Before the start of any crossbow hunting season, you will need to sight-in your scope to ensure accuracy when in the field. This is critical to ensure the markings in your scope’s view, are accurate.
There are three different types of crossbow scopes that are the most commonly used for crossbow hunting. They are multi-point reticle, red dot, and variable power scopes. The sight-in process for each of the different types are extremely similar, however, there are just a few variances that occur in the process for the different scopes.
Not only is it a good idea to sight-in your scope before the start of the crossbow hunting season, but you should check the accuracy of your scope between hunts and make adjustments accordingly.
Let us discuss the specifications of the three different type of crossbow scopes, as well as give step by step instructions for sighting in the different scopes.
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What Type of Scope Do You Have?
Before you sight-in your scope, you should determine what type of scope you have, whether it is a variable power scope or not, and gather all information provided by the manufacturer.
Information from the manufacturer will entail the magnification of the scope, most are going to be 4X, and if it is a multi-point reticle scope. Also, find out what FPS the scope is calibrated at.
Before we discuss the step by step instructions for sighting-in your new crossbow scope, we need to discuss the different types of crossbow scopes out there.
Multi-Point Reticle Scope
A multi-reticle scope, also known as a drop-compensating reticle scope, contains dots, marks, or lines that help you shoot at different distances accurately. By using these drop-compensating markings on your multi-point reticle scope, you can shoot your crossbow and not have to compensate for gravity by aiming higher than your target for longer shots.
Simply line up your target with the correct marking for the distance you need. Easy right? Well, that is not everything. The markings on multi-point reticle scopes are designed to shoot at specific distances.
For example, your scope could have a line or marking for the pre-set distances of 20, 30, and 40 yards. If your scope is not a variable power scope, then keep in mind that these pre-set distances are set to a specific crossbow bolt speed. The scope could be dialed in for a crossbow that shoots at 300 FPS or 400 FPS. Make sure you check your crossbow’s rated FPS and match it with a scope that is dialed into that FPS. As long as you are within 7 FPS, plus or minus, you should be fine.
Most crossbows that are sold with a scope should already have this set up correctly for you, but you will want to double-check to be sure before making the purchase.
If, for some reason, your scope is not dialed into the correct FPS of your crossbow, then the pre-set distances that the manufacturer gives you are going to be different.
Do not worry!
Simply, instead of 20, 30, and 40 yards, if your crossbow’s FPS is much higher, it may be the markings will represent 30, 40, and 50 yards. Or if the FPS is lower, then it could be 15, 25, and 35 yards.
You will make these determinations when you zero and sight-in your scope. We will discuss how to sight-in and zero your scope later in this article.
One more thing to note, if you do most of your hunting in the early dawn or at dusk where light is minimal, you can find multi-point reticle scopes that have illuminated markings. Usually, the markings will illuminate green or red and will be bright enough to see in low light situations.
Red Dot Scope
Red dot (or holographic) scopes are not normally magnified at all, and instead, they offer you a wider field of vision. Magnification can limit your peripheral view. With red dot scopes, you can keep both eyes open, see your target, and all of your target’s surroundings. This is great if your target is on the run.
For example, you may be targeting a whitetail deer who is running toward a large patch of trees. With the red dot scope, it would be easier to see that and it would allow you to hold off your shot until the deer passes by the patch of trees.
With a magnified scope, your peripheral may be limited, and you may not see the patch of trees that deer is about to run through, you take your shot, only to have it strike one of the trees.
Red dot scopes are also great for early morning and dusk hunts as well as in rainy or snowy weather. The red dots are usually illuminated allowing you to see them in low light, however, some hunters complain that they are difficult to see if there is a lot of sunlight, or during midday.
Also, if you need fast-shooting accuracy, red dot scopes are perfect for raising your crossbow and quickly centering the markings to pull off a shot within seconds. Good for hunting animals that are on the run or that spook easily.
Speed Dial Scope
Speed dial scopes are also called variable power scopes. You can have variable power scopes that are also multi-point reticle scopes. Or they can be variable scopes that have only a single crosshair or dots.
Variable power scopes just mean you can adjust the scope to accommodate crossbows with different shooting speeds by dialing in the scope.
The first thing you should do is figure out the shooting speed of your crossbow. You can do this by relying on the manufacturer’s information provided with your crossbow, or you can go to a pro shop and shoot your crossbow through a chronograph.
How to Sight-In a Multi-Point Reticle Crossbow Scope
Your multi-reticle crossbow scope should have elevation and windage adjustment knobs but no speed dial. You will be adjusting your windage and elevation knobs at a series of distances.
