The Basics

The Basics

The following terms are used to describe archery equipment and methods mainly for the benefit of beginner archers:

  • Recurve Bow – The traditional type of bow. The string attaches to the end of each limb. A true Recurve bow has limbs which, for the end few inches curve back towards the front of the bow. This gives the bow greater power. Many archers now a days shoot a different type of bow with wheels and what looks like a lot of strings. This is called a Compound bow.
  • Take-Down Bow – A bow with a separate handle (riser), usually aluminium alloy and detachable recurve limbs.
  • Limbs – These are what the string is attached to. Most modern bows can be taken to pieces (hence the phrase “take down” bow) and the limbs detach from the riser. The flexing of the limbs when you pull the bow is what stores the energy to shoot the arrow.
  • Riser – This is the handle of the bow. It is centre part of the bow.
  • Loose – This is the act of letting go of the string. The loose will allow the string and the limbs to go back to their original position. This releases the energy and propels the arrow to the target.
  • Bracer – An arm guard. It prevents the string from hitting your arm and makes sure that loose clothing does not catch the string.
  • Tab – Protection for the fingers when pulling the bowstring.
  • Anchor Point – The point on your face where your hand rests when the string is pulled back fully. To shoot accurately it needs to be in the same place each time you shoot. Generally it should be with the top knuckle under your chin and the string touching part of your face (e.g. your chin and/or nose)
  • Fletchings – The generally plastic fins on the arrow. They stabilise the arrow in flight. They were traditionally feathers but plastic is harder wearing. There are 3 of them and one will generally be a different colour to the others. When you put the arrow on the string this one will point away from the bow.
  • Nock – The part of the arrow that clips on the string.
  • Nocking Point – The point on the string where the arrow fits. Generally there will be two small metal rings on the string. The nocking point is between them.
  • Serving – A tough whipping of thread or monofilament which protects the middle and end of the bow string.
  • Boss – The big round straw ‘thing’ that the target face is attached to.
  • Target Face – The coloured paper target that is pinned to the boss. The colours are, from the centre, Gold, Red, Blue, Black and White. Each colour equates to a different score dependent upon the round.
  • Gold – The highest scoring part of the target. It’s not called the bull’s-eye

Beginners’ Equipment

(During Beginners’ courses, and for as long as you wish to use it, all equipment is provided by the club.)

You don’t need to have everything on day one, but the following will get you started. However, it is advisable that equipment is not purchased until the end of the course so that when purchasing the supplier will have a bench mark to start with.

  • Bow – Wooden Take Down bows are good to start on but there are some good inexpensive metal handled bows on the market.
  • Bow Sight – There are some very inexpensive basic sights available. If you want something a little better there are some cheaper ‘copies’ of more expensive sights available for a reasonable price.
  • Arrow Rest – A basic one will do to start with.
  • Bow Stringer – This will make putting the string on the bow much easier and will prevent damage to the bow.
  • Arrows – Start with a basic set of aluminium arrows. At this stage buy them for durability.
  • Quiver – Any type will do providing it holds 6 arrows. You may want one with pockets to hold bits and pieces.
  • Tab – If you can afford to get a platform tab (i.e. one with a hard platform above the fingers) you will generally benefit from the more consistent anchor point it will give you.
  • Bracer – Any one will do but the more it moulds itself to your arm the better.

Safety and Etiquette

For your own and other’s safety make sure you follow these safety rules:

  1. Never draw a bow, even without an arrow, except when facing the target standing on the shooting line
  2. Never aim a bow anywhere except at the target
  3. Never start shooting unless the field captain / coach approves (whistle)
  4. Immediate compliance with the word “FAST”. It can be shouted by any archer who sees any sign of danger. As soon as you hear the word “FAST” stop shooting at once, bring your bow down and return the arrow to the quiver
  5. Never go in front of the shooting line until the field captain / coach approves (whistle)
  6. Never run, always walk towards the target. Look at the ground so as not to walk into or tread on any arrows that may have fallen short
  7. Never stand behind an archer who is pulling arrows out of a target you may get an arrow nock in the face
  8. Never let go of a drawn bow without an arrow in it (dry shot). The energy that usually causes an arrow to fly can seriously damage the limbs of a bow and cause personal injury

