Compound bows shoot very accurately, therefore, they are often fitted with a magnified sight. In rifle shooting sports there is a clear consensus that a magnified sight increases your accuracy. This is no the case in archery, however. There are a few distinct differences that make a magnified more difficult for compound bows. In this article, we will discuss the main advantages and disadvantages of using a magnified sight. We will also discuss in which situations a magnified sight helpful and when it is not. In case you don’t have time to read this entire article:
You should consider buying a magnified sight when you are primarily shooting in daylight. Especially when shooting long-range a magnified sight can be helpful. For most target archers a magnified sight will improve your accuracy. For hunters, it depends on the distance you are shooting and the lighting conditions.
The short answer above only scratches the surface of what you should consider when using a magnified sight. In this article, we will go into much more detail of the advantages and disadvantages. Also, the difference between magnification on bows and rifles will be discussed. We will also discuss in which situations a magnified increases your accuracy and when it hurts your accuracy.
Shooting with a magnified sight has an obvious advantage - the target will be magnified. But how does that help you? That’s what we will discuss in more detail.
Allows you to aim more precise
Regardless of whether you are aiming at a target or game, a magnified sight helps you to aim more precisely. Since the sight increases the size of the target, you can more clearly see where you want to aim and keep your sight pin on it.
Easier on the eyes
Ever read the really small print on packaging? If you have ever done so, you may have noticed that your eyes don’t really like that. When we have to focus on something really small it will strain our eyes more. Therefore, a magnified sight can relieve your eyes from having to focus to forcefully.
This makes that you are more relaxed when you are shooting, which helps you to more carefully aim and prevents flinching issues.
To shoot accurate at your target, you of course have to see it. For target archers that is often not an issue, because the target is brightly colored. But this is not the case for hunters and 3D archers. Therefore, these archers will benefit from using a magnified sight when it’s difficult to see the target.
You can see more details
Again, mainly an advantage for hunters and 3D archers. Seeing more details is very helpful, sometimes a small branch can throw off your shot completely. Therefore, seeing more details downrange can help you to account for that.
Those advantages sound awesome right? Sadly there are also some clear disadvantages. We will discuss these disadvantages in more detail
Maintenance and rainy weather
A disadvantage of glass is, that it can get both wet and dirty. Especially in rainy weather, a bow with a magnified sight will hinder your visibility. Also when the sight gets dirty, either by fingerprints or dirt, it will make the sight picture blurry. This often means that you have to clean your sight every once in a while. You often need to remove the glass from the sight to clean both sides.
Space around aperture will get blurry
Since the picture within your sight will be enlarged, everything outside the aperture will get more blurry. For target archers, this will not be much of an issue; but especially for hunters and 3D archers, this might be a disadvantage.
More difficult to find the target
Have you ever used binoculars and find it difficult to find that one spec in the distance. Especially if ever went bird spotting, you might notice that it often takes a while to find what you’re looking for. The same principle applies to a lesser extent to archery.
When your target is not in your aperture while aiming, it might take a bit longer to find it. The magnification enlarges the middle of the image but blocks out some edges. Therefore, you often have to search for your target a bit longer than you are used to.
You can get a blurry sight picture
The most infuriating issue that can occur when you have just bought a magnified sight is that it blurs your sight picture. You might think that this is caused by the sight itself but that is not the case. This happens due to your eyes. When you give the sight to another archer, they might not experience the same issues, because our eyes are all different.
Magnification is always a bit tricky and doesn’t work the same on all eyes. Since only a tiny part of your field of view is magnified many archers experience issues. Luckily there are solutions to these issues, which we will discuss in this section.
Your sight pin may get blurry
Because the sign pin isn’t magnified, you can’t focus on both the target and the sight pin. Therefore, the sight pin will get more blurry than without magnification. As long as you can still see the sight pin, you can still aim fine, but some archers don’t like that. The sight pin in my sight also gets slightly blurry, but I don’t mind it. So, whether that influences your shot depends on your preferences.
The difference between magnification on a bow and a rifle
When you have never used a magnified sight on a bow, you might think that it’s similar to a scope on a rifle. But that is not the case. There are two distinct differences between a magnified sight on a bow and a rifle.
The scope of a rifle is only a few inches from your eye, therefore, most of your field of view is magnified while looking through a scope. With a bow, the sight is often 30 inches (75 cm) or more away from your eye. The actual sight picture is, therefore, very small in comparison to a rifle scope.
This makes it more difficult for your eyes because in the last case only a small portion of the field of view is magnified. Therefore, some archers experience that their eyes don’t focus through the sight, which causes a blurry sight picture issues as mentioned before.
