Sight Selection

By: Bill Weinke
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The top sight is a spooled fiber pin while the bottom one is not.  You can readily see the difference in visibility in this ground blind setting.

Spooled fiber pins of all makes and styles are more visible than any other non-electronic sight option.  As result, bowhunters are flocking to them in droves.  Here’s how this sight style came into existence. 

“If you look at the ends of a five-foot piece of straight raw fiber, the light is so bright that it almost hurts your eyes,” Bahram Khoshnood, of Impact Archery told me.  Bahram was the first to market a fiber optic sight with the fibers wrapped around the pin guard to enhance their length without sacrificing protection.  “I was handling raw fibers one day in late 2001 when the inspiration hit me.  The very brightest possible fibers are straight, but packaging several feet of straight fiber in a bow sight is impossible, so I began experimenting by wrapping the fiber around a clear housing and then inserting one of the free ends into the sight pin.”

Immediately, Bahram knew he was onto something because the single pin was brighter than anything he had ever seen on a non-electronic hunting sight.  It hit the market at the 2002 and the sight market was changed forever.


The question that begs an answer is this: how much fiber is enough?  The answer depends on what you are trying to accomplish.  For example, some bowhunters are more than satisfied with just six to eight inches of wrapped fiber.  The aiming point may not blister your eye during the middle of the day, but it is still visible 30 minutes after sunset even on overcast days.  Other sights feature 20 to 30 inches to increase brightness slightly.  Finally, there are the sights with fiber by the yard.

The amount of fiber a bowhunter needs has more to do with his goals and his specific hunting situation than the capabilities of the sights themselves.  For example, many of us did just fine for years using fiber that wrapped around the pin shaft and was only a couple of inches long.  These were not spooled.  However, as my eyes start to grow weaker with age, I will no doubt be looking for brighter and brighter pins.  I can see the changes coming already.  And when it comes to low light shooting, as long as you have a large peep sight that doesn’t impede your view of the target, a highly visible pin makes aiming easier.

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You definitely want a sight that is gang-adjustable.  In other words, the entire sight head moves side to side or up and down permitting you to make quick adjustments.

In looking for a more objective test, I asked Bahram Khooshnood what his experience has been, knowing that he has no doubt tested every possible length.  Bahram has concluded that anything over two feet (when wrapped around the pin guard) produces almost no improvement in visibility in low light.  Up to two feet, the pin gets a small bit brighter with each inch added, but past two feet it is very hard to notice a difference.

Another thing to consider when evaluating pin brightness is the diameter of the bends.  Bahram Khoshnood told me that the brightest fibers are straight.  When you bend them, you give the light a place to escape.  The sharper you bend them, the more light escapes. 


One school of thought suggests that pins can get too bright, to the point that they blind the view of the target beyond or even cause the archer’s pupils to narrow and thereby actually darkening the view of the scene beyond the pin.  While this was definitely a problem in the days of the bright electronic sights, it is less a factor today with the fiber optic pins simply because the pins automatically tone down as the light wanes.  They aren’t overpowering during low light as some contend.  At least they aren’t overpowering to my eye.

One of my friends, who has bowhunted with a number of different styles of spooled fiber pins, stated that he has never felt that his pins were too bright even though he has used some of the brightest on the market.  It should also be noted, for the record, that he is in his mid-50s.

Interestingly, Jim stated that his biggest problem occurs in full light when the pins are so bright they actually create a halo that partially obscures the target.  He uses a rubber band that goes around the sight head to cover the coiled fibers during the middle of the day and then he removes the band as the light fades.

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A bubble level is a definite asset on a bow sight because it encourages consistency.  By centering the level on every shot, you be sure you are holding the bow the same each time, eliminating some side to side misses.


One of my pet peeves in the archery equipment arena is fiber optic filaments that are brittle and break easily.  I would (and do) give up some brightness for durability.  Some sight companies don’t support their fiber very well where it comes out of the sight body and loops up to the pin head.  If you press on it here, it immediately snaps.  That’s bad news for bowhunters. 

I have the opportunity to test many sights during the year whether by hunting or when setting them up on the bows that my photo models carry around.  Some sights are so feeble that they won’t even hold up to the minor rigors of off-season modeling!  How can they ever hold up to hard hunting?  They can’t. 

The sights that fail all have one thing in common; they have brittle fibers that form an unprotected loop on the back of the sight pin.  If you choose to carry these sights in your line (you can test them easily simply by pushing on them) you may as well stock a good supply of aftermarket replacement pins because you will be replacing a lot of pins for your customers – probably at your expense. 

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Large numbers of pins serves only to confuse.  Instead, choose the least number of pins possible for the distances you will be shooting while hunting.


Number of pins: As a rule of thumb, never use more pins than you need.  A small number of pins simplifies the sight picture and keeps you from making a mistake during the excitement of aiming at game.  One pin is enough for whitetail hunters who never shoot past 30 yards.  Set it for 25 yards and your arrow will hit within a few inches of where you are aiming (if you hold for the center of the vitals) on all shots from 15 to 30 yards.  Hold a few inches low for shots under 15 yards.

