Bullseye archery

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

These arrows score as an inner 10, and a 9

These arrows score as an inner 10, and a 9

Archery is the practice of using a bow to shoot arrows. Archery has historically been used in hunting and combat, and has become a precision sport. One term for an archer is a toxopholite, which derives from Ancient Greek.


The earliest concrete evidence of archery is 50 tya [1]. The bow probably originated for use in hunting, and was then adopted as a tool of warfare. Bows eventually replaced the atlatl as the predominant means for launching projectiles. Archery was practiced in antiquity on every continent except Australia, demonstrating that it is both basic and versatile.

Medieval European archery

An English longbowman.
An English longbowman.

During the Middle Ages, archery in warfare was not as prevalent and dominant in Western Europe as popular myth dictates. Archers were quite often the lowest paid soldiers in an army or conscripted from the peasantry. This was due to the cheap nature of the bow and arrow as compared to the expense needed to equip a professional man-at-arms with good armour and a sword. The bow was seldom used to decide battles and viewed as a "lower class weapon" or a toy by the nobility. This disdain was countered by the Vikings, whose widespread use of archery gave them success in their numerous raiding expeditions all over the Western European seaboard (and even well into the Mediterranean) in the 9th and 10th centuries.

By the time of the Hundred Years' War, the English had learned how to employ massed archery (as opposed to dispersed skirmishing) as an instrument of tactical dominance with their English longbows. Archers were drawn from the freeholding farmers known as yeomen, and trained rigorously from childhood. Every boy was given a bow of his own height and was required to train with it. Tournaments were sponsored to encourage proficiency.

In combat, they would often shoot two arrows, one on a high trajectory, and one on a low trajectory. These two arrows would hit the enemy simultaneously from two different angles, making defense difficult. The advent of the bodkin point also gave arrows better penetrative power.

The crossbow, while dating from classical times, became quite popular during the Middle Ages. While it took many years to train a longbowman, someone could become proficient with a crossbow with remarkably little training. The crossbow had about the same power and range as a longbow. Its major drawback however was that it took a long time to reload. The renowned armour piercing power of the crossbow caused fear amongst the well armoured nobility, and it was banned by the Second Council of the Lateran (at least between Christians), although to little avail.

The advent of firearms rendered bows obsolete in warfare. Although bows had a longer range and could shoot much more frequently than the earliest guns, guns could penetrate most armour and required minimal training. Later development gradually gave firearms advantages over bows in range, accuracy and eventually in reload time. An illustration of the declining popularity of the bow could be seen in the various edicts promulgated by 16th-century English monarch to make archery a mandatory practice for all men of fighting age, including Henry VIII's famous ban against the practice of all sports other than archery on Sundays.

The term "Second String" (or the phrase 'to have more than one string to your bow') derives from the fact that medieval archers would carry a second string in the event that their "first string" snapped.



Recurve target archery

This section focuses on the accepted technique for modern competition which is used worldwide. Many other variations exist, some of which are documented below.

The bow is held in the hand opposite to the dominant eye. This hand is referred to as the bow hand and its arm the bow arm. The opposite hand is called the string hand. Terms such as bow holder or string elbow follow the same convention. Right eye dominant people hold the bow with their left hand, have their left side facing the target, sight towards the target with their right eye, and handle the arrow and string with their right hand.

Generally one wears a bracer (more commonly known as an arm-guard) to protect the inside of the bow arm, and a tab to protect the fingers of the string hand. Some archers also wear protection on their chests called chestguards (see photo). Chestguards are to protect the bowstring from the archer but can also protect the archer from the bowstring.

To shoot an arrow with a recurve bow, an archer first adjusts stance. The bow shoulder is towards the target. The archer straddles the shooting line with his or her feet shoulder width apart.

To load, the bow is pointed toward the ground and the shaft of the arrow is placed on an arrow rest attached to the bow. The bowstring is then placed into the notch at the back of the arrow. This is called nocking the arrow. Typical arrows with three vanes should be oriented such that a single vane is pointing away from the bow. This vane is often coloured differently and has numerous names such as index fletch and cock-feather.

