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The Easiest Way of Sighting in a Crossbow | 4 Simple Steps

sighting in a crossbow
Written by Catherine Weeks
Last Update: August 11, 2023

Sighting crossbow scopes is easy if you know your weapon well, and that’s not easy for beginners. So what should they do? Is there a way that’ll help beginners learn the basics of sighting in a crossbow?

Well, there is, and that’s why we’re here today.

We’ll be guiding you through the whole crossbow sighting process in the easiest and simplest manner possible. If you’re interested to know, keep reading.

Let’s dive in and explore how to sight in a crossbow like professional archers.

Know Your Lane First

What’s the first step to take 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 matters most when you try sighting in a crossbow.

That’s why having a sound knowledge of the different components of a crossbow, and their functionalities are so important.

There are a couple of things you should know before your sight in your bow.

Sighting in a Crossbow

Sighting in a Crossbow: Things You Should Know Beforehand

1. Type of Scopes Available for crossbows

No matter what kind of crossbow you are using, the scope options are limited. There are 3 types of scopes that are most commonly seen on most crossbows. Let’s meet them:

Red Dot/Holographic Scopes

Red Dot/Holographic Scopes are the most common types of reticles. These scopes are especially effective against small hunting animals on the run.

They don’t usually come with magnification power as they can interfere with your peripheral vision.

Instead, these reticles provide a wider field of vision. These are particularly good at shooting moving targets. The reticles are easy to spot in low light or against high-contract backgrounds (like rain, or snow).

Speed Dial Scope

Also known as variable power scopes, the speed dial scopes allow the shooter to shoot crossbows with different shooting speeds that are saved in its dial.

These scopes use chronograph data to store the optimum shooting speed at different points throughout the dial. You’ll just have to rotate the dial to the point you want and shoot.

Multi-Point Reticle Scope

Commonly known as the drop-compensating reticle scope, a multi-reticle scope features drop-compensating marks, dots, or lines to help you shoot targets at different distances with great precision.

Simply follow the drop-compensating marks, and adjust your aim accordingly. However, it’s important to match your bow’s FPS rating with the scope’s for the best results. The error margin here is ±7FPS.

2. Elevation and Windage Adjustment Keys

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

Elevation and Windage Adjustment Knob

Inspect the sides and you’ll find the windage adjustment knob. Use it to have the arrow point-of-impact adjusted in either the right or left direction.

Look at the top of the scope and you’ll find adjustment knobs for elevation that help 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.

How To Sight In A Crossbow: Step-By-Step Process

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 –

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 them 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 a crossbow in
  • 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 them 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

  • 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

That’s about it, and you’re done! But don’t go elsewhere right away! Read the following cautions.

Sighting in a Crossbow: Pro Tips


  1. You can always make a few more/fewer knob adjustments to suit your hunting type or situation
  2. Don’t lose the protective caps (of the adjustment knobs) after removing them. Keep them safely in your bag
  3. Don’t take the factor ‘shooting tight groups’ lightly as it represents your focus and skills as a potential crossbow shooter
  4. For one dot scope, 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

Sum 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 your crossbow properly is just the gateway to getting a humane kill.


1. What distance should I sight in my crossbow?

Ans. Start the process from 10 yards for safety and once you’re hitting the bull’s eye with confidence, place the target 20 yards away; and then 30 following the same procedure.

2. How long does it take to sight in a crossbow scope?

Ans. You can do it in less than 10 minutes if you know your weapon well and under 30 minutes if you’re a beginner.

3. Do crossbows come sighted in?

Ans. Yes, crossbow scopes are bore-sighted when manufactured and you’ll be able to hit a 6” circle that’s 20 yards away with this setup. But then you’ll have to make your adjustments based on your applications.

About the author

Catherine Weeks

Cathy believes that hunting is not about downing an animal; rather, it’s about enjoying the purity of this challenge and making a connection with nature.

She loves country music, horses, shooting, and hunting; and spends her weekends in the great outdoors with her husband and two kids.

Though Cathy has hunted most of her life, it was not until her partner gave her a bow that she realized she had finally found her passion.

She is always determined to share her missed opportunities, dedication, emotions, and small details that people often forget to mention when they talk about their hunting experiences.

Cathy also works to promote wildlife preservation and protect natural resources. She thinks “patience” is the most important thing that can make a big difference.

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