The Different Types of Archery Practised Today

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Maybe you are new to archery, or maybe you aren’t but you are just looking for something new to try, no matter which this article will go through all the different types of archery you can find on offer today, who each one is good for and the types of bow most commonly used. After you’ve read this you should know the difference between a 3D, flight, clout, ski, and target archer! At least that’s the idea….

​Target Archery (Indoor and Outdoor)

Target archery is the style of archery featured in the Olympic games and can be practiced both indoors and outdoors and is probably the most popular one. It’s also the style you’ll come across more than any other. Probably because it is easier to setup an indoor or outdoor target range than anything else. Target archery competitions consist of shooting an arrow at a stationary target with a gold or bullseye in the center. Other types of target can be used recreationally, however the gold centered WA bullseye target you can see below is the most common and the most widely known. The WA target (World Archery) used to be known as the FITA target (Federation Internationale de Tir a). FITA is still how you will see it referred to on many websites and online shops.

FITA Archery Target
WA (was FITA) Target

Targets come in different sizes and these are used for different shooting distances, at a longer distance you need a larger target face to aim at. Common target sizes and their shooting distances (in brackets) are listed below and the target size refers to the diameter of the outer or largest ring on the target…

  • 40cm (18m Indoor)
  • 60cm (25m Indoor)
  • 80cm (30m and 50m Outdoor)​
  • 122cm (70m and 90m Outdoor)

A bullseye or central gold ring shot is worth 10 points and usually as shown in the image above and the further the target ring is from the center of the target consequently the lower the score.

Most common types of bow: Recurve, compound, barebow
Other types of bow: Crossbow
Good for: All skill levels​

​Olympic Archery

​Olympic archery is target archery over 70m (230 feet) using a 122cm WA (FITA) target for both women and men and also there are team events, however only modern recurve bows are allowed. No other style of bow is featured in the Olympics.

Most common types of bow: Recurve only
Good for: Olympians​!

​Field Archery

​Field archery is an outdoorsy version of target archery practised along a course, usually through woodlands or uneven terrain, where archers find stationary targets setup at different distances and elevations. This differs from plain target archery as it introduces more distractions and variables into the shot because archers shoot uphill and/or downhill at targets at sometimes unmarked distances with differing wind, light and shade conditions.

​A typical field archery course is setup with 48 targets, 24 targets which are marked with the distance to the target and another 24 which aren’t marked. Three arrows are shot on each target to make a total of 144 arrows.

Most common types of bow: Compound, recurve, barebow
Other types of bow: Crossbow
Good for: All skill levels​

3D Archery

3D Archery
3D Archery

Similar to field archery, except using 3D targets which resemble animals like deer or coyote (or in the case of the example on the right a Skunk), is 3D archery. This type of archery again takes you through different types of terrain and combines a hike with judging distances, elevations and wind conditions and shooting your bow accordingly. This makes 3D archery perfect companion sport to bowhunting as it teaches many of the same skills used out in the wild.

Targets in 3D archery normally have marked scoring rings to allow you to compete against fellow archers and see who has the most accurate shot. A typical 3D tournament will consist of shooting 40 arrows at 40 different targets over the course of one or two days.

Most common types of bow: Compound, recurve, barebow/longbow
Other types of bow: Crossbow
Good for: All skill levels​

​Flight Archery

In flight archery the aim of the game is the shoot your arrow the greatest distance possible. This normally requires a large flat open area. This type of archery requires performance equipment which is optimized for the purpose of greater range and special arrows which are normally very short and tapered towards both ends from the middle to reduce air resistance and weight.​

Here’s something to give you some idea of distances involved in flight archery, this table shows the current (as time of writing) world record distances achieved for the different types of bow:​

Bow Distance (m) Date Name Location
Flight Bow 1222.01 02/08/1987 Don Brown Smithcreek, USA
Foot Bow 1410.87 06/10/1979 Harry Drake Ivanpah, USA
Target Recurve Bow 532.87 18/08/2012 Tony Osborn Tadcaster, GBR
Compound Target Bow 873.29 31/07/1992 Tony Osborn Church Fenton, GBR

Most common types of bow: Specialised flight bow, foot bow, recurve, compound
Other types of bow: Crossbow, traditional bows
Good for: Strong proficient archers

Clout Archery​

Clout archery is similar to target archery, however the target is much larger and is marked out flat on the floor with a flag as the bullseye. The object of the discipline is to shoot and arrow upwards in an arc towards the target, so that it drops as close to the flag as possible. The best way to think of this would be…. golf for archers (where every hole is a par 1)!

Most common types of bow: Recurve, compound
Other types of bow: Crossbow, traditional
Good for: All skill levels, bored golfers!

