Archery 101: How to choose a bow sight

You have found the perfect bow and launched arrows. Now is the time to dive into the world of accessories.

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

First, let’s choose a view.

A sight on a compound bow is very different from a scope on a rifle. While a rifle uses magnification to aid the shooter, a bow sight does not. An arc sight is a circular box that contains fiber optic pins that correspond to a certain range. By placing the pin on the target at a desired distance, the shooter can perform an accurate shot.

Your eyesight is key, so it’s essential that you choose one you’re comfortable with. The options for views can be overwhelming. Prices also vary considerably between different models.

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

Fixed multi-pin sights
Multi-pin sights typically have three or five pins in a single fixed sight body. Most new archers start with a fixed multipoint sight. They are simple with few moving parts and allow an archer to shoot at a variety of distances without much adjustment.

When setting these pins, called “sights”, it is appropriate to start with your top pin, which most archers set at 20 or 30 yards, depending on your bow speed. Ten meter increments are the most common spacing for pins. This allows sufficient space between the pins for easy target acquisition at full power.

These sights give the hunter a big advantage: adjustments to your shot can be made at full draw. As long as you have someone on your side, you can go from shooting 40 yards to shooting 50 yards, 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: a fiber optic pin in the middle of the sight housing. The way you adapt to different footage is to move the viewfinder body up or down to match the footage.

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 ribbons so you can choose the one that best matches your bow and arrow setup. The process is quite simple and surprisingly accurate.

These sights are excellent and are probably the second most popular sight on the market. They are accurate and comfortable to shoot. Having a single pin in the sight body allows the eye to easily focus on your target and place your pin accurately. These sights also make it easy to shoot at obscure ranges with 100% confidence in your shot placement. A 54-yard shot is made easier by dialing your PIN at that exact distance. You can also maintain the same firing cycle whether you are shooting at 7 or 70 yards. With just one 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 work as well in hunting scenarios. When your animal presents a shot, you will have to move away, adjust your sight and execute, all before the animal moves again. Be aware that if you choose a single pin, you may be sacrificing shooting opportunities because you are not in a position where you can adjust your sight for the shot.

Multi-pin adjustable sights
These sites offer the best of both worlds. Many companies now make multi-pin sights that have a movable sight body, or a fixed set of pins with a floating pin that moves within the fixed sight body. This allows you to have your standard pin count, while still being able to dial in an exact distance if desired.

You can choose to have three to five pins, depending on how many fixed pins you want. Many hunters will choose the three-prong versions to cover their distances under 50 yards, then drop the rest on the dial.

When aiming into 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 recommend using the bottom pin – and you can turn to the aiming bands and figure out which one fits your setup.

These sites are my personal choice, but they are not foolproof. If you don’t configure it correctly, they will be very frustrating. I’ve heard many stories of hunters forgetting to bring their sight back to “zero” before executing a fixed pin shot, and I’ve done it too.

Earnest A. Martinez