Types of Archery : The Different Kinds Explained

As a sport or a means of survival, Archery has survived through thousands of years, serving many different purposes. Varying in method and equipment, the …

As a sport or a means of survival, Archery has survived through thousands of years, serving many different purposes. Varying in method and equipment, the different types of archery fit different kinds of athletes and situations.

Target Archery

When you think of archery, you’re probably thinking of target archery. It’s the most popular form of the sport, and over 142 countries celebrate it. The World Archery Federation or WA governs target archery as a sport. Any archery enthusiast should give target archery a try!

Target archery is a form of sport where an archer aims to hit a target’s center from varying differences across multiple rounds.


There are many rules when it comes to target archery including rules on the type of equipment, a time frame to shoot, shooting environment and more. This simplified list will help guide you through the major rules. However, each item listed here comes with a lot more information.

  • Competitions may be indoor or outdoor.
  • An “End” is a phase or turn.
  • A single whistle blow is the signal to shoot.
  • Three whistle blows are the signal to collect arrows.
  • “Fast” means to stop shooting, the situation is dangerous.
  • Do not distract any archer as they shoot.
  • No electric or electronic additions to a bow.
  • Sighting circles may not exceed 2cm in the line of vision.
  • Archers may not use electronic communication or noise reducing devices
  • Time limit for an athlete to shoot three arrows is 2 minutes for indoor events.
  • Time limit for an athlete to shoot six arrows is 4 minutes.
  • Archers may not raise their bow arm until the signal is given
  • No arrow may be “re-shot.”
  • The arrow’s value or point depends on the position of the shaft on the target.
  • Arrows which hit and then rebound off the target score based on the mark they inflict on the target’s face.
  • Judges record missed shots as an “M.”

Many of these rules were made for the safety of the archers and the viewers. As archery uses dangerous equipment, anyone not using it correctly and following the basic rules, may be subject to disqualification or baring from the competition.

Metric Rounds

A metric round is a standard which most practicing countries use during archery tournaments. The WA rules for metric rounds commonly called a 1440 round or FITA Round, use a set series of distances which vary based on gender and environment.

Metric Round shooting distances include:

  • Outdoor Senior Gentlemen – 30 to 90 meters
  • Outdoor Ladies – 30 to 70 meters
  • Olympic Metric Rounds – 70 meters
  • Indoor Metric Rounds – 18 or 25 meters

The junior division uses a shorter target but relies on the same distances.

Imperial Rounds

Imperial rounds, less common than Metric rounds and using the Grand National Archery Society, or GNAS. GNAS rules typically have preference throughout the United Kingdom.

An imperial round is more to the point than a metric round where the archer fires five dozen arrows at a set distance, referred to as a Portsmouth round

  • Indoor distance – 18 meters
  • Outdoor seniors distance – 37 meters to 91 meters
  • Outdoor juniors distance – 9.1 meters to 73 meters

In imperial rounds each end allows an archer to fire three arrows for indoor competitions or 6 arrows for outdoor games. In rounds called a Worcester round, each allows the athlete to shoot five arrows.


The GNAS has two classes, senior and junior split each splits into five segments, and the senior has an additional “Grand Master Bowman.”

The Senior classification grade includes:

  • 3rd Class
  • 2nd Class
  • 1st Class
  • Bowman
  • Master Bowman
  • Grand Master Bowman

Junior classification grades include:

  • 3rd Class
  • 2nd Class
  • 1st Class
  • Junior Bowman
  • Junior Master Bowman


Scoring for target archery is simple to remember and identify; there is little room for confusion in any event.

WA targets use the following system:

  • White rings – 1 point
  • Black rings – 3 points
  • Blue rings – 5 points
  • Red rings – 7 points
  • Gold rings – 9 points
  • Inner Gold ring – 10 points

If an arrow touches two rings, the archer receives the higher score. The lines between the rings are Line Breakers or Line Cutters, touching a line counts as entering the ring, giving the archer the higher score.

Tournament Rounds

Tournament rounds include both metric and imperial rounds. Judges record rounds on tables, but these tables are vital for archers as well as it tells them how many arrows are shot at what distances. Tournament round tables mark arrows by the dozen with a “-“ representing zero arrows.

Imperial rounds

Imperial zoning is very similar to metric round scoring except the targets have only 5 zones, with the same point system of:

  • White ring – 1 point
  • Black ring – 3 points
  • Blue ring – 5 points
  • Red ring – 7 points
  • Gold ring – 9 points

As an archer works their way through the Imperial Rounds, they shoot from shorter distances.

Metric rounds

Metric rounds use the standard WA zoning or scoring. While outdoor competitions will draw archers closer to the target through the many rounds, most indoor competitions keep archers at a single distance through the many rounds.


