If you have been around archery for any length of time you have probably debated the merits of a single pin vs multi pin bow sight. Typically archers gravitate towards one camp or another. There are plenty of good arguments to be made on either side of the aisle. Each design has advantages and disadvantages but you can be successful on the field or on the range with either one. The sight you choose is up to you but we are going to lay out all the reasons why you might want to choose one instead of the other. Your intended use, shooting style, and arrow speed are just some of the things you are going to want to think about. No matter which sight you end up using it will take dedicated practice to get the most out of it. Finally, if you are really torn between the two there are also options that fall somewhere in the middle.
Advantages to Multi Pin Sights
Quickly Adapt to Moving Targets
The biggest advantage to using a multi pin bow sight is that you have a variety of ranges available at full draw. The amount of range you have depends on how many pins you have. One common setup is a 5 pin sight with pins at 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 yards. This gives you the ability to shoot animals even if they move after you come to full draw. For example, say you range a deer at 40 yards and then draw your bow back, but the deer keeps moving closer to you. With a multi pin sight you can quickly adapt to get a shot at the closer distance. You can also adapt if you range an animal at 15 yards but it moves further away. This ability to quickly adapt to animal movements is a huge reason why some hunters stick with multi pin sights.
Another advantage to shooting multi pin sights is that you don’t have to go through the extra step of adjusting the sight before your shot. You can simply range your range and then shoot. This is beneficial in hunting situations where you want to minimize movement. If you are clumsy when adjusting a single pin sight there is a lot of extra movement that could spook an animal. That isn’t an issue with multi pin sights.
Disadvantages to Multi Pin Sights
Now that we have explained the advantages, there are some caveats.
Sight Picture Clutter and Confusion
More pins take up more space inside your sight housing. This is what is known as clutter, pins blocking your view of what is down range. Unlike a single pin bow sight, there are multiple points of aim. Instead of drawing back and focusing on a single point, you have to take the time to think about which pin to use. Most multi pin sights use different colored pins to help distinguish different yardages. However, that doesn’t always stop people from getting confused in the head of the moment. We have heard plenty stories of archers accidentally using the wrong pin on the range and in the field.
Having pins at 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 yards is great, but what about all the distances in between? Think about how often you get luck enough to range an animal at a round distance. More often than not you will be required to do some pin gapping to shoot targets at odd distances. For example, lets say there is a deer feeding at 34 yards. To make a lethal shot you will have to aim using the gap between your 30 and 40 yard pins. This opens you up to multiple opportunities for failure. First, you have to choose the correct pins to gap between. Then, you have to get your aim at the right spot between that gap.
This can be tough if you are pumping with adrenaline. With a fast bow the pin gaps between close ranges will be relatively small, and even if you don’t set your pin gap exactly correct you will still have a good chance of hitting the kill zone. However, your pin gaps become larger at longer ranges and the margin for error is much smaller.
More Difficult to Setup
This point is the least important thing but it is still worth pointing out. With most multi pin bow sights you will have to sight in each pin on your sight individually for each distance. This can take some time depending on your skill level. However, we think it is good practice.
Advantages to Single Pin Sights
Clutter Free Sight Picture
The biggest reason archers choose a single pin vs multi pin bow sight is for the clear sight picture. There is only one point of aim with single pin sights. That removes the confusion of having to choose a pin. It also gets rid of all the extra crap in your sight housing and really makes things simple. When you do draw back there is only one thing to focus on, which can speed up your shot. It’s also easier to see where your pin is on an animal’s body.
Range and Shoot Exact Distances
Another huge benefit to single pin vs multi pin bow sights is that you can dial them in to hit exact distances. Single pin sights incorporate a sight tape that is marked with each distance. Once you get it setup all you have to do is range the target and then move your sight to that yardage. For example, if you range an elk at 47 yards you can easily dial your sight to that yardage and shoot. This eliminates the need to do pin gapping.
Longer Range Capability
In general, you can shoot longer ranges with a single pin sight than a multi pin. There are a ton of different variables here such as bow speed and the design of the sight. However, many single pin sights can hit 80-100 yards easily which is hard to do with a multi pin. This makes practicing a lot more fun than just shooting up close.
We find single pin bow sights to be a lot easier to setup out of the box. Usually you only have to sight in at 20 and 60 yards then choose a sight tape. If you sight in your bow properly you will be good to go at any distance. One downside to this is that it leads people to skimp on practicing.
