Advice for beginners
Protection of children and vulnerable adults
Forms of archery
Please note: beginners courses are run by individual clubs. The YAA does not run beginners courses and usually does not have details of any courses that are running. If any clubs wish to publicise their beginners courses on this site, they are very welcome to send details to the webmaster.
Many clubs run beginners courses. Typically these last for six sessions, one session per week, and beginners are required to complete this course before they can become full members.
Such courses are intended to get you up to a standard where you can shoot safely and enjoyably.
Contact clubs in your area to find out which are running beginners courses, when they will be running them and how much they cost.
We advise beginners against buying bows and arrows immediately. It's best to complete a club's archery instruction course and gain some experience in using the equipment before making a purchase, otherwise you could buy equipment that is not suitable for you. This is especially likely to happen if you go to a general sports shop or fishing tackle shop rather than a specialist archery dealer.
Clubs usually have a number of bows and sets of arrows that beginners may use, and club members will have plenty of advice on what equipment will suit you.
There is no upper age limit in archery - some people continue well into their eighties.
There is no hard-and-fast lower age limit either, but many coaches have found that 10 years old is a sensible lower limit. Children younger than 10 sometimes struggle physically to control a bow, and children under 7 often don't understand the safety instructions. If in doubt, a club's coaches will often be willing to assess the child's suitability at a special session.
Our national association has issued some guidelines on the protection of children and vulnerable adults. We encourage all YAA clubs to follow these guidelines.
The guidelines require that a parent or guardian accompanies children under 14 years of age throughout the duration of the beginners course. At least two adults must be present, at least one of whom must be a member of the Grand National Archery Society.
Children aged 14 years or over may shoot only if there are at least two adults present. These adults may be club members, parents or guardians. At least one of these adults must be a member of the Grand National Archery Society.
Similar considerations apply to vulnerable adults. The exact rules will depend on the nature and severity of the vulnerability.
For more information about child protection, please contact the YAA's Child Protection Officer, Martin Holtby, via martin @ oglass.karoo.co.uk.
There are many different forms of archery that may interest you. Below are some descriptions of the most common forms of archery in the UK. Beginners usually start by shooting target archery with recurve bows, even if they intend to shoot another type of archery or bow later.
The current Olympic form of the sport.
This popular form of archery takes place on flat terrain and consists of shooting a round. A round is a certain number of arrows shot at targets over one or more known distances of up to 90 metres/100 yards for men and 70 metres/80 yards for women.
Juniors shoot shorter-distance rounds, depending on age.
Any bow-style may be used except specialised flight bows.
Indoor target archery, with its smaller target faces and shorter distances, is very popular during the winter months.
Derived from hunting, field archery takes place on a course of targets set out in rough terrain (usually woodland). Please note that hunting with archery equipment is strictly illegal in the UK.
Field archery can be likened to golf in that the approach to each target is different from the previous one. You start at one point and complete a circuit of all the targets over variable terrain.
The shooting distances are either marked or unmarked. If shooting on an unmarked course, you estimate the distance and then set your sight (if you're using one) accordingly. Estimating can sometimes be quite tricky as not only are the distances and terrain varied, but also the target sizes. Target sizes vary from 15cm. up to 80cm.
Unlike target archery where you shoot your arrows, score them, then walk back to the shooting line, in Field archery you shoot your arrows from a peg (a stake in the ground), walk to the target to score them, then walk on to the next peg ready to shoot the next target.
There are many different bow classes in Field archery. Field archers on the whole tend to be a very friendly bunch of people.
Strongly recommended, especially if you like the outdoors.
Similar to target archery, except that the archer attempts to drop arrows at long range (180 yards for men and 140 yards for women) into a series of circular scoring zones on the ground surrounding a marker flag (the clout). The circular zones form a giant target, with the zones nearer the flag scoring higher than those farther out.
The zones are not usually marked on the ground. Instead, a marked rope is attached to the flag after an end has been shot. The rope is swept around the flag, and arrows in each scoring zone are collected and sorted.
There are shorter distances for juniors depending on age.
The atmosphere at most clout shoots is quite relaxed and friendly. This is a form of the sport which is very much recommended.
A form of archery that can only take place where space permits since archers compete by shooting for sheer distance. An ideal place is an airfield. RAF Church Fenton in Yorkshire is one of a very few regular flight-shooting venues in the world.
A flight shoot normally consists of 2 dozen arrows shot in 6-arrow ends.
When everyone has shot you all set off looking for your furthest arrow and then you flag it with an identifiable marker. When all arrows have been shot for the day you stand (or sit) by the marker of your furthest arrow until the judges get around to measuring it.
There are many different classes that you can shoot in, dependent on the type of bow you shoot and your draw weight.
Popinjay (or Papingo)
Originally derived from shooting birds on church steeples. 'Popinjay' is an old word for a parrot.
