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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

These arrows score as an inner 10 (X), and a 9
These arrows score as an inner 10 (X), 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. A person practicing archery is called an archer, and one who is fond of or an expert at archery is sometimes called a toxophilite.


Main article: History of archery

The earliest concrete evidence of archery dates back 5,000 years.[citation needed] The bow probably originated for use in hunting and was then adopted as a tool of warfare. It was one of the earliest forms of artillery. Bows eventually replaced the atlatl as the predominant means for launching projectiles.

Classical civilizations, notably the Persians, Macedonians, Nubians, Greeks, Parthians, Indians, Chinese, and Koreans, fielded large numbers of archers in their armies. Arrows proved exceptionally destructive against massed formations, and the use of archers often proved decisive.

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 were 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. Professional archers required a lifetime of training and expensive bows to be effective, and were thus rare in Europe (see English longbow).

Archery was highly developed in Asia and in the Islamic world. The horse archers were the main military force of most of the Equestrian Nomads. In modern times, horse archery continues to be practised in some Asian countries but is not used in international competition. Central Asian tribesmen were extremely adept at archery on horseback. Archery is the national sport of the Kingdom of Bhutan.

The advent of firearms rendered bows obsolete in warfare. Early firearms were vastly inferior in range, rate-of-fire, and armor penetration to high-quality bows, but required significantly less training to use properly. Armies equipped with guns could thus provide superior firepower by sheer weight of numbers, and highly-trained archers became obsolete.


Types of bows

Main article: bow (weapon)

A longbow is a type of bow that is tall (roughly equal to or greater than the height of a person), is not recurved, and has relatively narrow limbs that are circular or D-shaped in cross section. The traditional English longbow is made so that its thickness is at least ⅝ of its width. If the thickness is less than ⅝ of its width then the bow would be considered a flatbow. Typically a longbow is widest at the handle. Longbows have been used for hunting and warfare, by many cultures around the world, a famous example being the English longbow, during the Middle Ages.

A shortbow is a much smaller version of the longbow, whilst it doesn't go as far it in some cases can be lighter and better as a secondary option.

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

With less force required to hold a compound bow at draw (often less than half of the bow's peak draw weight), 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". 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.

Types of arrows and fletching

Arrows are made of solid wood, fiberglass, aluminum alloy tubing, or carbon fiber shafts. Wooden arrows are prone to warping, and are not easily straightened. Fiberglass arrows are brittle, but are more easily produced to uniform specifications. Aluminum shafts were a very popular high-performance choice in the later half of the 20th century due to their light weight, and subsequently higher speed and flatter trajectories. They were more easily straightened when bent, but are susceptible to being "robin hooded" if one arrow hit the back of another precisely. Carbon arrows are very light, and fly faster and flatter than aluminum arrows. They became popular in the 1990s.

The material and diameter (and, in the case of aluminum, the thickness of the tube wall) of the arrow contribute to its stiffness, or spine. This must be matched to the draw weight of the bow to ensure accuracy.

Most bowhunters prefer aluminum or wood arrows to fiberglass or carbon arrows. Aluminum arrows are easily adjusted to fly straight when a broadhead is attached to them, and wooden arrows are simply cheap and expendable. Carbon arrows are quite hard to adjust so that they fly straight when a broadhead is attached to them.

Feather fletches
Feather fletches

Fletching is traditionally made from turkey feathers, but solid plastic vanes are also used. Feathers will typically be 3-6" long, while vanes are often only 1-2". They are attached at the nock (rear) end of the arrow with glue, or, traditionally, some type of string such as silk. The fletching is equally spaced around the shaft with one (the cock) placed such that it is perpendicular to the bow when nocked on the string. Three feathers (two hens plus the cock) is the most common configuration, though four or (very rarely) five are used. The fletching is attached at a slight angle, to introduce a stabilizing spin to the arrow while in flight. Oversized fletching can be used to accentuate drag and thus limit the range of the arrow signficantly; these arrows are called flu-flus.

