Tough Bow Sights
As I stepped through the thick, yellow meadow grass near the truck, shedding the daypack and ridding myself of the bow in my hand was a welcome thought. The morning’s hunt had been neither particularly hard, nor rewarding, though early on I had passed a chance to stick an "OK" buck. But now I was feeling the effects of the steep hills and simply wanted to sit down while I waited for my partner to return. As I had commonly done over the past 41 years of bowhunting, I dropped my bow to the lush carpet beside the vehicle. "TICK." I heard a slight noise as the Orion contacted the ground. My first thought was there had been gravel under the grass. Heck! First scratch on the new bow! Picking up the weapon, I was surprised when the front half of the sight fell off!

The bow had only dropped about 14" to the grass, and its sight had barely made contact with the ground. Yet that small impact had exploded the dovetail joint in the polycarbonate mounting bracket. Standing there, 60 miles from the nearest town, I held the remnants of the "plastic" bow sight in my hand, and wondered how I had been talked into this predicament. After almost three dozen large game kills with a bare bow, I had allowed my hunting buddies to convince me to try shooting with a sight. They had re-tuned my bow to handle this new addition. Now, one minor impact had effectively left me with a dysfunctional weapon. It had become sickeningly apparent how quickly this equipment choice could be destroyed. This had happened in a park-like setting, and I only imagined how rapidly it could happen in the rain-slick deadfalls of a black timber-north slope. In this case I was lucky enough not to have been dropped off in the wilderness by an outfitter where I would have been totally helpless. I simply made the long drive to town and refitted my bow. I also firmly resolved to investigate the marketplace to see if there were any sights capable of taking abuse in "real" hunting situations.

Upon contacting numerous bow sight manufacturers and pressing them to "show me your sights which can take a beating," I started receiving packages. Not all of the sight builders were confident enough to have their products go "toe to toe" in this test. And not all of the sights were able to stand up to the brutality of the testing routine. Enough, fortunately, held up adequately to allow me to report to archers as to their durability and an excellent chance for "piece of mind" when purchasing them for the hunt.

Blunt force trauma had initiated my investigation. However, there were issues of vibration and damage by entanglement, which needed to be considered also. In the real world of archery, the rugged country hunter needs equipment which can stand up to the rigors of trashy blow-downs, clawing brush, unstable rocky slopes, and every other unintentional abuse that was far beyond the simple drop to the ground my first sight had suffered. The test sights underwent the full ordeal!

Riser attachments are all fairly basic. Two screws tightened to the riser and the main frame becomes part of the bow. The two different models of main frames on the market are the permanent mount, and the dovetail quick-release. The quick-release allows the detachment of the pin bracket from the bow by a simple turn of a tension knob. All of the frames on the "winners" performed flawlessly. They stayed in place — no problems there!

In the '"knee-bone connected to the leg-bone" world of bow sights, the vertical and horizontal adjustment members, and the pin bracket were next to be reviewed. All sights that survived this segment of the test were manufactured of one metal alloy or another. Exclusive of pins and pin guards, no "plastic-based" sight passed this phase! The efforts of manufacturers to find "dead-leaf-weight" material to construct sights with, failed against minor abuse. Although the weight of the metal frames ranged from featherweight to substantial, considering this, I wonder at the reasoning of skimping on structural material in a sight, and then adding a half-pound stabilizer to the mass weight of a bow!

Pin guards, or "fences," were constructed of both polycarbonate and minor-weight metal. Metal guards added slightly more weight, yet were more structurally significant. In a crushing fall, you could expect the plastic pin guard, especially those mounted with a single screw, to fracture or pull away. However in all of the models which passed my tests, the polycarbonate mass was substantial and did its job well.

Sight pins were either fiber-optic or bronze. The light-grabbing fibers were mounted in both metal and plastic stems. These fibers either traveled within the stem, were tightly attached to the backside of the pin, or were affixed with protruding loops of various gap. Though the larger loop fiber optics could be broken or torn away when caught by brush protruding into the pin frame, the test winners all provided guards of sufficient width to avoid breakage except by violent intrusion. In most cases, bending and breakage was not a problem unless the pin guard broke. Almost all of the pins could be interchanged among the different manufacturers' sight frames. Picky archers could combine personal preferences if that was the game. But, in the end, pins are a subjective choice. The test survivors all came with strong sight frames. You simply have to choose which one you like best.

