Introduction to Target (Olympic) Archery

Introduction to Target (Olympic) Archery

Archery has gained a lot of popularity in recent years due to the success of movies like The Hunger Games and shows like Arrow, as well as worldwide exposure by the Olympics. Regardless of the inspiration, it is a sport that offers everyone the chance to have fun and build strength in a simple way without much investment. For those interested in taking up the sport, one option that many choose is target archery. It is what you see in the Olympics and is shot in most clubs and organized events. Using a recurve bow with arrows specific for the bow, competitors shoot targets at a designated distance away. In organized tournaments, the shooter has a set amount of time to hit their targets with a set amount of arrows. The closer those arrows are to the center, the higher the score. The goal here, of course, is to earn the highest score possible while remaining safe and having fun. With the abundance of local facilities and clubs, anyone can start training and improving their skills right away.  This is a sport that most people can participate in right in their own back yard.

The basic components of target archery competition include a bow, arrows and targets. The shooter lines up parallel to the target and will begin shooting on command. The goal is to shoot as close to the center of the target as possible. Depending on the tournament, the shooter will use either 3 or 6 arrows.  The competition can take place both indoors and out. The basics rules remain the same.  With two whistles, the shooter prepares to shoot. With a single whistle, shooting commences. Finally, on three whistles, collect arrows.  On multiple whistles (a fast command) shooters have to stop what they are doing and return the arrow to the quiver. The fast command means that there is an emergency and all archers must halt what they are doing immediately.

There are international rounds and United Kingdom rounds. They do have some differences but are overall, quite similar. The distances are from about 30 m to 90 m each for outdoor competitions, and 18 m for indoor (though international rounds also have a 25 m distance for indoor). Shooters are grouped based on age and gender. All archers must follow the same rules when shooting, however. Shooters have 2 minutes to shoot 3 arrows for indoor competitions, and 4 minutes to shoot 6 arrows for outdoor. In international competition rules, outdoor competitions have 4 minutes for 6 arrows on targets farther away and 2 minutes for 3 arrows on targets closer.

While the scores for each ring are slightly different between the two competitions, the objective remains the same – hit the center ring. The winner is the archer who hits their arrow closest to the X on the target, the center circle. The closer each hit is, the higher the score is. The size of the center X changes depending on distance. For the Olympics, the size is 122 cm at a 70 m and 90 m distance, depending on which competition you enter.


The bow typically used for target archery is the recurve bow. A recurve bow requires far more strength and skill to master than other types of bows and will require significant practice to become competitive in tournaments. The arrows used in recurve bows typically do not move as fast as those in other types of bows. These arrows do reach speeds over 100 miles an hour, but this is still considered slow compared to many of the modern bows designed for hunting. 

Anyone with an interest in archery can get started by visiting a local club and taking archery classes. If you decide that you like the sport, you can find affordable bows and arrows at 


Tony R. Wagstaff

Date 2/14/2015

Very informative.............Tony

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