How To Sight In A Bow

You’ve got your sight and your bow, and you’re ready to go. Before you step out onto the range, check out this article to learn how to sight in a bow.

Sighting a bow without experience and practice can be quite overwhelming. Some beginners and first-time buyers will feel intimidated and have their local bow shop handle the entire process. Others might feel a rush of confidence and start the project at home only to realize they don’t have all the tools they need. Either way, it is possible to sight your bow, as long as you go in with a game plan.

Learning to sight your bow correctly is like a rite of passage. No matter what level of experience you have with archery, it’s crucial to do your sighting and adjustments because they will be unique to your draw and form. You’ll also want to learn how to adjust for windage and elevation to make changes on your own depending on shooting and environmental conditions. Nothing is worse than being in a tree stand and unable to take that downhill shot because you’re not confident in your settings or making quick adjustments. This guide will give you an overview of the process and pro-tips for how to sight in a bow.

Step 1: Choose Your Sight

Step 1: Choose Your Sight

For beginners out there, let’s do a quick overview of the different types of sights on the market so that you pick the best one before you sight in your bow. There are two main types of sights, a moveable, single pin sight, and fixed multi-pin sights. Their names sum up their differences – one has a single pin that can be moved easily for different yardages, and the other has multiple pins that are pre-set. The advantage of the single pin set up is that you have fewer distractions in your field of view and can adjust for different distances. On the other hand, multi-pin sights already have a variety of yardages set so you can quickly shift from shooting at 20 yards to 30 yards. Which sight you choose should come down to the type of hunting or target practice you plan to do.

Pro-tip: If you wear glasses or have poor eyesight, consider getting a single sight pin like the Trophy Ridge Pursuit Vertical Pin Bow Sight. You’ll get a clear field of view and won’t be distracted by multiple pins.

Step 2: Mount Your Sight

Step 2: Mount Your Sight

Now that you have your sight and bow in hand, you’ll need to mount the sight onto your bow. You’ll want to have your bow in either a bow vise or lay it flat. Locate the mounting holes on your sight and align it with where you want to mount on your bow’s riser. Screw the sight in securely, but not so that it is too loose or too tight. Throughout the mounting process, make sure that your sight is level with your bow, or else you’ll run into issues with target acquisition right from the start.

Once your sight is mounted on your bow, you’ll want to check out the second axis before setting your pins. A well-aligned second axis should bring your target, pin, and eye into a single plane. Leave your bow in its vise or workbench and check that the sight housing is absolutely level. Expert archers prefer using sights with an attached precision bubble level so that you’re always aware of your sight’s positioning. If you need to make changes to your second axis, grab an Allen wrench and the manual for your sight to find the location of the adjustment knob.

You’ll see that some sights also have third axis adjustments. According to the NRA, you can think of the third axis as if the pins were a door hinge that can either be closer or further away from the hunter’s face. Most bow users do not bother with these adjustments. Still, they do become important for archers who shoot extremely long-distances or at steep angles. If your sight does have third axis adjustment, you’ll want to find a vertical point of reference towards the bottom of a wall. Then, pull your bow into your full draw and point downwards towards your point of reference. If your third axis is well-aligned, the pins will be in line with your vertical point of reference, and the bubble-level on your sight will be centered.

Step 3 - Start Low and Slow

Now you’re ready to head out to the range and start sighting! Whether using a single pin or multi-pin sight, you’ll want to start with your shortest distance, usually 20 yards. Most experts recommend shooting several consistent groupings before you start making any adjustments to your sight. You’ll want to gather data to see where your groupings are landing in relation to your target. If your groupings are all hitting the same, but off the mark, you know you need to adjust your windage and elevation. If your groupings are erratic, you might want to rest or practice more on your form.

Pro-tip: Use or create a vertical and horizontal point of reference on your target so you can easily see where your groupings should land and how far off they are from this target.

Once your groupings are pretty consistent, you can now adjust your sight to improve your accuracy. Although it seems contrary to common sense, as a rule, you’ll want to follow your arrow. For example, if you’re shooting above your target, you’ll want to move up your sight. For optimal precision, you’ll also want to adjust your sight one knob at a time. Your windage knob controls left to right adjustments, and your elevation knob controls up and down adjustments. So in this example, you’ll start by adjusting your elevation until you’re shooting is vertically centered on your target. Then, you can begin adjusting your windage until you’re eventually hitting your target dead-on at 20 yards.

If you’re using a single pin sight like the Trophy Ridge Pursuit Vertical, you’ll want to use a pencil or shape to mark the settings at which you’re hitting 20 yards accurately. This will be important later for placing your yardage tape so that you know how to move your pin for different distances.

Pro-tip: Always adjust your elevation and windage with your bow pointing towards your target so that you are sure to “follow your arrow.”

Step 4 - Repeat

Now that your first pin is sighted correctly, you’ll want to work on your middle pin. For example, on a five-pin bow sight, you’ll want to jump from your 20-yard pin to your 40-yard pin, rather than just moving up to 30 yards. This strategy speeds up the process because once you get these two distances set, you might find that the others now fall in line or make a master adjustment to the housing for any minor corrections.

