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Top 10 Archery Rules

top 10 archery rules

What are the most important archery rules?

  1. Scoring Rules
  2. End Rules
  3. Timing Rules
  4. Winning
  5. Tie Breaking
  6. Reshooting Rules
  7. Unfair Advantages
  8. Signals
  9. Placements Rules
  10. Distance Rules

1. Target Scoring Rules

Archery Targets

In archery, the target is a circle that is different in size depending on the level/age of the competitors. In the Olympics, the target is 122cm in diameter. No matter the level of competition, all targets have the same design.

The targets are composed of ten rings that get smaller as it gets closer to the center. The first two outer rings are white. They are also known as the one ring and the two ring. The next two rings are black, then the next two are blue, the next two are red, and the innermost two are gold.

Each of the rings gets worth more as you get closer to the center gold circles. The innermost ring is worth 10 points and each outer ring is worth one point less. This goes on until the outermost white ring is worth just one point.

2. End Rules

Archery End Rules

Although it varies by competition and the different rounds within competitions, archers usually will shoot a group of three, four, or six arrows. This grouping is known as an end in archery. After an archer shoots an end, they'll go to the target and take their arrows out. In one competition, there might be multiple rounds where competitors shoot ends. The archer is then scored based on the added total of all their arrows throughout the competition.

In the first round of archery at the Olympics, athletes shoot 12 ends of six for a total of 72 arrows. This would mean the highest score possible would be 720. On the other hand, in most professional indoor competitions, archers will shoot 20 ends of three for a combined total of 60 arrows. This means that the max score possible is 600.

3. Timing Rules

In competitions, archers are given a set time frame to shoot their arrows. It usually is two minutes for an end of three and four minutes for an end of six. In the Olympics, after the first round there is another round where archers shoot one arrow at a time. For this, the archers get 20 seconds to shoot one arrow.

If an arrow is shot before or after the time frame, the archer will have to forfeit the highest scoring arrow of that end as a penalty. This rule applies to both team and individual competitions.

Shooting in a specific amount of time can be challenging for archers as they have to battle their nerves and stress from competition. The natural fear of competition can trigger the fight or flight response which makes it more challenging for archers to get a good shot.

4. Winning

For most competitions, scoring is fairly simple. Each arrow that hits the target counts for points and after all arrows have been shot the points are added up. The athlete with the most points wins.

For some competitions, like the Olympics, there is a second round and the total points from the first is just used to rank each archer. The next round is then called a knockout competition. Based on the rankings, each archer faces another archer. In the Olympics the highest scoring archer goes against the lowest scoring archer and the second highest goes against the second lowest and so on. They will shoot five ends of three arrows with the higher scorer of each end getting two "set points." If they tie, they both get one "set point." The first archer to get six set points advances while the other is knocked out. The archer that goes undefeated is declared the winner.

5. Tie Breaking

In the event of a tie, there are a couple of ways to break it. No matter what though, one winner must be decided. In most competitions a tie can be broken by whichever archer had the most arrows within the inner circle, or 10 pointers. If this number is equal, then they will continue going through the next most innermost circles until one has more.

If on the off chance that all of these are equal, the next way to break a tie is to have a shoot-off. This means that they each shoot one arrow and whoever is closer to the center, wins. The shoot-out method is also how ties are broken in the Olympics. For this scenario, 40 seconds is allowed for an archer to take the tie breaking shot. As you can imagine, this is a very high pressure scenario.

6. Reshooting Rules

Archery Reshooting Rules

Under most circumstances an arrow cannot be reshot if it leaves the bow. However, it might be considered a misfire or an early release if the arrow falls within the archers reach. If the archer can reach out and grab the arrow, then it is labeled as a misfire/early release. In this event, the archer can fire again with no penalties or consequences.

If an archer happens to drop an arrow while in a competition there is no penalty if it is dropped within three meters of the shooting line. If it is dropped further than three meters then it is considered a miss and the archer will get zero points. No matter where the arrow falls, an archer shouldn't worry about picking it up until all arrows have been shot in order to avoid any chance of getting accidentally hit by an arrow.

