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How To Sight a Crossbow

Sighting your bow is one of the most important steps to take before getting out into the field. You will need your crossbow, scope, roughly 4 bolts and a stationary target to aim at to properly sight your bow.

The term ‘sighting in a crossbow’ simply meant to make sure that the scope and crossbow are lined up accurately so that your arrow hits the bullseye each and every time. Sighting a crossbow can be a tricky business for both novice and for the most experienced of archers. Even with the best scopes it’s important to know how to use your equipment in order to prepare your crossbow to make that lethal shot. Without a proper Crossbow sighting guide or tutorial, you may struggle to get your shots lined up and this is can be frustrating, particularly as your prey will not be waiting around for you to take aim.

​Why Sight?

How to sight in a crossbow can be different depending on the model and the specific adjustment knobs on your scope and you should check the scope’s specs and optics before fitting it to your crossbow. Once you are familiar with your apparatus the process shouldn’t be too complicated and it shouldn’t be necessary to do it each time you go out for a hunt either. Like a tuned in guitar, a crossbow scope is sighted in to the crossbow itself and not to the person who wields the weapon, so when hunting in groups there's no need to make any major adjustments.

What You Will Need

In order to make the process of sighting you crossbow run as smoothly as possible we recommend that you get a few things ready first. This will save you a lot of time later, so no need to set down your crossbow and lose your aim.

  • Firstly you will of course need to have your crossbow and scope to hand. You can check the manufacturer's instructions on how to mount the scope. Actually keeping the manual nearby can be quite useful too. A tripod or something to rest the bow on as you make the adjustments will also be useful. It will save your arms from tiring and prevent rushing and inaccuracies.
  • Crossbow bolts/arrows, you will need these to check that the crossbow is correctly sighted, a minimum of 4 arrows is recommended but times the more arrows you have the more practice you can get.
  • A bullseye or stationary target to aim at.

MOUNTING THE CROSSBOW SCOPE


It may sound obvious but before beginning to sight in the crossbow it is essential that the scope is mounted correctly on the crossbow. One way to do this is to put the crossbow on your shoulder, just as you would if your were about the shoot. When it’s comfortable, you can look through the scope, you should have a clear view without needing to move your head. If there is any blurring or darkness you will need to readjust the position of the scope.

mounted scope on hunting crossbow

Sighting the Crossbow

Where to Go

A good place to do this is at a shooting range as most ranges will have access to some kind of shooting aid or tripod, which will lock the bow in it’s place and prevent any unnecessary movement even as your fire the bolt. It is still possible to sight your weapon without a shooting aid, but it may require a little more time and patience to achieve the same accuracy. There is a basic structure to the process of sighting your crossbow.

Sighting Step-by-Step​

  1. You should first set up your equipment. The crossbow should be mounted on the shooting aid, if you are using one, and stood exactly 20 yards away from the target. If you are not using a shooting aid then make sure that you are standing 20 yards from the target.
  2. Cock you weapon and load an arrow. You can do this using a cocking rope or cranking aid, more modern crossbows may even have a cranking aid built into the butt stock.
  3. Look through your scope and line up the top receptacle with bullseye of your target. When you have the receptacle and target aligned you can release the first arrow. Take care not to use too much force as you do this as it can upset the accuracy of your shot. You can then repeat steps two and three, fiering your remaining arrows.
  4. Now you need to check where your arrows have landed and adjust your scope according to this. Hopefully the arrows have all landed within a two inches of each other, but they may not have actually hit the bullseye. If this is the case you will need to use the scope’s adjustment knobs.
  5. After you’ve made the adjustment you can prep your bow again and fire your arrows at the target, check their grouping and position and adjust again if they are still not hitting the bullseye. Keep repeating until the arrows are landing exactly where they should be.
20 yard distance for calibration
looking through a crossbow scope
check where arrows landed
arrows landed in target

How to Use the Range Reticle and Dots

When sighting your crossbow the idea is to get the top receptacle, also referred to as dots, to be at Zero. While this may sound confusing, it's actually pretty simple. When a crossbow sighting guide refers to having your scope at Zero, it just means the uppermost dot, presuming that you are using a three receptacle scope, should be lined up so that from a 20 yard distance your arrows hit the target.

When the 20 yard receptacle is in place, and you can check that it is by letting loose a few arrows, you should be able to hit your target each time. At this point the subsequent 30, 40, 50 and 60 yard receptacles, or however many your scope has, should be automatically aligned for the respective distances.

3 dot scopes are by far the most popular among hunters. Scopes with only one receptacle can only be sighted for one distance, leaving the hunter at a distinct disadvantage. Meanwhile more than 3 dots can be somewhat excessive, the average crossbow may not have enough power to justify an extra dot that can intercept your sight and cause you to miss the target.

Adjustment Knobs

Your scope will have two knobs which you will need to adjust when sighting your scope, one is for windage and the other for elevation. Before making any adjustments you will need to first fire a few arrows at your target so that you can see where they are landing and estimate the how far from the bullseye they are in inches. Once you know this you can see if the wind and elevation need to be adjusted.

Elevation Adjustment Knob​

If you arrows are hitting too high or too low it is the elevation that you will need to change. The knob will usually be on top of the scope, turing in a clockwise direction will cause the arrow to hit higher whereas turning anti-clockwise will make it land lower on the target.

Windage Adjustment Knob

You will need to adjust this if the arrows are hitting too far left or right of the bullseye. If your arrows have landed too far left then you will need to turn the windage knob clockwise, and you will need to turn anticlockwise if they have landed too much to the right of the bullseye.

A you rotate the knobs you will here the scope click, this corresponds with the fraction of an inch that it has been adjusted. As a general rule 20 clicks will equal 1 inch at a 20 yard distance but you should check the manual for you scope on how to sight in a crossbow before you begin making adjustments.

For Example

If the arrows are landing 1.5 inches too high and 2 inches too the left of your target, you will need turn the Elevation knob anti-clockwise until you have heard 30 clicks and the Windage Knob clockwise for 40 clicks.

Saving Time for Your Hunt - Keep Your Scope Sighted

Once you have learnt how to sight in a crossbow, the next important step it to save yourself some time on your next hunting trips by keeping it sighted. A good scope hold at Zero for a decent length of time, throughout one hunting season at least. In fact they can sometimes hold at zero throughout multiple seasons with only minor adjustments every now and again.

Failure in the equipment can also throw your scope out of calibration but the most frequent case is when the equipment is damaged or dropped. Either way it is good practice to double check that your crossbow is sighted each time go hunting and the more you understand your equipment the easier sighting your crossbow will be.

Final Tips

If you’re a crossbow newcomer, then make sure that you have sufficient skill and technique to be able to shoot multiple arrows in tight groups, within a 3 inch radius, otherwise you will not be able to sight a crossbow. It’s also important not the rush the process. While a veteran crossbow hunter with a suitable shooting aid may be able to sight the weapon in under a quarter of an hour, the majority of people will need around half an hour and maybe longer without a shooting aid. So be patient and read pay attention to your Crossbow sighting guide because the accuracy of your crossbow is essential to your success as a hunter.

About the Author shhf2

Hey y'all, my names Al Parsons and I love to hunt. I created huntingal.com to help everyone out finding the best hunting gear and becoming a better hunter.

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