• Longbow
  • Olympic recurve bow
  • Compound bow
  • modern competition arrow
  • traditional wooden arrow
Created by Admin on 19/04/2012
Last updated by Admin on 21/04/2012
19 April 2012

About Archery


Some authorities date the origin of archery as early as the Aurignacian period, about 25,000 years before the modern era. The earliest people known to have used the bow and arrow were the ancient Egyptians, who adopted the weapon at least 5,000 years ago. In the time of the earliest pharaohs, the Egyptians practised archery in hunting, as well as in warfare against the ancient Persians, who were then equipped only with spears and slingshots. Soon afterwards, however, the bow and arrow was used extensively in the ancient world. During the Middle Ages the most notable European archers were the English, whose longbows proved decisive at the battles of Crecy (1346) and Agincourt (1415).


Archery has long been popular as an amateur sport, particularly in England. The oldest continuously held archery tournament still extant, known as the Ancient Scorton Arrow, was founded in Yorkshire in 1673; and in 1781 the Royal Toxophilite (Greek,toxon, "bow"; philos,"loving") Society was formed to advance the sport. The Grand National Archery Society, the official organization of British archery, was established in 1844, and it has conducted championship contests since that year.

In 2008 the Grand National Archery Society rebranded itself to Archery GB

Modern Olympics

Archery was held in the Olympic Games of 1900, 1904, 1908, and 1920. It was then discontinued until it again became an Olympic sport for men and women at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Modernized in 1992 to promote interest, the Olympic round consists of a ranking round, an elimination round, a finals round, a team elimination round, and a team finals round. The individuals' event includes 64 archers, all shooting at the same time at targets 70 m (230 ft) away. Archers with the highest scores after various elimination heats compete for medals. The competition is conducted according to the International Archery Federation's rules.

The longbow

long bowThe traditional long bow has changed little in hundreds of years. Traditionally made of Yew, but often made from a variety of woods. Often several layers of different types of wood, chosen for their specific qualities of hardness or flexibility, are sandwiched together to form a single stave from which the bow is hewn.

Longbows are individually hand made by craftsmen and take many hours to perfect.

Competition longbows are made specifically to a victorian pattern, are not allowed sights and must be shot with traditional feathered wooden arrows. The rules on "traditional" archery were relaxed recently when a rule change allowed the use of binoculars for arrow spotting. An aid that was previously thought too modern for the spirit of Longbow Archery.

The long bow is very inefficient, returning only 60% of the energy the archer puts in. This, combined with the heavier wooden arrows means the average longbow requires 50 to 60 lbs of pull to draw it compared with 35 lbs for a typical Olympic recurve bow.

War bows, the type used in medieval warfare typically took over 100 lbs to draw them, with archers learning their skill from the age of 12. Skeletal remains recovered from the Mary Rose show significant deformities caused to the bodies of archers by the regular and frequent practise with such heavy bows

The 'Olympic' Recurve

recurve bowThe Olympic Recurve is so called as it is the only type of bow that is used in olympic competition. Note how the limbs curve in an S shape. These bows are usually made of wood with fibreglass laminations, or carbon fibre and are either a solid "one piece" bow or have a seperate wooden or metal handle section (called the "riser") that the limbs bolt onto.

Recurve archers are allowed sights (a single ring or pin) and stabilisers which help balance the bow. Like the longbow, the string is pulled back and released from the fingers although a glove or peice of material such as leather is often used to protect the fingers.

Modern bowstrings are made of synthetic polyester materials.

The Compound bow

compound bowUnlike other bows, the compound bow has a string (or cable) which travels around a number of pulleys or "cams". These cams are offset or "eccentricated" and give a mechanical advantage that has the effect of reducing the amount of effort needed to pull the string back as the string is pulled back. This means that the first few inches of pull may typically require 55 lbs of pull, but this weight falls away, to a fraction of the weight by the time the archer reaches full draw. The system was originally developed for hunting. A high poundage (and therefore fast) bow delivers the arrow in a very low flat arc which means there is little adjustment of the sight between distances. Unfortunately, high poundage is difficult to hold steady whilst aiming. The mechanical advantage of the "let-off" means the archer only holds a fraction of the peak weight in the important phase of aiming. The system was originally developed for hunting in the USA so the hunter could hold steady at full draw whilst the target came into view and then deliver a hard fatal blow with the arrow. Please note that bowhunting is illegal in England and Grimsby Archers do not support it.

Compound archers are also allowed to use stabilisers, magnifying lenses in their sighting systems, peep sights (back sights) built into the string and the string may be drawn and released with a mechanical "trigger" known as a "release aid". All this results in a more accurate shot.


modern arrow
Arrows (shafts) are usually made of wood, fibreglass, aluminium tubing, carbon fibre tubes or aluminium tubes with carbon fibre wrapped around it.
Points (called 'piles') are usually made of brass, steel or titanium.wooden arrow
Vanes (also called 'fletchings') are traditionally made of natural feathers but modern archers use plastic.
The "nock" which secures the arrow to the bowstring is usually made of plastic, even on traditional wooden arrows.
The length of the arrow is dictated by the archers "drawlength". Obviously an archer with longer arms, requires a longer arrow.
The diameter of the arrow affects the stiffness of the arrow. The thicker the arrow the stiffer it is. In the case of aluminium arrows, the metal of the tube can be made thicker also making the arrow stiffer and heavier. The correct amount of stiffness (or "spine") is important as it affects the way an arrow leaves the bow and flies. Calculating the correct "spine" is quite complex and best refered to a coach or archery retailer.

Rounds and Scoring

An archery round is a fixed number of arrows shot over one or more known distances.
Example: The York round consists of:
6 dozen arrows @ 100 yards
4 dozen arrows @ 80 yards
2 dozen arrows @ 60 yards
shot at a 122cm face scoring 9 for the Gold, 7 for the Red, 5 for the blue, 3 for the black and 1 point for the white.
Shooting a round enabled archers to compare their abilities via scores.
There are 3 distinct target systems
British or Imperial system, with distances measured in Yards shooting at a 122cm face scoring 9,7,5,3,1
FITA or metric system with distances measured in Metres, longer distances are shot at 122cm faces and shorter distances at 80cm faces, scoring 10 for the inner gold then 9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2 down to 1 for the outer white.
Indoor shooting uses smaller target faces (40cm, 60cm and 80cm) over shorter distances, typically 18m, 20yds and 25 yds.
For more about rounds and scoring see the fact sheet attachment below