After falling out of popularity with the advent of firearms and a previous failed attempt, archery successfully transitioned from an ancient pastime to a modern sport around the mid-1800s. These were the beginnings of archery’s official leadership bodies, which included such organizations as Archery GB (governing body), The World Archery Federation, and later, the National Archery Association of the United States, which would become USA Archery. Sports archery as a whole came back into the spotlight around the beginning of the 20th century, after archery was featured at the Olympics in 1900. It became a permanent event in 1972, when it’s popularity grew to its current point.
What is Modern Sports Archery?
The rules will vary according to whichever governing body is in control of the competition, but this should give a general sense of how it works. Today, Archery competitions are between men, women, and the disabled, with world rankings put forth by the World Archery Federation that are considered the official mark of a sharpshooter’s standing. These competitions are generally broken down into the following disciplines:
- Target Archery is the classic archery competition, where archers simply aim at the same targets from the same distances with the same bows. Points are awarded for their shots’ proximity to the bullseye. The targets are five rings of color separated by about 100 centimeters each, and the classes are separated by the bow used – e.g. recurve, compound. Target Archery is the only kind practiced at the Olympics and the World Championships, as it is the common form of competition between most of the world’s archery organizations.
- Field Archery differs from target archery in that there is a roving course for field archers, which might be a section of woods or a manufactured course of artificial obstacles. Where distances are standard in target archery, field archery targets reward for multiple targets according to varied distances, meaning one course might have targets anywhere between 10 and 70 meters from the participant. The goal of the field course is to emulate real-world hunting situations, with varying terrain and animals hiding behind objects.
- Indoor Archery – Essentially the same competition as field archery, except it’s performed in a facility instead of an outdoor range course. This has a definitive impact on accuracy, since factors like wind and sunlight play a natural role in one’s ability to shoot. Competitions are more standardized, with targets on a given course usually near the same distance from the shooter (around 20 meters) instead of varying widely like the field course. Indoor archery uses a wider range of bows as well, likely due to more controllable conditions, where outdoor competition tends toward recurve bows.
- Para-Archery is the archery equivalent to the paralympics. To qualify, competitors must have their cases examined by the governing body of their respective competition to determine eligibility. The classes are broken into the level of impediment, between ARST, disabled individuals who can stand, and ARW1 and ARW2, which refer to individuals bound to a wheelchair with varying degrees of assistance for the upper body.
Sports Archery Classifications
Sports archery classifications are separated by which type of bow is used. Archers who compete at an international level must spend countless hours training with their respective bows, so they can duplicate the same mechanics that work. The three major categories are as follows:
- Recurve bows are the most commonly used in sanctioned archery sports competitions, as they are the closest in form and function to the traditional bows of ancient times. The recurve bow derives its name from the way the ends curve away from the archer toward the target at the tips. The bows have changed their materials to include carbon-based hybrids instead of just wood or bamboo, but their design has remained largely the same. These bows were added to the Olympics in 1972, and have remained as the only type among the major three used in this competition.
- Compound bows are a more modern design, which require less strength and more precision than recurve bows. These are more likely to be used in para-archery competitions since their mechanical nature takes pressure off the archer and allows for the focus shift toward aiming. The compound bow was added to World competitions around the 1990s, though it has yet to be featured at the Olympics.
- Barebow is about the same in make as recurve bow, without extra archery gear like aim stabilizers. It can be seen as the truest measure of archery skill, being the most basic of the three. These bows are primarily used in target archery competition with targets at 50 meters, since the precision required doesn’t lend itself to field archery. The barebow has been used in World competitions since around 1969, mostly as an exhibition, before becoming an official category in 1985.