Archery 101: How to Choose a Bow Sight

Archery 101: How to Choose a Bow Sight

You’ve found the perfect bow and slung some arrows. Now, it’s time to jump into the world of accessories.

When buying a bare compound bow, these accessories are essential pieces of equipment for the hunt, so don’t just grab the first thing you see. Spend some time learning about the pros and cons of each accessory.

First, let’s choose a sight.

A sight on a compound bow is very different than a scope on a rifle. While a rifle uses magnification to help the shooter, a bow sight does not. A bow sight is a circular housing that holds fiberoptic pins that correspond to a certain range. By placing the pin on the target at a desired range, the shooter can make an accurate shot.

Your sight is a key component, so it’s vital that you pick one you’re comfortable shooting. The options for sights can be overwhelming. Prices vary drastically between the different models as well.

Your sight choice may change depending on the type of hunting or shooting that you are going to be doing. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll cover a few different options to give a basic overview.

Fixed Multi-Pin Sights
Multi-pin sights usually have three or five pins within a single, fixed sight body. Most new archers start with a fixed multi-pin sight. They are simple with few moving parts and allow an archer to make shots at a variety of distances without much adjustment.

When you’re adjusting these pins, called “sighting in,” it’s appropriate to start with your top pin, which most archers set at 20 or 30 yards, depending on the speed of your bow. Ten-yard increments are the most common spacing for pins. This allows enough of a gap between the pins for easy target acquisition at full draw.

These sights give a hunter a great advantage: Adjustments for your shot can be made at full draw. As long as you have someone ranging for you, you can go from expecting a 40-yard shot to making a 50-yard shot, no problem. All you have to do is place a different pin on the animal.

Single-Pin Sights
A single-pin sight is exactly what it sounds like: one fiberoptic pin in the middle of the sight housing. The way you adjust for different yardages is by moving the sight body up or down to correspond with the yardage.

These sights come with sight tapes—sight tapes are placed on the sight and have yardages printed on them—and a tool to select the correct tape. These sights come with multiple tapes so you can choose the one that corresponds properly to your bow and arrow setup. The process is fairly easy and surprisingly accurate.

These sights are great and are probably the second most popular sight on the market. They are accurate and comfortable to shoot. Having only one pin in the sight body makes it easy for the eye to focus on your target and place your pin accurately. These sights also make it easy to shoot obscure distances with 100% confidence in your shot placement. A 54-yard shot is made easy by dialing your pin to that exact distance. You also get to maintain the same shot cycle, no matter if you’re shooting at 7 yards or 70 yards. With a single pin you don’t have to worry about adjusting your focus to a different pin for a different distance.

While these sights are more accurate for target shooting, they don’t perform as well in hunting scenarios. When your animal presents a shot, you will need to range, dial your sight, and execute—all before the animal moves again. Know that if you choose a single pin, you may sacrifice shot opportunities because you are not in a position where you can adjust your sight for the shot.

Multi-Pin Adjustable Sights
These sights offer the best of both worlds. Many companies are now making multi-pin sights that have a moving sight body, or a fixed set of pins with a floating pin that moves within the fixed sight body. This allows for you to have your standard set number of pins, while still being able to dial to an exact distance if you so desire.

You can choose to have three to five pins, depending on the number of fixed pins you want. Many hunters will choose the three-pin versions to cover their sub-50-yard distances, then let the rest fall on the dial.

When you sight in one of these sights, start by setting your fixed pins. Once those are set you can choose which pin you want to use for your dial—I advise using the bottom pin—and you can turn to the sight tapes and figure out which one matches your setup.

These sights are my personal choice, but they are not fool-proof. If you don’t get it set up properly, they’ll be very frustrating. I’ve heard many stories about hunters who forget to dial their sight back to its “zero” before executing a shot with the fixed pins—and I’ve done it too.

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