A bow sight is one of the most important archery accessories to have if you hope to improve your shooting accuracy as an archer. Bow sights are essentially shooting aids that take the guesswork out of the shot process, allowing you to enjoy better accuracy levels while enhancing your archery experience.
Accuracy is of paramount importance in archery. And consistently achieving precision with instinctive shots would mean that you’re either the golden child of this game or an expert refined by the rigorous practices this sport demands. But the truth is not everyone is cut out to be any of that, so the majority of us usually resort to bow sights.
However, like other archery accessories, bow sights come in different types, and a lot of factors go into the selection process. Below, we’ll examine essential details you need to know to choose the best option for your bow.
What is a Bow Sight?
A bow sight is a piece of archery accessory that helps archers fine-tune their aim before firing. These accessories work like scopes on a rifle. However, while rifle scopes use magnification to enhance aim, bow sights are circular housings that have fiber-optic pins corresponding with certain ranges.
The bow sight consists of three main parts: the reticle - which serves as the optical component, the housing - usually made from carbon fiber or aluminum, and a mount - with which it attaches to the bow.
To use a bow sight, you simply attach it to your bow, place the pin on the target at the desired range, and aim from there.
An Overview of Bow Sight Types
Bow sights come in different types, each with unique features and advantages. The most common way to categorize them is based on the number and positioning of their pins, which allows them to be categorized as:
As its name suggests, a single-pin bow sight comes with just one aiming pin, which can be moved or dialed in to adjust it for different distances and ranges. Most single-pin sights come with sight tapes on which yardages are printed. You just have to slide the pin into a position corresponding to the yardage you intend to shoot, draw back your bow, aim, and release. But ensure you choose a tape that corresponds to your bow and arrow setup so that you can be even more accurate with your shot.
Single-pin sights are generally the preferred option for both target and field archery. They are also quite ideal for beginners. Since they come with just one pin in their housing, they reduce confusion and won’t obstruct your field of view while you aim. They also allow you to shoot obscure distances with greater confidence in your shot placement.
However, single-pin sights take some getting used to as you have to condition yourself to range your intended target and adjust your sight before every shot. This makes them not so great for shooting moving targets. If you already set your yardage and the target moves, you need time to recalibrate the sight and re-aim.
Fixed Multi-Pin Sights
A multi-pin bow sight usually comes with three, five, or seven pins within its housing. The pins are usually held in fixed positions and sighted in for the various distances you expect to shoot, thus allowing you to make shots at different distances without needing any adjustment.
Fixed-pin sights are especially great for 3D archers and bowhunters. They are easy to work with and provide the confidence that you won’t be stuck trying to set your pin to the proper yardage when a shot eventually presents itself. With these sights, it is easy to adjust quickly for different yardages with optimal shooting accuracy. Hence, they come in handy when aiming at a moving target.
However, these sights can also present a bit of a problem. With most fixed-pin sights, the pins are placed at set distances, say 20, 30, 40, and 50 yards. So, if a target is standing at an odd distance, for instance, 35 yards - you will have to do some pin-gapping guesswork. For some, this is relatively easy. Also, because of the number of pins housed, they do not provide a very clear sight picture, unlike single-pin sights.
Multi-Pin, Adjustable Sights
Why limit yourself to one type of bow sight when you can have the best of both worlds? While they’re not as common as the other two categories, multi-pin, adjustable sights are quite nifty.
These sights come with fixed pins in an adjustable housing or a fixed set of pins with one floating pin that moves within the housing. With these hybrid sights, you won’t have to rely on a single pin for all range adjustments or do any pin-gapping guesswork. Instead, you can sight in traditional pin gaps and then use the dial to precisely aim at specific (perhaps even longer) yardages. Thus, you have your standard number of pins and can still make adjustments based on the required target distance.
Other Considerations When Choosing A Bow Sight
Beyond the type of bow sight, you also need to consider a few things:
The pins in your sight will also come in varying sizes, the most common being the .029, .019, and .010 diameter pins. Smaller pins are usually more accurate. They keep your sight picture much less cluttered and allow you to place the arrow in the exact position you want. Smaller pins also do not significantly obscure your intended target, making them an excellent option for long-distance shots.
Larger pins, on the other hand, collect more light and are much better for low-light situations. They will, however, clutter your sight picture more compared to smaller pins.
A way to balance and get the best of both extremities is to go with smaller diameter fibers for longer-range pins and larger fibers for your shorter-range pins.
Many sights come with in-built fiber optics. These are especially great for low-light situations because they make the aiming pins clearly visible. Generally, the more fiber a sight has, the brighter it is. If you’re a bowhunter, keep this in mind, as you will usually use fiber optics when shooting early in the morning or after dusk.
Sight lights are another feature that primarily benefits bowhunters. They are battery-powered lights that illuminate the sight, thus allowing you to see the pins clearly in the dark. While they’re great, note that many states don’t allow archers or hunters to attach any electronic devices to their bows. Since sight lights are considered electronics, they may be banned in such places.
A lot of modern bow sights now come with a bubble level which is a small tube filled with colored alcohol or other colored liquids that help you level your shots. Similar to the leveling tool used by most handymen, the bubble shows if your shot is too tilted to either side.
A bubble level is a huge advantage on the sight because it encourages greater levels of consistency. Centering the bubble level on each shot helps you confirm that you’re holding your bow the same way each time, preventing some side-to-side misses.
Bubble levels are especially useful for compound archers to ensure their bows are not significantly tilted as they take each shot. So, if you’ve got a compound bow and want to improve your shooting accuracy, consider getting sights with a bubble level.
The sight bar
The bar that holds the sight in place and attaches it to your bow is referred to as the sight bar. An important consideration to keep in mind when choosing a bow sight is the size and quality of the sight bar.
Sights that come with lower-quality sight bars are mostly cheaper, but in the end, you will be sacrificing a sturdy build for a lower cost. Good quality sight bars with sturdy construction will guarantee better performance and last much longer than cheaper options.
You also want to consider the size, bearing in mind that while larger sight bars are a bit more accurate, they make it a bit more difficult for bowhunters to get around in the woods.
A few high-end sights are capable of micro-adjustment when in the field. This feature enables you to fine-tune your sight as needed, which is crucial for pinpoint accuracy. Micro adjustment systems provide a great way to adjust your pins at any time and place without requiring special tools. These sights come with a locking screw that locks in your pin positions. By loosening the screw, you can move the pins' positions and change the sight’s windage.
While this is a really cool feature to have on your sight, it’s left to you to decide whether or not it’s worth the extra bit of cash. Ideally, if you spend enough time properly sighting in your bow and locking down your pins, you should not need to make adjustments while out in the field.
Archery is all about accuracy. And while some archers are excellent with natural aiming, the majority aren’t, and that’s okay. Regardless, even the most experienced archers will tell you to constantly work on improving your shot, giving it all it takes. In your quest to do that, a bow sight will definitely come in handy, and we hope this guide helps you make the best buying decision when you eventually go shopping for one.