Barry, I too actually prefer a longer ATA bow. This 2012 Cougar FC is the shortest bow I have ever owned. Before this I always preferred them to be 36" or longer ATA. I have shot on many target leagues, but never competitively. I have always shot archery for the shear enjoyment of it. Seems to me in my 47 years of shooting archery, I learned a lot of the same things you did. I enjoy reading your opinions. Many are the same as mine.
Truthfully I never really cared that much about the fancy camo finish on a bow. A flat gray or brown would be fine with me. Give me an ATA about 36" and keep the bow below 5lbs, (I've been adding weight with stabilizers), I hunt tree stands mostly and whitetail deer. A smooth draw, an actual arrow speed of about 280fps with an actual hunting setup and quiet. Is that too much to ask?
I need to add: with a 27" draw length.
I believe at the end of the day Martin will have to trim down their current bow offerings and concentrate on fewer bows extending their engineering and QC, notwithstanding to extend their reach in the archery arena a crossbow may be in their future. This is a very competitive industry just another bow with a fancy name will not cut the mustard. One of the Martin employees on this site a while back stated that they made a couple hundred variations on bows they produced. Not a good thing from a manufacturing perspective. Remember you can't please all the people all the time, but you can engineer and build a better product that most would pay a little more for.
you gotta remember though Plainsman, back in the day, Martin was not only a manufacturer of archery to the general public, but was a specialty shop akin to a good gunsmith and made bows to order aside from their standard offerings... "you want a cougar riser with 16" limbs and shoot through cams in pink polka dot? We can do that!", and they would! So to say that they had hundreds of variations of different setups is actually reasonable considering the book of custom business they used to do. Nowadays they have to be a cookie cutter shop in order to compete, and its kinda sad because they used to turn out some real works of art.... just rambling ;)
I like the custom shops, custom is my middle name. However, the custom part of any business should be working on the perimeter of the main manufacturing business and be responsible for its own profit or loss. Also customization should stay within the engineered design geometry of a particular bow or product and not mix matching risers, cams and limbs all for one personís idea of the ultimate Frankenstein Bow or developing a hybrid mix that they think is going to outsell everything on the market. In my opinion nowadays the custom shop should be pushed to the local dealer or let me order the parts and do it myself, I could be wrong about that but just my thoughts. Give something innovative not three or four different configurations put together in the back room and packaged as a new model that just tells me you are in hard times and trying to get inventory out the door. Statistically that only has a one in ten chance of bearing any fruit or impacting the bottom line. That just leads to cracked limbs, cam problems, excessive string wear and the likes. Hey, where have I heard of these before? Iím just saying. If youíre going to be the lead dog you gotta be innovative and produce a product or service that brings value, reliability and repeatability to your clients/customers or the view never changes. I would pay more for value, reliability and repeatability and thatís what itís all about.