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How to Sight in a Crossbow – Beginner’s Guide

sighting in a crossbow
Written by Erik Himmel

Sighting in a crossbow is easy if you know your weapon well! We’ll be guiding you through the whole process in the easiest and simplest manner possible. Keep reading …

Know Your Lane First

What’s the first step between having a fine crossbow and sighting in it? Standing away from the target, approaching it, lining up again and again and working to hit the bulls-eye?

No, my friend! Tell you what; the different components, such as dots, reticles, adjustment of elevation, and windage are what matter most when you attempt to sight in a crossbow. Once you have got these points real clear; you’re good to move on to the step-by-step guide.

sighting in a crossbow

1. Dots And/Or Reticles

Look through your crossbow scope. Do you see some crosses, dots, or patterns? These are the markings that archers use for measuring the distance to the targets, aiming, and pointing them.

These are the dots and reticles. Crossbow scopes usually come in two categories: Red dot (dots) and optical (reticles) scopes.

Kinds of Dots

The majority of red dot sights are available in two major variations.

  • Single red dot (The typical representation is 20 yards. Hold the dot higher when you have to strike the target at a longer distance.)
  • Triple red dot (Apart from the single dot, there are two more spots to represent 30 and 40 yards respectively. These scopes are great for circumstances involving elevation, movement, and wind.)

Kinds of Reticles

Optical scopes are available in both traditional and futuristic models for hunters and shooters.

Sighting in a Crossbow

  • Basic reticle: (With the typical 20-yard spot, reticles come with crosshairs that indicate you need to take a longer shot when moved upward.)
  • Duplex/Multi-X/Multi-Reticle/Truplex scope: (With tiny dots located at the crosshair’s intersection, these scopes facilitate your aiming. Both horizontal and vertical crosshairs are available)
  • Focal Plane reticles: (Known as mil-based reticles, these scopes are widely recognized as tactical scopes. There’re both first and second place reticles.
  • BDC reticles: (When accuracy is of utmost importance, Bullet Drop Compensating reticles compensate for external/weather factors.)
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2. Elevation and Windage Adjuster

Look at your scope. Maybe, you see adjustment knobs that stay protected by the plastic caps. Remove the caps and try to locate the windage and elevation adjustment options.

Sighting in a Crossbow

  • Inspect the sides and you’ll find the windage adjustment knob. Use it to have the arrow point-of-impact adjusted in either right or left direction.
  • Look at the top of the scope and you’ll find adjustment knobs for elevation that helps hunters adjust the crossbow bolt’s point-of-impact in both up and down directions.

How to Adjust?

Uncap the knobs and start turning them. Do you hear a “click?” If you did, remember that each click tells the user how much of the adjustment (expressed in M.O.A.) has been made.

How to Calculate?

1 click indicates the adjustment for 1/4″ at a 100-yard distance. In other words, 1 click represents 1/20″ at a 20-yard distance. Some scopes use variable data during each click. If your scope belongs to this type, check out the instruction manual carefully.

Sighting in a Crossbow: Steps to Follow

1. Prepare Yourself and Adjust the Scope

Shooting arrows to land them close to each other is what you should be able to do when sighting in your crossbow. It’s wise to shoot at least a few dozen arrows before sighting a bow sight or scope.

To rest assured that your scope is ready, make sure –

  • Your scope is clean
  • The mounting system fits your crossbow properly
  • The scope rings stay compatible with your device

How to Mount?

  • Clasp your scope onto your crossbow
  • Secure it and see that it has no interference with your crossbow
  • Mount it as low as you can, depending on your preference
  • Tighten the top rings of the scope while keeping them adequately loose so you can move when needed
  • Once you’ve determined that your scope is in the right position, you may tighten the screws of the rings for better results

2. Fix Your Position and Take Primary Shots

  • Measure 20 yards away from your target and stand right there. This distance is the rule of thumb for sighting in a crossbow
  • Now you have to cock your crossbow. You can do it in two ways, by using your hand or a rope. Some even do it with a crank aid though
  • Place an arrow from your collection. All these steps will conform to the mechanics of arrow flight.
  • Align the red dot/reticle (that stays on top) with the bulls-eye.
  • Squeeze the bow trigger fast using your index fingertip only
  • Don’t move an inch. Otherwise, you’ll lose accuracy.
  • After following the above steps several times (3-5 times would be enough), you may approach the target

3. Approach Your Target and Adjust Your Device

  • Estimate the required gap (in inches) for your arrow group to go up and to the right side and for all your arrows to reach and accurately hit the bulls-eye
  • Remove the plastic cap to find the adjustment knobs and adjust appropriately. Use a screwdriver to turn the elevation knob clockwise as long as it takes you to hear 20 clicks which will be equal to 1 inch
  • Do the same for the windage knob for 40 clicks. This time, the adjustment will be made by 2 inches

4. Repeat the Steps

  • You should take a series of shots again while standing at the same place that is 20 yards away from the target
  • Now, align the dot/reticle (the top one) with the bulls-eye on again
  • Fire at least 3 arrows or bolts and see how you do

You’re done! But don’t go elsewhere right away! Read the following cautions.

  • You can always make a few more/less knob adjustments to suit your hunting type or situation
  • Don’t lose the protective caps (of the adjustment knobs) after removing them. Keep them safely in your bag
  • Don’t take the factor ‘shooting tight groups’ lightly as it represents your focus and skills as a potential crossbow shooter
  • For one dot scopes, sighting for any distance, from 20 yards to 100 yards isn’t a bad thing. But those with multiple dots require that you follow the exact value because the correlation among the dots is critical to your accuracy

Summit It All Up

While some beginners could find our guide hard to follow, you’ll certainly get better with the whole procedure over time. Remember you can’t get the most of your hunting glory unless you can shoot and hit accurately, and sighting in a crossbow is just the gateway to a humane kill.

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About the author

Erik Himmel

A Part-Time Firearm Instructor

Hi, this is Erik. We all know firearms are dangerous, but only when one doesn’t know how to use and care for them. I have 15+ years of experience with different types of guns and for the last 10 years, I have taught numerous people how to hold and shoot a gun while staying safe and keeping the surroundings unharmed. My neighbors are some of my biggest admirers who enjoy talking to me about their guns, firearms safety and maintenance.

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