July 26, 2023
During my two-plus decades of chasing critters around the globe with bow in hand, I've tried a lot of bow sights. Some were winners, and others were sub-par. Today, I have a pair of go-tos. I don't mind testing new-to-the-industry sights and may, eventually, discover a newbie that will grace my riser. For now, though, my pair of Spot-Hogg's serve me well.
As we delve into fixed and moveable bow sights, I mention my Spot-Hogg's because once you find equipment that fills you with confidence, you should stay with that equipment. Your sight choice is an important one. Heed the to-come advice, and you'll find a riser companion that meets your bowhunting and target needs.
Fixed-Pin Bow Sight
It's essential to understand sight lingo. The more you understand, the better buying decision you can make.
A fixed-pin sight was all the bowhunting world knew for an extended period. This sight style means pins in the housing are dialed to a specific yardage by the archer and then locked down. There is no vertical movement via a rack-and-pinion or gang-adjust system, allowing dial-to-the-yard capability.
Individual pins inside the housing are adjustable vertically, and fixed-pin sights typically come in 3-, 5-, and 7-pin options. Most archers sight-in the pins to 10-yard increments. For example, a 3-pin fixed-position bow sight would have a top pin set at 20 yards, a middle pin set at 30 yards and a bottom pin set at 40 yards. However, pin distance can be set to each shooter's liking. I know many 5-pin shooters that set their top pin at 30 yards and then set the remaining four pins in 5-yard increments.
Pros of a Fixed-Pin
Fixed-pin sights are far from obsolete, and if you're a whitetail and turkey hunter with no desire to hunt Western big game, or know you'll never stretch your shooting distance beyond 60 yards, a fixed-pin makes sense.
The significant advantage of a fixed-pin sight is no fumbling around trying to dial the exact distance. If the animal is at 30 yards, settle your 30-yard pin and execute. If the animal is 35 yards, split your 30- and 40-yard pins—a process called pin gapping—and take your shot. If the animal is 53 yards, hold your 50-yard pin a tick high.
Another advantage is that setting up a fixed-pin sight is elementary. Attach the sight to your bow's riser and start the sight-in process. Of course, before sighting-in, you would want to set the sight's second, and if it has it, the third axis. A pro-shop professional can do both.
Cons of a Fixed-Pin
Most fixed-pin sights have a maximum of 5 pins in the housing, making accuracy beyond 60 yards difficult. I have shot a few models with seven pins in the housing, and it was a disaster. In the moment of truth, picking the correct pin and settling it with so much clutter in the housing proved challenging. Keep that in mind when making a fixed-pin sight selection.
I practice regularly at distances of 80, 90, and 100-plus yards. I don't recommend slinging carbon at an animal at these distances, but practicing at them and putting the arrow where you want it builds confidence. When you can range a 3-D target at 86 yards and put the arrow in the 10-ring, it makes shots inside 40 yards feel like chip shots.
With a fixed-pin sight, you won't be able to dial to the exact yardage at any distance other than the distance you have set your pins to.
Multiple fixed-pin sights don't have third-axis adjustment, which is necessary if you bowhunt in locales where steep up-and-down shots are possible. I suggest finding a fixed-pin sight with second and third-axis capabilities.
Slider or Movable-Pin Sight
Sights with a moveable pin are branded as slider or moveable-pin sights. Most slider sights come in pin orientations of 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5.
If the sight is a single-pin (1-pin) movable, the archer dials the sight to 20 yards or their chosen top-pin distance and then unlocks its gang-adjust system. Then the archer turns the yardage wheel and follows a needle indicator along a sight tape branded with distances. Once the desired distance on the tape is reached, the archer locks the sight down, draws and shoots. Typically, movable bow sights come with multiple sight tapes to fit a wide range of fps (feet per second) ratings.
Some single-pin sights, like my Spot-Hogg Fast Eddie PM, have two or three pins set on a vertical plane. The design is identical to a single pin but with more pins stacked behind the first single pin. I have also seen several single-pin makes with two aiming references on a single vertical post.
The dial-to-the-yard principle is the same, but two-pin models will have a pair of needle indicators—one for the top pin and one for the second pin. My Fast Eddie PM is a three-pin, but all pins are set on a vertical plane. If my top pin is 33 yards, the second indicator needle is 41, and the third is 59 yards.
It's important to understand that with a movable sight, whether the sight is a single- or multi-pin mover, one or more of the pins will rely on a yardage sight tape. These tapes, at times, can be tricky, and you should plan on several back-to-back-to-back days of shooting to set a proper tape.
Pros of a Moveable-Pin Sight
Nothing is more accurate than a dial-to-the-yard sight system. When I'm shooting my Spot-Hogg Hogg Father Single-Pin, and the animal is 43.5 yards, I dial to that exact yardage. There is no pin-gapping or guessing.
Another movable-pin pro is housing clutter. While I do have a Spot-Hogg Fast Eddie Five-Pin I love, I'm not a huge fan of horizontal pins coming in from the sight's housing and jamming up my sight picture. Too many pins make me panic, making it hard to execute a shot. Single or several pins set on a vertical plane that comes up from the bottom of the sight's housing reduce clutter and can boost accuracy.
Cons of a Moveable-Pin Sight
The main disadvantage to a movable-pin sight is that if you only have a single pin, it takes time to dial to the yard. Years ago, hunting in Nebraska, I had a buck chasing a doe. I grunted him to a stop at 31 yards. By the time I dialed to the yard, he had moved again. I grunted, and he stopped, this time at 44 yards. I dialed my sight, and he moved again. I never did kill that deer. For this reason, I prefer a three-pin moveable, and I like my trio of pins set on a vertical plane.
Another disadvantage to a movable-pin sight is the setup. Don't let this scare you, though. It's far from rocket science, and a pro-shop technician can help you. However, it is essential to know there is more to a movable-pin sight than slapping it on your bow and dialing in 5 fixed-position pins. It is a process, and it takes time.
There is no wrong answer; you don't need to find yourself in a bow-sight dilemma. If you don't plan to shoot or practice beyond 60 yards and whitetails and turkey are your thing, a fixed-pin sight is a great go-to. If you want to test your arrows' ballistics and dial to the exact yard, your rangefinder gives you, a mover is your go-to.