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

The sight is one of the most important components of a modern recurve bow. Without a sight you will have to aim either with the arrow or instinctively. Both options are quite difficult to learn which makes shooting really accurate very difficult. A modern sight has many features that allow you to aim like you are shooting a crossbow or firearm. This makes archery a lot easier for starting archers and allow you to shoot very accurate.

A sight is quite a complicated product. Therefore choosing a new sight is both for new as experienced archers quite difficult. In this article I will therefore explain all important features of a sight and give recommendations. Are you just looking for a short answer? I got you covered:

Beginner’s sights offer only basic features to change the elevation and windage. More advanced sights have features which allow you to make more fine adjustments and save your customizations between shooting sessions. By far the most important aspect of your sight is the aperture and the sight pin; these influence your sight picture, which can dramatically influence your scores.

I really had to cram a lot of information into the short answer above; there is just so much to cover about sights. I will cover all aspects of the sights and what you should consider in this article, so keep reading!

The anatomy of a sight

The sight is one of the most complex devices on your bow. Modern high quality sights allow you to change the sight distance, orientation, elevation, windage, aperture and pin. This allows you to completely customize the sight to your liking, but this also makes it a very complex device. In this section I will discuss all these different parts in more detail, starting from the right to the left.

Sight fitting

One of the most straight forward parts of the sight is the sight fitting. This block connects the sight to the riser by means of two screws. All recurve manufacturers have adopted this standard, which allow you to connect your sight to any modern bow. Once the sight fitting is screwed on the bow you easily attach and remove the sight with a large screw knob. Therefore you don’t have to tighten/loosen the screws with tools to assemble/disassemble the bow for storage or transport.

Sight arm

The largest part of a sight is the sight arm. This arm extends the sight forward to keep it farther away from your bow. Most sight arms allow you to change how far the sight is extended forward. With some sights you have multiple pre-drilled holes and others have a sliding rail, to allow you to do so.

Extending the sight farther forward will make your sight aperture smaller. It also makes the adjustments you make to your less extreme. Some archers like to keep the sight far away from the bow, because this makes you able to make finer adjustment. Other archers like to keep it closer to the bow since this allows you to shoot at longer distances.

The sight arm is attached to the elevation module with two screws. You can remove the two screws to either move the elevation module up or down via pre-drilled holes. This may come in handy if you want to shoot at long distances, if your elevation module is too high. The two screws also allow you to change the left and right orientation of the elevation module. This is to make sure that the sight is skewed to either the right or left, if you move your sight elevation up or down.

Elevation module

The elevation module allows you to change the elevation of the sight. This allows you to shoot at different distances to account for arrow drop. On the sight of the elevation module numbers are printed to make you able to write down the different configurations. Since most archers often switch between different distances, the elevation module is often used.

Advanced sights often have a large exposed thread; this thread allows you to make micro adjustments. The dial on either the bottom or top of the sight allow you to change the elevation very slowly. To make major changes, most sights have a button on the side of the windage module to make major adjustments. By pressing the button, you are able to slide the windage module up or down by hand.

Windage module

The windage module is connected to elevation module and can often not be removed. This part allows you to adjust the left and right orientation, for wind on the field or to fine tune your sight. The dial on the sight just like the elevation module allows you to make micro adjustments. Most windage module also have markings on the top of the device to remember your usual settings.

Aperture fitting

Most high tech sights have a separate aperture fitting which can easily be removed. The aperture is a very fragile part of the bow, and should therefore always be stored safely. Less high tech options have the aperture directly connected to the windage module. Therefore you have to remove the entire module in order to safely store your aperture. Therefore you have to reconfigure the elevation of your sight every time you reassemble your bow.

Aperture

The aperture is the ring with the threading at the very tip of the sight. This is the part where you aim with. The treading on the aperture allows you to make larger adjustments to the right or left. You can also completely remove the aperture to switch is out for a different option.

Apertures can either have glass or an open design. An aperture with an open design holds the sight pin with a small extension in the middle of the ring. A glass aperture has the advantage that it can hold the sight pin without interfering the sight within the ring. The ring size of differs between apertures, which is just a matter of preference.

The aperture technically also includes the sight pin; the sight pin is therefore part of the aperture.

Sight pin

The smallest part of a sight is the sight pin. This small pin is the dot you aim at the middle of the target. Some apertures have a build in sight pins, but there are also a few options that allow you to change it. Some archers use a fiber optic wire as a sight pin. This helps make the sight pin more bright which is especially useful if you have bad eyesight.

The differences between a cheap and expensive sight

If you would lay a cheap beginners sight next to an expensive sight, the most differentiating factor would be the size. Not only the aperture and elevation module will be bigger, almost the entire device will be a tad bigger. The expensive sight has more features that make the sight heavier and larger. Also the sight arm will be longer, since this allows you to make finer adjustments. An expensive sight can easily cost around $200 while a cheap sight cost around $10.

So what does an expensive ‘’high tech’’ sight have more than a cheap sight. I already discussed a few in the previous section, but let’s discuss them one by one.

Longer sight arm

A longer sight arm gives you more flexibility. It enables you to extend the sight further away from the bow, which makes it easier to make small adjustments. The closer the sight is to the bow, the bigger the changes in the sight will be down range. For very accurate shooting archers, it’s therefore a big plus to have the sight further away from the bow. This will, however, also make the bow a bit more top heavy.

