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Selecting your recurve sight aperture

George Tekmitchov


The right aperture can make a big difference

Sight Apertures for Recurve Archers


By George Tekmitchov

Hoyt Sr. Recurve Engineer / International Staff Manager



Archers seem to love to play around with sight apertures.  They're usually inexpensive, there's a wide variety of them out there, and they can have a big effect on how you shoot the shot.  The reason for this is that the aperture has an influence on how you perceive the target, which can affect your focus and especially, your shot timing.


Apertures for the Olympic bow, like a few other bits of equipment we use, are closely regulated by FITA.  You can't have any magnifying, optical (prism), or electronic elements and the sight itself can only provide for a single aiming reference.  That sounds limiting, but in practice, there are still many different ways to make an aperture that conforms to the rules.


While there are exceptions, we can generally characterize apertures three ways.


1.       The open ring.  The ring aperture is very popular for one important reason:  It works!  The human eye is naturally tuned to line things up by centering them in a ring.  While it seems this allows lots of movement, that's not a bad thing as we will discuss.

2.       The pin.  Technically, the pin isn't really an aperture at all; it is a reticle which is placed either on the target, or on a reference to the target.  Pins come in lots of forms, from glowing plastic fiber optic to matchsticks.

3.       The ring with pin.  This is perhaps the most popular aperture, and serves as a combination of a (usually small) pin centered in a ring.


These all work a little differently.


The open ring

The chief advantage of the open ring is that it allows you to focus on what you want to hit.  This allows a natural aim.  The use of the open ring is still relatively new (in the context of a sport as old as archery, anyhow).  Dick Tone used it to great success in the 1960's and so most of his students in the U.S. use an open ring. 


The principle of a ring sight is that one focuses on the target and allows the ring itself to blur out.  Primary focus is on the target or a point on the target which one wishes to focus upon (as in aiming off in windy conditions).  The principle of allowing the ring to blur is similar to that used with "ghost ring" equipped firearms.


The ultimate “ring” sight may be the German-made AMBO iris-aperture, which is composed of an Anschutz type movable iris aperture in a sturdy mount.  This allows one to have the same "target picture" at all the FITA distances.  Note that while legal for target, this sight aperture is illegal for FITA unmarked field rounds- the adjustable index on the ring allows effective use as a rangefinder.


On the other end of the spectrum, a simple and very effective sight ring is the Full Adjust aperture, made by Lancaster Archery Supply. This aperture comes with a removable pin and is used by a number of top archers in the U.S. 


Another very popular variation on the ring sight is the Beiter Sight Tunnel, which comes with a wide variety of colored apertures and reticles in many shapes and at least two sizes.


The advantage of the ring sight is the natural aiming feel and a resulting quicker shot.  The downside is some people have a problem aiming off in the wind with a ring aperture- the sight keeps wanting to return to the center!


One big advantage of the ring aperture is it makes an excellent gauge for FITA unmarked field, if the correct size is selected.


The pin

Straight pin sights are relatively uncommon among Olympic Bow shooters, but some of the best recurve shooters of the modern era used them to great effect- among them, Hoyt's Darrell Pace, and Karen Scavotto. 


There are at least two ways to use a pin sight.  One is to just put the pin on the gold and fire away.  Some people have no problem with this, but lots of others don't like it as much because the pin obscures their goal, which is to hit that part of the target hiding behind the pin. 


Some people find they get a better result by focusing on the pin itself and letting the target go blurry.  This is similar to the proper sight picture for a pistol in which one focuses hard on the front sight blade and lets the rear sight and the target go blurry.  This method works for some people, but can have mixed results in the wind.  Some people have problems holding the pin comfortably on the gold.  This can often be cured by switching to an open ring.


The second method is to hold the pin on some reference area on the target, such as the top of the blue.  This can be useful in cases where, for example, a shooter is limited in draw weight and can't reach the target with a direct setting.  Sometimes this method is used as a work-around for mentally based shot execution problems or “gold shyness”.  The pin's main advantage is in letting the archer aim off with more confidence in the wind.


The Ring with pin

This sight option is by far the most common at high levels of competition.  It has the advantage of the ring sight, and the hold-off capability of the pin sight, and is a good compromise if the pin isn't too distracting.  Most top coaches say the proper way to use this sight is to focus on the target, letting the pin go blurry.  Some coaches think the archer should focus on the pin and let the target go blurry.  It seems many shooters using this sight do both at times as needed. 


For instance, in good weather, the archer might want to focus on the target through the ring and ignore the blurry pin.  In wind, these shooters might focus on the pin, put it on a reference point on the now blurry target, and shoot.  It's a very individual thing.  Many of the top Korean shooters use this type of aperture, and this type of aperture is normally standard on most sights.


Some of these types of sights use a bright fiber optic component.  In some cases, shooters find this mentally troublesome after some period of use, and end up having to remove the pin entirely.  But for those with the proper focus on execution, generally shooters who have had a few years added to their experience level, this can be an extremely effective aperture.


More sophisticated approaches to mounting the pin are found in the Spigarelli type aperture, in which a dot is mounted on virtually invisible crosshairs in the ring, and the Titan recurve “scope”, a non-magnifying lens with a precisely centered fiber optic element or sticker dot.


Using the aperture

The examples discussed above are just a few of the many varieties of apertures.  There are literally hundreds out there when you consider home-made apertures.  In the effort to try to find one that works well for you, keep in mind that it’s likely to be the one that lets you focus least on the aiming process.


Aiming, execution, and the role of the aperture

The fact is most recurve shooters aim too much.  As my good friend Coach Lee, Kisik puts it, recurve archery is an execution game- too many archers try to aim hard, and lose focus on execution.  The open ring helps address this, by allowing a more relaxed shot for people who have a tendency to over-aim with a pin.


If you find yourself experiencing execution problems, it might be worth your while to change apertures- it may make a big diference!


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