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Something that all archers consistently strive for is better accuracy. This never-ending process drives you to keep practicing, especially if you’re prepping for an archery competition. One of the main ways that an archer can improve their accuracy is by using a bow sight.
But when do bow sights work best? Bow sights work best for experienced or intermediate archers who have mastered the basic form and stance of shooting. Competitive archers also benefit greatly from bow sights, as do most bowhunters. But for new archers, using a bow sight can wait until they’ve familiarized themselves with foundational archery techniques.
They sound ideal, but there is a little more to these recommendations so do be sure to keep on reading!
But first, what exactly are bow sights, and what are the different types you can actually use?
Let’s get into it!
What Is A Bow Sight?
A bow sight is a piece of equipment that is attached to either your bow’s riser or the bowstring in some cases. A bow sight provides a consistent aiming tool to help an archer get into a good rhythm with subsequent shots. They can range from simple setups to elaborate additions.
Most bow sights are typically constructed in a ring shape and either fixed onto the bow’s riser via a bracket.
The majority of bow sights will use markers such as pins or even a targeting reticle or crosshairs to help the archer determine the distance for a shot.
A good bow sight can be adjusted to cater to different shooting distances. This is called “sighting in” and is a gradual process of shooting and adjusting the sights.
This can sometimes take a few days to allow you to rest in between shooting sessions. Various targets are used if the sight offers multiple pin options.
This is good practice for those looking to enter competitions, which will typically have preset target distances that competitors will aim for.
Setting up your bow sight for these distances can help you maximize your performance.
When sighting in a bow, you want your arrows to stay level compared to what the sight shows you. Arrows that hit the target below or wayward from the pin’s position in your eyeline mean that the sight needs adjusting.
Sights can also be adjusted from side to side to help you calibrate things perfectly.
Some types of sights are simpler than others, with adjustment dials used to fine-tune the sight rather than several pins set to different distances.
For archers who think it’s time to use a bow sight, finding the right kind of sight for your shooting style and bow setup may take some trial and error.
Types Of Bow Sights
There are two main categories of bow sights – single-pin sights and multi-pin sights. The kind of bow sight that an individual archer will prefer can depend on their shooting style, bow setup, and what kind of shooting they’re doing.
Let now look at each one more specifically:
The simpler version of a bow sight is a single-pin sight.
As the name suggests, these sights use just one targeting pin to create a baseline for the sight’s range.
This pin can be adjusted in real-time by a series of dials, helping an archer to calibrate quickly depending on the shooting conditions.
Typically, archers that use a single-pin bow sight will set the sight up for a specific average distance, perhaps 20 yards.
Then, if the target is positioned closer or further away, they will simply adjust their sight or use the pin as a guide and aim slightly above or below it as required.
Although the sight itself is simpler to use, this technique can take some time to master.
The other most common type of bow sight is a multi-pin sight.
These devices use between three and five pins to allow the archer to gauge several distances using the same sight.
This can be more useful than a single-pin bow sight if you’re shooting in a competition and have set up the multi-pin sight for each regimented target distance.
This saves you time, meaning that you don’t have to adjust your sight each time you change target distances.
However, it takes much longer to initially sight in a bow that uses multi-pin sights, because you have several pins to calibrate instead of just one.
Having multiple pins also crowds the targeting reticle, causing some archers to struggle to see things clearly without consistent practice.
By contrast, a single-pin sight provides fewer obstacles in your eyeline but relies more on instinct for adjustment at different distances.
When To Use A Bow Sight
A bow sight works best for archers who have already solidified their basic shooting form and techniques. Bow sights can also provide crucial boosts for accuracy during archery competitions or while hunting game with a bow.
Using a bow sight to improve your shooting accuracy won’t yield many benefits if your shooting form is not consistent.
The main ingredient for great archery accuracy is consistency, especially in terms of posture and position.
Archers need a solid foundation in these areas to really see huge gains with their accuracy.
