There have been countless innovations in the sport of archery since bows were invented. In this article, we will discuss one of the smallest but most important innovations used to help archers hit the target every time.
A peep sight is a small, hollow circle installed in the string of a bow. The archer uses it in tandem with a bow sight to narrow their field of vision and take proper aim at their target. It is similar to a peep sight on a rifle or other firearm.
There is some debate in the archery community over whether these little gadgets are helpful or even sportsmanlike, but regardless, their popularity warrants discussion.
How Do Peep Sights Work?
Those who have shot a gun before will likely be familiar with the concept of a peep sight.
On a gun, there is usually a small, metal points of reference called iron sights that the shooter must line up over the target to aim properly.
In archery, you will most often see peep sights on compound bows, and the concept is very similar to that of a gun.
The archer looks through the circular peep sight, which is attached to the string, through to the bow sight, which is attached to the frame of the bow.
The bow sight will have a pin or several pins that the archer will line up with the target.
Alternatively, the archer may line up the form of the peep sight with the entire form of the bow sight, or the bow sight “housing,” rather than the pins inside of it.
To use this second method, however, you will have to be sure that the size of the bow sight and the size of the peep sight are compatible to line up correctly.
The idea is to ensure that your line of sight is accurate. Your naked eyes alone are often not reliable enough to be sure that your aim is true, so the sights are there to correct any tricks your eyes may be playing on you.
The Kinds of Peep Sights
There are multiple kinds of peep sights for different forms of archery and archer’s preferences.
Peep Sight Sizes
Peep sights are measured by their internal diameter and can range from about 1/32″ to 1/4″.
To some, that may seem like splitting hairs, but although all the sizes are relatively small, compared to each other, the spectrum is large.
Target archers generally prefer peeps on the smaller end of the spectrum because they are more precise and because the archers generally know the exact size of the target they are aiming at.
Bowhunters, on the other hand, are most often seen using the larger peep sights the market has to offer.
This is because, unlike target archers, bowhunters can’t be as sure about the size of their target. That will depend on whatever unfortunate animal wanders into their path.
The smaller peep sizes have also been known to hinder archers’ ability to see in lower lights, which they may encounter being outdoors later in the afternoon or under tree cover.
Additionally, small peep sizes are not recommended for bowhunters because they limit the field of vision too drastically, a dilemma that could cost you the killing shot in certain situations.
Of course, the peep size chosen by a bowhunter will also depend on the size of their bow sight, but the most common sizes used by hunters are around 3/16″ and 1/4″.
Some specialized peep sights have appeared on the market that are adjustable, including inserts that allow the archer to alter the peep sight’s diameter at will.
These sights aren’t enormously popular; however, they are useful for the archer who likes to both hunt and shoot targets or who is simply very particular about their peep sight in different situations.
Tubed and Tubeless
Some newer archers may not even be aware that there were ever tubes involved in the design of a peep sight, but there were.
Back when it was more difficult to manufacture a solid bow, peep sight manufacturers added a special tubing to the sight so that it would rotate to the correct position whenever the string was pulled back.
Essentially, the tube was adding a certain tension that would pull on the peep as well as the string, bringing it to a balanced stop where the archer could easily look through it.
Now that bow manufacturers have figured out how to make a more stable bow string that doesn’t rotate as much, peep sights have lost their tubing and are able to rest in the center of the string.
The consistency of the draw on most compound bows now means that the peep sight will most likely come to the proper position every time the string is pulled back without assistance, though they may begin to spin as the string wears out.
Number of Slots
Another small but differentiating aspect of some peep sights is the number of slots used to attach it to the string.
The slots are used to install the peep into your bowstring, and though there are models made with three slots, most archers prefer the simpler two-slot design.
Choosing a Peep Sight
Before choosing a peep sight for yourself, it would be wise to test a number of sizes on friends’ bows to determine what you are most comfortable with.
Of course, if you’re picking one up to use on your hunting bow, you’re likely going to want to go with a larger size, but the exact diameter will depend on the kind of game you’re hunting.
Larger game like whitetail deer, elk, bears, and so on will be best paired with a larger peep sight to ensure that your field of vision isn’t narrowed so much that you can’t make sense of what you’re aiming at.
For smaller game like birds, foxes, and the like, a smaller peep may be advisable so that you can really focus onto the animal and block out any distractions from your surroundings.
Smaller peep sights also greatly improve your depth of field, allowing you to focus on the target and your bow sight’s pin at the same time.
Always keep in mind, however, that a smaller peep sight will not work well in lower lights, so be sure to consider the area you’ll be hunting in and the time of day before you go because it is not easy to remove and install a peep sight on the go.
If you have a new compound bow, you’re likely to be just fine using a tubeless peep sight, but you may want to consider purchasing a tubed peep sight if you’re working with an older bow or a worn-out string.
Lastly, a peep sight with three or more slots might improve stability, but if you’re new to archery, a two-slot peep sight will be easier to install yourself.
The Pros and Cons of Using a Peep Sight
The choice to use a peep sight may seem like a no-brainer, but there are those who choose not to supplement their aim with a peep sight.
The complaints about peep sights mostly come from bowhunters.
The first and most common complaint is one that we have already discussed: the tendency to hinder aim in low-light situations.
On a more psychological level, some hunters argue that peep sights are an unnecessary crutch that archers find themselves unable to hunt without.
They argue that dependence on the device ruins the experience of hunting without a peep sight and that it is an irreversible addition to the bow.
Many hunters ignore these warnings, however, and continue to use their peep sights because the increased accuracy is too good to pass up.
The physical addition of the peep sight to the string, legend has it, improves archers’ ability to use the same anchor points every time they pull back the string.
Anchor points are the points of contact between the archer and different parts of the bow, typically the string.
Common anchor points are release-hand contact, nose to string contact, and string to mouth contact.
This means that the archer chooses a specific spot on their face for their release hand (the one holding the string) to touch, or a specific point on their nose or mouth for the string to touch before they release.
It is essential that these anchor points be exactly the same every time for the archer’s shots to be consistently accurate.
Most archers who use a peep sight incorporate the device into their anchor point ritual, keeping their form absolutely consistent for every shot.
If you aren’t worried about low-light hinderance or becoming dependent on the peep sight to assist your aim, the pros clearly outweight the cons.
A peep sight may be just what you need to increase your accuracy and enjoy the sport of archery more overall.