Pick the Right Bow Sight
October 21, 2016
The modern bow sight has evolved into a high-tech system that offers the edge to bowhunters.
TYPES OF SIGHTS
There are two distinct styles of sights most popular with bowhunters — fixed-pin sights and adjustable sights.
Fixed-pins have been used since the beginning of modern archery. At first, these were archaic systems, such as a matchstick taped to the riser. They offered archers an aiming point, and archers became more proficient at longer yardages.
Then came multiple-pin sights, which allowed archers to have several aiming points that corresponded to fixed distances, usually 20, 30 and 40 yards. This setup gave archers the options of shooting at close range or longer ranges. It's ideal for bowhunters who hunt wild game, which can be freakishly fast and change their course of direction instantaneously.
In the early 2000s, archers were introduced to bigger cams and parallel limbs, which added up to faster bows.
These and other improvements flattened arrow trajectories and made long-range shooting easier for the common archer. Fast bows and flat arrows led to the demand for sighting systems with multiple pins. Sights like Black Gold's Lucky Seven and Spot-Hogg's SDP sported seven pins.
Things were getting crowded in that sight picture. Multiple-pin sights can cause havoc during the moment of truth. More than once, I've heard a bowhunter say, "I used the wrong pin!" It can happen to the best hunter and in a rush of panic, archers count one too many pins, or potentially one less.
During the past decade, a new style has grown from the target-shooting scene into the hunting world: One-pin target sights that can be adjusted up or down on the fly.
To shoot various distances, the bowhunter determines the distance to the target, and then adjusts a wheel or lever on the side of the sight to raise or lower the pin. Most sights can be set up to shoot from 1 to 100 yards. A benefit of minimizing the number of pins is fewer pins make it much easier for you to see what you are shooting.
Also, archers with vision impairments and eye problems can have an extremely hard time focusing on their desired pin as they start to crowd each other.
Just a note here: red is the first color to disappear in low-light shooting conditions. Anyone with low-light vision problems should consider eliminating red in their sight pins altogether.
Today, sight companies are introducing hybrid sighting systems that combine multiple fixed pins with one adjustable pin for long-distance shooting.
These new sights offer distinct advantages over traditional fixed-pin sights. They give the archer the standard fixed-pin system, with an adjustable pin feature for utilizing the bottom pin for longer yardages.
At the same time, bowhunters will appreciate the opportunity to practice longer-range shots so they are better at the closer-in shots in the field.
Many accomplished bowhunters will testify that long-range shooting practice has dramatically tightened their groups and improved their accuracy at shorter distances. The reason why is that long-range shooting exposes shooting form flaws and mishaps much more drastically than when shooting at shorter distances. Examples would be dropping your bow arm, punching the trigger, torquing your grip, and ultimately exposing a poorly tuned bow.
Essentially, in a four-pin configuration you would sight-in at 20, 30, 40 and 50 yards. Then, the bottom 50-yard pin can be adjusted to shoot farther ranges by simple turns of the yardage dial. This adds increasingly more range, and eliminates six-, seven- and eight-pin sights that can essentially create confusion and
clog up sight windows.
Key to precision accuracy for these style sights is smooth operating adjustability with solid locking systems, ensuring mounts don't slip or become loose, essentially moving out of the sighted-in position.
While there are many benefits to using hybrid sights, there are a few disadvantages. The primary one is the concern for having to adjust a sight quickly, and potentially within eyesight of wild game. Hunters know any additional movement can ruin a great hunt by spooking a game animal out of shooting range.
Another disadvantage is that hybrid sights weigh typically more than traditional fixed-pin sights. While a heavier bow is thought of as being more accurate, a bowhunter trekking miles on foot, day after day, could appreciate any decrease in weight. Still, most of us would choose accuracy over weight.
TRENDING WITH BOWHUNTERS
Mark Garcia, owner of Archer Xtreme and a diehard bowhunter, has an impressive 31 bull elk under his belt. He agreed that the popularity of sights packed tight with anywhere from 5-8 pins is slowly slipping away. As a product engineer and archery-gear innovator, Mark manufactures a number of hybrid-style sights.
Bowhunters are surely adapting to these newer-style sights, said Garcia. They are perfect for the bowhunter and avid 3-D shooter. Seven- and 8-pin sights are quickly being replaced with sights holding fewer pins yet providing vertical adjustability for long-range shooting.
I've used Archer Xtreme's new RAK1000 and RAK4000 systems. They have fixed 1- and 4-pin configurations with smooth elevation adjustments for sighting in a long-range pin, enabling pinpoint accuracy at longer distances.
Garcia's last 10 kills have all been shot at an average of 65 yards.
"Shooting beyond-average distances is the perfect practice," he said.