Choosing scope size for a compound target sight with David Houser and Alex Wifler

Choosing the right scope housing for your compound bow target sight can make a big difference in your competition scores.

What you see when you look through your scope – and what you can’t see – plays a role in how well you aim and how well you focus. And with scope housings varying greatly in size, your field of view can change dramatically from scope to scope.

scope size

Compound scopes come in the following common sizes – 14, 25, 29, 31, 35 and 42mm, or 1.25, 1.375, 1.625, 1.66 and 1.75 inches.

The variations range even wider when you factor in magnifying lenses of different powers. For example, the field of view through a 25mm scope is going to be much different with a 6-power lens than with a 2-power lens.

You can rest assured that professional archers have played with any and all scope-lens combinations in trying to figure out what works best for them. Granted, what works for one pro might not work for you. But hearing their thought process might help you find your winning combination.

So we asked two pros – David Houser and Alex Wifler – what scopes they use for various competitions, and why they picked those sizes. Both archers compete regularly in indoor target, outdoor target and 3-D tournaments.

DH: I use a 29mm Shrewd Essential for indoor and outdoor target archery, and a Shrewd Nomad 42mm for 3-D.

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David Houser

AW: I use a 29mm Shrewd Essential for indoor and outdoor target archery, and a 35mm scope for 3-D.

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Alex Wifler

LAS: What do you want to see when you look through an indoor scope, outdoor scope and 3-D scope?

AW: When I’m looking through my indoor scope, I see just outside the scoring rings on the three-spot target. For outdoor, it’s about the same – just outside the scoring rings. Please note, I shoot a 2mm blue dot outdoor and a 4mm blue dot indoor. (The dot is his aiming spot, and he uses a larger dot at the closer distance, and a smaller one at the farther targets. From his perspective, however, both dots look similar when aiming at the different targets.)

DH: For 3-D, I like to be able to see the entire target in my scope – or most of it at close distances. When we have a 25-yard target first thing in the morning, and it is a very dark target, I want to be able to see a lot of the animal in order to “silhouette shoot” the target. What I mean is to be able to reference off of the animal’s back, front leg, etc., to be able to make the best shot I can. This is where individuals run into issues when shooting a really high power lens, or small housing for 3-D.

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As for indoor, I want the target face to be the majority of my sight picture. This is something that will be different from archer to archer, in figuring out what they like to see in their sight picture.

LAS: What problems do you have when you go larger than the size you like best?

DH: For outdoor events, such as field archery, OPA or Redding – the latter two are 3-D tournaments that require long-range shooting – a larger diameter scope doesn’t allow me to shoot as far because I run into clearance issues with my vanes hitting the scope at the longer distances.

AW: Lining up my peep becomes more difficult, because there is more to line up with a bigger scope.

LAS: What problems do you encounter when you go smaller than the size you like best?

AW: Dark, dark, dark! Especially indoor, when light is compromised anyway.

DH: I am not able to see as much of the target as I would like in certain situations.

LAS: How does lens magnification play a role in your scope housing selection?

DH: Lens magnification doesn’t really play a role in my scope housing selection, mainly because I shoot a 4-power lens for all types of archery.  However, if you are an archer who shoots different power lenses for different types of archery, then I would say that scope housing size would play a factor. Or if you are an archer who wants to see less or more of the target when aiming, you would need to take lens magnification into play when selecting a scope housing, because if you put a four-power in a 28mm scope and a four-power in a 42mm scope, you have a wider field of view with the 42mm, so you will see more of the target/around the target.

AW: Not hugely. I started using a two-power lens, and in the last three years changed to a four-power, and my scope size didn’t change.

LAS:  If someone wanted to have only one scope housing for all target competition, what do you think would be best?

AW: My personal recommendation based off of what I use is a 29mm scope with a 4-power lens, and dot for target and a fiber for 3-D.

DH: I would recommend a Shrewd 42mm housing with the “stepped” sunshade kit. This would allow you to shoot a 42mm scope to be able to have the light gathering capabilities, while the stepped kit allows you to screw a sunshade on the front side of the scope (closest to your eye) to decrease the perceived size of the scope. An archer could simply get separate stepped sunshades that correspond to the type of archery that they will be shooting.

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The 1-step, 2-step and 3-step sunshades in 42mm from Shrewd.

David Houser on stabilizers for indoor archery

On a 40 cm Vegas target face, the X-ring is the size of a penny. The indoor, compound target archer who most consistently hits that tiny ring from 18 meters away, undoubtedly will win the day.