Micro adjustments

Both the elevation module and the windage module of most ‘’high tech’’ sights have micro adjustment dials. This means that you can easily make small adjustments by turning either of the two dials. Most cheap sights have a micro adjustment option for the windage. This feature is cheap to integrate since the sight pin has threading. To also make the elevation micro adjustable, the manufacturers have to add additional thread along the elevation module. This makes the sight not only more expensive but also more complex and heavy

Quick removable aperture

If you mainly shoot at set distance, you will really like this feature. When you are assembling a cheap sight, you will have to check your elevation every time. Since the windage module is directly connected to the aperture, you cannot ‘’save’’ your elevation. A neat trick ‘’high tech’’ sights use is to make it a separate piece. Therefore you can simply remove the aperture fitting, without removing the entire windage module. When you place the fitting back on the sight, you will have the exact same elevation configuration.

You can make micro-adjustments by turning the dial

 

Cheap vs expensive sight

Less distracting sight picture

Archers often talk about the sight picture, because it is arguably the most important aspect of the sight. If you have a fussy sight picture, aiming will be a lot more difficult. Cheap sights often have a small ring with a big sight pin. This can make it more difficult to aim, since more of your field of view is obstructed. Therefore the most noticeable difference when I upgraded was that I had a much clearer sight picture.

Luckily apertures tend to be cheaper than full sights, therefore you can always choose to replace your aperture if you experience issues.

The aperture on the left has a smaller sight pin allowing for more precise aiming. The cheaper aperture on the right has a larger sight pin and the housing is smaller, blocking more of your sight picture. Additionally, the semi-transparant sight housing can give a distorted sight picture.

Q&A

As I mentioned before, the sight is the most complex device on the bow. There are a lot of different doodads which can cause a lot of confusion. Therefore I will discuss the most common questions regarding sights

Does this sight also work for a left-handed bow, is this sight ambidextrous?

If you look at the picture of the sight, you might think that that you can’t use a right handed sight to a left-handed bow. If you would turn the sight, it would hang upside down, making reading the elevation numbers very awkward. All sights are fully ambidextrous however, with the exception of some specialty hunting sights.

All target sights enable you to remove the elevation module from the sight arm. I discussed earlier in the article that this makes you able to adjust the elevation bar. Another great feature of this design is that you can turn the entire elevation bar, up-side-down. Therefore the entire contraption will be rotated 180 degrees, making it suitable for left-handed archers. The only difference will be that the controls of the sight are not be mirrored.

This is not a fast process, so I wouldn’t switch between using it for a left-handed and right-handed archers. You will have to completely remove the aperture and elevation bar when switching the sight.

What is a good sight?

There are a lot of different opinions on what sight pin and aperture works best. But most archers agree that a sight should at least have the features I discussed in the section: ‘’The difference between a cheap and expensive sight’’. Those features make it much easier to fine tune your sight and improve your archery :).

Your choice for your aperture really depends on your own preference. Some archers use a smaller ring as an aiming guide and line this up with circles on the target. I only use the sight pin, so I want a big aperture, so this really depends on your shooting style. Most archers like a big aperture, but this doesn’t mean that this also works for you.

Should I start with an expensive sight?

In this blog I often explain that you don’t need the most expensive gear to shoot well. If you are able, however, to invest a bit more, I would invest this in your sight. I bought a different sight the first year, because I really noticed that the sight picture was distracting me. It was also the first piece of the beginner gear I upgraded.

Although back invested back then in an expensive sight, you don’t really need to buy a sight over a $100. There are a lot of options that offer the same features below $50. Although the tolerances and materials are a less good, it works just as good in all other regards. So if you have the money, I would invest this in one of those options. This sight will last you a lot longer and improve your shots. In the next section I will discuss a sight that I would recommend.

How should I tune my sight?

Completely tuning your sight is quite an ordeal, since there are so many things you can adjust. Therefore I can’t discuss the entire process in this article. If you want me to discuss how to tune your sight, please let me know in the comment section down below. I would recommend watching the video below from NUSensei; he covers most of the tuning in his video.

My recommendation

There are thousands of different sights available and all look quite similar while they are wildly differently priced. Therefore I will discuss a few options that I would recommend. I will also discuss the sight I currently have.

Starter sight

If you are just looking for a cheap beginner’s sight, I would recommend the Cartel Focus. Many archers at my local club have this sight and really like it. In general I am impressed with the quality of Cartel products. This sight also has a small dial on the side of the sight in order to make micro adjustments. It also has quite a long sight arm, which gives you more flexibility. This sight, however, lacks features some features like a detachable aperture fitting.

Advanced sight budget

The Decut DC-RE is a more expensive option that I would recommend if you want to go one step further. This product has all the features of a modern ‘’high tech’’ sight, including the removable aperture fitting. Although I am not familiar with this exact sight, in general Decut’s products tend to last a lifetime.

Advanced sight (the one I have)

I have bought the Arc Systeme SX10 Carbon, at a local archery shop. This sight is from a lesser known French archery manufacturer. This sight is often used by competition archers because of the extreme build quality. The front part of the sight is completely made out of metal, including all the dials and buttons. Only the sight arm isn’t made out of metal. The sight arm is made out of massive carbon; therefore this sight will really last a lifetime.

 

To be completely honest, I kind of think it’s overbuild. The materials are so high quality and massive that you could probably us it as a hammer and still use it afterwards. This makes it a very expensive option, which is up to you if that’s worth it.

Aperture

Most sights include a simple aperture, but this aperture often has quite a distracting housing and sight pin. Even most expensive sights include only a simple aperture. Therefore I would highly recommend replacing it. Luckily, there are a lot of great apertures available on the market. I would advice buying an aperture with a ‘’floating sight pin’’ which means that the sight pin is held in place with glass. This restricts less of your sight picture.

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