The windage adjustment knob, located on the side of your scope, allows you to adjust your bolt’s accuracy from left to right.
The elevation adjustment knob, located on the top of your scope, allows you to adjust your bolt’s accuracy up and down.
No matter what type of scope you have, you will need to adjust these knobs as part of the sight-in process.
Now to sighting-in a multi-point reticle crossbow scope.
First Step: Place your target at exactly 20-yards. Using the top marking on your multi-point reticle scope, fire multiple shots and tweak your windage and elevation adjustment knobs accordingly until you consistently hit the bullseye. You should be able to group your crossbow bolts together inside of the bullseye. Once this has happened multiple times, move on to step two.
Second Step: For the second step, you will determine how far you think your maximum distance shot will be based on where you hunt. You can either try to estimate the best you can, or you can go pace out the distance. Walking at a normal stride, start at your deer stand or deer blind and walk to the furthest point you would be able to pull off a shot. One yard is equal to about 1.2 paces. For example, 24 paces equal 20-yards, 36 equals 30, and 48 equals 40-yards.
Once you have determined the maximum distance, go ahead, and move on to step three.
Third Step: Now take your maximum distance, for example, let us say you took 48 paces before you reached the maximum shot distance suited to your hunting area. 48 paces equal 40 yards. So, take your target and move it to 30-yards. Now, take multiple shots using the second marking from the top and adjust your windage and elevation knobs as needed until you are consistently hitting your bullseye once again.
Fourth Step: Move the target now to 40-yards and repeat the entire process, this time using the third marking from the top. Once you are again hitting the bullseye repeatedly, move the target back to 20-yards. At 20-yards, and using the scope’s top marking, you should fire at your target and hit within a few inches of your bullseye. Do not worry if your shot is a few inches above or below the bullseye. In the field, these few inches will not be enough for you to hit the vitals area on your target.
Last Step: Go ahead a put the target back at your maximum distance of 40-yards and shoot using the third marking from the top. Again, it should be within a few inches and be within an animal’s vital zone when in the field. If it is off by a lot, start the entire process over.
Remember, since this is not a variable power scope, you will want to buy a scope that is within 7 FPS of your crossbow’s rated FPS.
How to Sight-In a Red Dot Crossbow Scope
Sighting-in a red dot crossbow scope is a bit easier than a multi-point reticle scope, however, the process is pretty much the same.
First Step: Determine if your scope has three red dots or only one. If there are multiple red dots, then you have a multi-point red dot scope and the red dots below the top dot are marked in 10-yard increments. If you only have one red dot, you can sight-in that dot to any distance you want. You could sight it in for 20, 30, or 75 yards if you desire. If you have multiple red dots, it is highly recommended to sight-in the top red dot at 20 yards.
Second Step: Set your target up at the 20-yards. Take multiple shots using the top marking and adjusting the windage and elevation knobs until you are grouping your bolts together tightly inside of the bulls-eye. Once this is complete, the second and third red dot is automatically sighted-in at 30 and 40-yards, respectively.
If you want to confirm that your second and third dots are accurate at 30 and 40-yards, go ahead and test them out by moving the target to the respective distances and using the appropriate markings.
How to Sight-In a Speed Dial Crossbow Scope
Sighting-in a speed dial crossbow scope is a similar process to sighting-in the red dot and multi-point reticle scope. The main difference is that there is one major step to be completed before you begin to fire your bolts at a target.
That step is determining the speed your crossbow fires bolts in FPS. You can either refer to your crossbow’s handbook and see what the manufacturer has rated your crossbow’s speed at, or you can check it yourself by using a chronograph.
The chronograph will be more accurate; however, the manufacturer’s rating should suffice.
First Step: Adjust your scope’s speed dial to the speed your crossbow shoots the bolts. You want this to be as close as possible, but know, later you might need to adjust the speed dial again, so right now, it does not have to be perfect.
Second Step: Set up a target at 20-yards. Again, fire multiple shots and adjust the windage and elevation knobs until your bolts are grouping inside the bullseye. Once this is complete, move onto step three.
Third Step: Now, move the target to 40-yards and take multiple shots. The bolts should shoot straight in terms of right to left since you sighted-in your crossbow scope at 20-yards. If it is off, it should only be off up or down. If it is off left or right, go back and sight-in at 20-yards.
Last Step: If your shots are shooting high, then adjust the speed dial by increasing the speed on the speed dial. If your shots are low, then decrease the speed on the speed dial. Make very small adjustments and keep test firing. Do not alter the setting of your elevation knob. Use only the speed dial. Do this until you are grouping your shots within the bullseye.