The bowstring and arrow are held with three fingers. When using a sight, the index finger is placed above the arrow and the next two fingers below. The string is usually placed in either the first or second joint of the fingers.

The bow is then raised and drawn. This is often one fluid motion which tends to vary from archer to archer. The string hand is drawn towards the face, where it should rest lightly at an anchor point. This point is consistent from shot to shot, and is usually at the corner of the mouth or on the chin. The bow arm is pushed outward toward the target. The elbow of this arm should be rotated outward so that the bowstring doesn't scrape the inside of the wrist or catch on a bracer when released. The bow should always remain vertical.

In proper form, the archer stands erect, forming a T. The archer's back muscles are used to pull the arrow to the anchor point. Most bows will be equipped with a mechanical device called a clicker which produces a clicking sound when the archer reaches the correct draw length.

The arrow is typically released by relaxing the fingers of the drawing hand. An archer should pay attention to the recoil, or follow through of his or her body, as it may indicate problems with his or her form.

A compound bow is designed to reduce the force that an archer must hold, and increase the overall energy stored by the bow. Most compound designs use cams on the ends of the limbs to optimise the leverage exerted by the archer and reduce the holding force of the bow at full draw while maintaining the force through the draw.

The archer usually uses a release aid to hold the string steadily and release it precisely. This attaches to the bowstring at a point and permits the archer to release the string with a pull of a trigger. With less force required to hold a compound bow at draw, the muscles take longer to fatigue, thus giving a compound archer more time to aim. For these reasons, the compound bow is sometimes derogatorily referred to as a "training-wheel bow." In general, good recurve technique usually makes good compound technique. A compound bow must be adjusted so that its draw length is correct for the archer. The draw length is determined largely by the archer's arm length and shoulder width.


In North America, as with other hunting methods, bowhunting is regulated on a state-by-state basis. Regulations often address issues such as where (hunting unit), when (season), and what type (male/female) of individual animal species may be taken. In many cases, a special archery season is set aside to minimize interference from rifle hunters. In addition, in an effort to maximize game recovery and shot lethality, there are often technical regulations such as a minimum draw weight for the hunting of big game species.

In contrast to a rifle hunter, who may shoot effectively from ranges in excess of 200 yards (about 180 m), a responsible archer will usually restrict shots to 30 yards (metres) or less depending on factors such as individual ability, the target animal, draw weight, etc. Archers shooting traditional bows, (longbows, selfbows or recurves) prefer to shoot at ranges of 20 yards (metres) or less. Although traditional bows are capable of shooting accurately for much further than 20 yards (metres) , ethical hunters restrict their shooting range to ensure quick and humane kills. Because archers must be much closer to their target animal, the bow hunter often claims a more intimate hunting experience and must pay special attention to the animal’s sense of smell, hearing, and sight. This limit on effective range is one of the primary challenges that makes the sport of archery hunting attractive.

Game hunted by archers includes all of the North American big game species. People also occasionally fish with modified bows, a practice called bowfishing.

Today, compound bows are usually preferred for hunting, although recurve bows are not uncommon and usually legal. Longbows are often used by those who want to make the hunting experience as traditional as possible, but much more skill is needed to get a clean hit from a longbow than from other bows. Crossbows are generally permitted for disabled hunters, and in 2005 several states allowed able-bodied hunters to use crossbows, a move that has been somewhat controversial among bow hunters. Some states restrict crossbows to special hunting seasons.

As with any weapon, proper practice and practical training will increase the odds that an animal can be taken successfully and humanely, and in fact, an experienced archery hunter can place a kill shot as effectively as a rifle hunter. However, some European countries consider bowhunting unnecessarily cruel to animals and prohibit the sport. Bowhunting, like target archery, was revived in Britain during the Victorian era, but became outlawed when the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1963 excluded bows and crossbows from its list of permitted hunting weapons. Since 2003, Scotland has been considering the reintroduction of bowhunting as a means of controlling its deer population. France, Lithuania and Finland have reintroduced bowhunting since 2000. Several other European countries are considering its reintroduction.

