The case of a staggered red dot on your hunting crossbow

Brian Miller19.05.22

Offset red dot optics have been used in tactical and competition firearms for years. I successfully used a red dot offset on my Open Class 3-Gun rifle. The staggered red dot was a real asset in the fast and close stages. What most people don’t realize is that an offset red dot can be just as useful on a crossbow.

Last year, during the last week of the Pennsylvania archery season, we received a snowstorm that dropped about 6″ of fluffy snow on our farm. Hunting whitetail deer in these conditions is one of my favorite types of hunting. I was in the woods at daybreak, the conditions were perfect. The snow was silent to hunt on the lookout. Deer were lying in every thicket I encountered. They were in no rush to get out of bed this morning.

I was working on the bottom of a heavily wooded creek while watching the deer dash slightly forward. The plan was to move quietly along the creek and use a small creek channel to get closer to firing range. Along the bottom of the creek there are a few pockets of thick brush. As I approached a brushy area, a beautiful deer came trotting towards me. She stopped and looked around as she partially pushed me. The deer was 15 meters away. I had already relieved my trusty Killer Instinct X-1 and disabled the safety. I had my scope set to 6x, and I had a scope full of deer hair. In what felt like an eternity, I found the shoulder and landed a good shot. My G5 Mega Meat broadhead put down the doe quickly and humanely.

Enter the shifted red dot

As I was gutting the deer, I started thinking about my staggered red dot on my 3-Gun rifle. If I had an offset red dot on my crossbow, the shot would have been more comfortable. The next day I took the opportunity to remove the offset mount from my 3-barrel shotgun and zeroed it on the Killer Instinct X-1.

red dot offset
Josh Froelich Using offset dots on his JP 9mm PCC. Josh brought the shifting focus to the spotlight for the USPSA pistol caliber rifle division. Photo courtesy of Josh Froelich.

Doing a quick calculation in my favorite ballistics program, a ten yard zero on the point would cause the arrow to return to the target at 40 yards. In hunting situations, the 10 yard zero would be optimal. A few times a year, the 3D Archer will encounter targets on a 3-5 meter course. It never fails, there will be shooters complaining that shots like this are too easy and don’t belong in the competition. Then – inevitably – they proceed with a score of 8 or 5 because they never practice really close shots.

When I’m in competition, my offset red dot will be set to zero at 5 meters. At 10 meters, on a stationary 3D target, it is not difficult to see your aiming points on the target. The target surface can get really blurry in a scope (even with parallax set at 20 meters on a target at 5 meters and up). I don’t think 5 yards zero is practical for hunting.

red dot offset
Arrow impact points from an offset point set to zero at 5 meters. On the left mile, the arrow in the mile is 5 meters. The arrow over the target was fired 10 yards. The right arrow was shot at 3 meters. it’s right under the aiming point.

Shooter Safety Considerations

Most rifle shooters prefer a red dot mounted on the strong side of the gun. I set up the point like this at the start. I immediately encountered a problem. The member would hit my support arm if I wasn’t careful. I didn’t want to have to think about the position of my arms during an adrenaline-fueled hunting encounter. I removed the red dot and switched sides by moving my red dot and offset mount to the support side of the crossbow. As you can see in the photo below, this problem was solved by moving the optics to the side of the support arm. It was awkward at first to roll the gun on the opposite side of what I practiced with on my 3-barrel shotgun. I’ve improved the setup enough now that using the bow in this way is second nature.

red dot offset
The offset point moved to the side of the supporting hand, there is no chance of touching the supporting arm with the limb.

The disadvantages of an offset red dot

The offset media I use in the item images has a small defect. The mount is not parallel to the bore of my Killer Instinct X-1. If the optics are zeroed at 5 meters, the arrow hits a little to the right at 10 meters and a little to the left at 3 meters. With today’s expandable hunting heads, this small difference in point of impact would be of little consequence. In 3D archery competitions, it drives me crazy. I will be working on a perfect mount for my Killer Instinct X-1.

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Brian Miller

Brian Miller is currently a writer for AllOutdoor who has chosen not to write a short biography at this time.