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How to Sight in a Bow Without Shooting It: 5 Steps

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bow sight

Sighting in your bow is one of the most critical steps in the entire shooting process. Even if you do everything else right, if the bow isn’t sighted properly, you’re not going to hit your target.

But while the easiest and most accurate way to sight your bow is while you’re shooting at a target, sometimes you’re looking for a little extra challenge or simply don’t have the luxury of being able to get a few shots off.

The good news is that you can sight your bow in without shooting it, but just know that’s a little more complicated and it’s definitely not as accurate.

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Before You Start

Before you start sighting your bow, read the introductory sections here. They’re going to lay out everything you need to know before you get started – and help you out with a little expectation management.

Gather Supplies

Even though you’re not going to be firing any shots, you still need all the same equipment. In fact, you’ll need all the same equipment and an additional laser sight to get the job done.

Below we’ve made a list of everything you’ll need to sight your bow without shooting an arrow.

  • Bow and sights
  • Laser sight and attachment
  • Target
  • Allen key set to make adjustments


There’s no way around it, sighting your bow without firing is not going to be as accurate as it would be if you were actually shooting arrows. There are tons of reasons for this, but some of the more prominent are bow torque, arrow speed, and arrow drop.

Sighting your bow without firing is a good starting point, but you should know that you’re going to run into problems – especially at longer distances – if you’re relying solely on this method.

That’s why you should always take the time to sight in your bow while shooting when you get the chance – even if you’ve already sighted it in without shooting.

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Sighting Your Bow Without Shooting Guide

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary equipment and set some realistic expectations, it’s time to start sighting your bow. While this process isn’t going to give you a perfectly sighted bow – it’s going to make everything a lot quicker and easier when you can start shooting.

Set-Up Your Bow

When you’re sighting your bow, you need to set everything up like you’ll have it when you actually go out to take your shots. It makes sense because you’re sighting your bow for when you’re going to shoot it – so you need to ensure that everything you set up everything the same way.

That means installing your sights and any other attachments that you plan on using. Furthermore, since you’re going to be sighting your bow without shooting it, you need to install your laser pointing device and corresponding attachment. They sell various devices for this. Just make sure you get a reputable one for consistent results.

Set-Up Your 20-Yard Pin

Depending on the sight you’re using, you’re going to have more than one adjustment to make. Start with the shortest distance pin and set up the target accordingly. If you’re sighting your first pin to 20-yards, place the target 20-yards away and continue with the rest of the steps below.

Make Your Windage/Elevation Adjustments

The next thing you need to do is make your windage and elevation adjustments. Just because you aren’t firing an arrow doesn’t mean that you don’t need to take the time to make the proper pre-shot adjustments.

man aiming with a bow
Image Credit: claus_indesign, Pixabay

If you don’t take the time to do this, you’re going to run into big problems the first time you fire an arrow. Moreover, you won’t be able to make proper windage and elevation adjustments when you go to fire your arrow for real!

Finalize Sight Adjustments

Start by aiming your “shot.” You need to do everything like you would if you were actually firing an arrow. Line up the shot in the sights and take a look.

At this point, you’re going to see a point on the target from your laser pointer device. This is where you need to make your adjustments from. However, keep in mind that this does not account for arrow drop at all.

Light doesn’t drop, but your arrow will. So, if you line up your laser pointer dot right on the bullseye, you’re going to be disappointed when you fire your first shot. Instead of hitting the target dead-on, it’s going to hit low or maybe even fall short!

But determining how much you need to adjust your pointer up to get an accurate sight is a bit difficult. That’s because this can change based on various factors, including the bow you’re using, the type of arrows, and the distance of the target.

You’re going to need to find a calculator online to help you make these adjustments. Otherwise, you’re going to have to do some complicated math problems to figure out how much to adjust your target.

Move On to Your Next Pin and Repeat

You need to sight each pin in, so go ahead and set up the next pin and move the target to the corresponding distance. From there, continue making your adjustments and narrowing down the sights.

Wash, rinse, and repeat for each pin and distance until you’ve sighted in all the pins on your bow’s sights.

close up multi pin bow sight
Image Credit: Germain McDaniel, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

While it’s better to sight your bow while you’re shooting, there is a workaround if you’re in a pinch. Just keep in mind that you should still take the time to sight your bow while shooting when you get the chance.

Moreover, the longer the shot you’re trying to take, the more problems you’re going to run into if you sight your bow without shooting.

Hopefully, this guide gave you everything you need to know to sight your bow without shooting an arrow. While it might not be a perfect process, it might be just what you need to make your next shot!

Featured Image Credit: IspasI, Shutterstock

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.