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Intro to Target Archery

Target archery is the most popular and recognized form of archery in the world. More than 150 countries have clubs participating in target archery, making it one of the fastest growing international sporting events. Target archery with recurve equipment is the only archery event at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Some of the other big international target archery events include the World Archery Championships, World Archery Indoor Championships, World Archery Youth Championships, World Archery Para Championships, Archery World Cup and Indoor Archery World Cup.

What makes target archery different from other styles? Here’s everything you need to know to get started in this awesome event.

The Basics

USA Archery is the national governing body for target archery in the US. The World Archery Federation is recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the governing body for all types of archery.

Target archery features indoor and outdoor formats. Athletes shoot from the same distance at bright, colorful bull’s-eye targets. Target archery uses the traditional five-color, 10-ring target in sizes 40 centimeters, 80 centimeters and 122 centimeters. Target size depends on division, which is based on the age and equipment style. You can compete with a variety of equipment in target archery including longbow, barebow, compound and Olympic recurves.


Targets can either be the single target or three vertical targets depending on whether it’s a national or international competition. Photo Credit: World Archery

Competing in indoor target archery is an exciting challenge. Competition is fierce and the margin for error is slim. For many archers it’s not just about beating the competition; it’s about shooting perfect scores.

During indoor events, athletes shoot at targets 18 meters away. The targets are red, blue, black, white and yellow. The inner ring scores 10 and the outer ring scores 1. For the compound division, the inner ring is 2 centimeters in diameter (about the size of a dime). For recurve, the 10-ring is 4 centimeters in diameter. During international competition, targets only include red, blue and yellow rings arranged in a vertical groups of three.

Athletes take turns shooting three arrow “ends” (shooting phases) and have two minutes to shoot. Whistle commands signal different phases of shooting. Two whistles tell athletes to approach the shooting line. A single whistle signals archers to begin. Three whistles mean its safe to go down range and collect arrows.

Some indoor tournaments have elimination matches that follow a ranking round. Recurve matches are decided under a set system. Athletes receive two set points for winning each set of three arrows. In the event of a tie, they each receive one set point. The first athlete to reach six set points wins. Compound matches use cumulative scoring. Athletes shoot 15 arrows in five ends of three arrows. The athlete with the highest score wins. In both divisions, if a match is tied it advances to a single arrow shoot-off.

In indoor team competition, three athletes of the same gender and division are selected. They are usually the top-scoring athletes during qualification. This cumulative score is used to seed the teams for elimination matches.


Outdoor competition means you have to account for weather conditions in your shooting. Photo Credit: World Archery

Athletes competing in outdoor target archery face a very different set of challenges than indoor. Sun, wind and rain can really mess with scores. Athletes also shoot more arrows at farther distances. Recurve athletes shoot at targets 70 meters away, while compound athletes shoot at targets 50 meters away.

Targets are red, blue, black, white and yellow, with the inner ring scoring 10 and the outer ring scoring 1. The recurve target is 122 centimeters in diameter with the 10-ring being 12.2 centimeters. The compound target is 80 centimeters in diameter with the 10-ring measuring 8 centimeters.

Outdoor target archery features individual, team and mixed competition. Mixed competition is usually the highest scoring athlete of each gender of the same bow style. Recurve team and recurve mixed team matches are decided using the set system. Teams receive two set points for winning each set of six arrows. Mixed teams receive two set points for winning each set of four arrows. In the event of a tie, both teams receive one set point. The first team to reach five set points wins the match.

Compound team and compound mixed team matches use cumulative scoring. Compound team archers shoot 24 arrows. Mixed teams shoot 16 arrows.

If any of the teams are tied, the match is decided in a shoot-off. Each athlete of the team shoots one arrow and the team with the highest score wins. This continues until a winner is decided.

The best way to get involved in target archery is to visit your local archery shop. The professionals there can answer questions about equipment and get you set up with lessons or a coach. Many shops also have target archery leagues and will be in the know about local tournaments.



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