Even with modern advanced compound bows, archery is a much less precise form of shooting than rifles and even handguns.
So if you’re shooting low, there may be a few different reasons for it. In this article we’ll cover the things you need to check before adjusting your sight, especially if the bow was sighted in previously and is no longer hitting accurately.
We will also give step by step instructions on how to adjust the bow sight if and when you need to do so.
How Do You Adjust a Bow Sight if You’re Shooting Low: A Quick Answer
Take a few test shots, as many as it takes to establish a proper grouping. Then, loosen the pin with an allen wrench slightly and carefully slide the pin down until it shows as being on top of where the arrows are grouped. Shoot another group to test out the new position. Repeat as needed.
The general rule of thumb is to move the pin to where the shots are landing, but it’s important to remember not to mess around with your pin sight unless all the fundamentals are taken care of. You should expect to have to re-zero your bow sight anytime you change from one make/model/style of arrows to another.
A Step-by-step Breakdown of Adjusting a Bow Sight When Shooting Low
It’s annoying when you make an adjustment to one of your sights only to discover later that you were shooting off for a different reason, so then you have to go back and readjust your sight to where it was before. So anytime you’re shooting low, high, or side-to-side, there are a few things you want to check before you start adjusting your sight.
Step 1: Ensure that Your Shooting Form Is Correct
I would like to say that “experienced” shooters can skip this step, and yet as a former archery coach I can (unfortunately) say that even experienced shooters have bad habits. Entire books have been written about proper archery form, so we won’t get into all that here, but here’s the basic rundown:
- Feet should be positioned roughly shoulder-width apart, with your side facing the target (same side as the arm that holds the bow).
- Draw the string up to your face and anchor your hand on the same part of your face every time.
- Line the peep sight, aiming beed, or top of the serving up with your dominant eye and look through it to the pin.
- The arm holding the bow should be very close to perfectly straight, but the hand holding the bow should (ideally) be palm down.
- The bow should be suspended between your two hands rather than held in place by your front hand.
- Your bow hand doesn’t have to be palm down, especially if you don’t have a bow-catch, but even if your hand is upright (like holding a glass), you want to avoid gripping the bow too tightly.
- The bow should be as close to perfectly straight up and down as you can get it. Tilting the bow Legolas-style throws off your shot more than you might think, and more importantly it will make it harder to get consistent groupings.
Step 2: Line Up Your Sight Picture Correctly
Your sight picture consists of a rear sight and a front sight. The pin in your bow sight is the front, and the rear is either a peep sight, aiming beed, the top of the serving on the string, or you may have to mark the string somehow so you use the same spot every time. The alignment of the rear sight and front sight is critical for accurate elevation placement.
If you’re shooting barebow, you’ll have to rely on anchoring your hand in the exact same place every time to get your sight picture aligned. You should be doing that anyway, but I’ve found a peep sight to be immensely helpful in keeping me as consistent as possible.
So, if you’re using a peep sight, you might wonder how you should line up your sights. There are two ways you can do so, and truthfully, it doesn’t matter which you choose as long as you don’t go back and forth.
- You can line it up so that the circle-shape of the entire bow sight is centered in the peep sight (which means the actual pins themselves won’t be centered).
- You can center the pin that you are using in the peep sight.
Some people claim one way or the other is “correct”, but in my experience neither is necessarily better, it’s just a matter of what comes easiest.
Step 3: Take 3-5 Shots to Establish a Grouping
Alright, so now that you’ve verified that your shooting stance is where it needs to be and that you’re using your sights correctly, you’ll need to shoot a test group to see where your shots are landing. If they aren’t landing consistently in the same area, you’ll need to figure out why. Usually the reason is either that you need to practice your fundamentals more, or you’re using mismatched arrows.
You can’t adjust your sight until you can say with confidence that your arrows are landing in a particular area in relation to the center of the target. Hopefully it only takes 3-5 arrows to establish that, but don’t be dismayed if it takes a little longer.
Once you know how low (or high, or to the side) that your arrows are hitting, you can move on to the next step.
