Bow sights are pretty expensive. But if you pick the right one, it’s worth every penny.

So what factors do you need to consider before upgrading your bow setup?

We’ll walk you through the process by evaluating 8 of the most important features.

Let’s dive right into it…

1. Types of Bow Sights:

Typically there are 2 popular types of compound sights: fixed pin and adjustable pin sights.

Check out this post: single pin vs. multi pin, where we discuss their pros and cons.

But in short, here’s the difference:

Fixed Pin Sight

fixed pins

Most new archers start with a fixed pin sight with static yardage.

It’s pre-set at a fixed position with 10-yard increments.

It can save lots of time for 3d archers by not having to re-adjust for different distances.

For instance:

A 3 pin sight might be pre-set at 20, 30, and 40 yards. If you would like to change your target distance within that range, just aim at another pin. No extra down time needed.

Adjustable Pin Sight

3 pin sight


These pin sights might include one or multiple movable pins at the bottom, which is great for extending your shooting range.

For instance:

A 3 pin adjustable sight might feature 2 fixed pins at the top and 1 movable (floating) pin at the bottom, which makes it extremely flexible for longer ranges.

2. Numbers of Pins:

1, 3 and 5 pins are the most common types of bow sights on the market, each with pros and cons.

In short, here’s our advice:

  • 1 pin sight is great if you’re comfortable shooting sub-30 yards.
  • 5 pin sight works well only if you’re shooting mostly at long distances of 40 - 60 yards.
  • 3 pin sight is the best of both worlds; that doesn't only allow quick shots but also enables you to extend your range up to 60 yards.
Number of pins

Why is it important?

Keep in mind if you over-do it with the number of pins, it can impact your target acquisition.

The more pins, the more clutter and confusion.

3. Pin Diameter:

Pin diameters come in varieties of sizes: .029”, .019” and .010”.

pin sizes


Aim small miss small

As a rule of thumb, the larger the diameter, the more visible you can see. As it collects more light during dawn and dusk low light hours.

The smaller size, the more accuracy you can aim at a longer range, say +40 yards. It doesn’t conceal your target and you can aim at the exact spot more precisely.

For instance:

The .029” pin is larger, brighter and easier to see than .010”, but it’s also harder to aim accurately at long distances.

On the other hand

The pin size really depends on how you shoot.

The pin will cover the object if you shoot with one eye closed. Therefore the smaller pins give an edge over the larger pins.

On the other hand, if you keep both eyes open while shooting, the pins will appear transparent and won’t conceal your target.

The hybrid option:

Modern bow sights allow you to customize your pins with a hybrid option.

For example:

You can customize a 5 pins sight with:

  • 2 of .019” as the top pin for short range 
  • 3 of .010” at the bottom for long range accuracy

Did you know?

.019" is the most popular pin size (according to ArcheryTalks forum) due to having good brightness and accuracy.
So if you’re a beginner and want something simple, the .019” pin sight is ideal for you.

4. Pin Guard:

A pin guard is a round circle protecting the inside pins from damage.

Does having a pin guard matter?

Yes, it can help you aim better and more consistently.

pin guard

Here’s how:

Conventionally you need to center the peep sight to the individual small pin, which takes time and energy.

Using a pin guard, it’s easier to align a peep sight to a pin guard and provide an exact anchor point shot by shot.

In other words, you’ll be able to aim more consistently with fewer mistakes.

For example:

The Spot Hogg Fast Eddie XL comes with MRT Multi-Pin Housing technology, allowing you to consistently center your peep sight and sight housing no matter the lighting conditions.

5. Pin Brightness:

Usually, the sight pins utilize fiber optics that come in red, green, or yellow colors.

Here’s how it works:

The fiber optics of bow sight are strands of plastic that absorb the surrounding light and transmit it to the pin.

So the longer and more exposed the fiber optics, the more light it can transfer to the end of pins.

fiber optics strands 2


In other words:

It gets much brighter without needing a battery-embedded light, which can be illegal in some states (more on that below).

It’s extremely important in dawn, dusk, or thick forest where the natural light is faded.

6. Leveling:

Leveling your bow sight can prevent your shot placement from leaning left or right, especially when on uneven terrains such as a tree stand or side slopes.

Most high-quality bow sights feature 2nd and 3rd axis adjustments. You can ask for setup assistance from a local archery shop or do it yourself.

So what do I need specifically for leveling?

2nd Axis Adjustment

2nd-axis leveling involves twisting the sight housing up and down, like a shelf, to make your pins perfectly vertical relative to the ground.

2nd axis adjustment

What does it mean?

It means that your grouping in steep hills won't lean left or right once set up, even as you increase shooting distance.

3rd Axis Adjustment

3rd-axis leveling lets you twist the housing towards or away from you, like a door swinging on its hinge.

3rd axis adjustment


You’re shooting uphill at 45 degrees.

You’ll see that the bubble level will slide to the left instead of the center, as the angle hasn't compensated for the difference in ground angle.

The opposite happens when you shoot downhill (slides to the right).

That's when the 3rd axis comes into play, giving proper calibration and accuracy.

Bubble Level

Bubble level

A bubble level is centered at the bottom of the sight housing.

Adding a bubble level informs you if you have consistent form after fine-tuning.

For example:

After adjusting the 2nd and 3rd axis, if you’re at the full draw but forget to torque your aim, the bubble level will not be on the center (leaning to the left or right side).

It means your form is off, and you need to correct it.

7. Adjustments:

If you’re using a low rated sight, you have to use an Allen key to fine tune your sight by adjusting the windage (left or right) or elevation (up or down), which can be a pain.

Gang adjustment

Some brands feature gang adjustment, allowing you to account for windage and elevation simultaneously.

It comes in handy in case you need to fine tune incorrectly set yardage.

Micro adjustments

windage and elevation adjustments

Most advanced bow sights have micro adjustments that you can shift both horizontally and vertically, using small knobs.

It allows you to correct your alignment individually in case of minor inconsistencies.

And guess what?

You’ll have to pay extra for this cool micro adjustment feature, which you’ll rarely need to touch again once set up.

But it may save you hours of sighting after pulling your bow fresh out of the box.

8. Sight Light:

sight light

Some sights enable you to attach an additional (rheostat) light to illuminate your pins and get more brightness in low light situations.

Bear in mind that the more brightness you get, the more likely you are to make a clean, ethical shot on a buck at dawn and dusk (the most active times for deer).

When should you use a sight light?

The addition of a sight light is beneficial in the following hunting scenarios:

  • Drawing your bow in a dark ground blind
  • Hunting in a thick timber
  • Aging eyes that you can’t see as clearly in dim conditions

But there’s a problem - LEGALITY:

Some states, such as Montana and Colorado, don’t allow using artificial lighting for hunting.

So be aware and check your local regulations beforehand.

Wrapping Up:

So picking a good bow sight is not so painful if you pay attention to these key elements:

  • Pin matters: fixed or adjustable pin, number of pins, pin diameter, pin guard, and brightness.
  • Leveling
  • Micro adjustment
  • Additional sight light

What elements are we missing? Leave us a comment below.

By the way, check out our best bow sights to explore the top choices, and pop over to the single pin vs. multi pin sights page to discover their strengths and weaknesses!

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About the Author

Hi, I'm Robert Gate, a hunter from Texas and Founder of ArcheryTopic.

I first learned archery from my dad when I was 12 years old. He gave me a Mathew bow as a gift and instantly fell in love with the pursuit.