The Archery Library
Old Archery Books, Articles and Prints
Home > Books > Archery: The Technical Side >
A Comparison of the Point-of-Aim and the Sight

In the writer's article on "The Effect on Scores of Errors in Aiming and Holding" no distinction was made, as regards relative accuracy of hits, between the point-of-aim and the sight as the means for aiming. Some archers have questioned this point, and it is interesting to consider the pros and cons of both methods, to see whether any definite conclusion may be drawn. Dr. Elmer in his book mentions the greatly improved scores made by archers using a "peep-sight", by which presumably the small adjustable sighting device attached to the string is meant. I do not question the improvement in scores, since it was my own experience when I first used a sight. The question I have tried to answer is whether such improvement comes from the differences in the "geometry" between the two methods of sighting, or whether some other factor may account for the difference.

In principle, the bow sight is nothing more or less than a device which permits the archer to locate his point-of-aim exactly where he wishes it to be, his choice being confined between very wide limits. He may sight on a point just below the target, or on the gold, or on some point on an adjacent target; and usually he can keep this point the same at all regulation distances, by adjustment of his sighting point. It substitutes this adjustable sighting point for a non-adjustable arrow tip. The process of sighting is identical in the two cases. Accordingly there is little difference between the two methods. The necessity of an arrow rest with a sight to keep the distance between arrow and sighting point fixed for all arrows, has previously been pointed out.

I shall review briefly the pros and cons of both methods.

  1. When a point of aim is used, there is nothing to detract from the beauty of the bow. A sight attached to a bow seems like an anachronism. A modern device on a weapon 50,000 years old looks out of place. 
  2. With the point of aim, if the bow is moved out of the vertical plane, the rotation takes place virtually about the arrow as an axis; hence the accuracy of flight is very little affected. With the sight, particularly at short distance, rotation takes place about the line between the nock of the arrow (assuming a fixed anchor) and the sighting point. Such rotation therefore brings about sidewise displacement of the tip of the arrow, and hence the possibility of a large lateral error. If an archer is inclined to hold his bow slightly off vertical, he will probably shoot a better 40-yard score with a joint of aim than with a sight.
  3. When using the point of aim, the archer more easily sees the pile of the arrow and its position relative to the bow. This enables him more readily to note whether he is creeping, and to correct the difficulty, than when using the sight.
  4. With the sight, there is no danger of having points of aim kicked over, nor is there any difficulty in adjusting the sighting point when it is found to be in need of adjustment. There is no scurrying back and forth between shooting line and point of aim.
  5. When the sighting point is adjusted for aiming on the gold, it is unnecessary to stand in the same location on the looting line at every shot. In fact, the archer could move along the shooting line from target to target, shoot one arrow at each of six targets, and make as good a score as in an end of six on a single target.
  6. The trouble of "looking up" when using the point of m is eliminated with the sight.
  7. When aiming either with one eye closed or with both eyes open, the sight is advantageous because of the ease of visual accommodation in viewing the target after the loose has been made.
  8. The corrections for arrow pattern of a set are more easily and accurately made with a sight than with a point of aim.
  9. A sight can readily be adjusted for drift due to wind, thus providing greater ease of wind correction.

If the reader will carefully weigh these pros and cons, he will come to the conclusion that, so far as inherent accuracy in method is concerned, there is no difference. It is as easy to loose the arrow at the incorrect initial angle in one method of aiming as in the other. The convenience of the sight is its outstanding characteristic. It is more than likely that the feature of convenience has such an effect on the archer's psychology that he improves his whole technique as a result. Whether such improvement is lasting, and whether the sight has any effect in reducing the slumps into which most of us fall, is another question. I believe that an increasing number of championships is destined to be won in the future by archers using sights, not because of the superiority of the device from the standpoint of inherent accuracy, but because more archers are using sights.

Whether we choose the point-of-aim or the sight, we must remember that either is only a small factor in the whole technique of shooting the bow, and that as much attention must be paid to all the other factors as to the method of aiming, if we would attain the proficiency we have set up as our goal.