Ski Archery​

In the biathlon contestants ski through a cross-country trail system which is divided into shooting rounds (with a rifle) at targets, and if the target is not hit the bi-athlete receives a time penalty. Ski archery works in much the same way but replaces the rifle with a bow and arrow. A typical course is 12 kilometers long for men and eight for women. Four arrows are shot every four kilometers and half of those from a kneeling position.

​Ski archers normally carry their bows around the course on their back (as shown in the picture).

Ski archery targets are 16 centimeters in diameter and positioned 18 meters away from the archer. A shot is either a hit or a miss and a miss will mean the archer must ski a 350m penalty circuit before leaving the target site. First one across the line is the winner!​

Most common types of bow: Recurve
Good for: Endurance athletes

Run Archery​/Arcathlon

Run archery is similar to Ski archery however the contestants run around a long-distance track or course rather than ski. This is the version of Ski archery for warm countries without snow!

A typical course is between 5 and 12km and archers make three shooting stops, shooting four times at each stop. The bows can sometimes be stored at the shooting range and sometimes carried and targets are 16cm in diameter and 18m from the archer.​

Most common types of bow: Recurve
Good for: Endurance athletes

Traditional Archery – ‘Trad’

Traditional archery is archery stripped back to basics, no modern accessories and aids such as stabilisers, or sights and  the type of bow used is normally either a modern basic bow or an old style longbow or flatbow. This type of archery is the most ‘authentic’ and the closest you can get to archery performed in days of yore. You’ll hear traditional archers call ‘trad’ archers.

When using a traditional style of bow such as a longbow without fitments for a stabiliser or sight you’d just call this traditional archery, but when a modern bow is downgraded and all the aids are removed you’d refer to this as barebow.

Most common types of bow: Traditional, longbow, flatbow
Good for: Robin Hood, Katness Everdeen wanabees!

Crossbow Archery​

A crossbow can be used for any of the disciplined mentioned above, however crossbow target shooting has an international governing body of its own, the International Crossbow Shooting Union (IAU), and world, continental and international championships across disciplines such as Field and Match.

Match competitions are target crossbow archery competitions over 10m and 30m distances and the field variant of the sport is similar to field archery where the competitors are tasked with differing target elevations, wind conditions and known and unknown target distances.

Most common types of bow: Crossbow, compound crowwbos
Good for: All skill levels, hunters


​If you live in a place where hunting is popular, there is nothing like getting out into the wild, or down to the lake and hunting your own food using a bow and arrow. Some hunters shoot fish with their bows, and are known as bowfishers and have a specially adapted fishing reel attached to the front so that after the arrow spears the fish they can reel it in.

Due to the power of compound bows you’ll normally find hunters using them, however recurve archers with a strong enough draw will also hunt.​

Most common types of bow: Compound
Other types of bow: Recurve, barebow
Good for: All skill levels​, survivalists

Para Archery​

The sport of archery is open to everyone and Para archery is archery for wheelchair and/or physically impaired athletes. The Olympic and World competition events have different classification levels for different levels of competitor impairment similarly to other sports such as Open, W1, and Visually impaired V1/2/3.

Most common types of bow: All
Good for: People with disabilities

Mounted Archery​

​A mounted archer is an archer on horseback, in olden days this discipline would have been key within an army as a cavalryman would have found the bow an invaluable weapon to shoot the enemy from distance before engaging with him. Today it is still a practiced discipline, but places to practice are harder to find than other types of archery.

Competitive mounted archery targets do not normally exceed 45m in distance from the rider.

Most common types of bow: Traditional recurve bows
Good for: People who like horses AND archery!

Archery​ Tag

A modern take on a safe way to shoot your friends (or enemies) safely with a bow and arrow without causing serious injury! Archery tag uses specialised arrows with large foam heads and participants wear protective headgear, arm guards and can hide in inflatable bunkers and other paintball style obstacles and are let loose within a confined (usually enclosed) area to shoot at each other.

Think paintball, or laser tag with a bow and a big foam headed arrow!

Most common types of bow: Fiberglass
Good for: Stag and hen parties, corporate events


Kyudo means ‘The Way of the Bow’ and is a Japanese martial art centered around the bow. Kyyudo is practiced as a method of physical, and spiritual development. It is based upon kyujutsu (meaning ‘art of archery’) which originated with the samurai class of Japan. Practitioners of Kyudo used the yumi which is a 2 metre high bow (taller than the archer) made of bamboo, wood and leather traditionally using techniques unchanged for centuries.

As with many martial arts there are various different schools of thought around the correct way to practice, some lean towards marksmanship as the ultimate goal, others towards spirituality and technique.

​Most common types of bow: Yumi
Good for: Seekers of discipline

Hi there! I'm a passionate bowman and a fan of all target sports in general. You'll often find me at my local archery and shooting ranges honing my skills.

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