Setting the First Pin to 40 Yards

October 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Bow Tuning

by Michael Larsen of

I decided to do some experimenting with sight pin setup and what it would be like to set the first pin to 40 yards and a second pin at 60 yards. While shooting 3D or other target shooting, when time is not as much of a factor, picking and concentrating on the correct pin is less of an issue than when hunting. How many times in the heat of the moment has the wrong pin been used when hunting? On big game I have nearly made this mistake (though thankfully it’s never happened) but last elk season I did make the mistake on a grouse. Fortunately a grouse is small enough that it was a complete miss rather than what could have been a wounded and unrecoverable big game animal.

The idea behind using less pins, the first being sighted in at 40 yards, is to minimize the number of pins and thus confusion at the moment of the shot. I have almost always had my pins sighted in at 20, 30, 40 etc. and did so out of habit and not really thinking about doing anything different. There are always several discussions on various message boards lately about pin distances, the effect of arrow speed on pin placement and such. The goal of this article is to investigate an alternative to traditional pin placement.

For this testing I used the setup that I will be hunting with this year:

  • 2010 Bowtech Destroyer 350, 67#, 30″
  • NAP Apache Rest
  • TruGlo Extreme Sight
  • Carbon Express Mayhem Arrow Shafts
  • FOBs and Fusion Vanes

This setup results in an arrow speed of 309 fps. To aid in making the graphs and charting with theoretical and actual data, I used TAP (The Archery Program) along with my exact specs.

To begin with I removed four of the seven pins from the sight to give me lots of space to work with as I didn’t want to have to worry about a pile of pins at the bottom of the sight ring. The idea is to clean things up; I also don’t want all those extra pins stacked up right above my level. Hunting in the Rocky Mountains necessitates having either an uncanny ability to hold the bow perfectly level on any ground condition or using a level; I choose the level.

Once everything was set up and looking ready to go, the bow was tuned (quick paper tune, then bare shaft tuning) and I headed off to the local range to shoot some long distances. I placed a single line of tape across the black part of the backstop and stepped back to 40 yards and shot a few of ends until I was satisfied that the pin was hitting dead on. Next I moved to 30 yards and used the now sighted in 40 pin and shot several times, taking measurements on each arrow to see how high they hit. The average came out to be right around 5 inches. The same was repeated for 20 yards with the average height above aim 3.5 inches.

At first I wasn’t quite sure this was right because my mind was wrapped around the traditional settings of pins and how the arrow arc behaved. My initial instinct told me that the 30 yard impact site would be a bit further down; what I had not originally considered is that when the 40 yard pin (instead of a 20 or 30) is used at shorter distances, the apex of the arc has changed because the aiming point is lower than the impact point. This is readily seen with this graph (the second graph is a zoomed in version of the first graph to better see what is happening at 40 yards and less):

When using a 20 yard pin at 20 yards, the apex is around 15 yards while using a 40 yard pin at 20 yards results in an apex between 24 and 25 yards.

One thing that is EXTREMELY important to understand is that because of the way an arrow arcs and because of the way that our line of sight is lined up with the intended impact site, shooting a 40 yard pin at 20 yards is nowhere near the same as shooting a 20 yard pin at 40 yards. In the former case my arrow drop is around 5″; if I use my 20 pin at 40 yards the difference is drastically higher, resulting in an arrow being nearly a foot low.

To further my little experiment I sighted the second pin at 60 yards to get an idea of what the sight picture would look like. I also sighted the third pin at 70 yards.

What does all of this mean when in the field hunting? That is the real question that I wanted to answer. First off it means fewer pins to worry about clouding the sight picture and having to pick the right pin. Many people, especially treestand hunters, will never have a shot opportunity past 30 yards and this exercise is meaningless in those situations. However, here in the west and the Rocky Mountains or out on the plains hunting speed goats, shots past 40 yards and even out 60+ yards are common. With this particular setup I could put the first pin on the heart of a deer 20 yards away and double lung him (assuming proper shot execution of course!) If the deer was really 30 yards away and I mis-judged by 10 yards, I’d hit slightly lower, possibly at the top of the heart and bottom of both lungs. This is exactly why many top and pro shooters will say that if in doubt, aim long. Aiming long results in a smaller error than aiming short.

I in no way advocate not practicing yardage judgment as much as possible. Even though using a pin setup like this may help minimize errors in yardage and clean up the sight picture for some people, it is absolutely no excuse not to practice, and practice a lot, yardage judgment. It is merely one method of using a sight that may be a good choice for some people. Also, every person and every setup using this or a similar method will require the shooter to do their own footwork and to fully understand how their setup performs. Just because my setup shoots 5″ high at 20 when using a 40 yard pin does not mean that everybody shooting a bow around 309 fps will do the same. Variations in equipment, especially in arrow/fletching type and total arrow weight will cause variable results.

Is this system for you? Perhaps. It may be worth a try to see how it works for you and if it is something worth trying. If you do decide to try it, practice a lot to become familiar with the performance. Once you are confident in your setup, PRACTICE SOME MORE!

Good shooting to all and please post any results you may have if you try this out.

Note: This is a companion article to the Arrow Flight Fact or Fiction: One Pin to 40 Yards

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Originally posted 2010-08-09 22:53:09. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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