Although archery is an age-old sport, method of hunting and means of survival, there were some issues with bringing this competition to the Olympics. Although the Olympic games come from ancient Greece dating back to 776 BC, the Olympics as you know them began in 1896.

Archery came to the modern Olympics in 1900, but then fell out of favor until returning in 1920 in a different event. Finally returning to the Olympics as an individual competition in 1972. The 1988 Olympics introduced archery as a team competition with an alteration in 1992, allowing teams to have match play or a set method of varying archers.

The overarching problem was a lack of consistent rules for archery tournaments. The solution was the creation of FITA, now known as the WA. Olympic archers may only use a recurve bow, to keep the sport as true to its origins as possible.

Field Archery

Similar to target archery, field archery involves firing arrows at targets, usually from a variety of distances. The primary difference between these two types of archery is that field archery hardly ever takes place on flat land.

For anyone looking to take up archery as a sport with the benefits of learning a survival skill as well, field archery is a great option.

Field archery relies on the knowledge of bowhunting while helping archers to build this skill as well. These competitions take place in a realistic outdoor setting, with rough terrain, often in wooded areas.

Field archery requires both skills as an archer and skills in fieldcraft which includes the survival skills related to bowhunting.

International Field Archery Association (IFAA) / National Field Archery Society (NFAA)

The IFAA, and the NFAA host competitions, all of which involve three rounds. The IFAA is the International Field Archery Association, while the NFAA is the National Field Archery Association the national organization which organizes competitions within the United States.

Field rounds

Field rounds are usually the first round of a field range archery tournament. Archers fire arrows from a distance of up to 80 yards across ‘even’ terrain, although not un-wooded. Hitting the center of a black and white target earns the archer five points while hitting the middle white ring earns them four points, and the outer black ring earns them three points.

Hunter rounds

Hunter rounds rely more on bowhunter skills using uneven distances spanning as far as 70 yards. The target for hunter rounds is an all-black round with a. single white bullseye.

Animal rounds

One of the most anticipated rounds in a field archery competition is the animal round which uses life-size animal targets. The archers again shoot from uneven distances.

Unlike all other archery rounds and scoring, animal rounds offer an archer three opportunities to score. If an archer hits the mark on the first position, then the archer will not shoot again. If not, they will continue to the second and possibly the third station, each with an opportunity to hit within vital or non-vital areas of the target.

3D rounds

3D rounds strive to create a realistic hunting environment using foam, 3D, life-size targets. Archers shoot most commonly at unmarked distances.

World Archery Federation (WA Field)

The WA has a field division which establishes the rules for field archery. These rules dictate that each course will have 24-targets, called a suite of rounds. Unlike other forms of archery, field archery targets sizes are preset.

Six targets of the four target sizes are present in every course. Target sizes include:

  • 80cm
  • 60cm
  • 40cm
  • 20cm

National Field Archery Society UK (NFAS UK)

With minor adaptions, the NFAS uses competitions that include big game hunting as well as 3D targets. The NFAS uses pegs and a walkup format where the archer stands at each peg and gets closer to the target as necessary.

Initially, the archer stands at the red peg, then continues forward if they need to. The scoring depends on the kill area where hitting within the kill zone earns the archer 20 points, or 24 if they hit the inner kill zone. The wound zone or wound area only earn 16 points. If an archer must move forward as far as the blue peg, they will only earn 8 points for a kill score and 4 points for a wound score.

3D Archery

In 3D archery, athletes, hunters, and survival enthusiasts can completely recreate a hunting scenario. 3D archery allows the use of bare bows, compound bows, instinctive and longbows. Usually, this type of shooting doesn’t use markers to show distances and can use surroundings that employ both uphill and downhill shooting scenarios.

Competition rounds may last for extended time frames and archers cannot leave the grounds without completing the round. They must bring any provisions, clothing, or care necessities with them onto the field.

Traditional Archery

Traditional archery denies all the modern advancements that have come to the sport. Using a traditional bow, and no sight, traditional archery is a great starting point for many survival enthusiasts. You can shoot at targets, and eventually, use traditional archery for bowhunting.


Bowhunting is exactly what you think it is, and you hunt small or large game using bows. You can even begin bow fishing. Bowhunters use heavier and more resilient tips. Additionally, as a bowhunter, you may have an interest in a compound or modified bow.


Although many types of archery, including every type mentioned here up until now, are quite active in the United Kingdom and the U.S. Kyūdō is an ancient Japanese form of archery. Originally the samurai practiced this type of archery. The bows are typically much larger than a traditional bow.

This style of archery displays a different mindset, asking the archer to practice meditation with action.


Through the many different styles and types of competitive archery, you can no doubt find something that fits you. Any enthusiast or sporting person can learn to aim and shoot a bow and arrow with accuracy and skill!

Remember that traditional shooting relies on skill entirely. Target archery focuses more on the competitive aspect of the sport, while field and bowhunting aim to recreate real-life environments.