How far you should extend the sight forward – Archery

When archers are just getting started with archery, they often don’t understand why sight arm has multiple adjustments. When you are at a target archery club you often see that archers place the sight arm as far extended forward as possible. Therefore, you might wonder if there even is a benefit in placing the sight closer to the riser. There are some pros and cons for both options, but most archers don’t think about it. For most archers it doesn’t seem like a big deal, thus they merely copy other archers.

In this article I will explain what you should consider to determine how far you want to extend the sight forward. Here is a short summary if you don’t have time to read this entire article: Most target archers should extend the sight forward as much as possible, since this allows you to make more precise adjustments to your sight. This can limit the range where you can effectively aim; therefore if you experience issues you can place the sight closer to the riser.

Although my short answer makes the choice seem really easy, there are a lot more dynamics involved that you should consider. I just couldn’t include them all; otherwise my answer wouldn’t be concise anymore. In this article I will discuss these dynamics and discuss what you should consider.

Some considerations you have to make

When you are deciding how far you want to extend the sight forward, you have to consider how this changes the dynamics of the bow. In this section I will discuss some pros and cons which come from these changes in the dynamics. If you want to see a quick overview take a look at the ‘’pros and cons’’ section.

In this article, I will mention a lot of terminology which might be new to you. All words and aspects I discuss in this article is based on an in depth article about sights, which you can find below. Therefore, I would highly suggest reading that article first, if you aren’t familiar with the terminology of sights.

How to pick the right sight for your bow – recurve archery

Your sight picture

The first thing you have to consider is your sight picture. The sight picture is how you see your sight and the target. You can influence the sight picture by changing your aperture and sight pin. Another way you can influence your sight picture is by adjusting the length of sight arm.

If you place the sight closer to the riser, the aperture and sight pin will appear larger. When you place the sight farther away from the bow, they will both get smaller. In general, you don’t want your sight to small or too large, since this can make it more difficult to aim. For most people it will not matter too much, but especially if you have problems with your eyesight, you might want to place the sight closer to the riser.

This picture was taken from the string to the sight, only the length of the sight arm was altered between the two photos

Adjustments of the sight

Most target archers place their sight far out from the bow due to precision. Your sight will not become more precise all of a sudden but this is regarding the configuration of the sight. Any adjustments you make to the sight will be less extreme then when the sight is closer to the riser. Therefore, it’s easier to make precise adjustments and find the optimal spot.

If you have a cheap sight which doesn’t allow you to make precise adjustments, this will be a serious consideration. Most advanced sights, however, have a lot of build in tools that allow you to make very precise adjustments. Therefore, for most archers the real benefit will be hardly noticeable.

The distance of your shot

When you want to shoot your bow at a longer distance, you will have to lower the sight. You can’t, however, lower the sight indefinitely. If you lower your sight, the aperture will be closer to the arrow. There will be a point that you can’t lower the sight, because it will start to interfere with the flight of the arrow.

In the previous section we learned that if your sight is closer to the riser, the adjustments will become more extreme. This is not only a disadvantage but also an advantage. If you place the sight closer to the riser, you will be to shoot at larger distances. When your sight is closer to the riser it will increase the angle at which you hold the bow. See the pictures below for visualization.

If you shoot short distances below 55 yards (50 meters) you probably won’t have this issue. But if you use a bow with a low poundage to shoot 76 yards (70 meters) or 98 yards (90 meters) you will undoubtedly run into issues. If you want to shoot at these long distances and you can’t lower your sight anymore, placing the sight closer to the riser can solve your issue.

Interference with the arrow

In the previous section we briefly discussed how a sight might interfere with the arrow. Even if you shoot at a short distance, meaning that your sight aperture is far up, you can still run into problems. Your arrow cannot only interfere with the aperture but also the elevation console, the long vertical bar on your sight.

When the arrow leaves a recurve bow, the arrow will bend in the left-right orientation. While it’s bending it can hit the sight, which will severely lower your accuracy. If you arrows and plunger are properly configured, this will probably not happen. But if you experience this issue, however, you can place the sight closer to the riser. In that position it will be less likely to hit the arrow.

If you have interference issues with the arrow; you should, however, always check whether your plunger is correctly configured. Another common issue is that you're shooting with too flexible arrows. Solving it that way is more beneficial since incorrect arrow or plunger tuning will negatively influence your accuracy.

The weight and balance of your bow

Especially if you have a high quality sight, the entire assembly will weigh quite allot. I jokingly mentioned in another article, that you would probably be able to hammer a nail in a piece of wood with my current sight. Since sights tend to be quite heavy some archers even use a counterweight on their riser or side stabilizer to balance out the bow.

Due to the leverage effect, the sight will get heavier when you place it farther away from the riser. With every 4 inch (10 cm) the sight will feel 2 times as heavy. Since most sight have at least a sight arm of 4 inches, depending on your configuration a sight may weight twice as much.

In general for most archers, the weight of the sight won’t be a problem. Most target archers use a stabilizer which extends forward a lot more. Therefore, the weight of the sight will only be a drop in the bucket. There is even a good reason for placing the sight farther away from the bow for the exact same reason. The sight will also make it more difficult for the bow to vibrate in similar fashion how a stabilizer works. If you want to know more about stabilizers, I would highly suggest reading the following article:

Stabilizers – how they work and what to buy

So for most archers the extra weight of the sight wouldn’t be an issue. But if you experience issues with the balance or weight of your bow, you might want to consider placing the sight closer to the riser.