7. Unfair Advantages

In archery is it very important to make sure no competitor has an unfair advantage due to the equipment or accessories they use. The bow used in archery competitions must have a grip/handle, riser, and two limbs that end in a tip that has a string notch. In the Olympics, archers can only use recurve bows but in other competitions archers can use compounds.

It's considered an unfair advantage to have a bowstring that helps to aim with something like a peephole. It's also not allowed for a recurve bow to have any release aids while shooting. It is also not allowed to have any electronics that can connect to your bow. Archers' bows are allowed to have clickers, sights, stabilizers, and arrow-rests.

It's important to check your equipment and the competition rules before you show up in order to ensure you're not breaking any equipment violations.

8. Signals

At every archery competition there are signals to let the archers know when to shoot and when to stop. The first is to tell archers when to move to the shooting line. This is signaled by two whistles. The archers walk up to the line and wait for the second signal. The second signal is one whistle blow and this tells the archers that it's time to shoot. The final signal is three whistle's which means the archers can stop shooting and retrieve their arrows from the target. Before they take off the arrows though they should make sure that the score has been tallied correctly.

Another signal that is rarely used is for emergencies. This is either four or five whistle blows and alerts the archers to stop shooting and wait for further instructions. Knowing these signals is extremely important in order to avoid penalties associated with shooting out of time.

9. Unique Scoring Rules

Archery Scoring

In archery competitions there are all sorts of different ways arrows can land on the target that have unique scoring rules. If an arrow lands on the line of a circle, then it will be given the points for whichever circle it's between that is a higher value. So if it lands on the line between the red and and gold circles, the arrow will count as 9 points.

Additionally, if an arrow shoots through another arrow - this is known as a Robin Hood - it will be given the same points as the first arrow. Another scoring oddity is if an arrow rebounds or hangs off the target. In this instance it will be awarded the amount of points based on where it hit.

If an archer misses the target completely in a shot then there will be zero points awarded.

10. Distance Rules

Every archer who is competing against one another must shoot from the same line with their targets an equal distance away. This distance depends on the division of competitors and whether it's an indoor or outdoor competition. In the Olympics, the target is 70 meters away. For other competitions outside of the Olympics the distance has a larger range.

For indoor competitions the distance between the shooting line and target can be anywhere between 18-25 meters. For outdoor competitions the distance ranges from 30 to 90 meters. No matter how far away the target is, the target itself will always stand approximately 1.3 meters off the ground.

If you're a beginner, try and practice closer to the target as you keep learning how to shoot. As you get better at aiming, back up further to keep improving your skills.


What are the different levels of archery competitions?

Archers who shoot competitively are divided into eight different groups. They are first divided by age with cadets being 17 or younger. Next is the junior group which ranges from 18 to 20 year-olds. The third group is the open category which are archers between the ages of 21 and 49. Finally, the masters group is all made up of archers 50 and above. Each of these groups has separate categories for males and females.

Are there any restrictions on arrows in competitions?

There are generally not many restrictions on arrows in competitions. As long as the arrow doesn't cause an above average amount of damage to the targets it is fine. For most competitions though archers should make sure to mark their arrow's shaft with their names or initials for easy identification. Additionally, the arrows shaft should not be larger than 9.3 mm and the diameter of the tips shouldn't be larger than 9.4 mm.

What's the difference between a compound and recurve bow?

The recurve bow is actually more simple in design. It has a shorter string and it's lighter. It does take more strength to actually shoot a recurve bow though since it's so simple.

A compound bow on the other hand requires less effort to shoot and is more complicated in design because of this. It uses a pulley system to make it easier to release the arrow with accuracy. It's also bigger and more expensive than a recurve bow.

Do archers keep track of their own scores?

After each end is finished the score is tallied. There will be two scorers assigned to each target. Another person will call out the name of an archer and then the point values of the arrows. The values are recorded from highest to lowest values so those closer to the center will be recorded first. Archers should also check values though and call a judge over in the case of a disagreement.