Modern competitive archery

Outdoor archery competition.

Outdoor archery competition.

Competitive archery involves shooting arrows at a target for accuracy from a set distance or distances. This is the most popular form of archery and is called 'Target Archery'.

While people have no doubt been competing with bows for millennia, the first recorded archery competitions began around 1583 in England. Archery has been an Olympic sport since 1900, with some interruptions. Recently the Koreans have dominated the event, especially the women's divisions. At the Sydney 2000 games, the Korean women won bronze, silver and gold in the individual competition and won gold in the team event. The Korean men have not fared so well in Olympic competition but still produce good results. As of October 2004, every record in the men's and women's open divisions are held by Korea. It should be noted that the Koreans stick primarily to outdoor competition, particularly the 70 m Olympic distance. Indoor distances tend to be dominated by European and American archers.

Modern competitive archery is governed by the International Archery Association, abbreviated FITA (Fédération Internationale de Tir à l'Arc). Olympic rules are derived from FITA rules.



Archery competitions may be held indoors or outdoors. Indoor distances are 18 m and 25 m. Outdoor distances range from 30 m to 90 m (for senior archers, juniors can shoot closer distances), with 70 m being used in the Olympic Games. Most outdoor competitions consist of several distances.

Competition is divided into ends. An archer shoots either 3 or 6 arrows per end, depending on the type of round. After each end, the competitors walk to the target to score and retrieve their arrows. There are 20 ends of 3 arrows in a round of indoor competition. Outdoor competition varies, but outdoor rounds generally involve more arrows being shot. All competitors must wait for the command to shoot and retrieve.

Archers have a set time limit in which to shoot their arrows. For indoor competition, this is 2 minutes. Signalling devices such as lights and flags inform the archers when time is up. Since archery involves the use of potentially lethal weapons, much attention is paid to order and safety.


An official FITA target

An official FITA target

Targets are marked with 10 evenly spaced concentric rings, which have score values from 1 through 10 assigned to them. In addition, there is an inner 10 ring, sometimes called the X ring. This becomes the 10 ring at indoor compound competitions. Outdoors, it serves as a tiebreaker with the archer scoring the most X's winning. In FITA archery, targets are coloured as follows:

bullet1 ring & 2 ring - white
bullet3 ring & 4 ring - black
bullet5 ring & 6 ring - blue
bullet7 ring & 8 ring - red
bullet9 ring & 10 ring - gold

Archers score each end by summing the scores for their arrows. Line breakers, an arrow just touching a scoring boundary line, will be awarded the higher score. Values scored by each arrow are recorded on a score sheet and must be written in descending order (e.g. if an archer scores 5, 7, 6, 10, 9, 8, this must be recorded as 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5.) During and before scoring no one is allowed to touch the arrows. This is so that if there is disputed arrow score then a judge may be called and the judge will make a ruling on how the arrow lies. After scoring, each hole is marked before arrows are retrieved. In the event of a "pass through" (the arrow passes straight through the target) or "bouncer" (arrow hits the target and bounces out), points may be awarded to an unmarked hole.

Different rounds and distances use different size target faces. Common sizes (and example rounds they are used in) are:

bullet40 cm (18m FITA Indoor)
bullet60 cm (25m FITA Indoor)
bullet80 cm (30m and 50m FITA)
bullet122 cm (70m and 90m FITA)

122 cm faces are used in Olympic competition. There are also versions of the 40cm and 60cm targets known as the "3 Spot". The targets contain 3 instances of the inner 5 rings of the 40cm and 60cm faces arranged in a line or an equilateral triangle. This is to stop competitors from damaging their own arrows by shooting a "robin hood".



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