You’ve bought your new bow, got a great set of arrows, installed all the accessories, and now you’re ready to take the last step: Sighting in your bow. Sighting in your bow is the process of ensuring your arrows strike where your sight is pointing. This is important if you want to hit what you’re aiming for, which we assume all of you want to do.
It can be daunting trying to figure out how to get your bow completely sighted in if you’ve never done it before. Some people will have a bow shop tune their bow and sight it in for them. However, we believe the process is so easy there’s no excuse for paying someone else to do it for you. As a bonus, it’ll be more accurate if you shoot and sight it in instead of someone else shooting and doing it for you.
We’ve written this guide to start you off on the right foot, so you can learn how to sight your bow in quickly, and get back to practicing or hunting. For this article, we’ll be focusing on fixed pin sights.
Fixed pin sights are the type of sight that most people will use for bowhunting and bowhunter classes in target and 3D archery competitions. They’ll usually have between three and five sight pins that you can set at different distances. Single pin sights that include a sight tape are also popular, but we won’t cover them in this article.
Things to Know
Before we jump right into shooting and adjusting your sights, there are a few things you should consider first that will make the process much easier. Knowing some info ahead of time, such as how you adjust your sight and what yardages you want to set your pins to, will save you a lot of time and frustration.
How do you adjust your sight?
There are hundreds of different models of sights, and they’re all different – see our roundup of the best bow sights here. Before you start shooting, take a couple of minutes and figure out how you adjust the pins on your sight. You’ll usually need some kind of Allen wrench or screwdriver, so you’ll want to make sure you have the appropriate tools. Also, speaking from experience, make sure you have your tools before you head to the range.
When you have your tools, take a few minutes to play around with your sight and make sure you know how to adjust everything. Some sights will have a gang adjustment that adjusts all pins at once, while other sights will only let you move pins one at a time. Figure this all out ahead of time, and you won’t have to waste your time at the range figuring out how to move your pin yup without throwing off the other pins.
Additionally, some sights have extras like rheostat lights. It’s a good idea to figure out how to work those (and that the batteries aren’t dead) before you start shooting.
What yardages do you want to set your pins to?
Before you start shooting, decide what distances you want to set your pins to. This will vary based on the kind of shooting you do and how many pins your sight has. For example, if you aren’t going to shoot past 25 yards, there’s no use in a 30 or 40-yard pin. On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re doing long-range western hunting, you don’t need to spend time sighting in a 10 yard pin. For target or 3D archery, you’ll want pins at the distances you’re going to shoot the most often.
If you’re still unsure, you can’t go wrong starting with a pin set every 10 yards. For a three-pin sight, you would end up with pins at 10, 20, and 30 yards. A four-pin sight would add a 40-yard pin, and so on. This leaves you with good aiming references in most situations. You can always change your pins later as your preferences change.
How consistent is your shooting form?
Our last point you should consider before sighting in your bow is your shooting technique. We’re not saying you shouldn’t sight in your bow if you don’t have picture-perfect form, but it is good to keep in mind that when your technique changes, you’ll likely need to adjust your sights. Your anchor point must be rock solid and dialed in. Without it, you won’t have any degree of accuracy.
If you’re new to archery, you may even find that your technique changes throughout the day as you’re sighting in or shooting. That’s normal and even happens to experienced archers. If you find this happening to you, the best course of action is to pay extra attention to how you’re executing your shots and make any changes you need to to your sight. You can always change things back if it doesn’t help.
How to Sight In a Compound Bow
With all that out of the way, we’re ready to get your compound bow sighted in. If you’re still intimidated at the thought of working on your own bow, our step-by-step instructions will guide you through the whole process.
1. Adjust the sight to fit your peep sight
Before you do anything else, we need to make sure your sight and peep sight will line up correctly. When you are trying to aim, the peep and sight should look like two circles of identical size, so that you can line them up perfectly every time. The sight block (the part that attaches the sight to the bow’s riser) will usually have a way to adjust the sight to the left and right.
Draw your bow back (for safety, we always draw with an arrow nocked on your arrow rest and pointed toward a target) and note how the rings of the peep and sight line up. If they don’t line up, adjust your sight, and see if that adjustment helped. This process is a lot of trial and error, but shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to get your sight lined up.
2. Shoot a few arrows to warm up
Shoot a few arrows at a close distance. When we say a “close distance,” we mean a range where you couldn’t miss your target even if you tried— about 5-10 yards, depending on how large your target is. This will get your shoulders warmed up, and make sure your bow is working properly before you start sighting in.