A not very common form of archery (though quite popular in Belgium) where archers stand near the bottom of a 90 foot mast and shoot almost vertically upwards with 'blunts'. A blunt is an arrow with a rubber cap on the front instead of a point.
The object is to dislodge any one of a number of wooden birds that sit on a set of cross-pieces at the top of the mast. In the olden days, a live bird was used!
Britain's oldest archery club, at Kilwinning in Scotland, has been running a 'papingo' tournament since the fifteenth century. In their version, a bird built from wooden pieces is attached to a pole projecting from the Abbey tower, 100 feet up. Initially, the wings are fixed to the bird and the bird is loose on the perch - the winner is the first person to dislodge the bird (known as "dinging the doo"). After that, the bird is fixed to the pole and the wings are loosened - the runners-up are the archers who dislodge the wings.
There is a huge variety of bow types from all over the world. Below are descriptions of the bows most commonly used in the UK.
This is the bow most commonly associated with Robin Hood and Medieval times. To comply with British Longbow Society rules, the bow must be of a 'D' section and made wholly of wood, with horn nocks at each end where the string is attached. The shafts of the arrows must be made of wood and the arrows must have feather fletchings. Arrow rests and sights are not permitted.
The famous war-bows of the Middle Ages had draw-weights of between 100 pounds and 200 pounds. Modern target bows have much lower draw-weights, usually not exceeding 50 pounds.
The softwood yew is the best known material for longbows, but suitable yew is hard to obtain today (and is a love-it-or-loathe-it material). Most modern longbows are made of hardwoods, usually using several laminations of different hardwoods.
American Flat Bow
This bow was developed in the 1930s when scientists and engineers like Clarence Hickman began to make a detailed study of archery equipment. They applied their findings to the English Longbow (ELB), mixed in elements of Native American bows, and produced the American Longbow, usually known in Britain as the American Flat Bow. This is shorter than the ELB, and has rectangular-section limbs rather than the ELB's D-section. The AFB is popular in field archery.
Recurve (or Olympic)
This is the bow that is probably in most common use today.
The Recurve bow evolved from the American Flat Bow, and progressed into laminated wood handles and laminated wood and fibreglass limbs. In recent years metal handle sections (risers) with removable limbs have become more prevalent. It is permissable to use a sight, arrow-rest, stabilisers, synthetic string materials and a clicker (as a draw-length check) on this type of bow. Arrows can be made of wood, aluminium, carbon/aluminium or carbon fibre. Most tournament-going archers these days are shooting carbon/aluminium or carbon fibre arrows owing to their flatter trajectory and faster flight and thus better sight marks.
The Recurve bow is the only type of bow currently permitted to be used in the Olympics, though Compound bows can be used in certain classes of the Paralympics.
The Compound bow evolved from the Recurve bow in the 1960s and is the most sophisticated and technically advanced type of bow. To the uninitiated, the Compound bow appears to have several strings, when in fact it only has one string plus either 2 or 4 buss cables which are fastened between the end of each limb and and a cam at the opposite end of the other limb. The limbs of a Compound bow are very stiff, so the cams and cables provide the leverage required to draw the bow.
There are a few compound bows that use levering systems without cams, but the principle is ultimately the same.
The Compound bow tends to be much shorter than the Recurve bow. It consists of a metal riser and laminated synthetic limbs, at the ends of which there are usually eccentric cams. The cams vary greatly in design and give each bow its individual shooting characteristics. The main characteristic of a Compound bow is that as you draw the bow, the maximum draw-weight is reached much sooner than with a Recurve bow (at about a third of the way through the draw-length), then as you continue to full draw the holding weight actually decreases by between 60% and 75% of the maximum draw-weight. A Compound bow is thus easier to hold at full draw. This is all due to the buss cables and eccentric cams. Compound bows are more efficient than other bows at transforming stored energy into arrow speed.
Compound shooters are allowed to use a certain amount of magnification in the bow sight, can use a rear sight (known as a peep sight) and can use a mechanical release aid rather than fingers.
Crossbows are bows that have a rifle-like stock, a lock mechanism for holding the string at full draw, and a trigger for releasing the string. Crossbows are very rare in target archery, though their use is growing on the continent and may grow in Britain. Crossbows are more common in field archery, though still far less common than other bow types.
Most archery clubs in Britain do not allow crossbows, since they have acquired a bad reputation because of the dangerous and anti-social actions of some owners.
In flight archery there are several classes of bow which, on the whole, tend to be target bows (Recurve or Compound) shooting your normal equipment, in different draw-weight categories.
There is also a specific type of bow for flight archery (in its own class) which is very short and shoots very short arrows (approx 14 inches or so) with tiny fletchings. These bows are so highly specialised that you cannot go into a shop and buy one. You have to find someone who will make one specially for you or you have to make one yourself. There are also one or two specially made Compound flight bows but once again these are only made to order.
All of the above bows except specialised Flight bows can be used for Field, Target and Clout Archery. Popinjay is usually restricted to longbows.