Photo credit: Brady Miller
Photo credit: Josh Kirchner
Photo credit: Brady Miller
I can remember it like it was just yesterday. My dad had borrowed a bow from a family member and was tinkering with it at the dining room table. I thought to myself, “Could it be? Were we about to become archery hunters?” Up until this point, my dad and I had always toted rifles in the deer woods. Watching him shoot and sight that old bow in seemed like an agonizing process. It seemed like it took days to get it right. The sight looked like something out of a junk pile when compared to those of present day. There were no fiber optic pins or bubble levels. No, these pins were painted: a poor excuse of red and yellow. Yeah, we’ve got it pretty good today in the world of bow sights. We even have the option of having one single pin or multiple pins to look at. Pretty spoiled, right? Yet, this is a common conundrum when picking out a sight and this current topic: single pin sights versus multi-pin sights. Each have their pros and cons. Let’s look down the path of each and see which one might be the better option for you.
Photo credit: Josh Kirchner
Single pin sights are exactly what they sound like. Within the sight housing, there is one pin for you to focus on and one alone. There isn’t a bunch of clutter in the form of other pins and target acquisition comes faster. It puts the confusion to a minimum and, in the heat of the moment, that could help a quite a bit. These sights operate on a slider, meaning that you can dial that one pin to exact yardage. It’s a huge benefit in terms of accuracy, which is probably why it is the most popular choice for target archers. This feature takes the painstaking task of pin gapping out of the equation altogether. For those that don’t know, pin gapping is where you aim between pins. Say you’ve got a 35 yard shot. You aim between your 30 and 40 yard pin. It’s a technique that works and gets the job done, but one that will never be better than single pin accuracy.
There are also some drawbacks of running a single pin sight. These have nothing to do with accuracy on the range, but everything to do with hunting because of having to adjust the sight to yardage, which poses a potential problem. Actually, it poses a few. The first is that things happen quickly out in the field sometimes. Say you’ve got a buck standing at 30 yards and have your sight adjusted to 30. You come to full draw and all of a sudden that buck jumps and runs out to 53 yards. Now, you’ve got to either know your exact holdover for 53 yards or have to let down and readjust your sight to 53. That is either going to potentially hurt you in accuracy or in time. Another issue is the actual act of adjusting your sight. Doing so involves movement and movement is what can bite you as a bowhunter. Drawing your bow back is movement enough. Adding more to the equation definitely has the potential of blowing an opportunity.
Multi-pin sights are definitely the most popular in the bowhunting world, especially for beginners. When starting out, it's comforting to know that you've got a set pin for each yardage. They come in three, five and seven pin models with the option of adding a slider to reach way out to longer yardage. These pins are usually set in 10 yard increments; often at 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, etc. That right there is probably the biggest advantage to using a multi-pin sight for hunting. It completely takes the step of adjusting the slider for each shot. That deer standing at 30, but then bounds out to 53? A hunter wouldn’t even have to let down from full draw. All they would have to do is switch the pin they were aiming with. They are a timesaver and, in the mountains, mere seconds can be the difference between notching a tag or eating tag soup. Not having to adjust to yardage also gives the advantage of less movement. And, on an archery hunt, the less movement the better.
Just like single pin sights, multi-pin sights are not all peaches and cream. While having multiple pins in the sight housing is a plus, it can also be a disadvantage. The first is clutter, especially with seven pin models. In dense cover with branches every which way covering up your sightline, having a bunch of pins doing the same thing is not optimal. It could create an issue with trying to pick a spot. All of those pins in there not only cover up the sight picture, but also add an element of confusion. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say “I used the wrong pin,” I could probably buy an out-of-state tag or two. It’s even happened to me. The first elk I shot at I couldn’t tell you which pin I used with how intense the situation was. That is the reality of bowhunting and why many of us thrive on it. The intensity and intimacy of close range encounters where thinking straight comes few and far between. In this regard, simpler is better with sights. There is also the issue of pin gapping, which doesn’t offer that exact yardage accuracy you get with a single pin sight.
Choosing between a multi-pin sight and single pin sight really comes down to you and your style of hunting in my opinion. Most spot and stalk bowhunters I know that are crawling around open country usually opt for a multi-pin sight. They need the ability to adjust yardage on the fly—especially for hunting the rut when bucks move every which way without a moment’s notice. This is what I prefer as that is the country in which I mostly hunt. However, someone in dense cover or hunting from a treestand might prefer the single pin. Being in close quarters, they know their yardage and can have that single pin set right to it, ready for action. My best advice is to try these sights out and see what you like better. Even if you are a spot and stalk hunter, you might find that you prefer the simplicity of a single pin. There is nothing wrong with that. The same can be said for hunting out of a tree. This is one of the coolest things about bowhunting to me. We have the luxury of molding our system exactly to what we want and how we want it. All of this is a far cry from those red and yellow painted pins bolted within that bent piece of metal I saw as a kid.
For another look at single vs. multi pin bowsights, check out this article here: Single pin bow sights: Are they really better?
Open sight picture
Fast target acquisition
Exact yardage accuracy
Have to adjust sight for each shot
Adds in movement
Might cost one opportunity in the field
Great for beginners
Have set pins for various yardages
Timesaver in the field
Multiple pins cover up the sight picture
Could use the “wrong pin”
Must be aware of pin gap for yardages in between set pins (no exact yardage accuracy)