How To Sight In A Compound Bow With 3 Pin Sights (7 Steps)

By Andy Ryan


Updated at
an army man holding and aiming his bow and arrow

Fight frustration and get accurate shots with this simple, step-by-step guide to sighting a compound bow with 3 pin sights.

Multi-pin sights allow you to assign different pins for different ranges. Each subsequent pin from the top one shoots arrows a little bit upward to account for drop due to gravity and air drift. But exactly where these pins should be to account for how much of the drop depends on various factors such as the draw weight of your compound bow, the mass and design of your arrow, and even humidity. This means that bow sights need to be adjusted for better accuracy.

In this article, we walk you through the process of adjusting and fine-tuning your 3 pin sight, so you hit the bulls-eye every time.


Quick Answer

You can sight in a compound bow with a 3 pin sight following these steps.

  • Mount Your 3-Pin Sight
  • Sighting Pin Adjustments
  • Set Your Target
  • Set the First Pin
  • Set the Second Pin
  • Set the Third Pin
  • Adjust the First Pin
  • Shoot groups of arrows and adjust according to the average hit location

But before you begin with the steps below, here’s a refresher guide for you on how to set up a compound bow.


Step 1: Mount your 3-Pin Sight



First, mount your 3-pin sight correctly and firmly. A firmly mounted bow sight allows you better accuracy while also making it easier to fine-tune. You can tune for the drop with pins, but you will have to use knobs on the bow sight to tune for horizontal accuracy and to account for wind. If the bow sight is not fixed firmly, it may change its position slightly when you’re trying to make adjustments which will decrease your accuracy.

The correct way to mount your bow sight should be included in your manual. Usually, it takes a few pins to fix the bow sight. We recommend using as many screws as possible but if you can’t use all the screws for any reason, make sure you use at least three screws. Triangulate these screws to ensure they hold. Here’s an additional learning guide for you on when do bow sights work best.


Step 2: Sighting Pin Adjustments



Each pin needs to be adjusted individually. In the following steps, we will fine-tune each pin based on the results of group tests. How much each pin needs to adjust to fix a certain amount of displacement depends on your sight. But what’s common among sights is that the pins move to adjust for angular displacement and not the actual displacement.

This means that if you shoot a group and it averages 2 feet below the bull’s eye, you will need to adjust more if you were shooting with the 20-yard pin than you would need to adjust if you were shooting with a 40-yard pin. The farther the target, the more you need to adjust. But again, the exact number of clicks the pins should be adjusted depends on your sight, among other factors.

You may need an Allen wrench to adjust the pins. The horizontal and vertical adjustments of the sight itself may be made with dedicated knobs.


Step 3: Set your Target



You probably won’t find the exact number of clicks for any given displacement at some given range in a manual or some other document. This is because there are other factors that affect how much the pins should be adjusted. These factors include the draw weight of your compound bow, the mass of your arrow shaft, the type of fletching used, wind speed, and humidity, among others.

Hence, the only way to know how much to adjust for a given angular displacement is through trial and error. You will not get it right the first time most of the time. But with time, you will gain intuition into the bow sight and learn the number of clicks you need to adjust for a given angular adjustment. But the standard method is shooting groups of arrows and adjusting pins through trial and error.

Place a target at some distance. Using a target board will provide you with a scale to measure your inaccuracy displacements, exactly how far away the arrows are centering from the bull’s eye.

Shooting a single arrow will probably not tell you much about how the sight should be adjusted because the displacement could just be a random error. In order to get some idea, you need to make repeated errors and learn from these mistakes. You need to shoot a group of 3 or more arrows depending on your distance from the target and your accuracy in general. (1)

If all the arrows in this group hit at some distance in a particular direction, or if the arrows are centered on some point that is not the bull’s eye, you need to adjust the sight in that direction.

