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Archery Rules

Outdoor Target Archery

Field and Targets

The outdoor target field is made up of lanes 5 meters wide. Each lane may contain one to three targets, but there are usually two. Targets are at one end of the lane. At the other end is a shooting line at the specified distance and there’s a waiting line a minimum of 5 meters behind the shooting line. A clear lane, at least 5 meters wide, separates the women’s lanes from the men’s.


Each target is numbered and a point on the shooting line directly opposite the target is numbered correspondingly.

The targets are made of straw rope with paper or cloth faces divided into five concentric color zones. Each color zone is sub-divided into two scoring zones of equal width. From the center outward, the zones are gold, red, blue, black, and white.

The international federation recognizes two standard sizes, 122 centimeters and 80 centimeters in diameter. On the larger face, the scoring zones are 6.1 centimeters wide. On the smaller, they’re 4 centimeters wide. The 80-centimeter target is used at distances 30 and 50 meters, the 122-centimeter at all longer distances. For both faces, the center of the target must be 130 centimeters above the ground

In major competition, there’s a separate field for each distance. At most clubs, however, the target line is permanent and the shooting line is changed to establish the correct distance.


Arrows are usually made of aluminum alloy or carbon tubing. There are no size or weight restrictions, except that the maximum diameter allowed is 11 centimeters. A target arrow generally weighs less than an ounce, and the length varies to fit the archer. The ideal length is from the base of the thumb on the fully extended, non-shooting arm to the chin. Each arrow must be distinctively marked so that the archer can be identified. Usually, the archer’s name or initials are written or stamped on the shaft.

Separate competitive divisions have been established for two types of bows, recurve and compound.

In the recurve division, a bowsight that permits adjustment and elevation setting is allowed, so long as it doesn’t include any kind of magnifying device.

A compound bow uses a system of pulleys or cams to vary the draw. Maximum allowable draw weight is 60 pounds. In the compound division, the bowsight may incorporate magnifying lenses or prisms.

There are some other, minor differences between the divisions, but those are the major differences.

In both divisions, competitors are allowed to use an arm guard to protect the arm from the bowstring, a leather glove or tab to protect the drawing hand, a stabilizer and/or torque flight compensator, and a draw check indicator that tells the archer when the bowstring is at its optimum draw point.

Conduct of Competition

A tournament is made up of a specified number of rounds; a round consists of a certain number of arrows shot from each of several distances.

The most widely used is the FITA round, which consists of 144 arrows, 36 from each of four distances. For men, the distances are 30, 50, 70, and 90 meters; for women, 30, 50, 60, and 70 meters.

An FITA round may be shot in a single day or over a two-day period. The longest distance is shot first. At the beginning of a day of competition, each competitor is allowed to shoot six arrows for sighting purposes. Those arrows aren’t scored.

A group of two or three archers is usually assigned to each target. The first archer shoots three or six arrows, known as an “end,” then moves back behind the waiting line while the next archer shoots. There’s a time limit of 2 minutes per end. If an arrow is shot after the time limit is passed, the highest scoring arrow from that end is forfeited. An archer must shoot from an unsupported standing position, with one foot on each side of the starting line or both feet on the starting line.

The sequence of shooting within a group changes after each end. If there are three competitors in a group, the rotation is ABC, CAB, BCA, ABC, and so on.


Scoring takes place after every end at the 30- and 50-meter distances, after every second end at longer distances. An arrow is scored on the basis of where its shaft lies in the target face. The inner gold circle counts 10 points; the outer gold, 9 points; the inner red, 8 points; and so on, to a score of 1 for an arrow in the outer white circle.

If an arrow touches two scoring zones, or the dividing line between zones, it scores the higher value of the two. An arrow embedded in another arrow is given the same score as that arrow. If an arrow deflects from another arrow, it is scored as it lies in the target after the deflection.

An arrow that passes through the target, rebounds from the target, or rebounds from another arrow in the target is scored only if its mark on the target face or the other arrow can be unmistakably identified.

After the prescribed rounds have been completed, the winner is the archer with the highest total score. In case of a tie, the winner is the archer with the most scoring hits. If a tie still exists, the archer with the most tens wins.