The following are the rules of Etiquette from the GNAS Rules of Shooting. Please try to observe them at all times:

  1. Does not talk in a loud voice whilst others are shooting
  2. Does not talk to another competitor who obviously prefers to remain silent
  3. Does not make any exclamation on the shooting line which might disconcert a neighbour in the act of shooting
  4. Does not go behind the target to retrieve his arrows before his score has been recorded
  5. Does not walk up and down the shooting line comparing scores
  6. Does not touch anyone else’s equipment without permission
  7. Does not leave litter
  8. When calling scores does so in groups of three, for example ‘7-7-5’ pause ‘5-5-3’
  9. If he breaks another’s arrow through his own carelessness, pays for it in cash on the spot
  10. Thanks the Target Captain at the end of each round for work in his behalf

Basic Shooting Technique

The following are some basic points to remember when preparing for and executing a shot. Remember the ingredients of good shooting are Concentration, Control and Consistency.

  • Body Position
    1. Feet in the same spot
    2. Weight evenly distributed
    3. Body upright
    4. Shoulders back
  • Nocking the arrow
    1. Make sure the arrow is nocked securely onto the string
    2. Fingers correctly positioned on the string
    3. Back of the hand relaxed and flat
  • Before you draw
    1. Bow held vertically
    2. Pressure on bow hand
    3. Bow arm, wrist and fingers relaxed
    4. Head turned to correct position
    5. Teeth together and lips closed
  • Draw
    1. Shoulder blades move together
    2. Bow shoulder kept back and down
  • Anchor
    1. Index finger of drawing hand under the jawbone
    2. String touching the nose and chin
  • Hold and aim
    1. Tension between shoulder blades maintained
    2. String alignment correct
    3. Steady sight on the gold
  • Release
    1. Tension between shoulder blades maintained
    2. Relax fingers of string hand
  • Follow through
    1. Eye still on the target
    2. Tension between shoulder blades maintained
    3. Bow arm still up and fingers relaxed
  • Relaxation
    1. Concentrate on repeating a good shot
    2. Concentrate on overcoming a not so good shot
    3. Don’t start the next shot quickly
    4. Prepare for the next shot

What are Rounds?

A round is a certain combination of shots at varying distances, sometimes on varying sizes of target face. For example, the Western round comprises four dozen arrows at 60 yards and four dozen at 50 yards, all on the big 125cm face. There are two main types of rounds, those in which the distances are measured in yards: Imperial rounds, or those where the distances are measured in metres: Metric rounds. Rounds may be shot in indoors as well as outdoors.


The target contains five coloured circles: yellow (called the gold NOT THE BULL’S EYE), red, blue, black and white. These score 9, 7, 5, 3 and 1 points respectively for traditional Imperial or GNAS rounds. For FITA or Metric rounds each coloured band is sub-divided into an inner and outer ring, giving a total of ten rings which score 10 points at the inner gold down to 1 point at the outer white.

Arrows are shot and scored in groups of three or six (known as ‘ends’) dependent upon the round and distance being shot.


Outdoor classifications apply within a calendar January to December year. To gain a Bowman/Junior Bowmen, 1st, 2nd or 3rd class classification the archer must shoot, under GNAS Rule of Shooting, three rounds of, or better than, the qualifying scores at a meeting organised by the GNAS or a body affiliated to GNAS or at any associated club target day.

Indoor classifications apply from 1st July to 30th June. To gain A, B, C, D, E, F ,G or H classification the archer must shoot, under GNAS Rule of Shooting, three rounds of, or better than, the qualifying scores at a meeting organised by the GNAS or a body affiliated to GNAS or at any associated club target day.