If you plan to take shots past 30 yards, a three-pin sight is a better choice for most bowhunters.  You can set your pins for 20, 30 and 40 yards.  This gives you a great deal of flexibility without adding too much confusion to the sight picture.  It is only if you plan to shoot past 40 yards (the opportunity will be very rare even if your form is up to the challenge) that you need more than three pins.  I used to set two pins for 20 and 40 yards and gapped for 30 yards.  It was an acceptable system but too imprecise.  Now I set five pins for 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 yards – too many pins for most bowhunters.  I use so many pins because I’ve had a few opportunities for long follow-up shots on deer I’ve already hit.  Having the extra pins really makes a big difference in those situations.

Pendulum vs. fixed: Most bowhunters quickly realize that precisely estimating range is the hardest part of any shot, and it's no different when hunting 18 feet off the ground.  Though it's possible when stand hunting to pre-scout the distances to various landmarks, all too often deer will approach from a direction you didn't expect.  Pendulum bow sights offer the tree stand hunter the opportunity to forget about the shot range.

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Pendulum sights are popular among tree stand hunters because they pivot to automatically adjust for the distance of the shot from roughly five to 30 yards.

All pendulums have a range limit at which their compensation ability begins to breakdown.  In most cases, you'll start to notice a loss of accuracy at somewhere around 30 yards.  If you shoot a fast arrow, this distance may be a couple of yards longer.  Pendulum sights also lose a portion of their effectiveness on uphill and downhill shots.  Because these sights gain their range compensation ability from the angle of the bow, not the actual distance, slopes greater or less than the sight-in location will fool them.

The obvious advantage of fixed-pin sights is greater simplicity and longer pin settings.  I use fixed-pin sights, mainly because I love simplicity and because I sometimes shoot at deer at distances beyond 30 yards (I often practice past 30 yards too) and having the additional pins makes both of these much easier. 

A moveable pin strategy: Moveable pin sights are the most accurate because you can set the pin to the exact distance and hold dead on, but these sights require a strategy.  A deer can move after you reach full draw requiring you to guess how high or low to hold with your pre-set pin.  If he turns and begins walking your way fast, you don’t want to be stuck aiming with your 40 yard setting if he’s only 10 yards away. 

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Moveable pin sights have tradeoffs.  They allow precise aiming at all distances but if the animal is moving toward you or away from you, it can be tough to adjust when using just one moving pin

A better strategy involves using sight heads with more than one pin.  You have the best of both worlds; leave the moveable carriage set for the closest range and use the multiple pins as if they were a fixed-pin sight.  If the opportunity presents itself for you to move the sight, you can really dial in the top pin for pinpoint aiming. 

Pin diameter: The larger the pin the more visible it will be in low light conditions.  However, with the continued growth in popularity of spooled fiber pins, even a small .019-inch diameter fiber optic aiming point can be highly visible. 

Another strategy is to mix pin sizes to match the shot distance setting.  Several sight companies make pins in a range of diameters.  You can use large diameter fibers (up to .050 inches) for your short-range pins and smaller diameter fibers (down to .019 inches) for your longer-range pins.  The small diameter pins obscure less of the target making them more precise on long shots.  Most sight companies install .029-inch diameter pins standard. 

Going for the brightest pins: Modern spooled fiber backs up the aiming point with as much as five feet of filament.  The long fiber takes in and focuses a tremendous amount of natural light toward its ends.  You will experience complete visibility during every minute of legal shooting time – even on overcast days.  They are three to four times brighter than the fiber optic pins we used only a few years ago.

However, you don’t need a spooled fiber pin to kill a big buck 30 minutes before sunrise.  I’ve done just fine with all the modern pin styles: spooled fiber, filaments that wrap around to the shank of the pin, polycarbonate encased fiber and straight fiber aiming points.  In my opinion, a big peep sight is just as important as a bright aiming point in producing plenty of visibility in low light.

A case for round pin guards: Round pin guards offer you a couple of significant advantages over square pin guards.  You might not realize that your pin guard can help you aim better, but you can center the pin guard in your peep sight rather than centering individual pins.  This permits you to use the same exact anchor point on all shots near and far.  All you have to do is lower or raise the bow until the proper pin is on the spot; your anchor point remains the same (sight-in using your most comfortable position).  If you were centering individual pins, you couldn’t do this.

You have to use a much larger peep sight in order to center the pin guard and this presents another advantage.  A larger peep lets more light through for better aiming at dawn and dusk and gives you a better field of view when tracking an approaching animal and when aiming. 

Sight selection is a personal matter, that is why there are so many sights on the market, but you can simplify the process by keeping a few things in mind.  Use the least number of pins possible, demand fully-supported and protected fiber optic pins and use a round pin guard that you can center inside a large peep sight and you will do just fine.

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The most important quality of a good sight is well-protected fiber optic pins.  If the fibers break, the pins will grow dark.  Look for fully supported fibers.

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2 Comments on "Sight Selection"

Re: Sight Selection

hi i am new to compound bow shooting i can hit my practice target at 20 yrd 40 and 50 but i am tring to bring the sight pins in to fine tweeking but having a problem . if i shoot low and left the arrow hits high right witch way do i need to move the sight pin thank you for your time

Posted by kevin on 4/21/2010 4:26:04 PM

Re: Sight Selection

A goog tip to remember is chase the arrow and run away from the bullet. In other words move the pin in the direction the arrow is hitting to move it the other way. so if you hit left and want to go to the right then move the site to the left.

Posted by Josh on 8/12/2010 12:28:21 PM

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