The Archery Trade Association, in 2015, said that out of 23.8 million archers, 62 percent favored compound bows. If you’re among that group, then you may use a peep sight with your compound bow for reliable, accurate shots. You’re new to archery and you want to make the most of your peep sight, but how?
To use a peep sight in archery, choose a sight that’s sized correctly based on the archery activity (hunting vs. casual shooting) and how much natural light you have. Peep sights will lower your margin of error for more accurate shots, even among beginners.
This guide will teach you everything you need to know about peep sights, from where they’re located on your compound bow, the types, how to install one, and how to use the sight. We’ll even share some peep sight maintenance tips and discuss whether you should go with or without a sight. You won’t want to miss it!
What Is a Peep Sight? Where Do You Find It?
Peep sights are also referred to as aperture sights. They’re an optional archery aid designed to help you shoot more precisely and consistently. A peep sight is nothing more than a small ring or circle that comes in various thicknesses. By looking through the ring, the idea is that your eye will focus automatically on the middle of your target. This should make accurate firing easier.
Archers of all experience levels will use peep sights, although–as we discussed in this article–there’s a subset of archers who don’t like these sights. Some archers call them unsportsmanlike and unprofessional. Others think peep sights are only for beginners.
Yet whether archers like them or not, a peep sight’s effectiveness is nondebatable. Three things happen when you look through a peep sight that can improve your archery game.
- Less Parallax Shift
In any field where using sights is common–which includes guns as well as archery–parallax shift can occur. With parallax shift, the reticle fibers or lines in an optical device’s eyepiece can move out of alignment with your target image if you move your head or your eye even slightly. Now the reticle is outside of your optical axis, leading to a floating sensation that can wreck your firing accuracy.
Not so when using a peep sight. That’s due to what’s referred to as parallax suppression. Since the diameter of your pupil is larger than the peep sight, your eye defaults the peep sight as your entrance pupil within your optical system. In layman’s terms, you’ll shoot better than foregoing a peep sight.
- Eye Proximity
You might think that accuracy in archery entails keeping your eyes as unobstructed as possible, which would mean looking through a peep sight from a distance. Yet this causes the very obstruction you’re trying to avoid for several reasons.
The peep sight now becomes a point in which your eye will try to focus, but not as easily as the eye can do so when the peep sight is closer to your face. Your sight radius decreases as well as your field of view. Use the peep sight correctly for the best results.
- Reduced Light Exposure
The third reason that peep sights are highly regarded among some archers is that you can lessen the light exposure your eye sees. How? The act of looking through the smaller aperture increases your field of view, sharpening your foreground and background images and reducing how much light your eye detects.
In the early days of peep sights, many apertures came with tubes. By enwrapping the peep sight in a tube, the sight would rotate as needed when the archer pulled back their bowstring. The tension on the string still allowed the archer to look through the peep sight as they do today, but the process was admittedly more complex.
That’s not the case these days. Tubeless peep sights have become the norm, enough so that some sights are known as ghost rings. These sights are so streamlined that they’re practically invisible.
Not all sights are necessarily as thin as ghost sights though. Others, while still tubeless, are made somewhat thicker. A thick sight offers more precision while a thinner sight allows for faster focusing.
Outside of sight thickness, you can also select from a variety of sizes for your archery peep sight. The smallest peep sights are 1/32 inches. These sights are a favorite of target hunters due to the sight’s stunning precision. If you’re more of a bowhunter, a sight that’s 1/4th inches will suffice.
One point of note is that the smaller the peep sight, the less well it works in any other conditions but bright light.
Okay, where do you find your archery peep sight anyway? The sight is right on your bowstring. Lots of bows are made with peep sights built-in, but if yours isn’t, we’ll talk a little bit later about how to install a peep sight.
Do All Bows Have Peep Sights?
We mentioned in the intro that compound bows were at one time the most popular type of bow in archery, but they’re far from your only option. You can also try recurve bows, crossbows, longbows, flatbows, and cable-backed bows, among others. Do all those bows use peep sights?