To do that over the course of a 30- or 60-arrow round requires a steady hand. And that’s where bow stabilizers are critical.

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Stabilizers – front and side – allow indoor target archers to hold their compound bows rock steady through the shot process. That’s assuming the stabilizers are set up properly. And that involves choosing the proper bar lengths and then fitting those bars with the right amount of weights.

All of that is an individual task. What works for your favorite archer might not work for you.

David Houser has been winning indoor archery tournaments for years, even though he’s only in his early 20s. In 2017, his name became a household one in the indoor archery world when he finished third in the prestigious Vegas Shoot.

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There’s arguably no other shoot in the world that places such a high emphasis on perfect shooting in one of the most pressure-packed venues on Earth.

Houser was like a statue throughout the tournament, which propelled him past dozens of the world’s best indoor archers.

So we figured we’d pick his brain about choosing stabilizers for indoor archery.

LAS: What is your total stabilizer setup for indoors?

DH: Thirty-inch B-Stinger Premier Plus front bar carrying 6 1/3 oz of weight, and mounted on a 10-degree downward quick disconnect; 12-inch B-Stinger Premier Plus back bar carrying 19 oz.

(David mounts his side rod using the front stabilizer bushing.)

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LAS: Does your setup result in your bow being perfectly balanced in your hand?

DH: My setup results in my bow being relatively balanced in my hand. It slightly leans forward, favoring the left side. I like it to sit this way because it is where it aims the best, and keeps my bow level in my hand when at full draw.

LAS: Why do you use a 10-degree downward offset for your front bar vs. having it straight out the front? And why do you have your side rod angled the way you have it?

DH: I feel that the 10-degree disconnect reacts better to weight and seems to settle down faster when I draw back. Also, using the 10-degree disconnect I can rotate the mount to get the end of the stabilizer to be directly out in front of my riser at full draw.  Sometimes if you have a side rod kicked way out to one side it can cause the bow to torque in your hand. That can result in a straight front stabilizer pointing one way or the other. The 10-degree can be adjusted to counteract this and keep the stabilizer pointing straight at the target.

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10-degree down stabilizer mount.

My side rod is angled the way it is because it aims the best there.  Adjusting the bar angle of your side rod adjusts the aim of the bow.

When you angle the side bar downwards it will make the bow aim, or “point” higher, which helps to correct a low hold if you are experiencing one. The opposite affect is true when angling the side rod upwards

LAS: Front and side rods come in many different lengths. How did you settle on the ones you use?

DH: I decided on the lengths that I use mainly through trial and error. During my testing using different lengths, I found that the length of the stabilizer is very important to what your sight picture will look like.

For example, if you shoot a very long front and back stabilizer, your weights are going to be very far apart which will result in a very slow moving sight picture. With shorter stabilizers, your weights are closer together and your sight picture will be a lot faster.

What I mean by the speed of your sight picture is how fast (or slow) your dot or pin is moving around while aiming at the center of the target, because there will always be some sort of movement – even if it’s faint.

That is why I settled on the 30-inch and 12-inch bar combination. For me, it’s a perfect mix of recovery time and relatively slow pin movement that I really like.

LAS: How did you settle on the amount of weight you put on each bar?

DH: I settled on my weight I put on my bars mainly through extensive trial and error. What I found is a total mass weight that I can comfortably handle. So, for example if I feel like having an overall bow weight of around nine pounds, I will choose the amount of weight to add to my stabilizers to achieve that mass weight at a 1:3 ratio. For every ounce I add to the front, I add three ounces to the back.

Getting a bow to aim well is one of the most important factors to shooting a good score. If you can’t aim the bow in the center, then it’s going to be difficult to hit there consistently.

For instance, I might notice I am getting a low hold, where my pin wants to stay on the bottom side of the dot, and I can’t move it higher. This tells me I either need to add weight to my back stabilizer, or remove weight from my front stabilizer.  The opposite happens if your pin is wanting to float to the high side.

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Front bar weights = 7 ounces.

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Rear bar weight = 20 ounces.

Also, I will add weight if I’m moving left to right on the spot I’m trying to hit.  If I am having that left to right movement, I will usually add one or two ounces to my front bar, which will usually settle the bow. If I do that, I might need to add weight to the back stabilizer to counteract the weight I added to the front.

LAS: Do you find that the pressure of live competition creates any changes that you make to your stabilizer setup over your practice setup?

