By Cabe Johnson
The ideal number of pins on a bow sight is a hotly debated topic. The answer depends on the type of hunting you do, the amount of practice you put in and how well you shoot.
It’s not an exact science, but there does seem to be an optimal number of pins for each archer. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.
What Kind of Hunting Do You Do?
If you are hunting in a treestand or ground blind where the longest shot is typically 30 yards, then a 1- or 2-pin sight is wonderful. It keeps things simple, helps you avoid confusion when the pressure is on and provides a big, unobstructed field of view.
However, if you are stalking, a 30-yard shot often ends up being more of a wish than reality. So, this is where we typically lean toward a sight with as many as seven pins to cover any opportunity we might encounter.
How Often Do You Practice?
Practicing to be a better shot is only half the equation. You also have to practice using your pins. With a 1- or 2-pin sight, picking the right pin is easy, and it’s almost impossible to miss-aim the shot. But once you start adding more pins to the setup, you have to make sure you know how to shoot the distances between the pins. Sighting in each pin is not enough; you need to know how to shoot 36 yards when you need to, or you’ll end up wounding or missing animals.
Quickly acquiring the correct pin can also be a challenge. We found that out the hard way! One season, one of us was hunting with a 5-pin sight and used the wrong pin three times in one season. He eventually realized five pins was too much to process when he was excited, even though he could shoot lights out in practice.
The more pins you have, the more practice is required. Those of us who use multi-pin sights try to hit as many 3-D shoots as possible to ensure using the right pin and shooting the yardages between the pins becomes second nature. If we cannot put in the practice time, we consider a 1- or 2-pin sight to lower the odds of making a mistake.
How Good of a Shot Are You?
This is a question you really have to answer honestly. Be realistic about how far you can make an ethical shot on an animal, given your skill level. If you only feel confident out to 30 yards, using a 5-pin sight is going to be overkill and very well may lead to a mistake in the field. However, if you’ve been out practicing almost every day all summer and feel confident at longer ranges, by all means choose a hunting sight that allows you to take advantage of every opportunity you can accurately and ethically handle.
Best of Both Worlds
In recent years, more and more bowhunters have switched to sights with movable pins. These sights allow you to reduce the overall number of pins in your housing while still providing the ability to shoot longer distances when needed. As an added bonus, the ability to move your pin(s) for spot-on aiming also eliminates the guesswork required for those “in-between” ranges when using a sight with multiple fixed pins.