What's better? A single-pin or multi-pin sight?
It’s possible to start a debate akin to “Ford vs. Chevy” when talking with a bunch of archers about whether a single-pin sight is better than one with multiple pins. We certainly don’t want to launch such a dust up here. But opinions aside, there are some factual differences between the two.
Here’s a quick rundown of things you’ll want to consider when choosing between a single-pin sight and a multi-pin sight for your bow.
Multi-pin sights typically come with three to five pins that you set for specific yardages. For example, you might set a five pin sight so you have one pin each for 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 yards. You’ll have a pin to hold dead on your target at each of these distances, and then you’ll have to aim high or low with the appropriate pin for distances in between. Those pins are fixed in place, and can only be adjusted with tools.
With a single-pin sight, you have one pin that’s movable. You adjust it up and down by hand to set it in the right spot for the distance you’re shooting. Such sights typically feature a “sight tape,” which is a strip of paper or sticker marked with different yardages. There will be an indicator pin on the sight that you move along the sight tape to the distance you want to shoot. As you adjust that indicator, your sight pin moves accordingly.
With a single pin, there’s no chance of choosing the wrong pin when you take aim. You adjust the pin to where you want it, and then there’s only one choice to make as you take aim. Also, many archers say the single pin gives them a cleaner sight picture, which makes it easier to concentrate when aiming. And no matter what the distance is, you can always paste your one pin directly on the spot you want to hit. There’s no need to aim high or low.
Multiple pins allow you to adjust to different yardages without having to physically adjust the sight. Let’s say you’re bowhunting and a deer is at 20 yards when you come to full draw. Suddenly, the deer hops away to 30 before you have a clear shot. All you have to do is aim with a different pin.
Also, in situations where you can’t use a rangefinder to determine the exact distance to a target or animal, the multiple pins can act as a rangefinder. Through repeated use, you will learn how targets look at different distances in relation to your pins. Maybe a 3-D deer that’s 20 yards out fits neatly between your 20- and 30-yard pins. If you see air between those pins and a deer, then you know it’s more than 20 yards away.
Single-pin sights give you just one reference point for aiming. If your target moves when you’re at full draw, then you have to let down the bowstring and adjust your sight. Or you can gamble and try to aim high or low with only one reference point.
Some of these sights employ large knobs for making pin adjustments, and those knobs can make it difficult to attach a quiver to your bow. If you can attach a quiver, then it might be tough to access the knob to make sight adjustments.
With multiple pins, it’s possible to choose the wrong one. That is, your target is 30 yards out, but you accidentally take aim using your 40-yard pin. Also, you’re going to have to “shoot the gap,” which means you’ll have to paste a pin high or low of the point of impact when your target is at a distance other than the ones for which your pins are set. Any time you don’t put your sight directly on the spot you want to hit, there’s a chance for error. And some archers think having multiple pins gives their sight picture a cluttered look, making it hard to focus on just one pin.
Take note that some tournaments might restrict to certain classes the use of sights with movable pins. At National Field Archery Association events, for example, several of the Bowhunter classes require fixed-pin sights with up to five pins, making sights with movable pins legal only for some Freestyle classes.