Setting up and sighting in your new bowsight
Hopefully, a new sight is on your gear upgrade list or maybe you're putting a sight on a new bow. Either way here are some key tips to sighting it in.
Setting up and sighting in
Setting up a sight is not as complicated as it might seem. Before getting started, it makes the process so much easier if your bow is already tuned. You may have to make a few tweaks to your tune once your sight is installed, but starting with a bow that is relatively in tune will save you some headaches. Along those same lines, it helps if you start from a place where your peep height is close to where you are going to want it. Start by drawing your bow with your eyes closed, find your static anchor point and open your eyes to look through your peep. Have someone move your peep up or down while at full draw or put the bow in a press and move your peep until it’s the perfect height.
Mounting the sight is easy. With an allen wrench and the set of screws included with your sight, install them into the middle holes on your sight mount. If you have a dovetail mount, start by mounting the base and slide the sight to about the middle of the bar. Next, I would suggest that you make adjustments to level the second and third axis. Each sight is a little different in how you do that, but what that means is the same. You can find more out about leveling your axises in this article here. Once you understand what you are trying to accomplish, read your individual sight instructions on how to make those adjustments on your sight.
After you have your sight mounted and leveled, the next step is to align your sight housing with your peep. To accomplish this, draw back, anchor and look through your peep sight to the sight housing. The goal is to have the sight housing ring fit precisely with your peep sight at full draw. That relationship between your peep and your housing ring will give you a constant repeatable reference point for aiming. If your peep is not aligned with the sight ring, move your sight in closer to the riser or further from the riser to align them. You can also change the size of the peep you are using. Personally, I like my sight housing to fit just on the inside of my peep. That gives me instant feedback on any errors in my alignment. What you do not want is a peep smaller than your housing. That will reduce your view of the bubble level as well as making it hard to reach a repeatable position. Peep and housing alignment is a necessary step and I would recommend doing this step outside in natural hunting light.
So, you have a bow that is tuned, your sight is leveled on both axis and your peep is aligned with your housing… What’s next? The first scenario we will work through is how to sight in a multi-pin slider sight, which is what we get the most questions about. First, no matter what sight you shoot, move the sight over to a point where if you hold the bow out in front of you and you look down the string, the string and the row of pins are in line one with another. You may end up moving it one way or another, but this will get your arrows on the target.
Next, a multi-pin slider can be set up a couple of ways; however, either way you choose, the slider needs to be set in a default position that is easy to find again even if the sight tape falls off. For example, you can move the sight all the way up with the knob/dial until it hits its highest location and stops, then use your gang and pin adjustments to sight pins in.
The other way is to set the default position level or flush with the body of the slider sight and then use the gang and pin adjustments to sight the pins in. If you are shooting a Black Gold or CBE multi-pin slider you can do either. If you are shooting a Fast Eddie XL, putting the housing all the way to the top is recommended because the adjustment bar is so long (it won’t be flush ever). Either way, you should have your sight set up so that you have a sight position that you can always return to no matter what happens.
If you set your default where the sight is in its highest position (when using the dial) you would then use your bottom pin as your slider pin for extended ranges, 70, 80, 90 etc. One limitation of this option is that you will only be able to dial down because you are at the top of the slider range.
If you set your default where the dial/knob puts the slider level with the body of the sight, you now have the ability to move the slider up and down. In this scenario, you could use your bottom pin as your slider for longer range (70+) and you would also be able to use your 20 yard pin to dial to exact yards for any range between 20 and 60 yards. Here is how you do that.
First, move your slider knob and put the slider position level with the body of the sight. Next, I prefer to move my center pin to the exact center of my housing. I feel like that gives me the best sight picture at the 40 yard range, which I think is a good middle of the road distance for a shot in the field. After that, I will move my individual 30 and 20 yard pins up and my 50 and 60 yard pins down, making a guess at the gaps. After that, at 10 yards, draw (using your top pin) and fire an arrow at a single point on a large target to see where it hits. Mostly, I am just concerned that I am close and won’t lose an arrow at longer ranges. If you are not, use the gang adjustments to get you close. Also, sight your bow in on level ground or as close to it as you can get.