Another difference between a scope and a magnified sight is the number of lenses. A magnified sight only has one lens, while a scope has at least two. Therefore, the magnification of a sight is more similar to the magnification of a magnifying glass than a scope. Just like a magnifying glass, you can’t focus the sight by changing the distance between the lenses. Therefore, there are other techniques that you can use to make the sight more clear, which we discuss in this section.
What to do when you experience a blurry sight picture?
When the sight picture gets blurry, it will be more difficult to aim. Therefore, when this happens the magnified sight decreases your accuracy. Luckily there are a few ways, which allow you to solve this issue.
Focus on the target instead of the sight pin
Most issues, especially with low magnifications (1x till 4x) can be solved with this simple tip. Many archers focus on the sight pin instead of the target. This makes that you can only clearly see the sight pin, but everything within the aperture will appear blurry.
You should instead focus on the target behind the sight pin. When you do this, you will notice that the sight pin will get blurry, which is perfectly normal. Because the sight pin is such a small piece, you will still be able to aim well.
When this doesn’t fix your issue, you might want to try any of the other solutions. Sometimes, our eyes can’t adjust to the magnification, therefore, they might need some help.
Change the peep sight
As we discussed before, only a small part of your field of view is magnified. Therefore, our eyes often have trouble focusing on the target through the magnification. In these situations, it’s often helpful to decrease the size of your peep sight.
You can test whether this helps by poking a small hole in a piece of paper. Look through it while using the sight, if you can clearly see through the sight, investing in peep sight with a smaller diameter will solve your issue.
Use a clarifier
Especially when you want to use high magnification (more than 4x), the issue can often be solved by using a clarifier. There are multiple different clarifiers available and getting the right one is essential. If you get the wrong clarifier magnification, you might even make it worse.
Therefore, I recommend to either try the clarifier in an archery shop or buy a multiple pack. It will take some trial and error to find the right clarifier. Sometimes your sight pins get more blurry due to the clarifier. Therefore, you sometimes have to weigh up what you find more important: the clarity of your sight pin or the clarity of your sight picture.
Decrease the magnification
When all these tips didn’t work, you only have two options. You can either completely remove the lens or replace it with a lower magnification. Some archers can shoot a 6x magnified sight without having any issues, while other archers can’t even shoot a 2x sight. Therefore, there is quite some trial and error involved in getting it right.
For most archers that don’t need reading glasses a 4x magnified sight shouldn’t cause to much trouble. In most cases, decreasing the peep sight or using a clarifier isn’t necessary when using a 4x sight.
So, is it worth the hassle?
If you have read other articles on this website, you might notice that I believe practicing is more important than the gear you are using. Therefore, you might wonder whether it’s worth the hassle to use a magnified sight.
In general, I do think it’s worth a try, especially if you fit the description in the next section. I especially like 4x zoom, because most archers don’t need to adapt their gear for it. Therefore, I do think that every serious archer should at least try it out. If you notice that you don’t like it, you can always remove the lens.
In my case, it helped me relax my eyes and see more clearly where I am aiming. After switching to a magnified sight, my accuracy increased enormously. Especially because I can still clearly see the sight pin, I experience almost no disadvantages.
When you should use a magnified sight
To conclude this article, I would like to discuss a few things to consider whether you want to try a magnified sight.
I would recommend a magnified sight if you…
- are an experienced archer: a magnified sight will only provide benefits when you are already quite accurate, therefore, I don’t recommend it for archers that are just getting started.
- primarily shoot during daytime: if you shoot during sunset and or sundown, the magnified sight might cause additional glare.
- primarily shoot during dry weather conditions: rain, snow, fingerprints, and dirt will make it harder to see through your sight when you have a glass in it. Therefore, if your sight gets dirty almost every time you shoot a magnified sight might not be a good option.
- often shoot long-range: if you have a high magnification (8x), your target will probably be to big at short range. Magnified sights are especially useful at ranges of 30 yards (28 meters).
- are a target archer: magnified sights are very popular within target archery. Because you shoot in a controlled environment you will have almost none of the negatives. For hunters and 3D archers, it largely depends on the climate and the range you are shooting.
This doesn’t mean that you have to fit all criteria. But if you fit most, you probably are going to like a magnified sight, and vice versa.
I hope this article was insightful for your decision to try a magnified sight or not. Since we all shoot in different weather conditions and for different purposes (sport or hunting), it’s impossible to give a clear recommendation.
In general, most archers like a 4x magnification, because it has the perfect balance between the pros and cons of magnification. Therefore, I would highly recommend testing it. Either in an archery store or with the sight from a fellow archer. If that isn’t possible, you can always buy a cheap sight to try it out. I am still using the $40 sight I started with a few years ago, so it doesn’t have to get expensive.
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions. Please leave them in the comment section down below. I will respond to any questions as soon as possible and send you an email with my reply.