On a single pin sight, you’ll want to sight 20 yards, then 30 yards, and then jump to 50 or 60 yards. Once you sight in for 60 yards, be sure to mark your settings again with a pencil. Now you can place your range tape on the sight. Be careful to line the tape up precisely so that the 20 yards hash mark aligns with your top pencil mark, and the 60 yards hash mark aligns with your bottom pencil mark.

Step 5: Step Back and Assess

Step 5: Step Back and Assess

Take a break! You’ve probably just shot multiple rounds of arrows and are exhausted. Come back to your work the next day and assess your adjustments. Ensure that your work from the previous day stands the test of time and another day of shooting.

At this point, you’ll also want to make sure you’re getting accurate readings for each pin’s yardage. If you’re using a high-end multi-pin sight like the Trophy Ridge React H5, you can make master adjustments to the entire housing to move the pins together, if needed. You might also find you need to make micro-adjustments to individual pins, but if you follow this process on a top-quality pin bow sight you should get excellent precision. With the Trophy Ridge React, you should achieve accuracy after just two pin adjustments.

Pro-tip: As you adjust individual pins, watch out for their fiber optic systems. Pulling too aggressively can cause the fiber optics to snap.

Step 6 - Lock and Key

As you make adjustments, make sure you securely lock your settings into place. If your windage or elevation knob hasn’t been snuggly tightened, the measurements can wiggle after rounds of shots. Avoid creeping settings by making sure you’re always locking them so that they are snug but not too tight. Overly tightening with an Allen wrench can strip the screw and ruin your ability to make adjustments.

Step 7 - Don’t Be Afraid To Adjust

Some archers will sight their bow in and never make adjustments again. Rather than mess with complicated dials and Allen wrenches, some prefer to holdover to correct for wind, distance, or angle. This is fine, especially when you’re in the thick of the hunt, and fiddling with knobs can waste time that could have been a shot. However, this is the importance of strategy and preparedness. If you know you will be hunting in hilly or mountainous terrain, make the necessary adjustments before heading out into the field.

You’ll also need to make adjustments to account for settings changing slightly over time due to vibrations after each shot. Your form will also improve as you practice with sights, which might also call for adjustments to your sight. Lastly, some archers claim that making occasional adjustments to your sight keeps the screws from becoming too stiff and difficult to move.

This is why I also recommend the Trophy Ridge React H5 because the windage and elevation adjustment knobs are tool-less. This design allows you to make quick adjustments without pulling out an Allen wrench. These knobs have micro click technology so that each movement is precise and exact.

Benefits of a High-End Bow Sight

The process of sighting in a bow is made entirely easier when you start with a high-quality product. Trophy Ridge makes some of the best sights on the market with advanced features to improve your target acquisition. Two sights, in particular, the React H5 and Pursuit Vertical Pin Bow Sight, are my favorites for quick sighting and better shooting.

The React H5 is top of mind because of its React technology, which makes it one of the most accessible sights to use. To get this sighted in, you’ll only need to sight your 20-yard and 30-yard pin before the entire house is dead-on accurate. You can still make minor adjustments to individual pins if needed, but my guess is you won’t need to do so. The tool-less elevation and windage micro-click adjustment knobs speed up the process and make sighting extremely accessible to beginning archers. There is also a precision installed bubble-level so you can quickly check if you need second axis adjustments and to be sure you’re holding your bow level. You’ll have maximum flexibility with this sight, too, due to the three mounting position options that will suit any shooter preferences.

The Trophy Ridge Pursuit is also extremely user-friendly. The Delrin bushings are incredibly smooth for making quick and quiet adjustments to your sight in the field. Unlike other sights, you won’t have to worry about scaring off whitetails before you can aim. Similar to the React H5, this sight also has a bubble level and two mounting options. The main appeal, of course, is the single pin vertical design so that your view is unobstructed, and you have total control of dialing the yardage.

Final Advice

Before you go off to now sight in your bow, remember it will take time, practice, and quite a bit of shooting. The real first step is to persist and not give up, even when you’re frustrated. While it’s easy to take your bow into your local sporting goods store, you’ll feel so accomplished sighting in your bow, and you’ll have a better understanding of archery. This knowledge will ensure that you’re prepared to take a shot in any scenario accurately without depending on someone else’s help. By getting a top-notch sight and following these steps, you will be shooting with greater precision.

Trophy Ridge React H5 5-Pin Bow Sight Trophy Ridge Pursuit Vertical Pin Bow Sight
Sight type 5 pins; horizontal 1 pin; vertical
Pin Size .019” .019”
Second-axis adjustment Yes No
Windage and Elevation Tool-less, micro click technology Yes; requires Allen wrench
Installed bubble level Yes Yes
Mounting Options 3 2
Fiber Optics Yes Yes
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