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Accuracy vs. Precision

Archery requires a fine balance of accuracy and precision. What’s the difference? Accuracy is how close your arrows come to hitting your target and precision is how consistently you hit your target.

Those definitions sound similar and are almost identical in dictionaries, but they differ greatly when shooting archery. Archers see where their groups strike the target, and how tightly the arrows cluster in the group. Together, accuracy and precision reveal our level of shooting.

To be accurate, archers must set their sights exactly for conditions the day dictates. That’s extremely important outdoors because wind, air temperatures, relative humidity, and sunlight’s direction can affect where arrows hit. By closely monitoring conditions while shooting, you’ll get the upper hand on archers who take them for granted.

A precise archer should be able to group their arrows no matter what bow they’re using. Photo Credit: ATA

Precise archers should be able to pick up any bow and shoot tight groups. Archers who identically perform the movements in their shot routine from one shot to the next achieve precision. When archers work on their form, they’re actually working on their precision. The more consistent their form, the more exact each shot will be.

Many of us see variations in precision while working on our form. I call that “moving groups,” which happens when archers hone a certain part of their technique and execute for that end. That can make arrows hit slightly high in one end, but then the group shifts slightly right in the next end while remaining the same size. Precision is measured by the group’s size, and not where the group hits. The more precise the archer, the tighter their groups.

You need to master precision before you can hone in on accuracy. Photo Credit: World Archery

Once archers achieve their desired precision, they can work on their accuracy. That means taking those tight groups and moving them to the target’s middle. In target archery, archers simply move their sight toward the group to make the arrows hit the target’s center. In barebow archery, archers pick a new aiming spot, modify their setup (like string walking), or combine the two methods.

Successful archers find a way to combine consistently good form (precision) with proactive sight adjustments (accuracy). Top-level archers deal with high levels of anxiety no matter the conditions, especially during elite competitions like the Olympics or World Championships.

All archers have plans for dealing with their nerves so they can confidently execute their normal shot. They also know exactly how much to move their sight to move their arrows; say from the 9-ring onto the spider. That takes years of experience and lots of help from more seasoned archers. But if they have the desire to win, they won’t feel like they’re working while honing their accuracy and precision.



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Learn the basics here, from the different styles of archery to how to choose the bow that’s right for you.


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