The FITA Round

In the world championships and some other major tournaments, the FITA round is used as a qualification round. The top 24 qualifiers advance into a quarter-final round, in which they shoot 36 arrows, 9 from each distance, beginning with the longest distance. The top 18 then shoot another round of 36 arrows, beginning with the shortest distance.

From that round, the top 12 scorers enter the semi-finals, where they shoot 36 arrows, beginning with the longest distance. And the top 8 from that round go on to the grand finals, which consists of another 36 arrows, beginning with the shortest distance.

If there is a tie on any score affecting entry to the next round or affecting the awards, the archers involved take part in a shoot-out of three arrows at the last distance. The shootout is repeated as many times as necessary to resolve the tie.

Olympic Competition

In the Olympics, the FITA round is also used as a qualifer. The top 64 qualifiers move to an elimination round, where they are seeded based on their positions in the qualifying round. They shoot a series of matches, each match consisting of three ends of six arrows each from 70 meters, with a time limit of 4 minutes per end.

The top eight from the elimination round enter the finals round. This again consists of individual matches, but the matches now consist of two ends of six arrows each from 70 meters. Arrows are shot one at a time, with a time limit of 40 seconds.

Indoor Target Archery

The basic indoor rules are the same as the outdoor rules, but the dimensions are scaled down considerably. The standard shooting distances are 18 and 25 meters.

Targets are 60 centimeters in diameter at 25 meters and 40 centimeters at 18 meters. The faces are marked as for outdoor archery, but the widths of the concentric scoring circles are, obviously, also smaller: 3 centimeters for the larger face and 2 centimeters for the smaller.

The distance between the shooting line and the waiting line is a minimum of 3 meters and the lanes are a minimum of 160 centimers wide.

An FITA indoor round consists of 60 arrows shot at either of the standard distances. There’s also the combined FITA indoor round, made up of a 25-meter indoor round followed by the 18-meter round.

Flight Shooting

In flight shooting, archers compete for distance. The shooting line is at least 20 meters wide and the landing area is a minimum of 150 meters wide. Markers are placed at 50-meter intervals, beginning at the 150-meter mark and extending to 50 meters beyond the world record for the class being shot.

Each archer shoots four ends of six arrows each. Each end may be shot in a different class, or they can all be shot in the same class.An arrow must come down within the landing area to count.

Competition is conducted for a wide variety of bows and bow weights and for two different types of arrows, standard flight and broadhead. Records are kept for every possible combination of bow, weight, and arrow type.

Clout Shooting

This type of archery dates to the period when the longbow was used as a kind of artillery, launching arrows through a high trajectory to rain down on enemy soldiers.

There are two different targets used in clout shooting. In international competition, the target is a circle, 15 meters in diameter, marked on the ground. It’s divided into five concentric scoring circles, each 1.5 meters in width. The center of the target is marked by the clout itself, a brightly colored triangular flag.

The score for an arrow ranges from 5 points for a hit on the inner circle to 1 point for a hit on the outermost circle. If the arrow isn’t stuck in the ground, the score is determined by the location of its point as it lies. An arrow that sticks in the clout or in the pole that holds the clout scores 5 points.

A clout round is made up of 36 arrows. Distances are:

  • 165 meters for men’s recurve
  • 125 meters for women’s recurve
  • 185 meters for men’s compound
  • 165 meters for women’s compound

Each competitor shoots an end of three or six arrows. The time limit is two minutes for three arrows or four minutes for six. If an arrow is shot after the time has expired, the highest scoring arrow from that end is eliminated.

In case of a tie, the competitor with the fewest complete misses of the target wins. If a tie remains, the least number of ones is the deciding factor, and so on. If all arrows are the same, the score remains a tie.

In some competitive events, especially in England but also in the United States and other English-speaking countries, the clout target is 30 inches in diameter, covered with a white face that has a black spot, 4 inches in diameter, at its center. The target is supported on a stand at a 45-degree angle. The bottom of the target touches the ground.

Around that target, a 4-yard circle is drawn on the ground, divided into five concentric scoring circles, each 18 inches wide. Scoring is the same as in international competition, except that an arrow that hits and sticks in the target scores 6 points.

