Attention all crossbow shooters! Are you looking to get the best possible accuracy from every shot?
If so, it is imperative you get your scope sighted-in before the start of the hunting season. It is also highly recommended that you sight-in between each shooting session. By doing so, your viewed scope markings will give consistent accuracy with every shot.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the three most common scope types out there and the step-by-step process of how to sight-in a crossbow scope correctly.
So, here’s a description of the three most popular types of crossbow scopes and exactly How to Sight in a Crossbow Scope.
What Type of Scope Have You Got or Are You Looking For?
Crossbow shooters usually plump for one of three types of scopes. Either a red dot, a multi-point reticle scope, or a variable power scope (often called “Speed dial scopes”).
So, let’s explain what each type offers and how to sight them in. The sighting-in process is not that different, but a step-by-step explanation of each will help to make things clear.
Red Dot Scope
Red dot scopes do not come with magnification, but they do give a wider field of vision. This is because when a magnified scope is used, this can limit a shooter’s peripheral view. Those who use a red dot have the ability to keep both eyes open while homing in on a target.
As well as target clarity, you also have the benefit of seeing and being aware of your surroundings. This makes red dot scopes effective for those who hunt targets on the move. It allows shooters to ‘track’ their target and only fire when they have an acceptably clear target sight.
Another benefit comes with rapid target acquisition and fast-reaction shooting. Red dot’s give a 3-step speed process. You quickly raise your bow, center the target in your crosshairs, pull off your shot. With practice, this is completed in no time at all and is ideal for hunting prey that spooks easily.
Sighting-in Your Red Dot Scope
Of the three types of crossbow scopes mentioned, sighting-in a red dot is probably the easiest.
Check out whether your scope has just a single red dot or comes with multiple red dots (usually three red dots). Scopes that come with multiple red dots mean you are using a “Multi-point red dot scope.”
All this means is that the dots below the top red dot are marked in increments of 10-yards. Scopes that have just one red dot can be sighted-in at any distance you choose. For example, 20, 40, 60 yards (or whatever distance you choose). However, it is highly recommended to sight in a 3-red dot scope using the top red dot and to do so at 20 yards.
As the most common sighting-in distance is 20-yards, let’s base our sighting-in on that. Set a target at 20 yards. Then take a group of three or five shots using the scopes top marking. Keep adjusting windage and elevation dials/knobs until you achieve a tight group inside the bullseye.
That is it for a 1 red dot model. As for multiple red dot models (e.g., three red dots), this means that the second and third red dots are automatically sighted-in at 30 and 40 yards, respectively.
Of course, if you want to check the accuracy of your second and third dots, then simply move your target first to 30 yards, fire your group using the second dot, then move the target to 40 yards and do the same using the third red dot. This will confirm accuracy and sighting in at 20, 30, and 40 yards, respectively.
Multi-Point Reticle Scope
These scopes are also called “drop-compensating reticle scopes.” Although manufacturer design varies, you will find they come etched with dots, lines, or marks. These markings are to assist accurate shooting at varying distances.
When aiming at a target, you use these (drop-compensating) markings to shoot at the distances indicated and without having to compensate for gravity. This is highly useful for longer distance shooting.
Be aware that the markings are at given, pre-set distances (usually 20, 30, and 40 yards). If your scope has fixed magnification rather than variable magnification, the pre-set distances shown relate to and have been set for a specific crossbow bolt speed. (Don’t worry, we will get to variable power scopes next!)
For example, 300 FPS or 400 FPS (Feet Per Second) are common speeds. This means you need to check what FPS rating your crossbow has. You then match that with a scope that has been dialed into that FPS. Anything within 6 or 7 FPS either way (plus or minus) should be absolutely fine.
Make sure they match…
Buying a crossbow with a scope combo generally means the scope is already set up in the correct manner. Just double-check this is the case before purchase. Scopes not dialed into the correct FPS of your crossbow will likely have factory pre-set distances that are different.
Although not ideal, this is not a real problem. It just means that a crossbow with a higher FPS will have higher distance markings than shown. For example, instead of showing 20, 30, 40 yards – the markings could represent 30, 40, and 50 yards. Conversely, if your bow FPS is lower than the markings shown, they could represent 15, 25, and 30 yards.
Any such difference will come to light when you zero and sight-in your scope. This will allow you to establish and bear in mind any differences in scope marking distances.
A final comment on multi-point reticles relates to hunters that enjoy low-light (dawn/dusk) shooting sessions. You can purchase this type of scope with illuminated markings (usually red or green), which will show distance markings in poor light.
Sighting-in Your Multi-Point Reticle Scope
The first thing to establish is what FPS your scope is calibrated at. This info should be freely available from the manufacturer, the internet, or your scope’s instruction manual.