Some extra considerations for compound archers

The considerations from the previous section are relevant for both compound and recurve archers. Compound archers, however, use some gear that makes it a bit more complicated. Therefore, I will discuss some additional considerations for compound archers.

Magnification

The magnification of compound sights seem very simple. The 2, 4, and 8 times magnification tells you how much the target is magnified. It seem like you zoom in 8 times when you use an 8x magnification. This isn’t, however, how magnification works. The magnification of compound sights are not only determined by the magnification strength of the glass, but also the distance of the target and your eye.

If you look though the glass at a target that is close by, the magnification will be lower than when you look at a target that is far away. The same is true for your eye, the closer you hold the sight to your eye the lower the magnification.

The 2x, 4x, and 8x magnification make it seem very simple but in essence magnification is much more complicated than that. I wouldn’t go into the details of magnification; this is a topic for another day. But it is important to know that the farther your sight is from the riser, the higher the magnification. So if you want to maximum magnification, you should place the sight as far away from the sight. If you on the other hand want to limit the amount of magnification, you have to get the sight closer to the riser.

Multi pin sights

Most target archers us a single pin sight, but if you like 3D archery or hunting (simulations), a multi pin sight is a great choice. The multiple pins make it much easier to aim at target at different distances. But if you have such a sight, you should extra carefully consider the length of your sight arm.

When you place the sight farther away from the riser, you will have to make more extreme adjustments to your sight. This means that you have to place the sight pins farther apart on your sight. For some archers that shoot high powered bows at short distances it might be beneficial to place the sight far away from the riser. Therefore you can more easily distinguish between the different sight pins.

Most compound archers shoot at many different distances. Therefore, it’s often a better idea to place the sight closer to the riser. If you would place the sight too far away from the bow, you would probably not be able to place your sight pin for every distance. Therefore, most multi pin sights even have sight arm that is a lot shorter.

The preference for the length of the sight arm is highly dependent on your gear and the distance you want to shoot. Therefore, you might want to experiment with placing the sight arm at different positions.

The peep sight

Almost all compound archers use a peep sight, since it makes it much easier to aim. Most compound archers just look through the peep sight without lining up the peep sight with the aperture. Some archers however line up the inner edge of the peep sight with the outer edge of the sight. Although there is a lot of debate about this practice, I won’t go into it in this article.

Archers that use this line up technique with the peep sight want the inner diameter of the peep sight to correspond closely to the outer diameter of the aperture. There are a two ways how you can achieve this. The first is to increase or decrease the size of the peep hole to the aperture. The next option is to increase or decrease the size of the aperture to the peep hole.

By placing the size closer to the riser, the aperture will look bigger, as we discussed earlier. Therefore, you can also use the configuration of the sight arm to make the aperture fit the peep hole. If it’s majorly misaligned you won’t be able to fix it with just the sight arm, but it makes you able to make small adjustments.

Pros and cons

Alright I promised earlier that I would give a quick summarization on the most important pros and cons of placing your sight far from the riser. It didn’t feel right to label anything pro or con since it all very situational. Whether something is a pro or con depends on your shooting style, draw weight and the distance you shoot. So for some people an aperture that looks bigger will be an advantage, while it will be a disadvantage for other archers.

    Sight location
  Consideration Close to the riser Far away from the riser
rec & com Adjustments to the sight Will result in large changes on the target Will result in small changes to the target
Sight picture The aperture and sight pin will appear bigger The aperture and sight pin will appear smaller
Allows you to shoot long distances? Yes, even for bows with a heavy draw weight Yes, but only for bows with a heavy draw weight
Interference with the arrow Unlikely Unlikely, but more common
Influence on the weight and balance of the bow Minimal Moderate
com Magnification Will decrease magnification Will increase magnification
Multi pin sight Will increase distance between the pins Will decrease distance between the pins

If you have skipped the previous sections to this point, you might be overwhelmed by the amount of information. So if you want a rundown of all the important considerations, I would highly recommend reading the ‘’some considerations you have to make’’ section. The lower two points are only relevant for compound archers, so you can ignore these if you are a recurve archer.

Recommendations when you are just getting started

Most target archers keep the sight far away from the bow because this allows you to make smaller adjustments to the sight. Especially in a competitive environment the minor advantage you get from this, is worth it for most archers. In general the most negative point of placing the sight far away from the riser is the decrease in range. If you use a bow with a low draw weight (below 30 LBS for example) you are probably not able to aim at long distances.

I wouldn’t recommend starting archers to shoot at long distances. You won’t really have the accuracy to hit the target anyway, therefore it’s better to learn at short distances. Therefore, I would recommend extending the sight forward as much as you can. If you experience any issues with your sight, you can always get it closer to the riser.

Final words

In general, I don’t really think it really matters how much you extend your sight forward. Most archers don’t really think about it and just copy the behavior of professional archers. I see mostly positives for extending the sight far forward for target archers so in general I keep my extended far forward.

With my compound bow I can just hit the center of the target at 76 yards (70 meters), with my sight fully extended. When I get my sight closer to the riser, I can hit a target at 98 yards (90 meters) without problems. Therefore, I might make changes to this setup since I like to shoot at long distances. It is, however, a disadvantage that I will lose some magnification, which is very helpful at these distances.

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