Do not move the individual pin(s); only use the vertical and horizontal gang adjustment to get you close. At this point, remember this: chase your arrow impact.
Compound bow sight in directions
Move sight or pin
At this step, I’m not afraid of losing an arrow so I am going to step back to 40 yards. Why 40? Like I said, I want to keep my 40 yard pin centered in the housing if I can. I then sight my 40 yard pin in exactly by making adjustments to the vertical and horizontal gang. I would suggest that you sight in every pin by shooting three or more arrow groups. Don’t rely on one arrow; groups will tell a better story. I then move back into 30 yards and sight my 30 yard pin in by moving the pin up or down. I then move to 20 yards and sight the 20 yard pin in by moving the pin up or down. After that, I move back to 50 yards and then 60 yards, sighting in those pins by moving the pins — not the gang or the slider knob.
A quick tip: You might find at close range that you are centered left to right, but as you move back to 50 and 60 yards, you could be hitting left or right. If that is the case, make small adjustments to your gang to move the impact over at the longer ranges. Longer range shooting is going to tell you more because it’s a farther shot — it’s more exaggerated if you will. Your short impacts will likely remain the same, but the longer shots will move into the middle.
Now you have pins sighted in at 20 to 60 yards, your slider is level with the body of the sight and you are ready for the next step. Mark with a pencil or a sharpie on the scale bar where the red indicator arrow is. Now, with the knob/dial, slide the sight down to where your 20 yard pin is further down the scale and sight in your 20 yard pin (top pin) at 60 yards by moving the slider (nothing else). When your sight is in that position — top pin hitting the bullseye at 60 yards — make another mark on the sight scale with a pencil or sharpie where the indicator arrow is.
Now, every slider sight comes with a set of sight tapes. Hold the tapes up to the two marks you made and find the one that matches your 20 yard mark and your 60 yard mark. The one that matches those perfectly will be your sight tape. Move your slider back to the default location up (level with the body of the sight) and apply your tape to the display scale. The indicator will set on the 60 yard mark and your tape will look like this.
You now have a sight where the pins are set in that position from 20 to 60 yards and you can use the 60 yard pin and slider for 70, 80 and 90 yards. You can also use your 20 yard pin and the slider for any range in between 20 to 60 yards.
Single pin slider
Sighting in a single pin slider sight is similar to the above process except that you should start with the default in the highest position you can slide the sight up. Then, move your gang adjustment (vertical and horizontal) to sight in your bow at 20 yards. Then, you can move the sight down with your slider to sight each yardage at 30, 40, 50, 60, etc. yards. Once you have several distances sighted in, mark those on the scale with a pencil and compare to the included sight tapes. You can pick out the tape that matches perfectly and install it on the sight with the slider in the highest position, which is 20 yards sighted in, and the indicator will point to the 20 yard mark on the sight tape.
Follow the same steps only without the adjustments to a slider. Move the center pin to the center of the housing. After that, move the individual 30 and 20 yard pins up and the 50 and 60 yard pins down, making a guess at the gaps. Next, at 10 yards, draw (using your top pin) and fire an arrow at a single point on a large target to see where it hits. This is to ensure that you won’t lose an arrow at longer ranges. If you do not hit the target, use the gang adjustments to close the gap. Do not move the individual pin(s); only use the vertical and horizontal gang adjustment to get you close.
Then, move back to 40 yards and sight in that pin using the vertical and horizontal gang adjustments. Next, sight in your 30, 20, 50, and 60 yard pins by moving the pins up or down. You are now sighted in and ready to go.
Note: If you are having a hard time deciding between a single pin or multi pin, check out this recent article.
I was once at a 3D shoot when a shooter who was much better than me said, “You are really only as accurate as your marks.” What he meant by that is that your pins or marks have to be perfect in order to hit what you are aiming at. There is more that goes into being accurate, but your pins and your sight in process is something that you should not overlook. Sighting in your bow may take a day or an entire week, but it’s worth the effort knowing that it is in the exact location you need it to be when the shot on the buck or bull of a lifetime presents itself.
Some other archery-related articles you might find helpful:
- What does it really mean to “tune” your bow?
- How to broadhead tune arrows
- The ins and outs of selecting an archery peep sight