Archery for Dummies: A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide

In this article, you will learn all about archery. From its origins as a tool for hunting and warfare, to its evolution into a popular sport. Discover the different types of competitive archery and the skills required to excel in this unique and challenging sport.


  1. Introduction to Archery
  2. Objectives of Competitive Archery
  3. Players & Teams
  4. Scoring in Archery
  5. Winning the Game
  6. Rules of Archery
  7. Conclusion & FAQs

Introduction to Archery

Archery is a sport that involves the use of a stringed bow to propel arrows towards a target. It is an ancient activity that has been around for thousands of years, dating back to the Stone Age of 20,000 BC. Bows and arrows were used by numerous peoples over the millennia as a means of hunting and warfare. Over time, archery became a pastime and the need to master it for huntsmen and soldiers alike inevitably led to organized tournaments.

History of Archery

Archery has been widely utilized throughout history, from the ancient Egyptians to the Shang dynasty of China (1766-1027 BC), Attila the Hun’s hordes to the great civilizations of the Assyrians, Persians, and Pathians. As guns were developed, archery lost its appeal on the battlefield, but it remained popular as a pastime. Regular competitions were held in various countries.

Archery in Tournaments

The first recorded archery tournament took place in Finsbury, England in 1583 and included 3000 participants. As archery became more organized, various rules and scoring systems were developed. In modern competitive archery, archers shoot at targets from varying distances and must hit specific areas to score points. Different types of bows, arrows, and equipment are used in different disciplines of archery.

Olympic Archery

Archery was first included as an Olympic sport in 1900 for men and 1904 for women, making it one of the earliest sports for female competitors. It was then included in 1908 and 1920 before dropping out for a few decades. Archery was reintroduced in 1972 and has been a mainstay of the Games ever since.

Skills Needed for Competitive Archery

Competitive archery requires a combination of physical and mental skills. Archers must have good balance, strength, and flexibility, as well as good hand-eye coordination and accuracy (kind of as in snooker). They must also have the mental focus to block out distractions and maintain their concentration over extended periods of time.

Objectives of Competitive Archery

The objective of competitive archery is to shoot arrows as close to the center of the target as possible. Competitive archery has various forms, including target archery, field archery, 3D archery, and clout archery. In all forms of competitive archery, the target is the main focus.

Target Archery

Target archery is the most popular form of competitive archery. It involves archers aiming arrows at a target from a set distance, and the target has a series of concentric circles with different point values. The center of the target is worth the highest number of points, with the point value decreasing as you move towards the outer circles.

Olympic Archery

In the Olympics, archers shoot at a target from a distance of 70 meters. The target has 10 concentric circles, with the innermost circle worth 10 points and the outermost circle worth 1 point. Competitors shoot a ranking round, where they shoot 72 arrows and their total score determines their ranking. The top 64 athletes then compete in a head-to-head elimination format.

Field Archery

Field archery involves shooting at targets that are placed at different distances and elevations in a natural setting. Archers must navigate a course and shoot at targets placed in different scenarios. Field archery requires good judgment and adaptability, as archers must adjust their aim and stance to hit targets at different distances.

3D Archery

3D archery involves shooting at three-dimensional targets that are shaped like animals. The targets are placed at various distances and elevations, simulating a hunting scenario. 3D archery requires good accuracy and the ability to judge distance.

Clout Archery

Clout archery involves shooting at a target that is placed on the ground, with archers aiming for the center of the target from a distance of up to 180 meters. Clout archery requires good accuracy and the ability to judge distance.

Players & Teams

Archery can be played as both an individual and a team sport. In individual competitions, only one archer holds the bow at a time, whereas in team events, two or three archers from the same country shoot their arrows alternately.


Archers must have a bow that consists of a handle or grip, riser, and two flexible limbs ending in a tip with a string nock. The bowstring may have any number of strands, as long as it fits the bow. Archers may use an adjustable arrow rest and a bow sight to help them aim accurately.

There are few restrictions on the types of arrows used, as long as they do not cause undue damage to the target. However, the maximum diameter of the arrow shaft should not exceed 9.3mm, and the diameter of the tips should not exceed 9.4mm. Each archer’s arrows should be marked with their name or initials on the shaft, and all arrows used in a particular round should be identical.

In addition to the bow and arrows, archers may use finger protection, such as gloves or tape, as well as chest protectors, arm guards, and other accessories that offer no explicit advantage other than protection or comfort.