Most of the time, no, but we’ll go type by type and talk about which bows use peep sights versus those that don’t. With recurve bows, archers prefer a kisser button over a peep sight. If you need a reminder, a kisser button goes on your bowstring and acts as a reliant anchor point. Establishing anchor points is a good alternative to peep sights, but more on this later.
Crossbows may have peep sights as one of three types of sight systems. Outside of peep sights, your crossbow could come equipped with a scope or a red dot for accurate shots. Longbows are compatible with peep sights, as are flatbows. If you have a cable-backed bow, you can also use peep sights.
How to Install a Peep Sight
Since you weren’t aware of peep sights when buying a bow, you hadn’t realized until now what you were missing. Do you need to drop the bow you’re using and purchase one with a sight or can you add a peep sight to your preexisting bow?
Yes, you can! It’s not the easiest process, but it’s doable. Here are the steps to follow to install a peep sight on your bow.
Step 1: Choose Your Peep Sight
First thing’s first: you can’t install a peep sight if you don’t have a sight handy. We’ll recommend some exemplary peep sights a little later in this guide, so we recommend reading that section, choosing one, and then coming back here when you’re ready.
If you’re debating which peep sight size you should opt for as a beginner, we always say 1/4th inches is a good size to start with. You’ll have less hassle installing a sight of this size too.
Step 2: Stretch the String
Next, you have to prep your bowstring. This step is intended to prevent your peep sight from rotating or twisting when it’s installed and you begin using it. How do you stretch the string, you ask? It’s simple! Just use the bow.
Take at least 20 arrows with you and fire them all. You’re probably wondering, without a peep sight, how will your shots be accurate? Honestly? As a beginner, they may not be. That’s okay. This activity isn’t so much about hitting all your targets, but getting the bowstring in such a shape that it’s ready for peep sight installation.
Step 3: Reduce Poundage
With compound bows especially, reducing your draw weight ahead of installing the peep sight is important. The draw weight refers to how many pounds of force you need to fully draw your bowstring. This is known as poundage.
Since compound bows feature eccentric cams on the limbs that send the poundage to the bow’s cables, when you first go to draw the string, it will feel heavier. The weight reduces as you approach full draw, which is known as let-off.
In competitive settings, a compound bow should be about 60 pounds when the bow is fully drawn, but you may want to reduce its poundage even further. With an Allen wrench, you can toggle the limb bolts, tightening or loosening them by rotating them about three times. Don’t forget to adjust both limb bolts, including the bottom and top ones. Make sure you don’t over-rotate either whether you want the bolts looser or tighter.
Lowering your draw weight is a good idea for installing an archery peep sight, but it does come with a side effect. Once you reduce the draw weight by at least 10 pounds, the speed of your arrows decreases by 15 to 20 frames per second.
Step 4: Separate the Strings with a Bowstring Splitter
Your string is about ready, so now you want to divide its strands with a bowstring splitter. Of all the steps in installing a peep sight, this is the one you most want to take your time with. If you misuse the splitter, you could fray or cut the fibers of your bowstring. You’d have to replace the string and start all over, repeating the first three steps to this point.
Correctly splitting your bowstring will separate the string’s top middle, which is where you want to install the peep sight. Before you do that, take the main strands and divide them so you have an equal number of fibers on either side of your bowstring splitter. Then rotate the splitter about 90 degrees until it forms the shape of a diamond.
Step 5: Attach Your Peep Sight
Ahead of installing your peep sight, look at the string’s D-loop, which is the bowstring cord that’s cinch-knotted into place. As the name tells you, the loop should be in the shape of a D. If it isn’t or if the D-loop doesn’t align with the diamond opening formed by your bowstring splitter, then get the two parts in sync.
Loop your peep sight through the diamond-shaped opening, then rotate the bowstring splitter so the string fibers go through each peep sight groove. If the peep sight is slightly angled, that’s okay. As soon as you pull the bowstring to fire an arrow, the sight will move accordingly.
