What is Archery?

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Archery has historically been used in hunting and combat and has become a precision sport. Archery is defined as the art, practice or skill of using a bow and arrow for hunting, warfare or sport.

The earliest people known to have used the bow and arrow were the ancient Egyptians, who adopted the weapon at least 5000 years ago, although some authorities believe archery was around much earlier. In the time of the earliest pharaohs, the Egyptians practiced archery in hunting, as well as in warfare against the ancient Persians, who were then equipped only with spears and slingshots. Soon after, the bow and arrow was used extensively in the ancient world.

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The competitive side

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Archery has long been popular as an amateur sport, particularly in England. The oldest continuously held archery tournament still extant, known as the Ancient Scorton Arrow, was founded in Yorkshire in 1673; and about 1790 the Royal Toxophilite (Greek toxon, 'bow'; philos, 'loving'). Society was formed to advance the sport. The Grand National Archery Society, the official organization of British archery, was established in 1844, and it has conducted championship contests since that year.

Archery as a sport was introduced in North America in the 17th century. The earliest organized body of archers in the United States, known as the United Bowmen of Philadelphia, was active from 1828 to 1859, and the modern ruling body, the National Archery Association of the United States, was founded in 1879. Under the auspices of the association, the first annual archery tournament was held in Chicago in 1879. Archery competition is divided into various categories, such as target, field, and flight shooting.

The Longbow

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This is the most basic of bows. The shape is unchanged from its invention approx. 9,000 – 6,000 B.C. It is shaped from one piece of timber and the grip is usually made with a strip of leather bound around the bow. A small shelf is cut into the side of the bow for the arrow to rest on. There is no bow sight attached and shooting is done by aiming with the tip of the arrow at full draw.

Recurve bows

These range in length from 1220mm (48 inches) to 1780mm (70 inches). Most target bows will average about 1675mm (66 inches) in length. The draw weight of the bow is usually written on the back of the lower limb. The weight is noted in pounds (lbs) at a draw length of 710mm (28 inches), e.g. #20 @ 28 which means at a full draw of 28 inches the force required to hold the bowstring at this length will be 20 pounds (approx. 9 kilograms). Bows for beginners should have a draw weight between 15–20 lbs. for the kids and between 20–25 lbs. for the adults. Most basic Recurve bows are made from laminated timber usually with a clear finish on the riser and the limbs having a layer of fibreglass applied each side for strength. The types of timber used in the riser can vary, giving a multi–coloured appearance.

Compound bows

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Compound bows can vary in length from 840mm to 1220mm (33 to 48 inches) measured from axle to axle. The smaller lengths are for juniors and the larger lengths are for adults. The riser is usually made from aluminium alloy for strength. The limbs are fitted with an eccentric wheel. (The axle is off–set from the centre of the wheel). The bowstring is attached to 'tear–drops' at the ends of the plastic–coated steel cables, with the cables fitted from top to bottom wheels. The cable guard holds the cables off to one side for the arrow and fletch clearance. The draw weight of a compound bow is usually adjustable within a 7 kilogram (15 lbs.) range by turning the adjustment bolts in the limbs. The compound bow has a peak draw weight and a let–off percentage. For example, the peak draw weight for a particular bow could be 14kgs. (30lbs) with a let–off of 50%. This means that the maximum draw weight of 14kgs. will occur at approx. 3/4 of the draw length and as the eccentric wheels roll over, the lever effect will give a 50% less weight at full draw. So at full draw, the archer will be holding a draw weight of only 7 kgs. (15lbs.)