The target used in archery varies in size, with Olympic archery events using a target measuring 122 cm in diameter. The target consists of 10 concentric rings, which represent the different scoring sectors. The outermost two rings, known as the one and two rings, are white. The three and four rings are black, five and six are blue, seven and eight are red, and the innermost two rings, nine and ten, are gold. The ten ring also has an inner ring, known as the “inner 10” or “X ring,” which is sometimes used to decide ties.

Scoring in Archery

Archery scoring is based on the placement of the arrows on the target. The closer the arrow lands to the center of the target, the higher the score. The 10-ring, which is the innermost circle of the target, is worth the highest score of 10 points. The next highest score of 9 points is awarded for hitting any part of the yellow circle that surrounds the 10-ring. The scoring rings decrease in value from there, with each ring worth one point less than the previous one, until reaching the outer white ring, which is worth one point.

In some tournaments, such as the Olympics, the ranking round involves shooting 72 arrows in 12 phases, and the athlete’s total cumulative score over those 72 arrows will determine their ranking for the knockout phase. During the head-to-head knockout phase, competitors shoot in pairs and the winner is the archer with the highest score at the end of the allotted number of arrows.

Other tournaments vary in format and the number of arrows competitors must shoot, as well as the distance to the target. In indoor archery competitions, for example, the distance from the shooting line to the target is typically 18 meters, while in outdoor competitions, such as the Olympics, the distance is 70 meters.

Winning the Game

The winner of an archery competition is usually decided based on the highest cumulative total score after a set number of arrows. However, in a knockout scenario, the winner is the one who has successfully overcome all opponents faced.

Tied Scores

In the event of a tied score, there are several ways to determine the winner. The first criterion is the number of 10s (including inner 10s) that the archer has scored. The archer with the highest number of 10s is declared the victor. If both archers have the same number of 10s, the archer with the greater number of inner 10s is the winner.


If the scores are still tied after considering the above criteria, a shoot-off can be used to separate the competitors. In a shoot-off, each archer is given a single arrow to shoot at the target, and the archer who scores the highest number of points wins. If there is still a tie, the shoot-off continues until a winner is determined.

Rules of Archery

In archery, athletes must strictly adhere to all official rules regarding the equipment used in their sport. The main emphasis is on using no equipment or accessories that would give an unfair advantage over opponents. The World Archery Federation (WA) provides detailed guidelines on the equipment allowed in competitions.

Time Limit and Penalties

Athletes are given a maximum time limit to shoot their arrows. Two minutes is allotted for an end of three arrows, while four minutes is allotted for an end of six arrows. The bow arm cannot be raised until the signal to start is given. Penalties, in the form of points forfeits, may be given if the bow is drawn after the official practice has been closed.

Arrow Shooting and Scoring

Once an arrow is shot, it cannot be re-shot under any circumstances. However, if the arrow falls from the bow or misfires, or if the target blows or falls over, extra time is given. Arrows that rebound or hang from the target will still score based on the mark it makes on the target face. Arrows that stick in the nock of another arrow, Robin Hood-style, shall score the same as the arrow in which they are embedded.

Penalties and Disqualification

Athletes can be disqualified, have points deducted, or be banned from competition for various breaches of rules. The severity of the offense determines the penalty. Appeals can be made to the judge if equipment is damaged, and the judge can replace or fix the equipment at their discretion.

Conclusion & FAQs

What is archery?

Archery is a sport that involves using a bow and arrows to shoot at a target. It has been around for thousands of years and has been used for hunting, warfare, and as a pastime. It requires a combination of physical and mental skills, such as balance, strength, accuracy, and mental focus.

What types of archery are there?

There are several types of archery, including target archery, field archery, 3D archery, and clout archery. In target archery, archers shoot at a target from a set distance, while in field archery, targets are placed at different distances and elevations in a natural setting. 3D archery involves shooting at three-dimensional animal targets, and in clout archery, archers shoot at a target placed on the ground from a long distance.

What equipment is needed for archery?

Archers need a bow that consists of a handle, riser, and two flexible limbs ending in a string nock. They also need arrows, finger protection, chest protectors, and other accessories for comfort and protection. The target used in archery varies in size and consists of concentric circles representing different scoring sectors.

Is archery a safe sport?

When proper safety procedures are followed, archery can be a safe sport. It is important to always follow the rules and guidelines, wear appropriate safety gear, and never shoot arrows without proper supervision.

Can anyone do archery?

Yes, anyone can do archery. It is a sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities. It is important to receive proper training and instruction before beginning, and to start with lighter draw weights and lower poundage bows before progressing to more advanced equipment.