Distances are 180 yards for men, 120 or 140 yards for women.

In two-way clout shooting, two targets are set up. Competitors shoot a standard clout round in each direction, for a total of 72 arrows.

3-D Target Archery

In 3-D shooting, the targets are life-size replicas or silhouettes of various kinds of wildlife. Each target has a marked center ring and a marked heart/lung ring.

A round consists of 40 targets at 40 different locations, with a different shooting station for each target. Distances vary from 5 to 45 meters for compound divisions, 5 to 30 meters for barebow, longbow, and bow hunter divisions. The distances are not indicated.

Competitors move around the range, from one shooting station to the next. Each archer is allowed one shot per target, with a two-minute time limit. Many competitions are held over a two-day period, with 20 targets each day.

Scoring varies. The international federation awards 15 points for a hit in the center ring, 12 points for a hit in the heart/lung zone, and 7 points for a hit anywhere else in the figure, except for antlers and hooves. In competitions conducted by the International Bowhunting Organization there’s a small circle inside the center ring, which scores 11 points. The IBO awards 10 points for a hit anywhere else in the center ring, 8 points for a hit in the heart/lung zone, and 5 points for a hit elsewhere in the figure.

Ski Archery

Also known as “ski-arc,” this event is patterned after the biathlon, substituting the bow and arrow for the rifle. There are three types of competition: Individual, sprint, pursuit, and the relay. In all types, a competitor must carry the archery equipment in a backpack throughout the race. Skis must remain on while shooting. When shooting from the kneeling position, a competitor may unfasten one ski, but the foot must continue to rest on the ski.

Under international rules, individual competitors ski over a cross-country course, 12.5 kilometers for men and 10 kilometers for women. An end of four arrows is shot at each of four positions along the course. Two of the ends are shot from the kneeling position. Competitors generally start at 30-second intervals, though intervals of 45 or 60 seconds may be used, and each is timed individually.

The targets are 16 centimers in diameter and the shooting range is 18 meters. A one-minute penalty is imposed for each target missed.

In sprint competition, the distance is 7.5 kilometers for men, 6 kilometers for women, and only two ends are shot, one kneeling. If a target is missed, the competitor has to ski a 150-meter penalty loop.

Pursuit competition is 10 kilometers for men, 8 kilometers for women. Each competitor is given a start time based on the results of a qualifying competition. For example, if the second qualifier finished 12 seconds behind the top qualifier, then that person starts the final 12 seconds after the top qualifier starts.

In the pursuit, three ends are shot, one from the kneeling position. The penalty for a miss is a 150-meter penalty loop.

Relays are run over a 6-kilometer course. There are four legs in men’s competition, three legs in women’s competition. Each leg includes two ends of arrows, one standing and one kneeling. A miss calls for the same 150-meter penalty as in the sprint and pursuit.

Run Archery


The arcathlon was originally developed as a summer version of ski archery, with running replacing skiing.

In recent years, though, the international archery and biathlon federations have worked together to develop a new event, known as run archery, to replace the arcathlon.

The arcathlon introduces an interesting element of strategy into the shooting portion. There are targets of four different sizes:

  • 16 cm – 1 point
  • 14 cm – 2 points
  • 12 cm – 3 points
  • 10 cm – 4 points

The shooting distance is 20 meters. An athlete runs a 1000-meter course and then enters the shooting area, where he or she may shoot three arrows at any of the four targets.

The score determines the route to be taken from the shooting area back to the track. Naturally, a higher score entitles the athlete to a shorter route.

Score Gate
8 or higher Gate A
6 or 7 Gate B
4 or 5 Gate C
2 or 3 Gate D
0 or 1 Gate E

Competition begins a qualifying run of five laps, with five shooting phases and a total of 15 arrows. The final run consists of three laps and three shooting phases, for a total of nine arrows.

Only a simple recurve bow is allowed, with a drawing weight of no more than 30 pounds. An athlete has to carry all equipment while running; the bow has to be carried in the hand, while the arrows are carried on the back, in a quiver.


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