The Beginner's Guide to Choosing and Using a Bow Sight
- 15 Feb, 2017
Using a quality bow sight is the fastest way to dramatically improve your accuracy.
Archery is all about accuracy. Plain and simple. Whether in a tournament setting, or on a bowhunting adventure, hitting the mark is all that matters. Compound bows afford us many advantages in this department. One major advantage they allow is the ability to mount a bow sight. Being adept at choosing and using a bow sight is a must for a fledgling archer.
A multi-pin sight with vertical pins
Before diving in and purchasing a bow sight, there are a few things you should consider. First off, you’ll need to determine what your archery focus is. Are you doing mostly tournament shooting, bowhunting, or shooting just for fun? Even in the bowhunting realm there are decisions to be made. Are you shooting whitetails exclusively at close ranges, or do you hunt a variety of species at unknown ranges? Secondly, you’ll want to determine how much time you have to practice. Some sight models seem to require more practice than others. Finally, most folks out there will probably be working on a budget as well. Understanding your price range can also help the process and make your decision easier.
Once you have an understanding of those questions, the next thing you need to do is dive in and start determining what bow sight is best for you.
Choosing a Bow Sight
As mentioned there are several different types of bow sights available. Probably the most popular sight used is the multi-pin sight. As the name indicates, a multi-pin sight has several pins set at known distances. Shooters use anywhere between 3 and 6 pins, depending on their preference. Most bows tend to come standard with a 3 pin sight. Oftentimes these pins are different colors to allow the archer to differentiate between ranges easily. Multi-pin sights also allow pins to be added or subtracted to the shooters taste. In other words, just because you buy a 3 pin sight, doesn’t mean you can’t add a few pins to make it a 5 pin sight.
Multi-pin sights have a few advantages in my book and you’d find one mounted to my bow if you checked. First off, multi-pin sights allow for easy range adjustments. If I’m shooting a target at 30 yards, then step back to 50 yards, I simply use a different pin as a reference point. Also, multi-pin sights can be customized to your situation. You can set as many pins as you like, at the distances you prefer. Some guys shoot 1 pin for everything 30 yards and under, while others opt to set pins for specific distances like 15, 25, and 35 yards. However you want to set it up, the multi-pin sight allows you to make it happen.
There are a few disadvantages to multi-pin sights however. First off, if you add too many pins the sight picture can become cluttered. It can simply become distracting for some people. Not only can it be hard to focus, but more than one unlucky archer has mistakenly used the wrong pin while taking a shot. Secondly, you have to estimate certain shots. For example, if you have pins set at 30 and 40 yards, but are shooting a 37 yard shot, you have to estimate where to hold. Personally, I don’t find this tremendously difficult, and with a little practice can overcome the obstacle.
While many archers using a bow sight opt for a multi-pin sight, others prefer the clear focus of a single pin sight. Single pin sights have caught on recently, and lots of shooters seem to be making the switch. Advocates of these sights tout them for their clutter-free sight picture and adjustability.
Single pin sights are just about what they sound like. You have one pin mounted on the sight, and you use it for all your yardages. While some folks can have a single pin that stays at a known yardage (one pin that stays at 20 yards and never moves) many archers using these opt for adjustable sights. Unlike the multi-pin sights, the single pin must be moved to the yardage you will be shooting. For example, if you shoot a 30 yard shot, then step back to 50, you have to adjust the sight for the shot. While this may seem inconvenient, some folks don’t mind.
One major advantage of a single pin is the ability to shoot point on every time. For example, if you are shooting a 43 yard shot you can adjust your sight for 43 yards and hold dead on the target. This takes all the guess work out of where to aim. Secondly, you can’t accidentally use the wrong pin on your shot. There is only one option so you’ll always be correct when you use it.
The major disadvantage of the single pin sight appears to be the lack of ability to adjust to changing circumstances. Say for example you are hunting mule deer in the openness of the west. When you first think you’ll get a shot at the deer he is at 25 yards. You adjust your sight accordingly. In that time the deer has walked behind some trees and when he reemerges he is at 40 yards. Now you have to either readjust your sight to 40 yards, or be adept enough with your single pin to adjust for the changing situation on the fly.
On the other hand, if you are hunting whitetails in the east and know your deer will be at around 20 yards, you may appreciate the single pin. In all honesty, there are western hunters who have become excellent shots with the single pin sight, and it certainly has taken a fair share of animals. When choosing your bow sight, it does come down to tradeoffs and choosing the sight that works best for you.
Using a Bow Sight
Once you’ve decided upon what bow sight best suits your needs, you’ll need to mount it to your bow. Mounting a bow sight is simple. As long as you have a few allen wrenches around you should have all the tools you need. At this point, it is worth noting you will likely need a peep sight installed as well. The peep sight is installed in your actual bowstring, and helps to align your eye with the sight when at full draw. Installing a peep sight is pretty easy, but you may need the help of your local pro-staff to get the job done. With your sight mounted and peep installed, you can head to the range and sight in.
When sighting your bow in, it’s best to start at a short distance. 20 yards is pretty typical. If you are using a multi-pin sight most folks set their top pin at 20 yards. Take a shot at 20 yards and see where the arrow hits. You’ll likely need to do some adjusting at this point in order to get dead on. The golden rule when sighting in is to “chase your arrow.” In other words, if you are missing left, you need to adjust your sight to the left. If you are missing high, you need to move your sight higher. Continue to adjust your sight until you are comfortable with your group. With a 20 yard pin established, you can now start moving back and set your other pins. As you move back you’ll not only need to establish your new pins, but you can fine tune your left and right setting as well. Whatever distance you are, the golden rule remains the same; chase the arrow.
Sighting in a single pin sight is a little different than sighting in a multi-pin sight. With a single pin you will need to use a sight tape provided by the manufacturer to determine your distances. Manufacturers have done the math and created sight tapes that predict your arrow flight based on 20 and 60 yard sight ins. Rather than spend time trying to describe the process in detail, I think the best way to learn the process is to watch. Here is one Spot Hogg pro-staffer showing how to sight in a single pin sight. Although he is demonstrating for Spot Hogg, the process is similar on nearly all other single pin bow sights.
Choosing and using a bow sight can seem a little daunting for a new shooter. By understanding the advantages of each sight, and knowing the purpose and hunting style, you can select the best match for you. Once it is installed, sighting in generally is a breeze. If you’ve done everything correctly you can begin stacking groups. Using a bow sight is a great way to improve your overall accuracy. Archery is all about accuracy, and if you use the right bow sight, your accuracy can really improve. Happy hunting!
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