' of flare in the oil with our 3.5 and 4.5' pin distances.

Coverstock:The cover is called NexGen Soaker solid reactive. Our test ball came finished at 1000-grit polished. The shell is blue with neon pink swirls.

Manufacturer's Intent:Billy Yinger of Dynothane had this to add: It looked and performed so much better polished that I made a last-minute change, from the smooth, dull finish...This ball works great as the Threshold starts to hook a little too early; it fits nicely between the Vendettas and the Threshold.

Test Results:The Ne-10 is one intriguing ball. It displayed very easy length, a firm motion off dry, and then rolled end-over-end through the pins. Its pin carry was easily one of the best in the group, possibly due to this rolling action through the pins. A consistent high percentage of pin carry occurs after the skid and hook phases, and the ball simply rolls through the pins and off the deck. The Ne-10 would make a great read ball, or middle ball, for many arsenals.

When to Use:Heavy oil caused too much skid and a late breakpoint with factory polish. On all mediums and broken-down patterns, we had the lane with excellent carry. We played slightly inside the pattern and needed to send the ball to friction to watch it strut its stuff, and boy, did it strut. Track players with more speed than hand action could find success in the burn (dry area); stronger-handed players will definitely need to be farther left with the feet.

47 Hook; 16 Length; 15.5 Breakpoint Shape
Core Design: This core design is a totally new concept from Lane #1. The diamond shape is familiar, but the density levels have been modified significantly. The major modification is the hollow (lighter density) inside, surrounded by a heavier and more dense perimeter. This raises the Rg to 2.54. The Diff is valued at .033. We saw about 3' of track flare.

Coverstock:The pearlized Detonator cover comes highly polished. The coloring is a unique purple, silver and fuschia mix. The strength of this reactive base is tempered some to better match the high RG core.

Manufacturer's Intent:Lane #1's newest release is the first ball that wasn't made by Brunswick in quite some time. The new manufacturer is Columbia 300 of San Antonio, Texas. Richie Sposato, Lane #1 President and chief designer assured us they will still design each and every ball to preserve the unique roll characteristics which have endured many satisfied Lane #1 customers. Richie had this to add, This is our first Columbia 300-poured high-performance ball. We wanted it to be a can't miss, and also a bit different. The Hollow Diamond Core is a first, raising the RG for more length, while the super dense outer casing provides the lower RG hitting power.

Test Results:The last few Lane #1's I've tested all read the midlane securely with a smooth, powerful arc in the last 20' (please exclude the clear polyester Diamond). This ball revs similarly, although the revs kick in slightly later. The unique feature is the added two feet of length before the new core/cover combo make their move. This added length was appreciated more so after we broke down our test patterns. The HRG will complement the Cobalt solid and pearl perfectly for those looking for more length, later core dynamics and plenty of energy retention.

When to Use:Use confidently where friction is present. Even on our fresh patterns, we could straddle the oil bumper, feed the HRG to the friction and experience both area forgiveness and excellent pin carry. As the midlane disappeared and stronger covers began losing energy, the HRG was in its wheelhouse. Higher RG cores pick up revs later down lane, thus can create a slightly steeper angle of entry. Tamer covers also need less oil for length and can store more energy for a more crisp finish at the pocket. In my opinion, the core strength and cover strength are an excellent match. This ball offers easy length with a controlled, yet edgy, backend reaction.

51 Hook; 15 Length; 16 Breakpoint Shape
Core Design: The symmetric core used in this third Raw release has been modified to strengthen the move off friction compared to the original Raw Doom. The Rg is 2.50 and the Diff is a hefty .050.

Coverstock:The attention-grabbing lime green and silver mix is highly visible from 20 lanes away. The pearl Max Flip reactive has a new age pearl additive which enhances both friction and oil absorption.

Manufacturer's Intent:Brian Graham, Hammer's brand manager, says, We are using our Max Flip Reactive found on the original Doom with our new Traction Pearl. The change to the new pearl provides more predictable ball motion in oil and improved consistency from shot to shot. Basically, the Toxic is an improved version of the original Raw Hammer Doom.

Test Results:This ball may look like your father's old green Nitro, but let me assure you it is not. The ball motion characteristics of this green pea are noticeably more aggressive than the smooth rolling Nitro. The pearl additive enhances traction and reaction in oil and dry, as mentioned above. The core is shaved on its sides to improve its internal dynamics off dry boards. The result is an aggressive pearl which fears no oil pattern, yet can be used as a "send it" ball when playing deeper inside angles.

When to Use:We had success on our heavier test patterns simply by closing our angles to the pocket. We saw no squirt in the oil and a strong arcing move off dry. Our lower-pin test balls responded about a foot earlier and rolled very heavy through the midlane on the fresh. Our higher pins displayed more length and a more angular move, and matched up better on our medium and drier patterns. On these patterns, we naturally opened up our shoulders when we played more inside angles to the pocket, which opened our launch angles. Pin carry was every bit as good as with higher-priced balls, with similar motion characteristics. Dulling the surface with 500 abralon added five boards of total hook, similar to that of the Raw Pain, but with easier length to the spot.

49 Hook; 16 Length; 14.5 Breakpoint Shape
Core Design: Both the new pearl and original Smash Time use the same symmetric low RG core. The RG value is 2.44 and the Diff reading is .054. This is the lowest RG core in Ebonite's entire line.

Coverstock:The Smash Time Pearl's cover is sanded with 1000 abralon and polished with Ebonite's Factory Powerhouse. The coloring is red, purple and silver pearl. The base used is a modified Big Bang reactive.