Step 4: Move the Pin Down
Assuming your arrows are hitting low, since that’s what this article is about, you just need to move the pin down to where the arrows are hitting in your sight picture. To do this, you’ll need an allen wrench that is the right size for your sight. On the side of the sight nearest the bow, you should see little slots where the pins are inserted.
On the back of these slots are allen wrenches that can be loosened to allow you to move the pins up and down in the slot. Loosen the pin just a little tiny bit so you can move it in a controlled fashion, then position it where it looks right, then tighten it up. Draw the bow back without an arrow in it so you can check the positioning of the bow in relation to where your arrows landed.
Once you’ve checked to see if the pin is now in the right spot, slowly ease the string back to its starting position. Don’t release the string without an arrow in it. If the pin is in the right spot, move on to the next step. If not, adjust the pin some more until it is and then move on.
Step 5: Shoot Another End/Group
Now you’ll want to shoot another group of arrows (we call them ‘ends’ in archery) to check to see if your adjustment did the trick. Remember to be as consistent and clean with your form and sight picture as you can be.
Also, don’t mix arrow sizes, types, makes, models, etc. Use the same arrows each time.
Step 6: Repeat as Necessary
If your adjustments got the arrow close to the center but not quite there, just repeat the process. As long as you’re getting closer each time, there’s not really any harm to just continuing to shoot and adjust until the arrows are hitting center.
There are some situations where you might not need to go through this whole process. If, for example, you are seeing that all of your pins are low for some reason (perhaps the bow got bumped), then you may just need to move the whole sight down to get them all to line up again. More details on that below.
Other Things to Watch Out For
1. Did You Switch Arrows?
Sometimes the difference between arrows is obvious. For example, when going from wood arrows to aluminum arrows, you’re going to be able to clearly feel the weight difference in your hand, so it probably won’t come as a shock when you need to adjust your aiming point to accommodate the different arrows.
There will be differences between arrows made of the same material. Your best bet is to find a specific arrow brand, size, and weight to shoot with. For the most part, that will reduce any inconsistencies due to arrows.
2. Is It 1 Pin or All?
It’s worth checking this first before you go through all the steps above. If your 20-yard pin is hitting low, for example, also check your 30 and 40-yard pins. If all three are hitting low, then the sight itself needs to shift downwards and you can save yourself a lot of time by adjusting all three at once instead of one at a time.
3. Are You Using Your Peep Sight Consistently?
I touched on this above, but I want to go into a little more detail.
I’ve seen two common ways to use the peep sight:
- Either you center the whole sight inside the aperture of the peep sight
- Or you center the individual pin that you’re aiming with in the peep sight.
Neither is right or wrong, but it’s common for shooters who haven’t thought about it much to accidentally go back and forth from shot to shot without noticing. This will obviously throw off your shot because you aren’t aiming the same way each time. So if you’re hitting low, you might try experimenting with the two different ways of using the peep sight and see if it’s actually correct for one style or another.
4. Adjusting Side to Side
Just a quick note on this – if your arrows are hitting to one side of the center of the target consistently, you can’t fix this using the adjustment method discussed in this article. There is usually some sort of shoe or tube that the sight will sit in. If you loosen the bolt that holds the sight in that shoe, you can slide the sight to the left and right to move the pins where they need to go.
The same principle applies: move the pins to where the arrows are landing.
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Your bow might be hitting low because your sight needs to be adjusted, or it might be because you are using heavier arrows than were used to sight in the bow initially. You may have also changed something about your shooting form or where you anchor on your face.
My basic rule is move the pin to where the arrows are hitting. There might be some other “basic” rule but that seems to be the most fundamental to me.
For maximum consistency, the level is very important. That said, the only purpose it serves is to tell you when you have the bow held perfectly straight up and down. If you are already in the habit of holding it close to straight up and down, then you are only sacrificing a little bit of accuracy to go without it.
Hopefully this article was helpful and informative as you work on getting your bow sight adjusted. Dealing with a bow sight when you’re hitting low isn’t a complicated thing to do, you just need to know how. Every model of bow sight is slightly different, so some of my instructions here may have to be translated to work with your particular bow sight.
No matter what, though, it should be similar enough that you can see what needs to be done. Archery is a wonderful sport whether you’re on the target range or out bow-hunting. Best of luck out there!