Types of arrowheads

Target points are bullet-shaped with a sharp point, designed to penetrate target butts easily without causing excessive wear on them. Field tips have a distinct shoulder, so that missed shots out of doors don't become as stuck in obstacles such as tree stumps. A broadhead is used in hunting, not target practice. It has, usually, two to four razor sharp blades that cause massive bleeding leading to a quick, humane kill. Blunts are occasionally used for types of target shooting when the goal is to knock something over, not penetrate it.

Shooting technique and form

The bow is held in the hand opposite to the archer's dominant eye, though holding the bow in the dominate hand side is advocated by some. This hand is referred to as the bow hand and its arm the bow arm. The opposite hand is called the drawing hand or string hand. Terms such as bow shoulder or string elbow follow the same convention. Right-eye-dominant archers 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 drawing hand. Some archers also wear protection on their chests, called chestguards. Chestguards are to prevent the bowstring from being obstructed by the archer's physique or clothing as it is released. Of course, it also protects the archer.

To shoot an arrow, an archer first assumes the correct stance. The body should be perpendicular to the target and the shooting line, with the feet placed shoulder-width apart. As an archer progresses from beginner to a more advanced level an 'open stance' is used/developed. Each archer will have a particular preference but mostly this term indicates that the leg furthest from the shooting line will be a half to a whole foot-length in front of the other, on the ground.

To load, the bow is pointed toward the ground and the shaft of the arrow is placed on an arrow rest which is attached in the bow window. The back of the arrow is attached to the bowstring with the 'nock' (a small plastic component which is typefied by a 'v' groove for this purpose). 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 held outwards toward the target. The elbow of this arm should be rotated so that the inner elbow is not hyper-extended as this leads to a tendency for the bowstring to scrape the inside of the wrist or to catch on the arm guard 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. Some 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 form (technique).

Compound Bow Technique

Archers using compounds sometimes use a release aid to hold the string steadily and release it precisely. This attaches to the bowstring at the nocking point and permits the archer to release the string by pulling a trigger. A mechanical release aid permits a single point of contact, so there is less deformity in the string at full draw, as well as providing a more consistent release than can be achieved by human fingers.

Physics of bows and arrows


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 45 yards 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 or less. Although traditional bows are capable of shooting accurately, for much further than 20 yards, ethical hunters restrict their shooting range, in order 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.

Bow hunting for fish is appropriately called bowfishing. Many variations on standard archery equipment including the addition of a line attached to either a spool or a reel as well as a specially designed arrow facilitate this practice. Archers need to take into account the refraction angle of their target when releasing their arrow making sure to aim below their target's apparent position as the water gives a false indication of the actual position of the fish.

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 achieve a clean hit from a longbow than from other bows. Crossbows are often permitted for disabled hunters.

As with any weapon, proper practice and practical training will increase the odds that an animal can be harvested successfully and humanely and, in fact, an experienced archery hunter can place a kill shot as effectively as a rifle hunter.

Legal and cultural considerations


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.

North America

In North America, as with other hunting methods, bowhunting is regulated by individual provinces and states. 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.

Game hunted by archers includes all of the North American small and big game species.

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.

New Zealand

In New Zealand there are no restictions on bowhunting either in hunting season or in bag limits. Bow hunting is allowed year-round with no legislated maximum bag. There are also no restrictions on owning bows. [citation needed]

Modern competitive archery

Competitive archery involves shooting arrows at a target for accuracy from a set distance or distances. This is the most popular form of archery worldwide and is called target archery. A form particularly popular in Europe and America is field archery, shot at targets generally set at various distances in a wooded setting. There are also several other lesser-known and historical forms, as well as archery novelty games. Competitive archery is a sport of precision, and is as much a mental as it is a physical game.

Note the tournament rules vary from organization to organization. FITA rules are often considered normative, but large non-FITA-affiliated archery organizations do exist with different rules.

Target Archery

Main article: Target archery
Outdoor target competition.
Outdoor target competition.