DH: Absolutely! Everything is easy in the comfort of your home range without any pressure or high stakes. Many things react differently when you get nervous.

For example, in practice I would always run a 1:4 weight ratio on my stabilizers. Under pressure, I tend to see more movement in my sight picture, and in order to slow down that movement, I adjusted my stabilizer weight set up to 1:3. I use my findings from tournaments to make small adjustments to make my bow perform as well as possible under pressure.

LAS: What’s the most common mistake you see new archers make when they choose their indoor target stabilizers?

DH: They either choose lengths too long or too short. I recommend everyone start out with a 30-inch front bar and 12-inch back bar, and then experiment from there.

LAS: What’s the most common mistake you see new archers make when they choose the weights for their stabilizers?

DH: They add weights in the wrong places to increase their mass weight hoping that their bow will aim better. It takes the archer testing different weight combinations to see what will work best for them.  Many times new archers put weight on their bows without knowing how it will react or what it will affect.

I would recommend new archers start with four ounces on the front bar and 12 on the back, and then test and adjust from there.

David Houser: Setting up a 3D bow

Hoyt pro archer David Houser is one of those few compound-bow archers who successfully competes in both the 3D and indoor spot-target games.

Just last year, Houser finished second by a single bonus ring at the 2015 ASA Classic in the Known-50 division just a few months after shooting a perfect, 600 round, and qualifying for the final shoot-off at the 2015 NFAA Indoor Nationals Championships.

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Living in both worlds, Houser has to maintain bow setups for each. And he’ll be the first to tell you there are differences between an indoor spot bow and a 3D bow.

Let’s listen to Houser’s advice on setting up a compound bow for 3D archery.

LAS: What is your 3D setup for 2016?

DH: My current set-up for 3D is as follows:

1. Hoyt Podium X 37 compound bow with No. 2 spiral pro cams; 27.75-inch draw length; 59.5-pounds draw weight; 280 feet per second arrow speed.

2. Axcel Achieve Carbon sight.

3. Shrewd Nomad scope with 3-power lens.

4. Hamskea Hybrid Target Pro arrow rest with a .010 wide launcher blade.

5. Front stabilizer bar is a 30-inch Bee Stinger Premiere Plus with 6 oz. of weight, mounted to point downward 10 degrees;

6. Rear stabilizer bar is a 15-inch Bee Stinger Premiere Plus with 16 oz. of weight.  This bar is mounted on the front mounting hole of my riser behind my front stabilizer with a Bee Stinger side arm bracket.  The bar is sitting nearly straight back with a slight downward slope, and it is relatively tight to my riser.

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7TruBall 3-finger Honey Badger Claw release.

8. Gold Tip X-cutter arrows cut to 25.5 inches, with a 100-grain point, and three, 2-inch, high-profile Vanetec vanes.

(For indoor archery, competitors shoot all of their arrows at one distance, in a controlled environment. In 3D archery, competitors shoot outdoors in all kinds of weather, firing one arrow each at targets placed at a variety of ranges. In some events, those yardages are listed for the archers, in others, it’s up to the archers to guess the distances and shoot accordingly.)

LAS: How is your 3D bow setup different from your indoor setup?

DH: One of the biggest differences is the sight for my indoor setup features a large black sticker on the lens that covers nearly the entire yellow (9-10-X rings).  This allows me just to focus on covering most of the yellow and centering my dot in the middle. Also, my sight picture never changes if my target begins to get shot out, or a hole begins to form. I am covering so much of the yellow, it looks the same all the time.

For my 3D bow I want just the opposite.  I shoot a small, .010 pin with a blue fiber and a light for 3D.  I want to see as much as I can on a 3D target, and be able to aim at small holes in targets, or at other arrows for that matter. So the smaller fiber allows me to do that.

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LAS: Is the draw weight for 3D higher than for indoor?

DH: The draw weight on my 3D bow is usually about 3-4 lbs. heavier than on my indoor bow.  The higher poundage gives me more arrow speed.

(A faster arrow has a flatter trajectory. That reduces how much an arrow drops as it flies down range, which, in turn, gives an archer more of a cushion when shooting at different yardages.

Let’s say an archer shoots at a target that is 32 yards away. A faster arrow can help mask flaws in judging yardage, so the arrow will hit the intended spot, even if the archer guesses that it is 30 yards out.

