We discuss the merits and drawbacks of vertical vs horizontal pin bow sights when using multi-pin sights and, ultimately, whether it matters.

As far as this particular discussion goes, when we’re talking about the comparison between vertical and horizontal pin sights we are talking about multi-pin bow sights.

The usual time we see (and largely accept) vertical pins is in our single pin sights.

But when it comes to multi-pin bow sights for hunting and 3D archery it has been more traditional to see horizontal pins in the sight window.

This changed when Trophy Ridge patented its Vertical In-Line Bow Sight which is specifically for two or more vertically aligned pins.

Trophy Ridge Matrix

Since the introduction of these sights the questions (and debates) have raged over which one is a better sight.

So we will go through the merits and drawbacks of each type of bow sight and explain why some people prefer the vertical pin bow sight while others like the horizontal pins.

If you’re new to 3D shooting or bow hunting and have heard about both vertical and horizontal pin sights and were wondering which you should use, this breakdown of the reported pros and cons of each might prove useful.

The Case for Horizontal Pins

Being able to see where you want to hit when you are shooting the pin gap.

The layout of horizontal pins means there is a definite gap between the pins that suits those accomplished at shooting in-between distances.

Known as shooting the gap, compensating for the times when the target is not exactly at a distance that matches one of the pre-set pins you can make a fine adjustment to a point between two pins.

You get a better vertical reference

Horizontal pins don’t only give you a reference for the spot on the target you want to hit.

They also provide you with a good frame of reference as to how high or low you’re aiming.

Can see the target more clearly

Some people believe that horizontal pins allow them to pinpoint the target more easily.

This is notably the case for hunters who expect to find the dot in the center of the window while also seeing the majority of the deer they're targeting.

Can use each pin for 3 exact distances

When using evenly spaced horizontal pins it is possible to use each pin to get 3 exact yardages.

You do this by taking note of where the top and the bottom edge of the pin lands on the target.

This effectively turns a 3 pin bow sight into a 9 pin sight in terms of the distances you should be able to set yourself for.

The Case Against Horizontal Pins

Pins Clutter Up The Sight Window

This is a complaint made by hunters, particularly those who have used bow sights with more than 3 pins.

Some sight users feel that bow sights with more than 3 pins become overly crowded looking, particularly with multiple pins potentially obscuring the majority of the target.

The fact is that no matter how many pins a sight has and no matter whether they’re set horizontally or vertically, there is going to be some level of clutter in the window.

It just depends on what point the critical limit is reached which will determine when you decide the clutter has become distracting.

The Case For Vertical Pins

Vertical Pins Are Cleaner Looking

Some hunters like the large, clear sight window when they’re aiming at a target. The vertically stacked pins reduces the noise in the window by putting all the pins in a single line in the window.

This clean appearance tends to clear the mind and the eye of the shooter and provides a better shooting experience.

Helps With Practicing At Longer Distances

Some hunters have found that using stacked vertical pin sights gives them an improved experience when shooting over longer distances.

This comes down to the vertical line created by the pins which can extend to just above the longest pin in the window.

Practicing taking longer shots while using the vertical pin set-up will, no doubt, improve the confidence when out in the field.

Quicker Target Acquisition

Just as with vertical single pin bow sights, hunters who use vertical multi-pin sights have found they get faster target acquisition.

This stands to reason when there is only the one line of pins to focus on. And if you put the top pin on the target the process is going to be faster than acquiring the target with a horizontal pin sight.

The Case Against Vertical Pins

You Cannot Hold Slightly Over Or Under A Spot

When looking at the vertical pins you see a black line with a number of bright dots spaced along them. In other words, there is no gap where you can see the target in between.

This makes it extremely difficult to shoot the gap when the target is not at the exact distance you have the pins set for. Although it is still possible to shoot the gap the pins obscure the target and you can’t actually see the point you’re aiming at.

Hunters who are used to shooting that gap and have become adept at determining distance based on those gaps find the vertical pin set-up to be very restrictive in this aspect.

When using the middle pins you lose the height and effectively can’t see what you’re shooting

Hard to see the bottom pins in low light situations

Particularly when using a 5-pin vertical pin sight the bottom couple of pins can be hard to see in low light conditions.

Hunters have found that in low light conditions it appears there is only one pin in the sight window and the other pins become lost.

The Case For…Just Focus On Your Target!

Experienced hunters have explained that they have moved beyond the clutter issue in the sight window.

Their focus is on the spot that they want to hit. The periphery stuff becomes irrelevant.

Once they have trained the brain to exclude everything else around them apart from the single spot they are targeting, whether the pins are presented on horizontal or vertical slivers of metal is irrelevant and unimportant.

The key becomes the repetition of performing the important movements well and disregard the rest.

Good shooting habits will outweigh what’s going on in the other 99% of the sight window.

The Trophy Ridge “Vertical In-Line Bow Sight” Patent

Here is a summary of the patent:

A bow sight having a support structure, and two or more vertically aligned vertical pins connected to the support structure is provided. At least two of the vertical pins include a sight point.

In accordance with another aspect of the invention, a bow sight having a support structure connected to two or more sight points is provided. The two or more sight points are rotationally adjustable such that they can be rotated into vertical alignment.

In accordance with another aspect of the invention, a bow sight having a support structure, a sight point connected to the support structure, and a dampener is provided.

The patent expired on June 30, 2020.

To read the entire patent detail, visit the relevant page here.


Considering there is a growing acceptance of vertical single pin sights among hunters it is not surprising that many prefer vertical multi-pins too.

The range of sights available is much larger in a horizontal configuration and this might sway a lot of newcomers to the sport.

The idea would be to pick up 2 lower priced 3-pin bow sights, one with horizontal pins and the other with vertical.

Try them out. Shoot as many arrows on the practice range as you possibly can.

Once you’ve made the determination that you:

a). Like the feel of shooting this type of sight, or

b). Feel the view is too obscured

...you will then be in a position to decide whether you should move from horizontal to vertical, or vice-versa.

The thumbs-up have been given for both types of sight and will ultimately come down to personal preference.


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