Manufacturer's Intent:Ed Gallagher of Ebonite's design team had this to say: "The Smash Time Pearl was designed using a stronger version of our Big Bang Reactive and a new pearl, with the Smash Time Core. The results are a ball that revs very quickly out of the bowler's hand and reads the mid-lane extremely well. This version of Smash Time is quite cleaner through the front part of the lane when compared to the original solid..."

Test Results:The pearl Smash Time's breakpoint motion reminded us of the original Smash Time, but with an easy two feet more length and a touch more attitude. Some of you may think two feet is not much when it comes to breakpoint length. Those who are in-the-know realize how important just six inches of added length can be for pin carry. The pearlized polished cover had no trouble getting down the lane, even on our dry or broken-down patterns. The modified Big Bang reactive cover helps temper the response off the friction, thus creating a smooth, easy-to-read arc. This will make an excellent read (of the pattern) or control ball for many, especially on medium to drier wet/dry patterns.

When to Use:Power players could find success on heavy oil down to lighter oil with minor surface adjustments on the slop. Average or less-handed players will use the Smash Time with box finish on mediums and lighter. Heavier patterns will be better served by a more aggressive piece, in my opinion. Down-and-inners can play near the track area and simply bump the dry for added entry angle. The fast-revving nature (low RG) of the core aids in pin carry and control for all release types on all but the driest of patterns.

51 Hook; 9 Length; 13 Breakpoint Shape
Core Design: Brunswick has a newly designed core for this BVP entry. The Rocket core is symmetric in nature and has a low RG rating of 2.499 with a .045 Diff. We saw 5' of track flare with both 4.5' pins (one with a weight hole) and our 3.5 pin.

Coverstock:The solid particle cover is sanded with 400 grit and is colored in copper and blue. The base is activator, and is infused with a high load of particle.

Manufacturer's Intent:Says Brunswick, The BVP Mammoth brings two new technologies into the BVP line, Multi-Sided Symmetric Core Technology and Activator High Load Particle Coverstock, to create performance that improves on the reaction of balls such as the BVP Goliath and Swamp Monster. The Activator cover alone is worth the price of admission. Bowlers who liked the Goliath should enjoy the fact that the Mammoth hooks both earlier and more.

Test Results:This ball will not overshoot the breakpoint for almost any style of bowler on any medium to heavier volume pattern. We had no need to back down our ball speed on our heavier or longer patterns. The Mammoth wants to read the midlane, and there is very little one can do to prevent it. The Mammoth is an early motion ball with plenty of continuation, as long as it's used on the proper oil pattern for an individual's speed-to-rev ratio.

When to Use:The Mammoth will match up well on medium to oilier volumes on either wood or synthetics. Players with higher speed-to-rev ratios could find success on lighter volumes as long as the pattern had decent length. We had our best results playing right of 12th board to the gutter; this keeps our shoulders more square to our target lines. Most particles are classified as slow response covers, which means they don't make quick, assertive moves off friction. Particles respond more gradually off dry boards, which makes them the perfect choice for bowlers looking for a smooth reaction, similar to that of yesteryear's urethane. But do realize these are dramatically more aggressive than your old burgundy Hammer when encounteringtoday's higher viscosity oils.

Testing Parameters
This month my guest tester was Scott Radtke. Scott is left-handed and possesses a very strong game. His backswing is Weber-like with a touch more explosion at the release. His vitals are 16.5 mph, 425 rev rate, and 70 axis rotation. PAP is 4 1/4 by 1/2 up.Scott uses Vise Vacu-grips and Turbo Switch Grips in every ball. He also uses a very relaxed span with 1/8th forward pitch on the thumb for a secure and quick release. The other tester was yours truly. Vitals being 16 mph, 310 rev rate with a 45 degree axis rotation. My axis point is 5 1/8 by 1/8 up. Our test patterns were on wood and synthetic, as always. The wood house was Classic lanes in Oak Creek. The patterns have 23 and 28-ml of oil at 42'. The ratio is a typical house pattern with moderate wet/dry attributes. On synthetic, we bowled at Olympic Lanes. The volume and pattern were its house shot, which played drier than the shot at Classic Lanes. Both lane conditions gave us a good feel for all the balls tested.

46 Hook; 16 Length; 14.5 Breakpoint Shape
Core Design: The symmetric core is conservative in shape and delivers a smooth arcing motion. The RG is medium at 2.50 with a 3" flaring Diff of .033.

Coverstock:The fire engine red solid cover comes highly polished. The conservative base reactive resin is called Tru-GlideR, and boy, does it glide!

Manufacturer's Intent:The Crisis solid fills out the Dyno-Thane line for drier to light-medium patterns. The intent is for easy length through lesser volumes of oil, followed by a smoother reaction off friction. Controlled motion for lighter patterns is generally easier to predict than those covers which are more responsive.

Test Results:The Crisis solid provides effortless length on lighter to medium volumes of oil. Our power player tester had limited success on the medium to heavier patterns. He struck all day long on the lighter volumes. The Crisis offers lots of control with a predictable motion off friction. Our medium rev testers could only use the Crisis successfully on the lighter patterns, or when playing closer to the track once our medium volumes broke down. This ball definitely needs to see friction to respond properly and carry. Needless to say, heavier and longer volumes will be better served using stronger equipment.

When to Use:The Crisis will perform up to expectations on lighter patterns when easy length and a controlled move off friction are desired. Some power players will be able to play deep inside angles and still create enough entry angle for pleasing pin carry. Most players will realize the strong suit of the Crisis is control. The cover does not require forcing to achieve length, but does need an adequate amount of dry to turn the corner. Track players will be able to play in or near the dry and let their hand and lane do most of the work.