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Pick the Right Bow Sight

Pick the Right Bow Sight
RAK4000 Archer Xtreme This sight has a wickedly strong mounting dovetail bracket, micro adjustments and a long-range elevation adjustment system. The four fixed .019-inch pins are made of metal. AXT's RAK sight series is designed specifically for the diehard 3-D, target and bowhunter, who is looking for a versatile sight. MSRP, $259.

The modern bow sight has evolved into a high-tech system that offers the edge to bowhunters.

Right Bow Sight


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.

This sight has a wickedly strong mounting dovetail bracket, micro adjustments and a long-range elevation adjustment system. The four fixed .019-inch pins are made of metal. AXT's RAK sight series is designed specifically for the diehard 3-D, target and bowhunter, who is looking for a versatile sight. MSRP, $259.

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.

Forty pre-marked tapes make tuning fast and simple on this "single-pin." A large adjustment dial with silky smooth rotation allows for exacting elevation tuning. A large-diameter circle has an adjustable green center-aiming point (instead of an actual pin), with 11 brightness settings. Ambidextrous. MSRP, $233.

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.

The one-pin Optimizer Lite has been around for a few years now. But it's worth noting because it sports tool-less micro windage adjustability, fully protected fibers and a unique sight-in system. Sight in at 20 yards and then at 60 yards and match the space to the correct sight tape. You are ready to shoot from 20-80 yards in 5-yard increments. MSRP, $169.


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.

Sleek and adventurous, this sight has a sliding dovetail mounting system. They offer one-hand elevation tuning thanks to a large textured adjustment dial. More than 60 pre-marked yardage tapes for this single-pin. MSRP, $199.

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.

Machined from 6061 aircraft aluminum and made in the USA, the Fast Eddie XL features a 6-inch dovetail bar and bow mount. It adjusts in the second- and third-axis, and it has a large yardage dial, micro adjustable windage, and pre-marked sight tapes. The Fast Eddie XL comes with Spot-Hogg's single up-pin housing or with the new Double Pin scope. MSRP, $230, Single Up-Pin; $270, Double Pin.


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.


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.

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