The bowsight pin diameter debate: What size is right for you?


Pin size on a bowsight
A Black Gold 5 pin sight with 0.19 pins. All photo credits: Trail Kreitzer

Ultimately, pin size on a bowsight is a personal preference and it's always good to understand and consider the options. However, for me, the choice of using a .019 or even a .029 pin boils down to two factors:

1.) The larger the pin, the more light it transmits

Larger pin sizes are going to be much easier to see in low light conditions. Deer, elk, antelope, and pretty much every game animal that we pursue are more active during the gray morning light or dying rays of the day and being able to see the glow of your pin is important. I regularly hear fans of the .010 pins say that they simply add a battery powered sight light. This is a good option if it's legal, but in most Western states, sight lights are prohibited.

Larger pins are also easier to see for bowhunters whose vision might not be what it used to. When I was in high school I took an 87 MPH fast ball to my right eye socket and just a year ago I had surgery to fix a detached retina in the same eye. My vision isn’t what it was and a .010 pin almost completely disappears in low light. If you have older eyes or your vision isn’t 20/20, a larger pin size is a better option.

Longer sight bars on hunting rigs have become popular in recent years. Borrowing from target archers, bowhunters are pushing out their sights under the premise that the farther away the front sight, the more accurate you can be. Think about aiming a pistol versus a rifle: the longer distance in essence gives you increased perception of site movement, which allows you to aim more precisely. The debate about whether that's a good thing or not (I'll touch on that a bit in point #2) is one thing, but if you do buy into it, a .010 will be tough to see on a long sight bar because it's even farther from your eye.

2.) Ability to aim more precisely?

Trail Kreitzer at full draw

Undoubtedly, if you are a fan of .010 pins, it's because you believe it gives you the ability to aim more precisely, especially at longer yardage. Larger pins may cover a bigger portion of the 12 ring or the vitals of a deer at 60+ yards, but is that a bad thing?

Let's think about a couple factors: aiming (specifically where the focus should be—on the pin or point of impact) and anxiety.

Continued below.

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To aim a modern compound bow, look through your peep sight and line up the pin with your intended target. It sounds simple enough, but when you aim, have you ever noticed if your focus is on the pin or the target? Your eye cannot focus on both. Try it. Hold your arm out in front of you. You cannot focus on both your finger tip and the wall behind it. You have to pick one or the other as you do when you are aiming your bow.

Clear bowsight pins and blurry target
Clear bowsight pins and blurry target.

I would argue that if you focus on the pin and allow the intended target behind it to blur out, you are increasing the size of your intended point of impact. At 40 yards, the tennis ball-sized dot you are aiming at becomes the size of a basketball as it blurs. In addition, you are focusing on a pin that is moving and consciously forcing yourself to move that pin onto the target.

Blurry bowsight pins and clear target
Blurry bowsight pins and clear target.

Conversely, I'd suggest focusing solely on the specific point of impact (which is solid and not moving) and allow the pin to float and blur slightly while your subconscious executes the shot. Working on that premise, a slightly larger pin floating over the specific spot that I am focused on actually relaxes me and, I believe, helps me be more consistent.  

Anxiety and target panic

What bowsight pin diameter is right for you

Next, let’s discuss anxiety, which is also known as target panic or, even, buck fever. Fans of smaller pins say that it gives them the ability to aim precisely, but I would argue that increased perception of site movement can cause archers to develop anxiety and target panic. Think about it like this: we all want to hit the middle of our aiming point and what happens if a small pin is floating around in a larger aiming point at extended yardage? Well, for a lot of us it leads to freezing, punching and anxiety because no matter how hard we try we cannot hold that small pin in the middle of the larger dot. This brings me back to sight extensions. With regard to aiming, logically, a dovetail sight extended to its maximum length makes sense, but it probably doesn’t make sense for everyone.  

If you are a frequent shooter and have developed relatively good form, shot execution and aren't struggling with shot anxiety you are less likely to experience inconsistent torque. In this case, extending the sight may help you be more accurate because you are executing the shot pretty much the same way every time and can manage the amplified pin movement and torque. On the flip side, if you struggle with freezing, target panic or inconsistencies in form or shot execution moving the sight closer will reduce pin movement and will likely help you relax and improve your groups. You can read more about target panic and how to cure it here.

In the end, we are all a bit different, but I think the equipment options are worth understanding, considering and trying. Find what works for you by checking out some options here, put the time and effort into your equipment and have a great 2017 season.

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