Does a Single, Small Sight Pin Improve Bow Accuracy?

Here's the third in our seven-part series of tests designed to prove or disprove some common conceptions about compound bows. These tests all appeared in the July issue of Field & Stream, but keep reading for more content exclusive to our website.

The Conventional Wisdom
Large-diameter pins preclude fine aiming, and a bank of three to five such pins obscures too much of the sight picture. That's why single-pin slider sights are so hot these days.

But Wait a Minute
Aren't those fine pins harder to see in low light? Is the difference in accuracy worth the trade-off?

The Test
We shot three different bows, each with a five-pin Trophy Ridge Cypher 5 sight with .019-inch pins vs. an HHA Sports Optimizer single-pin slider sight with a .010-inch pin.

The Results
Total average group sizes for large-multi-pin sight, small-single-pin sight:
30 Yards: 2.82, 2.77
40 Yards: 3.86, 3.53
60 Yards: 5.61, 4.96

The Conclusion:
Yes, if your eyes still work. Brantley and I shot better with the smaller, single pin, especially at long distance. Bestul, a comparative geezer and new bifocal wearer, shot slightly better with bigger pins, because he could make them out more clearly. All saw the larger pins better in low light.

The Inside Story:
We figured this would be a no-brainer. Of course the single, smaller pin would make for finer aiming and therefore better accuracy at longer distances. And it did, for Brantly and I. Although neither of us saw any difference at 30, here's what we got when we stepped back a bit (for large-multi-pin sight, small-single-pin sight):

Brantley
40 Yards: 4.71, 4.13
60 Yards: 6.75, 5.69

Hurteau
40 Yards: 3.48, 3.06
60 Yards: 5.62, 4.50

The surprise came when Bestul shot and got totally different results, shooting nearly identical groups at 30 and 40 and the larger pins slightly better at 60. This was a head-scratcher until I read his test comments: "I'm a new bifocal wearer, and the things messed up my sight picture. Basically, I can either see the sight pins clearly or see the target clearly, but referencing both of them at the same time with any consistency is tough. And the smaller that pin, the tougher it is. When you're a fogey like me, you're lucky to see much of anything at all."

This brings up an important point: Single-small-pin sliding sights are all the rage right now and they do have their place, but they fill a relatively small niche: sharp-eyed shooters who will routinely shoot beyond 40 yards. For many whitetail hunters, shooting close and in the woods--especially those whose eyesight isn't what it used to be--there really isn't a big upside to a small sliding pin. A single pin does clean up the sight picture but you can always drop all but one or two pins on a multi-pin model out of the sight picture for hunting. And those larger pins will be easier to see in dim light, too, when big bucks tend to show up. Just keep in mind that on some sights, depending on the housing, too big a pin can cause a lot of glare (see Chris's and Jay's comments below).

(Personally, I have switched to a slider, even though I may never move it for hunting. I like to practice out to 100 yards, and a slider makes that easier.)

Of course, you can get a larger pin on a sliding sight, but for most whitetail hunting, a fixed-pin sight does the job just fine and is typically less expensive.