Disadvantages to Single Pin Sights
Can’t Adjust Distance at Full Draw
The biggest drawback to single pin sights is that once you range an animal and come to full draw you are in a tough spot if the animal moves. Many archers solve this dilemma by learning to hold over or under for different shots, which isn’t much different than pin gapping. However, the safest option is to let your bow down the range and draw all over again. This isn’t ideal for hunting because it requires a lot of extra movement.
Can Be Too Slow in Certain Situations
Another common criticism of single pin sights is what happens if you don’t have time to range and adjust your sight in a hunting situation. The thinking is that this will lead to missed shot opportunities in the field, which is possible. However, with enough practice learning to range and adjust becomes automatic. Single pin fans will tell you that if you have time to range an animal you have enough time to adjust the sight.
Multi Pin Slider Sights: A Happy Medium
The multi pin sliding sight can give hunters a happy medium. With these sights you have the ability to set multiple pins to individual distances for quick shots. You also have the ability to dial the sight for longer shots. For example, you can set a 3 pin sliding sight at 20, 30, and 40 yards. Then you setup your 40 yard pin as your mover for any shots beyond that distance. You would also still have to use pin gaps to shoot odd distances between 20 and 40. The downside to these sights is that you don’t get the clutter free sight picture.
Spot Hogg also makes many sights available with a double pin design. This gives you a second reference but maintains a minimalist single pin sight picture. These sights have become very popular in the last few years.
How to Choose a Single Pin vs Multi Pin Bow Sight?
By now you should have a good idea of the advantages and disadvantages but you might still be wondering how to choose. The ideal scenario is to try both types and see which one you like the best. However, that is not always possible. Even if you try both in the store that is no replacement for hours of practice and experience in the field.
Still, there is some general advice we can give. Single pin sights are generally more fool proof if you don’t practice all the time. They simplify the sight picture which gives archers less to focus on in the heat of the moment. Multi pin sights take more time to get familiar with.
It also depends on what type of hunting you are doing. If you are hunting animals like elk that will come charging in to your bugle you might want the adaptability of a multi pin sight. If you are hunting from a stand for whitetail deer that are moving slowly and more unaware of your presence then a single pin will work well. Another factor might be if you are hunting alone or with a partner. For example, if you are hunting out of a blind with a buddy you can have them run the rangefinder while you work your single pin sight.
What Do The Pros Shoot?
Like many other hunters we listen to a variety of podcasts and follow some hunters on Instagram. While writing this post we did some digging to see what some high profile bow hunters are shooting. We don’t recommend shooting a particular sight just because you see a big name using one. However, we would be lying if we said we didn’t pay attention.
We found a ton of hunters using the Spot Hogg Fast Eddie with the double pin. Among them were Cam Hanes, Joe Rogan, and Remi Warren. We also found some pictures of Tim Burnett from Solo HNTR hunting with a Black Gold Ascent Verdict single pin. Aron Snyder from Kifaru International has talked about using a Spot Hogg Tommy Hogg with multi pin slider last season. Corey Jacobsen from Elk 101 also appears to use a multi pin Spot Hogg.
John Dudley and Randy Ulmer Talk Single Pin vs Multi Pin Bow Sights
In Nock on Podcast 167 John and Randy talk briefly about their sight preferences. They are some of the most accomplished archers in the world and both of them are big believers in multi pin bow sights. However, John made a good point of mentioning that his wife and son both shoot single pin sights. His reason for this was that a single pin sight is a good choice for slower bows with less draw weight. He said, if your arrow is moving slowly it is a huge advantage to be dialed in to the exact yardage.
Closing Thoughts: Practice
No matter which style of sight you choose you have to practice with it. First, you will want to get sighted in and get comfortable making less difficult shots. Practice putting the pin on the target and shooting at 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 yards. Next, focus on shooting odd distances in between your whole yardages. This is especially important for multi pin shooters because you will have to learn to shoot using pin gaps. Remember that pin gap shooting is more difficult at longer ranges and will require more practice.
With a single pin sight you don’t have to practice pin gap shooting. However, you will want to learn how to hold over or under a target just in case an animal moves a few yards while you are at full draw. For example, many archers put their pin at 25 or 30 yards and practice shooting distances from 10-35 yards without ever moving the sight. This type of practicing is helpful to teach you how high or low you have to hold in certain situation.
Building a solid foundation through practice is one of the keys to being a successful hunter. Pin gap shooting with a multi pin or holding over or under with a single pin sight both sound great in theory. However, if you don’t practice enough these techniques will likely fail you when the adrenaline is pumping. Bottom line, pick a style of sight and then commit to getting really good at using it.