In 3D archery, there are no highly-visible bull’s-eyes like you’ll find on spot targets. There are scoring rings, but they are the same color as the whole target, which means archers often have to pick a spot on the target to aim at. That can cause aiming pins to slide around more than if there were an easily recognizable bull’s-eye to lock onto.)

I like to have my 3D setup shooting about 280-285 fps., and the higher poundage allows me to obtain the speed I desire with a large diameter, heavy arrow.

The additional poundage also gives me a bit more holding weight at full draw. I like to hold 19-20 lbs. at full draw when shooting outside. If it ever gets windy, the higher holding weight helps me to fight against the wind and aim steadier than if I was holding less weight at full draw.

Also, in 3D archery, you’re only shooting one arrow at a time, where indoors you’re shooting 3-5 arrows at a time. The higher poundage is easier to handle when I’m shooting only one arrow at a time.

LAS: Do you shoot a different bow for indoor and 3D?

3D bow

DH: Yes.  Having a busy schedule of tournaments throughout the year, I like to have multiple bows set up.  That way I don’t have to constantly swap arrows and sights on one bow.  This saves me a lot of time by having one setup for each form of archery, and I can simply pick that bow up and it is ready for the tournament I am going to. All I have to focus on is practicing and not changing things around.

(A peep sight is a circular aiming device that is placed in the middle of the bow string. An archer looks through the peep, and then through the bow sight to take aim. Since the peep is a permanent part of the bowstring, it ensures that the archer looks through the bow sight the same way on every shot.

Generally, the smaller the peep, the more precisely an archer can aim. However, less light can get through a smaller peep as compared to a larger one, and so, in variable light, it might be tough for an archer to see the target through a smaller peep.)

LAS: What size peep do you shoot for 3D and is it different from your indoor peep?

DH: I shoot a larger peep aperture for 3D because I shoot a larger scope.  I shoot a Shrewd Nomad with a 3/32-inch aperture outside, whereas indoors I shoot a Shrewd Mini-Mag with a 1/16-inch aperture.  This mainly is because when I am outside, lighting is not always consistent and when shooting in the early mornings the target lanes can be dark.  So the larger scope and aperture allows more light to get in and I can see better when trying to aim at a 3D animal.

peeps

On top is a 3/32-inch peep; bottom is 1/16-inch.

(Many 3D archers use magnified lenses in conjunction with their sight pins, or they’ll put a small, dot sticker or piece of optical fiber in the center of the lens for aiming. The magnifying lenses allow the archers to see targets better, and to find the scoring rings, which often blend in with the targets.)

LAS: What power scope do you use for 3D?

DH: For 3D I am using a 3x lens and occasionally I will shoot a 4x lens but never any higher power than that.  I like the lower powers because with them I do not see as much movement in my sight picture as I would with a higher power lens, also with the lower powers I do not need to shoot a clarifier. I prefer not to use a clarifier because there are factors that can affect how well you can see though it, such as if it becomes fogged up or it begins to rain.  With just a smaller aperture, I can see very clearly with the lower powers.

(The purpose of the stabilizer setup in 3D archery is to reduce the bow’s ability to torque side to side, and to allow to archer to “quiet” the sight as it comes on target. That is, the archer wants the aiming device to lock on an aiming point, and sit there as steady as possible through the shot process.

Stabilizers add weight out in front of and behind the bow to help achieve this end. Also, the angle of the stabilizer rods can be changed to help an archer find the best way to balance the bow for his or her shooting style.)

LAS: Do you do anything unique with your stabilizer weights for 3D, as compared to indoors? Do you change the angle of your side rod or alter the amount of weight front or back? If so, why?

DH: I do not do anything unique with my stabilizers for 3D.  On my Podium X’s I have found what works best for me as far as stabilizer position, lengths, and weight combinations. This combination is what I have on my bows regardless of the style of archery because it is what I have found to make me the most confident when aiming.

LAS: Do you use anything on your bow to reduce sun glare? If so, what?

DH: Yes, on my Shrewd Nomad scope housing you will find a large sunshade on the front and back side of my housing.  This prevents unwanted light from entering my scope and causing a glare.

LAS: How do you compensate for moving from dark shadows to bright sunlight during a single shoot?

3D shadow

DH: I compensate for this by practicing in these conditions before the shoot to make sure that I will hit in the same spot regardless of dark shadows or bright light during a shoot.  I also always make sure to have my sunshades on my scope for this reason.

If during a tournament I find that the bright sunlight is affecting me while trying to aim, I will ask one of my fellow archers to hold an umbrella to help block to sun.