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A Guide to Popular Archery Types

Target archery

Is now a mainstream form of competition in the Olympics and is the only variation allowed.

Target archery is simple. Every competitor has a given amount of arrows that are fired in turn at a target over a given distance. The scores are totalled for each archer and the one with the most points wins!

archery-target scorong zones

The image below shows the correct set-up for an outdoor event:


A wonderful and probably unique aspect of archery is the opportunity for competitors of any ability to compete. Without doubt archery is one of the most unique sports that allows for competitors of almost any ability and physical stature to compete on a level playing field. This is highlighted in the Men’s Individual Compound Open Final – London Paralympics 2012.

Gold – FORSBERG Jere – Finland
Silver – STUTZMAN Matt – USA
Bronze – HANCI Dogan – Turkey

Some of the top British archers have won a total of nine medals at the Olympic Games. They are:

  • William Dod (1867 – 1954). The gold medal winner in the men’s double York round at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London.
  • Reginald Brooks-King (1861 – 1938). Welsh archer won silver medal in the men’s double York round at the 1908 Olympics.
  • Queenie Newall (1854 – 1929). The winner of gold medal in the women’s double National Round also went into history as the oldest female gold medal winner at the Olympics.
  • Lottie Dod (1871 – 1960). At the 1908 London Olympics, she lagged behind only Queenie Newall and won Great Britain a silver medal in the women’s double National Round.
  • Beatrice Hill-Lowe (1868 – 1951). Irish archer who competed for GB archery team at the 1908 Olympics made sure that the last – bronze medal in the women’s double National Round went to Great Britain although she also went in history as the first Irishwoman to win an Olympic medal.
  • Steven Hallard (1965), Richard Priestman (1955) and Leroy Watson (1965). Great Britain’s 6th archery Olympic medal and the first since the beginning of the modern archery at the Olympics was won only in 1988 in the men’s team.
  • Simon Terry (1974). The first men’s individual archery Olympic medal was won by Simon Terry in 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Together with Steven Hallard and Richard Priestman, he won the second bronze medal for Great Britain at the 1992 Olympics.
  • Alison Williamson (1971). The last Olympic medal in archery for Great Britain was won Alison Williamson who was bronze at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics.

Find out more about Archery here

Field Archery – An Introduction

Taking aim

One of the most appealing things about archery is the massive variation of styles and equipment together with the huge variety of courses and targets that can be shot. However at the end of the day the object is the same, to hit a target or even a specific point on that target more accurately and more consistently than everyone else. Like all sports the more you practice the better you become.

field archery across water

Why Field Archery?

There are a lot of other more effective ways of hitting a target at distance, a rifle for example will achieve the same objective and very likely with more impact. So one has to assume that there is more to it than simply hitting a target. To be sure using a rifle entails some skill and some user input but archery is a purer version of that. For me the whole combination of skill, power, balance, breathing and eyesight makes it a sport that appeals to my base human hunter gatherer instinct. Although I would never shoot-to-kill a live animal, field archery gives me that same challenge and adrenalin rush.

The sport has recognised that not all competitors are made equal and has made allowance for all of the mechanical aids such as stabilisers, and provide appropriate divisions for competitors to compete within so making the competition fair. For a round up of the rules and other information follow this link.

So what makes Field Archery unique?

The one thing that makes field archery unique is terrain and location. A course is normally set up over a range of different terrain from wooded areas to steep slopes. The bigger the variation the bigger the challenge to the archer.

These are some typical field archery shots.

field-archery shots

A field archery event is run by a field captain who makes sure all arrows are shot within the allotted time and that arrows are collected and scored by each group of archers as a whole. To be successful requires high levels of concentration with archers needing to be both physically and mentally fit for this variation of archery. Archers have to walk from one target to the next. The distance varies, they can be asked to shoot anywhere between 14 and 28 targets that are set out in safe positions.

Typically a Hunter and Field round will have 28 targets with four arrows being shot at each target. Each arrow is shot from a different distance from 20ft up to a maximum of 80 yards.

A bit like golf the means of scoring can vary. You can score with every arrow hitting the target or only score with your best arrow.

The Challenge

The appeal of field archery for me comes from the challenges posed by the terrain. It’s one thing to shoot at a target from the same position across a level course but it is another thing entirely to shoot whilst balancing on a tree; across, up or down a steep slope; across water or from light to shade. This is where true skill comes into play. Those who choose to shoot without sights take it to another level again.

Lighting conditions, especially on a sunny day in wooded areas, makes archery particularly challenging. If you are unsure what I mean try focusing on an object that is in deep shade whilst standing in bright sunlight, you should get an idea of how hard it is to hit a target under those conditions.

shooting from light to shade

Flight Archery – An Introduction

How far can you go? This is the ethos of flight archery. There is no target other than to get the arrow to fly as far as possible. But what is Flight Archery?

Flight archery is archery in it’s purest form. A flight bow has one purpose and only one purpose and that is to shoot an arrow as far is possible – that’s all there is to it. Simple!specialist flight bow at 45 degrees

The optimal angle when flight shooting is 45 degrees, it gives the ultimate blend of height and distance. In a competition all the archers shoot along a pre determined line, and much like throwing a javelin, deviating from the line will automatically reduce distance. However, unlike other sports, such as the 100 meters sprint, wind speed does not affect the result so wherever possible the wind is taken advantage of.

Windy and wet conditions play a critical part in any flight competition. Rain will increase drag on the arrow as will the wind – we all know how hard it is cycling into a head wind!

As for what the archer is trying to achieve, a good comparison here would be ski jumping where the skier is ‘shot’ from the down ramp and tries to float as far as possible. The aim of the flight archer once the arrow has been shot from the bow, is to get the arrow to ‘float’ as far as possible to gain the maximum possible distance.

flight path

Unlike normal arrows where the job of the fletching is to provide stability and accuracy, normally through spin, (take a look at my previous post about arrow fletching.) Distance arrow fletchings are reduced in size and the arrow shafts are polished to reduce drag in order to increase distance. In addition the arrow tip is smaller and lighter as well.

The arrow itself is shorter and this causes a couple of problems. First the arrow must be supported behind the normal arrow rest because the draw length is longer than the arrow, plus the bow is drawn using a leather strap to prevent injury to the archer. In the image below Harry Drake uses a mechanical stringer to string a heavy flight bow.

short arrow flight-support


As we can see the arrow goes through the center of the riser as opposed to lying alongside of it, and a plate has been fitted behind the riser to prevent the shorter arrow dropping off the bow.

distance flight bow with handle and arrow support


To be perfectly honest I love archery in all of its different forms but my first love is field archery. There is one thing to hit a target on a level playing field but it’s another thing entirely doing the same when pitting your skill against the natural terrain.

If this article inspires you to seek out your local club and try any type of archery I wish you good luck and have lots of fun!


Mark Treverton.

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