Dots Nice?

Compound-scope shooters have quite a few options for apertures: none, crosshairs, fiber optics, stick-on dots, stick-on rings, etc. Which should you use? I have tried all of the above and in various combinations. I always ended up with a stick-on ring in some form. I was never what you might call “steady,” partly because I started archery seriously after my 40th birthday, so I missed those steady days of youth plus I am tall, so my bow and my aiming eye are separated by a longer distance, and I am just not a steady person.

scope with ring

I prefer a thicker ring than this one.

Rings have some large advantages used as apertures. Here are some of them.

Perceived Movement A 1 mm diameter aiming dot moving back and forth 0.5 mm will look jittery in that it is moving half of its entire diameter. A 10 mm ring moving back and forth 0.5 mm will look relatively still in that it is moving only 5% of its diameter. (It is all relative we are told.) Which of these promotes a calm mind, do you think?

Some archers counter this by using a larger dot. These can create the situation, though, that the dot covers up the smallest aiming circle which leads to a tendency to move it out of the way to take a peek behind it to make sure the right thing is there.

Self Centering Your brain has a subroutine hardwired into it. Presented with two circles, you are capable of arranging them to be concentric (having the same center) quite accurately. (This is how we can tell we are looking down a channel. The other end of a pipe, say, forms a circle that is smaller than the nearer end. We are looking straight down the pipe when the two circles are concentric. Obviously this capability evolved before there were pipes but there are reasons enough to establish this capability.) So, ring apertures have the advantage that your brain prefers them to be lined up with the rings of a target faces and so will put it in that position subconsciously (most microcorrections of position are subconscious).

Overaiming Small dots can often be substantially smaller than the target’s center dot (think of a 900 Round at the shortest distance). This leads to uncertainty as to whether the dot is in the exact center of the center ring and this increases focus on getting the dot into the exact center which disrupts rhythm.

The common approach is to get the aperture positioned correctly after anchor position has been achieved and a second or two later, when the residual motions from the large scale effort of drawing the bow have settled down (we become as steady as we are going to be), the release trips. Any encouragement to stay at full draw longer is unlikely to improve the situation and likely to make it worse.

Gunstar Scope Apertures

Ring and a Dot is a fairly common choice.

You can tell I prefer rings. My favorite rings are somewhat thick (thin rings promote finer aiming than I am capable of and are harder to see in difficult lighting conditions). I favor a bright green color which contrasts well with most target faces. By looking through the ring at the spot I wish to hit, my “self-centering program” is free to operate without me spending a lot of time worrying about how jittery my ring is. I have also used such a ring but with fine crosshairs added. I use the ring until I am on a target where fine aiming is desired (birdie/bunnies and 15 yd field targets, for example) and then I use the crosshairs for fine aiming. I can also use them to help with sidehill shots, If the bales or a target hut gives me any kind of level surface, I can use the horizontal crosshair to keep the bow plumb while focussing on aiming (again subconsciously).

All of this said, there is a psychological factor involved. Some archers just prefer dots or fiber optics. (I gave up on fiber optics because how bright the dot at the end of the fiber affected how large the dot appeared and that varied with lighting conditions.) If you think you have such a preference, make sure that you have tried (really tried) some of the other options and you are not confusing one’s normal preference for what one is used to for an actual preference between tested options.


Filed under For All Coaches

2 responses to “Dots Nice?

  1. I found that after I switched to a fluorescent green ring with no dot/crosshairs… My “overaiming” significantly reduced and I started shooting much better outdoor scores (on 122cm).


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