Is a Moveable-Pin Sight For You?

November 24th, 2008 / Posted by
Is a Moveable-Pin Sight For You?

By Bill Winke
Gaining the competitive edge is always the motivation for innovation. Look at auto design. The racers are always pioneering advances that eventually get adopted in the consumer lines. The same goes for other sports like golf. The play for pay world forces greater innovation because that’s how the best stay on top. It happens in archery too. Many of the recent advances in bowhunting equipment have come about as a result of 3-D shooters trying to squeeze a few extra points out of each tournament.

The list of 3-D innovations that have spilled over into bowhunting is long: speed bows, lighter arrows, better releases, string nocking loops and moveable pin sights. It is the final category that interests me this month.

Moveable pin sights have a lever that pivots around a central point. As you move the lever down, the sight pin goes up positioning it for close-range shots. There’s a pointer and scale that permit you to set the lever to the exact yardage of the shot. Moveable pin sights have their place in bowhunting, but like every other piece of gear, they aren’t for everyone. Here’s a rundown of the strengths and weaknesses of these sights so you can decide if they are right for you.

The Advantages of Moveable Pins
Let me set up the ultimate scenario. You’ve just stalked up to the last piece of cover that stands between you and a feeding bull elk. You pull out your laser rangefinder and determine that he’s exactly 46 yards away. You reach down to your bow, twist a knob and slide a lever until the pointer on the scale reads just over 45 yards. When the bull lifts his head to look the other way you carefully draw your bow and plant the single pin right on the center of his lungs. Doubt and guesswork have just evaporated from the equation. You make a clean release and place the arrow perfectly for a quick kill. He’s down before he even gets out of the mountain meadow.

What you’ve just read about is bowhunting’s ultimate demonstration of systematic precision. By eliminating as many variables as possible, you give yourself the best possible chance for success.

Nearly all archers are more accurate when they can aim dead-on without having to figure the proper holdover with their pins or try to bracket between two adjacent pins. It’s a lot easier to make a 46 yard shot if you have a 46 yard pin than to try to bracket between your 40 and 50 yard pins. The only way you’re going to have a pin for every possible yardage is to use a sight that has a moveable pin. This is the most accurate possible system.

The Cons of High Technology

Once you hit full draw with most moveable pin sights you are stuck with the pin position. This can be a disadvantage if the exact distance of the shot isn't known or if the animal is moving.

Once you hit full draw with most moveable pin sights you are stuck with the pin position. This can be a disadvantage if the exact distance of the shot isn

I was hunting moose and bear in Newfoundland when I got my first lesson in the downside of using moveable pin sights for hunting. Another bowhunter named Mike had met me for the hunt. Mike was not a very experienced hunter. On the third day of the hunt, Mike was following his guide through the regrowth of a large area of logged pine timber when the guide suddenly stopped, put his hand out, backed up a few yards and then crouched down. Mike took his cue and dropped to the ground. After being waved up, Mike quickly sneaked to the guide’s side.

“There’s a big bear eating partridge berries just on the other side of that little pine tree,” the guide whispered very lightly. “He’s only about 30 feet away. Ease out around me and take the shot.”

Mike couldn’t believe the range could be only 30 feet so he set his moveable pin sight for 30 yards and slowly sneaked past the guide until he could see around the tree. What a shock! The bear was right in front of him, still totally preoccupied with his lunch. The excitement was more than my friend could handle and he completely forgot that he had preset his sight for a much longer distance. Mike drew back, settled the bead on the bear’s chest and promptly shot right over his back. The bear beat a hasty departure as Mike and his guide watched in stunned disbelief. That’s how you miss a 300 pound bear at less than 10 yards.

The situation that Mike encountered is a classic downside when using moveable pin sights for hunting. Because the pin was preset, Mike was forced to either take the time to move it once he got into position for the shot, or to hold low on the intended target. Adrenaline has a way of ruling out clear thinking during the moment of truth and all too often we aren’t able to make good, fast decisions. Mike’s living proof of that fact.

When Game Is On The Move
Another situation that puts moveable pin sights at a disadvantage occurs when game is moving. Suppose a buck is approaching your stand and you decide to draw before he gets into range. That way you’ll be ready for the shot as soon as it’s presented. Too often, you get one fleeting opportunity. You have to be at full draw and ready to release the string or the buck gets away. For what range are you going to set the pin?

Or, suppose you’ve just stalked up on a mule deer that’s feeding on the opposite side of a low evergreen shrub. You can see his rack once in a while over the top and you know he’s moving toward the side, but you can’t really tell how far away he is. You have to draw before he clears the cover or he’ll catch your movement. Again, where do you set the pin?

Obviously, unless you consider these possibilities and take precautions to overcome them well before they actually happen, you’re faced with a tough moment of truth puzzle. I’ve shot a fair amount of game, and I must confess that I’m not cool enough under fire to do a lot of intelligent thinking on the quick. It’s about all I can do to stick with my normal routine: estimate range, pick a pin and focus on the spot. If you throw additional challenges into the mix I’m likely to crater.

The Best Of Both Worlds
There is a way that you can benefit from the advantages of a single moveable pin without giving up the flexibility of multiple pins. Several companies make moveable pin sights with compact sight bodies having more than one pin. In fact, most have three pins. With this system you can set the moveable pin sight to its closest range setting and then sight-in the three pins for 20, 30 and 40 yards. Further you can then use the lever to set the top pin for five-yard increments from 20 to your maximum range. Now, you have a valuable option during the moment of truth. You can use the top pin and move the sight for exact distances, or you can leave it at the 20 yard setting and use the three pre-set fixed pins.

If you see a buck approaching your stand you simply leave the sight at the 20-yard setting and draw. When he finally offers a shot you’ll have three pins to help you make the proper aim. However, if you have time to use your rangefinder and know the exact distance to a stationary target you can opt for maximum accuracy. Move the slide until you’ve set the top pin for the shot’s exact distance. Now you can hold dead-on.

With the right system, moveable pin sights are extremely accurate and will be an asset to your hunting rig. However, with the wrong system these sights can be more of a problem than a solution.

The most popular moveable-pin sights these days are from HHA. Check out the selection of HHA Optimizer sights at…Click Here.

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