When Do Bow Sights Work Best (5 Top Use Cases)

By Andy Ryan


Updated at
bow sight used for archery

Bow sights are one of the most important elements of modern bows used by professional archers and hunters. 

Bow sights are used to improve the accuracy and consistency of arrow shots. Their working principle is quite similar to that of a rifle sight, although there are some key differences.  

Before we address the question of when bow sights work best, we need to discuss how a bow sight works. The following working principles apply to single-pin bow sights as well as multi-pin bow sights. 

Multi-pin bow sights are the most popular among archers. As the name suggests, these bow sights have multiple pins used to shoot at different distances.

Here are the top 5 cases Bow Sights work best for:

  1. When you’re not on level ground
  2. Ensuring that your bow is held in the right place
  3. When you have the perfect fit for your hunting style
  4. When you have an estimated distance between yourself and the target
  5. Instinctive aiming

1. When You’re Not on Level Ground

Even with rifles, it is hard to hit targets that are not on level ground. However, if you hunt, you will face several circumstances where your target is not on level ground, and you cannot hit the target by aiming the same way you would aim for a target in the ground.  

In this scenario, a multi-pin bow sight can help you. Instead of using multiple pins for different distances, you could use them for different angles.  

Here’s how to use your multi-pin bow sight for situations where your target is not on level ground. 

The amount to which an arrow drops on its way to a target is determined by the horizontal distance of the target–not the actual distance. This means that when you’re shooting a target that is actually 200 meters away from you but the horizontal distance between the two of you is 150 meters, you should aim at that target as if you were shooting a target at a distance of 150 meters.  

This principle applies to all targets, whether they’re above your level, on your level, or below your level; only the horizontal distance matters. 

There is a slight complication here, however. This method is based on the way gravity contributes to the drop and does not account for the wind or air drag. (1

The arrow will travel the actual distance, not the horizontal distance. This means that air drag will contribute to the drop based on the actual distance, just the same regardless of whether the target is above or below level. 

If you want to be even more precise, you might want to aim a little higher than what horizontal distance suggests. Also, make your wind adjustments based on the actual distance, not the horizontal distance. 

2. Ensuring That your Bow is Held in the Right Place

Bow sights are adjusted for horizontal distance and vertical distance separately. The vertical adjustments of the sight have to account for the drop as well as some other factors, whereas the horizontal adjustments usually only account for the archer’s paradox. Tilting the sight would result in inaccurate shorts, which makes it really important to keep the right upright. 

A lot of sights are equipped with a spirit level to solve this problem and help you keep the sight upright, regardless of the slope of the ground you’re on. 

3. When you Have the Perfect Fit for your Hunting Style

There are several different kinds of bow sights in the market. There are multi-pin sights that allow you to easily aim at targets at a distance, there are single pin sights that ensure maximum visibility while allowing you to aim accurately, and there are digital sights that account for the vertical drop themselves.  

These auto-ranging sights measure the exact distance to the target and place an LED pin at the perfect location of the sight lens. These led pins are significantly smaller than physical pins, allowing you to see clearly. 

If you choose the right sight depending on your style, you can focus better on hunting than on adjustments and considerations. 

4. When you Have an Estimated Distance Between Yourself and the Target

Digital sights are prohibited from use in some states. Electronic sights are also not allowed in competitive archery. This makes being able to judge the distance between the archer and the target a must-have skill for most archers. Bow sights work best when you know which pin to aim from. In fact, they are highly dependent on you. (2)

Being able to judge the distance comes with practice. But while practicing, do have a way to measure actual distances as well so you’re able to judge the distances in numbers. 

5. Instinctive Aiming

Some highly experienced archers do not need to know the exact distance in order to land a perfect shot. They just know from experience where they have to aim to adjust to the arrow drop. This skill is known as instinctive aiming. Archers who can aim instinctively only require minimalist sights that allow them maximum visibility. Single pin sights are ideal for instinctive aiming. 

When Not to Use the Bowsights

Bow sights are used for long-distance, timely shots. There are several circumstances where it’s not a good idea to use your sight. Some of these are: 

  • When the target is moving quite fast, and you don’t have the time to carefully aim 
  • If you’re good at instinctive aiming, bow sights might be a distraction and worsen your aim in this case. 

Factors to Help you Choose a Bowsight

As discussed in this article, there are several types of bow sights, and which one works for you depends on your style and your needs.  

If you’re good at instinctive aiming, a minimalist single-pin sight that maximizes your visibility is the best choice for you. 

If you need your sight to increase your vertical accuracy, a multi-pin bow sight is the one you should choose.  

Digital bow sights are perfect for vertical accuracy, but they are not allowed in all states, and they are illegal in competitive archery.  

Some other factors you should consider are; 

  • Durability 
  • Cost 
  • Brand 
  • Material 
  • The range and the number of pins/divisions 

Types of Bow Sights

There are two main types of bow sights. Depending on your need, you might want to choose one over the other. The two types are: 

Multi-Pin Bow Sight

A multi-pin bow sight has typical five pins. The topmost pin is used to shoot the closest targets, the one below that is used to shoot the target a little farther, the one below that, a little farther, and so on. The exact distance each pin represents depends on the distances of the pins, the speed of the arrows, and the draw weight on the bow. 

Single Pin

A single-pin bow sight has just one pin, and it’s used by archers that have the ability to aim instinctively to some extent. A single-pin bow sight allows for more visibility than multi-pin bow sights, making it excellent for hunters. There are single pins in the market that have markings for different ranges, making them a minimalistic alternative for multi-pin bow sights. 

Mounting a Bow Sight Perfectly

In order for a bow sight to work, it has to be mounted perfectly so that it aims at the actual target.  

For simplicity, let us focus on a single pin. Here’s how you get a bow sight to start working for you: 

  1. Shoot a group of arrows at a target aiming from the bow sight. 
  2. If the arrows are grouped on or around the target, your bow sight is probably perfectly mounted. 
  3. If the arrows are grouped somewhere else, say a bit to the left of the target, you adjust your sight and move it a bit to the left. 
  4. Shoot a group of arrows at the same target from the same distance aiming from your bow sight again. 
  5. If the group allows hits on or around the target, your bow sight is perfectly mounted! 
  6. If the group hits at a distance from the target, go back to step 4. 

Remember: The sight is always moved in the same direction as the distance of the group of arrows from the target. If the group of arrows all hit above the target, the sight needs to be moved up. 

Bow sights are an essential accessory for every archer to have. They increase the accuracy and consistency of arrows while accounting for archer’s paradox as well as arrow drop. In a lot of circumstances, bow sights are a great idea to use. However, which bow sight is right for you comes down to your style and your needs.

(1) gravity – https://www.britannica.com/science/gravity-physics
(2) Electronic – https://www.explainthatstuff.com/electronics.html