Trying to aim a bow using a bow sight before finding a stable, consistent shooting setup isn’t going to magically increase accuracy.
This is because beginners need to develop their archery shooting muscles to practice holding a bow steady while aiming.
Without this foundation, all the bow sight will do is shake, throwing you even more off your shot.
Sighting in a bow sight also takes a lot of patience, practice, and experience to set up and fine-tune. Novice archers won’t have the necessary experience to calibrate these bow sights effectively.
Experienced archers have a better feel for how to set up a bow sight to get the most out of their bow.
Bow sights are also fantastic for any archer taking part in serious archery competitions.
These events often have multiple preset target distances for different rounds of the competition.
Having a bow sight calibrated to these distances allows archers to put all of their focus into each shot to maximize their performance.
Bowhunters can also benefit hugely from using bow sights, especially when trying to bring down fleeing game.
Single-pin bow sights might suit hunters more, with an increased field of vision and the ability to adjust on the fly.
Multi-pin sights are incredibly hard to adjust quickly and easily, which isn’t ideal for split-second shots in the field.
When Not To Use A Bow Sight
Although using a bow sight in some circumstances can generate huge accuracy improvements, some situations aren’t suited to the use of bow sights. Novice archers especially shouldn’t start using bow sights straight away.
When picking up archery for the first time, the main focus needs to be on learning how to shoot the bow consistently.
It’s easy to get disheartened early on when struggling to shoot accurately, and it can be tempting to purchase a bow sight hoping it will magically help.
But a bow sight can’t help much if the shooting form is inconsistent. If anything, using a bow sight without having a good shooting stance and form can make an archer’s accuracy even worse.
If a novice archer hasn’t yet developed the stabilization in their archery muscles, the bow will wobble during a shot.
This is really detrimental for aiming, especially with a bow sight.
To get into a position to use a bow sight effectively, an archer should wait until they have found a consistent anchor point and a shooting position that can be found shot after shot.
Mastering these basics will help beginners to see vast accuracy improvements overtime despite not using a bow sight.
Some experienced archers might choose not to use a bow sight and instead use instinctive shooting.
This is an extremely difficult technique but can be attractive for those archers who really want to challenge themselves.
It’s also appealing because of its historical legacy, allowing modern archers to try and replicate how shooters throughout history have fired their bows.
Where To Buy A Bow Sight
If you are keen to purchase a bow sight and get using one, then you have two main options; visiting local, specialized archery shops or even purchasing online.
If you want to get a feel for the sight before you purchase, and perhaps have a conversation on a particular sight then it may be best to go to a physical store and location.
But do research for archery stores in your area ahead of time. Perhaps contact them beforehand to ensure that they stock them first and foremost.
Even then, not all archery stores will offer all types and brands, and purchasing in-store is typically more expensive.
Buying online is, therefore, a great, fast and economical option.
For me, I get all my archery supplies over at Bass Pro Shops.
They have a huge collection of bow sights at various price ranges.
Plus with live chat, you can get the answers you need directly from the experienced team.
Other than this, there is of course Amazon.
Again this is a great option but it’s a little more like the wild-west.
You are going to need to do your research and compare sights and reviews.
If you are looking for a particular suggestion then take a look at this particular model and brand on Amazon.
It simply has the best reviews on the marketplace, so do check it out.
Have a bow sight in your sights?
Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
Nevertheless, knowing when a bow sight is best and the different types can ensure that this equipment improves your shot and does not have the opposite effect.
Hopefully, I’ve managed to do that here today.
But if I have taught you anything let it be this; bow sights are more advanced and suit more experienced archers.
If you are just starting out in archery, then it may not be a bow sight you need.
Instead, it may be practice, time, and patience. Oh and perhaps getting lessons or on a course to teach you how to be a better archer!
Next up: Bow Sight Pin Gap Calculator – The One You Simply Need!
I live in Alberta, Canada where I enjoy indoor and 3D archery with traditional bows and compound bows. On this site, I share everything I’ve learned about archery along the way.