For the horizontal displacement, you will need to adjust the sight itself. The horizontal adjustment will stay the same for each pin since you can’t adjust each pin horizontally. However, the wind speed may cause different horizontal displacements at different distances. You will have to adjust your aim to wind speed yourself instinctively. Adjusting the pins in the following steps, you should only consider the vertical displacement or how high or low the arrows hit from the target. (2)


Step 4: Set the First Pin



The first pin is usually set to hit targets at a distance of 20 yards (18.3m). Stand at this distance from the target, and shoot a group of arrows aiming down the bow sight from the first pin. If the arrows are not centered on the target, you need to adjust the sight. The sight should move in the same direction as the average displacement of the arrows from the target. For example, if the arrows are hitting a little bit to the left, the sight should be moved to the left.

First, adjust for the horizontal displacement using the knob on the bow sight. You probably won’t get this right the first time since nobody does. Shoot another group of arrows and see if the center of the group is vertically aligned with the target. You may have over-adjusted the sight resulting in the arrows generally hitting on the vertically opposite side from before. Or you may have under-adjusted the sight resulting in arrows hitting closer to the target vertically but are not quite there. Keep making smaller and smaller adjustments and keep shooting groups of arrows till you are satisfied.

Once the sight is aligned vertically with the target, it’s time to adjust the pin for the vertical displacement. Standing 20 yards away from the target, use the same process of shooting groups of arrows. Shoot aiming down the first pin. If the average location of the arrows is above the target, move the pin upward and vice versa. Keep repeating the process till you’re able to hit a group centered on the target.


Step 5: Set the Second Pin



Now, for the second pin, you do not need to adjust for vertical displacement again since all the pins follow the same vertical adjustment. This time, stand 30 yards away from the target and shoot a group of arrows. You might want to shoot a larger group for finer tuning at this distance. Keep shooting groups and keep adjusting the pin the same way you adjusted the first pin. There may be some horizontal displacement as well shooting from this distance. This would mean that the horizontal location of the sight is different for each pin. However, this is only true if there is continuous wind in one direction.

You cannot adjust your sight horizontally for each pin. To hit the target accurately at different distances, you will have to aim instinctively a little bit left or right to the target, depending on the displacement. But for the pin, you should only consider the vertical displacement. Pins account for drop due to gravity and air drag. They don’t account for horizontal displacement due to air drift.


Step 6: Set the Third Pin



For the third pin, you will have to stand 40 yards away from the target and repeat what you did for the first two pins. Here too, you should only consider the drop, i.e. the vertical displacement. You will have to adjust the horizontal displacements due to wind yourself. Shooting from this distance, you will need to move the pin only half as much as the first pin to adjust for the same displacement.


Step 7: Adjust the First Pin



Once you have adjusted all the pins, go back to the first pin and verify if it’s still set by shooting a group. Verify both horizontal and vertical adjustments. You may also verify the other two pins.


Sighting with Other Scopes


Sighting with other scopes works roughly the same way. You shoot groups of arrows at the target and adjust the sight according to how far the group hits from the target.


Getting your Compound Bow’s 3-Pin sight Perfect


In order to adjust your pins better and with more precision, shoot larger groups of arrows at the target. Larger groups would give you a better estimate of the average. Shoot each arrow of the group calmly, placing the sight on the target as accurately as possible as you shoot the arrows. Try doing this indoors to minimize random error. The more arrows you shoot as a group, the better average you will get allowing you to shoot better.

You may also calculate the average location of the arrows mathematically, but that would be overkill. There always remains some inaccuracy due to external factors.


Personal Pin Adjustments


We adjusted the pins for the 20-30-40 configuration, but this is not set in stone. There are other configurations, such as 15-30-45 or 10-15-20. You can choose from any of the popular adjustments, or you could adjust that yourself. The pins don’t even need to be equidistant. You may need more pins to divide the rage at a larger distance since the drop increases as the arrow slow down, as you can see in the image. It’s completely valid to set your pins in a 20-30-35 configuration.



You can use the method described here for 4-pin sight and 5-pin sights as well. And the general tips provided here can be used for any sight. We would recommend performing this indoors or where there is no wind since wind can affect your trajectories.


(1) random error –
(2) wind speed –