How many arrows you shoot to warm-up is up to you. You don’t want to wear yourself out before we even start. Make sure you feel warmed up and ready to shoot your best.
You always want to do some kind of warm-up when shooting, to help prevent shoulder injuries.
3. Set the height of your closest pin
When sighting in, we always adjust one thing at a time. Our preferred method is to start with the closest pin, and set it first. Go to your closest distance (around 10-15 yards) and shoot a few arrows at a target. To get accurate readings, shoot at least three, but the more you can shoot, the better.
Now we’re going to adjust our sight pin based on where those arrows landed. When adjusting your sight, always “follow the miss.” This means that if your arrows strike high, move your sight pin up, or move it down if the arrows strike low. At this point we’re only worried about the height of the arrows, we’ll adjust the vertical impact later. Keep shooting and adjusting until you get the height of your closest pin perfect.
4. Adjust the horizontal impact of your closest pin
With the height done, we’ll start working on the left and right adjustment of your closest sight pin. Like we did before, shoot at least three arrows at your closest distance and see where they land on the target. We’re following the miss with our sight pins, so move your pin left if the arrows impacted left, and move the pin right if the arrows impacted to the right.
Keep shooting arrows and adjusting until you get your closest sight pin hitting perfectly, both horizontally and vertically. At some point, you may find that you need to revisit the vertical adjustment of your sight pin, and that’s normal. Always adjust one thing at a time, so that you don’t get overwhelmed trying to fix everything at once.
5. Repeat the process for your remaining sight pins
With your closest pin sighted in, you can now move on to your next closest pin, and repeat the process. Remember to adjust the height first before you move on. Then, you adjust the horizontal position of that pin, shooting and readjusting as needed until that pin is spot on, before moving to your next pin.
Throughout this process, don’t be afraid to take a break and come back later if you think you’re getting tired or frustrated. In our experience, the quality of your shooting will go way down when either of those things happen, and it’s best to come back fresh later. Another consideration is that you’ll shoot differently when you’re tired. This means your sight will not be accurate to how you shoot when you’re fresh.
We recommend taping a small piece of paper that lists your pins’ yardages to the lower part of your bow’s riser. When the pressure is on, such as when a trophy deer walks by, or you’re about to make the winning shot in a tournament, there’s not much worse you can do than make a would-be great shot using the wrong sight pin.
6. Perform a “walk-back” test
Once you think you have all your pins set, one way we like to test the sight is to do what we call a walk-back test. Start at the distance of your closest pin (around 10-15 yards), and shoot an arrow or two. Don’t pull them. Next, move back to the distance of your next pin and shoot an arrow or two. Keep moving back until you’ve shot at least one arrow for every pin. Make sure to check that the range is safe before shooting, especially when switching distances.
This test is a quick way to see if all your pins are accurate. After doing this, you’ll either have confidence knowing your setup is shooting great, or understand what you need to adjust. It’s also a great way to warm up so try it before your next deer hunt or archery tournament!
7. Test in different conditions
This is more of a “bonus step,” but it will take your accuracy to the next level. Once you adjust your pins, test your bow and your shooting in different conditions. If you’re a hunter, you’ll want to test your bow from a tree stand or blind and make sure you’re still able to shoot accurately.
For target archers, it’ll give you a massive advantage over the competition if you shoot your bow in all kinds of conditions (cloudy, windy, rainy, direct sunlight, etc.). Take notes on how you may need to adjust your shooting or sight to shoot the most accurately.
That’s all there is to sighting in your bow and getting it as accurate as possible! Hopefully, you found the guide easy to follow, and you can dial your bow in faster than ever before.
Sighting a Compound Bow FAQs
Why is my bow inaccurate from time to time?
This is normal and happens to everyone. It can have a variety of causes:
- Your bowstring could have stretched.
- You could be shooting differently.
- Some part of your equipment may have gotten bumped or moved.
The best thing to do is to adjust your sight and move on.
Why don’t my pins align with my bowstring or arrow?
Chances are, your sight pins will not be in perfect alignment with your bowstring. This is usually due to how you grip the bow. We’re not machines, so we usually won’t grip the bow perfectly. As long as your bow is shooting well (and you’re gripping the bow in a way that’s not bruising your bow arm), it’s not cause for concern.
Do I need to use a sight light?
Some models of sights come with built-in lights that light up the fiber optics in your pins, making them much brighter and easier to see. Some even come with a rheostat light, which lets you adjust the brightness of your pins. A sight light is not necessary, but can be helpful, especially if you shoot or hunt early in the morning or later at night. Try one out and see if it helps you! Remember extra batteries if you choose to use one of these sights.