Multi-Reticle crossbow scopes generally have windage and elevation adjustment wheels/knobs that allow adjustment at a variety of distances. Most standard models do not have a speed dial feature.
- Windage adjustment: This is usually a knob located on the side of the scope. It allows bolt accuracy adjustment from left to right.
- Elevation adjustment: This is usually a knob located on the top of the scope. It allows bolt accuracy up and down.
- You will need to make adjustments to both windage and elevation as you go through the sighting-in process.
Make sure your target is exactly 20-yards. Use the top marking on your multi-point reticle scope and fire a group of three or five shots. You will need to continue shooting groups while adjusting both windage and elevation knobs. The result you are after is bolts grouped inside the bullseye. Once you have shot several grouped bullseye shots, move on to….
This step is to determine what you feel is your maximum target distance. Either use a measure, estimate this as a “best guess,” or use a normal walking stride and measure out steps. This distance should be from your usual hunting spot to a maximum distance you feel capable of pulling off an accurate shot.
While not set in stone, five normal strides usually equals about six yards, ten strides is about 12 yards, and so on up to 48 steps equaling 40 yards (and onward if you are that confident!)
Let’s take your maximum distance at 40 yards (48 paces). Put a target marker at 40 yards (you will need it later). Retreat 10 yards and place your target at 30 yards. Use the second marking from the top of the reticle and take multiple group shots until you consistently hit the bullseye.
Move your target out to the 40 yard point and use the third marking from the top of the reticle and repeat the above process. As soon as you are consistently hitting the bullseye, move your target right back to 20-yards. Use the top reticle marking, and you should be very close to the bullseye.
Do not worry too much if your shot grouping is an inch or two from dead center. That will be accurate enough to hit the vital area of prey such as deer.
For a final double-check, you should move the target back to your maximum distance. If you are within a few inches of the bullseye, that is sufficient. If not, you should start the process over until you get it right.
Speed Dial Scope
As mentioned, you may hear speed dial scopes being called variable power scopes. It is also possible to buy these scopes in multi-point reticle models or with just a single crosshair/dots.
As the term suggests, speed dial scopes can be adjusted to work with crossbows that come with different shooting speeds. This is achieved by dialing in the scope. If you do not know the shooting speed of your crossbow (in FPS), then check with the manufacturer or on the internet. Alternatively, you could go to a pro crossbow shop and have it put through a chronograph.
Sighting-in Your Speed Dial Scope
This is a very similar process to the two methods mentioned above for red dot and multi-point reticle scopes, with one major step difference. That is making sure you know the speed of your crossbow in FPS.
Once that is established, take the following steps:
Adjust the speed dial on your scope to the speed your crossbow fires bolts. Get this as close as possible, but it does not have to be spot on because you will be adjusting the speed dial shortly.
Set your target at 20-yards, fire three or five group shots while adjusting the windage and elevation knobs. Carry on until you are grouped in the bullseye.
Take your target to 40-yards, and then fire groups. These groups should be straight (right to left), and if off target, this should only be up or down from the bullseye. If groups are not consistent right to left, then you should go back to 20-yards and start again.
This may not be necessary, but… If you are shooting high, increase the speed on your speed dial. If shooting low, decrease the speed on your dial. Just make small adjustments while continuing your test firing. While doing this, it is important not to change your elevation setting, only modify the speed dial. Through slight adjustments, you will get your group shots within the bullseye.
Looking for More Great Advice or a New scope?
Then take a look at our informative guides on How to Mount a Scope?, What Do The Numbers Mean on a Rifle Scope?, How to Lap Scope Rings?, How to Zero a Rifle Scope at 100 Yards?, What is MOA on a Scope?, and our in-depth comparison of Red Dot vs Reflex Sights.
And if you’re old scope is looking a bit tired, then it’s time to get a new one. So how about the Top 10 Best Low-Light Rifle Scope To Consider In 2023 Reviews, the Top 10 Best AR15 Carry Handle Scopes, the Best Low Light Rifle Scope, the Best Air Rifle Scopes, as well as the Best Scout Scopes you can buy in 2023.
The best way to sight in a crossbow scope is quite a straightforward procedure. This is regardless of which style optic you choose. It doesn’t take that long to get accurately sighted in, but it brings excellent rewards on each and every shooting session.
Depending on which kind of crossbow shooting action you enjoy and the type of scope used, real benefits are yours. These include the ability to spot targets outside of your normal range of vision, quicker target acquisition, and target tracking. Above all, though, you will have the accuracy to hit chosen targets time and again.
When all is said and done, a well-mounted, correctly sighted-in crossbow scope really does give you that extra edge!
Happy and safe shooting.