How to Use Compound Bow Sights

Compound bow sights are an immensely important tool for focusing your field of vision, improving your aim, and ensuring that your arrows are properly aligned and hitting the target each time. Bow sights act as a manual navigational tool. They come in several varieties and have useful features any archer would appreciate having.

However, there are many bow sight models. How do you pick the right one and, once you’ve selected it, how do you use it? In this article, we’ll talk you through step by step how to select a compound bow sight, how to mount it to your bow, how to use it, and how to adjust it.

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1. Decide Which Type of Bow Sight You’d Like

There are two kinds of sights that can fit on a compound bow: the basic 3 pin sight and the single pin movable sight. Both types of sights are usually made of either plastic or light aluminum, which makes them extremely lightweight to not add any extra pressure on the bow. They come with both windage and elevation adjustments as well. Sights can be purchased in either standard or youth sizes. They mount directly to the bow with their included mounting hardware, so you can use them, which will be discussed in the next step.

3-Pin Sight
The 3-pin sight is the most common sight to add to your compound bow. It is horizontally shaped, with a round hood that contains three fiber optic pins and a small bubble level. The bubble level helps you properly align your shots, and the hood is often accented with a bright or reflective color for better visibility. The pins have three different colors of red, green, or yellow. They ensure you can acquire your target without losing too much in terms of sight picture. The pins are usually made of brass. Make sure the sight has a reversible mount design, so that either left- or right-handed users can attach it to their bow. One extra benefit of a 3-pin compound bow sight is that they’re not that expensive. For less than $20, you can greatly improve your archery accuracy and hit that bullseye each and every time.

Single Pin Sight
The single pin sight looks similar to the 3-pin, with a horizontal round hood and a bubble level. Behind the level is positioned just one vertical pin in one fiber optic color, usually green. Some of these sights come with an adjustable brightness Rheostat light to shine right on the pin and illuminate it. Having just one pin creates a clear, unobstructed view of your target, as well as ultra-precise adjustments. Unlike the 3-pin sight, the single pin is purchased only in left hand or right-hand types. It’s not reversible. They tend to also be more expensive than 3-pin bow sights.

Peep Sight
In addition to selecting one of the pin sights, you’ll also want a rear round sight, called a peep sight; they’re sold separately. They function as an additional alignment tool, and they work in tandem along with either your 3-pin sight or the single pin sight. A peep sight is tied in to the strings in the rear of the bow. It creates a tunnel effect when you look through it, narrowing your field of vision and focusing your aim. So, that when you pull back, you can look through the peep sight to aim directly through the pin sight and at the target.

There are more than just these three types of sights, but these are basics to get you started using them with your compound bow. You can also find 4-pin or even 5-pin sights.

2. Mount the Pin Sights to the Bow

After you’ve purchased your particular type of bow sight and received it, it’s time to attach it to your compound bow. The following directions are for pin sights.

At the end of the bow sight, you’ll notice two sets of three side by side mounting holes. The bow sight comes with screws that fit into these holes and screw to your bow. Using a Phillips head screwdriver, remove these screws from the sight and set them aside for now.

Take your compound bow and turn it on its side, with the outside facing towards you. You’ll notice a black or metal mounting plate about halfway up on the bow. It’ll have two screw holes designed for a sight.

Place your sight’s mounting holes vertically over these two screw holes, with the sight facing upright and away from you. Take the Phillips head screwdriver and attach the sight to the bow using the included screws. Make sure the sight is level by using the bubble level as your guide.

3. Using the Sight

With your 3-pin sight mounted, it’s time to use the sight. Each pin represents a specific yardage. The top pin is for the closest distance, the middle pin is for the middle distance, and the lowest pin is for the farthest distance. Some possible pin adjustment yardages include:

  • 15 – 20 – 25 yards
  • 15 – 30 – 45 yards
  • 20 – 30 – 40 yards

With a single pin sight, you manually adjust the yardage yourself with the included yardage selector. You can only choose one yardage at a time. It is much easier to adjust a single pin sight, and you can do it quicker without using a wrench or screwdriver.

Place an arrow in the bow and hold it there without drawing it back. Then, bring the bow up to your eye. Look through the peep sight and through the pin sight towards the tip of the arrow. You line up the tip of the arrow to one of the color-coded pin heads, whichever distance yardage you’re aiming for.

Stand facing the target. Draw back the bow, use the peep sight and the pin sight to line up the tip of the arrow to the appropriate pin for that yardage, and shoot.

4. Adjusting the Bow Sight

If you are experiencing a lot of misses outside the bullseye of the target, then you’ll want to adjust the sight. You want to adjust it in the direction of the arrows that you’re missing. For example, if you’re missing down and to the left of the bullseye, you want to adjust the sight down and to the left. If you’re hitting too high, move the sight higher. You’re not correcting in the opposite direction.

To adjust the sight, you’ll need a Phillips head screwdriver. On the sight itself while it’s mounted, locate both the horizontal and vertical screws. If you’re hitting the target too high or low, you’ll want to adjust the vertical screw. If you’re hitting your target too far to the right or left, you’ll want to adjust the horizontal screw.

Use the screwdriver to slightly unscrew that adjustment screw, then slide the whole sight to adjust it. Then tighten the adjustment screw. When you’re doing this, make sure your adjustments are small. Keep checking it and looking through the peep sight at the pins. It takes a bit of patience to get this step right, so expect to go through an adjustment period before you become really proficient.

Once your arrows start hitting the bullseye, that’s when you know that both the peep sight and your pin sight are properly in place and being used to their best advantage.

5. Practice and Correct Problems

Now that you’ve learned about compound bow sights and the basics of how to use each type, it’s up to you to become proficient in your archery. For that, you’ll want to practice using the bow sight with your target distances. It might take some getting used to, since your field of vision is focused on the pins. That’s why they’re fiber optic and color coded. They improve your accuracy immensely.

Having difficulty with your bow sight? Try replacing the included screws with better ones made of steel. Some bow users suggest using wax on the screws as well. Also, check where your peep sight is located, tied to the strings. It might be too high or too low. You might also have to raise your anchor points or shortening the bow draw length to about half an inch. That also, in turn, lowers the peep sight and changes the point of impact. Or, you can change the peep sight location manually. It’s not advised that you move the nocking point, which would impact the tune. A draw length that is too long would make it seem like the pin sight is the problem and you’re shooting way too high or too low.

Once you’ve become proficient in a 3-pin bow sight, the most common type of bow sight, then try the single pin sight.

You can use your compound bow sight for regular target practice or hunting. Using compound bow sights is basically all about choosing the type of sight that is best for you, taking the proper steps to mount or tie them correctly to your bow, and then performing small incremental manual adjustments until you’re hitting the target each and every time.

About Brad Harris