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

Target 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. Competition is divided into ends of 3 or 6 arrows. After each end, the competitors walk to the target to score and retrieve their arrows. Archers have a set time limit in which to shoot their arrows.

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. 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.

Different rounds and distances use different size target faces. These range from 40 cm (18 m FITA Indoor) to 122 cm (70 m and 90 m FITA, used in Olympic competition).

Field Archery

Main article: Field archery

Field archery involves shooting at targets of varying (and sometimes unmarked) distance, often in rough terrain.

Three common types of rounds (in the NFAA) are the field, hunter, and animal. A round consists of 28 targets in two units of 14. Field rounds are at 'even' distances up to 80 yards (some of the shortest are measured in feet instead), using targets with a black bullseye (5 points), a white center (4) ring, and black outer (3) ring. Hunter rounds use 'uneven' distances up to 70 yards, and although scoring is identical to a field round, the target has an all-black face with a white bullseye. Children and youth positions for these two rounds are closer, no more than 30 and 50 yards, respectively. Animal rounds use life-size 2D animal targets with 'uneven' distances reminiscent of the hunter round. The rules and scoring are also significantly different. The archer begins at the first station of the target and fires his first arrow. If it hits, he does not have to fire again. If it misses, he advances to station two and fires a second arrow, then to station three for a third if needed. Scoring areas are vital (20, 16, or 12) and nonvital (18, 14, or 10) with points awarded depending on which arrow scored first. Again, children and youth shoot from reduced range.

One goal of field archery is to improve the technique and abilities required for bowhunting in a more realistic outdoor setting, but without introducing the complication and guesswork of unknown distances. As with golf, fatigue can be an issue as the athlete walks the distance between targets across sometimes rough terrain.

Other modern competitions

The following are listed on the FITA website. These competitions are not as popular as the two listed above, but they are competed internationally.


3D Archery

3D archery is a subset of field archery focusing on shooting at life-size models of game, and is popular with hunters. It is most common to see unmarked distances in 3D archery, as the goal is to accurately recreate a hunting environment for competition.

On these animals there are 4 rings, only 3 of these are used in ASA shoots. The one that isn't used very often is the 14 ring. This can only be scored if you call it before you shoot, and even then it may not be allowed. Next is the 12 ring inside of the 10 ring, inside of the 8 ring. Anything on the target that is outside of the 8, 10, 12, or 14 rings is a 5. If you miss the target, you score a zero.

Though the goal is hunting practice, hunting tips (broadheads) are not used, as they would tear up the foam targets too much. Normal target or field tips, of the same weight as the intended broadhead, are used instead.

Clout Archery (G.N.A.S. rules in the United Kingdom)

Similar to target archery, except that the archer attempts to drop arrows at long range (180 yards / 165 m for the men and 140 yards / 128 m for women; there are shorter distances for juniors depending on age) into a group of concentric circular scoring zones on the ground surrounding a marker flag. The flag is 12 inches (30 cm) square and is fixed to a stick. The flag should be as near to the ground as is practicable. Archers shoot 'ends' of six arrows then, when given the signal to do so, archers proceed to the target area. A Clout round usually consists of 36 arrows. Clout tournaments are usually a 'Double Clout' round (36 arrows shot twice). They can be shot in one direction (one way) or both directions (two way). All bow types may compete (longbows, recurve, barebow and compound).

  • Scoring. A 'rope' with a loop on the end is placed over the flag stick. This rope is divided into the scoring zones of the target: Gold (5 points), Red (4 points), Blue (3 points), Black (2 points) and White (1 point). The rope is 'walked' around the target area and arrows falling within a particular scoring zone are withdrawn and, on completion of the full circle, are laid out on the rope on the corresponding colours. The designated scorer would then call out the archers' names and the archers would (in turn) call out their scores as they pick up their arrows. The scores must be called in descending order as with target archery.