Here’s a video on YouTube illustrating the whole peep sight installation process if you’re more of a visual learner.
What Are the Best Peep Sights?
As we said we would, let’s talk about some beginner-friendly peep sights you might consider. We have three such picks.
RAD Super Deuce Peep Sight
Radical Archery Designs or RAD’s Super Deuce peep sights are our first suggestion. These angle-mounted aluminum sights have a 1/8th-inch aperture. Designed with a circumference groove that can prevent shifting and peep loss if you dry fire, your archery game will be more accurate. Dual Radius Slotting will significantly reduce sharp points and cutting burrs.
TRUGLO TG76C Centra Peep
If you don’t mind spending a bit more money on peep sights, these TRUGLO sights are a good option. They’re 1/4thinches, tubeless, and made of aluminum. The sights are angled as well, but TRUGLO says they’re made for axle-to-axle bows and other short bows like them.
G5 Outdoors Meta Pro Peep Hunter Sight
Our third pick is the G5 Outdoors Meta Pro Peep Hunter Sights, a smart mid-priced option. All sights are made of 7000 Series aluminum and feature radial string grooves and a coating to make the sights less abrasive.
The interior of these peep sights is convex to increase your field of view no matter which draw length you’re firing at. You can select from colors such as red, purple, pink, green, blue, and black.
Peep Sight Maintenance Tips
Peep sights are generally inexpensive and–once you get the hang of it, anyway–easy to install. Even still, if you don’t want to go through the hassle of reinstalling new peep sights every few months, follow these maintenance tips.
Seat Your Bowstring
If it’s been a while since you’ve fired with your compound bow, it doesn’t hurt to stretch and seat your string. You don’t have to remove the peep sight to do this, but remember, when stretching the bowstring, you’re just focused on making consecutive shots, not so much about accuracy. Loosening the string like this may reduce peep sight twisting.
Watch Your Weather
Sure, a sudden storm that wasn’t on the forecast can’t be helped, but as we discussed in this article, it’s not easy to clean a peep sight when you’re not at home. If your sight gets wet from a drizzle or muddy after a day of playing outside, it won’t do you any good in the accuracy department.
We recommend checking the weather before you plan a day of hunting or shooting. Avoiding inclement weather also helps you make the most of your peep sight, as you’re ensuring optimal visibility.
Another word of caution: even on a clear day, don’t touch your peep sight too much! Between your skin oils and your sweat, you can dirty up the sight.
Keep Your Sight Clean
Okay, so how do you clean a dirty peep sight, anyway? You need lens cleaner fluid and a cotton swab. Dunk the swab into the cleaner and then gently rotate the end of the cotton swab into the peep sight. Repeat on the other side if both sides are dirty.
Do You Have to Use a Peep Sight?
If your compound bow didn’t include a peep sight or you dirtied yours up and can’t rely on it for the rest of the day, are peep sights mandatory? Most certainly not. Competitive archery events may ban the use of peep sights. Some archers want nothing to do with these sights even if they are allowed, as we mentioned.
To skip the peep sight but still shoot accurately, you need to understand anchor points. As your point of reference, you’ll use anchor points to determine how you should position yourself when firing bows. Anchor points need to be within reach, identifiable, and recurring.
Most anchor points when using a compound bow are around your head or face. Thus, make sure your face is in a neutral position (no scrunching your nose or scowling). Avoid chewing gum or speaking to yourself, as these small facial changes will affect your anchor points.
Choose two anchor points when skipping the peep sight. Make sure you rely on your bow sight as well, following the pins to tell you where to focus your eye.
We talked about this in our article about foregoing peep sights, but it’s a good idea to learn how and when to fire with a peep sight and without.
Peep sights can be an archer’s best friend. Through your peep sight, you can increase your shot accuracy, which can feel pretty good if you’re new to archery. We hope this guide sheds more light on peep sights so you can master them and improve your archery game.