Since we started this website we have learned a thing or two about how to sight in a bow. Our main focus at Bow Logic so far has been testing and reviewing bow sights, which requires us to install and setup each one. Sometimes we do this multiple times a day and it’s not always easy. We have run into plenty of headaches and made plenty mistakes in the process. Most of the time this gets amplified when we try to test every sight out to its maximum range. Fatigue also plays a role and knowing when to hang it up for the day is important. Nonetheless, we have done this quite a few times and have some tips and tricks that are worth sharing.
Before You Begin
Start With a Well Tuned Bow
One of the most important tips we can give anyone is to start with a well tuned bow. If you attempt to setup a new sight with a poorly tuned bow you will end up chasing your tail. The foundation of good shooting rests on your confidence in the base tune of your bow. Ideally, this means you have at least achieved good results paper tuning before attempting to sight in at any distance. If your skill set is more advanced there are a variety of other methods you can use for tuning. The bottom line is making sure you are setting yourself up for success with good arrow flight.
Use the Right Type of Target
We highly recommend using large block or bag targets for sighting in your bow. This is one of the biggest mistakes that we have made during setting up sights for testing. We tried to get by with 3D targets or blocks that were too small and paid the price. You probably won’t run into any issues at close range but the problems start as you move further back. There is nothing more frustrating than losing arrows during setup. Save yourself the headaches and get a large block or bag target.
Consider a Backstop
Backstops are a great idea if you don’t have a large target. A back stop is anything that you can use behind your target to stop an arrow if you miss. You can also get pretty creative with what you choose to use for a backstop. Horse stall mats are one of the most popular options. Some other options are layers of old carpet or foam from old floating docks.
It’s very difficult to sight in a bow properly if you are shooting poorly. In the picture above, the arrows are scattered all over the target. If you are shooting inconsistently on either side of the tape you should work on improving your form. When you are shooting properly all of your arrows should end up on one side of the tape. There could be other issues as well. Your bow could be out of tune or maybe you have vane contact or a bad arrow. However, it is wise to be critical of your form first.
Know When to Call it a Day
Sighting in a bow is not something that should be attempted if you are already fatigued. You won’t shoot well and will have a hard time getting setup. We run into this problem sometimes when testing multiple sights in a day. If you are setting up a sight with multiple pins this might be an issue for you as well. There’s nothing wrong with leaving 1 or 2 pins to set up another day. That is far better than trying to get accurate groups when your muscles are already fatigued
There are several tools you will need to sight in your bow:
- Range finder, tape measure, or range with marked distances
- Large block or bag target
- Masking tape that contrasts with your target
- A good allen wrench set
We can’t overstate the importance of having a good set of allen wrenches for any bow tuning and sighting. This will prevent stripping out the hardware on your sight and keep it in good condition.
The Easiest Way to Sight in a Bow
One common method of sighting in a bow is to shoot groups of arrows at a spot on a target. Then, see where they land and adjust both elevation and windage accordingly. Repeat this until you get tight groups. This method works, but we don’t think it is the easiest way to sight in a bow. We believe the easiest way is to break this process down into smaller steps. This allows you to focus your attention on one thing at a time instead of multiple things. We have found that this results in a more accurate sight.
Step 1: Windage
- Align Your Pins With Your Center Shot: For a starting point, align your pins with the center shot of your bow. This won’t get you perfect but it should prevent any wild left or right misses.
- Place a vertical strip of masking tape across the center of your target. We will be aiming at this tape to get the sight adjusted left and right.
- Start up Close: We recommend starting up close to make sure your first shots at least land on the target. 10 yards is close enough. Make any rough adjustments that you need before moving back to 20 yards.
- Spend as much time as you need at 20 yards to get all your arrows hitting the masking tape. Remember not to worry about elevation adjustments at this time, only left and right. If your arrows are hitting to the LEFT of the tape you will want to move your pin LEFT. If your arrows are hitting to the RIGHT of the tape you will want to move your pin to the RIGHT. Once you get all of your arrows hitting the tape you are ready to move to the next step.
Step 2: 2nd and 3rd Axis
- We like to adjust the 2nd axis after we are sighted in roughly at 20 yards before moving out to further distances. This is preferred because it will have an effect on your groups at 50-60 yards. You can sight in 3rd axis now or save it until later. If your sight doesn’t have these adjustments then skip this step.
Step 3: Elevation
The method of adjusting elevation will be a little different depending on what type of sight you have. We will go over those differences later. However, the basic technique is the same.
- Remove the vertical strip of tape from your target and add a new horizontal tape to sight in your elevation. The goal with this step is to get all of your arrows hitting the horizontal line. We are done focusing on lefts and rights for now.
- Start at 20 yards. If your arrows are hitting ABOVE the tape you will want to adjust your sight UP. If your arrows are hitting BELOW the tape you will want to adjust your sight or pin DOWN. Do this as many times as you need to get all of your arrows hitting the tape.
- Repeat the previous step as you move further from the target in 10 yard increments. How many times you do this will depend on the number of pins and type of sight you have on your bow.
- Single Pin Sights: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely. Generally you will be required to sight in at 20 yards and one other distance, usually 60 yards.
- Multi Pin Sights: Sight in the elevation for each pin individually. The number of times you will do this depends on how many pins you have.
- Multi Pin Moveable Sights: Sight in each pin individually first. Then use your bottom pin as your rover for longer distance shots. For example, with 3 pins sight in at 20, 30, and 40. Your will then use that bottom pin for all shots beyond 40 yards. Using this bottom pin will allow you to get ranges beyond 100 yards normally.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are a few questions that we have seen on the internet and would like to address here.
Sighting in a Compound Bow With a Peep Sight
Most archers are going to be using a peep sight on their bow. The size of your peep sight and the position on the string will effect your accuracy and effective range. Make sure your peep sight is the correct size. When you are at full draw you should be able to align it with your sight housing with little to no space in between. Peep height is also very important for archers with a moveable sight. If your peep height is too low you will struggle to get the maximum available range out of your sight.
How to Sight In a Bow Without Shooting It
We have seen a few questions on the internet on this subject. People often wonder if there is a way to sight in a bow without shooting it similar to how you would bore sight a rifle. There are difference laser devices available on the market. However, we don’t recommend this as a shortcut to replace manually sighting in a bow. Due to arrow speed, trajectory, and bow torque it is difficult to use this method. Bottom line, this will be more of a headache than it is worth.