Flight Archery

Flight Archery can only take place where space permits usually in a protected area such as an aerodrome, subject to approval and access, since archers compete by shooting for maximum distances. Flight Archers shoot in various classes and weights and shoot six arrows at each "end" and then search for all of them marking the one which has been shot the furthest parallel to the datum line then marking this furthest one with an identifiable marker, the arrows can then be draw from their landing sites. Alternative bows may be shot on subsequent "ends" and also marked as above with their bow types and weights. Only four ends are usual in one shoot. At the end of the shoot, archers stand or sit by their furthest arrows while judges and their assistants measure the distances they were shot. There are many bow classes and bow weights that one can shoot in. The archer who shoots the furthest in their class is the winner.

Ski archery

An event very similar to the sport of biathlon except a recurve bow is used in place of a gun. The athletes ski around a cross-country track and there are two stances in which the athlete must shoot the targets: kneeling and standing. During competition the skis must not be removed at any time. The athlete may unfasten the ski when shooting in the kneeling position but must keep the foot in contact with the ski. The shooting distance is 18 meters and the targets 16 cm in diameter. In certain events, for every missed target, the athlete must ski one penalty loop. The loop is 150 meters long.

Traditional competitions

The following are not listed on the FITA website but are competitions that have a long tradition in their respective countries.


A traditional northern French and Belgian archery contest. Archers teams shoot alternatively at two targets facing each other, 50 meters away. A perpendicular array of wooden walls secures a path parallel to the shooting range. After each round, the archers take their own arrow and shoot directly in the opposite direction (thus having opposite windage). One shoots always the same arrow, supposedly the best built, as it was difficult in medieval times to have constant arrow quality. The round black-and-white target mimics the size of a soldier: its diameter is shoulder-wide, the center is heart-sized.

Popinjay (or Papingo)

A form of archery originally derived from shooting birds on church steeples. Popinjay is popular in Belgium, but little known elsewhere. Archers stand within 12 feet (3.7 m) of the bottom of a 90 ft (27 m) mast and shoot almost vertically upwards with 'blunts' (arrows with rubber caps on the front instead of a pile), the object being to dislodge any one of a number of wooden 'birds'. These birds must be one Cock, four Hens, and a minimum of twenty-four Chicks. A Cock scores 5 points when hit and knocked off its perch; a Hen, 3; and a Chick, 1 point.

Roving Marks

The oldest form of competitive archery, as practiced by Henry VIII. The archers will shoot to a "mark" then shoot from that mark to another mark. A mark is a post or flag to be aimed at. As with clout a rope or ribbon is used to score the arrows. In the Finsbury Mark the scoring system is 20 for hitting the mark, 12 for within ~3ft, 7 points for within the next ~6ft and 3 points for within the next ~9ft.

Wand shoot

A Traditional English archery contest. Archers take turns shooting at a vertical strip of wood, the wand, usually about six feet high and three to six inches wide. Points are awarded for hitting the strip. As the target is a long vertical strip this competition allows for more errors in elevation, however since no points are awarded for near misses the archers windage accuracy becomes more important.

Other competitions

Main article: archery games

Archers often enjoy adding variety to their sport by shooting under unusual conditions or by imposing other special restrictions or rules on the event. These competitions are often less formalized and are more or less considered as games. Some forms include the broadhead round, bionic and running bucks, darts, archery golf, night shooting, and turkey tester.

Archery education

A relatively new program has developed in U.S. schools called the National Archery in Schools Program (NASP). In this students use Genesis bows (a compound-style bow without draw stops). This is like a P.E. unit and students who want to can also go to state and national shoots with their schools to compete against other schools. Though started in the United States, it has begun to spread to other nations.

Many sportsman's clubs and similar establishments throughout the US and other countries offer achery education programs for those under 18. These programs are commonly referred to as Junior Olympic Archery Development Programs, or simply JOAD. There are over 250 JOAD Clubs recognized by the National Archery Association.[1]


  • list of notable archers
  • list of notable archery civilizations


  1. ^ National Archery Association's page on JOAD programs.

External links

  • Archery Information
Look up archery in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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