The survivors of the testing are listed here by style and will not be ranked one over the other. These are all tough bow sights. The choice of which one you will use is personal. No pick here will be a wrong choice.

Two Micro-adjust sights get the checkered flag. The added hardware forces the pin bracket farther out from the front of the riser. The extra distance naturally places these sights more into harm’s way. Yet, these sights finished well.

Hoyt’s MicroElite adjustable sight was sent out with brass pins having extremely fine ball-points. They held up well even though the pin guard was a smallish plastic fence secured by single screws. A slightly wider pin guard would have been nice. Fiber-optic pins are also available on this sight. The Camo frame was a quick-release dovetail, which secured well, and removes easily for travel.

X-Ring Archery sent out a prototype adjustable sight which is scheduled for release this season. The Grizzly Hunter Micro Adjust sight is built much like its name. It is, in fact, a "heavy" sight. But the prototype allows for milling away of unnecessary areas prior to final production. The huge sight window, protected by a formidable guard, allowed enough space for 8 or more pins. For those hunters shooting slower bows or hunting the western country where more pins are desired, it has the largest sight window of this group. The pins are a metal step-down taper, with small diameter fiber-optic that is tight to the pin body and shows well in low light. The black frame is quick release. With a little weight reduction, the final model should be well received.

X-Ring’s new EZ Off Hunter dovetail quick release is a second generation to their bracket mounted Hunter sight. Both of these lightweight sights have the smallest pin window for those hunters who want only three or four pins. An extra-wide clear "plastic" pin guard protected the brass, step-down tapered, fiber-optic pins. The loop on these pins was small, but did provide a place for limbs to grab on to.

PSE’s RS Tri-Glo black-finished sight is also a quick release with a huge dovetail that provides great surface area stability. The sight window is very large. The Tri-Glo pins are plastic with very large fiber loops. The pin guard does not fully contain the fiber loop, so breakage is a problem. The pins are offered in two diameters for short- and long-distance shooting, and are very bright. But a little sacrifice in brightness would be acceptable if the loop was shortened for more durability. The archer can modify this large loop by using a little heat and some skill. But, this should have been done by the manufacturer. Other than the pin’s Achilles heel, this is a tough sight.

Cobra’s Ascent bow sight is a lightweight dandy. This model has their Posi-Stop Quick Detach feature, which allows the removal of the pin bracket for travel. It was sent in camouflage finish. The quick taper metal pins held the bright optic fiber close and proved thin can be tough. The angle stack of the pins allowed for full coverage by one of the smallest guards. This sight set more compactly to the bow than any other sight, making it less likely to suffer impact.

Montana Black Gold’s Hunter #7 was the lightest weight sight of the group. The #7 has a permanent attach bracket. By relieving excess metal from the bracket, Montana Black Gold was able to provide a tough, featherweight sight with a large pin area. Sent out with their Black Fin‘ fiberoptic pins, it provided one of the brightest displays. The optic fiber is attached tightly to the pin back, which allowed for tremendous durability. The black-finished sight has a "smoke-colored" pin guard that allows the hunter to pick up the pins with less distraction.

Timber-Glow’s Model 640 is also a fixed attachment set-up. The black- finished sight came with a super-tough pin guard cut from an extruded, modified-C channel. And it was tough! Excess material has been thoughtfully machined away to allow for less weight with larger material dimensions. The small optic fiber is shielded within the 1/16" diameter stainless steel tube pin. Light collection is facilitated by extended sections of each optic fiber within a plastic manifold. The optic fiber extends outside the pin tube, toward the shooter’s side. The guard does not completely cover this side of the pin, and the fiber can be broken off. But due to the projection toward the hunter, breakage opportunity should be minimal. Timber-Glow’s optic fiber is manufactured with intent to provide less distracting "excess" glow. And this it does. However, the bright steel finish of the pins competed heavily for the eye’s attention. A simple wipe of a black permanent marker solved the problem. But, once again, the manufacturer should have thought of this.

In the end, any of the minor distractions with individual sights would not change the fact that each one had proven its durability and worth. Personal preference will be the only deciding factor separating any of these sights from the rest when it comes time to put your money on the counter. You can be assured that when you choose one for these bow sights, you will have purchased one that will last, and is worth the cost.

Now that I have found sights that won’t let me down under the worst of conditions, my only problem is which one I will put on my bow! Decisions, Decisions!!

THINK A GOOD THOUGHT! Frank Medicine Wolf Springer

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